Bethany Meyer is gaining ground on the starting line of the Boston Marathon, even if life is more complicated than the training. Bethany is running as part of the team sponsored by Stonyfield Organic Yogurt: to check out the other badass runners on their team and see what's going on with them, check in here.
It was my favorite part of the Super Bowl. The story unfolded, the music swelled, and my eyes brimmed with tears by the end. It made me want to “Roar” even more than Katy Perry.
Because being a girl can be complicated.
Dimity posted something on Facebook last week that got me thinking about how being a girl can be complicated.
“Ok, awkward moment this morning for me (Dimity) at an Orange Theory Fitness class. I'm riding the bike fairly close to a man, who I greeted with "Hi" as I walked in. He reaches out, touches my leg, and says, "Nice quads!" Then he proceeds to tell me he's a sports massage therapist, and tells me he has good rates and can come to my house.
I wasn't quite sure what to do, so just said something like, "Cool." and put my head down and concentrated on pedaling. But I kind of never want to see him again.
What would you have done? Said?”
Now, I have seen Dimity’s legs both in picture and in person and, from hip to toe, they are rocking. Lean and defined, her legs don’t end until a week from Friday. All 5’5” of me--mostly torso--covets them. So I can understand wanting to reach out and squeeze her quads.
To be fair, a sports massage therapist puts one’s hands on people for a living. Connecting with people through touch comes as naturally to a massage therapist as putting on a red nose and wig comes to a clown. It makes sense that a sports massage therapist would reach out and touch the leg of an obvious athlete.
When that sports massage therapist is a man and that athlete is a woman? Complicated.
I know how complicated being a girl can be. I am one.
Three years ago, I was restless. Antsy. I hadn’t “worked outside the home” for a solid decade. So all-encompassing is the responsibility of raising children that we sometimes forget our very essence. That happened to me. I forgot that I am a mighty little creature with a fierce spirit and a story to tell. My identity was almost solely defined as the mom with the four boys. I was so immersed in my children’s well-being that one morning I looked in the mirror and wondered how many hours--days?--that crusty old peanut butter had been stuck to my neck.
After I had scrubbed off the peanut butter and gotten all four of my kids into school full-time, I wondered, “What now?” Driven. Remember, I am the girl who does handstands between intervals. Foolish. There would be no standing rest. A few girlfriends encouraged me to write. “Write? Write about what?” I asked. I am not an expert on anything. Sure, I’m married, but he and I bicker all the time. Moody. Him, not me. I have a bunch of kids, but that doesn’t make me a good parent. Overwhelmed. Add four kids to our marital bickering, and you’ve got a chaotic daily existence.
That chaos is what I know, and it’s typically funny--mostly in hindsight--and sometimes poignant. It makes for a good story. “Write stories about your kids,” my friends said. “Tell stories about your husband!” they laughed. So, with the encouragement and support of the women in my life, I began writing about my chaos. Supported.
The writing quieted the restlessness. I felt like Pinocchio, “I’m real!” Like my voice was worth hearing. Validated.
But I still needed to get out of my house. Stir crazy. So I began working on Sunday afternoons at a local women’s active wear boutique. The owner’s name is Schuy, and she and I became fast friends. Schuy is the one of the warmest people I know. She’s easygoing with a smile that always reaches her eyes. Magnetic. “I’m so excited,” she told me one afternoon, “we’re bringing in a new line of clothing! Do you know Another Mother Runner?” she asked.
Do I know Another Mother Runner?!
“Shut UP!” I yelled. Obnoxious. “Run Like a Mother is on my nightstand! I have given it as a gift to my BRF’s! Did you actually talk to SBS or Dimity? In person?! Tell me everything!”
You see, I had laughed and cried and nodded my head yes and shook my head no as I had read their book. For a spell, Sarah’s and Dimity’s words were the last thing I read before closing my eyes at night. I drifted off to sleep those evenings a mighty little creature with a fierce spirit and a voice worth hearing who felt like she was part of something bigger simply from being a runner and having read their essays. Invigorated. Interrupting my nightly diatribe of “put two yogurts in this one’s lunchbox, sign that one’s homework, pull the bread out of the freezer, add the chicken to the crockpot,” with reminders that--as wholly as I love them--my identity doesn’t rest only in being Mother to my children was invaluable.
When Schuy suggested we enter a contest to run Ragnar with SBS and Dimity, I was game. Their writing had stirred something inside me, and the opportunity to meet them and embark on an adventure together felt like a once in a lifetime chance. A weekend to be more than Mom. Star struck.
We trained for Ragnar through the summer of 2013. That August, my family and I headed from our home in Pennsylvania to visit my Aunt and Uncle in West Virginia. Spontaneous. It’s a 5+ hour drive, and we pulled over at a beautiful space overlooking a lake in Western Maryland to let the boys run around and stretch their legs. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had pulled over at what would be the start line of the Ragnar Relay I would be running in less than two months. I walked down to the water, stood next to a blackberry bush, checked my email and, kismet, found a note from Dimity. Talented [with legs you want to reach out and touch]. ”Hey, Bethany, would you like to submit a chapter for our next book?” It was a huge, huge moment for me. Another once in a lifetime chance. A more than Mom moment. Grateful.
Last summer, my husband and I agreed that this would be the year that I would WRITE. He would drive the kids to school, I would glue my rear end to the chair, and pen personal narrative after personal narrative until I had a finished manuscript. One that made me proud. Well, it’s February, and there haven’t been any personal narratives. Life got in the way of his driving the kids to school. And SBS and Dimity offered me yet another once in a lifetime chance. This time to run the Boston Marathon. So those mornings that my rear end would have been glued to the chair writing have been spent training. Freezing. I mean excited!
And training for this race is saving me.
I have STUFF going on in my life right now. Unforeseeable STUFF. The kids are fine, the marriage is strong, we are all healthy, but I carry the STUFF with me everywhere I go. It’s heavy and steals the twinkle from my eyes. Unhinged. I can’t write about it. Living it is difficult enough. Not writing about the STUFF wears on me because writing is how I work through things. Disingenuous. So, the running is my time to process. My distraction. My focus. My outlet. My therapy. My peace. It’s saving me.
My heart beats for my husband and four sons. Almost everything I do in my everyday life is for them. But, in the throes of all of this STUFF, I find myself turning to the girls in my life. I’m stealing every bit of strength I can from my girlfriends. Fragile.
There is the friend who, when she heard I would be running Boston, said, “I’ll do every long run with you!” She, like me, has never run more than 13.1 miles. What an amazing gift. Supportive. She recently met Kathrine Switzer in California. She brought home a copy of Kathrine’s book, Marathon Woman, for me.
There is the friend who announced in December, “My motto for 2015 is everything I want is on the other side of fear!” She just sold her house, and she and her family will move this summer. She is chasing her dreams, and they’re leading her to the other side of the country. Her star burns too brightly to tether her to Philadelphia. She’s giving fear the one two punch. Brave.
There’s the friend who’s known heartbreaking loss, yet her first question is always “How can I help?” Resilient.
There are friends--runners and non-runners--who simply listen. Sympathetic. The girlfriend in Boston who reminds me how running can heal. Empathetic.
My sister. She was my first friend. She is my always friend. Loyal.
And my Mom. Whom I love. No matter what. Unconditional.
Everywhere I look I am in awe of the women in my life. Inspired.
It’s not what they wear. It’s not where they live. It’s not what they do for a living. It is the way they share my burden when I can’t shoulder it alone. The way they celebrate my success as though it were their own. The way they recognize something in me before I am able to see it myself. The way they accept all of the parts of me that make me a girl.
And I know that being a girl can be complicated. We are a mighty, fierce, antsy, driven, foolish, overwhelmed, supported, validated, stir crazy, magnetic, obnoxious, invigorated, star struck, spontaneous, talented, grateful, raw, freezing, excited, unhinged, disingenuous, fragile, supportive, brave, resilient, sympathetic, empathetic, loyal, unconditional, and inspired group.
And sometimes our spouses are moody.
Three years ago, a few girls encouraged me to put myself out there. It was their belief in me that gave me the courage to be vulnerable enough to write. Then another girl asked if I wanted to try to win a spot on a relay team with her. Because I wrote and because I ran, I met the girls who wrote the book that I keep on my nightstand because it reminds me that I am mighty and fierce and worth hearing. And because we have running and writing and laughing and being vulnerable and stripping away pretenses in common, we have remained in one another’s lives.
In a few short weeks, their third book will be out and, by some stroke of luck, I contributed a chapter. Six weeks after the release of the book, while many of you are just arriving home from your Mother Runner Retreat, I’ll be participating in the 2015 Boston Marathon.
This marathon training is a true journey, and today I need to acknowledge the emotion of it more than the miles accumulated.
I wouldn’t be here without my girls. My complicated, amazing, beautiful girls.
Now--because Kathrine Switzer told me to--I’m going to work on my fearlessness.
Because, on April 20th, ladies, “You’re gonna hear me ROAR!”