Demi at Boston Marathon

Demi at Boston Marathon

The following personal story was written by my beautiful friend Demi Clark who crossed the finish line for the Boston Marathon seconds after the first bomb exploded. I met Demi in my Health Coach training at Duke Integrative Medicine last fall. From our first encounter, I loved Demi’s strong voice, engaged, passionate way of being in her life. When she shared that she’d had a long history with an eating disorder, I wasn’t surprised.

Demi embodies the powerful potential that I see in my eating disorder clients. Many have similar big, bright and radiant spirits. Uniquely blessed with an expansive consciousness and exceptional capacities for empathy,  intuition, creativity, sensory awareness and intelligence, the eating disordered thoughts, feelings and behaviors temporarily help them contain and regulate the vast spiritual consciousness that their families, schools, and faith communities haven’t even a clue exists.  And often leaves those same loved ones feeling powerless to support these girls in their healthy development.

Demi’s life testifies to the powerful lives of loving service that are possible when we listen to our hearts, allow ourselves to be as big and bright as we are, and follow our dreams. Here’s her story:

It’s Sunday night. I just tucked my kids into bed, almost identically to the way I have every night of their short first- and third-grade lives. Kisses, plus a hug, and an “I love you.” The only addition — which has been part of the routine since Monday, April 15 — “Do you all feel safe tonight? Mommy and Daddy are here if you need us.”

My husband and I not only consider ourselves lucky to ask that question every night, we are downright grateful and blessed to do so. The parents of precious 8-year-old Martin Richard can’t do that anymore. The parents of Krystle Campbell and Lü Lingzi can no longer call their children and ask, “Do you feel safe tonight?” And countless families are still in the hospital, supporting loved who are in critical condition, or without limbs, who face long, long roads ahead. That’s thanks to two terrorists, who have changed the world as all of us know it.

I happened to be “that girl with the pigtails” who was 10 feet from the finish line of the Boston Marathon as the first bomb exploded and we found ourselves in a war. I say “war,” because I’m also a health coach. I have clients who are soldiers currently downrange in Afghanistan; they called me later, saying we all earned our “combat stress” badge that day. The sights, sounds, smells, and horror are all still very fresh in my memory. Yet I NEVER want to forget. If we forget, we can’t change the future for the better.

I also coach Girls on the Run, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing those 9- to 11-year-olds happy, healthy, active. Their actions and their attitudes inspire others to get off their iPads and move. They help make the world a happier, healthier place.

Happy, healthy people don’t place handmade bombs next to 8-year-old children, knowing the immense destruction that will follow. Happy, healthy people do things like participate in the Boston Marathon; happy, healthy people have raised $127.9 million since the Boston Marathon Charity Program started in 1989.

So, today is not the day to scream at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. It’s not the day to eat a can of frosting because you can start eating healthy tomorrow. (I had an eating disorder for two decades — trust me, it won’t make you feel better.) It’s not the day to ignore your mom. Or your children. It’s not the day to work late — for the 100th day in a row.

It IS the day to pay it forward. Take your dog for an extra-long walk. Buy your neighbor a Starbucks. Lace up your shoes for the first (or one-thousand and fifty-first) time. Our lives have a true purpose. Honor yours by being good to yourself, taking care of your body, and being HAPPY and HEALTHY. Runners have a “runner’s high” for a reason — those endorphins are scientifically proven to make us happier. Runners truly love what they do. I haven’t met too many angry ones. Runners wanting to be faster? Yes. Angry? No.

In coaching, we have a saying: “So what? Now what?” I’ve asked myself that a million times in the past week. What are the odds of me being right there at that horrific moment (with my family right there in the finish-line bleachers), with 26,999 other runners ahead of or behind me? Why was I spared, without so much as a scratch on my body? I will never know the answer. But what I do know is that I’m still here — and now, I feel this overwhelming need to inspire people.

Demi's Girls Maize & Willa at Finish Line

My goal then, from here on out, is to motivate as many people as possible to get off the couch. I want to urge everyone to draw up a vision board, to decide on a goal, then to make it happen. I have a quote from Homer on my home-office desk that says, “Go forth confidently in the direction of your dreams!” It has served as my internal compass for  years. Find yours. Faith over fear, life worth not net worth — whatever your quote, pick something that puts the fire in your belly to be better, and go do it. Let’s get each other off the couch. It’s OUR time to win.

You can hear more of her story at CBS News and The New York Times.

Thanks to Théoden Janes who first published this story on his blog covering the Charlotte, North Carolina running scene.