Thursday, October 8, 2015
Last weekend I ran into a fence on the way to a bistro in downtown Portland. Yep. I'm in Oregon, and I have been for two months.
And yes, I know I've been absent in blogland. Kind of MIA, really, for about two years. So the fact that I'm blogging again, that I plan to continue blogging, and that I'm in Oregon, is something that probably needs some explanation.
But I'm not MIA. Not anymore. And I'm not explaining.
I'm writing. From Oregon. Today, at least.
So back to running into a fence in Portland.
Don't worry; I wasn't injured, and I was on foot. Actually I ran into the barrier fence on the sidelines of the 2015 Portland Marathon, about 400 meters from the finish line. And then I intentionally stopped and watched for over an hour, even though I didn't know any of the race participants. I couldn't help it.
There are very few things that I have seen that are as beautiful as what I witnessed standing there next to family members of race participants; the courage I witnessed made me cry at times.
I saw race-veterans whipping through the portion of the course I was standing on the sidelines of, several folks with physical disabilities, elderly runners and my personal favorite, "first-timers," who had a certain look about them that I can't really describe, but who nodded "yes," sometimes with tears in their eyes and sweat dripping down their faces, when the charming marathon volunteer with a British accent and a microphone asked if this was their first time.
And of those "first-timers," the runners who tugged on my heart-strings most were the young parents, with parents, partners, spouses and kiddoes on the sidelines.
What was almost as beautiful as seeing these brave individuals was watching the faces of their families and friends as they screamed support, sometimes tears running down their cheeks, the pride and love absolutely transforming their faces. A young lady who looked about 12 ran behind me, along the sidelines, her long hair streaming behind her, keeping up with her mama who was lit up like a winning Olympiad as she tackled the end of a race she was clearly running for her daughter as much as she was running for herself.
I couldn't help but think of a my friend, Jennifer Luitweiler, who I met several years ago in blogland. She is a runner, an incredible mama and a gifted writer who writes about how "you can do hard things."
I had the privilege of being a cheerleader and friend as Jennifer wrote about her journey of running (and living) with courage that still takes my breath away. You can find her inspiring book, Run With Me, HERE.
I thought about the marathons that Jennifer has run, none of which I've been able to witness in person. I thought about the courage it took for her to write her book, too, and the brave woman behind that book that I got to know as I copy-edited her incredible writing. It made me wish I'd run a marathon with her, or at least stood on the sidelines with her amazing husband, Kurt, and her beautiful kidlets.
"You've got this!" the runner's families and friends yelled, and someone across from me had a sign with the same words hand-written on it. I imagined Jennifer's family standing there just like them.
In not much time at all, I was yelling the same thing, to total strangers, some of whom made eye contact with me, probably wondering why someone they had never seen in their lives was yelling support.
"YOU'VE GOT THIS!" I couldn't help but scream.
Sometimes-walking, sometimes-limping participants often picked up their pace as they saw and heard the support and celebration bouncing off the walls of historic and modern buildings of downtown Portland, sooooo close to the finish line. I high-fived some of them, and got to take a picture for a family whose husband/dad was running his first marathon and stopped to hug his family at the almost-finish-line spot where I was standing.
"You've got this."
I've been thinking about this phrase, as well as a companion phrase...
"I've got this."
This is one I've heard coming out of my own mouth more than a few times in the last couple months. It's what I've taken to saying to family members and friends who are concerned about my being homeless in Oregon. That's a long story, if you don't know it already. And a lot of people I've explained the story to are still massively confused about why I'm here and how I feel about it.
The universe brought me here. I'm not sure how else to put it, though I have tried to explain it to others, who either understand or they don't. I will be writing about this leg of my journey as the months go on, as it's been quite a ride, and I've grown and learned in ways I had no way of anticipating or even explaining well.
The point is, almost everyone has an opinion about how/what I do, as well as what I did/do before coming here. I just can't respond to that anymore. I have to listen to ME and trust that the answer is inside. Every time I do that, miracles/magic/incredible things happen. I'm floored. So the idea that those who love me would support and encourage me to be the fullness of who I am, and in that support, they would see that I needed/need a, "You've got this!" more than I need direction or advice, makes me nearly sob.
If you're a part of my life, in "real-life," or in this beautiful blogland, you know my Mama Heart. You know that my kids and their dad's arrival on Saturday for a fun-filled, much-anticipated weekend with Mama is the thing that gets me through some really tough moments.
Currently, only a couple people in my life are saying, "You've got this." And that's o.k.
As I stood there on the sidelines, though, watching families and friends unabashedly celebrating as their loved ones finished something HUGE and brave they worked hard for, some of my tears were not unlike those of the exhausted, PROUD marathon finishers who didn't give a damn whether or not anyone understood how hard they worked to get to that moment.
Whether anyone else understands it or not, I know that what I'm experiencing right now is just as real a celebration of my own courage as those runners were experiencing. My beautiful 14-year-old daughter is proud of me. A few of those close to me know how brave I've been, how strong I've become and how grateful I am for the opportunity to discover how strong I really am.
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I know, "I've got this."
And guess what?
YOU'VE GOT THIS. Whether you know it or not, and more importantly, whether others around you know it or not, it's true. You do.
I'm not sure there's a better expression of love than those words spoken aloud from someone who sees your courage, and is calling it out. I've come to believe that Love means saying (or screaming!), "You've got this!" to someone who is being brave, whether that's a family member, partner or even a stranger.
Sometimes love means saying (or murmuring in an ear), "I've got this." It's telling the other person that you see their courage, AND you are willing to pick up the thing they are bravely shouldering, or afraid of dropping, on their behalf.
I'm learning that love isn't "fixing your life," or you "fixing my life." That's not love; it's disempowerment, or it's co-dependency. Sometimes "fixing" or "giving advice" means I (or the other person) is really saying, "I don't think you can do this without help," or, "I think you are doing it wrong."
That's not love.
Love recognizes courage, even if the loved-one (or stranger) looks to me like they could be doing it better.
Love says, "Hey...you are awesome, and I see you, and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can."
Love even means that if I see you and say or think, "This doesn't look like your best," I really should shut up.
Love means saying, either, "You've got this!" (empowerment), or "I've got this!" (support).
Love celebrates the other's courage, no matter how big or small it looks.
Yesterday my Dutch Bros cup had this on the lid. So appropriate.
"I've got this." I do.
But when you say, "Cheryl, I've got this," I sometimes tear up, out of sheer gratefulness. I can't help it. I DO "have it." AND it's tough to be brave. And whether it's encouragement, support, a hug, a "good job, Cheryl," or a lovely meal, I'm in a season of my life when those "attagirls" are like oxygen.
Let's love today. Let's encourage. Let's support. And let's be brave.