I was listening to Radiolab on NPR a while back. In the segment they spoke with Julie Moss about the triathlon she ran in 1984 where she gets through the first two segments and is on the marathon and is in the lead, but her body starts to shut down. She falls down, her legs will not work. She gets up again. And falls. And somehow gets up again. Her body is obviously done. She says that she hears something inside her head that says get up. She does not care how she finishes, but she is going to finish, so she crawls. And she poops her pants in front of the cameras. And guess what? She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t care. She keeps going. She says; “Your ego will come in and sabotage you. Your real self? There is no limit!” She crosses that line on her hands and knees to get second. She finishes because she will not accept not experiencing that goal.
When I was turning 30 I had moved to Oregon and was working insane hours at one of the world’s largest tech companies in a highly stressful job. I made a list of all the things I wanted to achieve but had been too afraid to fail at or try. I was always bad at math, but wanted to build something. I was never graceful or athletic, but wanted to run a race and climb a mountain. I wanted to be a published author, to travel to exotic places, to be an artist. I started big and signed up for the Portland Marathon. Training was grueling, but got me in good enough shape to do an impromptu climb up Mt. St. Helens with a group of women that I admired and worked with. It rained buckets the night before so we somehow fit nearly 12 of us in sleeping bags into a single hotel room. Not all of us made it to the top, and it was so overcast I nearly toppled into the crater, but it was an unbelievable feeling to make it to the top on my own two feet. I wasn’t the first of our group to get there, but I just kept going. It was that moment that I knew I would finish the marathon. And I did finish. I ran like Jerry Lewis until mile 5 when I was too tired to kick myself in the shins anymore and I relaxed into a slow run, trip, walk pace. When I hit the metaphorical wall on the hill up to the St. John’s Bridge a lovely older gentleman jogged next to me and coached me up. It was his 25th marathon, but his first after the operation on his club foot. Yes, 25 of them. There was a grandma too, who had a shirt on that said that it was her 24th marathon. Two people walked the entire race holding hands. It was their 3rd marathon they’d done that way. I finished with the fast walkers just behind me, sprinting across the line jubilantly, blissfully ignorant that I was pregnant. That’s a big achievement, and it wasn’t even on my list.
Fast forward 2 years with Oregon more than 2000 miles away from my family, my son is 2. I remember those days and thinking if it had been a job I would have gone to my boss and said, “Hey, I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m in WAY over my head.” Like an answer to a prayer, I received an email, “HI Ruth, this is Laura! Do you still live in Pittsburgh? I live in Oregon. “She was less than 20 miles from my house. She had children that were nearly the same age as my son. I was not alone. I’m not ashamed to admit there was sobbing. The list was put away for a while, though I did take it out to build a charming; if somewhat tilted, playhouse that was much used by my son, Laura’s children and their friends.
My son was in kindergarten when I began running again. One simmering summer day I caught a horrifying glimpse of myself in a jog bra and shorts reflected in a storefront window. Suffice it to say that blowing something up for 9 months to the size that will fit a small human and then deflating it leaves it a bit less elastic than before. It was not a pretty sight that was not just limited to my midsection, but also included the skin above my knee. (If that isn’t a seismic birth control statement nothing is.) In 2012 a man that jumped out of the air balloon that was over 102,000 feet up in the air and when he fell he broke the sound barrier. My first thought was that my tummy would be pulled so far down I’d look like I’d be wearing a maxi-dress and the skin on my knees would pull down to look like those fashionable boot socks that were all the rage for a while. As we get older we often have lists of things that we will no longer do. Sometimes it’s reasonable safety and self-preservation, sometimes it’s because we don’t want to experience an embarrassing moment. Jumping out of an air balloon and breaking the sound barrier goes on my list along with running in a jog-bra and shorts in public, drinking Irish car bombs after tequila shots in an English Pub, and waxing my own body parts. I’m not telling those stories in this forum today. In the case of my list; it was more of life just happening, and time passing by.
Since Laura and I have been reunited, we’ve been through cancer twice, death of family members, graduations, one divorce, another marriage, home surgery, shared boat ownership, countless road trips, hikes, wine making, beer crafting, knitting, and well, almost anything you can imagine. We are explorers in every sense. Curating adventures inside and out in admittedly some of the most unexpected places. Like the emergency room.
I decided just recently to start blogging and we were to meet at her house to have a grand adventure. Just when I arrived her husband; Mike, texted me to say they were at the ER, and that Laura was having chest pain. By the time I got there they’d determined that it was not a heart attack and that she was having acid reflux that had irritated her vegus nerve. She had an IV hookup ready to go though, and was attached to a few different machines. The three of us sat there in the half wall, half curtained room talking about diet, the fact that her husband and another friend of mine had the same thing happen to them, and how scary it is when it happens. Laura mentioned that she needed to use the bathroom so I leaned through the curtain and asked one of the nurses for assistance. While the nurse walked her down the hall Mike said that he felt really bad because he thought it might have been acid reflux like he had and wanted to give her some TUMS, but couldn’t find any before they left so he gave her some Phillips Milk of Magnesia. UMMMMMM…. All I could do was stare for a second and then I walked over to the bed and laid my head down and no sound came out. I was just shaking and crying and….no sound. For those of you who do not know, Milk of Magnesia is a laxative. I can only imagine that if you are in excruciating pain and taking a laxative that liquid poop will come shooting out of your backside. And that is why when Laura came back in with the nurse and asked what was wrong and I could only answer with a hand raised she looked to Mike and said, “You told her!”
That was it. I started snorting. That really uncontrollable, loud, obnoxious laughing. The only word I could get out was, “Why?” She then explained that the nurse asked if she had taken anything when she came into the ER and Laura told her and the nurse just looked at her and said, “You know that won’t help right? That’s a laxative.” Oh my God. I just lost it.
It was then that the nurse came in and told me that there were very sick people there and if I couldn’t contain myself she was going to have to ask me to leave. She offered to put me out with her dog, and give me penance. For real. I got it together. Barely. But it kept sneaking back all day just when I thought it had passed. Like when Laura showed me the bottle and it clearly read Cramp Free Gentle Relief.
So here is where you ask me, is your blog going to be about pooping your pants? And I answer… maybe.
I think it’s going to be about having and curating adventures, about stretching ourselves beyond what we ever imagined we could do, about celebrating our True Selves and outwitting our egos. Because the people who mean the most to me will still be there if I fail. And if I poop my pants my friend Laura will laugh, but she’ll get me a clean pair of underwear and we’ll have a glass of wine at the finish. I’d like to show our children that adventure and courage are not only for the young. Sometimes the adventure is amazingly beautiful, sometimes it isn’t pretty. I have a wonderful tribe of friends and family. We’re having a hell of a good time, and when we’re not, we’re in good company. We’ll be traveling, cooking, creating, drinking wine, exploring, and probably laughing at each other. These are our real life adventures; one wine cellar, stellar hike, and accidental laxative ingestion at a time.
“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King
“If you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl you find someone to carry you.” Firefly
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. Fear is a choice. “Will Smith After Earth