Saturday, March 17, 2018

How's it going?

"Challenge accepted," I typed without thinking. Oops. Now I was morally bound to follow through.

What had I done? Early this morning, before the day's preparations of the Lady Flames Basketball team for their first game in the NCAA Division 1 tourney, I hastily jotted a Facebook note to Jenna, a friend and talented writer celebrating another birthday. I typed, "Sure hoping your day is special in many ways. Write a blog post!"

Wouldn't you know it? She did, and then promptly wrote back. "Your turn. Enjoy the first round of the tournament!" including one of those winking smiley faces for added pressure. Hence, I am sitting in the hotel lobby at 10:30 pm pecking away on the keyboard.

But there's a problem. What moves me to write is usually a significant event; a race, adventure, or major life occurrence. Tonight it's hard to pinpoint what is appropriate e-scribble subject matter. So I'll begin, but I have no earthly idea where (or when or how) this will end.

This is my first trip with a team where I am not the coach. I serve as the chaplain for this college
basketball team, and that role is quite different from what I'm used to. Great, but different. My goal is to challenge and motivate, be faithful to the Truth, and live life along side these women. Sometimes it feels "right," like when you get in a grove on the court and everything works. But there are those other moments that make you feel more like parsley on a plate; not good for much except adornment. Don't get me wrong. I am thrilled and privileged to be here. It's just hard to remember that I am only called to be obedient in serving; it's God's job to make change.

Then there is the situation at home. Gary's dad came to live with us last August. It's been hard. Really hard. And now he's dying. Yes, we are all technically dying, but he is officially in hospice in our home and declining quickly. He requires 24/7 care with someone sitting close by at all times. His ability to process is almost non-existent. He doesn't sleep through the night, sometimes getting up and banging around four or more times a night. In the last few days, a walker and wheel chair have been added to our houseful of eldercare "stuff."  Tomorrow night will mark the first time we hire in help from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m.. Life is increasingly more difficult for Grandpa. Life is logistically more complicated and exhausting for us.
And what about running? Long jaunts along mountain trails have always been my decompression strategy when the noose tightens to uncomfortable levels. But I am still not able to run. I am in my fifth month since I last raced my 20th Mountain Masochist 50 Mile race. The injury I thought would just go away has persisted. In December, I made a decision to hit Reset, giving myself permission to initiate a temporary moratorium on training after racing the long stuff for nearly 25 years. I can now walk and hike fast, but the running motion is not well-tolerated. I've seen a variety of doctors, each with a different opinion. So I continue to build strength and flexibility for those muscle groups most likely contributing to my ills.

So there you have it. Whah. Whah.Whah. I sound like a whiney-piney little girl; discontented and ego-centric. I don't want to be that way. As much as chronic complainers annoy me, I feel like I am dangerously close to being relegated to that category myself. But here is the dilemma: How do I answer the ubiquitous question: "How's it going?" Those words flow easily from the lips of strangers on the street. Casual acquaintances voice the question as they pass by in the hallways at work. And even our best friends ask absentmindedly, often failing to push the pause button on the conversation to allow a thoughtful response.

Have to be honest. I loathe that question nowadays because I absolutely have no idea how to answer it. If I unload all my present challenges on that stranger, they are certain to run. The acquaintances will spread the word throughout the office to keep a safe distance, and the close friends will simply quit asking.

What to do? Do I paste on a smile and lie through my teeth? "Oh, I'm GREAT!" sounding like good 'ol Tony the Tiger in the Frosted Flakes commercials of old? Or do I go to the other extreme and tell the inquisitor every detail of Grandpa's latest craziness accompanied with a complete anatomical explanation of my injury? Or perhaps there is a middle ground. Sounding rather pious, I could give a little head nod, draw in a calculated breath, and with a smidgen of piousness, offer the t-shirt worthy quip, "Well, life is hard but God is good."

Before I go further, let me say that I have many things for which to be thankful. My granddaughter is an absolute joy. My love for her father and his brother and girlfriend huge. My husband is a remarkable man and my forever guy. Our church is family and a source of encouragement. Ministry on campus is growing at a furious pace. So why is it so hard to answer such a simple question?

I suspect my problem is that the difficult, hard things tend to crowd out the pleasant. It's not an uncommon phenomena. I think back to the middle of some tough races. I am suffering big time with more miles ahead than behind. My stomach churns, my legs are mush, and tears of self-pity stain my cheeks. My weak brain is kidnapped and chained to the misery of the moment. If I allow this to continue, my demise is certain at the next aid station.

Aerial photo of corn maze
Although the pain and suffering is real, to focus on it in a negative sense is suicide. In those darkest times, my only chance of survival is to actually embrace the pain for what it is; an opportunity to explore new limits, the impetus to achieve what seemed so improbable moments prior, and the chance to rise above the fray to see the whole experience from a drone's vantage point. It is a choice to think this way, but takes maturity and discipline.

So, you ask, "How's it going?"

Be patient with me. I'm still working on my answer, but think I'm closer now than I was. (BUT, if you could buy me a little more time before asking me THE question, I sure would appreciate it!)

A walk in the park and a pink finish line

By the time I finish most races, I've figured out at least the first paragraph of my post-race story. This was one of the few where the ...