Redefining The Wall

My brother Geoff, his wife Catherine, and I “competed” in the “Warrior Dash” in Huntersville, NC this Saturday. I am not sure how I got involved in doing this with them…I think I’ll blame Groupon. And maybe my friend Janet, my running buddy, because she has been trying to convince me to do something like this for a while. So when Catherine sent me the Groupon for the race (so she may have some culpability in this as well), I had to decide quickly because that is how Groupon gets you. Half price to risk my life – what a bargain! In the spirit of my journey to take more risks in 2012, I signed up.

The Warrior Dash is the world’s largest foot race with obstacles…which included a fire pit, a muddy pond, a rope bridge, tires, beat-up cars, and a long crawl through mud covered in barbed wire as well as many walls with varying heights, angles, aids, and treachery. All of these things we ran over, under, through or around for 3.08 miles to get to the finish line. To get a feel of what we did, check out this out. A guy with some kind of camera/helmet thingy, carrying an American flag, made this 3 minute video of our race from Saturday:

In preparing for the race, I tried not to stress out about how I was going to handle the obstacles. I knew I could always skip ones that were too hard – I wasn’t running to win anything. And I knew I would get a medal just for crossing the finish line…and a free beer!  I just wanted to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and knew we would have a lot of laughs. So I concentrated on what I was going to wear and how I was going to style my hair given how dirty I was likely to get. No other training besides my regular running routine took place.

What happened on race day exceeded my expectations in so many ways. First, some of the obstacles were a LOT harder than I expected. After a trek through a few disgustingly muddy obstacles in the woods, we found ourselves facing a 20+ ft rock climbing wall. If you don’t know what this is, please let me explain. It is a vertical wall with little tiny ledges you use for your hands and feet to climb. There are no harnesses or safety nets. This is probably why we each had to sign the waiver about 30 times with our names and initials. Anyway, my point is that our shoes were caked with mud and we were to climb this thing and not fall off. Add the fact that I am pigeon-toed and you have a recipe for disaster. Geoff and Catherine were like spider monkeys…I was so impressed! So I gave it a shot and up I went.

What I didn’t realize is that after about 6 feet up, it became much scarier to think about coming down from whence I came than it was to continue…so I kept going up and tried not to think about anything. I got to the top with a little nudge from the guy below me and a kinda crazy tuck and roll move onto the platform. Whew!! Then, as if that isn’t enough, when I got to the top of this thing, I had to leap out about 4 feet and grab a fireman’s pole to slide down. And then about 6 more obstacles to go after this…

Another thing that exceed my expectations is that I got a lot dirtier and wetter than I ever imagined.

There was no way around the muddy pond obstacle except through it…and the water was over our heads. Ick!!! We came out of it covered in what Geoff called pond seaweed…but I called pond scum. Ugh. It was at least as awful as it looks in that video.

By the time we got to the end, we no longer cared about how gross we were. Well, maybe I did, because I scratched up my elbows and hands pretty good trying to not immerse myself in mud in the final mud crawl under the barbed wire obstacle…

In the end, I completed more of the obstacles than I thought that I would (11 out of 12). Geoff and Catherine did ALL of them – I am in awe. I always have a goal for each race I enter… sometimes it is about time, sometimes distance, and sometimes it is about simply finishing. For the Warrior Dash, my goal was to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and to not hurt myself. Minus a few scrapes, blisters and bruises, I did what I set out to do and then some. Geoff, Catherine and I have stories that will last us a lifetime, and hilarious pictures for our Christmas cards.

But – this story can’t be a true blog post without my comments on my lessons learned.

So I got to thinking about something I have heard my dad say about me and my siblings many times. He says if there was a wall, my older sister Jacquie would bust through to the other side, that I would find a way to “dance” around the wall to get to the other side, and that Geoff would choose stay on his side of the wall. Let me tell you he was right that I did run around (not exactly dance) one wall that I just couldn’t get over. But – I saw my brother in action, and he was fearless conquering the multitude of walls that we encountered on Saturday, and I know he has conquered many other kinds of “walls” in his life as well.

So here is what I think. The idea of “The Wall” can mean different things to different people. And it can mean different things to us at different times of our lives. It can represent risk, and it can represent boundaries. The “wall” can mean it’s time to rest, and it can mean it’s time to push through. The wall can conjure danger, opportunity, obstacles, and safety. The key is to increase our awareness of the walls that exist in our lives so that the walls don’t control us. It’s not that we control them either. Rather, we recognize the walls – understand them, define them, and figure out what they means to us – and then we can make conscious choices with our actions, thoughts and feelings about how we cope with these walls in our lives.

Also, as a side note, I learned at the rock climbing wall that sometimes the risk of moving ahead is worth it compared to the pain of going backwards. What a metaphor, right? On the same said wall, and in the pond scum obstacle, I learned that help from a friend or a stranger is there if you ask and are willing to accept the help.

Will I do the Warrior Dash again next year – absolutely! As long as Catherine and Geoff are there to help me, and maybe we can get Jacquie out there too.

Wonder Women

I bought this mug a few days ago in an adorable shop in Georgetown in between business meetings.

I have a special talent…give me an extra 15 minutes before I need to be somewhere, and I will not only find a great shop, I’ll find several things that I don’t need but must have (for me or for someone else), and I will somehow find room for all of it in my suitcase. This Wonder Woman mug is the second in what I guess is now my Wonder Woman coffee mug collection. I am not exactly sure why I started this collection. I found the first one during a walk in downtown Charleston with my friend Janet last year. We stopped in at the Moon Pie store (yes you read that correctly – a Moon Pie store) where I found the mug and knew I had to have it. Here is the original:

I suppose it has something to do with being inspired with the phrase: “As lovely as Aphrodite, as wise as Athena” which is printed on on the back both of my mugs. Beauty and brains with braun mixed in – an attractive combination of qualities, don’t you think?

Each morning, the very first thing I do is let my dog Derby out and then immediately turn on my Keurig machine to make my cup of coffee. I turn on the Today Show, sit on my couch, and contemplate the day ahead. I am pretty sure I can face whatever the day brings when I take this time for myself – especially if my Wonder Woman mug is clean!

Well, today is Mother’s Day, and as I reflected during my morning ritual this morning, I started thinking about the “Wonder Women” in my life.

A few weekends ago, I got together with five of my college roommates for a mini-vacation in Florida. We shared stories with each other that would rival any chick lit novel out there! But alas, I (and they) are sworn to secrecy, so you won’t be reading our stories here or in any pending novel that I may or may not have up my sleeve.

That said, as I sat and thought about the six of us, I thought about how incredible it would be if we happened to have any of Wonder Woman’s powers, and decided to start writing to see where my thoughts would lead.

First of all, I thought about how I could REALLY use an invisible plane – one that I could  pilot the way that Wonder Woman does. It would be amazing to be able to go anywhere I wanted to go in complete stealth mode – and to be able to bring my Super Friends with me would be an added bonus! No more worrying about stuffing my clothes and purchases into my carry on…there would be room for my hot rollers too, and I could avoid having to be polite to strangers.

Second, I know the six of us could use the golden lasso of truth. Imagine the power we would have over children, spouses, significant others, bosses and colleagues if we could force them to always tell the truth! To know what the other person is thinking and feeling – no fears, no games – how refreshing that would be!

Third, I know all of us could put the indestructible bracelets to use on a daily basis. Wonder Woman always seemed to need hers to deflect bullets. I don’t think any of us have been shot at…but we could use the bracelets in a different way – to deflect all negative things that come our way – no energy suckers, no negativity, no angst, no self-doubt, no fears…no sickness, no sadness…I wish that were possible.

But – alas, we are mere mortals. We are human just like everyone else…vulnerable to the ups and downs that life brings to each of us. And as we get older, I realize that life throws a lot at all of us, and we all cope in different ways.

What makes these “wonder women” special is how they have the beauty, brains and braun to cope from within – no super powers necessary! These ladies – as many others in my life, emanate grace in the face of both the highs and the lows that life brings to all of us. They are mothers, wives, daughters and friends who don’t hesitate to put their loved ones first.

Today I celebrate these special women, as well as the other Wonder Women in my life – you know who you are! You are all as beautiful as Aphrodite and as wise as Athena in my book.

Oh Marie!

This is a story about my Mom, Marie, whose birthday is tomorrow. I have told this story a few times this week – because it’s funny, and is such a great example of what makes my mom so special. I will tell it here – again, because it will hopefully make others chuckle…and because I think there is something we can all learn from my mom about the joy of living life to the fullest.

My mom and dad just returned from a vacation that they touted as a “Big Chill Weekend” to visit their friends from high school that they hadn’t seen in many, many years. Clearly, they were anticipating having a fun, and possibly somewhat decadent time with old friends…and that is exactly what happened.

Here is the evidence:

My mother Marie at the tattoo parlor.
The end result. A palm tree.

Mom sent these pictures to all of our family with no explanation whatsoever. I literally was sitting in my cubicle at work when I opened the email, and I may have said an expletive or two out loud when I saw these pictures for the first time. My family’s reactions were so varied – and gave me a lot to think about over the last few days. My brother wasn’t too happy that he would have to explain to his young children how and why “Nina” got “inked.” I saw the pictures and immediately called my father in disbelief to get the story – and was relieved to discover the tattoo was airbrushed…whew!! My sister – the street smart one in our bunch – figured out that it was airbrushed from the picture and was completely nonplussed. My father was and is still trying to garner support from all of us being, in his words, “a united front” in disapproval of my mother ever getting a real tattoo.

As I told this story and sent the pictures around to some friends, I realized that I was doing so with a significant amount of pride and joy for my mom. Yes – my reaction had been authentic – I was relieved she didn’t get a real tattoo. But – I would seriously not have been surprised if she had actually done it – or if she does do it sometime in the future. That is who she is – someone who takes risk, who enjoys having fun, and who frankly doesn’t care all that much about what people think. She is the kind of person who will jump in the water with her clothes on…or will jump in her outdoor hot tub without them (both of these things have definitely happened). Do I want to erase that mental picture from the hot tub?? Maybe. Do I want to erase that memory and the hilarious story that ensued – absolutely not!! My mom is often unfiltered and uninhibited – speaking and acting from the heart.

I have learned so much from my mom about taking risks, about being true to who you are, about being passionate and joyful in the moment. When I tell these funny stories to my friends, I always say that I hope that I am the kind of person who would do the same things at her age. I hope that I take risks, that I am true to who I am, that I jump in the water and enjoy the moment now and at any age the way that she does.

Happy Birthday Mom!