It’s a scene played out in so many of my favorite childhood movies – Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Notting Hill (I had a slight obsession with Julia Roberts in the 90s, OK? Don’t judge me).
Girl likes guy.
Guy likes girl.
Sometimes it works out and they live happily ever after. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, girl is fabulous and free and happy. She figures it out. In the movies.
It took me all of 36 years to figure out I, too, am a runner. In every sense of the word. But my life is definitely not a movie.
It started in junior high, to exercise and blow off steam. I dabbled in running throughout high school and college, then logged a few miles here and there in my 20s.
After popping out a third kid in 2015, I RAMPED. IT. UP. – training for and completing a few dozen 5K, 10K and half-marathon races. Shit, I even did a half Ironman two years ago. I told myself all those miles kept me in decent physical shape while saving my sanity.
In 2017, when I broke the news of my divorce to my parents, My dad said, "You know, all this time I've kind of wondered who or what you were running away from." At the time, I shrugged, because I hadn’t really thought about it that way and didn’t have an answer for him.
Fast forward to pandemic. When my gym closed in March, I resolved to run 50 miles a month. No races. No training plans. And that’s how I coped with the unknown… I ran. For 14 months straight.
I kept telling myself I was moving forward, even if the rest of the world was on pause in lockdown.
Somewhere along the way though, I discovered I was pretty OK at running on pavement and a damn pro at running away from what’s uncomfortable and hard.
It was my M.O. in friendships, in dating and yes, in my marriage.
A friendship gets weird? I’d prefer to ghost that person rather than spend time and energy trying to save it.
A conflict or argument with a guy I’m dating reveals flaws a few months in? NEXT!
Let me be clear. I don’t shy away from the actual conflict or confrontation. I can almost always face that stuff head-on and acknowledge why I’m upset. But when it comes to fixing a struggle with another person, I tend to light shit on fire and head for the hills. It’s just… easier.
Fun fact: I am one heck of an “and another thing” girl in arguments. Upset me about one thing and I will absolutely rattle off five more reasons why I’m mad.
I am also the worst at goodbyes.
When colleagues leave for a new job, when friends move away, at funerals, when my kids and I leave my parent’s house at Christmas and just about anything else in life that involves saying ‘See ya!’, I struggle hard. So I avoid it. I dodge the negative emotions and I run.
Irish Goodbyes happen to be my specialty.
Let’s just say I’m a work in progress in the relationship department.
I could hypothesize my instinct to bolt is a product my perception of how my parents fought from time to time when I was growing up.
I could blame my tendency to peace out at the first sign of trouble on the fact that movies romanticize it.
But the truth?
No one ever taught me how to stay.
When I got married, I thought a fight was silent treatment and passive aggressive comments.
No one had shown me the value of sitting down and talking through a tough situation with empathy and compassion.
I did not know working through uncomfortable feelings was also a path for growth… both as an individual and in relationships.
No one told me disappointment, hurt and anger are normal; and it is possible to forge a deeper relationship with another person when we communicate openly about those difficult feelings.
No one explained to me it would be impossible to outrun my own mistakes until I owned them and faced my demons head-on.
So I spent the past 36 years building strong, high walls to protect my heart. I broke off relationships and shut people out before they could do it to me first. I made it impossible for anyone to hurt me. Yes, part of those actions was me refusing to settle for anything less than what I felt I deserved. Another part was simply a bad cycle I didn’t know how to break.
And guess what?
It still hurt.
But ready or not, it is truly amazing the way time works its magic… often in unexpected ways and through the most unexpected people.
All I've ever needed is someone to truly understand me. All I've ever wanted is a reason to stop running.
I saw this quote the other day and read it over and over as the words sank into my soul:
And after everything, I’m finally figuring out how to stay.
I don’t know with 100% certainty what’s happening where you are, but it’s getting reaaallll ugly over here.
This place is slowly becoming a graveyard for my shellac mani/pedi… do I say screw it and peel off the rest or just let that shit keep growing?
My 8-year-old just racked his 6-year-old brother squarely in the nuts. So my 6-year-old sought revenge by biting his brother in the ass.
And last night? I tried to call and cancel our 7-day spring break vacation to warm, sunny, beautiful Florida. Except I can’t even do that because the airline phone lines are jammed AF right now.
You guys, this is the weirdest shit most of us have ever experienced in our lifetime.
We’re homeschooling but still working full-time (some of us are still reporting to the office daily). Dogs are barking and babies crying in the middle of conference calls and everyone just has to be OK with it.
We aren’t technically supposed to go anywhere for another two weeks (other than the grocery store, where people continue to wipe out toilet paper... pun intended). School is out until at least May flipping first and, according to the governor’s order, public playgrounds are also technically closed.
According to my iPhone, my screen time is up to an average of 6 hours per day.
Oh, and my most favorite one yet? Boomers blame “Millennials” for choosing to spend their college spring break getting drunk on the beach during quarantine. Bitch, I’m a Millennial with three children, a career and a mortgage. Those college kids are a good 15 years younger than me. Try again.
Then there’s the whole dating scene. Real dates aren’t even happening because there’s nowhere to go. So consider yourself lucky if you can find an open Starbucks and at least take a walk without getting arrested. Or you can do what a friend of mine recently did… meet someone on Hinge and do a virtual date. They literally FaceTimed each other while simultaneously watching the same movie. I love her. She said it was fun. But I’m not sure if there’s anything worse.
Oh wait, there is.
The gym is closed. My sanity and summer body are gone. I can feel both withering away with each passing day. Yes, I’m doing all of the planks and push-ups and lunges and squats at home. I’m running (a little). I’m trying to hold both the 10lb and 12lb weights in the same hand while praying the resistance band doesn’t slip from underneath my 4-year-old’s foot and smack me in the face. Let’s just say my workouts aren’t quite the same.
How is this even real?
I feel like we could use scenes from our lives right now to make one hell of a music video to the song “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II. Don’t act like you haven’t already watched it 27 times since it came out on Disney Plus two weeks ago.
Oh, and according to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, we are all literally eating and drinking our way through pandemic quarantine 2k20. So that’s cool.
But I also see something else happening.
I see us forced to cancel plans (including my soon-to-be 7 year old's bowling alley birthday party) and clear our calendars to stay home and spend time together… as families. I see people near and dear to my heart buying groceries for the “at risk” category of those who really shouldn’t go to the store right now.
I see business owners fighting to keep their doors open one more day. I see neighbors connecting around bonfires and spring clean up in the yard. I see "Bear Hunts" happening in neighborhoods so kids can safely play outside while connecting with their parents. I see love and kindness and compassion in action every single day.
Life is hard and surreal right now. Many of us are scared or nervous about the unknown that lies ahead. Many others out there (myself included) are exhausted and just about at our breaking point from giving the past two weeks everything we’ve got.
At the same time though, we are also uniting and fighting for the greater good. I challenge you to think about who or what you are fighting for (aside from privacy in the bathroom and pretending you didn't just hear the 1,000th “Hey Mommy” of the day).
We are all fighting to protect our parents, family members, neighbors and friends in that “at risk” group.
We are fighting for those in our communities who are currently out of a job.
We are fighting for the wisdom to show patience and kindness toward each other. Especially the human beings we created who won't stop the steady stream of smart ass comments after everything we say.
I’m fighting for my little human beings, who probably needed a sound lesson in gratitude and the fact that even though we sometimes we don’t get what we want, it’s shockingly NOT the end of the world.
I’m fighting to keep a solid sleep/wake/eat schedule (who knew a 7-year-old boy could eat so much!?) inside our home so we can maintain a tiny sense of normalcy.
Think about the example we are setting for those little eyes and ears that watch and listen to us so intently. Think about the lives we are saving because we know we can make a difference. Think about what truly matters and why.
We will get through this. We will use and then remove our old-school polish and sprint to the closest nail place when it re-opens for shiny new shellac.
We will stop punching each other in the nuts and biting each other in the ass.
We will never look at an ice-cold Corona the same.
And someday, we will become filled with nostalgia as we tell our grand kids about that time we used lots of medicinal wine, vodka and love to survive quarantine during a pandemic that happened to have the same name as a beer.
I’ll never forget that moment: a perfect June morning on the beach at Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, Michigan. As I stood in a literal sandy sea of some 2,000 people also zipped into full body wetsuits, I breathed it in.
I chatted briefly with a few other athletes, synced my GPS watch with the satellites and anxiously waited my turn to enter a calm, 70-degree Lake Michigan. I also happened to glance up at a handful of dedicated spectators on top of a small nearby sand dune. It was 6:30 in the morning.
Wow, I remember thinking to myself. There are some lucky racers here today, for sure. Their people showed up. They woke up early and clim…
Suddenly, I did a double-take at two people on top of the dune.
I saw my Dad first. How could I miss a 6’4, bald and incredibly pale man wearing a blue polo and shorts? His hands were cupped around his eyes as he scanned the crowd of black wetsuits and pink and green swim caps, trying to find me.
Mom was right next to him, looking determined to keep her balance on the uneven sand while also methodically searching the beach.
I waved my arms a good two minutes, eventually catching their attention. Dad immediately went into photographer mode (one of many traits I inherited, along with the pale white skin gene), snapping several pictures of the crowd and me.
As I inched closer to the rolling start, where race officials allowed four people in the water at a time, every five seconds, Dad made his way across and then down the dune so he could get video of me swimming.
I couldn’t stop smiling. Partly due to confidence in all the work I’d put in leading up to that moment (and partly due to an unbelievably calm lake), but largely because I hadn’t expected to see my parents until much later that afternoon, at the finish line. But there they were. They showed up.
My 70-year-old mom and dad woke up super early that morning, drove an hour to a place they’d never been, parked a mile away, hopped a shuttle and climbed a sand dune. For me.
Approximately 37 minutes later, on my way from the lake to my bike, I saw them again and gave Mom a smile and high-five.
And again, 3 hours after that, as I completed the 56-mile bike to South Haven and back. I cried happy tears the whole ride into the transition area because they were there.
Here’s the deal. Growing up and moving away from home and family to earn a degree and then chase a career was fun and exciting. But it was also incredibly isolating. Raising babies five hours from family is hard. We maybe see each other five or six times a year and the past few were tough as I battled my own demons and worked through deeply painful personal issues.
During that time, I turned against some of the people who wanted to be there for me most – especially my parents.
Things got so bad about a year ago that I told Mom and Dad they shouldn’t even come to South Bend for my 34th birthday because I didn’t want to see them. So they didn’t. They dropped my gifts in the mail and stayed home. I know… it sounds like such a bullshit Millennial thing to do. And in hindsight, it probably was.
But that’s also around the time a friend I knew through my barre studio sent a random text on a weeknight, asking if I would do a Half Ironman with her. I said yes without thinking (because that’s what I do). And somehow, training for that race broke me wide open.
I pushed my body and mind further than I ever thought they could go. I literally cried in the middle of hard bikes and runs. I worked out 12-15 hours a week, which sometimes meant two workouts in one day. It was hard. But I used much of that solo time to reflect on the relationships I’d damaged and to forgive myself for it.
I also started communicating more with my parents. I sent screen shots of 5-hour Saturday morning training sessions, or updated them after a 5am weekday swim. I Face-Timed them immediately after crossing the finish line at my very first triathlon in May (a much shorter distance than the Half Ironman) to tell them I won my age group and was the fourth overall female finisher.
Eventually, I asked if they would come to “the big race” in June.
And then they showed up.
Just like they always had when I played sports or sang at competition or performed in the high school musical, they stood on top of that sand dune. For me.
And they weren’t the only ones.
My loyal friend Nicole popped up around mile 50 of the bike ride and at least 4 times (that I remember) along the run, shouting words of love and encouragement. She’d packed up her two little girls, rescheduled her own 10-mile marathon training run for later in the day, drove an hour and found spots to surprise me along the course. But I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. That’s Nicole. She invited me to Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family when she knew I would otherwise be alone. She checked on me often throughout my training journey and reminded me how strong I am. Of course she showed up on race day.
My best friend Jodie also woke up before sunrise and drove over from Chicago. I first saw her face as I started the 13.1 mile run. Then about an hour later, around the halfway point of the run. She smiled. She asked how I was feeling and told me I’m a badass (even though I tried to shoo her away because I was scared I would be disqualified if she ran next to me). Then again, that’s Jo. She’s there when I need to cry or scream or tell her about something really awesome that happened. We talk several times a week and she’s my voice of reason. She always shows up.
Then there was the last leg of the race. The very end of the run. I’d been walking for a bit. I was tired, extremely dehydrated and hot. I knew I needed to start running again so I could finish strong. But I just couldn’t get myself there mentally.
“Hey!” a woman in shorts, a tank and ball cap yelled.
I didn’t recognize her so I didn’t respond. Instead, I turned around. Surely she was talking to someone behind me.
“Hey! Kelli!” she said. “Kelli! You have a quarter mile left. Let’s go!”
She jogged toward me.
Oh my gosh, Olivia!
Olivia. The friend who had run alongside me three years ago in my first race, ever. During that one – a 10k – she refused to leave, even though I’d begged her to run ahead. We crossed the finish line together.
Olivia is a serial marathon runner and gives me so much training advice. So when she showed up at the tail end of my 70.3 miles, I greeted her properly, saying, “You can’t run next to me. I’ll get disqualified!” (I didn’t know Olivia had checked with the race marshal near that post and cleared it with him ahead of time.)
“Fine,” she replied. “I’ll just run on the sidewalk.”
So she did, yelling, “Everybody! This is Kelli! Cheer for her! She’s worked so hard to get here. Cheer for my friend Kelli!”
Olivia ran with me until I got to my kids, Jodie and, of course, my parents at the finish line. My kids… who spent lots of hours in the gym daycare and with babysitters while I squeezed in training miles. My parents… who spent seven hours on a hot beach cheering for me, tracking me on their phones and waiting for me to finish.
Then I got to my phone (they aren’t allowed on the course) and saw DOZENS of texts and well wishes from others who had also been tracking my progress. I had no idea so many people cared that much.
And that’s what prompted a deep post-race reflection.
I haven’t been great at showing up for other people the past couple years. At times, it was all I could to do be a mom and simply show up to work every day. But after the race, I started thinking about everyone who has shown up for and supported me, despite my efforts to keep many of them at arms’ length.
The people who continued to check in with calls, texts and Facebook messages... even when I didn’t respond.
The people who listened when I needed to vent or cry.
The people who lifted me up when I couldn’t find grace or forgiveness for myself.
The people who came over for my birthday, because they knew I really didn’t want to be alone.
The people who stepped up when I asked for help.
The people who were patient enough to know I needed time and space to get back to myself.
I think my friend Fay Flournoy said it best in a recent Facebook post:
There’s a big difference between our hearts breaking FOR someone and WITH someone.
One is done from a safe distance and the other requires us to get in the middle of the mess.
One is talk and the other is showing up.
In our social media and cell phone driven world, be the someone that shows up (like for real, in person).
At first, I thought the training and triathlons themselves are what caused a massive turning point in my life that led me to the most confident and peaceful existence I’ve ever experienced. But the further I get from that Half Ironman, the more I’ve realized it wasn’t the swim or the bike or the run or even the finish line that helped me heal most.
It was literally the people who showed up.
About 14 months ago, a few weeks before our divorce was final, Justin and I sat down on our bed to talk. The kids were asleep and the house was quiet. Too quiet. At some point during that conversation, he calmly launched into an analogy about our marriage. It spoke to me. And it devastated me.
When we first got married, Kelli, I felt like we got into a car, fastened our seat belts and started out on a journey, he began. At first, it was awesome. I really felt like we were on this long journey together. But then I came up behind another car and had to slow down. What do you always tell me to do when that happens? he asked.
Pass it, I said softly, intrigued by where he was going with this.
Pass it, he repeated. Hurry up. Go faster. Pass the next car, you aren’t going fast enough.
I stared at him.
Kelli, you always had to go faster and do more. You wanted the perfect job, you got it. And you were so good at it. Then you wanted a better job, a nicer car, kids, a bigger house… you wanted it all and we got it all. But it wasn’t enough. You kept speeding up. For a while, I thought I could keep up with you and for a while, I really wanted to. But then I got tired, he continued.
I was quietly crying by this point, processing his words.
Kelli, all I wanted was to slow down. I wanted to stop and enjoy the ride. I wanted to sightsee with you. But you never would.
He went on to tell me he was worried I would never slow down. He said he had genuine concerns about how that would affect my relationships with our kids and other people in the future.
That conversation haunts me because, in many ways, he was dead-on. It was also one of the deepest, most sincere talks we’d had during our entire marriage. And it happened much later than it should have.
You see, I have a knack for doing life aggressively. I excel at filling my plate with so much stress, work, stuff and super high expectations that I slip into autopilot. When I’m in “go mode,” I know one speed… running toward everything that keeps my walls high and away from what’s important.
Over the past year, I’ve worked on pumping the brakes and slowing down. But that’s a challenge because when it gets quiet, I’m forced to sit and deal with feelings and emotions I’ve never faced. So then I speed back up, piling on work and stress because there’s comfort in forging ahead. I’ve learned it’s such a dirty little cycle. Can anyone else out there relate?
Exhibit A: Hudson’s birthday party. I’ll preface this by saying the past twelve weeks almost murdered me. Crazy projects at work. Running kids. Trying to get to the gym. Calls (yes, more than one) from the principal’s office. Halloween costume shopping. Delivering dessert to the PTO teacher appreciation luncheon (I caved… the boys are in a new school and we all love it). Saying yes to the occasional date. Forgetting to pay bills (my mortgage in October… whoops). This, my friends, is all things Mom Life.
So for Hudson’s Lego-themed party, I ordered invites, gave Justin a handful then never sent out the rest. Friends and family on my side all got invited via text message. Ugh. (Do I at least get points for it not being a group text?)
But that’s not the worst part.
Our kids live for custom birthday cakes. Over the years, we’ve done fire trucks, garbage trucks, unicorns, baseballs, beach scenes and all sorts of 3-D cakes the kids pick out on Pinterest. It’s our thing and it makes them feel really special.
You’re high, by the way, if you think I made any of those cakes. I’d screw that shit up in the first 30 seconds. We trust and pay the experts. It’s money well spent. For real.
I booked the baker in August. Then closer to the party date, emailed a picture of the cake Hudson wanted… the number 6 with a Lego construction theme all around it. She asked me what number cake pan she should order and I confirmed a 6. Justin offered to get and assemble the Legos, because, well… I suck at that building and engineering business.
But the night before the party, we had a problem.
The baker had emailed a picture to show us how the cake turned out. And it was PERFECT. Except… the bright colored fondant Lego blocks were wrapped around the number 6.
And Hudson was definitely about to turn 7.
Since it was too late to bake a 7, she offered to turn it into a circle. Justin made a few tweaks to the construction site plan and SUCCESS! Hudson never noticed anything was weird. He was enthralled by the Legos and asked if he could keep the giant crane. He loved it. Phew.
That’s the story of my epic cake wreck.
But two days later, the cake wasn’t even a blip on the radar.
Disoriented and in pain, I was walking to an ambulance.
It felt like a dream.
I had my purse. My phone.
Why was my car against a tree? Why were people staring?
As I sat in the ambulance, a paramedic asked if it was OK for him to take my driver’s license out of my wallet.
“Wait, what happened?” I asked, wincing as I sat my hand down on the top of my thigh and felt pain shoot through my leg.
“You were in an accident. We’re headed to the hospital to get you checked out,” he said.
No. It was a great Monday morning. I’d prepped dinner for that evening so I could quickly feed the kids before putting them in the gym daycare and squeezing in a quick workout. I got the boys on the bus, dropped off Lyla, knocked a couple things off my work to-do list for the day and this was all before 8am.
There was no time for an accident.
I still have no memory of what led up to the crash or anything immediately after it. According to the police report though, we both had yellow lights and I turned in front of another car that was going 45 – 50 mph. The impact sent hot coffee flying through my Honda Pilot, deployed airbags down the entire passenger side and totaled both vehicles.
I don’t remember calling Justin from the front seat of my car and asking him to tell the medics not to take me to the hospital. I don’t recall telling them I just needed to sign the paperwork to refuse medical treatment because I had so much to do at work.
I don’t remember refusing to get on the cot when they asked me to… even though I had airbag burns on my hands, a painful bruise on my thigh and a concussion from hitting my head. As my SUV was loaded onto a tow truck, I texted someone from work to come pick me up so I could go home and change clothes before knocking out the rest of my work day.
Not realizing how out of it I was, I pounded on until about 1:30 that afternoon when Justin and I met up to buy new car seats (they’re supposed to be replaced after a significant crash). As we walked into Target, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think you’re OK. If you’re not going to be checked out, I think you should at least consider taking the rest of the day off.”
He was only about the 20th person to say that to me since the crash happened. But I could hear the concern in his voice, saying slow down without using those words at all.
“OK,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders as I took out my phone to email my boss and my team.
That was two weeks ago. And here I am… removed from the cake and car wrecks.
So grateful my babies weren’t with me when the crash happened.
Up to my ears in insurance claims (a first for me).
Navigating the process of buying a new car (also something I’ve never had to do by myself).
Trying to learn from how I once again allowed myself to become so intoxicated and distracted by the chaos of life.
Forcing myself to take a step back.
Finding perspective in a place somewhat foreign to me, as I lean into a strong dose of GRACE… something that was once missing from my life. It’s a word I only ever heard as a little girl in church, or the song Amazing Grace… until someone on my team at work used it about two years ago during a difficult conversation.
“Kelli, please understand what’s happening in my life and why it’s hard,” she’d said. “I don’t handle situations the same way you do and it’s OK that I don’t. It’s OK that we’re different. But I need some grace from you. And I think you should give yourself some too.”
That was a turning point in my relationship with that person, in such a good way. I’ve re-played her words in my head a lot and – in that time – worked to figure out how to find the grace she suggested for me. It’s been a process.
Here’s how my sweet friend (and incredible writer) Mandy recently described it in a Facebook post:
Grace. For myself, for my family, for my friends, for our country. It’s a new concept to my little brain and it’s been life changing. It looks like forgiveness to myself when I’ve said something wrong. Love in the toughest moment. Breathing out instead of yelling. Napping instead of laundry. It’s knowing that people are good and may not feel so good right then. It’s grace. I’m here for it.
I recently bought a little porcelain sign at Hobby Lobby with that word on it. I put it in the giant greenhouse window in my kitchen, where I see it when I walk in to make the kids breakfast each morning and when I flip on the light after coming home from a long day at work.
Grace reminds me I’m human. Grace reminds me I’m never going to be perfect. Grace reminds me to slow down. Grace reminds me I can’t go back and change any of the proverbial “wrecks” in my life (there have been so many), but I can move forward and forgive myself for those mishaps and mistakes.
And you know what? It’s time.
THIS is our happy place. Like every other 30-something mom I know, that sign is hanging in a prominent spot in my home. Except, I’ve come to realize “happy” is not a specific place at all (more on that in a second).
You see, I dove into 2018 thinking I needed to find someone to replace the void in my heart after divorce. Someone to tell me I'm not damaged and that I will be OK. Someone to tell me I'm doing a good job juggling life. Someone to tell me I'm a good mom. Someone to give me a big hug at the end of a really hard day and promise tomorrow will be better. Someone to stop this terrifying free fall feeling of, Who am I and what in the actual hell just happened to my life? Someone to be my happy place.
So to find Mr. Someone, I tried filling my free time with dates and meeting new people. I bravely ventured into the scary world of online dating. I also went out on a couple dates with guys I've known a long time.
As it turns out though, my Mr. Someone was not at a shitty dive bar on a Sunday afternoon (the scene of a horrific first date). He wasn't at a cute little brewery in St. Joe (the scene of a different first date that never turned into anything more because... well, yeah). He also was not at Hacienda during one horrifically hilarious lunch hour (more on that and other lovely little dating disasters in a future post).
Turns out… those “someones” were right in front of me the whole time. In my home and my heart.
Since I do have time away from my kids when they're with their dad, I've had more quiet moments than I'd like to reflect on my relationship with them. You guys, they’re so little. SO. LITTLE. And yet, they’ll probably never know how much they kept me afloat and forced me to keep going over the past 18 months. In the very best way possible, they gave me no choice but to get out of bed in the morning and plaster a smile on my face.
Especially when life got really hard.
Yes... they fight.
Lyla bites. (Yeah, for real.)
Sawyer wakes me up at 3:30 in the morning with a massive bloody nose or in a frantic search for his pillow that is inevitably hidden somewhere in his bed.
Then I find Lyla – chillin' on the couch like it’s her job – at 3:30 in the G.D. morning… watching Disney Jr. Or at 6:30 a.m. (this has been going on for a few weeks now), passed out cold with the TV blaring in the background. I thought only old men fell asleep like that?
No wonder she’s so crabby and tired all the time…
But in the middle of all that chaos and an already full plate as “Kelli the working mom,” I didn’t realize how much I really just need my kids. And they really need me.
At some point, my focus shifted from trying to find him… to rediscovering them.
I stopped to breathe this summer for what felt like the first time in forever.
We take early morning bike rides (sorry neighbors, for the fire truck and police car siren noises as we zip by at 7:15 on a Saturday morning), trips to the blueberry ranch and then use those blueberries to bake muffins. We spend 95 degree Sunday afternoons slurping down icees at Four Winds Field, have Friday night picnics in the back yard, take Saturday trips to the beach, explore the Farmer’s Market, snuggle up for popcorn and a movie at home, take in a matinee at the theatre, play games on the deck, catch fireflies, feed the fish at the zoo. We make every second count.
At night when we wind down and read books together in my bed, we often talk about the best part of our day and those parts of the day we might do a little differently if we could. Oftentimes, when I ask about the best part, one of the kids will reply, “Spending time with you.”
Holy. Melt. My. Heart.
I’ve realized my kiddos crave my attention and love our time together more than anything else. This is what carries me through the toughest, most emotional days – there have been a lot – THEY carry me. Yes, this is major progress. But I still have some work to do in the whole "working on me" department.
My close friends know I have demons, or at least one huge battle I just can’t seem to overcome right now. We’re talking about really hard stuff I'm not ready to share on my blog (not yet, anyway) or in a public forum. It’s my biggest, most painful vulnerability that – for whatever reason – has a tight grip on me and won’t go away.
It's crazy though how the more I share those dark parts of my life with people I trust, the more I learn they too have deep, haunting struggles. Marriages in trouble. Infidelities. Debt. Eating disorders. Quiet battles with addiction. Nagging bouts of depression. Someone very close to me recently disclosed she has terrible anxiety about getting in a car and driving anywhere further than the grocery store, so she often has to stay home and miss out.
We all have that something…
But we also have a choice to let the bad stuff consume us or to keep fighting through it.
A year ago, I bought one of those silver mantra bands that simply said “Choose Happy.” I wore it all the time as a constant reminder that I needed to push through the hard and the hurt to do what’s best for me.
Then earlier this month in the chaos of a typical Tuesday evening with the kids, I lost that bracelet. I got home and realized it wasn’t on my wrist when I knew I’d had it earlier in the day. At first I was really bummed. Then I thought about where we’d been – the county fair, making more memories together.
First I had to find my happy. And I’m finally learning how to choose it.
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...