The last day of vacation, the day before we leave our cabin on the lake, is one of the hardest days.
The afternoon is a frenzy of packing and taking the boat out of the water and my MIL and FIL getting completely packed so my MIL can slip away at 6am, before the triathlon starts. She hates goodbyes and endings… and she just wants to be in her own house.
We have spent the day at an amusement park this year – Lucky and my nephew are just tall enough to ride alone, and the two of them want to ride everything there. We get back just before dinner, and Charlie runs off to help my FIL get the boat out of the water.
My MIL comes by to vent. I never should have said things were going really well between us. He’s been snippy with me all day and I’m about ready to smack him.
I soothe her by saying, The last day of vacation is hard.
Later, after the pizza and the packing up of the cabin and the gathering of all the things we’ve dropped all over during the course of the week, Charlie and I are sitting on the couch, sipping wine and listening to the waves lap at the shore through the open windows of the cabin.
It’s just that I look forward to this all year, I tell him. And now have nothing to hold on to: next year’s trip is SO far away.
So we dream about taking another trip, coming here for a long weekend this fall, knowing we are booked up for weekends through September. And anyway, it wouldn’t be the same, just the three of us, in the cooler weather, where we can’t spend the day playing in the water and sitting on inner tubes and Lucky and his cousins can’t roam between four cabins like the flock of ducks that comes by every day.
We’ll wait until next year.
And it’s so far away.
This year, Charlie’s cousin’s boat is still in the water, and Charlie decides to do one last early morning fishing trip, since he’s caught only one fish all week. We are mostly packed, and when my phone wakes me up at 6:30, the pink tinged light in the window tells me it’s going to be another glorious day.
I make coffee, open my journal, and write a bit. But then a voice inside me tells me, Go outside, and I listen.
The lake is as still as glass, the orange and pink glow of the sun reflecting off the water. I breathe in; the air is cool and clear, with a hint of fall. I hear only the hum of crickets, and I’m reminded of the passage from Charlotte’s Web:
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”
I should feel sad; vacation’s over, and summer’s nearly over.
But inside me, I feel something else. Quiet. It’s a solid calm that’s centered deep inside; I almost feel like I can touch it in the center of my chest.
The anxiety, my closest companion all summer – is it gone? I take a cautious moment and look for it. It seems to have evaporated, or left for a little while. All I feel is quiet and calm and easy breath, even when my mind starts casting about, looking for the worry. What about the packing? You really should take a shower, Serenity, Lucky will be up soon, and make sure you get him some breakfast and you should text your dogsitter and make sure that Happy gets home okay.
The thoughts buzz around me, swirling in the morning air.
All summer, whenever my mind starts up like this, I’ve had a physical reaction to the worries. A tightening of my chest. A feeling my heart will beat out of my chest.
I can feel is that solid quiet.
I look forward to this all year.
Ah, the irony of writing a post where I say I’ve been writing every day since I started vacation, and I have a goal to write every day… and then not being able to write at all one day.
I did not write anything yesterday but review notes for the person that is helping me test controls. The woman I work for wants me to step up and manage this new person, which is fine, but it also really kind of sucks. I was envisioning a situation where I could do my own work and the other person does hers, end of story. So far from feeling as if I am extracting myself from my current work situation, I feel like I am getting more and more entrenched.
I keep reminding myself that nothing is forever, and really, it takes only a conversation to alert her that I cannot work this project next year.
* * * *
Anyway, so here I am, sitting in my kitchen, stealing time to write while I wait for the babysitter to come so I can work for the day.
Mel had a great post yesterday.
Show up and write.
So here I am.
I have to admit I’ve had a hard time writing in my space because I feel like there are SO many blogs out there, with so many people who have much better things to say that I do. This idea wars with my other idea that there IS space for me in this community, the infertile who made it to the other side but remains one of the few that is working to accept that the family she was given is her complete family.
It’s hard sometimes for me to read other blogs, too. Where are the people like me?
I see all these posts with people who are done with family building, and the general theme is that they feel like their family is complete. I usually see those posts where they see their older child playing with the new baby, or they post a picture where the kids are interacting.
Those posts are written with such warmth and thankfulness and happiness that it used to make me ache with longing.
And here’s where I confess: I would get angry at a lot of those posts. I was jealous and bitter.
Of course it’s easy to feel like your family is complete when you get what you want, I’d think.
I know, I’m awful. I used to hate those feelings.
But for so long, I felt like I was MISSING something. There was a piece missing, a part missing. The baby I didn’t get to have. And though I had the very same thankfulness whenever I looked at Lucky – because, really, how LUCKY we got with him, it’s nothing short of amazing – it never lasted.
I wanted more.
I wanted my baby, the one I lost. The one that made me feel sick and who had a beating heart. I wanted her, the one who didn’t make it.
I wanted my arms and heart and belly to be full again.
I wanted to be able to post on my blog, looking at Lucky and our new baby, how complete I felt.
And I have still have days where I long for that baby, still feel that expansion and contraction of pain in my heart and belly whenever I see an infant; a visceral want that comes from a deep, deep place inside me whenever I snuggle with my nephew, or hold a baby. And it’s still hard for me to see pictures of siblings, because my heart hurts when I realize that Lucky will never know what it’s like to have a brother or a sister.
I think that’s the hardest part for me to accept; that Charlie and I have siblings who are such a big part of our lives, and Lucky will never get to experience that kind of love.
Whenever I tell people, or say out loud, there will never be another baby, I now have this deep, unshakeable sense of peace. I sometimes look at Charlie and Lucky and Happy, and I feel that same warmth and thankfulness and happiness that I see in those Complete Family blog posts.
Our family IS complete. There isn’t anything missing, no piece we need to find and fill into our family. The four of us (and yes, I count the dog, who is quite decidedly NOT the same as having another child… but oh so wonderful a companion.) make a unit that’s distinctly ours.
Acceptance. I haz it.
This acceptance is not at all what I thought it would be.
Over the years of fighting infertility to bring home the family we had dreamed of, I saw acceptance as a mirage, an oasis in the far distance. It was so hard for me to say the words, We may never have any more children.
Even with the “may” in there, it was hard to think about.
Even as I was giving away clothing and baby gear, I never really thought I’d ever look in the mirror and admit that we’d never have another baby in our house.
Even as we walked away from treatments, I had the idea, maybe. Maybe we’ll get lucky again, this time with a surprise pregnancy. Or maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll change our minds someday and go back to treatments.
I needed that maybe. I needed the hope that our walking away wasn’t final, that we were leaving the door open a crack just in case we changed our minds. I needed to sit with the decision, the hope, the fear, the fail, the bigness of the decision to stop trying. I needed time and distance from the cycle of hope and fear.
I don’t need the maybe anymore.
Our family is complete; we will never have any more children. And yes, it hurts to say that.
But it also feels right to say it, too.
It’s really hard sometimes to write when you have all this STUFF swirling around in your head and heart.
But it’s been like this for a while now, and I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon, so I really want to try to make sense of things.
So that’s your fair warning: this post will likely be disjointed and maybe won’t have a point. And it might be boring or ridiculous. But I’m going to write it down, because I really, really, want to start writing more.
And the only way to write more is to write more, right?
* * * *
I’ve been working with my current therapist now for three years. Three years of weekly appointments, and I’m only JUST feeling like we’re getting below the surface anxiety into what makes me tick.
One of the things I’ve been noticing lately is that I am very closed off in my marriage. I spend time DOING things for Charlie to show him I love him. Whenever the gas in his car is low, I fill it. I create our weekly dinner menu with his preferences in mind. I will run at 4 in the morning or 10 at night in order to get more family time in on a given day. I take care of as much of the family stuff as I can – vet and doctor appointments for Lucky, school stuff, making lunches, bus dropoff/pickup – so that Charlie has one less thing to stress about.
But when it comes to showing my husband love and affection, I am a freaking Scrooge. I hide behind stress and anxiety, I keep myself busy so I don’t have to take time out to hug.
I’ve JUST noticed it, quite honestly: the way I am clipped and stressed whenever he arrives home from work, or how I find things to get annoyed over, like lights left on, when I arrive home when they are home. How I bury myself in my task list, the computer, my phone, laundry. It’s like I find excuses and justification to stay closed off, ways to avoid connecting with him.
I think it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that Charlie, with his high blood pressure and ridiculous stress levels, is a heart attack waiting to happen. What happens if I really allow myself to love him, to rely on him, and he dies suddenly on me? How will I survive?
Or maybe I’m afraid of relying on him too much, where my need becomes another stressor for him, and all of a sudden he realizes he can’t deal with the energy suck of his wife anymore.
Or maybe I’m worried that he’ll disappoint me. What if I rely on him and he can’t be there?
Or maybe it’s none of these things. I don’t honestly know why I’m so scared, why I am so stingy with showing love and affection.
What I know is that it needs to change.
* * * *
I listen to audiobooks on my long ass commute into Boston; I download them to my phone from the library. It’s a great way to pass the time stuck in traffic, provided the book is a good one.
The one I’m listening to now? It’s a good one. It’s this one – a true story about the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service. Listening to her story, told from her viewpoint, I can only marvel at her openness and love. And her faith, or non-faith.
How is it, after losing her husband in an accident, and working search-and-rescues and seeing all facets of death, she can be so enthusiastic, open, and loving?
And if she can do it, can I as well?
* * * *
Written in Athena for the month of August is this: Cultivate Love.
I’m starting simply.
Next week we are heading to my happy place – the cabin on the lake. I’m going to disconnect from the internet. No Facebook, no email, no running board, no Myfitnesspal. I’m bringing paper plates and bowls, and bottles of wine and board games and cribbage and royalty. I’m going work on cultivating a connection between us and with the three of us as a family. And when I find myself getting stressed or anxious, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and hug someone.
And when we get back, I’m going to kiss my husband goodbye and hello every day. I’m going to take a moment every day, when he walks through the door, to greet him and welcome him home.
When Lucky tells me he’s cold and wants to sit on my lap, or wants me to stop what I’m doing to watch him do something, or he wants me to sit with him and watch a TV show, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and be with him, in the moment.
THIS is my family, right here, right now. And I love them so much and am so grateful I have Charlie and Lucky and Happy in my life.
And I need to learn how to open up more.
So I’m back at work. And yesterday, I left a doctor’s appointment in Peabody a little later than I wanted, then got stuck in traffic heading into Boston for a client meeting.
Thankfully I JUST made the meeting, but in the moments where I was stressed out, worrying about disappointing my client, frustrated with sitting in my car doing absolutely nothing (at freaking 10:30am. WTF?)… I had a thought which could potentially change everything for me and my family.
I’m not sure what it is about Tobin Bridge traffic, but I’ve had a number of life-changing lightbulb moments on that bridge. Like a year ago, when I decided we needed to get a puppy.
Anyway. Yesterday, the thought struck me:
I can’t do this anymore.
I have spent this week sitting in traffic in order to sit in a meeting where people talk about the wording of internal controls. And whereas it seems like everyone else in the room actually CARES about finding the right words and making changes to the internal controls in order to meet the auditors’ new criteria… I really don’t CARE.
I just want to do the work and go home.
Wait, scratch that. I don’t even want to do the WORK. Internal controls SUCK.
And I DEFINITELY do not want to spend 2-3 hours every day commuting.
It feels like I’ve been saying this forever, I know. And I cannot tell you how much energy I’ve spent over the years trying to think my way around my career. (The cliff notes version of the issue: I am almost 40, I am not willing to devote my time AND money to learning a new skill. Whatever it is I end up doing, I cannot spend any more money on education to do so.)
And, too, there’s this idea: I don’t love accounting, but I don’t LOATHE it either.
My friend D and I have a joke: whenever there’s something that gets in the way of our daily chats (aka: work), we’ll respond: work is lame.
And the other day, she responded pretty thoughtfully that, for her, work wasn’t really lame. She liked her work, but when the circumstances prevented her from, say, eating lunch or leaving on time, that’s when it became lame.
It got me thinking. What do I actually LIKE about my work?
I like the people. I like being an expert, where they look to me for answers when they have questions. I like helping them get work done; in most cases they’re so understaffed that they’re truly grateful when I can offload some of the work for them. I like that I know how numbers from transactions flow into the financial statements. I love analyzing budgets; looking at what a company spent last month/quarter/year and where they’d like to dedicate resources this year.
Yes, I don’t LOVE my job, but there’s lots I like. And honestly, given my propensity for becoming obsessive about new ideas and goals in the first place, it’s probably good for my family and life balance that I don’t actually HAVE a job I love.
But I LOATHE the commute. I dislike the compliance work; I feel like all I do is help the auditors cover their asses – and create far more work than I believe necessary. I hate that for three days this week I’ve gone through nearly a tank of gas, spent $2.50 to spend 20 minutes every day on the goddamn Tobin Bridge, AND spent $20 for parking in the garage under the building. Every day I go in there, I spend $22.50. Not counting the gas and wear and tear on my car.
For what? To sit in meetings and argue over language wording of controls. And my overwhelming feeling is, MEH.
I can’t do this for much longer.
I’ve been considering, for a while now, going out on my own and getting my own small business clients who need help with bookkeeping, budgeting, reporting, and tax work. What has always stopped me before now is the fact that I’d have to start USING friends as networking pawns; asking people for favors, putting myself out there as a salesperson. I really just kind of hate networking; the idea of having an agenda to meeting up with someone other than a “hey! I haven’t seen you in forever!” makes me uncomfortable.
But I can’t commute to Boston anymore, you guys.
And I feel really strongly that people who own their own business should be able to focus on their BUSINESS, too. If you have a yoga studio, your expertise is in yoga, not financials and journal entries and invoicing and budgeting.
I happen to be good at the accounting and business stuff.
It really isn’t a sales pitch, then. I have a skill that people might need. And it’s just figuring out how to identify the need.
So I called a couple of friends this morning – close ones who happen to have their own businesses, who I knew would be supportive and help me out with tips and ideas. And they were great – helpful and supportive.
I think it might be time for me to strike out on my own.
In the short term, I have to keep doing what I’m doing: the woman for whom I work is understaffed already – as is the client I’m working for. And I committed to doing the 2014 controls work. I need to honor that.
But it doesn’t mean I can’t start laying the groundwork for my own business; trying to pick up a bookkeeping client here and there in the meantime.
I am so excited. And hopeful.
And a little nervous and scared, too.
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.
(Yet another post where I’m not sure if this makes sense. It’s still confusing to me. Sigh.)
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.
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.
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.
A good blogger friend of mine posted today about a terrible bout of anxiety she’s feeling about where she is right now – she’s perched on the precipice of a lot of unknowns. Which is really hard.
And this sentence got me: The more I can’t control the big issues, the more I micromanage and grab onto smaller things. When we were ttcing it was my weight and body image and running. I couldn’t get pregnant, but I could damn well make sure I got skinny and could run really fast.
That last sentence.
That’s ME right now.
I have finally gotten to the point where realize I am not in control of much of anything in my life. I have a career which is ill-fitting. My relationship with my husband is challenged by the stress of our infertility, the drudgery of our daily life, and parenting. My nearly-five-year-old still wets his pants regularly. I will likely never be pregnant again.
And all of this is uncomfortable. I LIKE having plans. Sitting with decisions, really forcing myself not to CHOOSE anything, really sitting with emotions and feelings… it’s kind of exhausting and tiring and uncomfortable. And hard.
Except there’s one thing in my life which I DO have some measure of control over: running. And food choices.
I wish I could bottle up the feeling of nailing a workout, how amazing and light and fast I feel.
Words don’t do that feeling justice either. It’s joy. Freedom. Sometimes exhaustion. Sheer will. The rush of pushing past some mental barrier and realizing that you can DO something you previously thought you weren’t capable of. I have moments where my overriding feeling is, I am MADE for this. That feeling you get when running is changeable, like catching lightning in a bottle. But always, always, always fulfilling.
After being snowed in with my family for two full days last weekend, I went out the day after the blizzard for my long run and experienced nothing more than sheer JOY. The run had it all: birdsong, the crunch of the snow under my sneakers, the quiet without any traffic, the people outside shoveling I got to greet… it was perfection.
A run is the one thing in my life right now that gives me joy, and success, and happiness. It makes up for all the ways I am failing everywhere else.
Because, you see, I DO feel as if I’m failing a lot. At work, I fail to be detail oriented; I am trying not to be crippled with self-doubt right now whenever I turn in something I’ve worked on, but it is so hard to banish the Inner Critic who tells me it’ll never be good enough.
I fail to be patient with my son, who still struggles with using the damn potty. We have been dealing with accidents for far too long, and I am nearly at my wits’ end* with it all. Our conversations when I discover that he’s wet often end up with him telling me, Stop being mad at me, Mommy. (I don’t yell, nor punish him for it, but I do lecture. I just can’t be neutral about it any more, no matter how hard I try.)
I also fail to be a good wife nowadays. Charlie is under some pretty tough work stress, and though I know he could use support and kindness, I’m having trouble not being resentful of the fact I feel like his work takes precedence over me or Lucky. I am failing at giving him the support he needs without expecting something in return.
I also have failed, utterly, to complete our family. I am mourning, already, the end of Lucky’s childhood; it’s going by so fast and I won’t ever get to experience it again. I mourn FOR him, the fact that he will have to bear the burden of taking care of Charlie and I at some point in the future on his own, that he has no one to share the burden. I mourn that his children won’t have cousins.
My body has failed. Failed me in the most fundamental way, on the deepest, most basic level possible. My body will not produce children. I have one child, yes, but that’s a product of luck. Happy luck, clearly. But luck.
It all melts away when I go out for a run, when I look down and see a pace which I never thought of as “comfortable” and I realize I am barely exerting myself. When I run a race and completely shock myself with the pace – nearly 3 minutes faster over the distance than I did in May of last year. When I go to track practice and get stronger and faster as the workout goes on, instead of giving in to my tired muscles and stopping.
Running is when I can get caught up in the sheer joy of DOING something with my body. Running frees me in a way I don’t have in other parts of my life. It gives me happiness, and a sense of control, and a deep thankfulness for my body and what I can accomplish with it.
But yeah. There’s the control thing again. This is another way for me to grasp at control over something. It’s an escape, too. I can get away from the Fail of my life for a while; escape into the run, and come home feeling stronger.
And it makes me wonder if this means I am falling back into my old patterns; where I am looking for SOMETHING I can control, since I feel so out of control with everything else. Except it’s hard now.
With running, I don’t WANT to let it go. I have accepted the fact that I can’t control EVERYTHING. But can’t I have one area of my life where I feel like I can work hard and see the benefit?
Or is that unhealthy, too?
I don’t know.
I suppose the best I can hope for is that someday, running is just something I do, and not something I need. Because I NEED it right now. Right now, I need the joy, the release, the feeling of being good at SOMETHING.
*Thanks to a comment on my blog, we just ordered Lucky a watch which can be set to vibrate every two hours. Our new strategy is to talk up the fact that the “doctor” suggests that we do this; that THIS is the way he will be able to keep his underwear dry – use the potty every time Mr. Watch tells him to. We’ve mentioned it to his teachers and they’re willing to work with us on this. We’ll see what happens.