Continuing on with the butterfly journey…
Last weekend I ran my first 15K on Block Island. Although I had been training for the race for about eight weeks, I was still a bit nervous about my ability to finish. Mostly I was concerned about the hills (even though the race’s website described them as “rolling), as being a mom of a toddler and an infant doesn’t really allow for much outside training. I was also nervous about the humidity. Thankfully, the weathermen/women were mistaken in their forecasts for afternoon thunderstorms, but they were correct in their temperature and humidity predictions. Although the weather wasn’t ideal for a long run, it definitely could have been much worse.
The run began at 1:30 p.m. on the dot at Issac’s Corner. Seeing that I missed the last bus to the starting line (it’s tough being a nursing runner), I had just enough time to hail a cab, check-in and pin on my racing bib (#79). Because of my frantic trip up to Issac’s Corner, I didn’t really have too much time to focus on my earlier fears. When the horn sounded, I hit the play button on my mp3 player and joined the other 300 runners for our 9.3 mile journey around the Block.
It had been about eight years since I last took a run around Block Island, which is, to-date, my favorite place on this great, green planet. Even though I was on vacation at the time, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself as the sun set low in the horizon while I jogged around the neighborhoods surrounding our rental home. Back then — before disease and child loss robbed me of my naiveté — I was a carefree young woman relishing each moment of my early evening exercise ritual. This memory, along with a plethora of others, flooded my mind as I chased the shade from one side of the road to the other. About a mile into my run, I distinctly remember a monarch butterfly crossing my path. The butterfly sighting made me smile as I thought about Clara, my little butterfly enthusiast. My thoughts then drifted to Elyse, Taylor and all of the other wonderful things that have happened in my life since my last Block Island run. Sure, there have been many challenging times since those carefree summer days of 2004, but the good days definitely outweigh the bad.
Mile after mile I ran. I ran by Rodman’s Hollow (twice), old cemeteries, dirt roads that I recognized from trips past, picture-perfect scenery and the airport (the hill by the airport was almost my undoing!). The last water stop was about two miles from the finish line. Since I was unaware of my time (the stop watch on my mp3 player wasn’t working properly), I tried as hard as I could to keep my head on the run and off of the fact that my legs felt as heavy as lead. The heat, the hills and the humidity had taken their toll and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish without walking for a bit — something I was determined not to do. As I rounded yet another corner and spied yet another hill up ahead, a second monarch butterfly crossed my path. Again, thinking of Clara and imagining her beautiful face waiting for me at the finish line, I felt a sudden burst of energy surge through my tired leg muscles. I was on my way! Before I knew it, it was time to turn my last corner where my friends and family were cheering me on and head down the chute to the finish line. Before the run, my goal was to finish the 9.3 miles in under 90 minutes. And honestly, as I completed my last mile, I thought back to the times when I was barely able to jog and my three water breaks and figured that I was lucky if I finished in an hour and 45 minutes. As I completed my final strides, I looked up at the official time clock and saw 1:21:08 (1 hour, 21 minutes, 8 seconds)! 81 minutes! I couldn’t believe that I had finished with time to spare.
Reflecting back on my run, the images of the butterflies immediately spring to mind. Of course, when I got home, I turned to the trusty internet and searched for the meaning behind butterflies. I kept seeing several that I thought were appropriate: Rebirth, Renewal, Transformation. I thought of Clara and how the butterfly symbolized her transformation from a buttersee to a butterfly. Before becoming a parent, I didn’t understand how exciting change and transformation could be, as I had always been one who was less than tolerant of change. However, seeing your child emerge from her own cocoon and turn into a beautiful being has been the most rewarding part of this experience. I know that Clara’s and Elyse’s transformations are both far from being complete, but I can’t wait to share in their lives, watch them spread their wings and take their independent flights into the world.
As far as I’m concerned, I have come to embrace the graceful, serene butterfly for its reminder that rebirth and renewal should not be feared, but embraced. In the three-plus decades that I have roamed this Earth, I feel as if I’ve been reborn a time or two — coincidentally, these instances came about in times of death and loss. I know that I am not the person that I thought I was going to be — and I’m okay with that. In fact, I like her more than the woman I had envisoned. I have come to appreciate my unique hardships and the positive influence they’ve had on me. I’m not as afraid as I used to be. I know that I am strong enough to endure challenges, as through cancer, child loss and NAIT, I’ve learned that it’s alright to be scared when you’re fighting a battle, as that fear can provide strength, clarity and direction. As I examine my own wings, though slightly tattered in a few spots, I am proud of the scars, blemishes and bright colors that mark them. After taking a couple of test flights and weathering a few storms, I’m ready to stretch my wings, see what they’re capable of and soar off into the great unknown. Although now 34 years old, my journey has only just begun.