This is where I come from…This big, opinionated, loud, funny, and boisterous family. I have spent a lot of time during my Ironman training thinking about my family. Growing up in a big family was both fun and chaotic. It was not just the size of my family but the personality of my family that made it seem even bigger than just a family with 10 kids.
This family of mine…we are all adults now and live all over the country, and yet, we still find things we need to fuss at each other about…The best way to handle religion, politics, child rearing, social issues, education, etc. etc. etc. Pretty much each of us believes we have the right answer to all the world’s problems. I have a sister in law who once said to me at one of our family gatherings, “Don’t you think it’s interesting that there are 10 people who are 100% certain they are correct, yet there are 10 different points of view?” I thought that was both genius and 100% correct. Because of this family of mine, I have learned how to more effectively express my opinion. I have also learned to embrace the challenges that stating my opinion might invite. Because of this family of mine, I know which of my values or opinions are on a solid foundation and which I might want to reconsider. I don’t agree with everyone in my family all of the time…but because of them I know how to love people even when we disagree. I’m a better person for that.
This family of mine…knows how to play, and play HARD. There is really nothing lukewarm about my family. We are an “all in” kind of family. Several years ago Jeff and I were planning a trip home for Christmas. At the time, my boys were very interested in paintball and so were my brothers and most of my sisters. Perfect…a huge family game of paintball was organized. Andrew, my oldest, thought it was a good idea to trash talk Dennis- one of my brothers. Of course, Dennis did as my family will do and trash talked back. The two of them now had verbal plans to dominate the other in this epic game of Christmas paintball. As Andrew’s mother, I was a little nervous as I wasn’t sure Andrew realized that when Dennis made plans to annihilate him it was not just a “big talk little action” sort of trash talk. Andrew should be prepared for some paintball pain. There is no such thing as taking it easy on someone at my house. If you’re in the game…you better be all in. My ironman training has reminded me where this ALL IN…PLAY HARD attitude has come from. Feeling grateful for that family education.
This family of mine…we fight with each other but when things are hard…It’s my family that has my back! Early in my ironman training I had a particularly heart wrenching family crisis. My family was there immediately buoying me up. I knew I could allow myself to be fragile for a bit because they would be strong for me and protect me. It was right in the middle of this crisis that I found myself on a run. It was so windy and I felt like I was getting hit from all sides by this wind. It was hard to put one foot in front of the other. I needed this run to help sooth my achiness and I desperately needed some endorphins to kick in. All of a sudden, I ran through a stretch of road with tall buildings that blocked all the wind. I immediately thought of my family and how much protection I feel from them. I could do this hard thing because I knew I could count on them. I started thinking about how strong each member of my family is. They have all done their own hard things. They are amazing. They are strong. Their strength makes me stronger.
This family of mine….can be brutally honest. My first year of college, I put on about 30lbs. When I got off the airplane at Christmas, my little brother, Donny, put his arms around my waist for my welcome home hug and announced…”Wow, you got fat!” and Donny was the sweet brother. Ouch and reality check. No more late night brownie and ice cream binges for me. I know how each member of my family is feeling about me at any given time. Sometimes this is hard to swallow. BUT…when they tell me they think I’ll be amazing on Ironman day…I believe them. When they say they think I’m strong…I believe them. Their words of affirmation are genuine…they are not just trying to be polite. Their confidence in me helps me believe in myself when the doubt creeps in.
This family of mine…is funny. I asked my family to send me songs that I could put on my playlist to help motivate me. Because they all live so far away, very few of them will be there to celebrate my day with me. I thought this would be a way to have my family with me in spirit. My mom’s first song choice was “I would walk 500 miles”…you know…
“If I get drunk, I want to be the man who gets drunk next to you…and I would walk 500 hundred miles and I would walk 500 hundred more…”
After sending the song choice she quickly replied and told me “oh nevermind…I didn’t even realize what that song was about…it won’t work”. Guess what? I have that song on my play list and every time I hear it I laugh at how much my mom would want to be the man for me. When I need to smile on race day I will be thinking of my family.
This family of mine…is fearless! I did not inherit this sense of fearless abandon. I can make a pretty solid case that I am wise and sensible and cautious. I also think I could make a good case at why being cautious is a characteristic that is valuable. However, I am envious of their fearlessness. Several years ago we all got together for my little brother’s wedding. We decided to go surfing (a new activity to most of us). After a glorious time at the surf shop squeezing into our wetsuits, off we scampered to the beach. This was the California coastline which meant big waves. I made a good effort at not drowning only to find my siblings WAY out tackling the big daddy waves. They never doubted they would practically be professional surfers within a day. Another time, I went snow skiing with my brothers. It was the first time on the slopes for me and I doubt my brothers had gone very often before. I headed to the bunny slopes. My brothers headed to the Black diamond slopes. They didn’t die, but, if memory serves, did have some spectacular crashes. If they can think it…they are sure they can do it. I love this about them. When I hit those moments on race day when my natural caution encourages me to imagine I can’t do this…I will think of my family and be fearless!
This family of mine won’t all be in Wilmington on race day. But I carry so many pieces of them with me. I will remember where I come from and what I’m made of. Thinking that’s going to be IRON! October 22 is just around the corner. WOOT WOOT!