Finishing Strong

It seems like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time, I was in the Army. One of the places I was stationed for training was in Monterey, CA. It was beautiful. It was dreadful. It was a place for learning lessons – lessons the Army paid me to learn, and lessons no one should ever have to learn, about themselves and about the world we live in.

I decided long ago that I would move back to California someday, because the beauty far outweighed the pain.

However, tonight, almost seventeen years after my time in California, I believe I learned a lesson I should have learned a long time ago.

When I was stationed in California, we used to have to do these battalion runs. I think they were about three miles long, which shouldn’t be horrible for someone who does PT (physical training) every day. But running was never my thing. I even had a profile (waiver) against running, I was that bad at it, and it took that much out of my body. So when we would do these runs, I think once per quarter, I would trudge along for about 2-1/2 miles, and would either finish at a walk, far behind the rest, or I would be picked up by the medic van and brought back to the formation. I never finished, not once.

I was thinking about that tonight, and about how often in my life I’ve given up, just trudging along until I quit or until someone picked me up and brought me back to where I was supposed to be. It’s not a very satisfying feeling at all. My whole life, I’ve taken the easy out, the fail, instead of looking for a way to push through, a way to succeed against all odds. I’ve always just told that voice in my head that I was “afraid” of success. What a load of crap!

I was never afraid to succeed. It was just easier to fail.

So, maybe you’re wondering what made me think of this lesson tonight? It’s simple, really. I’m 16 days into a 21-day detox/cleanse. It’s called the Ultimate Reset. It’s supposed to clean out all the gunk we habitually load into our bodies. We wonder why we feel like crap, have no energy, fall ill. It’s all of the toxic garbage we put into our bodies, whether we’re eating it, drinking it, or inhaling it. Slathering it on our skin. Toxins come from everywhere. Most people don’t realize that. Most people don’t care. They’ll keep going to the doctors, taking more medications, damaging their seemingly fragile yet impossibly strong bodies beyond belief. But I digress.

Tonight, I was hungry, and bored. Probably more bored than hungry. I was ready to eat anything I could get my hands on. I looked at the calendar, grabbed a glass of water, because I am allowed to have that, and thought about it. Since I knew I wasn’t really hungry, I got over the craving for junk. And I thought about the 16 days I’ve already gone through – the headaches, the cold, hot and cold flashes (mostly cold), the endless supplements and gallons of distilled water. I thought about all of the good foods that I’ve been introduced to, the proper eating habits, how good I actually feel. I thought about the fact that I only have five days left until the cleanse is over.

And I thought about never finishing a single battalion run while I was in California.

I’m not afraid of success. I’m not taking the easy fail. This is one run I’m going to finish.

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The Trees

The trees in my backyard have so much character, as ever-changing as the seasons in New England. In the summer they offer a large canopy of green, shielding us from the sun, yet still allowing dappled light to filter through. The birds must make their homes in a couple of them. I found an empty nest on the ground in the fall, and was going to keep it because it was so perfect, just laying there on the ground. Unfortunately, Bear decided to mark it as his own, so on the ground it stayed, as a reminder that the winter would soon be upon us.
The Autumn brought brilliant colors in those trees. Even when all of the leaves let go and landed gently on the lawn, I still saw the beauty in them. Sure, it was week after week of raking, bagging and disposing of them, but for a bit there was a beautiful carpet of color where the green grass once was. Bear enjoyed running through them, and I laughed liked a child every time he went out. He would run all over the yard, trying to mark as many leaves as he could. Honestly, he’s quite a possessive puppy, and believes the world is his oyster. I don’t mind, so long as the marking is being done outside and not in. Halle also enjoyed the leaves. She collected many, pressed them in folders in her room, and one weekend made a wreath with those she had carefully chosen. That wreath hung on our front door until our Christmas wreath went up. She also chose a spot in the yard that had an abundance of colors, and carefully removed leaves until there was one word left, showing gloriously against the still green grass – LOVE. I took a picture and I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone.
The Autumn also brought a storm, Hurricane Sandy. We fared pretty well, but there were moments that I watched out the window as the wind and rain whipped around. Those trees swayed and bent and dropped twigs and branches, but for the most part, they stood firm. They would not be broken, no matter what Mother Nature threw at them that day. They showed me strength. They taught me that life will throw storms at you, but if you’re willing to bend under the pressure, you won’t break. When the storm passes, you may be a little beat up, but you’ll still be standing tall.
Now that winter is here, I stand out on the deck at night and stare up at the trees. On a clear night, I can see the stars through their bare branches. They stand guard along the back of the yard, seemingly a sentry to offer protection against whatever may come our way. In the wind, they make different noises. Some of the higher branches clack together, and sound like a game of croquet I once played at a friend’s house. Lower down the trunk, there must be branches closer together. They make the sound of a bow on a violin. Nature’s music. I could listen to it all night. During the day, I can see where an empty nest still sits high above the ground in the crook where the branch meets to trunk. I can see an old, deflated Mylar balloon caught up high in the tallest tree. It was here when we moved in, and I can’t see what occasion it was for, but I hope it was a happy one. I watch the squirrels scamper around the trunks and through the branches, always keeping an eye on me and Bear to make sure neither of us are getting too close. I don’t know where their homes are, but I see them carrying strips of bark from the neighbor’s log pile off, a little at a time. We have had a mild winter so far, but they know the worst is yet to come. They are preparing for the real cold.
I haven’t been in this home long enough to see the Spring, but I can imagine. The trees will rejoice, reawaken as the months pass. They will start to bud. At first, it will be hard to notice. Then, as the days go by, their branches will appear to have a faint greenish glow about them. A glow of health. A glow of new beginnings. Then one day I’ll look out the window, and the canopy will have blossomed again.
Yes, the trees in my yard have much character. I’m so incredibly happy that I’ve had the chance to meet them. I hope we have a few good years left together. I think they will be able to teach me much about my own character.