Two years ago, while still attending school in Monterey, I was in the unfortunate position of having to crank out four final projects within the last three weeks of school and still trying to recover from the 50 miles that so dutifully rocked my body in the Marin Headlands two weeks prior.
I’m not really sure how I managed to make all of that happen to be honest.
No, I totally do.
She was right there to hug my smelly behind when I crossed the finish line.
My wife is amazing.
Awesome in the totally non-colloquial (and often overused) sense of the word.
I really mean it.
Here’s the trouble with awesome though.
When awesome is the habit, awesome becomes the expectation.
It’s always there, that awesomeness, and why shouldn’t it be? Then you take it for granted.
And then if you are very, very, VERY lucky, you are given a gentle reminder not to do such things. A reminder of that awesome that allows you to do so many things, and do them well.
Right around this time, my source of awesome slipped while I was taking the kids to school, and sprained her tailbone. She soldier’ed up and put herself back in bed, and I was only alerted to her pain when she couldn’t take it anymore and started sobbing.
This is a woman that never cried through three childbirths, yet here she is, climbing the Mt. Whitney of pain-mountains.
Walking was a chore. Sitting was miserable. Driving was impossible. Cooking wasn’t going to happen. Healing was going to be slow.
It was pretty clear Mr. Mom needed to get his ass in gear.
Now, don’t misunderstand, I do my fair share of cooking and child chauffeuring (probably more than most) but this was different. My wife needed me to be awesome.
I mean, getting her shoes on was not a solo activity for her.
I wasn’t sure I would be good enough. Wasn’t sure that I could be all that helpful.
I just ran 50 miles like you read about, never considered quitting, and now wondered if I had what was needed to be the dude she required. She worried if her needs were becoming overwhelming. Worried that I might be getting tired of it.
And then a funny thing happened.
I started to enjoy it.
I didn’t enjoy watching the woman I love endure this crap of course, but I enjoyed being relied upon. I enjoyed being the neck she put her arms around to sit up. I started to feel like I was paying back the awesome, if not just a little at a time.
I also started to feel like someone was putting my brain in a vice.
Focusing on school was a challenge, and writing without being distracted was tougher than I thought it was going to be. In short, I was getting a little taste of what it was like for her to get her degree while I was deployed. It’s slow.
It can be plodding. There are highs and lows.
Hmm, sounds familiar.
And here I thought maybe she didn’t know what I was going through during those 11 hours in the mountains.
But I should have known better.
I should have known better because she was the first to congratulate me.
The first to look into my eyes and tell me she was proud. The first to ask me what I needed to be drinking or eating. And of course she was the one to make sure I had a cold beer when I got home.
She may not be an ultra-runner, but she damn sure knows relentless forward progress and what it takes to accomplish the seemingly impossible.
And if there is one thing I learned during my ultras, it’s that you can’t do it alone . . . despite spending a whole bunch of time by yourself.
So it was clear to me that spending a week focused on something other than myself was the least I could do for someone that knew exactly what it was like to donate a little piece of themselves to someone else’s goal.
Lucky that she’s going to be able to recover fully and no serious damage was done. Lucky to be able to care for her when she needed it. Lucky to have an opportunity to appreciate what I have, what I need . . . and what I need to appreciate.