A few weeks ago, our small group at church was discussing transparency with others and being vulnerable and sharing the “real you”. I believe the question was asked, “Who here struggles with being vulnerable?”
Reverting back to my middle school days, I quickly avoided eye contact with anyone else in the room (dang circle-style seating) and studiously examined the carpet pattern.
Heck no I am not going to raise my hand. The question was “Do you have problems being vulnerable?” Duh. The last thing I am going to do is raise my hand and say “Yes!” enthusiastically.
(Please note, the teaching in our small group is excellent and we have many people who are braver than me to step up and acknowledge the hard truths about themselves.)
Vulnerability is hard. Fluff and rainbows and unicorns are much easier than diving into the difficult areas of our lives.
However, I am quite vulnerable and open about the fact that in two months, I hit the big 4-0. Getting older is not something I fear or shy away from but rather eagerly embrace. Sure I keep investing in under-eye cream and bread is a distant memory of my past because although 20 year old me could consume a cheeseburger post-work-out, the almost 40 year old version of me can merely look at bread and my hips widen just a bit more. Despite those things it feels amazing to have been around for four decades, with hopefully more lurking in the my future.
40 has also brought just a touch of wisdom (A touch, mind you), a breath of confidence, and a spirit of bravery. Remember how I said I hated being vulnerable to others? I do prefer presenting a happy side of life, that things are all sunshine and cute puppies and everything is FINE. Part of that stems from being a naturally optimistic person. Part of that stems from not wanting people to truly see the hidden parts. Yet 40 is showing me that opening myself up to others is okay.
One goal I set as I approached 40 was to complete a half-marathon. This is no way a unique “Hey! I am almost 40!” goal. Just search Pinterest and you will see that me and every other Suburban mom addicted to Starbucks have all had the same idea. The slight difference is the fact that a half-marathon is not simply completing 13.1 miles to me.
The half-marathon is a statement to myself that I can tackle the hard stuff in life.
As some of you readers know, I was born with a condition called Spastic Diplegia. Three years ago, I underwent a surgery to help with some of the symptoms of this condition. The way Spastic Diplegia works is that the brain sends faulty messages to nerves that control muscles. These nerves tell the muscles to contract 24/7, rather than only contract when in use. Imagine walking around with consistently tight rubber band muscles. SDR (the surgery I had three years ago) is an operation in which those nerves sending the faulty message are cut so they can no longer tell the muscles to stay tight.
After 36 years of having really tight leg muscles, I no longer walk around with rubber band legs (my term…obviously not one used by the medical community. However, they are free to trademark it if desired.)
Recovery was long after that surgery (I had a second surgery three months later that really took a long time to bounce back from) but now I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. There is a catch to all of this: The 36 years spent with tight muscles wrecked some havoc on my body. A few months ago, the husband and I were discussing all of this and he asked, “How often do your legs/feet hurt?”
My response, “Every step.”
He lives with me and he had no idea. (He knew there were aches and pains, good days and worse days.) The reality is that 36 years of tight muscles have done a number on my feet, my ankles, my knees, my hips, and my back. I know those areas of my body are breaking down faster than they should for someone of my age and health. One of the reasons I am so diligent about working out is to keep everything moving and working. I also am aware there could come a day in which those things do not work anymore and my life could look different than it does today.
And that is okay.
It is hard for me to be vulnerable and put this out there. In fact, normally I would not even mention chronic pain to others. Remember that marathon? There is another goal attached to it. I also want to raise money for an important organization that is close to my heart. The OM Foundation is a non-profit organization started by Bonner Paddock, a fellow individual dealing with CP. He has recently devoted his life to speaking and to raising money and awareness for children with CP who need therapies and medical interventions to ensure they have a good quality of life.
Although I deal with daily pain, I also know things could be worse. The deal with Spastic Diplegia and CP is that cases can be significantly different. CP is caused by brain trauma either in the womb, at birth, or in the first year of life (Please know I am not a doctor and merely use Google for all medical diagnosing purposes). Most likely I did not receive enough oxygen while being born, thus the trauma to my brain (and the nerves sending the faulty signals.). I have a slight disability, one that many people who encounter me daily do not even notice. Yet there are others who are left unable to walk, whose upper body is affected, who cannot speak, or who may also experience some cognitive difficulties as well. Aches and pains are nothing compared to how hard those individuals work every day. I have met many families whose children live life with complicated forms of CP. Their kids are always happy. They are brave and courageous even though they fight their body every moment of the day.
I have met adults who plow through life with joy and gusto, despite the toll CP takes on them.
It is for these individuals that I run. Because I can. I may not be fast. I may not be the most graceful runner. And I may walk at times. But right now I can run and I can do so for all those children who currently cannot.
For so long the scars on my body of years and years of surgeries (there were many during my childhood) were signs of defeat to me, signs that something was wrong while everyone else was walking around being just fine. Scars made me vulnerable and seemed to scream that something was wrong. Remember how I said being almost 40 brings about some wisdom? Well I can now realize that we all have scars. Some visible. Others hidden on the inside. I can see that the scars up and down the backs of my legs and the large one on my back are beautiful. They show resilience. They show strength. They show that I can do hard things, even if what I do looks different than the norm.
Here is where you come in to all of this, dear reader. No, you do not have to run along side me in two weeks. Rather I would love it if you would donate money in my name to the OM Foundation. Read their story and see the ripple one person is trying to make in the lives of children. Click HERE and check out my fund-raising website. I would be honored with any donation you are able to give.
March 5, 2017 is the big day. The calendar on my fridge is full of the miles already run in anticipation of this day. I currently have three outfits picked and ready to be worn, depending on the weather (Because if one is gonna run 13.1 miles, one should at least attempt to look cute). The list of what to pack sits next to me at my desk.
It should be a great day. Not because it will be easy or because of the medal and t-shirt given at the end.
Rather it will be a great day because I proved to myself that I control my story. I can be vulnerable and show those scars to others, knowing they do not think twice about such things.
And together we can all make a difference in the lives of children, showing them their lives have purpose and beauty regardless of a medical title placed over them.