One of the questions that I have been asked about running a marathon involves the source of ‘mental toughness.’ Those who have never battled the 26.2 mile monster are often curious about where I draw my strength, what drives me forward when my brain, lungs and legs are arguing about quitting.
Most of the time, during the tough miles, I think about my mom. I reflect on how she had to dig deep, time and time again, to fight cancer. I think about how she faced cancer on and off for thirty years, and for eighteen of those of years, she did it sober. I think about how other body parts failed her – carpal tunnel in both wrists, a knee replaced, a spinal fusion. When I start whining about how my legs are sore, I just think about her ‘never-give-up’ spirit and I find the strength.
As far as I’m concerned, she didn’t ‘give up’ on July 20, 2010 when she took her last breath. She finally decided it was her time to rest. She fought hard with all that she had to give. She needed the break, she earned the reprieve.
We held a Celebration of Life for her five days later, and these are some of the words I shared about her:
She was a woman with many titles:
She was a loving wife of nearly 30 years, a mom to more kids than just me, a sister, an aunt, a compassionate nurse, and a loyal friend. She was also known as the cookie-lady, not only for her personal love of cookies, and not just because she was a ‘tough cookie’ but also because she spoiled her dogs with cookies and treats at every opportunity. Who else sneaks French fries and pizza crusts into their purse to give to their dogs later?
She has been described as sassy and spunky. Brave and courageous. An inspiration and role model. A true survivor. She was the woman with the pirate-mouth that always made me laugh whenever she cussed, even though I’d act horrified.
She was a girly-girl who liked the color pink, and liked to have her nails done; who had to have her hair just right and her makeup on before leaving the house…yet you could often find her out in the yard, up to her elbows in dirt, planting her gardens with sweat on her brow and a smile on her face. A no-nonsense, unpretentious woman.
She has given me so many gifts and taught me so many things about living a good life…for that I will always be grateful.
Because of her, I know that there’s no difference between Bee Bomb and Manarda even if I can’t quite remember the difference between an annual and a perennial despite the hundred of times she has explained it to me. I can identify different birds, and distinguish their gender; I can devour a good book in two days.
Because of her, David and I can both cook well enough that we will never starve.
I will never be able to see a shoe sale, and not think of our Imelda Marcos with her closet overflowing with size sixes in every color and shape. The UConn Women’s basketball team will have one less voice cheering for them.
Because of her love, I have always found strength even when I didn’t think I had any left. And HER strength will continue to inspire me to DO more and BE more. She inspired me to live life fully and completely, to break THROUGH obstacles, rather than turning back and giving up; and to trust in my inner voice to lead me to the right decision, even when it’s against popular opinion.
If she could bear to go through all that she did, and still manage to smile, laugh and give to others, then I have no excuse to not be able to do the same.
Who is your inspiration? Where does your inner strength come from?