A Woman’s Syndrome

I just finished my first half-Ironman triathlon. Yes, me.  Yes, the one in the picture. 

I thought I would be on top of the world after such a feat, especially considering how far I have come in only a short year.  I went from not being able to run two miles, to a race that took me seven hours and fifteen minutes and covered 70.3 miles.  Unbelievably, I made it out of there alive. Still, three weeks later, I feel like I am completely floundering.

Of course, I do believe that a big part of the flounder is from the post-race blues.  [Big goal, hard work, goal over. Now what?]

But I also think there is another cause, a syndrome. Women, as a whole, suffer from BETES.  What’s BETES?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked.

Being Everything to Everyone Syndrome

BETES is the death of quiet time, serenity and peace within oneself.  BETES becomes the way women measure their worth.  BETES is a nasty little illness, with ugly side effects like fatigue, bags under the eyes, and emotional outbursts at random places like the bank.

To explain my BETES theory, imagine that a woman is born into an open, freshly painted white room.

Over the course of her younger years, she starts to clutter this perfect white room with things of life.  First, there’s schoolwork, then boyfriends, then high school drama.  But later comes career, family, children, debt, and hair products.  Pretty soon, the sassy white room looks like an episode of Hoarders – but a neatly organized version of Hoarders.  Neatly organized, because the stacks of life, family, job, and papers are labeled, perfectly filed, scan and PDF documented into the imaginary corner computer.  The room could almost be considered tolerable and pleasant  – but the room is so crowded.  Oh, and then there’s the weirdo in the room.  There she is.  The woman wandering around her narrow little hamster-tunnel, mumbling, now where did I put my soul?  Where are those silly hopes and dreams I once had?  Gosh golly darnit.

Alright, this analogy is extreme, even for me.  But take just a second and think about the BETES theory.

Most women feel guilty as all sin for taking thirty minutes, an hour, or (gasp) three hours to do something that makes them feel alive.  Most women are too busy being everything to everyone else in the organized box of life.  Before a woman realizes it, the little tunnel in the box is caving in, and there’s absolutely no room to breathe (let alone swim or bike).

Triathlon helped me escape BETES.  Through the intense training, I was able to take steps to learn my strengths, these strengths that fell outside of my little box.  When I started taking time for myself, I noticed that a door from the white room opened up, and I was able to walk in and out of the crowded room, to take a break, to regroup.  To be a better wife, mother, employee.

Remember that you matter.  Your kids, your significant other, and your job also matter.  But at the end of the day, you have to find your space to live, to breathe, to thrive for yourself.

Meredith is a wife, mother, attorney, half-Ironman and blogger.  You can read more from her at www.SwimBikeMom.com, follow on Twitter @SwimBikeMom, or join in the Facebook discussion.

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  1. Thank you so much for this post. Well-written, smart, and on point. Adding your blog to my Google Reader 123 now SWIMBIKEMOM!

  2. As the father of a daughter like you I know all the struggles and desires you are experiencing. Look through my eyes and you will see the greatest gift that God ever gave to me–my daughter! You are right–she does try to be everything to everyone–I only want her to be true to her self and let everyone find their own way. I love her more than life itself but her peace and happiness is my only desire. When she is in pain I am also–when she is happy I am happy. I have always told her the mountain is there for the climbing–to succeed in life but I want her to know the very top does not have to be reached to please me. Stop at the point where you find peace with your self. My love is like Jesus’ love it is unconditional. She is my Love.

  3. Loved this! So glad you were featured here because I’m now a HUGE fan of your blog. You ROCK!

  4. I love your blog and this is a great article. It so accurately describes why I got back into triathlon and why no matter my mother’s worries about how it affects my family, I continue to do it. Thank you.

  5. You and me both girl. You and me both. Triathlon / training/ running gives me my ME time… it’s all about ME. 30 mins, 1 hour… 3 hours… 4 hours… of ME! It’s glorious. I fight the guilt monster but I WIN!!!!

  6. Interesting. I joined a Master’s swim team in September and I feel energized and less stressed afterwards.