Transformation.

July 31, 2014 at 6:12 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Career angst | 4 Comments

Thank goodness I pressed “publish” the other day. I feel so much better now that I posted it.

I just hate feeling wishy-washy. Posting that I want to quit my job, but I can’t… or won’t… or some combination thereof… posting about that seems, well, disingenuous.

And redundant. OMG, so redundant. How many have you heard about how miserable I am with the job for SO MANY YEARS NOW? Seriously, Serenity. Either DO something about it or shut up already.

But I had to address it, because even though I KNOW my happiness would increase in a lot of ways if I quit my job, the anxiety over money and the lack of stuff we can do as a result of losing 40% of our income would mostly negate it.

I just need to figure out a way to navigate this career I have now AND focus on what’s best for my family.

And, quite honestly, it’s my nature to move, to DO something, to plan for the next thing, and a lot of times I wonder if my freakouts about how much I dislike my job is just a smoke screen for this desire for change. Yes, it’s true that my job does not bring me much joy. Or even satisfaction, if I’m being honest.  But this seems to be my pattern, too. I’m miserable and I feel this need to change things up, because the change will make me happy.

That’s not really how it works, though. Change for change’s sake isn’t the right choice either.

So I am trying to temper my all or nothing tendency here and figure out a plan that is rational, reasonable, AND gives me more of the things I like about my job: time to run, time home with Lucky, and enough money where I don’t need to worry about paying the bills or taking the random weekend away.

So now that you’re caught up on the work-Serenity-induced-drama, there’s so much more I want to talk about.

Like running.

For the past four years, I’ve been kind of obsessed with running races. I hired a great coach, ran track intervals, added weight training exercises specific to running, and was strict about my calorie intake to get into a weight range which would put me into a “lean” body fat percentage. Because when you’re running, every pound counts, and the leaner and lighter you are, the faster you can go.

Last summer, you guys, I was THERE. I was 2lbs away from my goal body fat percentage, I was running fast, I wasn’t injured, and I was ready to set the world on fire. I wanted to run a Boston Qualifier race in my October marathon.

The thing is, marathons are tricky. If something goes wrong, it can really affect your time. We’re talking an extra half hour on your time because of a blister. I did not have a good race day – instead of BQing, I blew up into tiny little runner pieces on the back half of the course.

I came out of that experience with a renewed vow to hit my training hard over the winter and see if a different strategy would get me at least a sub-4:00 marathon.

And, of course, this winter was terrible. It was frigid and full of snow, and I didn’t bother taking the conditions into account whenever I went out and ran my runs. Consequently, I trained myself right into the ground. I got slower and more tired, and I couldn’t get my legs to turnover. And I was cold ALL THE TIME. And hungry, too.  OMG, so hungry. And cold.

(Did I mention the cold and hunger?)

It was awful.

It wasn’t until my friend D remarked to me, when I was complaining about yet another cold and snowy run, I guess I just don’t get why you insist on doing something that steals your joy.

She might not have said those actual words, but holy shit, she was right.

So I changed my goal for my spring marathon. I ran slower and ate more. And on the incredibly, awesomely, frustratingly hot day of my marathon, I ran a full half hour slower than my personal best.

And I decided that day that I was done with marathons for the time being.

Since then, I’ve struggled with insomnia and life stress and achilles tendinitis. And with all the anxiety, I’ve needed my running like I’ve never needed it before. Except the idea of racing – the time goals, pushing for a personal best, running when it hurts and keeping going – started to feel like a shackle, a chain around my neck and waist. Track workouts became stressful; I was now chasing my friends in last year’s pace group, panicking because I’ve lost fitness. I started to not to WANT to run. After two years of running 5-6 days a week, I started to take breaks.

It was too much, all of it. I needed a break from the (largely self-imposed) pressure.

So I made the decision not to run my coach’s summer clinic and instead run when I could manage it for the distance I want. I do have two races planned this fall: a 10k and a half marathon. But I am no longer running a training plan, or beating myself up for not hitting my paces. I’m running with people I enjoy running with, the friends who are chill and happy and run because it’s fun and a way to catch up with friends, not because it’s a way to get faster or look better or whatever. I run by myself without a watch, going only for mileage and not time.

It is SO FREEING – and I love running again.

It’s little things like this – walking away from personal best chasing because I now recognize how much pressure I put on myself. Allowing myself to be 5lbs heavier than some self-determined optimal weight because I now recognize that my number is completely arbitrary and allows for no joy in cooking – and eating – good food.

And, you see, THIS is how I know I’m going to be okay, that eventually I’m going to free myself from the restrictions and pressure and misery I heap on myself.

This is how I know I’ll figure out the work thing eventually, too.

It’s so hard to write about the subtlety of transformation. Because really, the fact that I am not focused on racing or counting calories doesn’t seem like a big deal by itself. But it gives me a lot of hope that I’m starting down a path of real self-acceptance.

And happiness.

When “Now What?” Is Unhealthy.

May 9, 2014 at 10:50 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., motherhood, Moving On. | 3 Comments

A couple of you remarked on my last post that perhaps goal setting isn’t bad, and maybe if I adjusted my goals to be more about family and living in the here and now, maybe some fun trips, et cetera, I could satisfy my need to have a Plan AND be able to focus on my family.

And I agree – that would totally be a win.

If I could just do that. A goal, in and of itself, isn’t bad.

For me, though? Dysfunction comes into play when I’m going for a goal. With me, it needs to be MORE. Add a touch of obsessiveness, some perfectionism, a need to research the hell out of every detail, and all of a sudden it isn’t just a simple goal anymore.

Case in point:

Last year, I decided I wanted to run another marathon, kind of as a “EFF YOU IF!” sort of thing. My first marathon was a shitshow in that I ended up injured with ITBS, and it took a LONG TIME to rehab from that.

So at the point where I decided to run last fall’s marathon I really had one goal – finish the race without being injured.

And then I started training.  My training went really, really well. I was faster and lighter and all the consistency in my mileage kept me from being injured and I was stronger. And so by the time I got to the race, I had myriad goals, one of which included qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I did not qualify the day of the race. In fact, my race was similar to my first marathon in that I ended up walking most of the back half of the race. When I walked away from the race, I really didn’t have anything positive to say about my experience.

EXCEPT: I ran that race 45 minutes faster than my first marathon AND I finished uninjured. So by all rights, I SHOULD have come away happy.

I have never pegged myself for a perfectionist; whenever my therapist alluded to the idea that I might be, I always resisted it. Because I believed that perfectionists believed they could actually achieve perfection. Me personally? I know I will never do anything that’s perfect. I’m not good enough to be perfect.

But. I do feel this need to be MORE. Maybe I won’t be perfect – I know that about myself – but with everything I do, I need to be just a little more. I can’t just do something, I have to push myself. When I know I am capable of something, I need to perform to my capability, no matter what it is.

With running, I know am capable of running a BQ. All my training has shown me this. Therefore, whenever I run a marathon I need to run a BQ. Period.

The thing about marathoning, though? It’s hard. The marathon is fickle. If you didn’t fuel right, or drink enough water, if you wake up sad, or you didn’t eat the right things the week before, or it’s a sunny and hot day when you’ve been training in bitter cold… all of it can impact your race day.  So even if you’re an experienced marathoner, pacing on marathon day is TOUGH. I have a friend, who has run 30 marathons over the past number of years. And he told me recently: maybe 1 in 10 races he actually gets his pace right.

It was unrealistic, then, for me to expect a BQ on my second ever marathon.

But I came away from last fall downtrodden. And  I decided I just needed to work harder. I set off this winter with a goal of running really hard – if I aimed at a 3:30 marathon, then on race day it would be cakewalk to get a 3:40, right?

I ran hard this winter… and nearly burned myself right out of running altogether. I got slow, and tired, and achy and old and angry, and I had more runs where I loathed every minute I was out there than I ever have since I started running.

I would have continued to do it, too, if it weren’t for my friend D, who commented that she didn’t understand why I was pushing so hard to do something which seemed to steal my joy. And in that moment, I responded with some lame reply about how I needed to get better at marathons, and this was the right way to do it, and it probably was just it being winter and cold and I’d feel better in the spring.

But that comment was the catalyst: it got me thinking.

I was pretty miserable. Why was I making running so HARD on myself? Who really cared if finished a marathon in 3:40 or 4:10? My kid would love me regardless. Why didn’t I just run for happiness? Could I find that joy in running again?

So I slowed down, and took the pressure off myself. I ran with a slower pace group at track practice. I focused on looking for the happy in my running. And as the weather improved and my legs rebounded, it got easier, and I was SO much happier.

I run the marathon this coming Sunday. My goal, if I can call it that, is to run comfortably: walk the water stops, yes. But run the whole damn thing. It’s Mother’s Day, my family will be there, and we’re going to eat lobster afterwards, just the three of us.

The thing with me and goals is that I can’t do them in moderation. If I call it a goal, if I start planning, it becomes an obsession. And as I do more research and learn more, I start to increase my expectations. And then it no longer becomes fun or meaningful; it turns into something I have to prove, a way of showing myself I’m good enough, or strong enough, or more than okay. I have a need to feel capable, and the way to do that is to master whatever goal it is I am working on.

That is why I’m trying NOT to have goals right now. Sitting in stillness, deliberately eschewing a Plan is the only way I can think of to help me understand WHY I feel like I need to be More. I need to step out of this pattern. Maybe just for a short while, but long enough to actually SEE what I do to myself. I feel like the more I can change my pattern, the feelings that come up will help teach me why they’re patterns, and maybe I can find a way into longer lasting contentment.

Or something.

(Yet another post where I’m not sure if this makes sense. It’s still confusing to me. Sigh.)

My Truth.

May 2, 2014 at 11:31 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Career angst, Cheese with that whine? (aka rants), Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy), My life | 5 Comments

Man, I do not KNOW why I haven’t been able to write lately. I feel as if my thoughts and feelings are all swirled around in a murky mud puddle – the kind you get in March in New England. They freeze overnight, are full of sand and dirt and melted snow and slush and if you step on it, the thin ice will break and you’ll end up ankle-deep in cold murk.

Writing is complicated lately.

So much easier for me to close out the “New Post” screen and do something else. Like budgets, or chatting with friends, or dishes. Or nothing; anything that requires no thinking or feeling. Something where I’m skimming along on the surface.

My truth is that I’m both okay and not okay.

It’s freeing, empowering even, that I don’t have a Plan. This, right in front of me, is The Rest of My Life. Charlie and I are watching Lucky (and Happy!) grow up right in front of us, and we’re a family, and in SO many ways we have such a good life.

But I have many moments, too, where I think, This is my life? Wait!! I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS!

I’m trying to decide if my expectations were unrealistic, or I’m just really unhappy with some facets of my life, or some combination of the two.

What I know: I am still full of self-loathing. I cannot put words to how much I hate my female parts. They utterly failed me. And then I struggle with this feeling. Because, I mean. I have a CHILD. You’d think that I’d have at least some measure of thankfulness that I was able to carry Lucky to term AND nurse him when he was a baby. My girl parts did just fine then, right?

But then I remember how, when I was pregnant with Lucky, I felt like we had snuck one in, came in under the radar. I never felt comfortable being pregnant; I felt like I was faking. And we really did get incredibly lucky – he managed to avoid the scarred, dead, unhealthy parts of my uterus which killed countless embryos; the part of my body which was responsible for so much loss over the years.

I’m thankful – so thankful – he’s here with us.

But I also cannot shake the unrelenting anger at my body for failing me so many other times.

And that anger is hard to manage, sometimes. For a while, I’ll be fine, and happy, and I’ll think things like, Wow, isn’t it a blessing we didn’t end up having another baby! We would have given up so much freedom! and I’ll go for a run and feel strong and happy and listen to the birds chirping and feel the sun on my face. And I’ll come home completely content with my life.

But the Beast will rear up and catch me completely off-guard, and I’ll flip the fuck out over a perceived slight from Charlie, and I’ll throw it all on him, because obviously he’s not good enough or fast enough or doing any of the right things and he doesn’t even KNOW ME. Because that’s what I do – I get pissed off at other people instead of looking into the black pit inside me. But while I’m yelling and pushing him away and trying to get him to hate me as much as I hate myself it’ll all come crashing down on me.

I’m the fucked up one, I can’t make any more babies, I’m a loser and a failure and I loathe being an accountant and I’m a crap mom to boot. And I don’t know what the fuck I want, so what’s the POINT of all of this shit anyway?

And I go to therapy, and talk through it all, and hear my therapist tell me I’m doing all the right things by talking it out and recognizing it about myself.

But nothing changes.

I still feel stuck. I feel gypped. I feel like the life I imagined when I was stuck in my room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents isn’t at all close to what I have.

And intellectually, I can SEE that I’m doing this all to myself, that this is life, baby, and no one said it was fair, and good god Serenity, don’t you realize what you HAVE? There are people out there who are barely making their bills and cannot have ANY of their own children and are working jobs where they don’t have the luxury of disliking because it’s the only way they won’t DIE. This is a first world problem, your inability to have more children and the life you dreamed about when you were stuck in your room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents. And anyway, teenagers know NOTHING of real life, which means that your expectations were probably too fucking high. Just let it go.

Let it go.

Why CAN’T I let it go? Why can’t I keep those moments of contentment close to my heart? Why do I keep spiralling back into pain and anger and fear and sorrow? What the fuck is WRONG WITH ME?

My truth is so complicated. I can’t hold onto the happy for long enough, and I keep trying to run after it, and it keeps eluding me.

And I KNOW, I KNOW that I need to sit down, really stop MOVING, in order to find the long lasting contentment I seek. Intellectually, I get this.

Sometimes, it’s just really hard.

The Magic of The Internet.

April 1, 2014 at 11:41 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Choosing Happiness., Mindful., My life | 6 Comments

I don’t talk a lot about last year’s Boston Marathon, with the exception of the posts I put up last year after it all went down. As you could tell from those posts, I was deeply, deeply affected by it all. Knowing that it EASILY could have been Charlie and Lucky at that finish line, injured, terrified, while I was doing something I love to do? Families of marathoners already make sacrifices – Charlie and Lucky do lots of errands for me in the hours when I’m gone doing my long runs and speedwork sessions.

And so, I hold strongly: I could never forgive myself if something happened to my son or husband because of me.

Not surprisingly, this year’s marathon coverage started early, with in depth reports about the events of the day, the manhunt, the changes to the marathon this year, the profiling of the victims and what they plan on doing this year. And it’s brought up a lot of the same kind of feelings from last year, reminding me of the ever present fact.

I could lose the two people in my life who mean the most to me. Nothing in this life is safe.

I record my workouts on a website called Dailymile. It’s kind of like Facebook, except everyone who is online is an athlete of some kind. Over the years, I’ve connected with a number of other runners and follow their training. I have met a few local people at meet ups: women who have completed Ironman triathlons, ultramarathoners, marathoners, new runners who just got started, cyclists, yogis, etc.

One of those runners, a woman I will call Dallas, signed up to run two stages, totaling 19.5 miles, of the One Run for Boston a couple of weeks ago, before a calf injury flared up. (As an aside, if you’ve never heard of the One Run for Boston: you should check the link out. It’s a relay from California to Boston, as created by two amazing people from England. All funds raised go to the One Fund, which has actually paid real money to the victims of the bombing. It’s just amazing.)

Anyway, Dallas ran a test 5 mile run the Wednesday before her stages and realized she wasn’t sure she’d be able to do the whole thing. So she went on Dailymile asked for people who might be interested in flying to Texas, then roadtripping with she and her sister to Oklahoma to run with her.

The mileage happened to dovetail perfectly with my training – this weekend I had a 20 mile run on the schedule. And interestingly, I was registered for a 20 mile race that Sunday, but was feeling pretty uninspired. Marathon training this winter has been HARD, weather-wise. More wind and cold rain were in the forecast for Sunday’s race.

I felt like a roadtrip to run in sunny Oklahoma would maybe put the spark back in my own marathon training. Another girl (who I will call Oregon) volunteered too.

I had never met either one of them before the weekend, but they seemed like such great people and I was all for the adventure.

So that’s how I found myself on a plane on Friday morning, heading to into Texas. I met up with Oregon at the airport and Dallas picked us up from there. We all drove to Chickasha, OK for the evening, had a good dinner, and settled into our hotel room for the night.

After a quick half mile warmup, our stage started at 6:45 in the morning. It was dark and chilly, but we were running right into the sunrise, and you could feel the promise of sun and warmth. The route we were running – a 9 and 10.5 mile leg which followed SH 152 from Chickasha to Minco, OK – was a series of hills. It’s funny, because I had this idea that Oklahoma would be more like Kansas – pancake flat, with a road that stretched as far as we could see. I was wrong! The part of Oklahoma we ran was NOT AT ALL FLAT. For most of our 19.5 miles, it was one hill after another.

But still, a great run. Along the way we saw red rocks and valleys, lots of cows and windmills, a couple of dogs that tried to herd us into their cow pasture, and lots of drivers who didn’t want to yield. In fact, one woman called the Oklahoma state police because “there were three high school girls running in the middle of 152!” Which gave us a huge laugh – the three of us are most definitely MANY years out of high school.

And we met such great people:  the woman who owned the convenience store at the end of stage 147, who wanted a picture with us, who told us she was proud of us;  a former Marine from St. Louis who was running one of the group stages that night and was too excited to wait. And of course, the founders – the amazing people from England who started this all.

When we finished the second stage, literally moments after telling Oregon and Dallas I barely cried in front of my husband… I lost it. I sobbed. For my running club friend, yes. But for me, too.

It’s too much sometimes, to think about. We went through so much suffering to bring Lucky home, and the idea I could lose him because I’m doing something I love… it’s just too much to process.

I swear, runners are amazing people. Because we ALL exchanged hugs – real hugs, real comfort – and tears. And, too: the amazement that we could play a small part in a this huge undertaking.

And then it was time to drive back to Texas, so I could catch my flight back home. Within 4 hours of finishing this amazing run, I was back on a plane, heading to my family.I don’t really believe in fate, or that all things happen for a reason.

But I also love how the weekend worked out. It was my reminder from the universe: we are all connected… and all drops cause ripples.

In Transition.

March 25, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Choosing Happiness., Infertility, Mindful., Moving On., The End of Trying | 5 Comments

Ugh, you guys. I have 5 different posts sitting in my drafts folder right now.  I wish I could just hit “publish” but I hate how wandery and rambling they are.

It’s so hard to collect myself to write about anything of substance lately.

I was thinking about that on the way into my client engagement today.

(It’s funny – as much as I loathe commuting, I do enjoy the quiet time. Lucky is an incessant talker, a monologuer. Often at the end of a long day, or a weekend, he talks so much that my ears ring when he’s asleep. Quiet time is a rarity in my world these days.)

Anyway, so on my way into Boston this morning, I was thinking about how hard it is to publish any of my words right now. I was thinking about how I didn’t want to put them into the computer, how I couldn’t really find a POINT to it all, how there was a lot to say but most of it was ephemeral stuff that didn’t really have much meat to the subject.

It’s because I’m in the middle of… well… transition.

Ending treatments – for real this time – has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for my life.

You see, before now, I was operating my life on the assumption that if I worked really hard, I’d get what I want. It just took perseverance and hard work and dedication. I’ve spent YEARS working hard on things I’m not good at – getting my MBA, then my Masters in Accounting, then working as an auditor and accountant, even though a professor told me I didn’t have the detail orientation to make a good accountant.

Then we were infertile.

And though I recognize that we MIGHT get pregnant and have another baby if we keep going through IVF, the cost of all that Fail is already too high. I’m not sure my marriage or my own self-esteem can handle it.

But the thing is?

Walking away from treatments has made me look at other things in my life differently.

Like marathoning, for example. I don’t need to run marathons to be a legit runner. I don’t need to run marathons to love running. I don’t need to run marathons – I should run marathons only because I want to. And I kind of don’t want to run marathons anymore. After this training cycle, I’m going to take a break from marathons and focus on shorter distance races and trail runs.

It’s like the first time I got glasses. After months of squinting at my friends as they walked down the hall towards me, all of a sudden everything was in sharp relief. I could see each individual leaf on every tree, for goodness sake. And I’m looking at all the facets of my life with this new set of glasses.

What if I don’t turn everything into work?

Yes, that means my hobbies, but it can also apply to my marriage. I have an ugly habit of retreating into anger, believing myself justified in being pissed off at my spouse for something he has or hasn’t done. What happens if I walk away from that anger?

And it applies to my horrid body image, too. What happens if I continue to show my belly in hot yoga? What happens if I accept that I am 5lbs heavier than I was last fall?

So that’s why I haven’t written.

Because I want to tell you how infertility has changed my marriage, my parenting, my body image. I want to tell you about how challenging it’s been in some ways to walk away, and how freeing in so many other ways. I want to share with you how ugly I’ve been with Charlie lately and how we live in this Pattern as a married couple that makes us both miserable. How sometimes I wish I could just run away and start all over again – just moments after being flooded with the intensity of feeling incredibly, humbly, weepingly grateful for my family.

It’s changing, and changeable. It’s not all miserable, but it’s not all happy. And if I write them down in words, they’ll be different tomorrow, and I worry about putting this all on the page and then writing a post which essentially changes everything up.

But it’s where I am right now. In the middle of transition. I don’t really know which end is up. But I’m starting to think that maybe I have a lot more control over my choices and emotional state than I ever thought possible.

Is it possible to CHOOSE happiness? To choose acceptance over anger? To choose to be vulnerable even though it scares the shit out of you and you want to run away and protect yourself?

I don’t know for sure, but I’m starting to think that maybe the answer is yes.

Turning Out My Pockets, Part I – Running.

March 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., My life | 9 Comments

The thing about not writing that much is that when you DO try and go back and write, it’s full of starts and stops and messy and rust and nails.

I really have so much to say, but it’s all jumbled in my head.

I suppose the cleanest topic I can write about is running.

Last year was our Break Year; after my miscarriage in Fall 2012 I decided I’d focus on losing weight and running a marathon. In hindsight, it was an attempt to take back control over my body. I had this idea that okay, I might not be able to nourish another life, but if my body did something USEFUL – got me a Boston qualifier marathon time while remaining uninjured – then maybe I could make peace with it.

Except that’s not how it turned out.

I had an AMAZING training cycle. There was a 22 mile run I had where I hit my my goal marathon pace for the last 2 miles and finished on SUCH a runner’s high I smile when I think of it today, more than 6 months later. There were speed workouts where I felt like the pace was SLOW, like I could go faster and run harder and I just wanted to laugh with the sheer joy of it. I ran a half marathon comfortably, without a watch, finishing JUST over my personal best time for that distance.

And then race day came, and I held marathon pace for the first half of the race, and then the wheels started to fall off. And I ended up walking far more than I ever wanted, watching precious minutes off my goal time slip off.

The thing with a marathon is that you can’t just go out and run another marathon if you fuck up. You have to recover and start the process all over again.

So I came away from my marathon experience in October with renewed focus. I could qualify for Boston, I knew it. I just needed more marathon experience. Which meant I should run more marathons, OBVIOUSLY.

This winter, my training experience has not been at ALL what last summer was. I’ve had a plethora of runs where I’ve loathed every minute of my run. I’m cold ALL THE EFFING TIME. Granted, it’s been a ridiculously cold winter with little thawing and lots of snow, but still. But even discovering the magic of those throwaway hand warmer things? They’ve only made my runs for the past three weeks tolerable.

Tolerable. More runs than not that feel hard and cold and are without joy. The ones that I like are merely tolerable.

So I cried uncle, and had coffee with my coach last night. I truly expected him to tell me it was marathon training combined with winter training blues, and that I should just suck it up and get through it.

He didn’t say that.

Instead, he told me that marathon training was a huge time suck, and that maybe it was better for me to aim at lower mileage weeks and race shorter distance races. He said, People would be SO much happier if they just went out for a 5 mile run every day. He recommended that I let go of the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, at least in the near future, and find the happy in my running again.

Let’s bring the fun Serenity back! he said.

I don’t know why it is that I’ve decided I need to qualify for the Boston Marathon. After what happened last year, even thinking about running it gives me nightmares. Running the race means I’d have to training in winter. And the course is not one of the best marathon courses, either – through the suburbs. Granted, with tons of crowd support.

But still. Suburbs aren’t pretty to run through.

I think, quite honestly, this idea that I need to get better at running marathons comes from this idea that I have to be getting better, showing progress. I can’t just run because I love it – I need to get faster and be better at it with every race. And with marathons, I have this idea that I have to PROVE to myself I am a “real” marathoner by getting better at it. I’m a good runner, so clearly I need to focus on running to my capability, yes?

What that means is I turn it into Work. And making it Work sucks the joy right out of it for me. Instead of running for fun, I’m looking at my watch and worrying about my pace. Instead of finding a comfortable easy pace on the mile long hill in mile 3 of a 5 mile run, I’m pushing myself up and over so I don’t get slower. Instead of feeling strong and capable, I feel sluggish and worn out.

So yeah, I think it’s time to step back and stop this pattern I have of making everything into work.

I will run my marathon on Mother’s Day this year, but I’m not going to do it with any sort of time goal in mind. I want to run the whole thing – the only walk breaks I want to take are at the water stops – and finish feeling happy that I ran the whole thing.

And then, this summer, I’m going to focus on racing shorter distances. Maybe run a half marathon in the fall. Run with lots of my friends. Run without a watch. Run in pretty places where I can swim in the ocean afterwards. Run happy.

Therapy.

April 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Puppy Love. | 7 Comments

The thing is – and I want to clarify my last post – I don’t actually blame the photographer who took the picture. In his interview, he said that he cries whenever he sees his picture. The baby was crying, he said in an interview.

And it goes to the news, too. I don’t hate the photographers and cameramen that were there that day. I think they came away from the tragedy just as affected as we all are. I watched too many news people, on Monday night, exercising incredible professionalism when they were clearly emotional about what they saw.

What hurt me most WASN’T the fact that photographers were there. It’s not that they took the pictures of the wounded, the terrified, the shocked, the helpers. It’s not even that the magazine chose a provocative picture like the one they did to sell magazines.

It was the idea that her son was suffering – screaming, terrified and injured – while she stood queued up with the other runners who couldn’t finish the race. Every time I think about it, it terrifies me on the deepest level – the idea of being separated from MY son and husband; the two people who mean most in the world to me, while they live through something as awful as the aftermath of a bomb filled with nails and ball bearings.

It’s personal, you see.

I can easily put myself in her place.

I came away from last week’s with dread, with the crystallization of a realization. It’s been been there, in some form or another, since planes crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11.

But no place is safe, not really.

Schools. Airports. Work.

Now? Running.

And running, you see, is part of my therapy – the way I stay balanced, happy, joyful. Running – even short ones, like the half hour I did today – soothes my jangled nerves and fills in the missing gaps with happiness and endorphins and thankfulness for my breath and strong muscles.

My family doesn’t really UNDERSTAND how much I love running. They benefit from the results – a more happy, balanced me. But Charlie would rather walk a golf course or fish in the sunrise or spend the day hiking.

So it took the picture on that magazine, I think, to help me really grieve.

I’ve lost my naive, rose-colored perception that I have control over keeping my husband and son safe.

So what now?

Well, the capture of the guys who did it was a good first step.

I’ve continued to run this week, and each step I take makes me feel better and stronger. It’s small – really nothing – but every run I do makes me feel like I’m not going to give into the dread and fear.

And the biggest decision we made: we’re getting a puppy. Today, we are visiting a breeder who has 7 available golden retriever puppies. And provided we find the one that’s perfect for our family, we’re going to bring him/her home.

I saw an article this week about the golden retrievers – therapy dogs – who went to Newtown immediately after the shooting. And those same dogs were in Boston this week.

And on Thursday, driving into Boston, I was struck with this thought.

I WANT A PUPPY.

I want my own therapy dog.

Immediately after my D&E last fall, I made the decision to get a puppy. It was an intense desire, a need for a baby. We didn’t act on it, because I wanted more time to think about it. (And really – a puppy in November? In New England? Not the smartest decision.) And the desire flared up inside me again this week, too – the same need.

I have pretty much given up on the idea of having another baby of my own. But a puppy is a baby, too.

And I have a lot of love to give.

And right now? The timing couldn’t be better. It’s spring. Charlie is working from home until mid June and I have most of July off. We have neighbors and friends who actually WANT to pet sit for us. Lucky is starting school in the fall and we’ll then be tied to a school schedule.

I can’t tell you how excited and nervous I feel today. Charlie and I were laughing that we were more excited than Lucky is, mostly because he doesn’t really grasp the concept that HE is getting a puppy.

And I feel like it’s fitting that we end this week with an addition to our family, with adding more life and love to our world.

I’ll keep you all posted – and will definitely post pictures! 🙂

Frayed.

April 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Heartbreak | 14 Comments

At 2:50 on Monday, when a friend from my running club was not yet at the finish of her first Boston Marathon, two bombs went off. Her husband was badly injured in the second blast. Their three year old son, thankfully, was not badly hurt – likely due to her husband’s courage.

And while she was not yet aware of what was going on, still running her race, a photographer, capturing the images of all of the chaos and mayhem, snapped a picture of her terrified son.

And then he sold that picture to a national magazine, which chose his image for its cover.

It makes sense how few details she has released to us, her running tribe, about the whole thing. Why she took down her Facebook page. Why she isn’t answering phone calls or emails or texts. Why three of her best friends are running interference for her and imploring us all: “Please do not comment to the press.”

I cannot get past the fact that she stood on Charlesgate with all of the other runners while her husband bled and her son screamed… and a photographer took pictures. The mother in me screams in anger and grief.

None of this is okay. There’s NOTHING okay about it. There is no place that’s safe. Those fuckers took away my one safe place – running. They hurt one of my tribe. And I am frayed beyond belief today.

I stood in the cold tonight, after running 3 miles with a friend, then 3 more miles with my running club, then 1 more in tribute to the victims of the attack on Monday with everyone else in town.

And I lit a candle and I listened to a minister and rabbi talk about being Strong, because We Are Boston.

And I want to scream. The god I believe in doesn’t do shit like this to ‘test’ us. I don’t WANT to be strong if it means I have to sacrifice my husband and son.

So yeah. Today’s not a good day.

But I ran.

Making Sense from Senseless.

April 16, 2013 at 10:15 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Heartbreak | 9 Comments

Lucky and I came out of family swim time, him chattering away about swimming and how high he could jump; how well he swam all by himself yesterday. I helped him into his carseat, handed him his juice and snack, and casually checked my phone as I walked around to the driver’s side of the car.

Four texts, two calls, and a voicemail. And a CNN alert.

The texts: “Where are you?”

“You’re not running Boston today, are you?”

“Been watching the coverage and now 2 confirmed dead & 22 injured. Is everyone you know safe? My god!”

The panic I felt for my all my running friends, in that moment, was overwhelming. I couldn’t get Charlie on the phone. My running friend Jen, the one who was tracking the progress of so many, wasn’t answering her phone either. My MIL picked up the phone, but she didn’t have anything in the way of comfort to offer me. My SIL told me the details of what happened – the time and facts.

And when I was in between calls, Lucky requested, “Mommy, please tell me what happened.”

In the moment, I told him that there had been two explosions at a race – the race we watched that morning. That the explosion was something called a bomb, and it had hurt a lot of people – even killed some people. And that I was really worried for all my friends who were running in that race, and I didn’t know if they were okay.

I didn’t really think. I just reacted.

And over the next few hours, when I was on Facebook and my running board, breathing deeply with relief as all of my friends checked in and reported they were safe, I answered question after question from my son about what happened. He requested to see pictures of the bomb, and I showed him as much as I felt comfortable with.

Which, in retrospect, was too much.

At dinner last night, we focused on the helpers, like Mr. Rogers said. We talked about how amazing it was that people ran towards the smoke and pulled down the barricades to help people that were hurt. We talked about how Bear was GREAT at finding bombs and would help everyone he saw. We talked about how the police and the FBI have people who are called bomb technicians who are so smart that they know how to make sure that bombs don’t go off.

And he went to sleep just fine and slept through the night.

Charlie and I, however, did not.

It’s impossible to make sense out of something so senseless. I can’t even try.

This one hit so close to home, to my heart and soul, that I can’t breathe.

I am a runner.

And the people that were killed, injured yesterday? Were the SUPPORT for every runner out there. I wouldn’t have made it to the start of my own marathon if it weren’t for Charlie, my friends, my family.

And my son and husband could have easily been there; been part of the crowds cheering me onto the finish… been part of the chaos and terror inflicted yesterday.

They HAVE been part of my races. They were there when I ran my first half marathon; where Lucky drank my water after the finish.

They were there when I ran the Marine Corps Marathon; where, right after Charlie took his picture, Lucky stole my medal and wore it himself.

The fear, for me, is all consuming today. And I know, I KNOW, that this is the very definition of terrorism. Because, really – the term “terrorism” comes from Latin: ‘terror’, “great fear”, “dread”, related to the Latin verb terrere, “to frighten.”

Dread. Fear.

Yes.

The only thing that makes sense, for me, today, is to see my son and husband home, safely.

And then go for a run. A run where I can honor not only all the people in my life who have been my support system, the very foundation in my life, but also the others: the parents, the children, the brothers and sisters, the friends – everyone who was affected by yesterday’s events.

And maybe then I can start to make sense of it all.

Sending Love.

April 15, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., My life | 4 Comments

I was not at the Boston Marathon today. Lucky and I came out of family swim time at our gym to texts and check ins, and for a few panicky moments, all I could think about were my friends running today.

They are all accounted for – and thankfully okay.

I believe that we have a choice in this life to react in fear, hate, or sadness.

Today I choose to send love out into the world to counteract the hate that seems to be present in every day, on every TV station.

Thank you all for the emails and texts.

Love to you all.

xoxo

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