Friday, February 27, 2009
Kristy turns 21
Kristy turned 21 years old and we took this photo of her when she worked at the local Chevy's. She learned such empathy for others while waiting on tables. She identified with the cooks and the bus boys, and all those working so hard to support their families. But she also learned to dislike rude and pretentious people. Especially those who made a point of trying to make others feel bad.
She told me something after a particularly frustrating night waiting tables. She knew the large party she was serving was not going to leave her a tip. But she served them just as if they were the most important people in the place.
Kristy had so many stories of working at Chevy's. She worked in restaurants for years to have time during the day for training. As the years went by she added house painting and general restoration work to her repertoire. She was the one who refinished the back deck and helped me pave the driveway. And of course she put a new roof on the house by herself. There was nothing she could not do when she put her mind to it.
Whenever Kristy was driving and I was in the car with her I always felt safe. I knew she would be able to handle anything. But I guess sometimes even though you take all the precautions in the world, something can happen to throw a wrench into things. You never think it's going to happen to someone you love.
I remember showing Kristy a page I had torn out of The National Geographic, called "Ways to Go". It had the top 20 or so ways people die in the United States. Number 1 on the list, after heart disease, cancer and stroke, was by motor vehicle accident. This was listed as 1 in 84. After this came Suicide at 1 in 119. Bicycle accident was 1 in 4,919. At the end of the list was "total odds of dying, any cause: 1 in 1".
She took a few minutes and looked at the list. She handed it back to me with a grin on her face and said, "Mom, why are you looking at this stuff?" I really didn't have a good answer. It was a bright sunny day and we were sitting in the kitchen together. I kept the information for some unknown reason and happened upon it today.
I think I might throw it away now.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
There comes a certain hour
when I start looking for you.
You used to appear each day
I would call and you would answer:
"I was just passing by, I'll be right there."
We had this routine worked out
it seemed to me so natural.
Each day at the same hour
a small voice would speak to me:
"She's just passing by, she'll be right here."
I can't hold you in my arms now
or tell you of my sorrow.
But I hope you hear, my love
a voice is whispering in your ear.
"I'm just passing by, I'll be right there."
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Kristy landing a knock-out punch
With Kristy you never really knew - she had done so many things. Many of them seemed nearly impossible to imagine. Like the time she got on her motorcycle and decided to ride across the whole United States with nothing but a tent and a backpack. At night she would stop by the side of the road and cook her meal. She ended up running smack dab into a tornado and had to make other arrangements. I'll never forget the phone call. "Mom, um, my motorcycle is totalled by the side of the road. Would you help me to get back home?"
Now I am the one stuck by the side of the road. My heart will wait forever to hear her voice.
Monday, February 23, 2009
After Kristy died I was unable to do any drawing or painting for months. One day I picked up my brush and this is what happened. It is nothing like any art I have ever created. My usual portraits are very realistic and detailed.
I think I was trying to recreate the feeling of power I felt whenever I was around Kristy. As a visual artist I have always been drawn to the power of hope, determination and personal peace. I realize now this is the common thread in all my art. Some people are drawn to the beauty of nature. Of course I am too, but my inner desire is drawn to how that natural beauty is reflected back into the world through the eyes of another. At the time I painted this I wanted to feel her power, as if she were now timeless and eternal - radiant with love and all that made Kristy who she was. I hope those that know her will recognize that part of her when they look at this.
"Art does not happen until the viewer allows it to happen. If the viewer can sense in the work an investment of time and struggle for meaning, then there is trust in the content." - Sue Coe
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Each person who has the courage to follow his or her own dream and do it with joy, without compromise, will soon come in touch with great creative powers that may seem divinely inspired and that are in fact profoundly human. - Dennis Kucinich
Today's run: Because of all the rain I was again forced to run on a treadmill. 5 miles tempo pace.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Laurissa and her sister Kristy
Laurissa is Kristy's older sister. When the girls were young, people actually thought they were twins, even though they were born two years apart. Laurissa was always a concerned and doting big sister. She taught Kristy how to hold a pencil for the first time. She read her books before she was able to read for herself. She showed her how to get dressed and to make the bed.
As the two of them grew they continued to share a bed well into grade school. Of course this wasn't always easy for two young girls to do. I remember many nights listening to them fight over the covers and yelling at the top of my lungs, "Don't make me come in there!" As the years flew by, Laurissa grew up to be a petite woman weighing barely 100 pounds. Kristy grew up with what she called "elephant bones". Maybe because she weighed around 11 pounds when she was born!
Both girls grew up strong, healthy and wildly intelligent. Today I not only mourn the loss of my youngest daughter Kristy, but I mourn Laurissa's loss of Kristy as well. I wish I could take it away - that they could once again laugh and giggle the way they always did when they saw each other. Even though they had become adults they revelled in the closeness only sisters can share. I wouldn't even mind if they made fun of me or tried to beat me in a silly little game of "I spy with my little eye".
I didn't call Laurissa as much as I could have. The day I called to tell her about Kristy's death, she was so happy when she answered the phone. I am so sorry sweetie. I wish I could take those terrible words back. I wish I could stop time. I wish I could have you both beside me. I feel guilty that I still have my own sister. A loss such as yours is truly indescribable.
When I see you now, you embody all that is beautiful in my life. You have so much of your sister in you and it shows all the time. But you are unique, a jewel of infinite beauty, and I am so much better for having known you. We have grown very close through all our suffering and grief. I am dreaming of the day when we can again dance and celebrate life together.
Today's run: Instead of running today I walked the lake with my 20 lb. weighted vest. I saw the solitary swan again, floating silently in the cold water.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Kristy living her dream
I took something else away from a recent interview with Nikki Giovanni (see entries for February 18, 19).
Giovanni spoke about the difference between her mother and her grandmother. One thing she said brought back a vivid memory of a recurring conversation I would have with Kristy. Giovanni was close to both her mother and her grandmother, but when faced with life altering decisions, her mother would say to her "You can do it". Her grandmother would say to her, "You should do it".
Implicit in these affirmations is that one confirms the ability to make something happen, the other the need to make it happen. When Kristy and I would talk about making changes in our life she would say to me, "You should DO IT". We all like to have a pep talk with someone who knows we can do it, but what action we chose is really up to us alone.
Maybe the difference is not readily apparent. What Giovanni emphasized is that her grandmother wanted to affect change and was driving her to make a difference - not just telling her she was capable of doing so.
Kristy's unwavering drive to make a difference is something I love and admire about my daughter. She was truly the bravest of souls. I am drawn back to this particular conversation all the time. All the excuses I gave her for why I couldn't achieve my desire. In the end, I know she is right. So what am I waiting for?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
More about Bill Moyers' interview with Nikki Giovanni, whose current book, Bicycles, is about love born of grief.
Moyers went on to say her poem "Choices" is his favorite. This is a poem about accepting what you can have, instead what dwelling on what you cannot have. One of the last verses in the poem is Giovanni's reflection on accepting the inevitable, "because that is why mankind alone among the animals learns to cry."
Giovanni has such beautiful, brown, expressive eyes. When she spoke about the death of her mother the pain was evident. She said people close to you can die, but when you lose your mother "there's no one that can enter that boat that you row yourself, back to that place where your deepest fears reside.
One is never so safe again as when one's mother is out there to put their arms around (you). Your mom just makes you safe. No matter what it is you go to your mom, and she says it's gonna be alright. So I had to stop myself from picking up the phone because she wasn't there. But that's who I would have wanted to talk to. I wanted to hear my mother's voice. I knew she'd make some sense out of it for me."
I thought about this today as I was out running. One of the hardest things about Kristy's death is not having a mother or a father to hold on to. They had both experienced the death of a loved one, they would know what to say. But my father died about 5 years ago, and my mother has been ravaged by Alzheimer's disease.
One day when my mother seemed coherent I told her about Kristy. The need to tell her was overwhelming. Not unlike a confession, it was hard to put into words. And like a confession, I felt an immediate release. I held my mother's hands and said to her, "Mom, I have to tell you about Kristy. Kristy's dead - she was run over by a car when she was on her bicycle and she died."
My mom looked at me in a foggy kind of sadness. The fog brought on by the disease which has rendered her powerless to conduct even basic functions of life. She spoke slowly and said to me in a whisper, "The mother outlives the daughter," and turned her head as if looking at some distant object. I burst into tears as my heart was aching for the comfort I knew could never come. This confession gained no release. It was an empty well. When I saw my mother a few days later, she did not remember our conversation. It was like it had never happened and I could not bear to tell her again.
Toward the end of the interview, Giovanni offered this: "Science teaches us, matter is neither created nor destroyed. If that's the case then what was, is. So we lose the body but we keep the spirit. There is an energy and we have to keep finding ways to tap into it." Speaking for myself, this is the one hope I still cling to. The one thing of which I cannot let go. For without it, I am truly alone.
I think writing about how I feel helps me to get through the worst days, and gives me a glimpse of peace on my best days. On the subject of tapping into positive energy, Giovanni says, "I allow myself to do so by writing, by listening and by admitting that I'm sad. I don't always mask a lot of my feelings. There's times you just have to admit - I'm really sad. I just wish I had my mother.."
I, too, wish I had my mother to go to with this heavy burden. I cannot ask her to share it with me, or to try and make sense of it. But what I can do, is feel safe in the knowledge that she loved me and protected me for as long as she was able. And in the end, as a mother, isn't this all we really can do?
Today's run: 7 glorious miles at the lake!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Kristy - in perfect balance
This morning I watched Bill Moyer's Journal. One of his guests was Nikki Giovanni, a former activist and present day poet. She has released a new book of poetry entitled, "Bicycles." You can watch the whole interview and see a transcript at pbs.org.
In his interview, Moyers asked Giovanni, "What do words do for grief?" Giovanni smiled and said, "They let us know that we're not alone. What words do is we acknowledge that we are human and we hurt. So you don't have to pretend you're not hurting, because you have a hole in your heart."
"What do bicycles have to do with tragedy and trauma, loss and death?" Moyers asked. Giovanni replied,"Tragedy and trauma are wheels and they are always with us, aren't they? They are always spinning around. That's the parameters of life - that's the tragedies - they just spin around and spin around. And so what you're trying to do is bring them together. And when you bring them together you've got the bar, right?
When I grew up you learned to ride a bicycle by getting on a bike which means you're gonna fall off. And love, life and bicycles are about trust and balance. It's about riding it and believing that this thing that doesn't make sense for you to be on, can move... It's just trust and balance."
More tomorrow on what this amazing woman shared of herself. (P.S. The sun came out today!!)
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Kristy and Me
Last night I got a call from a young friend of mine. I had already told my husband Bill, if anyone came by the house I did not want to see them. I was feeling very sad and couldn't seem to see my way out of it. When you're like this it's hard to talk to anyone... I thought about this today as I forced myself to run on the treadmill. Part of not wanting to be around anyone is because I am afraid that if I don't start acting happier I will lose the friends I have. They will feel awkward and not know what to say. There comes a time when you just have to "fish or cut bait" - isn't that how it goes?
So as I sat on the sofa last night I saw the images of the Amgen Pro Tour - all the cyclists doing time trials out on the road with Lance Armstrong. It's terribly rainy and cold here right now and it must have been daunting to take it mile after mile. The cyclists road one of the same routes Kristy did with her teammates. They probably even rode right by her memorial at the side of the highway. My heart ached so deeply, I felt as if someone was sitting on my throat as I tried to keep the sorrow from over flowing. If Kristy were here I would have recorded the races and she and I would be watching them together.
So this is when my young friend called. I call him "my" young friend. He was really Kristy's friend. Now that she is gone he has become mine as well. So I guess he's now our friend. I hadn't spoken to him in a few weeks so it was good to hear his voice. I normally try to be upbeat on the phone, but this evening I could not hide how I felt.
Our friend had written a poem about a beautiful experience he had shared with Kristy. We talked about it and reminisced. I finally had to blurt out what was bothering me. I am afraid at some point my memories of Kristy will become shadowy and I will lose what little I have left of her. You know you've hit a soft spot when it cuts you to the heart, and you have a hard time even speaking about it.
What a tremendous gift he gave me, when he listened as I poured out my heart. And I mean really listened. He was feeling sad too, he admitted. It would come and go for him as well. It's comforting to know I am not alone in this grief. There are others who feel it as well and know it is not simply something you can get over. They don't just try to cheer you up. It is now something you must live with. It goes to bed with you, gets up with you each morning and stays with you throughout the day. Only you can determine where it sits at the table.
As I was running today I thought about last night. About my inability to trust others with my fears. The ones that haunt me seem too terrible to admit to myself, let alone anyone else. The greatest gift is to be able to share these thoughts with someone who understands, maybe because they have them too. I think this is when we are challenged to rise to the occasion. When the other person needs encouragement - in doing so it helps you to listen to the secret part of you that still holds out hope for redemption.
When my daughter Laurissa and I talk it is certainly like this. Our path together is worn deep with tearful journeys and agonizing attempts to understand what has happened. Now I can see clearly, our unconditional love for each other is what has kept us from giving up. There are others too - like my sister who still calls me each day just to talk. My husband who still makes dinner every night and comes home to see me at lunch. My friend David who seems to always know what to say. My brother Jeff who can still make me laugh with his irreverent sense of humor. The greatest gift in the world is knowing I can be myself with them. That I don't ever have to "cut bait". They can accept me for what I have been left with and they don't try to hide themselves from me in return. At this moment I see I have much for which to be thankful.
Why are we so full of restraint? Why do we not give in all directions? Is it fear of losing ourselves? Until we do lose ourselves there is no hope of finding ourselves. - Henry Miller
Today's Run: 6 miles on treadmill. It's still raining - tomorrow may be sunny!
The last few days have been especially hard for me, and then I remembered this verse, sent to me not too long ago by my dearest friend.
Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."
And he answered:Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises
was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be? The deeper that sorrow
carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup
that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit,
the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart
and you shall find it is only that
which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
and you shall see that in truth
you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow,"
and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come,
and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales
between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty
are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you
to weigh his gold and his silver,
needs must your joy or your sorrow
rise or fall.
- Kahlil Gibran
Monday, February 16, 2009
New Mexico at sunset - photo by Kim Clarkson
What makes the desert beautiful
is that somewhere it hides a well.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The following is a note I wrote to Kristy's friend Catherine while I was in the New Mexico desert with my sister Kim shortly after Kristy's death.
This morning I walked to the college by myself through the rockiest and steepest parts of the desert trail. It took over an hour but I was rewarded with breathtaking views of the mountains and vistas below. I can see Angel Peak on the left and Shiprock on the right, just to give you an idea of what landmarks are around. The wind was not so loud this morning and I could hear the doves cooing as they were waking.
For the last few days my sister and I have been walking around 7 pm - by doing so we have been rewarded with a closeup view of a huge owl. He is so large it looks as if a goose is flying! And of course he makes no sound. I am hoping to find a feather but so far no luck.
The desert looks still and unmoving, but when you look closer - out of the corner of your eye - you can see so much life. I am a little hesitant to walk in the desert hills when the winds are raging. According to native wisdom this may not be wise. So I have to learn to pay more attention to the current of life going on around me. Kristy is now in this current. I feel the same deep connection to you too. You were so dear to Kristy. I remember she told me she had talked to you not too long ago. It was a statement out of the blue as we were loading furniture into her room. I had to laugh with her as we reminisced.
I guess now it is up to us to make a new world for ourselves. One with Kristy always in our mind's eye. For after we are gone the part of her we are carrying with us will also be gone. But she will have by then become part of us and therefore part of those who remember us in our turn.
Thank you Catherine, for being a well to Kristy.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
After so many years of loving you,
After so many things we've been through,
Still I couldn't find the reason,
Tell me why am I in so much love with you?
The day you left me,
My eyes couldn't stop crying.
The day I lost you,
My heart prayed for dying.
Come back my love,
Someone's still waiting for you.
Come back my love,
Someone will always wait for you.
Friday, February 13, 2009
For the past 7 months I have been listening to the same list of songs on my MP3 player. It's a 6 hour list so I don't ever get tired of the songs - at least I haven't tired of them yet.
Every time this particular song would play it would remind me of Kristy. Some days it would make me smile as I remembered her and some days it would make me cry as I remembered her. She sent me the above photo with a note that said, "Don't let the smile fool you - watch out for the teeth!"
Once I had the rarest rose
That ever deigned to bloom
Cruel winds chilled the bud
And stole my flower too soon
Oh, loneliness, oh, hopelessness
To search the ends of time
For there is in all the world
No greater love than mine
Let me be the only one
To keep you from the cold
Now the floor of heav'n is laid
With stars of brightest gold
They shine for you, they shine for you
They burn for all to see
Come into these arms again
And set this spirit free
from "Love Song for a Vampire"
(click on song title to hear song on YouTube)
written by Annie Lenox
Today's workout: 5 + miles again on treadmill. I hate the treadmill.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
My sister's favorite photo of Kristy. I love this photo too, because it reminds me of her when she was a little girl. Even though she was "all grown up", when she giggled it made me giddy - and when she smiled . . . . .
One is still what one is going to cease to be and already what one is going to become.
One lives one's death, one dies one's life.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Collage depicting my father's death, by Karen Clarkson
A few days after Kristy's death, her friend Catherine sent me this poem. It touched me deeply. As Catherine said, "she (Bronte) describes the pull of memory vs. the pull of everyday life, which I think is a struggle for anyone grieving." Thank you Catherine, you were a true friend to Kristy. She loved you dearly.
COLD in the earth and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Sever'd at last by Time's all-severing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart for ever, ever more?
Cold in the earth--and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!
Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world's tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!
No later light has lighten'd up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.
But when the days of golden dreams had perish'd,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy;
Then did I learn how existence could be cherish'd,
Strengthen'd and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion--
Wean'd my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.
And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory's rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?
- Emily Bronte
Today's workout: 5.5 miles on treadmill - skies threaten rain again today.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Photo by Kristy's friend Elliot
I just know there's something about running that bypasses the brain, or the inner thought pattern and links directly into the spirit, or that which is "formless" inside a person.
Many great spiritual leaders throughout time have taught breathing, or the use of one's breath as a means of enlightenment, as a way to sense inner spaciousness. So maybe this has something to do with it.
But this inner spaciousness is not something you can search for or will to happen. You must simply open yourself up to the possibility. Zen Masters would say Zen is something you know without knowing what it is you know; from this space emanates a peace that is not "of this world." (Western interpretation: A peace that passes all understanding?)
"Once you see and accept the transience of all thing and the inevitability of change, you can enjoy the pleasures of the world while they last without fear of loss of anxiety about the future. When you are detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them. You become like an astronaut who sees the planet Earth surrounded by the vastness of space and realizes a paradoxical truth: The earth is precious and at the same time insignificant." - A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
Tolle uses this explanation to describe a feeling of spaciousness: When you look out into a starry night sky - that feeling of wonder and insignificance you experience is not because of its beauty. Its because of the unfathomable depth of space. Something within you "resonates with recognition."
So when our consciousness is no longer controlled by our thinking, some of it remains in its "formless, unconditioned, original state." This is inner space. This is where the act of breathing comes into play. By the very fact we become aware of our breathing, we take attention away from thinking and thus create space, or consciousness.
My theory about running is that it is one way of forcing us into the present moment. Spiritual teachers throughout time have been telling us that being in the present moment is the way to consciousness. What happens to me when I am running is like a state of heightened alertness and creativity. It allows one to be in the present moment and cease thinking. It stops the mind!
This doesn't seem to happen to me as much when I am running in a gym on a treadmill surrounded by lots of noise, people, and distractions. But when I am running outside in a beautiful setting like a park or a lake it allows my mind to shut off. I can still operate effectively, but it is like I am on "auto-pilot." I am free to feel and sense things which are not consciously acknowledged - things which are operating in 'the back ground' so to speak.
When I am running I am able to put "space" into my life. To shut off the constant chatter of my mind and find peace. For this I am truly thankful. I am not concerned about being a fast runner or even being a particularly good runner. Right now, at this moment, I just want some peace in my life.
Today's workout: Due to threat of rain today's 5.5 miles were run on a treadmill. Can my body still be tired from the race?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Photo by Chris Levering
I DID IT! I caught a burst of speed as I ran across the finish line. You were with me all the way Kristy. I channeled into your steel-willed determination and did not quit. I never felt nervous or hesitant as I knew you were inside me, running with me. What a great experience - one that I will never forget. Thank you everyone.
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth,
Photo by Chris Levering
I am now half way through the race and running up the Great Highway. I have my MP3 player playing music in one ear and my pocket bulging with "shot blocks" to give me energy. I am also carrying a bottle of Gatorade around my waist and wearing one of Kristy's hats.
You could see for miles up and down the coast and the course was marked every mile with a flag. You could see the mile markers go on for miles, which was a little intimidating!
Here I am waiting for the race to start. There were so many people in front of me and even behind me. It was cold enough that I was wearing Kristy's gloves. The race started about 10 minutes later and I was off!
It's hard to watch this because it's over so quickly, and you want to see more of her. She was just like you see her here. We all wanted to be around her because of how special she was.
(click on title)
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Every time I ride that winding road, I'll remember. But her spirit must live on, and she can be a motivation to other strong females out there who have a passion for athletics.
I did not know her or Matt Peterson, but I raced for Roaring Mouse Cycles as it's only female roady during it's first season, and I am friends with the owners of the bike shop. Be strong. Be safe. And I don't ever want to see you in my ambulance, unless you're visiting me at the fire station." - Dori
Today's workout: 5 miles on the treadmill. Running is harder to do on a treadmill. I look forward to getting back to the lake when the rain has passed through.
Friday, February 6, 2009
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Photo by Kristy's brother Val
"Faith does not require a belief system, and is not necessarily connected to a deity or God. Faith is not a commodity we either have or don't have - it is an inner quality that unfolds as we learn to trust our own deepest experience. Faith links our present-day experience whether wonderful or terrible, to the underlying pulse of life itself. It is the animation of the heart that says, "I choose life, I align myself with the potential inherent in life, I give myself over to that potential." It is ignited the moment we think, I am going to try." (excerpts from Faith by Sharon Salzberg)
I found the above in a book in Kristy's small rag tag library. Like all her books it did not contain any markings or underlinings and her name was not printed inside the cover, but it looked well loved. Just knowing she had read these words gave me comfort.
Today as I go forward I will be carrying a piece of you with me in these words.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
This morning I decided to run at the lake for the first time since Sunday, the day of the marathon. I started thinking about a show I saw on Oprah a few days ago about a man who has just written the book "Murder by Family." This book is all about his experience as a father coming to grips with the death of his son and his wife. What makes this tragedy even sadder was for him to find out his other son was the one responsible for their death.
The father explained what had happened and his neighbors also contributed. The reason Oprah asked him to come on her show was to show the power of forgiveness. The father, we found out through the interview, had decided only hours after his wife and son's death that he would forgive the killer. What was important here is not that he was forgiving the killer but that he was letting go of the hate that would have eventually destroyed him as a person.
As I listened to them talking the notion of forgiveness rang very true for me. Hating the person who took Kristy from me was not going to bring her back. It would only make me feel bitter and not allow me to go forward and heal. But something else was bothering me. As the father spoke he seemed to be showing no emotion at all. I felt like something was wrong. Why doesn't he seem happy, or sad, or mad or something - anything!
This is what I was thinking about as I was running when suddenly these words came to me. "The peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7)." It doesn't just mean it is hard to understand. It means it is a place you enter in which you experience the unexplainable. A feeling so foreign to anything else you have ever experienced. I think I get it now, what is meant by not letting suffering or joy affect you; they are both the same. It doesn't mean you don't feel, or feel deeply. When you can accept as truth your suffering and sorrow with the same spirit as you embrace moments of joy and happiness only then have you acquired the peace the passes all understanding. They are both the same. How can this be? I always thought it meant you were not allowing circumstances to affect you, but what it really means is that you are allowing yourself to remain at peace no matter what the circumstance.
I still love and miss my daughter within the deepest part of my being. But I am now beginning to see the depth of my grief and sorrow are just another side of this love. Acknowledging and accepting them both is what can give me peace. What I suspect is that I will need to travel to this place of understanding over and over. The more I pave a path to the truth of it, the sooner I will be able to find it again and again. When you have looked death in the eye, and can set a place for it at your table, you have certainly found the peace that passes all understanding.
"To be in alignment with what is means to be in a relationship of inner nonresistance with what happens. It means not to label it mentally as good or bad, but to let it be." Eckhart Tolle
Today's workout: 6 mile run at the lake. My first run since the marathon and it felt good to be on my legs again. I toyed with the idea of running 8 miles but decided 6 would be good enough.
Kristy and her first love, Sonya, thank you!
I just have to share with everyone a great site from a woman who wrote to me after reading about my journey. If you are interested in any type of endurance sport, especially triathlons, you should check it out. It goes through all the regular myths, such as: I have no time, I can't afford it, I'm too old, I'm afraid.... It also gives great ideas and resources from places like, Twitter, Facebook, Active.com and IronMakeOver.com
From personal experience I know Active.com is a good resource for runners. I found personal training routines, articles on nutrition, testimonies from other runners (newbie or experienced) and lots of other applicable and valuable tips.
Personally, I plan on continuing to run three days each week with a cross training day in between each run. One day a week will be for rest. My goal will be to do a marathon next year. I know if I put my mind to it I can make it happen. Remember, I was not a "runner" until 7 months ago. I am also 56 years old - if I can do it so can you! The greatest thing I can say about running is how it has affected me on the inside. The outside is just icing on the cake. If you take the time to read my entries from the beginning you will see what I mean.
I will still share my thoughts and feelings as I continue on my journey. Thank you to everyone for your support! To those of you who also went the extra mile and donated to Peta in Kristy's honor - a double thank you. Together we raised close to $4,000.00 to help animals. Your comments and notes to me are so encouraging - it has helped me though a time in which I did not know whether I could go on.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again. - Joseph Campbell
Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.
The data showed that endorphins were produced during running and attached themselves to areas of the brain associated with emotions, in particular the limbic and prefrontal areas. These right brain areas are activated when people are involved in romantic love affairs or when you hear music that gives you a chill of euphoria, like Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. The greater the euphoria the runners reported, the more endorphins in their brain. The right side of the brain is concerned with being, the left with doing.
I thought this information particularly interesting given the fact I have just trained for and completed my first half marathon. Besides the fact I was running the very same course my daughter Kristy had run for years, there was something else very life affirming about distance running. I had never run farther than 3 miles before training for this race. Now that I have I can honestly say there is something that happens when you run for 2 hours or more at a time. Something that does not happen (at least for me) when I run for shorter amounts of time. By letting my mind go into a state of meditation it also kept me from dwelling on Kristy's death and the sorrow that surrounded me.
When I finished the race yesterday I felt great. For about 3-4 hours after running I felt the best I can remember feeling - ever! My thoughts were filled with all things positive and hopeful. It wasn't until 6 hours later my body began to start hurting. And once it started hurting I was really in pain! My muscles started to stiffen, my joints ached and the euphoria faded away.
I slept last night for 12 hours! The euphoria has not returned but I really didn't expect it would. I truly believe I need to keep running now on a regular basis so I can retain this positive outlook. But there is another phenomena that happens when you run. It's the ability to meditate - when your consciousness idles and you slide into a integrated mental state of being. During this time left brain activity falls away and the right brain becomes dominant. To be sure, I have solved so many artistic problems (in my painting career) and written so many soulful poems during these times of meditation. Most of the time these thoughts are elusive. I can recall the mood but not the specifics of what I have been thinking when my run is finished.
"When people find it necessary to express in words an inner experience such as a dream, an emotion, or a complex feeling-state, they resort to a special form of speech called metaphor that is the right brain's unique contribution to the left brain's language capability. Metaphors allow one to leap across a chasm from one thought to the next. Metaphors have multiple levels of meaning that are perceived simultaneously. They supply a plasticity to language without which communication would often be less interesting, sometimes difficult, and occasionally impossible. The objective world can be described, measured, and catalogued with remarkable precision, but to communicate an emotion or feeling-state we employ metaphors.
The right brain is better than the left in perceiving space and making judgments as to balance, harmony, and the composition of gestalts, from which we make aesthetic distinctions between ugly and beautiful. Since the right hemisphere processes input instantaneously, it is the better side for appreciating dimensions and judging distances. Driving, skiing, and dancing are its province. The right brain's principal attributes concern being, images, holism, and music." The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain
No wonder things look so beautiful when I run!
Monday, February 2, 2009
Laurissa and me the morning after
I'm sitting in Kristy's bedroom with my daughter Laurissa talking about my experience in the race yesterday. I told her I didn't know what I should write about so she asked me to tell her what happened.
This is what I told her: We got to the parking area for the race about 4:30 in the morning. We wanted to make sure we got a good parking spot so we would be close to the bus shuttle to the starting line. This way we were also close to the finish line and could walk back to our vehicle when the race was over. Our friend Chris had volunteered to drive us - so we all loaded into his RV and were there in plenty of time.
There were so many people waiting at the starting line that all you could see was wall to wall faces. When the race started we basically were jogging in place until things thinned out enough for us to run a decent stride. I have never run a race before so this was very exciting for me. I knew no one else who was running in the race so I was standing all alone amidst thousands of strangers. I have been preparing 7 months so I can honestly say I wasn't nervous. I felt like I was prepared and that this was where I should be.
As I pinned my bib on (race identifying number) I thought back on the last time I did this for Kristy. She wanted to make sure it was on correctly so she had me redo it for her. She was about ready to ride her bike in the Cherry Pie Race which she went on to win. As I was waiting for the sign to begin running it took me back to the times I would wait by the sideline for Kristy to start her race. I was so proud of her every time!
The race was long but the course was beautiful. We ran right through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and then out along the beach on the Great Highway. The first 6 miles were in the park and I was feeling strong. The next 7 miles were up and down the beach. Because I had tapered my workouts (ran less and less as the race approached) I was feeling strong but my legs were not used to running the distance. I think this is why I was feeling more tired during the last 3 miles than I expected. But no matter what I knew I was not going to stop running for anything. Not even for water. I had decided to take my own bottle with me.
There were times when I was running and I wanted to cry thinking about Kristy. Love, happiness, sadness and loss were all overwhelming me. I had to let these feelings pass through me and not dwell on them or I would not be able to concentrate. So I made a conscious effort to be in the moment and enjoy the experience. It would certainly never come again.
As I finally approached the last mile my mind started drifting. I thought, I bet my friends have all secretly decided to be at the finish line and they'll be there when I cross. This is such a big accomplishment for me - I just know everyone will be there. I bet everyone has kept it from me. What a great surprise!
When I turned the last corner I noticed lots of people were walking. I couldn't understand why anyone would walk the last mile. When I approached the finish line and heard the music I couldn't help but speed up. I ran across as fast as I could and lifted my arms in the air! I did it!! Now where is everyone?
As I am relaying this to Laurissa tears came to my eyes when I remembered what I was thinking as I approached the end of the race. I had run this race in memory of my beautiful daughter but it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had really run it for myself.
Of course I was thinking of Kristy and she was no doubt with me. But really in the end we are all living our lives the best we can. Each race we do is a test of our own strength and fortitude. Everyone else is running right next to us - so close we can reach out and touch them. They have their own goals as well - but the same finish line too. When we stop to look around they are always there - the race never ends. Going across the finish line means different things to each of us. The pain and the joy of the race is what makes it a challenge and in the end it is impossible to tell the difference between the two.