It’s Marathon Monday here in Boston. I work in Boston and have lived in and around the city for over 10 years now. There is nowhere I would rather live. In 2013 I decided to go watch the Marathon with my friends as I had always loved to do the past. It was different this year since I was a new mom and it meant leaving my 6 month old home and spending a “vacation” day without my family.
Honestly, I was excited to go watch the runners and grab a drink with my friends. I could be the “old” me again for a few hours. Around 2:40 pm that day I left my group of friends to go see if there was enough room for our large group at a bar around the corner. They waited to watch another friend cross the finish. Nine minutes later I learned what a bomb sounds like. Here is how I’ve changed since that day.
Right After the Marathon
I was able to walk away from the scene but my friends were hurt. They spent quite awhile in the hospital recovering. Part of me regrets not running towards them but I know they understand. Survivor guilt is a strange feeling. Not many people get to walk away from the worst day of their life completely unharmed. Precious lives were cut short. In the chaos I had no idea what was going on. I just ran away. My first thought was my son and how I wanted to be part of his life for more than 6 months. I had to get to get home. Being a parent forces you to be brave. It makes you insanely vulnerable too. I wanted my son AND my mom if that makes sense.
Getting to South Station and on a train out of the city that day was a blur. When I had cell service I called home and asked my husband to come get me at a train station the next town over. I can’t imagine how he felt watching the news. I haven’t asked. All I know is that being home never felt so good. It was the first time I didn’t assume I would make it there safely. Haven’t taken that for granted since.
Living with Anxiety
Anxiety was never part of my life before that day. Travelling was something I loved and a critical part of my job for several years. Getting on a plane or a train somewhere just required a few hours notice. If there was an extra ticket to a concert or a game I would be the first in line to grab it. I lived most of my life in a bit of a bubble – always assuming things would go smoothly. The week after the bombing I didn’t go to work. To be quite honest I didn’t leave my basement much until after the manhunt. I was terrified it wasn’t over.
Now it is easy to understand how your mind can turn into a prison. Living with the assumption that the world is safe and that people are good helps us function. Anxiety is now something I manage but never really escape. I sit by the emergency exit on the train and feel trapped until I get out. Being in the middle of a crowd is unbearable. Leaving my kids at school scares me regardless of the fact the building is so close I could run there in under a minute.
Saying goodbye feels awful. My grandfather used to never say goodbye – it was always “so long”. Now its clear to me that anxiety is no stranger to my family. My grandmother hardly ever left the house. She was happiest when everyone she loved was in the same room and she could see them. She could see they were safe. I understood her so much better in the last few years she was alive.
That day changed me for the better in some ways too. I let go of all of the doubts I had about having another baby. Never having my body “back” or missing opportunities at work with another maternity leave seemed insignificant – they still do. I was pregnant with my daughter later that year. In 2016 I ran the Boston Marathon. Last year I quit a great job to do something I had already failed at once. This year I gave up shopping and started writing this blog. I think the term people use is zero fucks left.
I’m not reckless – just aware that we are not guaranteed a long life. Waiting for things to be perfect means you might miss out. It’s worth it to take risks or else you might never get the opportunity again. I still haven’t done all the things I want to do with my family. Buying more things or a bigger home will mean sacrificing some of the stamps I still want to see on my passport. I still go to concerts and games even though it requires fighting back serious nerves. When I think “what if something goes wrong” I respond to myself with – “well, what if it doesn’t”? That helps me get past the bad thoughts.
What Really Matters
Life isn’t fair. Some people don’t get nearly as much time here as they deserve. I miss the way I used to go about life but I’m grateful everyday. At work I ask people to plan for the worst case scenario – but only so we don’t have to think about it too much later. I don’t know what the stock market will do tomorrow or if you’ll lose your job – no one does. I do know that focusing on the things you can control is more useful. Try to be present wherever you are. If you find yourself always wishing you were somewhere else – it is time to make some changes.
This year the forecast for the race is 46 degrees with 90% chance of rain. That’s spring in Boston for you. The day still brings out the best in people. Where else can you see world class athletes compete on the same stage as your friends and coworkers? Millions of dollars are raised for charity to make the world a better place. It scares me, but I still go to the finish line every year to watch. The crowd helped drown out the voice in my head when it was telling me to quit when I ran. There’s a 100% chance I’ll cry when the winners cross the finish line. No matter what I still love Marathon Monday. Do you deal with anxiety? What are some of the things that help you? Share in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook.