I Won Today

Ice has never really been my friend, but our relationship really hit a slick spot in December of 2013. I had trained for countless hours, mostly alone, for the Metro PCS Dallas Half-Marathon. I ran in freezing rain, sleet, and snow; I ran even after already running 800s and 1200s for our daily track workout. And I did all of this for nothing, because two days before the big race an ice storm hit Dallas and the race was cancelled.

I was heartbroken. I stayed in my room for hours crying because all my hard work had been wasted. Forget about the fact that every runner would be in danger from freezing temperatures and hazardous conditions – I wanted my medal. Within a few days the organizers of the race sent out a message that would become a beacon of hope. My medal wasn’t lost; I simply had to run in 2014 and cross the finish line. My mind went to work. “What if I can’t run it next year? What if I’m too busy? Who am I kidding? I HAVE to run it. I HAVE to get that medal.” And so, I decided right then that I would run the 2014 half-marathon, if for no other reason than to get the medal that meant more than any prize in this world to me.

Medals and marathons, however, soon became the farthest thing from my mind. The months flew by and before I knew it I had graduated high school and was peering through the door of a dark, musty college dorm room. In another instance my family was gone and I was left all alone. Tears became my closest companion from that point on. Let’s skip the formalities and get straight to the truth – I was miserable. All I wanted was to give up and go home, but in a few weeks I started classes and life seemed okay for a minute. Or so I thought.

Anxiety. It’s one small word, yet it’s had a huge impact on my life since the summer after 3rd grade. On May 20, 2005, we lost Jarid. He was invincible in my eyes; he was strong. I didn’t understand how he, of all people, could suddenly be gone. With every passing day, I struggled with these questions. With every passing day, my fear of death grew stronger. With every passing day, I was getting closer to THE day. The day I had my first panic attack. The first day that anxiety would win.

My friends could never know. No one could ever know. I learned to hide it, and through hiding it, I learned to control it until I was in a “safe place.” That place was always with my mom. I can’t count how many nights she spent doing absolutely nothing but calming me down. There’s no telling how many hours of sleep she’ll never get back. I thank God that He gave her to me every day. As long as I had my mom, I knew it would be okay. I drew strength from her and my anxiety took a seat on the back burner. I flourished in my last years at Velma-Alma and I was truly happy. I felt like I had finally won.

Ada and Velma are exactly 64.9 miles apart. Distance was all my anxiety needed to make a comeback. My mom couldn’t help me. She wasn’t there to hold me and say it was okay. My panic attacks returned. My life became fear. Fear became my life. I spent nearly every night curled in a ball, clutching to my bible for dear life. I gave up on everything. I gave up on the half-marathon. I gave up on the medal. I gave up on running, period.  That’s when I knew it was bad. I knew I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live like this anymore. After months and months of avoiding it, I made the scariest decision of my entire life. I chose to seek help.

My legs have never been heavier than they were taking those first few steps through the counselor’s door. I had cried all morning, taking breaks only to pray and call my mom. It was something I had to do alone. I had to come face to face with my anxiety. It’s absolutely terrifying to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror, but that’s what I did. I clung to God with every fiber of my being and somehow I found a little bit of hope again.

About two months before the marathon, I got an email that all the spots were almost full. I threw my phone down and ignored it, but I couldn’t get it off my mind. I gave in and filled out the information and paid the registration fee. Before I could even catch my  breath it was December 14th and I was standing in a crowd of 20,000 people listening to the count down. In what felt like minutes I was running. My body wasn’t fully prepared for this race, but my heart was as strong as ever. I felt like I was soaring when I crossed the line and when they put the medal around my neck it was pure euphoria. I beat anxiety. I beat myself. On that day, I won.

Running and battling anxiety have a lot in common. Some days, it’s easy. You have the best run of your life. You beat your personal record. The crowd is cheering for you and everyone’s so proud. But some days, it’s all you can do to breathe. On those days, you need to slow down, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop. But the days runners live for are the days it’s hard. On those days, you get out of bed, lace up your shoes, and put one foot in front of the other. You face a hill that looks impossible to overcome, but then you do. When it’s all over you look back with sheer amazement at what you just did, what you’re capable of. You know then just how strong you are.

Every day will be a new day and it’s up to me to decide if I’ll win or lose that day. I know I won’t win every time. I’ve never met a runner who’s never lost a race. But when you lose, you don’t quit. You get up the next day and put your whole heart into improving. My newest medal means more to me than anything I’ve ever won, because on that day I won. I will also win the second I choose to hit the “publish” button. I will have told the world that I’m not perfect and that I do have a battle to fight and I know there are people who will judge me. But, if by reading this you can find hope to face whatever darkness lives in you, then everything I’ve suffered will be worth it.

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around it.”

Isn’t it ironic? To cross the finish line, you have to go through it, not around it. Keep hoping. Keep fighting. Keep running.

A Girl’s Best Friend

A month has almost passed by since the day I said goodbye to one of my dearest and oldest friends, Fluffy. I often find myself thinking of her understanding eyes and wagging tail. I miss her; a void is present in her absence. 

It has taken me this long to sit down and write this simply due to the fact I tear up  every time I think about our final moments together. But leading up to that very moment were thousands of other moments, moments I’ll treasure forever. 

The summer after I graduated Kindergarten, my mom promised me I could have a puppy. She asked around Velma, but nobody was giving any away. Then, one day we visited an elderly man who lived next to the grooming shack. His dog had recently had puppies under the house, and each of them needed a loving home. One by one they barreled through the small opening to the gate where I was standing. Looking behind the herd of puppies, I noticed something small, black, and fluffy dragging behind. The old man told us to ignore the runt, she probably wouldn’t live long. So, of course, I chose her and immediately named my tiny black fur ball Fluffy. That’s how it all began. 

Fluffy was a diva from the start. Her first night with us, she howled and cried until I put her in bed with me. She wore only pink and made frequent trips to the groomer. (I guess you could say that was my fault.) Leashes were out of the question, and if I attempted to put one on her, she would plop her tail end firmly on the ground in defiance. Fluffy was known for her “show dog” walk. She pranced through the house as if she owned the place, which she technically did. We were all wrapped around her paw, that was for sure. 

Fluffy didn’t approve of fences either. Within minutes of putting her outside, we always received two or three phone calls informing us that she was out on the town yet again. I can’t count how many times we had to get her out of “doggy jail.” I guess you could say she was a bit of a wild child in her “teenage” years.

Unexpectedly, Fluffy wound up pregnant during her lifetime. The night of her puppies’ birth I remember as one of the scariest of my life. Struggling to deliver, and struggling to breath Fluffy laid unnaturally still. Yet, despite how close she was to death, she pulled through and so did the puppies. That night really opened my young eyes for the first time. I thought to myself how strange it was that I was so attached to a dog, how intricate of a part she played in my family. 

As the years went by I grew and Fluffy did too. Middle school was a tough time for me. I always talked with Fluffy about my problems, and she looked at me with such understanding eyes. If I cried, she would lick the tears off my face. She always knew how to make a bad day better. When my age grew by a year, Fluffy’s grew by seven years. As my time in high school began to wind down, I knew my time with her was winding down too.

In her last weeks, Fluffy lost the ability to walk very far. She mostly slept, getting up to eat and drink every now and then. Her dark brown eyes clouded over, and her thick coat began to thin. Finally, my mom and I decided it was best to take her to the vet. This wasn’t any way to live. On our last morning together, I picked her up and carried her outside to her favorite sunny spot in the grass. As she lifted her little nose to the wind, memories came flooding back and so did the tears.

I remembered how much she loved winter snow, how she would romp and roll through it. I remembered spring days in the rain, dashing through puddles together. I remembered autumn days, jumping through leave piles, and how Fluffy looked like some sort of leafy monster afterwards. I remembered how much she loved the summer sun. But more than anything, I remembered our friendship. I’ll never know what she must have been thinking, but I know how content she looked. 

In an instant, it seemed we were looking at each other for the last time. The wind was replaced by the soft whir of a fan, and the grass by a cold metal table. I held her paw, and talked to her softly in order to comfort her. Before the vet came in, he gave us time to say goodbye. I looked my friend in the eyes for the last time, seeing all at once every year we had spent together, seeing how much my friend had really aged. I longed for her to be youthful again, and tears began to stream down my face. Looking at me with those same understanding eyes, Fluffy licked the tears away just like she always had. Our time together was up, and Fluffy slipped into an eternal sleep in my arms. 

I’ve often asked myself why animals’ lives are so much shorter than ours. I think a six-year-old boy summed it up best. 

“He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”
The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Rest in Peace my dear friend. I’ll never forget you. 

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Last, First Thoughts

Yesterday was the day I’ve been looking forward to since I started training back in early December. Yesterday was my very last, first track meet.

To say I was excited is an understatement. I was absolutely thrilled the time had finally come. So much, in fact, that I actually slept in my track uniform the night before. Sleep was hard to come by, as the only thing running through my mind was (no pun intended) running.

I woke up that morning before my 6:30 alarm, which isn’t something that usually happens. I was ready an hour before it was time to leave, so I found myself thinking about the coming day, what I expected, and what it meant. Deeply lost in my thoughts, I realized it was time to go and rushed out the door, making it to the track before any of my fellow teammates or the bus.

After a short bus ride, we arrived in Marlow. My eyes darted from bus to bus as I tried to figure out exactly what schools I would be racing. My eyes fell on Plainview’s bus (they are a program with rich tradition), so I knew I had stiff competition.

The day moved by slowly, but eventually it was time for my first race: the 800 meter run. I wasn’t exactly pleased with my time. Actually, I just wasn’t happy with it at all. Later, I ran the 1600 meter race with the exact same result. I left that meet feeling discouraged and all together worn out by the whole thing. How could I have trained for all this time to have such a terrible performance?

(Let me clarify that I am the only one who thought my races were awful. You’ll learn after reading a couple of my blogs that I am extremely critical of myself. It’s a two-edged sword.)

When I got home, I was in a terrible mood. But then, it hit me.

I’m a Comet.

What’s a Comet? A Comet is the type of person who never ever gives up, even when every single odd is stacked against them. A Comet will look at an impossible situation and say “it’s possible.” A Comet fights, simply because they don’t know how to give up. A Comet digs deep down, seeking ability far beyond what people think they are capable of. A Comet defies common belief. A Comet will sacrifice what they are, for what they know they can become.

And, if I’m a Comet, I am perfectly able of whatever I set my mind to. Whether or not I ever achieve what I set out to do is not important. If I fail, I will have accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime. I will have chased down my dream. I will have tried. Technically, this is my last year as a Comet. That track meet was my very last first, in any sport. But, with that said, it was not my last opportunity to accomplish something. I’ll always be a Comet. I’ll never know how to quit, how to stop believing in a dream.

Deep down, there’s a little bit of Comet in all of us, that piece of you that just won’t give up. You’ll encounter difficulty, disappointment, and hardship when following your dream. Don’t back down from the challenge. Let the Comet inside of you shine, and go get it.

Introduction

Where’s my southern hospitality? I believe an introduction is in order.

Hey, y’all! My name is Sidney, and I reign from the rolling hills and windy plains of Oklahoma. I live in a little town you’ve never heard of. Seriously, if you blink you’ll miss it. But, I am full of nothing but pride for my hometown. I’m a student, runner, book reader, outdoor junky, geocacher, and lover of all things old/historic.

One of my goals for 2014 (no not a resolution) was to start a blog. This will be a year of drastic change for me, so I’ll be sharing my daily/weekly adventures with whoever cares to read them here.

Anyway, I hope for a first blog post, this was somewhat intriguing. I’ll be back to write more soon, so stay tuned!