Thursday, May 19, 2011

How Will You Cope?

I know I devoted a whole post last week to the miracle recovery of my son, Sam’s, teacher. His has been a story of inspiration, gratitude and the power of the human spirit.

I am convinced that not every person could have lived through what Mr. Cribby did. Along with an amazing support network, tons of prayers and a skilled medical staff Mr. Cribby had one essential component that was key to his recovery. The will to live - sheer determination.

I remember early on his wife telling a story about how the nurse was trying to brush his teeth and he refused to let the toothbrush be taken out of his mouth. At that time he was non verbal, but his wife guessed it was because he wanted to have control over something. To show his will.

His story is universal to all of us. We might not be laying on our deathbed and fighting to hold a toothbrush in our mouths, but we are all struggling with something. A relationship. Our weight. The death of a loved one. Depression. Trouble with our kids. A lost dream. Our training.

What do we do? If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, then you know what I am going to say next.

It’s all about our attitude. Our approach to life. You get what you give. Make lemons out of lemonade. See the bright side. Never give up.

Early on in Mr. Cribby’s illness, someone posted a wonderful quote regarding hardship, challenge and overcoming adversity. It became a sort of theme song to his fight and his recovery (made even more relevant because he is from Maine):


Focus on the goal, not the difficulties. Let your instincts steer you. Keep flying one day until you arrive.

People ask me often about the stress fracture and how I stayed so positive, then came back to run the Boston Marathon a few months later. My answer? I had a choice.

#1  The Bitch Approach: Live everyday pissed off and annoyed that I was injured. Make everyone around me suffer. Complain. Whine. Have a pity party.

#2  The Cribby Approach: Accept what is and fly until I arrive.

I couldn’t do choice #1. I can’t stand to feel so down and I’m sure as shit not going to drag my husband, kids, family and friends into the crap hole with me. That’s not fair to them. I can hang on the dark side for a bit, then I need to find the bright spot. Even if it’s just coffee with a friend or swimming one lap in the pool. There is a bright spot.

In my mind, the point is not to totally avoid suffering. That’s unrealistic. The point is to know what we’ll do with it when it arrives.

There are much bigger blows in life than a stress fracture. That was just a dress rehearsal for the inevitable hard times to come. I’m not a pessimist, but I am realistic. My three legged, one eyed dog will probably die in the next year (I mean, what’s he going to lose next? His penis? Then what would he lick all day?). My parents are getting older. One of my kids could get sick. Life is unpredictable and bad shit happens. How will you cope?

How have you dealt with suffering in your life? (Besides crack). I know many of you have endured great hardships, injuries, losses, piss-poor races and disappointments, so do tell. 



  1. Through out my life I have always held the belief that we go through so we can hold up someone else who may need it. We are born to empathize. I growing up in an alcoholic home and my father dying when I was a teen gave me the ability to be able to be sensitive to others. While growing up I may not have understood what the hell was going on in my life I now know. We all get hurt one way or another. We all suffer. I have complained, cried and acted like a baby many times. After that I was always able to rise above the situation, step back, breath and take what I was supposed to learn.

  2. I love the monarch quote. I'm totally a #2. You deal with what you're dealt. That doesn't mean you sit back and let stuff happen. You do what you can, when you can, and accept what is. I've always been that way, and Gabby's diagnosis in January cemented it.

    Life is unpredictable, and bad shit happens, no doubt. So be grateful, and enjoy what you're surrounded by. Is leukemia easy to live with? No. But we're not in the hospital. We're able to see her, every day, smiling. It could be so much worse. We're lucky.

  3. I'm fortunate right now that the only bad thing is a piss-poor race. I've been ignoring it for the most part, but essentially I need to get over myself and move on.

  4. My grandma and my uncle like to remind me that I haven't had an easy life. It's not because they are mean but to remind me that I made it through better and stronger. When I look back at those times - a tumultuous relationship with my mom, abuse, the deaths of both my parents - I can't think of doing something special to make it through. Maybe I just survived. Or, maybe, I just lived. Lived my life and didn't let the bad things consume me. You can acknowledge them, of course, but you don't let them control you.

  5. One simple thing has helped me overcome the devastating loss of my brother last year: love. Love for the Lord and His plan for my life and my brother. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for my life. And love for running. I crossed the line of my second half marathon with gritted teeth, a screwed up knee and a feeling of peace. I started the training with plans to see my brother at the finish line but finished the race with a loving sister holding her arms out. Love got me through. So, I guess I'd say I'm a #2 as well. With the anniversary of Vic's accident looming two days from today and the anniversary of his death just around the corner, I know I'll make it through. With love. And running wildly down the beach.

    Run on.

  6. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I generally have the same outlook on life that you mention (keep going, persist, stay positive) but I, too, suffered a frustrating stress fracture last year that took MONTHS to heal. I wondered if I would ever be able to run, much less race, again. At one point I decided that if I couldn't run, I would cycle and swim, and that would be OK.

    Of course, that was after I had sulked and stewed and pity-partied myself into a 10lb weight gain and total frustration. So, that said, yes, I succumbed, but then got back on the wagon and persisted and healed and rehabbed and was a relatively patient patient.

    I am back training and racing this year, and am more thankful than ever for every mile I can run. And this experience has helped me get through some major personal stuff in the last few weeks.

    We are more resilient than we think!

  7. Thanks for posting that quote... I totally needed it right now. I'm so down and out with having to basically start my recovery over from scratch, 9 weeks later, that it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Just another obstacle to overcome and that will take digging a little deeper...

  8. I've had a number of hard times in my life... from nearly starving to death, to the death of my first boyfriend, and then the death of my grandfather, and then the death of a family friend, to losing my whole city for a while when Katrina hit. It always comes back to the same thing once I have a moment of calm. I like being me. I like being alive. Everything can be endured, all we can do is the best we can.

  9. great post. i never imagined that i would have a developmental disabled child, and i was really pissed off in the beginning...poor me, why us, this sucks! but then i decided that was ridiculous and would not be a productive way to raise my daughter. that is actually how i got back in to running. i ran for her because she couldnt. i started J4JS to help raise awareness for her condition, and it also helped me cope with our daily struggles. i still have weak moments, its always a struggle, but now i make the best of it.

  10. Just saying, I really needed this post today and option 2 sounds like exactly what I need to do!

  11. How do you so easily transition from a post about shitting while running to something as deep and meaningful as this post? (not that shitting isn't deep or meaningful....all my shits are very meaningful and important to me). Anyhow--great reality check for those of us who need one.

    Are you telling me to shut up already about the bad weather here in Maine??

  12. I went through a divorce while my dad was dieing of lung cancer. That actually sucked pretty bad and then just about the time I recovered from that, I was unemployed for a bit (early 2009 when the economy just tanked). Luckily for me (and those around me) I tend to automatically adopt approach #2 -- not saying that I'm perfect, I'll spend a bit of time in approach #1 but tend to move through it fairly quickly. I like how Leauxra (above) put it -- when things calm down I like being me. That is when I can realize that I've got it good overall despite the periods crap she's correct that everything can be endured.

  13. I had watched this video, , learned that an old friend is still cancer free 3 months following treatment, my son who has autism had a crap day at school, this weather (I'm local - south Denver) bites the big one, and then I read this post. A day of highs and lows. Which choice should I make? I think I'll visualize the flying.

  14. This reminds me of something a friend quoted today:

    "If you are going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill"

    I won't get into the details of my hardship (I will, someday), but my approach was kind of the same as what you said, to just keep on GOING, like you said, towards whatever goal you have.

    Sometimes working towards that even involved taking a few steps backwards and taking another path to get there, but that was my main tactic, was just to find a way, any way.

    I've never been on the brink of death (fortunately), but I know in my own day to day life, now, and when things were at their worst; without the will to live, I definitely wouldn't be here.

  15. What a GREAT post. And so true, we often sweat the small stuff way too may seem big at the time, but if you really think about it it's small in the big scheme of things. I do tend to get annoyed when I get injured, but I should take your advice and just go with it a little more.

  16. I've been through enough bad crap in my life and had terrible coping skills...but have comed to realize that happiness and coping can't come from a bottle or anyone else. It's something that comes from within me and it's a choice that I have to make find something I would die for...and live for it. I found it in my children, my family, my friends and running.
    Thanks for this post today. It made me smile:)

  17. I love your mr. cribby approach, your realistic views, your enouragement, your voice. It makes us think about living for today, CHIN UP!

  18. Yes, bad sh$# does happen and it happens to good people. I had the worst year of my life in 2010. It sucked. And I ran. I ran for myself I ran with a goal to be happy and to be strong. I focused on myself and I took control of the one thing I could, myself. And in the end, looking back, 2010 had some very sucky aspects but I also did some really amazing things. I ran my first, second and third marathons in because I was running from pain, running to myself. I cols have had a pity party and brought everyone down with me, but who would bring me up if I brought them down? Thank you for this beautiful post.

  19. This story never ceases to bring everything in perspective - I can't even imagine what him and his family have been going through. It's so amazing to see humans power through these kind of tough life hands; we want to think it will never happen to "us", but we all know the truth is that it DOES, or it CAN or it will. Watching two people I love more than anything go through life-threatening things within a month of each other was about as eye opening as it gets, on a personal level, and it's only made me appreciate the time I have with them more. It also made me finally appreciate how close (distance) I am to my family now, which hasn't been the case for a long time. :)

    Anyway, rambling here! Attitude, gratitude, and an always positive outlook - no matter what the circumstance - will get me through. The only place we should look is up, because maybe thats the only control we'll ever have over the situation at hand.

  20. Great post today. # 2 for sure. You can't let tragedy or adversity define you. We all have had setbacks in our life and for most of us, the path we mapped out has changed. Best to keep your head up and go with life is putting in front of you. I love that Winston Churchill quote - If you are going through hell, keep going. I have plagiarized it a bit - If you are going through hell, train for a marathon!

  21. Excellent post and a fresh perspective. I have never struggled to see the bright side until recently, and it is good to be reminded that it is a choice. Sometimes it feels like you can't muster the strength to make the positive choice, but the little things are what makes it turn around.

    Thanks for continuing to be awesome!

  22. Google a town named Slave Lake. Just last weekend wildfires swept into town on 100 kph winds. There are about 10000 people living there, so it's a good sized town. About a third of it burned down. An entire subdivision is rubble that is still smoking. Most of the downtown is gone. They have every excuse to be bitter, since most escaped on very short notice and most lost everything. Yet most just want to find out if they have a house or not so they can start making plans to move forward. Shit will happen. The story of your life is how you cope with it.

  23. Adversity builds Character! I have found through my struggles...More than I can write that they have built strength, stamina, determination and endurance. Through each hardship I was being prepared. I beleive that is why many of us are such strong runners. All the qualities we have had to learn through each one of our hardships, hang ups or bad habits we now use as our best assets for training, racing or running. LIFE WILL MAKE YOU BITTER OR LIFE WILL MAKE YOU BETTER!!!!

  24. i try to think of what i can learn, or take advantage of a different opportunity it might give me. like a running injury... focus tons on weight training and rock out my muscles! or in a difficult life situation, look for what it is i am supposed to learn from it and try to internalize it and grow!

  25. The crazy thing about this world is that it keeps going, whether you want it to or not. It doesn't slow down for you to catch up...pain and all. Sometimes you don't have a choice but to just move with it. The choice you do have is HOW your going to move with it..., as a 1 or a 2. I tell my kids they get so many days (depending on the crises) then they get their butts out of bed and be a number 1. Sometimes it kicks your butt, and sometimes you kick it's butt!

  26. I already know that I'm usually a bitchy person...thanks for reminding me that I need to get moving and change. I'm sure my boys would enjoy a happier mommy =]

  27. First of all let me start by saying that I love your blog. I can"t tell you how many times I'll LOL while reading it!

    I sailed through life for 47 years. Great family, one of eight kids, great schools, great friends and then met and married a great man and had two great sons.....I bet you can tell where this is going. In Dec. 2005 my husband Marty had been having headaches for a few weeks, I made him go to the Dr. and sure enough he walks in the door and calmly tells me as he places a pizza in my hand, our Friday night tradition...that he had a brain tumor.

    He fought like hell and endured his first surgery, radiation, a second surgery, and chemo for a solid three years. He continued to work, play golf and enjoy his life with a smile on his face and fierce determination. In the end it left him paralyzed on one side, visually impaired, constantly drooling and his sweet, smart, funny, loving disposition was ravaged by the tumor and the steroids he had to have, just to survive.

    We knew we had to handle this in one an example of strength, faith and courage for our two boys ages 13 and 16 at the time.How else would they learn how to handle adversity? It wasn't easy, still isn't. Sometimes you have to fake it. But I believe the world deserves your best! Put a smile on your face, get outside of yourself and take the character you gain by enduring true pain and move on.

    I lost him in Nov. 2008 and then my wonderful mother to dementia the following July. My kids deserved a resilient mom, they endured so much. To move forward I had to do things I hadn't done before so I took up running.That's how I came upon your blog. Best therapy in the world is laughter and running! I set a goal to run one 5k, ended up doing six in the first year after he died. I choose to honor Marty and my mom each day by being productive, gracious and kind and if I can help someone else by showing them that getting through pain is possible, then something positive will come from my experience.

  28. I have had to deal with quite a number of pretty heavy things in my 48 years. Some have related to my parents (death, illness, addictions), some to myself, some to my kids and stepkids (molestation, crime, estrangement), and still some to close friends (again illness, death, addictions). I really work to look at things for what they are and what I need to learn from them. "WHY have I been handed THIS particular lesson?" has been a great question to ask. Sometimes I want to rail against it all and scream... "I didn't want to learn this effing lesson! This is NOT one I needed to learn AGAIN!" But I believe everything happens for a reason. I don't always know what that reason is or like it, but there is some sort of purpose in it all.

  29. I feel like I have been very fortunate in my life, and for that reason I have often caught myself over-reacting to things and forgetting that there are much greater worries in this life. A bad race is NOT the end of the world (though I admit, it kind of felt like it at the time - just for a minute).

    I have a good friend whose 5 year old has been fighting Leukemia for THREE YEARS. For more than half of his life, their entire family has revolved around his treatments and his medication and his good days and bad days. That right there is some perspective.

  30. Great post - per usual.
    Something that I heard the other day is "we can tell people to 'be strong' 'be happy' 'choose to do better' - but rarely do people know where to start or what that would even feel like.
    Recently someone said something to me about their own growth that has completely changed how I see my hurt/anger/jealousy/resentment/etc. She said, "I simply ask myself 'What is true?'" Meaning if she feels jealous she asks herself what is 'true' about herself or the other person. If she is feeling anger she asks herself 'what is true about this anger?" I started doing this and when we focus on what I focus on what is true instead of the emotion life becomes much more consistent and I can live instead of hurt.
    But there are still moments when I can only hear my parents and that is when it becomes difficult to 'happy up' to 'see the bright side' to 'go all Cribby on your ass' - but as the day wanes on, I am able to come back to what is true.

  31. Great great post my friend.

    For me I have had a ton of issues to deal with and they have only made me stronger.

    I had just graduated and my parents told me my Dad had cancer. He passed away 7 days prior to his 50th birthday. As I get older I miss him more and more.

    My mother and sister both moved to Charlotte and I was in New York without a nuclear family but I overcame it because the phone works.

    I got divorced and moved to Dallas all within months of each other. Oh and I added a step-son to my life. It was not easy but in reality what in life is.

    You just have to roll with the punches and learn from it.

  32. I love posts like this. It helps remind us all how strong our minds can be to overcome some of the hardships of life.
    I think we are all allowed a little "pity party" now and then. The important thing is to be able to bring yourself out of it. A great way to do that is to offer support to others. If you are trying to cheer someone else up, or trying to remind someone that there are worse things in life, it tends to remind yourself and helps you stay positive.

  33. Here's the buck naked truth. I haven't done a great job of coping. I get irritated, annoyed, moody and can be cynical under emotional stress. I lose my motivation. For the biggies - like losing my mother - I knew she wouldn't want to be responsible for my downward spiral so I boot-strapped it onward. I love life. I love Yoga. I love Running. My coping is in the utter believe that life is good. Lately it's in real goal-setting and learning to belief in myself and the abundance of the universe.

  34. Focus on the goal, I like that. As I get older, I find it easier to cope with things, but beyond maturity, crack works as well: crack = red wine :)

  35. In the 9th month of my uneventful pregnancy, my baby inexplicably died. I went through labor, only to deliver a beautiful, 6 lb, dead son. The next day we left the hospital without him and a few days after that we buried him. Looking back, I'm not sure how I got through it, but I know now that we're all stronger than we think we are.

    One of the many gifts my son gave me was a new perspective. I'm much better at distinguishing important things from unimportant things. I count my blessings constantly. And I never worry about bad things happening. I'm sure I'll be dealt a rotten hand again, and I'll deal with it when it comes.

    There's a saying that adversity introduces a man to himself and I have to say that I like the person that I've met!

  36. Heartfelt post Beth. Mr. Cribby (and YOU for that matter) are inspirations and models to the rest of us when life inetivably "blows up".

    I like how you focused on what your attutide would do to your family and you immediately decided not to dwell, but be proactive!

    seamless transition using Shi*t, penis and attitude! That's a talented writer!!

  37. Life dealt us a blow with the birth of our daughter and a prompt heart surgery and three month stay in the NICU. A prognosis of "seriously and profoundly mentally retarded" and the news of never walking or communicating independantly is a lot to swallow for any parent, much less one in the midst of post-partum hormones. The past nearly 8 years have flown by-and my little girl runs and jumps, climbs and sasses back, and goes to Kindergarten. She may be slower than her peers but she tries her hardest and does not let her adversity slow her down or crimp her personality.

    We have had lots of setbacks over the years and continue to occiasionally mourn the life that might have been. But when those moments come, we embrace the feelings, throw our pity party for 24 hours, and move on. We've learned that is best for our mental health to acknowledge our feelings and loss, anger or rage, sadness and especially joy. Throw your pity party, and then put it behind you and move on.

    And now, today, my little girl is running the relay for her Special Olympics team, motivated by seeing her mama run races. And she is FAST. They made her the anchor. :-)

  38. What an amazing post and really touching comments. Thank you for reminding me that I have a choice in how I'm feeling and to stop choosing the wrong option.

  39. This post hit home. We take what we're dealt but we don't let it take over. I can't imagine what our society would be like if we did.

  40. Your post about Mr. Cribby was so inspiring. I don't do a good job at coping, but I draw strength from watching others like this. In 2009, my dad was riding a motorcycle and he was hit by a truck. He almost died, crushed both wrists and severely broke both legs. He spent 100 days in the hospital, over a year in a wheelchair and for about 18 months, there was a strong chance for amputation for one leg. But he pushed through. He never gave up, and now although he's permanently disabled and always in pain, he is strong and happy. I thought he would never walk again, and tomorrow he is walking a 5K. When I think I can't run another step, I think of my dad.

  41. Great post! So true too!
    I always tell my kids the "I Can" is the attittude to have and that "I Can't" is NOT in the dictionary.
    Sometimes I can get so cranky and so complainy but I'm usually looking at the bright side of things and keep going. Life is NOT easy, noone said it'd be, yet we push through lots.
    I am often reminded (by things that happen) that we must enjoy life... CARPE DÍEM, as we only have a chance so... be safe but have fun and SMILE, you never know who could fall in love with it ;)