Many of you know that Brian and I did the Warrior Dash a few weeks ago – a 5k schlepping through mud, climbing up a 20 foot cargo net, crawling under barbed wire, running through creeks, and jumping over fire (oh yes). I texted friends and family. I emailed out the one picture that a stranger so graciously said she’d take and send to us. I posted about our success on facebook. On Monday morning, I beamed with pride as I shared with our secretary at work. I blurted out “My husband and I did the Warrior Dash!” to a random person in line at the grocery store.
“Shhhh!” Part of me says. “what’s the big deal? Six years ago you could’ve done this in your sleep!” Play it small, says that voice.
But the reality is that this “baby-of-a-warrior-dash-no-big-deal-5k” was a huge deal. And well, as many of us women are learning in our late thirties and forties, playing small just keeps the rage festering and does nothin’ for nobody.
Five years ago on Mother’s Day we found out we were pregnant. We were overjoyed. Then throw-up happened (again and again) along with a whole host of other aches, pains, scares, a 32 hour labor, a failed epidural, and a surprise c-section. Then the shock came of recouping and being a new parent in this isolating culture. I never thought that this soccer-playin’, yoga teachin’, extrovert-able-to-instantly-form-community woman would ever feel so…broken. Alone, ill-equipped, and fragile.
After spending so much energy on trying to “correct” A.’s birth experience and grieve over what “should have” happened (I had a midwife, dammit. I meditate. I teach yoga!) one day a friend said, “Actually Lisa, this is a success story. You both are here and healthy.” The thought came to me: “Ya know, Lis, a long time ago, one or both of us might’ve died. Who knows – maybe in past lifetimes this happened. And if it did, you two would’ve called this a total and complete success.” And from that moment on, whether I believed in past lives or not, I realized that it was only my limited paradigm that kept me believing there was something wrong, something to correct, that we failed.
So I dropped the story of “how a child is supposed to come into this world.” I realized I didn’t have to correct anything. It all was perfect. A success story. That took years.
But though my thinking was healed, my body still needed a long time to mend from tough pregnancies, long labors, long recoveries, and, like many of us new mothers in this culture, being so sleep deprived and mostly alone during the day. My body felt broken.
Thank God for visits from grandparents, nourishing food (meals from friends and the Whole Foods hotbar), Boston friends who came to clean bathrooms and cook meals, my beloved husband always offering kindness and opportunities to take it easy, new playdates, the YMCA, a great job, and…rest. Rest, rest, rest. In these past five years, I have learned how to rest – even when there are dishes in the sink, laundry to be washed, paperwork to do, and dinner to be made. One day when A. was about 18 months old I said to Brian, “Ya know, I am better rested now than I have ever been in my whole life.” I was so well-rested that we decided to have another babe!
Now well rested and after carrying, birthing, and nursing two babes; I needed to reclaim my strength. I wanted to do something vigorous – not strenuous and arduous – but invigorating. I needed to do something to claim the next phase of our life after birthin’ babes.
One morning right before work, Brian asked me about doing the Warrior Dash. “What is it?” I asked.
“It’s a 5k. You run through different obstacles, trudge through mud, and jump over barbed wire. That kind of stuff.” Brian said.
“Sign me up!” In an instant I felt my whole body jump forward with desire to do it.
Brian, “Um, ok. Let’s do it together!”
And so we did. We stayed right by each other’s side, even though Brian could’ve run circles around me. There was something to being able to see and physically move through obstacles together – to watch out for each other, hold hands, encourage each other, to get into a rhythm, and just be beside each other.
Even in the struggle of some of the obstacles, I was enjoying myself. Brian and I enjoyed each other’s company. I was glad to be there. There were moments when I said, “Brian, I’ve got to stop.” And we’d just walk – even when the temptation was there to keep going as people passed us. There were moments of “ok, put your left foot here…” reminding me of being in labor – “Ok, Lis, here’s the next contraction; just breathe.” There were moments of looking around for each other, finding each other, and regrouping. And throughout it all, I never second guessed our decision to do this mud run. I was grateful to be doing it with Brian. My heart was smiling and my body was sweaty, muddy, and…strong.
That’s my life – our life. Times of getting through obstacles, times of elation, times of connecting, times of losing each other, times of finding each other and reconnecting. Looking back, it is precisely because of some of the difficulties over the last five years that Brian and I are growing stronger as a couple. A strength has emerged out of vulnerability, fragility, and brokenness. And we – together and as individuals – are reclaiming and embodying that strength.
And so, this Warrior Dash was more than just a mud run. It was us reclaiming our life – with all its brokenness, obstacles, and imperfections –and the strength that has emerged out of being in it together. That’s a big deal.