nine lives

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I sometimes feel like I’ve lived various lives; ones that are incongruous with the life I currently live.

Maybe this is why cats are my preferred pets.  They are fairly independent and quieter companions.  I like their curiosity and ability to have nine lives.  They always land on their feet.

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I had the thought above as I leapt from a wall into a mud pool.  Sometimes it’s easier for me to not see the bottom; to not know what lies ahead.  As I’ve grown older my curiosity and willingness to take risks has greatly reduced.  Some people call it wisdom.  Part of me thinks it came with motherhood and the ability to put someone else before myself.  And a lot of it is just fear of the unknown.  I have a mental block.

When my girlfriend first pitched the idea to do a mud run I laughed out loud.  She can’t be serious, I thought to myself.  Do I look like I could do a mud run?  But my mind quickly squashed that thought.  Why not?  I work on de-cluttering my life of excuses and things that hold me back.  I can’t do this,  I can’t do that…   When the third girlfriend begrudgingly acquiesced to this challenge we plowed ahead and registered.  And then we promptly chose to forget about it; to think about it on another day.

My father-in-law has a saying that he often shares with our boys and I.

CAN’T never did anything.  You CAN.

I had stood in the throng of participants waiting for the horn to signal the beginning of our run.  Online I gave a percursory glance at our course map and tried not to think of what lay ahead.  I blocked out the fear I have; one that I hoped I wouldn’t have to encounter on the obstacle course.

I have a fear of heights.

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I told myself I had the option to bypass any of the stations that were out of my comfort zone and stood in line at the climbing station that resembled the ropes and netting found on kids’ playgrounds.  With my girlfriends I climbed behind them; not looking down.  When the mud pit wall presented itself they questioningly looked to see if I would opt to skip it.  I knew I had found my second wind when I heard myself yell back to them.  Let’s do it!  And without a second thought I used the marine’s offer to push me up and looked to the murky pool on the other side; straddling the high wall.  Off I leapt.  As I swam through mud I knew;  I would be okay.  My competitive spirit took over and off we went to our next obstacle. Who knew mud would be the reagent to cleanse my mind?

Because in the murky, mucky waters of life you can choose to struggle in it, avoid/opt out of it,  or swim on top of it.  I choose to swim.

As a nine year old I had not been a strong swimmer.  But over the course of my life I have observed and watched others in community pools; knowing I would have to learn.  I was afraid of the deep end but worked hard to conquer my fears as I struggled to stay afloat and dog-paddled.  I watched my friends leap from rocks and diving boards; my fear of heights and depths taking hold of me.  When my firstborn was two months old I joined a YMCA Mommy and Me class.  I told myself it was to teach my son to not be afraid of the water.  But really, it was for me to conquer my own fears.  And years later this same son would save his father’s life at the bottom of my husband’s childhood pool; pushing him up to the surface.

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When my boys took swim classes, and eventually joined a competitive swim team, I actively listened to the instructor’s words.  It was my sons, and husband, who taught me the proper way to swim.  The two strokes hardest for me to learn were the butterfly and, particularly, the breast stroke.   I am still challenged by the butterfly but I have conquered the breast stroke and it is my favorite.  I bobbed alongside the marine in the mud; breast-stroking and chatting about his choice of a spa exfoliation treatment as he back-crawled to my pace.  The race wasn’t really about testing my fitness mettle.  I chose to physically go outside of my boundaries, my multiple intelligences modality being bodily-kinesthetic, to work through my mental ones.

I’ve been mentally stuck for the past few years; not being able to see the forest for the trees.  But my perspective continues to focus on the things that are important and in this season of my life; they move within my space with me.  I always looked elsewhere, never appreciating what lay within my four walls.  I took them for granted.

I stared out at the airfield, as the shuttle returned us to our vehicles, after the race.  The deja vu feeling washed over me; one I had just experienced two weekends before at my parents’ graves in the small coastal town I grew up in.  For sixteen years airfields and military installations had been our home.  The tears welled in my eyes; the deployments and lonely days with young boys remembered and  I smiled at the memory of the homecomings.  I hadn’t known I needed closure of that time in my life and it arrived on an old school bus as we rattled into our parking area.  Caught off-guard I mentally filed this part of my nine lives, letting it go.

Much later when I arrived home the cat had been at the door to greet me as our canine’s squeals announced my arrival.  The other four occupants of my home were in other places and so I quickly changed and headed outside; sitting alone in a warming jacuzzi.  One-by-one they left what they were doing, without any prompting, and sat with me.  Heat and spa jets on I sat quietly, absorbing it all, hoping my mind captured it to memory.  These past few years I’ve been fighting the currents of where I wanted my life to take me.  No longer do I tread water or feel pulled under.  I live this life, my mind clearing, with the four lives that matter.

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