There was an article last week about how the word ‘blessed’ has begun to lose much of its meaning in the Facebook generation, as we now will regularly see people who were ‘blessed’ as they chose the line at the market that moved faster, or that can of garbanzo beans they were getting anyway was $0.10 off!
At the same time there was an article about the connotations of Christianity in ‘blessed’, and also someone who was suing because the only ‘blessing’ given at an official state event recognizing first-responders was entirely Christian. For me these are two things – I am all about ‘separation of church and state’, and very much oppose any notion of our country adopting Christian norms (yes, I AM Catholic). But at the same time, I am all about personal freedom, so if you want to proclaim that Jesus himself guided you to the correct check-out line, well power to the people right on.
ANYWAY … can you tell this was one of those ‘thoughts on a run’ things? Yeah, Saturday on my long run (a glorious 12.5 miles) I was thinking about all of this, and really thinking more that blessed has just become a surrogate word for ‘fortunate’. The first article had the connotation that ‘blessed’ implied a lack of work involved, which I reject – I think that anything worth having in life is a combination of good fortune and hard work.
At the same time, one of the best things I read this week was Megan talking about being grateful for your worst day, meaning that you should live in the reality of the situation and your feelings, but never forget to appreciate the great things you DO have in your life.
So what are the ‘blessings’ I am thankful that I have in my life, and work hard every day to maintain?
1. My Wife
I have to just say upfront that I am saddened and dismayed by the number of kids in their 20s who have already married and divorced. I am not passing judgment of any sort, because I know often it for the best for any number of reasons. I was thinking about this as I was reading a post from Angie on Cowgirl Runs last week, talking about nearly 2 years of post-divorce learning.
Anyone who says marriage is easy is an idiot; I have a very happy marriage, still wake up every morning thrilled to be with Lisa; love spending time and connecting every day; and so on. We always have fun – yesterday we were bringing some outgrown clothes to the donation site and the handle on one of my bags broke, she gave me crap, I said ‘bite me’ … and she did! It was a load of laughs.
But I would be lying if I said there weren’t days, weeks and even a few months where things were less than awesome. Having plenty of bills, two kids, pets, houses, cars, jobs, and so on means dealing with conflict – people get cranky, tired, annoyed, disagree, and more. I’ve said it before – at some time in the last 25 years chances are Lisa and I have had something between a minor annoyance and full-out fight over pretty much any topic you can imagine.
But the one thing never in question was our love and desire to be together. Even at this point in our lives we have people make comments on us when we’re together, calling us ‘cute’ or whatever … and we soak it all up. Our marriage has been hard work – but one thing is clear, that whenever difficult times struck, we united and emerged stronger than before. Lisa makes me and my life better every day, and that is pretty awesome.
2. My Boys
Sometimes my kids REALLY tick me off. And unfortunately very often those times occur when they are doing something I have genetically passed down to them!
But more often than that I am so proud of them, or so enjoy just hanging out sharing things with them, and look forward to seeing them transition to adults.
Kids are ALWAYS a struggle, make no mistake. Especially when they get to the age of making independant choices – because you will occasionally run into a conflict between wanting them to be happy and wanting them to be the best version of themselves. Those moments are exhausting and stressful and emotionally draining.
But then there are the times when you are working together, painting or doing dishes or folding laundry, listening to and talking about music, discussing movies and TV and friends and school and technology and clothes and life in general. And suddenly you get to see the insightful, smart, funny individuals they have become.
I don’t know where my kids will be in a few years, what they will study, where their careers will land them … but that is all part of the adventure. They are awesome boys and I am really enjoying this phase of their lives.
3. My Job/Career
I have said it before, but after getting laid off in late 2007, I was already interviewing for a job that I used as a ‘stop-over’ that allowed me to keep interviewing for one that met all of my needs. I was so lucky as the economy collapsed to end up with FOUR offers, in the Boston area, Charlotte NC, Seattle WA and Corning. Corning was the most stable company and seemed to offer the best long-term viability, but also is a one-company town – so if I wasn’t happy we’d be moving again!
Six years later, and two of the companies who gave me offers no longer exist, and the division I interviewed for in the other company was axed. Even Corning had a big layoff in 2009 in the recession, but I survived and now the company is stronger than ever.
I have been fortunate to work on a wide variety of projects in most of the divisions (I work in corporate engineering), had great technical challenged and made a real impact, and have made some great friends through the years. Corning really values its people, the focus on innovation and technology development, and as a result even after 6 years I am a relative ‘newbie’ as most people my age have been here 20+ years.
4. My Health
On the peoject that had me traveling to Kentucky regularly, I had one long shift of travel followed by immediately going into the plant to work without break for a long time. People were complaining and then someone mentioned how good I looked, and the project manager said ‘well, with how much he runs and how he eats, what do you expect?’
As someone who still looks at himself as a ‘reformed obese person’, this view of me as healthy always catches me off-guard.
I guess I assumed that since I did myself no favors during my first 23 years, that I would pay for it forever. But aside from some loose skin (TMI, sorry), I have no residual effects. My heart and lungs and joints and bones overall health remain excellent. If I can inspire in any way, THAT would be it – it is never too late to be in the best shape and health of your life.
5. 25 Years a Non-Injured Runner
I feel like I am tracking the injury status on a couple dozen blog-friends and real-life friends at any given time, either active or recovering. And I always sympathize, because I know that I never want to have something that takes my running away from me.
Last week Harold listed his injuries … and my jaw dropped. I don’t even know what I would do in that situation – because I have never had to deal with it.
My biggest thing? This past winter when someone edged me off the road and I ended up stepping into what looked like just a snowbank but was actually a culvert so my left shoe dropped down a couple of feet unexpectedly. I had already planned the next day as rest, but then took a second day off, and then got back to running.
For me, running is a pretty huge part of my life – and as a result I am very protective of my ability to go out every day. Running daily means more than speed or races or pretty much any sort of improvement. If I never BQ but am still running 5 miles a day 20 years from now I will be more than happy.
6. My Friends
I am really lucky to have a great set of friends from childhood, high school, college, my jobs in MA and NY, online writing sites and computer gaming forums, and now through blogging. I have met amazing people and I thoroughly enjoy hearing from them and communicating.
It is a great thing to get a message that says ‘though of you when I saw this’ … because I have always been a ‘thought is what counts’ person, so someone making a connection and passing it along really touches me.
Because we have teen boys and live in the ‘internet age’, having discussions about ‘online friends’ is only natural. It is something I have had since the late 80s, and something Lisa has really never had … so that makes for two very different perspectives. As adults we can still be misled, but we have a better context to frame these interactions, and hopefully we make good choices.
That is a long way of saying that I have been truly and immensely touched by the interactions I have had through blogging, even before I started my own blog last fall. You guys are just the best, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
My Running Summary
The weather was all over the place this past week – from cool to hot and windy and torrential rain (my clothes from Friday morning were still wet at mid-day on Saturday!). But I had a pretty solid week:
Sunday: Mother’s Day – no run, 3mi walk with Lisa
Monday: 9.5 miles
Tuesday: 8.25 miles, 2 mile walk with Lisa
Wednesday: 5.25 miles (at night)
Thursday: 9.25 miles, plus another 4mi walk with Lisa
Friday: 9.25 miles
Saturday 12.5 miles
Not a bad overall week – 53.75 miles! What I have started to notice is it is easier for me getting out the door, my pace is better, and I am pushing my home-time a bit later to squeeze in more miles.
So what ‘blessing’ do YOU treasure?
Really relate to both the marriage and kids ones. Agree that going through the hard times together is what makes you grow and get closer as a couple, or it can tear you apart, depending on how the problems are dealt with.
I’m also sure that every time my kids drive me nuts it’s because they are being like me…makes me look at my own behavior from a different angle. Family is the biggest “feeling blessed” part of my life 🙂
And I thought it was going to be having that ‘friend’ who followed you on runs and bought you a hat (I still find that creepy!).
Your emphasis on family shows through everything you write on your blog and really makes me happy all the time reading!
I wholeheartedly agree about separation of church and state, and I actually don’t like the express invokation of church/religion in non-religious things. I’m Episcopalian, husband is Catholic, and we go to Catholic mass pretty much every week, but when there is a group prayer relating to God and/or Jesus outside church (for instance, before a race), I usually prefer to step away, solely so that someone who doesn’t share those beliefs feels comfortable and not alone in doing the same. I understand evangelism and its importance, but I’m very uncomfortable when I feel like a particular religion is being forced on anyone.
The two main things I think of as real blessings in the “fortune” sense with no hard work involved are birth and death. Someone who wants to get pregnant getting pregnant, or someone who has a quick, non-suffering, peaceful death late in life. So while you may be “blessed” now to have the boys in your life largely because of the hard work that went into raising them to be good people, when they were mere embryos, that strikes me as the other kind of blessing, just pure fortune.
To make a long comment longer, I love your point about marriage. We’re good friends with our neighbors who just celebrated 50 years of marriage and she told me before I got married that I needed to know there would be days, months, and maybe even years where I might not want to be married or it might seem easier or better not to be married, but if I went into it knowing that, and committed to sticking out the tough times, it would be the most wonderful part of my life. I try to keep that in mind when we have struggles, try to remember the underlying love and commitment.
Thanks so much for the comment – I don’t really like to step into religion on the blog too much, but I always have an issue with ‘majoritarianism’ (e.g. where’s my white history month? Pro tip – it is called ‘the calendar’), and therefore get my ‘social justice’ senses tingling in loads of cases. But there are other times we all need to give it a rest – a 5K I’ll be doing is a benefit for a Catholic elementary school … um, YEAH there will be an opening prayer, duh! 🙂
I am very fortunate like you say to have my boys, but I remember our years of struggle with infertility and multiple miscarriage, and seeing friends say ‘we are thinking about getting pregnant in August’ and then BAM they’re pregnant in August. There are so many people who struggle, I never want to be one of those unintentionally cruel people we dealt with … and never make anyone feel bad for their own struggles.
Thanks again for the great comment!
I’m totally on board with a prayer before a 5k for a Catholic school!
I can relate to the marriage, kids and job “blessings.” Having a supportive husband who makes me a better person is something I am eternally grateful for. I feel very fortunate to have him in my life, even when things aren’t perfect!
Our son is of course, the center of our world and I am forever grateful that we were able to have him in our lives, even when he is difficult!
With regards to jobs, I took a huge gamble coming to the company I am at now, and 8 years later, it was one of the best career moves that I could have ever made, and for that, I am very grateful!
Great story, Sara – sometimes we don’t know what is coming when we leap into a new situation (of any type) … glad it worked out – and I really love reading about your family all the time! 🙂
One of my favorite things is when a friend posts something on my Facebook wall with “I thought of you when I saw this”. 9 times out of 10 it is something completely ridiculous…an inflatable unicorn horn for cats, for example. And it makes me feel so good that that ridiculous thing made me come to mind. 🙂
You are absolutely right about marriage not being easy! My husband is amazing. A lot of times our relationship is effortless, but sometimes it takes a lot of work and patience. Especially in the first year since Betty came along because that was just such a huge adjustment for everyone. In the end though, I’m so thankful and lucky to have him and I think it’s pretty obvious that Betty is the star of the show in our house. She definitely has her moments – last night she woke up at midnight and stayed up to party until 3:30 in the morning and no amount of anything we tried could get her back to sleep – but it’s all just part of the adventure and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Every stage has been my favorite stage so far. 🙂
Your love of family – your devotion to B and acceptance of the difficulties of your husband’s work schedule – always comes through, and makes reading your posts a joy! Yeah, there are always challenges, that is just life – I mean, none of us are easy to get along with every day, why should our kids be?!?
And not only do you get cool random things, you get hashtags named after you #mamaSalt! 🙂
I can relate to the marriage one so much. Even though we have only been married 3 years (but together 9 years) I feel like people often think that it’s so easy. It’s not. Anything but. We’ve been dealt with a lot in the first 3 years of marriage and we are still holding strong. We were at a wedding on Saturday and someone said “you made it through medical school you should be proud” and Wes’ comment was we’ve been together through it all – it has not been easy by any means, it’s been work. It has been 100% worth it. Even on the days we don’t get along I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else.
That is pretty impressive you haven’t been injured! I know a few people like that and I am always so jealous! 🙂
Another great week of running for you! Congrats!
I do like that over time you have been able to open up on your blog more and more – and say that things are hard. Becuase I think reading some blogs it seems like their life is rainbows and unicorns, whereas like you say your life with Wes might be great, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work and it also doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck some days. That is just life.
I definitely am happy for a lack of injuries, and very protective of that status … if ‘slow & steady improvement’ for me means more slow and less improvement, I’ll happily stay mid-pack running every day. 🙂
I am definitely grateful for my marriage, my family and friends, my health and my running. Even during times when I am injured I am still happy have running as something I know I will get back to. Nice running this week!
Thanks Lisa – I love that you share all of those things with us through your blog … and like you say, your love of running even when challenged with injuries.