I don’t follow celebrities. I’ve never been much into the celebrity scene, save for a couple of years in middle school when I bought Tiger Beat and plastered the inside of my second closet with glossy posters of the pretty people who graced my television and movie screens. (I wasn’t allowed to hang things on my bedroom walls, hence the closet.)
I’ve never been deeply saddened by the loss of a celebrity.
The news of Robin Williams’ death hit me like a ton of bricks. I held it together as we sat at a table in a restaurant eating dinner with our boys. I whispered the news to my husband, sitting across the table; my eyes wide so as to keep the tears from falling out, from splattering on the table sitting between us.
I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how the man that made me laugh so hard during my life died of suicide, of depression. By the time we got home from dinner, my social media streams were flooded. Some with good messages, like being kind to others. Some with useless ones, because telling someone with depression to “talk” is like telling someone with hearing loss to just “listen better.” (I use this example as my oldest son has hearing loss.) The kind of darkness that takes you to the point where suicide seems like the only viable option removes your vocal chords, your typing fingers, your ability to ask for help, to say, “Help me. Now. In this moment, right here.” Depression lies. Depression silences.
I’m coming down off an amazing whirlwind visit with my daughter. The emotions bubble up and over the surface; I find myself in tears as a song plays or a memory passes through my brain or the breeze blows across my cheek. I am on edge; I am putting up my normal walls and boundaries to keep people out, to keep them at an arm’s length. Talking about how soul-sucking it is to walk away from your daughter, get in your own car, and drive away hurts physically. As I drove down the turnpike, tears clouded my vision. I scream-sang along with a carefully curated playlist made for occasions such as these; my chest caved in, each breath ragged and heavy with emotion.
Those who love me have spent the day asking, “Are you okay?” “What’s wrong?” I have no answers. No words. No ability to say, “My heart has been ripped out, yet again, and stomped all over. By myself. By me. I did this. This is my fault. I deserve this pain, this self-hatred. I’m a waste. Worthless.”
I keep reminding myself, minute by minute and second by second, that I am surrounded by those that love me, support me, even if they don’t understand how my brain works, why anxiety so easily takes over my being, how I could possibly be depressed when I live such an amazing life. I am forcing myself to stay present, to drink water, to eat food, to blink my eyes. Today is always a hard day, the day after a visit; today is always a difficult re-entry as I miss her so much it takes my breath away.
Then this. This loss being felt all over the world. Our genie is gone. It suddenly feels as if we have no wishes left. When you pair this with the suicide of Jennifer Huston, a mother in Oregon who was missing and found last week. These people, these human beings, these souls are now gone. The darkness became too much to fight. They died at the hands of a lie too many of us believe: that we are worthless, that we are not needed here on this planet by these people in our lives.
I’ve believed it. I’ve felt it. I’ve fought it as best I can. Some days are easier than others. Yesterday? Yesterday was not easy. Today won’t be easy. Tomorrow might be easier, but it might not be. I’ll do my best to be okay with it either way.
I don’t know why Robin Williams died of suicide, why Jennifer Huston did the same. I didn’t know them, but I have stood with them. I stand with you now, pretty broken and fighting for every step and breath. You are not alone. I am not alone. We are not alone. It’s hard to believe when the darkness sets in, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I stood on a stage and told you that you weren’t alone, and maybe right now, I need to believe it just as much as you.
The Columbus Marathon is in 69 days, or 2 months and 8 days from today. I have 10 weeks left to train for the Columbus Half Marathon as I just finished my sixth week of training.
My back feels better. The final fix? Sleeping on an air mattress on the ground in a tent with my family. Bodies are funny, aren’t they?
I had to smoosh my training schedule into Monday through Friday this past week, with Wednesday as my only rest day. I made the choice to do so as I was away this past weekend at Seven Spring Resort with my daughter and her mom. Knowing that a ski resort has rather giant hills, also known as mountains, I didn’t feel like running more hills than I normally do. I also didn’t want to spend any time apart from my daughter.
And so I jammed all of my training into my work week. To say that my legs were tired by Friday is an understatement.
Monday, run 21: 4.00 miles, 40:17, 10:04/pace
Tuesday, run 22: 4.01 miles, 41:17, 10:17 pace, followed by a half mile walk back to the house, followed by family walk.
Wednesday: REST DAY
Thursday, run 23: 4.01 miles, 41:07, 10:16/pace
Friday, run 24: 7.15 miles, 1:14:56, 10:29/pace
Saturday: 10,432 steps at Seven Springs, doing all the things.
Sunday: 10,088 steps at Seven Springs and a mile walk with the dog
So Saturday really wasn’t a rest day at all. Because we walked to and from all of the fun things you can do at Seven Springs: the Alpine Slide, the Summer Tubing, the ski lifts. Then we pedaled the Hydrobikes for a half hour. Walking around the behemoth hotel also kept us moving. We also walked a tour at Laurel Caverns on Saturday. And then I flew through the air on a zipline, and while very few steps were taken on tree platforms, I used some core muscles and arm muscles (especially the time I didn’t make it all the way across and pull myself to the platform). We swam, too! Basically, I didn’t stop moving this weekend. And while I ate all the food, the movement ended up keeping my weight right where it should be. Good job, movement.
I started week seven of training this morning, having gotten a two day “break” this weekend. I have a two mile “up” this week, running 4, 5, 4, and 8 miles. Eight. Oof. We’re getting up there. Things are getting real. The half marathon sold out. And in good news, my husband’s toe is healed! We can start running together again, if not this week then next—when school starts.
Here’s to week 7!
Today I went on a Laurel Highlands Canopy Tour at Seven Springs Resort.
That means I willingly and willfully jumped off of platforms set high atop trees and ziplined through the air to yet another platform set high in another tree.
If you know me, you are probably doing the quick blink thing because here’s a small factoid about Jenna: I’m afraid of heights.
I don’t like to look over the sides of bridges. I don’t like to climb up ladders. I don’t look behind me on escalators. I don’t look out the window on fancy elevators. I don’t lean on the windows of hotel rooms perched high in the sky. Every time I went to the top of the Empire State Building, I had a panic attack.
I don’t like being high up.
Today I was really high up.
And I kept jumping into the air, trusting that the safety harness would do its job, and having the most wonderful time. Ever.
I will do anything to spend time with my daughter.
My daughter’s mom mentioned when we were planning our girls’ weekend, that the Munchkin really liked adventure type things. They had recently gone ziplining on a trip, and the Munchkin really liked it. 7 Springs offers two different zipline options: a four zip trip (more info) and a three hour canopy tour with ten zips. Guess which one we picked?
I was exci-ervous. We made that word up; it obviously means excited and nervous.
But then I just kept getting more and more excited. As we waited for the rest of our group to show up, I realized why I was so excited.
I’ve had a rough year in a lot of ways. It’s been good too, of course. Running a marathon still ranks as one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. I’ve met new people, formed new relationships, done things I’ve never done, and put myself out there more than I ever have in previous years.
Agreeing to a girls’ weekend—without the safety of my sons and my husband—pushed me past my comfort level. It ended up not only being amazing but necessary on so many levels. Explaining to my boys this evening where I went and why I went without them was hard, but they accepted it for what it was, I guess. We don’t always get what we want in this life. Sometimes we’re excluded. Sometimes life doesn’t feel fair, but we are still loved, still cherished, still so important.
And then I jumped out of trees.
I jumped out of trees with my daughter and her mother and two other couples and two guides who made us laugh, made us comfortable, made us believe we were capable of jumping out of trees. I zipped through the Western Pennsylvania air, the sunlight coming and going as we came in and out of the protective shade of the trees, and I thought about what a change has taken place in my life this year—in the past 11 years.
I faced fears today. More than just jumping out of a tree, flying through the air, and trusting that I wouldn’t smash face first into a tree.
Being a birth mother will forever be about facing fears. I’m in. For life.
The heated pool didn’t feel as warm today, the sun warming the air much more than yesterday. Still, I promised that I would get in, would swim with her. I watched for awhile, her mermaid hair floating behind her as she flipped in circles, swam back and forth across the pool. Whenever she reached the other side, she looked and waved.
Yes, my dear, I’m always watching.
After enough time spent memorizing her movement, I slipped into the chilly water, her laughter surrounding me. She dove and came up all around me. I did the breast stroke, the doggy paddle, the back stroke. I watched still as she did hand stands and made herself sink to the bottom of the pool.
Her mom went up to shower before dinner, leaving us alone with a pool full of strangers playing Marco Polo. Just the two of us.
We ducked under the rope to the deep end, her still flipping, me still watching. We laughed and splashed, dodged other swimmers, and created our own little perfect moment as the mountain air continued to cool off, chilling our shoulders each time we stuck them out of the water.
A young woman with an acoustic guitar began playing “What’s Up” by the 4 Non Blondes. I took the girl that once swelled within my womb who is now somehow over five feet tall and wore my shoes to dinner (My. Shoes.) into my arms and said, “This. This is the 90′s music you need to listen to, to learn. This is the good stuff.” She laughed, rolled her eyes, and swam away. I sang to her when the young woman with the acoustic guitar told everyone in the pool area to sing along. “Hey-ey-ey-ey, I said hey, what’s going on?”
What was going on was that I spent a half hour in a pool at a mountain resort with my daughter with an acoustic guitar as the soundtrack. What was going on was that my heart exploded a thousand times over every time she made eye contact or asked me a question or simply smiled at me. What was going on was that I felt so incredibly lucky and so incredibly lost in the same quick breath to have these stolen moments; it’s more than most get and it’s so much more than I believe I am worth.
What was going on was a memory imprinted itself on my soul and will stay with me for the rest of my days.
Sometimes you send a text on a whim on a Sunday night that sets the ball rolling for a weekend two weeks later.
Sometimes you pack the night before, trying on clothes and crying because things don’t fit as nicely as you’d like them to for the pictures that will inevitably be taken. And while it doesn’t matter, it matters so very much because you’ll look back at these photos over the months and years to come; these pictures will be all you have of her, of you, of the two of you together.
Sometimes you curl up on the bed, clutching a pillow, and wondering about the why and how of it all.
Sometimes you wake in the morning and continue to shove things in your suitcase, just in case, but you still forget toothpaste and saline; you forget to pack something to protect your heart.
Sometimes you work a full day of work, talking with your coworkers like jaunting off to see your daughter and her mom for the weekend is the most normal thing you do, like you do it all the time, like it isn’t big and scary and everything in the world.
Sometimes you kiss your husband goodbye, a tear dripping down your cheek as you whisper, “It’s hard.” And all he can respond is, “I know.”
Sometimes you drive all the hours by yourself, hands-free phone conversation the only thing that keeps you from stopping the car, turning around, and heading back into the setting sun.
Sometimes you arrive with your heart in your throat.
Sometimes you stand at the door a moment before you knock, your hand frozen in midair.
Sometimes you walk into a room and hear your name called with such love, such glee, that everything else in the world melts away and for one brief, shining moment, everything is worth it and right and full of love. As she falls into your arms for a hug, you realize that sometimes the lead up is the hardest part.