Once upon a time, there were two dirty words in our house. The sheer mention of them ignited tension between my husband and I. But before we get into that I want to tell you about what is happening this weekend in Melbourne.
Starting tomorrow before the sun comes up, (23 March 2018) 752 teams made up of four walkers will set off to conquer 100-kilometers in under 48 hours all in the name of charity. That is just over 3,000 walkers and thousands more made up of organizers, volunteers and support crews. It’s definitely a team effort. Many of them will not finish due to injuries, fatigue, or mental weakness. But this walk is anything but weak. As an almost 47-year-old woman, I know my limitations and the Oxfam Trailwalker is something I know I’m not physically or mentally strong enough for.
Last year a whopping $2.1 million was raised as a contribution to ‘Tackling Poverty Together’. This year the bar has been raised with the goal set for $3 million and I hope they hit it. This is something we donate to, not just financially but with my husband’s blood sweat and (my) tears and my minestrone soup.
Do you remember those people in school that never studied but always aced the tests? Well, my guy is one of them when it comes to physical activity. He can do anything and make it look easy. He is very mentally strong. But the Oxfam Trailwalker kicks his butt (but he’s fine by Monday…seriously, he is). I’ve never seen him as broken as he is when he walks over the finish line. I know him inside and out and his slow swaying stagger tells me just how bad he is hurting and every time my eyes well up with liquid pride for him.
This year, 2018, marks the first year out of the last six, that he is not participating and I’m just waiting for him to break the news to me…”Hon, I’ll be away this weekend. I just had a phone call from a friend and they have an injured walker so I’m filling in.”
Remember those dirty words I spoke of? Well, the first one is Oxfam.
I despised Oxfam because of the bad experience one of my good friends had with it many years ago. It was not Oxfam’s fault but I needed to channel my anger and frustration somewhere. She was hurting and someone, something needed to take the blame.
In my mind, her signing up for this crazy 100-kilometer walk in 48 hours and killing herself to complete it, left her body riddled with insomnia washing down addicted sleeping pills with a glass of wine. She suffered from a big bout of anxiety that took hold of her body and left her lifeless for longer than we all expected. I hated seeing what was happening to her and like I said, I blamed Oxfam.
This happened years before my husband came home talking about doing it himself. As you can imagine, I was not supportive.
Last year when he didn’t start recruiting others to be on his team of four, I sat silently not questioning it, like my nine-year-old does when we forget to get him to read to us as part of his homework. Of course, it’s for a good cause but the effort my husband puts into this walk exhausts me. It’s completely unfair for me to say this but if I’m being honest, it’s true. I love that he is doing something, I love that it’s for charity, and I love that it’s healthy and keeps him fit. But what I don’t enjoy is the long 6 hour plus weekend walks that take him away from his family. He becomes totally obsessed with walking, and selfishly I have to share my 6am workout time with him so he can train.
I’ll never forget his first walk five years ago in 2013–coincidentally the year he turned forty–we were on some rocky terrain and it was important that he felt nothing but 100% support from me. Now before I go on I just want to say that my husband has always, always been 100% supportive of my short list of sporting aspirations. He is my biggest cheerleader. But I exhausted myself trying to keep up with the whole cheerleader thing because he entered what seemed like monthly races in preparation for his big 100K walk; 10k runs, half marathons, marathons, mini triathlons, and triathlons which all happened to be on Sundays.
Sundays were my busiest day being the Primary President at the time. I would wake early, get ready for church, and be the only person completely overdressed at the finish line in my heels as I cheered him on being amazing. I was so proud of him and his achievements while my heart, a little split, knowing I was breaking my own Sabbath rules. My juggling act started to crack and run me down. After watching him cross the finish line, I would then race to church a little tardy needing to teach, sing, and have my full energy ready on hand so I could look after the primary children. Usually, my own children missing out on church that day or having Grandpa drop them off to me at church. I remember those Primary President days needing to de-child–spending an hour after church away from all including my own children summonsing my human side again.
Church the other dirty word. Back in 1998, my husband married a Mormon, but a dormant one. In 2010, with dirt, slivers and broken nails, I scratched my way back to the surface of my life and started breathing again. Shy and scared, I found myself sitting in the congregation of an LDS church in Yarraville, coming out of a twenty-year plus inactivity streak. I was broken and bruised, it was hard for my husband to understand. He didn’t grow up in the Mormon church like I had. He wanted to fix it but this time his love was not enough. “It” being that ugly black fog that kept consuming me dragging me under and making my eyes stare out from an empty vessel.
I wanted to go to church, I NEEDED TO GO TO CHURCH and he was afraid I would force him to come with me. That’s what usually happens, I talk him into my crazy hairbrained ideas and I frequently get my way. But not this time. He was stomping his size 12 down and asserting himself in the best way he knew how…a good old fashioned quarrel. He didn’t want to go and didn’t want me to go either. But it was more complicated than that…our daughter was asking to go to church. He was worried that everything we had would change. He was right. It did change but only for the better.
With extra time on his hands, while we were at church, he threw himself into massive training mode and we seemed to find some balance to our unbalance. I was the cheerful little homemaker who was more than happy look after the kids, take care of the house and make dinners as I was not working at the time. He would ride his bike 14-kilometers home after a long day at work, eat dinner and then take off to walk, swim or run.
But with all of that said the dirty words are no longer dirty or hurtful and we’ve both grown a great deal.
So this weekend we will miss the rush we feel standing there proud as his family, waiting on the other side of the finish line cheering him on as he takes his final steps stinky, dirty, sweaty, in dire need of a shower, a warm bed, and sleep.
His two proud kids will miss running toward him as he finds that last surge of energy to pick them both up in his arms and carry them over the finish line. He’ll have completed not just his own 100k’s but usually lending a hand to help his own teammates get over the line too.
I will miss having my time to shine when he
100%. relies. on. me.
I drive my nearly broken man the hour and a half home while he can barely move as his muscles start to cramp up and has a little bit of shut-eye between the stopping and going because of red lights. Once I get him home, I help him up the stairs, run his bath and fold his long limbs into the water for a soak. He’s just too weak and tired to stand in the shower. I give him some food and we chat while he gives me the highlights and checks his messages. Then I check on the kids and give him space while I secretly spy on him through the cracked bathroom door to make sure he doesn’t fall asleep in the bathtub–Him falling asleep in the tub is no risk of drowning just a kinked neck as his head never touches the water…he’s just too tall. Before he falls asleep, I help him to bed and keep the kids on low volume while he sleeps for the first time since the start line.
I have never seen him like that before and I doubt I will ever again…
Guy your family is proud of you!
Here’s a little shout out to all the men and women who will be pushing themselves to their ultimate limits this weekend and to the people who love them. Good On You!