Setting the Record Straight

Tonight, I accomplished the second 5k in what I’m terming my “comeback series.”  I’ve only just passed the 2 ½ month mark out from my ankle break and I’m already back at it, running (albeit slowly) a familiar 3.1 mile route around my neighborhood and then the same distance on the softer track at the local high school. I’ve been running with timed walking intervals to give my ankle a rest, and let me tell you, I’m definitely not in the shape I was in three months ago.

That, however, brings me to a private message I received over on the ol’ social media account this evening.  Shortly after Strava auto-posted my run and made it public, I got a message from a friend saying what an inspiration I was for my determination, my strength, and my drive to get back out there and just do it.  He praised my spirit and how, despite everything I’ve gone through in the past year, I’ve never given up.

I thanked him, found an excuse to cut the conversation short (I’m not good at taking compliments and praise) and headed for the shower where I contemplated his statements for a while.  The more I thought, the more I realized I had to have something to say about the entire thing.  So here it is.

I’m a fraud, and my friend is entirely wrong about me.

You see, he was most impressed with my determination to never give up, and that’s patently wrong.

I have given up.  Over the past two and a half months, I’ve given up a hundred times or more.  At least once a day, to be certain.  And if we include the previous cancer diagnoses (yes, there were multiple) and the procedures/treatments/doctor visits included since last summer, that number probably jumps from a hundred to five times that many.  I may have perfected the art of giving up.

The circumstances under which I threw my hands in the air and refused to go on varied, but they usually went something like this:  a previously simple task gave me great difficulty, such as eating or walking across the room without assistance, or touching my toes.  I would then flounder, curse (most of the time), cry (some of the time), and swear it wasn’t worth it.  I’d plot the remainder of my days sitting in the house wasting away, growing soft and weak until I eventually faded into uselessness.  I’d swear I was going to give away all of my weights, my running clothes, my “nice” clothes, and my shoes so that I’d never have to look at my failures again. I’d start to delete my activity apps from my phone and toss my Garmin across the room as a way of rebelling against what I felt was overwhelming pressure to recover – something I knew I’d never be able to do.

But then, mere minutes after throwing the “I give up” tantrum, I’d sit there with my chin on my hand, or my arms crossed over my chest, and I’d realize that life wasn’t really life if I didn’t live.

I needed to be outside.  I needed to feel my heart pounding and my chest heaving as I pushed my limits. I needed to hear that familiar voice in my head trying to talk me out of whatever insanity I was trying and the other, louder voice that said I could do it.  I needed to know that I was capable of anything I put my mind to.  More than anything, I needed to know I wasn’t dead.

Because being at home, with no goals other than “get well” wasn’t being alive.  It was existing, which is the closest thing I know to being dead.  And it wasn’t acceptable.

So while I never much shared those moments (some I did, to be fair), I certainly can’t take home the medal for “most crap endured without giving up” because that’s just not genuine.

To use a word that makes me cringe, I’m not that “badass.”

I’m just a middle aged woman making her way through life and trying to make the most of it.

I’m not inspirational, or stronger than any of the other amazing women I know.  Right now, I’m also not as fast as them (and I may never be again), so I don’t even have that going for me.

I’m nothing to look up to, and I’m certainly no one’s hero.  I wish I were, but I just can’t wear that hat knowing how weak I was on those days when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the multiple tunnels I worked through.

I’m me.  Plain, simple, flawed me.  With the scars to prove it.

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