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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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Time Out Already!

If you’re like a lot of divorced dads, you work triple time to maintain your world. Especially if your kids are a regular part of it and you’re now the soul bread winner in what used to be a two income household. It can be a
lot to keep up with and the pace can wear down even the most determined individual.timeout

In the midst of what can become complete and udder chaos when you’re learning to juggle life as a single parent; every once in a while I think it’s important to just blow everything off and spend a day (or two) focused 130% on your kid(s).

While they understand that your life is crazy busy, they still need to feel like they’re one of, if not THE most important thing in your life. The last thing they need is to feel “in the way” or “just another thing you have to deal with.” And that happens quite quickly if you’re not careful, especially when you’re short with them while trying to meet a deadline or two.

The other powerful aspect of taking time to recharge is that it reminds you yourself of what’s really important. It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of a job or particular concern you have that sometimes you just need to take a step back to regain a proper perspective. When you’re focused too intently on one aspect of your life it can easily appear much larger than it actually is. Taking a step back reminds you that, in most cases it’s just one small part of the big picture.
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You will find a sudden sense of liberation from releasing yourself of the responsibilities you’ve pushed yourself to maintain for so long. That one moment of recognizing you’re not late and won’t have to worry about traffic, deadlines, meetings etc. is like releasing the steam from a pressure cooker that’s about to explode.

Giving yourself a time out every once in a while, especially when you’re feeling an excessive amount of stress and anxiety, reminds you that the world won’t end if you’re not in the game for a play or two. If need be, delegate. Let someone else field the call. It’s also an opportunity to reassure the kids that when push comes to shove, your relationship with them is really all that matters. And by the way, NEVER feel guilty for making your kid the priority once in a while.

And even when you’re not taking that day off to be with them, remind them as often as you can how much you love it when they’re with you. Even if they blow it off, believe me they hear it and it means more than you’ll ever know.

 

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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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How Many Graduations Does It Take To Graduate?

When I first sat down to write this, my intention was to poke a little fun at the number of graduations a kid now goes through before even reaching high school. In my head, I always saw graduation as the moment when you’d gone through the entire required educational process and were handed a diploma that would get the truantClose up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon officer off your back and you could now get a job.

I kind of understood the pre-school graduation and equated it to three-year-olds playing soccer. It was more for the parents than the kids really. But when you add on kindergarten, elementary and middle, it seemed like we were pretty much taking the wind out of the high school graduation sail. I get the whole, “build their self esteem” thing, but at some point it starts to feel like overkill. As I told my daughter, when you run a marathon they don’t hand you medals at the 1 mile, 10 mile, 16 mile and 22 mile marker. They make you go the full 26.2 before you get your accolades and hardware.

So as we entered the gym for my daughter’s fifth grade “recognition” ceremony, I politely placed my soapbox under me and prepared to roll my eyes from time to time. About two kleenexes in I realized I was toast.

Flashbacks of her first days of pre-school and kindergarten flashed through my mind as did all of the times I sat with her in the cafeteria during lunch, fought over what she was going to wear to school and pushed her to finish last minute projects. I thought about all of the music pageants, talent shows, teacher conferences, days getting her on and off the bus. And yes, I got a little emotional more than once.

And that’s when I realized how great it was to experience those emotions knowing we weren’t quite done yet. I was able to triathlon-water-station-by-dominikgoleniaappreciate her milestones without the dreaded, “man that flew by so fast and now she’s gone” moment, which is still several years away. Watching her reach this mile marker, knowing we still had a way to go helped me grasp the fact that I still had time to be with her and enjoy this time of her life with her. And then I glanced at her two younger siblings thinking, “we’re just getting started.” Then I smiled and pushed my soap box under my seat.

Yes, it’s kind of crazy to have graduation ceremonies every few years, but hey, think of them as the water and gatorade stations they have along the marathon course. Sometimes we need a little refreshment to recharge the batteries and prepare us for the next leg of the journey. In this instance that part of the race is middle school. God help us.

 

 

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Night & Day

It will never cease to amaze me how completely different our outlook can be between Monday & Tuesday, Thursday & Friday or in some cases 6 a.m to 6 p.m.. It could be a lack of sleep, too much sleep, too much wine, not enough wine, a deadline, not enough deadlines, no structure, too much structure; who knows. But tooday_and_night_1280x960 many times I’ve had a day where I had an unnerving sense that my world was collapsing, only to wake the next morning convinced that I’d won the lottery. And the amazing part is, the only thing that really changed was my perspective. My checking account balance hadn’t changed, my work load hadn’t changed, the kids’ schedules hadn’t changed and CNN.com was still full of stories about hate.

So what is it?

It’s life. It’s being human. It’s about acknowledging that no two days are alike. It’s about enjoying the highs while you’re living them and not overreacting to the lows; recognizing that they will pass, sometimes very quickly.

 

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