A Love Note to My Running Tribe
My running group, Marathoner in Training (MIT), asked members to write a “Good Thing” that happened during the ever-so-odd and nearly cancelled 2020 spring season. I contributed this love note to my running tribe.
This week’s “Good Thing” comes from Nita Sweeney who refuses to choose between the 13:00 Run/Walk group and the 14:00 Run/Walk group, and who often finds herself finishing after the Walker group.
This MIT season has been filled with both “good” and difficult things.
In February, while my husband Ed and I were on book tour in California, for Depression Hates a Moving Target, Ed, had a heart attack. He also had pneumonia twice, and open-heart surgery in March that left him on a gastric feeding tube for two months. Gratefully, he continues to heal and is returning to good health.
Ed and Nita Sweeney returning from California in February 2020
Meanwhile, with bookstores and libraries closed, and book festivals cancelled or postponed, I launched a second book. This, a writing journal, You Should Be Writing, I co-authored with Mango Associate Publisher Brenda Knight.
For my sanity, I returned to running after everything I just mentioned (combined with a pandemic and a civil rights revolution) had derailed my training.
Nita and Scarlet the #ninetyninepercentgooddog
But those aren’t the “good things” I want to share.
When Ed came home from the hospital, and his care transformed me from “award-winning author” to “accidental home health aide” overnight, I feared I wasn’t up to the task. My MIT friends saw my distress. Food, supplies, cards, and stuffed animals flooded in and have not stopped even now that Ed is recovering.
All You Need is Love and a Unicorn
But their real gift came one Saturday when I got a text that said:
“Look out your front door.”
After a few of them had met for a socially distanced run, they had each driven separately to our house. When Ed and I looked out, we saw them, standing six feet apart, holding motivational signs like those normally seen at races. It brought Ed and I to tears. We both felt as if Ed was in a race for his life.
MIT Folks at the Door
That brings me to the “good thing.”
Whether you’re struggling to get in the miles, having a bad day, or feeling so low you’re not sure you want to stay on the planet, please reach out to me or any other member of the MIT family. We will stand with you and cheer you on the same way these MIT members have done for Ed and me. MIT is family, nothing less.
Even if you don’t live in central Ohio and can’t join our MIT family, if you run, you’re part of the tribe. That makes you family! The offer I made to the MIT members stands for you as well.
I don’t remember which one of us decided to reclaim Mother’s Day, but it began with an impromptu day-long road trip. With little fanfare or notice to anyone except Ed, the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband, my sister Amy and I hopped in her convertible and drove north up Route 23 to Putnam County, the part of Ohio where both of our parents were born and grew up. We visited our grandparents’ houses, the cemeteries where our grandparents and other relatives on both sides of the family were buried, and we stopped at fast food restaurants to eat.
We bypassed the buffets in restaurants with white linen tablecloths and the brunches in popular breakfast places.
It wasn’t the food.
We were hiding from the mothers and daughters.
I’ve always said my biological clock never went off. My niece, Jamey, was the closest thing to a daughter I ever had. To claim I did anything close to parenting her would be an outright lie. She was simply the first young person in our family with whom I spent more than the occasional holiday. And she was my sister’s daughter, her only child.
And then Jamey died.
And then our mother died.
And then it was Mother’s Day.
No thank you.
So we took off.
Another year on Mother’s Day, a close friend was in the psych ward. The friend’s own mother was dead and her daughter was unable to visit. So Amy and I reclaimed Mother’s Day by spending a few hours with our friend. After, Amy and I drove through Taco Bell and ate in the car in the parking lot. We talked about our mother’s chronic cough and how crazy it made both of us and how we wondered if that made us horrible daughters. And we talked about Jamey’s illness and how that had turned the world upside down. And we talked about how much we loved Taco Bell.
Year after year we have continued the tradition, avoiding the malls and the restaurants and, for the most part, the mothers and daughters who celebrate, blissfully unaware (or so we project) of the clock ticking down the minutes until they will no longer have each other. And we usually eat Taco Bell.
This year we again reclaimed Mother’s Day, but with a twist.
This year, we both have “children” — sort of.
Three days after Mother’s Day, my “baby,” the memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink is being released by Mango Publishing.
And last year, Amy got married. Now, she and George, her husband, are raising his three grandchildren.
So we reclaimed Mother’s Day this year by celebrating so much new life: my book, Amy’s marriage, and the little people in her world. Instead of just the two of us eating in the parking lot outside a hospital or at a drive-through, we ate in their new home. Instead of Taco Bell, Amy and I, along with Ed and George, ate the chocolate chip pancakes and sausage links, strawberries, and whipped cream George prepared in their lovely kitchen.
None of this will replace our mother or Jamey, of course. Some wounds never completely heal. But we hold our love for them alongside these new loves.
Our hearts are big enough for it all.
Seriously. I cannot think of one single legal thing you should not do when you hold that very first brand spanking new copy of your very first, brand spanking new book in your shaky hands.
Not. One. Legal. Thing.
But what should you do?
BEFORE you take 10,000 selfies or ask your poor, exhausted husband to take 10,000 photos of you and your book, and you share 5,000 of those images on social media, take a breath. Pause. Have a private moment with your lovely new baby. Just the two of you.
Stare at it!
That name on the cover? THAT’S YOU!!! I recommend a small shriek or maybe a full-out ROAR!
There’s not much better than that new book smell and when it’s a book created by your very own hard work, sweat, tears, and sadly, yes, agony. Smell it all. It’s all in those pages. Sniff. Sniff. Who’s cutting onions?
Riffle through those pages. Look at that type. Find your name on the title page, your bio, and your photo. Admire your handiwork.
Wrap your arms around that lovely baby and pull her to your chest. Embrace your creation. Perhaps wrap your arms all the way around yourself and, with your brilliant book against your chest, hug both of you long and hard.
Or not. But at least give a little hop or maybe a shimmy. Let your body express your joy.
Thank the entire world!
Now that you’ve had your private moment, remember gratitude. Writing is a team sport. Chances are, while you may have spent countless hours alone, hunched over your keyboard, it took a tribe to bring your effort into the light of day.
Spread the news!
Get the selfies and the photos and the videos and let the world know your baby is for sale!
Okay. That metaphor didn’t work. I think you understand.
Here’s what the moment looked like for me.
And YES! My lovely baby is FOR SALE!
The upper respiratory infection (aka common cold) that has laid waste to most of central Ohio struck me as well. When I asked the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband to pick up some bone broth at the grocery, he arrived home with this selection.
This is just one of the many reasons I call him the “one hundred percent good husband.” Thanks, Honey. We’re “stocked” for a while. #punintended
Ed, the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband, and I long ago stopped giving each other presents on holidays. Instead, we go to a nice restaurant. Yesterday for his birthday we ate at Houlihan’s, a mid-scale restaurant in Upper Arlington a few miles from where we live.
I may have squealed just a teensy bit when I saw the daily lunch special. MEATLOAF! At heart, I am still a farm girl and meatloaf remains one of my favorite dishes. Theirs version was sublime.
They gladly reduced the portion of mashed potatoes in favor of more garlic green beans. The crispy onions were a pleasant surprise.
Ed ordered the taco plate with the chicken tortilla soup. As is his custom, in the time it took me to take the photo of my food, he inhaled his. Someday I will learn to photograph his food first.