Thursday, January 24, 2008

ReDiscovering Deb

Who are you? What fills you passion? What makes you fulfilled? Before you answer, separate yourself from the roles you play in your life: mother, wife, lawyer, volunteer. I'm not curious about how you interact with the world. This is strictly: who are you when you are in the world?

Surround me with people and I am a happy, engaged soul who can spend hours observing the life around (I'm working on interacting with that life more). I love walking with two -or four-footed friends anywhere, singing in a choir, learning new things, taking photographs and videos, sharing food and it's preparation, working out, watching baseball. I now know I need these human interactions to give me energy and make me feel alive.

Leave me alone, and while I still have "demon days" that I try to overcome with strong connections online, I can also garden, knit, walk and eat alone in a strange city, visit a museum.

Before my year of fitness, I could not have answered this question the same way. I had lost my excitement for hobbies, I felt disconnected from the world. While outwardly I was a tired, overweight, out of shape middle-aged woman, inside I was worse. I was a dead husk. There was nothing inside to feed me or give me joy. Ask me who I was and I had no answer to give.

Then I started finding my body again in both in a physical and a spiritual sense. I was beginning to get a little stronger and gain the confidence that comes with that strength.

One day in early spring I found myself remembering goals and dreams I had once had: I used to white-water raft in West Virginia and Pennsylvania every year; quit doing that. I wanted to hike the Grand Canyon before I turned 40. Gave it up. I wanted to visit more museums and see more baseball games. Wouldn't do it if I could not convince someone to join me, and honestly believed that if I asked I would disappointed. Wanted to walk Bay to Breakers with my friend Linda in gaudy elegant "Fuck Cancer" costumes; stage 4 cancer meant she was never strong enough for us to actually design the costumes and walk 7.2 miles.

Slowly over the years I dropped my dreams, goals and wishes by the wayside and did nothing to replace them.

This spring day instead of only moving up and down my terraced garden space by the one set of steps, I didn't hesitate to use the railroad ties that formed the structure to move between levels. Stepping high, I trusted my legs and back to get me up. After I gloried in the easy movement, I began to feel these older dreams flowing back into my soul. Could I do more?

A week later I logged into the Bay-To-Breakers website and examined the race. It didn't sound hard; I'd been walking for decades, what's seven miles? I clicked the register page, filled out the information, hit send. I was officially registered for my first race ever. Over the next several weeks, I spoke to friends hoping to find someone who would walk with me. Someone to hold me accountable. Someone to keep me from canceling. That someone never materialized. This was MY walk and would have to do it alone.

Do you have demons? Voices in your head that encapsulate all the less-than-positive messages you've heard from family, authority figures or friends over the years? I do. Spring of '07 my demons were my constant companions, especially my father's spirit.

My father was a kind, nearly-unflappable man. Beat down by the world, his philosophy was always to settle for what came easily. "If you are not unhappy, don't work any harder in the hopes to become happy." I was half-way to my weight-loss goal, half-way to being accomplished. I wasn't unhappy. Nearly every moment of every day I heard him questioning why I still going to the gym and sweating, wasting money paying a trainer, throwing time and money away on this race? I am not going to win it, so why am I participating? Just stay home, say I tried, and settle.

I fought with his voice for weeks still determined to accomplish this task. When he alone was unsuccessful in beating down my determination, my mother (the Queen of Verbal Abuse) slipped her voice into my head. By the three days before the race, I had a head filled with every demon I know trying to make me miss this chance.

Still I was determined. I was emotionally shaken, feeling weak, but this one time I was going for something. I emailed a number of my friends and asked for support: please call me while I'm walking and keep me company. Even though I would be in a crowd, I was doing this alone and didn't want to feel alone.

That Sunday I made it to the race. A small victory.

As we turned onto 9th Street and headed for Hayes Street Hill, suddenly and unexpectedly, my demons disappeared. They didn't simply quiet themselves in my head, they shrank to dustless motes in the air and dropped completely away from me. They were defeated. I had won.

I felt that proverbial huge weight lift from my body. Light and bright and filled with pure energy I continued on. Those friends who got through to talk to me didn't want to hang up. They wanted to be part of the bright happy experience that was me that day. Well, me for about a week afterward.

I do not recall that complete a feeling of relaxed joy and satisfaction every before. It gave me hope for my future.

Bouyed with the memory of that day, I made the choice for additional adventures: July's red-eye flight into in Chicago so I could catch a White Sox game before BlogHer began; BarCampBlock when I was unsure that I'd know anywhere there; volunteering to help organize She's Geeky. Each time as the experience approached, demons would return, trying to convince me to quit.

I haven't. Instead I am continuing to plan to achieve dreams I had deferred. This June, I will white water raft for the first time in 20 years. I want to book a trip near my birthday so the adventure will be a present to me.

And in the spring of 2009, I hope to hike the Grand Canyon. The key thing that may cause me to defer this trip to another time? It isn't safe to do this alone; I need at least one person hiking with me?

So what are you doing in late March, 2009?

(republished from a special post at BlogHer)
I also blog at: Deb's Daily Distractions and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

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