New York is hot. Hotter than The Southern California I left two days ago. I’m in short sleeves, a skirt, sitting in the sun on my daughter and son-in-law’s Forest Hills balcony, relishing the 76 temps and bone-warming rays. At this point, I did the reverse packing of what I did last year when I failed to tuck away enough warm clothes; this year, too many jackets and long sleeve shirts. But, as my marathon-finishing daughter reminded me, the weather can change in a New York minute.
I wanted to think about—write about-–inspiration.
“I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.” Florence Nightingale
“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” Babe Ruth
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” Mark Twain
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
“You can do more than you think you can.” Katie Kwok, before, during and after training, and completing the NYC 26.2 Marathon
Yesterday, my entire being was filled with a helium balloon inflated with love, trepidation, excitement and inspiration as I watched my daughter run the November 6, 2022 Marathon that carved into New York’s Five Boroughs. Katie, who attended last year’s Marathon while nine months pregnant, announced that she would join her husband and run next year.
“Sure, Katie, sure,” I said to myself, hoping, as a protective mother, she’d get that silly idea out of her head. I mean, she needed a year to recuperate from birthing her son, and daughter in Spring 2020, and, since she had to go back to work as a full-time, public school teacher, I figured she wouldn’t have time to train. Not with two kids and a demanding job.
Clearly, I don’t know my youngest daughter very well.
Though she be but little, she is fierce.
Katie found a way to train—after school, before getting home where she gives nothing less than 100% of herself to the kids. Katie was driven, prioritizing her health. It was hard. (Understatement of the year.) The weather was cold and hot and most nights, pitch dark. After a long day teaching fourth-graders, running was the last thing she wanted to do. Netflix, a bag of chips and her cozy couch sounded like a lot more fun. Yet, somehow, I don’t know how, she pushed herself: She did the hard thing even though she didn’t want to.
Day by day, week by week, month by month, until she completed nine races of various lengths and a couple of weeks ago, built herself up to running 20 miles.
“You can do it Mom,” she told me during our weekly phone chat. “It’s all in your head.”
Not so sure my orthopedic doctor would agree.
But seeing her at the Marathon yesterday, cheering for her and all the runners like it was the last 10 seconds before the New Year’s Eve Times Square ball dropped, made me want to find a physical challenge that makes sense to me. Maybe it’s penning-in a 2-mile walk on my calendar three days a week, then upping it gradually. Hiking has been on my To-Do List forever. Always, I have an excuse. Getting off my butt is so, so, so damn contrary to what I’d rather be doing, which is, which is, which is …
No, there are no excuses except excuses.
Today, I walked almost a mile. Tomorrow, I’ll push it to a mile. I’ll take one of the kids to the park, circle around the neighborhood, look around at the Forest Hills neighborhood, feel the sun, listen to the cheers of the soccer kids and their families and try to saturate myself in opportunity.
Come on, Janet, this is crazy. If not now, when?
The stakes are high. I have to start caring for and about myself. I am ridiculously healthy for all the abuse I’ve given my body. I can move my legs, arms, walk, even jog a bit. Whoop! Whoop! Not everyone can. I met an athlete, Jenna, on my last camping trip. She is paralyzed from the waist down. Eight years ago, a driver hit her while she was cycling. But that didn’t stop her. Now she arm-cycles 85 miles a day as she prepares for a European cycling competition.
Arm-cycling is quadruple times harder than traditional pedaling, she said, allowing me to see her rock-hard biceps.
“How do you do it?” I asked.
“It’s in my head,” she said, tapping her temple.
“After the accident, you could have given up. What pushed you?” I asked.
“I’ve always been like this. If I got an ‘A’ on an essay at school, I told myself, ‘You can do better,’ and worked harder until I earned an A+.”
By the way, she hates to be called “inspirational”: “I didn’t sign up for that. I’m just doing my thing.”
I get it. It’s hard enough living life to also have the responsibility of being a poster child for positivity.
But I can’t help but wonder, is the drive to excel inherited, part of one’s DNA, or observed and copied?
Do I have, within me, any trace of compulsivity, grit, pure drive?
Yes, in some areas of my life, I do. When it comes to creating, cooking, celebrating. But these traits never extended to my athletic experiences; of course, I know why: I was bruised with some deep-cut comments that wounded my soul. I never felt I could measure up, be as good as so-in-so, so I quit, grew fat and jolly, trying to divert attention from my lack of confidence.
What could have helped, what I craved, was an atta’ girl from a supporter, sort of like the person I tried to be while standing at 96th Street and First, applauding passing marathoners, clapping and shouting, “You can do this!” as I waved my green neon sign, which read, “We are all sooooooo damn proud of you.”
As far as I could tell, there were no fashion models present, no Tic Tock, well-lit, Photoshop posers running 26.2 miles; just sweaty, exhausted, acutely focused men, women and children exuding a palpable grit that could NOT be faked.
My daughter, who ran for six grueling hours, and her peer runners who overcame their own personal challenges before and during the marathon, are a reminder that no matter one’s shape or size, we can get up, move and reset our lives. One step at a time.
This time next year, I intend to shed 25 more pounds (I lost 40 last year). I’m going to get moving every day, walking, stretching, developing a physical Action Plan. Put myself on top of the priority list. My New Year’s Eve Resolution starts today. You heard it first. Hold me to it.
I’d love to hear about your goals, suggestions, and challenges? I’ll be your atta’ girl or guy. Let’s inspire each other!