Q&A

I have a lot of questions that will always remain unanswered.

Was there something I could have done?
Was there something I could have done differently?
Was this preventable?
How did I miss the signs?
Why didn’t he feel that he could talk to me?
Where did we all go wrong?
What happens when you die?

These are the things that haunt me, and they cut like a knife on a daily basis. I’m not sure if that will ever go away. But, generally speaking, when situations arise that offer more questions than answers, it is best to focus on what you do know. That’s really all you can do, anyway.

So what I know is that my brother is mourned by many and in many different ways. There are a lot of grieving souls that have been left behind to sift through the pain and struggle with the loss: parents, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, siblings, friends, friends of friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, acquaintances, sponsors, roommates, coworkers… Death has a ripple effect. I don’t know what happens after our final breaths, but I know that we will all be survived by the people we love and the people who love us. I know that we will all leave a legacy.

My brother will be with me forever. His life and the circumstances of his death have changed the way that I think and feel about the world. That is his legacy, or at least the part of his legacy that I have a say in. I am determined to honor him with a legacy that he would be proud of. To let the grief and the pain change me in a way that makes me stronger and kinder. Better. And in turn, one day (hopefully many years from now) I will be survived by loved ones that I leave behind, and they will carry my spirit and essence with them into the world, and they will be changed for the better because I have lived.

Lists

I make lists for just about everything in my life.  Every day, I write a to-do list for myself.  I make lists of pros and cons every time I have a big decision to make.  There’s something reassuring and motivating about writing things down and having them in list form.  For me, lists make everything seem less daunting.  It’s also important for me to make lists to keep track of good things and stuff that I have to look forward to in order to make sure that they are remembered.  Count your blessings, you know?  Lately I have been creating a few lists in my mind and I decided that this would be a good place to document them.

After recently discovering Spotify (a music app that is akin to Pandora, but in my opinion so much better) I have been on the hunt for the world’s greatest running songs.  Some miles are really difficult: there are hills, or cramps, or aches, or just a general desire to call it quits.  These moments are when truly great songs (or at least songs with a truly great beat and some positive lyrics) have the ability to push me forward and keep me going.  So… Here’s a list of some of my recent favorites:

1.  Tom Petty I Won’t Back Down
2.  The Beatles Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da 
3.  Rihanna Umbrella
4.  Florence + The Machine Dog Days Are Over
5.  The Foo Fighters Times Like These
6.  Queen Don’t Stop Me Now
7.  Weezer Buddy Holly
8.  Eminem The Real Slim Shady
9.  Katie Perry Roar
10.  No Doubt Hella Good

Another list that I have been meaning to write is a bucket list of sorts.  Reading stories in blogs and magazines about participating in all kinds of marathons and other running events has led to a few new dreams and goals of my own.  Here are some:

1.  Finally splurge on a freakin’ Nike + SportWatch
2.  Run a marathon
3.  Qualify for the Boston Marathon
4.  Run the Boston Marathon
5.  Run a marathon in another country
6.  Run the New York Marathon
7.  Run the Nike Women’s Marathon

Sometimes the best way to keep from becoming stagnant and turning into mush is to create goals and chip away at them day by day. I’m a work in progress.

-L

The only way out is through.

One thing that I have come to realize about the process of Grief is that it is unpredictable. There have been so many days that I have been blindsided by painful memories, insensitive assholes, and life’s general harshness towards my (and others’) suffering. There are days when the mere fact that life goes on seems so bewildering and insulting. Then there are times that I have been surprised by the kindness of a friend or stranger, times that I am pleasantly and unexpectedly reminded of sweet memories of my brother, and times that I am genuinely able to appreciate life’s beauty. One of the most difficult things about life lately is this feeling that the course of my day is at the mercy of the force and process of Grief.

I guess it would be beneficial to stop thinking of Grief as my mortal enemy. It is here to stay and has become a part of me that will not go away. It is time that I stop trying to hide from it. Every day I have to wake up and choose to get through it, to somehow manage to navigate through the pain. I need to stay productive and keep making healthy choices, while also allowing myself enough time and space to cry and hurt. But, to be honest, right now my tank is on empty. I am so tired and weak from the ebb and flow of Grief. I am starting to feel that I am just drifting, not really sure of what the hell I am doing anymore.

I know that tomorrow is a new day, and that in the morning I may even feel more upbeat about things. I am just wondering if this ever becomes manageable in a more predictable way; I am so tired of bracing myself for Grief every morning.

So sorry for this downer of a post.
-L
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It’s all mental

They say that running is mostly a psychological sport.  “It’s 90% mental”, they say.  I’m sure that every runner has her own anecdote about why she agrees or disagrees with this adage.  Here’s mine:

My personal opinion is that 90% seems to be an accurate estimation.  And that is most likely why running seems to suit me.  Or why, at this particular moment in my life, I am so drawn to it.  Life is a fucking mess sometimes. Having a safe and healthy space to sort out your thoughts is important when life keeps throwing lemons at your face.  I realize that when they say running is a mental sport, they aren’t really talking about its psychoanalytic or therapeutic benefits.  They are referring to pushing through physical pain by rising above it on a mental level.  I get it.  But during my long distance runs, I have noticed that somewhere around mile 10 my mind is not concerned at all with pushing through or rising above physical pain.

For me, mile 10 always marks this mysterious, almost sacred place where I am able to think clearly about my life.  I think about short-term goals and make checklists.  I congratulate myself on recent accomplishments.  (This is huge for me, because aside from these moments, I am very hard on myself and don’t often stop to recognize how far I have come.)  I consider and weigh my options when I am in the throws of a tough decision.  I count and name my blessings.  Sometimes, I even think about the very distant future.  A master’s degree in December.  Then a career that I will love.  A house.  Decorating the house!  A family of my own to live in it someday, maybe?  Many of these thoughts, sadly, were so foreign to me before running became a part of my life.

Running has helped me put things in perspective and has given me a sense of clarity and purpose.  I need this mental sport in my life.  It is such a privilege and a gift to be able to strap shoes on my feet and go for a run.  Cheers to the ninety percent.

-L

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A ton of bricks

Spring semester ended today.  I am in graduate school studying Comparative Literature (with an emphasis in American Literature, though that is not very pertinent to this blog post.)  Today I finally finished up my last paper and slid it under the door of my professor’s office.  I was ready to celebrate and enjoy a relatively carefree summer as I walked out of the English Department, but then everything hit like a ton of bricks.

This semester was my first time back in school since my brother died.  There was a time that I thought I wouldn’t be able to go back to classes and carry on or be “normal”.  Grief has robbed me of my once very keen ability to pay attention and focus (amongst other things), so for a while I thought that finishing this degree would be near impossible.  Once I decided that I would hate myself and regret it forever if I didn’t at least try to earn my degree, I promised myself that I would take it easy and try not to get too overwhelmed.  I skipped more classes than I regularly would and tried not to feel guilty about it.  I wasn’t too hard on myself when I didn’t finish the weekly readings or do my best on a paper.  My main goal was to survive this semester, and I did.  I think I might have even done well.

But as I relinquished my last assignment and walked to my car in Parking Structure 4, everything just seemed to come crashing down.  I imagined myself driving home and crawling into bed and not getting out until autumn.  At this moment, that is still the only thing I can envision myself doing.  It seems that I harnessed all of my energy into schoolwork and didn’t really allow myself to feel things the way that they demand to be felt.

When I am honest with myself, it is clear to me that I try not to think about things for too long because I am afraid of what I might end up feeling.  I haven’t cleaned my closet in months because Nick’s ashes are on the top shelf in a box.  Thinking about that for too long scares me.  Very much.  My brother’s ashes are in a box.  In my closet.  I didn’t know what else to do with them.  I put part of him in the woods near my grandmother’s house in Oregon.  And then I put a bit more of him at my grandmother’s gravestone. I just get paralyzed by fear every time I think of this.

Summer is here, and I no longer have school or work to hide behind or pour myself into in order to avoid all of this.  So this summer I will be dealing with this onerous mess of thoughts and feelings.  Fearful, yet brave.  If running 20 miles has taught me anything, it is that I am one determined motherfucker.  I will feel and think and let the chips fall where they may.  Today was a really bad day, and I was blindsided by it.  Here’s to hoping that tomorrow will be better.

-L

Big things have small beginnings.

These are some photos I’ve taken during some of my runs.  I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful place close to beaches and trails that are perfect for hiking and running.  When life is beautiful and sweet, I like to take a moment to appreciate it.  Mixing up terrain and scenery breaks up the monotony, and on particularly pretty days when I’m not too heavy-hearted or stubborn to stay indoors, it can do wonders for my mood.

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Running teaches us to keep moving forward, one step at a time, especially in the most painful moments.

Hello, blogging world.  It’s nice to finally meet you.  I guess the best place to start would be to introduce myself:

My name is Lauren, and I have very recently discovered my love for running.  I realize that my story is not necessarily unique, and that there are others out there who have learned how to deal and how to heal through the therapeutic powers of running.  But I am a strong believer in owning your story and telling it without apology.  I have something to say, and I don’t want to let a fear of sounding redundant keep me in silence.  So, here it goes.

I recently lost my brother to the tragedy of suicide.  It is still hard to say aloud, so I usually don’t.  I usually say it from the other side of a computer, via keyboard.  Emails, blurbs for fundraisers, Facebook chat, text messages. It’s easier to handle the typing of it than the voicing of it.  So this is how I am choosing to talk about it at this moment in time:  A blog.

When the unimaginable turmoil settled, I laid in bed for a few months.  It is important to note that I say that without apology, because for me, that was necessary.  I needed to decompress alone in my bed, with only the company of my dog and Netflix.  I needed those months.

But one day, I had the thought that it was time to get up.  I didn’t quite know where I wanted to go, though, and for some reason I felt that my first time out of my apartment should be spent doing something healthy and helpful.  So I rummaged through my closet and found my old high top Chuck Taylors.  I put them on and laced them up, put a leash on my dog, and off we went.

We didn’t even make it a mile.  Or, shall I say, didn’t even make it a mile.  My dog pulled me most of the way; he did great.  He’s motivating and inspiring like that.

After that day, I kept at it for some reason or another.  I didn’t have any real goals or plans to be any kind of an athlete or anything.  I just wanted to run.  (Have you seen Forrest Gump?  “That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.”)  Just because.

3 miles.
5 miles.
8 miles.
Ten.
Twelve.
Fifteen.
And then this weekend, twenty.

Throughout the grief that has been so raw and painful, running has sustained me.  It has been my anchor, my silver lining, my pride.  It has taught me that my body, mind, and soul are capable of things far beyond anything I could ever imagine.  It has proven that I am strong, and that I will make it through.

So I am here to document my journey in all of its facets. To record and remember the good days and the bad, the moments that I want to give up, and the times that I think anything is possible.

If anybody is reading this, I hope you enjoy the ride.

-L