Yesterday I heard a strange jangling sound come from my bedroom. I went in to check it out. My dog was hiding under the bed. I couldn’t find anything out of order, so I chalked it up to his collar jingling.
This morning, I discovered what had happened. The hook holding my race medals had pulled off the wall, dumping everything on the floor inside the closet. One of them evidently gouged the baseboard. Remind me never to drop one of these things on my foot!
I took a picture and then picked up the medals and spread them out on the bed. It seems like I can still remember every step of each of those races. There is still mud on the ribbon of the Warrior Dash medal, a surprisingly small amount of mud considering the state of my clothes that day. These gaudy chunks of metal have no real purpose other than as reminders of mornings when I woke up unusually early and ran in what have been referred to as the most boring parades ever.
I’ve never earned a trophy. I was 36 before I got my first medal. I was always one of the smallest kids in my class, definitely always the last picked for every team. I was awkward, uncoordinated, and seemed to have no depth perception or hand-eye coordination or ability to remember the rules of whatever sport we were playing. I’ve been hit in the head with almost every possible ball. I was once tackled in the mud by one of my own teammates. Given the choice, I would absolutely have chosen solitary confinement over a PE class. Why on earth would I set out, of my own volition, on any course of action that might result in a medal? Especially when mud might be involved?
What happened was that I got thyroid disease at age 23, the same year I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. (There is probably a connection between these). I spent years trapped in chronic pain and fatigue. Gradually, I began stumbling across combinations of behavior patterns that led to some relief. I started running at age 35 and finished the first mile of my life a few weeks later. In my adult life, I have worked to build my fitness level from what I would call a zero to maybe an 8 out of 10. I can climb a fence, carry 1/3 of my body weight through the woods for four days, run a half marathon any time I feel like it, and do a full Bikram yoga session. There are no medals given for most of these things, but if there were, I would hang them on a hook in my closet and fawn over them every now and then.
My husband has a whole box full of medals, ribbons, commemorative coins, and perhaps a couple of trophies from sporting events starting when he was 4 years old. He was going to throw them out. I made him keep them. It’s a pretty heavy box. It represents many years of commitment and duty and determination and teamwork and effort. It’s a monument to an ethos of perseverance and fairness. I didn’t fully understand it until I came home with a few medals of my own.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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