My Story (Part 4): Beyond Surviving

I realized about the time I turned 50 (three years ago this coming weekend) that I was just getting started. I had spent my 30s building my career and creating my family. I had spent most of my 40s working a lot of hours at stressful, and some unfulfilling, jobs to pay my mortgage, save for college, and keep my family afloat. I was sandwiched between my school-aged daughter and elderly parents. I wasn’t unhappy. But my life was about the roles I played, what I was to everyone else, being needed, not personally fulfilled.

At the time of my 50th Birthday, I had just survived cancer and my husband’s suicide. I was done putting everyone else first, but also finally came to the understanding that by treating myself with love and respect, giving myself the time I needed to follow my own heart, I could also bring a better version of myself to all my relationships.

Through some tragic circumstances and almost a decade full of difficulties and challenges, I found my best me. Because of my cancer diagnosis I began to see sunrises in a whole new way; my husband’s death gave me a renewed appreciation of sunsets. The reality of each day, the actual sight of a sunrise or sunset, takes my breath away like never before. While I have gotten up early for the sole purpose of watching the sun rise and I have ventured to the perfect spot to watch the sun set,  most of the time those events catch me by surprise in the middle of other plans and serve as a magnificent reminder: the rising and setting of the sun as a metaphor for life.

The sun never stops burning. I felt that light – that heat – inside me and it’s how I have approached my afterlife…after my parents, after cancer, after my marriage, after my 20-year career as a fundraiser, and come June, after my daughter’s high school graduation. Rather than seeing an end to life as I’ve known it, as I rose from being a survivor, I found meaning and my true self. I realized it is through pain and challenges, confronting our fears and moving out of our comfort zones, that we find gratifying experiences and our extraordinary life.

Chasing the sun. My metaphor for running. As the rise and setting of the sun is a constant, chasing the sun – running – has been constantly and consistently, for over 20 years, keeping me in touch with me. It has taken me from incompetent to confidence in so many areas of my life. It is running that brought me through the dark days of tragedy to survivor – and now joyful, alive, and loving the life I’ve created.

I drew on the lessons I learned as a marathon runner: I am more capable and stronger than I thought; Nothing is impossible if I believe I can; To achieve anything, I need to work at it; Do MY best and don’t compare myself to others;  Challenges keep me motivated; The road is full of up hills and down hills, successes and lessons learned; Keep moving forward, one step at a time; Have patience; Preparation leads to results; When I visualize a strong finish, I can achieve it; There are lots of things I have no control over; Investing in myself is sooooo worth it! It’s all about the journey.

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2018 – so far!                                                                                                                                           Finishes: two Half Marathons and one Marathon. 1st Place Age Group Finish: One 5k..                 Not bad for a(n almost) 53-year-old.

2 thoughts on “My Story (Part 4): Beyond Surviving

  • May 13, 2018 at 1:00 am
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    Mary, I truly enjoyed reading this article. While my challenges were of different “buckets” I have come to land in exactly the same place as you. Perhaps it is our ages. Perhaps it is realization. Perhaps it is just a lot of negative experiences that force us to search inside. My new favorite word is YET. There are many things I have not done YET, achieved YET, found a great love YET. But if I seek it, I will. I too have recently experienced turning my efforts to myself, maybe for the first time in my life, and the results have been outstanding. The path is clear. I, too have challenged myself, moved completely out of my comfort zone, leapt without a net, and can honestly say am living one of the best chapters of my life right now….and it has just begun. So thank you for your honesty and openness in sharing your story. I have no doubt that you will go on to run many more races and overcome many more milestones. It is time for you! BTW – I ran my first 5K this month. Not my favorite sport but I trained and did it. Just because I wanted to. And that, is what I believe it is all about. Investing in ourselves.

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    • May 13, 2018 at 7:12 am
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      Karen, thank you! I love “YET!” What a great way to frame such a positive perspective! Congratulations on all that you have achieved – I saw you had moved so knew something was up. What a long and winding road we have traveled since 3rd grade soccer. Congratulations on the 5k! Now think, “what else did I think was impossible? All the best to you. Please keep in touch.

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