Monday, April 29, 2013

The Long Road to Recovery

Normally, it's simple.  It'll hurt a bit, but recovering from the marathon is straightforward and I'm back to my regular day to day in a few short days.  This year is anything but normal.  This year's recovery is a life long process.  The moment those explosions rocked the finish area everything changed.  My life would never be the same

Like all of us, I've read about horrible things in the news.  Sadly, it's impossible to avoid.  Academically, I know these things can, and do, happen.  Some hit a little closer to home than others.  NYC and the tragedy on Sept 11, is just over an hour from where I grew up.  I'd been there many times, and knew a lot of people that lived and worked in the city.  Thankfully my closest tie to this disaster was a relative who made it out OK.  Then there was Virginia Tech, one of many schools I'd visited to cheer on Boston College.  I knew that campus, it is beautiful there and the people are wonderful.  I grew up in CT, not far from the recent tragedy in Newtown.  All of these events hit close to home.  This one though, this one hit *home*

I was just past the arch when the first bomb went off.  I knew it was close, but I didn't realize how close at the time.  It took a couple of weeks before I was even able to look at a map of what happened and where.  As it turns out, I was somewhere in the range of 100-250 feet away.  So I was right *there*

It took days, even weeks before I could really start to process what had really happened.  Despite all of the media coverage, part of me couldn't believe this had actually happened.  I didn't want to.  Boston is, and always will be, home to me.  The marathon always will be my favorite day of the year.  I couldn't comprehend something so evil, so vile defiling this

To make matters worse, I was helpless when it happened.  Those who know me, know that I don't back down from a challenge, and know that I am always looking for (and finding) ways to have a positive effect on things around me.  It did not rest well with me that I could do nothing to help here, especially seeing the heroism of so many firsthand.  Walking or running away is NOT my style

So what now?  I'd survived the bombs with no physical injuries, and for that I am counting my blessings.  I was so lucky that I didn't even *see* it.  All I saw was goodness and heroism.  But there is more to it than that.  I did hear it, I did feel it (although at the time I didn't process that) and I did experience it - the good and the bad.  For several weeks after the bombings, I was not ok.  I couldn't sleep.  Those aren't words you expect to hear from a narcoleptic.  Consciously I had come to terms with what happened very quickly.  Subconsciously, not so much

I had, and continue to have, a great support network.  I am humbled and honored by how many people reached out as this happened.  My Mom and Dad, they were there too.  I know it's taken a toll on them as well.  The first thing I did was call Mom to say I'm OK.  The first thing she did was call the family members *furthest* away, before the networks went down.  My sister in Tampa, and grandparents in Naples knew immediately that we were ok.  They didn't know what in the world my mother was talking about though.  Between them, the news that we were OK was spread to the extended family, many of them also learning that we were OK before they even had a chance to worry.  My siblings even took to facebook to let those who have me as a friend there know I was OK.  Meanwhile I tried to respond "ok" to every email and text I could.  I didn't even read them, I knew what they were about.  I still haven't gone back and looked to see who exactly reached out.  But there were a lot, and many that I would not have expected.  Family, friends, colleagues and clients all reached out en masse.  I have never been more humbled in my life than seeing this outpouring of concern over my wellbeing.  I can't thank you all enough for being there for me

The running community in Miami has also been incredibly supportive.  Between the Brickell Run Club and the hundreds if not thousand of runners that showed up for the silent run the day after, and the South Beach Run Club that had a police escorted run that Thursday - the community here has been very supportive.  For that I am also thankful

In the grand scheme of things, the three deaths that day and around 250 injuries are relatively insignificant.  That does nothing to ease the suffering of the victims, but it is true.  It could have been worse.  It could have been much worse that day if not for the heroism of so many.  On top of that, every single day in this country there are more *preventable* deaths and injuries as a result of our car-first culture.   Every one of those victims suffers too.  I've personally come much closer to death on the mean streets of Miami than I did here.  Hell, on multiple occasions I've had people intentionally run me down with their vehicles.  Thats aggravated battery (or assault if they failed), if not outright attempted homicide.  In these cases I was personally targeted, not just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So why am I having so much trouble with this?

I said shortly after the bombing that there are ONLY a couple hundred victims here.  Those who lost a loved one, and those who suffered serious injuries that will be with them for a lifetime.  They are the only victims by necessity.  The rest of us, myself included: We have a CHOICE.  We can be strong, leaning on our loved ones and find our way through this.  We can come out stronger as a result.  If so, we win.  The bombers failed to terrorize us and to terrorize our lifestyle and our city.  Or we can let ourselves be victimized and let them win

Even most of those who are victims can come out of this stronger.  Our society has showed tremendous support for them in the weeks since the bombing.  We cannot let that support waiver.  Together we can all get through this ok.  We can collectively stand 'Boston Strong', and refuse to let terrorism win.  We can all work together to make sure everyone affected is taken care of, now and in the years to come.  The One Fund is one of many ways that everyone can help

I personally will NOT be a victim.  Somehow I will come out of this stronger than I went in.  And I will use my fighting spirit to find a way to make something positive come of this.  This much I knew that night.  As I reflected on what happened, I knew very quickly that I had a new cause: Those who are victims of this by the necessity of their circumstances.  Those who a few minutes earlier were on that sideline cheering ME on, helping ME to finish MY race and accomplish MY goal.  Sure, none of them were there only for that reason, but they were there and they were MY support as I sprinted down Boylston.  To them I am beholden.  I knew then, that next year and every year after, would be for THEM.  It didn't matter if I knew them.  I share a bond now, with them and with all of the others who were there.  This event has forever linked our lives and I WILL find a way to make that a positive thing

I know myself.  I now have the motivations, the desire and the ability to do this.  So why then does this weigh down my soul?  What is holding me back and preventing me from continuing to live my life?  It's effected my work.  I've had to walk away from jobs because I don't currently have the mental capacity to tackle the difficult problems.  I'm an IT consultant.  Solving problems is what I do, often problems clients don't even know they have.  This current situation: that is a major problem.  It's effected my health.  I can't get any proper rest, no matter how much time I try to spend in bed.  It's effected my training.  How the hell am I supposed to run further, faster and harder if I'm constantly exhausted?  I know myself, but obviously I'm missing something

Why?  I am NOT a victim.  Why is this holding me back?  I've pondered that for weeks now and I've gotten no where.  I wake constantly in the middle of the night, and even when I don't I'm not getting quality sleep.  I wake in the morning just as exhausted as I went to bed the night before.  Night after night after night.  I don't believe I need to put this behind me.  No, it will always be part of the fabric of my being.  I need to make that a good thing.  I need to find and expel the demons that haunt me and prevent me from finding a way to make something positive happen

As I've pondered this for weeks on end, it's started to hit me.  I need to go back.  I need to visit Boston to find closure.  I know that will help me to move forward.  But I also know that this recovery will never be completely over.  It's up to me how it effects my future.  This can be a festering wound that never really heals, or this can be scar tissue that forms, stronger than before.  Either way, the events on Marathon Monday had and will continue to have a profound impact on my life

I'm a Bostonian: strength and resilience and winning is in my DNA.  I'm a runner: tearing myself apart to make myself stronger is what I do.  So yes, this will hurt.  Yes, this will be excruciatingly painful at times.  But out of these formative fires I will emerge triumphant, stronger and better than ever before.  It just may take some time


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