“I don’t have to. I want to. I get to. I get to wake up early and run….I get to make dinner for my children….The more I thought about what I get to do, the less I realized I had to do….if you stopped yourself every single time you were about to say I have to and changed it to I get to, it might change your entire experience.” Kristin Armstrong, from the Mile Markers book.
If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that recently I got to meet my guru Kristin Armstrong (see post Katie and Kristin). We met on March 7th, 2015. Knowing that I won’t be able to capture what transpired and put it into words, I’ve had trepidation about this post.
Sometimes, when you have put someone on a pedestal or been so eagerly waiting for an event, what ensues ends up being a disappointment. I almost didn’t want to meet her, because what if this person whose writing has inspired and transformed me ends up being someone else in real life; then I can’t keep looking forward to her weekly column like an unwrapped Christmas present that I know is going to be under the tree.
When my friend Katie first told me about the girlfriends retreat where Kristin would be a motivational speaker, I assumed that there would be 100 or so women hearing her give a talk. Later, I found out that we’d be a small group, and I got excited at the possibility of having her sign my book and talking to her for just a couple of minutes. What actually happened was that we were about a dozen women who met with her over 4 hours, and she did more than sign my book. She ended up being that Christmas present that you don’t think you can possibly get, because Santa has to give gifts to lots of little kids, so you can’t possibly get the largest one on your list.
Without recounting all 4 hours and then sharing my thoughts for another 10 hours (which I could easily, happily do; so call me and we’ll meet over margaritas to do that), let me attempt to convey the highlights. As an introduction, she asked us to go around and pick one word to describe ourselves. As an example, she stated that she is a “translator.” “I like to take something from my head and my heart and translate it so it has meaning to someone else, maybe through words.”
I had a little panic about what my word is. Fortunately I was one of the last to go, and after hearing other people describe themselves as a “survivor” or a “connector”, I was able to say that I am a “validator.” Both at work as a pediatrician listening to moms or as a girlfriend to my friends, I like to hear women out and make them feel validated.
From whether a mom choses to nurse or not, to whether she decides to admit her teen to a rehab center, a mother wants to be heard and authenticated that she is making the right decision for her child. A woman, sister, wife, friend, wants to be able to speak freely and be heard; and I like to listen, connect, and reassure. When I uttered the word “validator”, Kristin immediately wrote something down. Was it the word “validator”, I don’t know; but seeing her write while I spoke made my already racing heart gallop.
Then I admitted to being a Kristin Armstrong “stalker”, but she didn’t seem too alarmed as she’d already been forewarned about me.
When Kristin chose to review her “I Get To” post quoted above, I felt like she was directly speaking to me. That is a post that I read and re-read and memorized a couple of years ago; a quote that I put directly into action.
We had a little intermission, and I saw Kristin making her way over to me. Despite me opening my big honest mouth, flailing my hands, and shrieking, “If you sit down next to me, I’m going to have a heart attack;” she sat right down next to me, grabbed on to my arms and gave me a squeeze, and looked me right in the eyes.
What ensued was a heart to heart, during which I divulged to her how exploring running and her writing simultaneously have impacted my life, including how it helped me finally start processing my aunt’s death (see post Come Undone), and how it made me shift my perspective completely about what I do in my everyday life. My job of seeing 26+ patients a day in 15 minute increments while not falling behind and addressing all their concerns can be pretty tiring and stressful, and most days feels like running a marathon. But I revealed to her that after reading her “I Get To” post, I changed my perspective from “I have to see a patient every 15 minutes to I get to validate a mother every 15 minutes,” and that has allowed me to keep going back to my daily marathon.
The reason that I was able to bear my soul in that heart to heart, is that she was intently looking me in the eyes the entire time; she was HEARING every word I said. With her attention, she was validating the validator…the greatest gift that she could have given me.
And I have to say that for me, yes, running is an “I want to” and an “I get to”, but it is actually for the sake of my well-being and my family, also an “I have to.”
Thank you to the sincerely sweet Jessica Patay for organizing this retreat, and thank you again to my friend Katie, who when she saw Kristin approaching me, whispered, “you need to tell her.”