Last week my stepson Jon packed up his car and left for grad school.
Okay, so maybe that’s a weird way to start out a post on a running web site.
Let me back up the train: yes, I have a stepson. In fact, I have two stepsons and a stepdaughter. My husband Scott has three kids from his first marriage. They’re all twenty-somethings, and Jon is the youngest.
As a step-parent I have tried to impart bits of wisdom and advice – always striving to keep it to the solicited variety – based on my life experience. Now he’s moving into a territory unknown to both his father and me; neither Scott nor I have ventured this far into the bowels of academia. (You're welcome for that imagery.) In addition, Jon’s school is 900 miles away from our little corner of the woods. It’s his first time living on his own and away from home. So yeah, it’s a big deal.
Like all parents, we hope he’ll check in from time to time and let us know how it’s going, and of course, ask us when he needs something. And though I can’t offer any solid advice about grad school, I do have a few nuggets I hope he'll take to heart, which I think also applies to us as runners. Stay with me.
Surround yourself with good people who inspire you. People who build you up instead of tearing you down. People who challenge you and push you to be a better person. Don’t waste your time on the ones who bring negative energy into your space. You don’t need it. Treasure close-knit groups but avoid the cliques. Cliques suck. They sucked in high school and they still suck today.
You are stronger than you think. One of my favorite lines ever was from the AMR podcast a few weeks ago with Molly Sheridan: Don't quit because you're tired. This has changed how I approach training. For heaven's sake, don't be afraid of a little (or a lot of) pain. When I was younger, I did not picture myself as a mother. Not because I didn't like kids, but because I was afraid of the stories I'd heard about the pain of childbirth. Be willing to get uncomfortable. The results on the other side are worth it.
Try new things to avoid complacency. Have fun! Last week I rode in a mountain bike race; I hadn’t done this in eight years and I was terrified.
It turned out to be one of the most refreshing things I’ve done in a long time. The nerves quickly turned into excitement and man, was it fun. It was a change of pace from my regular weekend routine – I missed a long run to participate – and it also made me appreciate even more my crazy long distances on Saturday mornings.
Keep it all in perspective (and maybe this is the most important of all). Last week Scott’s dad started cancer treatment for the second time. I don’t think I have to say much about that; we all probably know someone close to us who has gone through it or have ourselves. (Scott’s mom died from stomach cancer complications five years ago. So we’ve been there. Done that. Burned shirt.)
I am fully aware that training for races and running FOR FUN are first world luxuries I am lucky to have in my life. I try to be mindful of this fact, especially at this time in the training season when it gets rough: the juggling of schedules, the super-early morning wake ups for long mid-week runs before work or when VoldeSon has taken his place in the summer sky. And then the juggling act: trying to keep all the balls in the air without my house being zoned as a public health hazard or serving my kids cold pizza, blue box macaroni and frozen nuggets of suspect origin every night of the week.
I used to think that I was failing because I couldn't be the Pinterest-perfect mom while making sure my kids were happy and safe and cared for while I was doing what I needed to do for ME (run, train, set goals, race). And let's not forget the laundry piled on the couch, which may still exist. Just in a slightly different configuration.
But my kids are happy. They are fed, clothed, and bathed (most of the time). The pile of laundry on my couch is not causing any calamity other than confusing my dogs on where they can sleep. I know I don't have to strive for perfection, and that I can still do the things I do to maintain normalcy at a time when someone I love is dealing with issues of life and death, because this is what keeps us grounded.
And I know these are pretty basic principles, ones you’ve heard before, but sometimes it’s good to hear them again. And today, at the time of this writing, I'm in a place where I desperately needed to be reminded. Thanks for humoring me, BAMRs.