Thursday, January 03, 2013

Optimists Don't Climb Mountains - My Thoughts on Love, Loss & Partnership

So it's time to stop calling me an optimist. I'm no optimist. At least not anymore...

a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome and/or the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world

I don't expect the most favorable outcome in life, ever.  Most often I simply choose the most favorable attitude for ANY outcome.  Stemming from my Grandma Margaret Freeman's imparted life philosophy: "In life you can rarely choose your circumstances, but you can always choose your attitude." (I will always love my Grandma Margaret) I have always made a very intentional and conscious effort to not revel in drama or despair too much over things.

Life is fucking hard, so buckle your seat belt, strap on your helmet and get ready.

While I have an amazing life (I've chosen and very intentionally created the space for what I have including career, marriage, relationships, people I've surrounded myself with, where I live, etc.), it all is still a far cry from perfect.  To every mountain peak there is a valley floor.

Yesterday, I explored the depths of my sadness, not knowing how deep it would go.  As someone with a history of depression (of the clinical kind), sadness can be a very frightening thing.  You always have it in the back of your mind, one event or incident can flip some switch and the downward spiral begins.  Since making a very clear and conscious choice in 2000/2001 to not have fear call the shots in my life (creating only from love, not actions based on what I feared and "did NOT want" but rather what I am passionate about and creating from "what I DO want"), my sadness has had a very different feel.  I explore the feelings now instead of hiding from them.  I share the feelings with those I love without dumping on them and dragging them through the mud to do it.  I'm no victim of circumstance.  Every failure, every trial, every tough moment is an opportunity to learn about yourself, to grow stronger, to spiritually evolve.
Imagine our spiritual evolution, personal growth & development as a mountain (for a moment). From the valley floor, you can often see the peak/summit you want to get to.  It's high, and often far away, and you know there's going to be a lot of climbing uphill to get there.  But when you hold the idea in your mind and heart of "I'm going to summit this thing" at that moment the work becomes secondary. At times, you even start to enjoy the climbing more.  The same thing is true when you solidify a commitment to self-growth. Nobody grows into the person they dreamed of being sitting on a couch watching old episodes of Seinfeld. I know, "but Jimmy thinks it's a GREAT SHOW" and we most certainly ALL can't be out running 100-milers, completing Ironmans, and summiting Mt. Everest every day, I totally get that. We're all allowed some downtime. But the downtime in a figurative sense is where the grade on the climb is a little less steep for a moment. Some climbs are so long, you have to pitch a tent and camp part of the way there, often multiple times (no, I'm not pretending I ever camp, don't even get me started on that). But your commitment that you want to get to the peak of the mountain (and for this analogy, becoming the best version of yourself you can achieve), you won't do it without some really hard work. Climbing is uncomfortable. Gravity pushes back hard. Gravity in our spiritual lives could be all the things that pull us towards "getting more comfortable." Eating foods that are bad for us too often. Drinking too much alcohol. Watching too much television.  I don't need to continue to list these things because YOU know what your vices are.  The things that get in the way of your best self. We all have them. Some of us justify them to ourselves more than others. Self-justification is poisonous to your soul, to the very core of your being.  Self-justification is quiet, it happens in secret shadowy seclusion. I invite you to break this cycle in 2013.  Pick a mountain top and start climbing.  Becoming a better you is really hard work, yet it is completely and totally worth it. Just wait for the view up top!
Now I'm not going to pretend to be the best version of me. In fact, I hope I have a long-ass way to go, as I've come to love climbing more and more difficult mountains (both figuratively and literally). As you strengthen your resolve, learn that the views are best enjoyed when hard work precedes them, you will eventually discontinue the dialog of "oh man this is SO hard" and all that drama that surrounds our most dramatic life events.  I will talk a little about specific drama so you can see how "un-dramatic" it can be when certain choices are made (inside the framework of choosing what kind of attitude you are going to have)...

*warning - very personal and traumatic information below, please proceed only if you are open to being emotionally agitated*

Kate & I traveled all Christmas week, logging some 20 hours of driving to-and-from Northern California where we both hail from (she grew up in Santa Cruz and I grew up in the Eastbay area of the San Francisco Bay Area).  On top of that, the last 4 days of that week included another 18-hours of running (I put in around 76 miles in 3 runs/hikes).  We slept on an air mattress a few days, a bunk bed, we sat in the car for 6+ hours straight twice.  We were both burnt physically.  Then you factor in the emotional roller coaster of splitting time between 3 factions of our family (her mom, my mom and my dad) in less than 3 days. We were both drained. Ready to sleep. Kate ran/hiked much less and slept a little more than I did.

Tuesday night (January 1st) we went to bed pretty unremarkably, it was a normal night at home. We even went to bed at 9:45pm on New Year's Eve, the earliest in our 11-years together.  Wednesday morning, sometime around 2:30am, Kate woke me up in a great deal of pain, as she was having really bad stomach cramps.  Gas pain?  Constipation?  These were my two initial diagnoses.  The pain was so severe Kate ran to the bathroom to puke. I sat with her for the better part of 2-3 hours as she writhed in pain, went back to the bathroom to puke, and I will spare you some of the more gruesome details.  I got her situated at one point, ran to the kitchen to make her some tea, got on the computer to look up some doctor information and speed-read up on her symptoms.  There was more to this than just stomach pain and prospective constipation: Kate was nearly 11-weeks pregnant with our first baby. I wanted to read (ASAP) all the allowable remedies I could offer her.  Tums and Tylenol: check. Decaf stomach soothing tea: check. At one point I desperately had to pee, but there was no way I was gonna say, "hey, can you stop writhing on the toilet for a moment so I can use the restroom", so I had to sheepishly pee in our kitchen sink (as to not distract her by the bizarre and unusual behavior of peeing in a bathroom sink).  A part of me wanted to wish this all away.  "What can I do possibly do for her right now?"  Answer: pretty much nothing, other than get her to a doctor.  She didn't want to go yet.  She too wanted to wish this pain & nausea away.  It's just her first case of morning sickness and some bad gas pains, I hoped. From the place of exhaustion I was in (travel fatigue, lack-of-sleep fatigue, emotional-holiday fatigue, ultra-running fatigue) I was fighting myself to not just crawl back into bed and go to sleep until she told me she needed something more specific. I didn't want her to feel alone in any of this. So I made up my mind: if this takes 2-hours, 2-days or 2-weeks, I'm fully investing in this moment and being there for whatever she needs. Commitment moves Providence. I was suddenly less tired. Clear headed. Ready for what may come (as ready as one can be). Chosen attitude: CHECK!

I wish I could say my Tweet for "love and positivity directed our way in the form of love, prayer, warm thoughts" went the way I had intended.  We were finally seen by Kate's OBGYN at 8:05am. The ultra-sound confirmed my fear (and Kate's too)... bye, bye, baby. The moment the two nurses stepped outside the ultra-sound room I broke down. Kate and I cried in each others' arms. We had bantered a lot about two names: "Miles James & Kensington Margaret" but neither of those were meant to be this coming July the 26th. The reality of that still has yet to fully sink in. It will continue in waves, I'm sure, as Kate and I work together to heal emotionally (and Kate, physically).  But I keep looking UP (when most might choose to hang their heads in sorrow) because I don't want to descend back into the valley. I just realized that the climb to the peak of the mountain I am presently eyeballing is a much tougher climb than I anticipated. But I will get there, Kate by my side, and the view from that peak will be unlike any I've yet seen (I know this intuitively). So this too is part of the hard work of the climb. Crying, losing sleep, peeing in kitchen sinks, holding Kate as tight as I can as she screams in pain, until we get to where we are committed to going.

In the 24+ hours since we posted a request for love/support, no less than 20 women have reached out to Kate (some knew we were expecting) and shared their similar stories of first trimester losses. Most of those have 1-3 healthy and happy children now. YOU know who you are, and we can't thank you enough for your generosity and sharing what you have with us. This is yet another one of those things that really NOBODY wants to talk about. But why not?  When we hide out and avoid our sorrow, it persists. It mutates. It consumes us. And worst of all you're ALONE and in pain. Kate & I have both accepted that this climb will be hard. We're open to learning from others who've already summited this mountain. So we share our story with you to ease your journey (for the "if and when" you take on this challenge too).

We don't need (nor want) any "I'm so sorry's" nor sympathy nor condolences.  While we are deeply sad, we are also so inspired and moved by this journey. In the last couple months we've come so much closer together, broken through some patterns that have held us in place for many years.  We've started things we'd been putting off.  We've gotten out of our own way in a whole new way.  We've traveled many Miles up this mountain and we aren't quitting any time soon.  Kate is going to be an amazing mother, heck, she already is to Spirit (and to me half the time).  We are both dramatically evolved from the people we were prior to mid-October. It all starts with CHOOSING the right attitude. No, making the choice isn't easy and it takes the commitment of stick-to-it-ness of running 100-miles over a mountain range in gnarly conditions, but with practice and intentionality, you can prosper in this attitude game too.

This quote first entered my consciousness on the walk from the UCLA OBGYN to the cafeteria to get Kate & I some food, our first such food in over 14 hours, as we passed the UCLA hospital gift shop. There are no accidents. When you've chosen to have a good attitude in the face of any circumstances, you'll notice things that will reinforce that choice.
Embrace your journey my friends. Love the climb. And know that Kate & I love you so very much.  Thank you for every text, for every Tweet, for every Facebook comment & message, and every email. The outpouring of support helped us through the deepest of the sorrow, and we are grateful for your friendship...



Stuart Ford said...

Open, honest and painful posting. We have been gets better over time and takes a place in your psyche like every scar and trouble you suffer. You never forget and sometimes that memory will come from years back and slap you in the face without warning. However, it also makes you treasure the good times that I am sure are ahead for you both and makes you stronger partners for life. Brave to voice what you went through. So few when it happens you have no reference. Best you you and Kate - heal and enjoy each other. Hope to see you on the trails - my life took a turn I didn't expect so I have shelved my training plans for a while but your posts are inspirational and I follow them
All the best

Raciel Diaz said...

You both are awesomely strong. Thanks for sharing and for constantly inspiring!

Liza said...

Thinking of you both. Thank you for sharing.

Barb said...

Dang it Jimmy.. I am sorry for the loss of your child. We all know the hurt and pain of losing dreams; and the dreams you and Kate had for this child will not come true, and that frankly sucks! It's not sympathy rather an acknowledgement of the shared hurt we all feel. For we all share in sorrow, as we all rejoice in happiness. And I am very happy for you both also. You blog that this entire experience has brought you and Kate closer. You choose not to allow yourselves to sucumb to this sorrow, and you carry on together. You continue to climb your mountain. I am just starting to take the first tentative steps up my Mt Everest, after staring at it for many years; the top seems insurmountable. I'm gonna give it my best shot. And this blog post inspired me and I thank you deeply for that. Love to both of you as you continue on this crazy journey of life.

Andee said...

Thanks for posting and sharing with the running community. You both are awesome and inspiring to so many people and good things can only come out of this experience and make you guys stronger than ever.