We all know I hate flying. I’ll drive for days to avoid taking an airplane. However, it is not a good use of my time to drive as often as I am traveling now. So, I fly. 

If there is a heart decal on the outside of the plane, I always reach out and touch it. No. I don’t actually think it will keep me safe. I’m not that ridiculous. It’s just a thing I do. 

The lady behind me caught me this time. She asked if I was superstitious and I just chuckled and shrugged sheepishly. Maybe a little. I hate flying. 

“I heard you on the phone, it sounds like you fly a lot. That’s brave.” 

Thank you. You made my day. Who would have thought a stranger would know just the thing to say? I don’t typically consider myself to be brave. I’m really terrified most of the time. 

There are so many people talking about the pervasive hate in our country. They speak of being afraid. I have experienced the opposite. So many people have been so kind to me. 

It makes me feel a little less alone on my travels. I wonder what would happen if we all just took a moment to say something kind to the stranger standing or sitting next to us. 

It doesn’t cost anything. Just open your eyes and notice the people around you. Make eye contact and smile. You could help someone have a better day. 

Stranger Conversations

When you are far away from everyone you love, you find ways to be part of humanity. Sometimes it is just eavesdropping on conversations while you are sitting alone in a booth having your spinach and mushroom omelette. 

The two men over my left shoulder are talking about baseball. Correction: they are discussing baseball with a fervor and passion I usually reserve for music, movies, and my beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea where all these ideas are coming from. They sound like scholars who have spent an extraordinary amount of time dedicated to studying the diamond. 

I have purposefully not turned to put a face to the voices. I am enjoying the mystery. I imagine them in jeans, baseball caps, and work boots of some sort. They both have booming, resonate voices which makes me feel like they are not small men. Graying goatees and hair that is just a touch too long to be fussy. 

It’s early on a Saturday morning so they are not so young that they can’t control how much they drink on Friday night, so they are not hungover. One of them probably has a pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. The other one is a non-smoker. 

They speak with an intimacy and have many shared memories and reference points, perhaps they are brothers who meet up once a week for breakfast. That’s a nice thought. 

Trades, pitchers, ball fields, Red Socks, Dodgers, Angels, and Rangers. Injuries and errors. The Draft. College. Batting stance and the eye. National League and the other one. Fourteen at bats. Cleveland’s outfielders. 

Maybe I should start learning more about baseball. You can carry on quite a conversation about first base. I don’t even think they are using it as a euphemism. 

I am nearly finished with my meal. Soon, I will need to stand up to leave. Do I avoid glancing to my left, or do I scope my entertainment out? The suspense is killing me. Maybe I will drop something so I can see if my mind’s eye is close. Maybe I should continue to build the mystery. 

Should I give these men names? Tom and Steve. (Those sound like fairly unassuming names for strangers you will never meet.) Toronto… They are talking about Canada! I love Canada. Oh, there is a baseball team there. I wish they would talk about something else. 

Ack! Now, they are talking more quietly! The conversation must be more interesting. Nope, it was the Yankees. Is there some conspiracy involving stolen bases and a World Series? What the hell are these dudes talking about? Now, back to the Red Socks. Math and numbers. Agents and contracts. 

Manning??? Isn’t he a football dude? Both of them! What the hell? You can’t switch sports in the middle of the conversation. Right handed hitter. Must not have said Manning. Arm span and height. Gee. There are so many boring things to say about America’s favorite pastime.

These guys are baseball spies! Insider trading! Stolen bases and laundered uniforms. Who do you call to report these crimes? 

Okay, I know. I’m not that funny. They sure talk about a lot of aspects about the game. They must watch SportsCenter. 

Update: I looked. Very average older gentleman. No goatees. Baseball caps in place. Hair DOES look a smidge shaggy. They look nice. 

Natives, Heroes, and Heat: Tough Mudder- Mesa

This post is dedicated to one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. I remember the first time I remember seeing her post on the HC that I am a proud member of. A friend of hers had gifted her a bootcamp scholarship from one of those weight loss shows. I was so impressed by her already. She was one of the reasons I was so excited to do this Tough Mudder.

Jill is one of the most positive and life affirming women I know. She is unendingly kind. She is so tough.

Jill is from Arizona. She had been training hard. Completing obstacle courses with her workout buddies, working hard, and eating right. She was totally prepared to rock this Mudder to the core.

Well, preparation does not alway ensure the ending that we are expecting. For unknown reasons, Jill began having problems with nausea and vomiting. Eventually, it led to her being in an extremely dehydrated condition, and when she became light-headed she had to leave the course and seek medical treatment. I know that was the last thing she wanted to do. I think if her body had let her, she would have continued regardless of how she felt.

My Toughest Mudder. Even with an IV, she looks fierce.

Let me tell you a little more about this superhero. She was there waiting for us when we got to the finish line. She had received IV hydration in the medical tent, and was still not feeling great, and she stayed to support her team. I am so humbled by her inner strength.

I can only imagine how I would have felt. I can easily imagine that I would have left, and gone home to wallow in my shame and disappointment. The fact that she was more concerned about seeing this group of strangers complete this course shows her spirit. She is far stronger than I am.

So, imagine my heartbreak when I read her Facebook post that said “I am not a Tough Mudder.” My initial reaction was shock and disbelief. I had been thinking of her as the toughest mudder out there.

I had some guilt where Jill was concerned. When I first found out she was struggling to keep water down, I off-handedly told her to just take little sips. When I found out she was sitting on the ground by the monkey bars, I went over to make sure that the medics were coming, and then I removed myself. The nurse practitioner in me wanted to put my foot down and demand that she quit. The girl who knew that this was a grown woman who had not entrusted herself to my care, knew that was not my place. So, once I knew the medics were there I walked away. I wish I had given her hug right then, and told her that I was proud of her. I regret that.

You see, this adventure was so much more than an obstacle course. It was a life changing experience. I met some of the kindest souls I ever imagined. We all had different fears and obstacles to overcome in order to even show up. We were a shockingly large, slow-moving tribe. People would stop and look at us in awe, and ask “Do you all know each other?” We were able to gleefully answer that no, most of us had just met. Yet, we were continuously throwing our arms around each other, and posing for a ridiculous number of pictures. (There are thousands of pictures!!!)

I was overwhelmed many times by all the emotions that Tough Mudder brought out in me. I struggled with being in the middle of such a large group. I sought solitude frequently. I wanted to process what I experienced. There were many times I wished for a pen and paper so that I could find the words to describe the interactions I witnessed. For some, they thought that meant I was not okay, or that I did not like them. This is one of the pitfalls of my personality. In an effort to filter what I say, I have to remove myself from the situation. Otherwise, whatever pops into my head tends to come out of my mouth. Unfortunately, no one cares how you mean it. So, when I am overwhelmed I tend to withdraw. It is simply my coping mechanism.

You see, ADD has some benefits. I see and take in a lot of information, but then I am tasked with the chore of sorting through it all and determining it’s significance. I had faced so many fears, and still had so many more miles to go. I had blisters on my heels, and I was hungry. I was surrounded by strangers who were also friends. It was a huge amount of stressors to deal with.

I was unprepared physically and mentally for this challenge. I was unprepared for how much I would depend on this group of strangers.

Since the TM I have seen video of me completing some of these obstacles. Let’s be honest, I am horrified. I cannot believe I allowed myself to be captured in those positions. There are far more pictures of my ass on Facebook than I ever imagined possible.

Which is why, I am signing up to do another Tough Mudder with this group. Guess what? All these people have seen me blubber and cry at the thought of climbing a wall. They have seen me go off alone to contemplate my insanity. They still wanted to give me a hug at the finish line. Some of them even walked with me, with my arms around their shoulders so I could take some of the weight off my throbbing, swollen, blistered left foot. So, in October my son and I are traveling to do one together. I can’t wait for him to see the way people can come together to support one another.

I never would have thought a Facebook group and a man I call “the blogger” would change my life. More about that later.