I didn’t win.
This week I attended the Women in the Pet Industry Network’s annual conference, where I was a finalist in the Rising Star category for the Woman of the Year competition. I knew that winning was a long shot, but I was intrigued to check out this group and their conference nonetheless. Maybe they could help me hone down what direction to take my career: Focus on dog training and behavior consulting? Specialize only in separation anxiety training? Put all my energies back into writing? Take it on the road and speak at conferences and shelters? What about iSpeakDog? Is it time to take the website to the next level?
And then there was my Mission to Get a Life that I wrote about last week. Would the WIPIN conference allow me to make new friends? Would it help me figure out my priorities so that I could add in some social activities each week?
As mentioned above, I did not win the Woman of the Year trophy, but holy cow did I win so much more.
One of the speakers was the author of the book “Power Up for Profits,” Kathleen Gage — a tall, powerful, firecracker of a woman, who danced her way onto the stage and shared a story about her first marathon. As is the case with most people who attempt their first marathon later in life, Kathleen started training when power walking a mile was a slog. But she persevered.
On race day, Kathleen was dead tired at mile 19. Her coach said that she should be proud of her accomplishment. Nineteen miles is amazing — it’s ok to stop, she said. But Kathleen’s friend (Was it wife? I apologize. I didn’t hear.) said, “NOT A CHANCE!” (or something along those lines). She reminded Kathleen that she is a beast and no matter how much pain she was in, Kathleen was finishing that race. And so Kathleen did. It took her eight and a half hours, but she limped across the finish line — well after all the spectators had left. That was her first of many running races to follow.
It is inspiring that Kathleen pushed through the pain to accomplish her goal, but that’s not what struck me the most.
You see, I also trained for a marathon. I must have been around 23 years-old at the time. My sorority sister and close friend, Annette Taddeo, joined Team in Training with me, and every Saturday morning we got up well before the sun rose, to pound the ground together before the Miami air got too hot.
I had learned that you don’t need to run a full marathon before your actual marathon — if you can run 18 miles, you are prepared to run your race. So, the day I joined our group at something like 4:00 a.m. to hit our goal of 18 miles, I was ecstatic (and seriously pooped!). As a kid I had to use an asthma inhaler when my throat closed up from exercising hard. Running 18 miles? Without an inhaler? That was an unbelievable feat for me.
But the next morning when I got out of bed, I felt an excruciating pain on the outside of my right knee. I won’t bore you with all the details, but my physical therapy didn’t fix the problem — running even a half mile was too painful, so I couldn’t complete my race. A month later, on the sidelines to cheer Annette on as she ran “our” marathon, I cried. Yes. Eighteen miles is an incredible accomplishment, but it didn’t matter. I failed.
“Failure is about giving up,” Kathleen said from the stage yesterday. “Don’t quit at mile 19.”
Woah. Did she really just say that? Is she talking to me?
Annette, who did not quit at mile 18 as I had many years ago, proved once again to me yesterday that you can accomplish anything if you persevere. Despite not winning races for U.S. congress and as running mate to Charlie Crist when he ran for governor in 2014, Annette kept going.
Yesterday — on the day I was flashing back to her marathon success and my marathon failure — Annette was elected to the Florida state senate. Coincidence? If it is, I am not treating is as such. I’m taking this as a message to heed well.
When I was faced with an incurable form of pancreatic cancer ten years ago, rather than give up, I told myself, “There’s a solution to every problem,” and I found that solution. When it took me two-plus years to help Emma the Beagle overcome her separation anxiety, I told myself, “There’s a solution to every problem,” and I found that solution.
So, here we are today. My first book — I Have Cancer. And I’ve Never Felt Better! — which I published on Amazon, turned me into a professional writer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t healthy for me to talk about cancer all the time while fighting for my own life, so I cancelled a book deal a New York publisher had offered.
Another Mile 18. Once again, I hit a wall and could not go any further.
That’s not happening again. This time I’m doing it for the dogz. My dream is to sign with a major publishing house to produce an iSpeakDog spinoff book so that I can help more and more and more pupz. And I’m not quitting until it happens.
I will also be back at the WIPIN conference again next year. Maybe that will be my time to win Woman of the Year. Maybe it won’t. Either way, I’m flying home today from the conference with clear eyes and a full heart. I can’t possible lose.