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Surviving Mile 21

Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis know that I’m an avid runner. Those who don’t read my blog on a regular basis, well, now you know too. Because of this fact I often correlate life to running and visa versa. From pacing yourself, to pushing yourself to the affects of stress, I find countless times when my life and my running regiment seem to go hand in hand. So it should have come as no surprise when a recent conversation with a dear friend of mine who’s been walking this journey with me for a while helped me discover yet another example of how life emulates running and it goes a little something like this:

When you run you’re first marathon, the first couple of miles feel pretty good. You’re pumped. You’re full of energy, a little scared and nervous, but confidence is high and you’re ready to roll. You aren’t really sure what to expect having heard stories from other runners. You know there will be difficulties to encounter, but you’re positive and prepared to meet the challenge head on. People around you are very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “If anyone can do this you can,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc. All in all, despite the knowledge that this is going to be a tough road ahead, you’re full of piss and vinegar and brimming with confidence. The same holds true of the divorced dad. Despite a feeling of complete and utter fear of what’s to come, you’re prepared to meet the challenge head on. Everyone around you is very encouraging, telling you, “You’ll do great!,” “You’re a great dad,” “Did you know marathon runners lose toe nails during the race,” etc.

At mile 5 you’re like, “I got this! Look at me, I’m running a marathon! Holy Crap!” You wave to people along the course, there’s a spring in your step and you’re beaming with pride because YOU are a marathoner. For a divorced dad with kids, the feeling is the same. You’re past the initial shock and starting to recognize that the world isn’t completely falling apart. You’re getting a little more comfortable with the idea of being a single parent and are proud of yourself for managing to figure out how to get the kids fed, clothed and off to school without a need to take them to the emergency room. You haven’t missed a softball game or recital yet. All in all, you’re rockin’ it.

Around mile 10 the honeymoon isn’t quite over yet and you’re actually feeling yourself getting into a good rhythm. You’re determined and feeling good. You think to yourself, “I can do this. I feel alright. Not sure what all the fuss was about.” It’s also a point where you start talking to yourself more. You find yourself giving yourself little thoughts of encouragement, telling yourself to “Keep it up!” and, “You’re doing great!” and “Just ignore that nagging stabbing feeling in your little toe, it’ll go away. Probably just my toe nail falling off.” For the divorced dad, your confidence grows every day as you figure out more and more and get more comfortable managing the kids, work, the house, the yard and everything that goes along with it. You look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Can you believe what I accomplished today?!” It’s all still kind of fresh and you’re feeling a rhythm that has you starting to think “Father of the Year” award and do your best to ignore the nagging pain in your lower back.

Around mile 12 you start to go over numbers. A lot of numbers. Things like, number of miles, average mile, splits, how much further, etc. You start to calculate in your head nonstop and begin attempting to count the number of steps you take in each mile. It starts to become a mental game as the monotony of stride after stride after stride starts to take its toll. It’s similar in a divorce with kids, only the numbers are more like, how much is in the bank account today, how much will be in the account tomorrow, how many cereal bars are left in the pantry, how many lunches have you made for school in the past month, how much money is in the bank account, how much will be in the account when the mortgage is due, was your daughter’s game on field six at seven or on field seven at six? Can you believe gas is almost $4.00 a gallon? That’s just crazy. Do I have enough money in the account for gas? These are all tactics used by your mind to help you avoid the fact that it’s starting to hurt.

At mile 15 you’re like, “I’ve run fifteen miles and I’m still going! I am AWESOME! Look what a great runner I am!” A divorced dad is like, “I just finished three loads of laundry, we had dinner at the table, all the dishes are clean and put away, the kids’ homework is finished, they’re bathed and we still had time to watch an episode of Good Luck Charlie before bedtime. I am an AWESOME DAD!”

At mile 15.25 miles you suddenly realize you aren’t finished, get a cramp and have a sudden craving for beer. For dad the cramp is replaced by a kid who has a bad dream at 3 am and crawls into bed with you placing their foot directly in your face for most of the night.

Then around mile 20 or 21 it happens. You hit a wall. You’re cussing at yourself for signing up for this experience convinced you will die before mile 22. It hurts and you’re noticing pain in places you didn’t even realize you had. People around you are too busy dealing with their own crap to be encouraging and don’t even bother to acknowledge you as they basically walk past you. You start convincing yourself it’s ok if you quit. I mean, come on, look how good you did. You went pretty damn far. No one would blame you for giving up. The numbers in your head are overwhelming and never come to the same total twice. You’re freaking out convinced you won’t have enough to finish and immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium. Divorced dad is in a similar place. The exuberance you once felt for having a handle on everything is waining. It’s now a matter of survival. You’re tired, overwhelmed and spent convinced you won’t have enough money for Christmas. The routine is old and the energy it takes to keep up with work, three kids, the house, the yard and your blog is taking its toll. This is where you’ve determined, and will say with conviction, that you meant to leave your shoes lying in the middle of the kitchen and that the clutter gives the house an appealing “Lived In” look. You’ve decided that the kids will get peanut butter sandwiches and a slice of cheese for lunch and like it. Making the bed equals cleaning the house. You secretly hope it rains to avoid driving 45 minutes to a softball game and start to wonder what you’ll look like selling newspapers on the corner when you’re homeless. One of the kids comes down with a fever and you immediately panic because you can’t remember if you paid your insurance premium.

But the marathon runner and the divorced dad have an innate inner strength that few will ever understand. Both recognize that all of these negative thoughts are the antithesis of what they truly feel. They love to feel the burn. They crave the aches and pains because those pains make them feel alive. They love the 45 minute drives to softball games because it means some serious one on one time with their kid. And a fire from within pushes them to keep going.

I wrote once that there really is no grand finish line when you’re a parent. But I’ve discovered that honestly that’s not true. Like the marathoner, you eventually cross a finish line you never thought you’d be able to reach. Somehow you reach deep within and find the strength to get past mile 21 and muster through mile 22, mile 23 and eventually mile 26.2. You recognize mile 21 was just a moment and you got past it. You revel in your ability to overcome the negatives and the adversity. It’s hear that you determine how much you love running. Or, how much you LOVE being a divorced dad. There is something special about it. It has its own unique hurdles and it’s own unique victories that only others who have traveled this path will ever truly understand.

The reality is, we’ll all live through many mile 21’s. And some will be harder than others. But you’ll make it. And you’ll revel in crossing the finish line every time. Then you’ll start to prepare for the next marathon and be a little more prepared for the next mile 21.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in dealing with stress, Divorce, pacing yourself

 

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Regaining Control – One Stride At A Time

I write on this topic quite often, but it can’t be said enough.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you feel rundown. If you feel beat up. If you can’t think straight. If you have the impression that everything is falling apart and you can’t catch a break. Stop what you’re doing, put on some sneakers and go work out. Run for thirty minutes. Go walk for an hour. Go to the gym and lift weights. Go sweat. Put your energy into letting out some aggression. Release the anxiety. Give your mind a break. Give yourself some “me” time. If you have the kids ask someone to come watch them for an hour.

- First: You will have completed an attainable goal and will have a sense of accomplishment.
– Second: Your body will release endorphins and you will have worked muscles that otherwise would be running-cheaper-than-therapy-squareclenched.
– Third: You will clear your head and have time to think without the phone ringing, kids pulling at your shirt, deadlines hanging over your head or clutter around the house overwhelming you.
– Fourth: You will give yourself a sense of control. YOU decided what was going to happen next. YOU chose to take advantage of a beautiful autumn morning. YOU made it happen. And it worked.

I guarantee you this is a priority. Everything else can wait an hour. You cannot.

All too often we let our lives control us. Every once in a while we need to remind ourselves that we have more control than we give ourselves credit for. Our success or failure depends on a lot of things and obviously there are some things we simply cannot control. But we often let things control us simply out of a lack of effort to stand up and take advantage of the strengths we have. We let fear, depression, anxiety, and ourselves keep us from making things happen. They are excuses and we give them too much credit. This is an opportunity to remind us that we do indeed have the ability to change the course of our day. And the benefits are never ending.

Now go sweat and suck in some fresh air and tell me it doesn’t make a difference. Better yet; go to my facebook page (facebook.com/lifeasadivorceddad) and post a picture of where you decided to go.

 

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Walk A Mile In My Shoes

As a runner I often see parallels between the sport and life. This weekend I recognized another one that I believe is relevant to any single parent, dad OR mom.
Walking to Improve Running460

I used to loath walking during a run. Felt like I was quitting. For me if I didn’t run the complete four miles I was wimping out. To walk was not pushing hard enough. I’ve always been like that in life too. Constantly going and feeling guilty if I stopped to relax and enjoy myself for a moment. I recently read a book about introverts and extraverts and how introverts have periods where they simply need to leave the “party” and recharge. Thirty minutes in another room where it’s quiet and they’re alone. While I’ve always considered myself to be an extravert I believe on some level we all need to recharge from time to time and simply shut out the world. Especially when you have kids running around the house. Trying to keep up the pace of juggling work, the kids and the house can be grueling. It’s something you need to literally train for and sometimes, we need to walk.

And that’s OK.

When training on the pavement, and attempting to teach our bodies and minds to go farther we need to catch our breath from time to time. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If all we do is go hard at it for 3 ss_1miles EVERY time then that’s as far as we’ll ever be able to go. Kids push us to get back up and start running again whether we’re ready or not. So we learn to walk once in a while in between the longer stretches. Can you imagine doing what you’re capable of today three years ago? I remember when we had our third child. One day we only had one of them when two of them were at their great grandmother’s. We realized how easy just one was. But there was a time when “just one” was more than enough.

So this weekend, in an effort to go a little farther, I allowed myself to walk during my run. And you know what? I ended up going twice as far.

As a single parent, I think it’s OK to walk once in a while and recharge. In fact, it’s necessary if you have any chance of learning how to make it through the entire marathon. The secret is to just keep moving forward.

Peace!

 
 
 
 
 

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Creating A Positive

Let’s face it. Living through a divorce, if nothing else, will certainly grow hair on your chest. It’s a powerful beast that has the potential to bring you to your knees and force you to question everything you ever liked about your self. It can force you to take a second look at your life and rethink every aspect of it. The amount of mental strain and emotional toll can easily affect every nook and cranny of your day and force you to spread yourself so thin that it makes giving anything 100 percent damn near impossible.

So what is one to do? How do you face all this crap and find the strength to put a smile on your face in front of your kids? Especially when your insides are churning with anxiety and you’re filled with self doubt about your ability to even pick out the correct flavor of water pouches at Kroger?

Well, I’m going to actually suggest you add to your day. I’ve spoken before about the fact that I try to run on a regular basis. Rain, snow, sleet, sun, doesn’t matter. It’s therapy for me. And this month I believe I learned the true value of my little slice of “me” time. For me it became a way of creating a positive result. A way for me to set an achievable goal when so many aspects of my life were forcing me to question my ability to achieve anything at all. For me running provided me with a way to set myself up for success so long as I was willing to follow through and force myself to give it proper attention and make it a priority.

The month of April was a tough one for me on many fronts. Thank God for friends and the positive influences that the universe has helped surround me with these past several months. But along with words of encouragement, I needed to have a tangible action that I could control. Something I could do where I could set a goal and remind myself that I’m capable of pushing myself to achieve those goals. I needed to feel like I accomplished something.

Along with being a tough month, April is my birth month. And so I turned to running as a means of setting a goal while at the same time creating a means of gauging my progress in life.

A little heavy I know, but bare with me. As running has been a constant in my life since I was about five, I saw an opportunity to make a statement. Since I began logging my milage a few years ago, I had run 100 miles in a month’s time only once. And to my recollection, I don’t ever remember being that constant enough with my running that I would have ever achieved that level. In my head I felt that if I could match my best month, then that would prove I stl had it in me to get better and that life couldn’t hold me back.

In March I managed to reach 70 and that was pushing it. And so … I set the goal of breaking my own personal monthly record of 100.3 miles.

Ironically, it turns out the negativity in my life was what made achieving my goal possible. Every time I had the rug pulled out from under me, I would lace em’ up and hit the pavement. I knew from past experience that I’d feel better, even if I could just get in a couple of miles.

Along with life’s hurdles, I also had the kids a lot those first couple of weeks of April, so I forced myself to make time after they got on the school bus to kick myself out the door. Eventually I started to find myself more mentally prepared for the day after working out some of the stress. Each run, in and of itself, was a victory; a goal reached; an accomplishment and I was soon addicted to that feeling as I wasn’t feeling it in many other areas of my life.

I grew to find value in each mile. Each run gave me a sense of self worth and accomplishment that countered my feelings of failure in other areas of my life.

And then one afternoon something incredible happened. I felt like I could go forever. I just kept going and going and it felt amazing. Before I knew it I’d logged 9 miles in one stretch. It felt incredible. Not only was I accomplishing goals, I was growing, progressing and getting stronger. I believe at one point I actually grunted like a cave man as I began to feel like I could transfer this positive feeling about myself to help attack some of the other negatives in my life. My energy increased. My belief in myself increased. And I started tackling negatives in other areas of my life out of shear will. The sense of positive was starting to take root. And the added bonus was the endorphins. I found myself being happy despite some incredibly stressful moments.

Even my reactions to the kids were changing. Reminding them to pick up their shoes for the 20th time didn’t seem to push my buttons quite as much. This in turn created a-NOTHER positive as my relationship with my kids improved. Then THEY got along better. It just reverberated.

I’m happy to announce that today I reached my goal of 100.3 miles. I’m actually at 101.3 and I still have two more days left. But as great as the big goal feels it’s the little ones I’ve grown to count on. If I can just get one mile in, it’s a positive accomplishment. It’s progress. It’s moving forward. And some days it’s all I’ve got. And for that I’m grateful because it reminds me that I CAN regain control and I CAN conquer a task. It simply reminds me that I have the ability to make something good happen. Something that I control. And that to me is empowering in a world that can tend to suck the life out of a person.

So what is something YOU can do to create a positive result in your life. What is something YOU can control to start building a foundation of good energy? I would encourage you to find something you enjoy doing that can provide you with a sense of accomplishment. Something you have to force yourself to do for YOU. Maybe it’s reading a chapter of a book a day. Or using your YMCA membership more routinely. Maybe it’s organizing a closet. Or painting a wall. Who cares what it is. If it reminds you that you’re capable, that you’re worthy, that you have a skill or a talent or half a brain … that’s really all that matters.

I hope somewhere in these 1200 or so words you can find something that triggers a thought in your head. A germ of an idea of how you can begin to rebuild your own self worth. Especially if somewhere inside you’re questioning your ability to be everything you once thought you could be. What are your goals? What are some first steps you can take to combat the negativity. I hope you’ll share what you decide to do to create a positive result in your own life. I’d love to hear about it!

 

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