This blog post is the final chapter in a book I am working on to support special needs moms. I know all moms can benefit from it, so I decided to share it!
I purposely put this chapter last. I want to leave you with a sentiment (that I hope will become a movement) that has changed my life. I share this with any mom who will listen and many within earshot—in hopes that they are listening too. And, in putting it at the end of this book, my hope is that it will catapult you into your own greatness.
So, I didn’t have the concept fully laid out before I began my Choose One. As with many things in life, I was fully progressing down the road without even knowing where I was on the map. And although this can be uncomfortable for a control freak like myself—I was finally content to let the path unfold organically. This was a big step for me, in and of itself.
Let me explain. In September 2016, I significantly altered my schedule to be home more. I also wanted to free up some space—not only for my young family—who definitely needed me at home to help with homework and snacks and lend a listening ear for the tales of the day—but for me as well. It was a conscious decision for me to open up and allow for more opportunities to avail themselves. I wanted the universe to know I was serious. Now don’t get me wrong—I was not sipping margaritas on an island somewhere—I just began to say yes to the projects I really wanted to do. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition—in an effort to fully serve special needs moms. Although I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle, I wanted to have a more comprehensive understanding of health and nutrition. This would allow me to further support these moms in their efforts to keep their families together, their own loved ones supported as well as advocating for them to put themselves first –which many times begins with making healthy lifestyle choices. I began teaching for the online graduate program in Communication Science Disorders at NYU—where I have taught on-campus courses and supervised graduate students. Being a part of this on-line movement of teaching has been just incredible and quite the learning curve for me! I increased my time at Hunter College –where I supervise graduate students with their first “real” clients –to facilitate the externship placement process for these students. I adore academia and mentoring graduate students. I also find myself learning and growing so much in these roles. And although I continued to cherish my time at the Atlas Foundation for Autism, where I oversee the clinical services, freeing up some time also led to the idea to write this book—which has been quite an experience. But…most importantly, I found my Choose One: I RAN THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON!!!
Let me back track for a moment to further explain. I began referring to this time as “The Year of Me” and although I say that in jest—I actually really meant it. My friends immediately got it and loved it and when I went to speak at Moms’ Groups—they loved it too! This really got me thinking–when did focusing on our own health and wellbeing become a foreign concept? When did we start to brag about how busy we are? Well—busy with things that are not meaningful and do not bring us joy. These ideologies have been plaguing ALL moms for quite some time and were ultimately (as I am sure you have already seen) the rationale behind writing this book. I too, am one of those people that do not feel good unless I am busy. But there is a new type of satisfaction or gratification that comes from being busy with things that truly bring you joy. As I write this, I am coming to the close of The Year of Me (which has really stretched out to be more like 15 months!) and many have asked “Why does it have to end?!?” And, if I answer honestly—I guess it doesn’t! I think I will explore this further—possibly in another book. But for now—I want to talk about my Choose One and instill in you the importance of having your own.
I have mentioned that running is many things for me. It is my exercise. My spirituality. My time to think. My time to remember. My “me” time. My typical run used to be anywhere from 3-6 miles—depending on the day and the family schedule. Until… I won the lottery to run the NYC MARATHON!!! I remember the day I entered—I did not tell a soul. I was still healing from a brutal fall, that landed me face first in a gravel-lined street, and took my four front teeth (as well as decorated my face, arms and legs with scars that will last a lifetime). Yes—I was running and it was my typical route. No–I didn’t notice the sidewalk was damaged. I am forever grateful I was not more seriously injured and so thankful for the woman who lent me her phone and waited with me until my husband came and picked me up. As I filled out the lottery form, my dental work was still not complete and my runs were more cautious—with my cell phone diligently strapped to my right arm.
Now, I am no stranger to endurance events—I had completed the NYC Triathlon with the fundraising group Team in Training, two years in a row—back in my late 20s—when life was…well…simple. I raised almost $10,000 in two years for Leukemia and Lymphoma. The entire experience was amazing, but, I think in my heart, if I am being honest, I really wanted to do the Marathon. And, in typical form, I doubted myself and didn’t think I was capable—so the Triathlon would have to suffice. There was something about breaking up the sports into 3 distinct categories that felt—easier. And…the run was only a 10k or 6.2 miles…which was completely doable—not 26.2 miles, which felt like…well…CRAZY.
On March 2,2017, months after I applied for the lottery, I was notified I won an entry spot into the NYC Marathon. I knew immediately I needed to do it. This was the day my Choose One was realized. On March 3, I posted my win to my Facebook page—there was no going back. I later learned that only 17% of people who applied through the lottery were deemed “winners”. I knew it was serendipitous. I began completing a “longer” run on Sundays and started reading anything I could get my hands on about marathon training. On June 24, I started an official, 24 week training program—which gave me access to elite coaches from the New York Road Runners association as well as entry into a closed Facebook group for runners training for the 2017 NYC Marathon. I sat down and explained to my family that I was going to be running–A LOT. And that my training would take me out of the house frequently—and sometimes for hours at a time. I marked on the family calendar my run schedule and I could hardly believe it myself.
One day my husband and I were casually looking though my upcoming long runs (runners have many different types of runs—you build your stamina on your long runs—which happen 1x per week—typically on a weekend when you have the time to invest in 10+ miles, as well as recovery) and I nearly threw up when I saw that I was to run 11, 12, 13, 14….21 miles!?!? The longest run I had ever completed was on a treadmill, 16 years prior, and it was 10 miles. I was terrified. But I was committed. Every morning before a long run—where I would be scheduled to run a distance I had never completed before—I would be so anxious, I would literally tear up. My husband would look at me, every time, and tell me it was going to be OK and that I could do it. And, as he always pointed out after, I always did.
The Choose One movement is about finding a goal: One goal that is solely yours.
The Choose One movement is about finding a goal: One goal that is solely yours. One goal that you do not feel guilty about or apologize about. One goal that you make a commitment, to yourself, to accomplish. It has to be something that you are deeply interested in or have a calling for. It has to be immensely satisfying. The pull must be this strong because it will require you to fight back against feelings of guilt when you leave the house and your family. You must fight back against feelings of angst when you miss an event…dinner…homework or any and all of the above. You must fight back when you feel too tired or overwhelmed and just want to stay in. You must fight back when you feel like you are being selfish—AS IF that was even possible.
Here is a video of me finding my family at Mile 17 on the Upper East Side–where I lived with my husband for many years before we had children. I was sooo excited to see them!
There is so much that happens when we Choose One. We are a shining example of what commitment and diligence look like for our children. We demonstrate follow through. We teach pride in accomplishment. And…and this is most important…we become…HAPPY. We are excited to be dedicating time (which is quite the commodity and must be spent wisely) on a passion—for ourselves! In 24 weeks of training, I ran 6 days per week, consistently. I logged 609 miles of running. I ran when I felt great, nervous, angry, tired, mad. I ran in the heat and humidity, in the rain and wind. I only took 3 days off when I became sick—and this was towards the tail end of my training. Yes…you read that right. I ran 6 days per week for 20 weeks, without missing a stride, until I took a few days off due to an awful, flu-like cold. I would’ve laughed at you if you told me that I was capable of this. I also made new friends. I tried different techniques, and bought 3 pairs of sneakers. I learned so much about running gear I could write my own column in Runners World. On Sunday, November 5, 2017, I completed the NYC Marathon (without stopping!) in 4 hours, 44 minutes and 58 seconds. I DID IT and, I kid you not, I did it with a smile on my face the entire time.
Now, I know a Marathon is like…a SUPER DUPER big goal and I am proud to be a part of the .5% of the population that has completed one. But, your Choose One does not have to be so lofty. Some of my moms have chosen to start a book club. Other’s have focused on a hobby—cooking, photography. One mom enrolled in school to become a Speech Language Pathologist and another just completed her Pilates certification. I think you get the point. There is no right or wrong here. The idea is to pursue something so passionately that you do not let anything get in the way. Remember, when you do this, you are setting the example for your children, especially your daughter(s), that they too can wholeheartedly pursue their dreams. What better example is there to set?