Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Deciding not to decide (a marathon update-of sorts)

The last time I saw my wonderful mother-in-law, she was sweet enough to loan me three books that Marc and I had gotten for her.  I got her into Anne Lamott a couple of years ago, and it's so nice to share a love for her and her brilliant writing.

I read a line that cut me so deeply I had to laugh out loud:

"Maturity is the ability to live with unresolved problems." - Anne Lamott

This is something I struggle with so much.  As a control freak, I like for things to get wrapped up in neat and tidy boxes, and I don't like loose ends.  I've written before about how much I struggle with uncertainty, and I know I'm not alone in that regard.

This spring and now well in to summer, this has obviously been manifesting itself in my slow-to-heal hip, and the question that no doctor or PT has answered for me yet - Is it realistic to think I could run the NYC Marathon this November?  That I could not just run it, but run it in good health and cross the finish line with a smile on my face and a happy hip?

I've had the time to grieve the possibility of deferring it to 2019, and I'm in a place while, though still bitterly disappointing, I can be more philosophical about it and keep perspective.  I don't want to just run it because I can, I want to run it knowing it won't be a stupid decision leading to me jeopardizing my ability to run for the rest of my life, which is much more important to me than any race, even this one.

What's been tricky, though, as I've lived in this space of uncertainty is this:  How do you bridge the gap between foolishly getting your hopes up for something unrealistic, and stubbornly believing in yourself with a relentlessly positive attitude against all odds?

Or to put it more simply:  Is it stupid to walk around saying "I'm definitely going to run in November" when the truth is that I don't know?  And that I might not be able to?

Or - is it defeatist to hedge my bets?  Am I being negative?  Am I not having the right attitude and sabotaging myself?

It's an intensely vulnerable thing to make a declaration, to set a goal - I'm going to run New York this November - that might not happen.  To put that out there with the chance of having to walk it back and say, "Actually..."

It's especially vulnerable if you didn't really grow up with ideas like faith.  I was taught to believe in myself and try my hardest of course, but I've never been a religious person.  As spiritual as I am, I'm firmly agnostic because I can't say for sure if there is a God or there isn't.  I'm a very literal person and I like to be (say it with me now) certain.

Putting a ton of blind faith in the notion that I will definitely, absolutely, no matter what heal in time - like Laura has done, which I could never express enough gratitude for because it has gotten me through so many rough days - isn't something I've been able to do 100%.  The truth is, I just don't know.

So, what can I say 100%?

I can say that I will do everything in my power to run it this year.  I will pull out all the stops.

I can't say yet if it will be this year or if it will be next year.  Or God help me, the year after that.

It needs to be about the larger goal.  Believing in my body's ability to heal in a larger and more general sense rather than tying my self worth to a time table.  We all know our bodies don't care about our plans - sickness and injury can and do strike whenever they damn well please, and the best we can do is take care of ourselves to the best of our ability.

What I'm really saying is that I need to let go of the result right now.  I need to let go of being certain and having the answer right now.  It's hard to do when the result is so deeply important to me and something I've been working toward for over two years.  Adding another year to that is not fun, and I'd like to emotionally prepare myself ASAP if that's what's going to happen.

Running is a passion.  It's messily and inextricably mixed up in my identity.  It's how I cope with stress.  It keeps me sane.  It's so much more than just a workout or just a hobby.  People who flippantly tell me I should stop running have no idea what a big part of my life it is that they're suggesting I cut out.  It's not an option.

All of this is to say - I'm deciding not to decide.  The next two weeks will reveal a lot.  I'm finally working out more in PT and at the gym.  The Astoria pool is (finally!) open so I can add to my cardio.

I'm deciding not to decide in the interest of keeping hope and faith alive, and allowing there space to be an acceleration in my healing now that I'm in far less pain and doing far more work.

I'm working on getting comfortable with uncertainty.

I'm living in hope, but I'm also fully embracing the possibility of deferring, and looking for all the silver linings therein.

And best of all - I'm getting out of dodge for a week tomorrow.  I blinked and my sister's 5-pound babies are turning four on July 16th.  Time for me to go down and soak in as much family goodness as I can.

So - I will see this ol' thang in two weeks.  And I will probably have an answer by then.

(But maybe not.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Book Report: Writing the Mind Alive & Hip Update

This has been one of those times where I can't quite seem to find the voice that I want to access and use for this blog.  Sometimes I've been too awash in a sea of self pity and "Why me?" injury despair to write anything that pretends to be inspiring, sometimes I've been too awash in a sea of complete and utter blackout rage over what is happening in our country, sometimes I've been too deep in the weeds of hard and scary personal growth to share any of it in a public setting.

So, first thing's first - quick update on the state of my hips and the state of my 2018 NYC Marathon.  Basically, I'm still in Marathon purgatory.  Some days it seems inevitable that it won't happen.  We are 18 weeks out from the race, and I not only wanted to start my training two weeks ago, but I wanted to have been building upon a rock solid foundation from having trained for the Brooklyn Half.  Instead, I haven't run at all since mid-April and I haven't run without pain since April 5th.

It's not impossible to train for and run a marathon in 16 weeks.  But it's not how I wanted to do it - not just in a "that's not fair, I didn't want it to be this way" sort of way, but in a practical, let's-keep-myself-healthy way.

But my doctor is still very much digging their heels into the "wait and see" party line.  He's not giving me a definite yes or no until probably about mid-month.  And of course, he could always give me an answer and then my body could wind up surprising us, for better or worse.

I still really don't know what's going to happen, and the battle of being okay with uncertainty, for this girl who likes to control and plan anything, has been humbling and unfun.  But, I know, it's good for me.  Ugh.  When will the world stop conspiring to help me build more character?

With all of this said, I've still been writing every single day, like I always do.  My mom started me on the habit of journal writing when I was a kid - and I'll never forget my first Lisa Frank journal she gave me at the beginning of a summer one year that was just for me and no one else to ever read - and I've kept it up my whole life.  I don't make any rules for it - sometimes it's a fairly shallow and uninspiring to-do list.  Sometimes it's a recounting of events I want to remember.  Sometimes it's hashing out stuff that's bothering me.  I don't strive to make it particularly stream-of-consciousness or anything - I just write.

This brings us to the book report part of things.  During an extremely well timed and much needed night with my best friend last week, she loaned me Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice by Linda Trichter Metcalf and Tobin Simon.  It was published in 2002, but the writing method it describes was developed by the authors in the 1970's.

I devoured this book - it's a shortie, only 183 pages.  Lisa (aforementioned best friend, and also ps she's a talented superstar too) has been telling me for awhile about her Writes that she's done, and I always thought she just meant general journaling, or morning pages.

A Write (always with that capital W!) is a period of about a half hour of writing.  The setting is important - the authors' recommended setup for this ritual includes a private room, a candle, wordless music (they recommend Baroque), and white, unlined, unbound paper.  The "rules" are as follows:

1. Write what you hear
Meaning, write your thoughts as they come in to your head.  This isn't necessarily stream of consciousness, and there isn't a rule that the pen must constantly be moving on the paper.  You can take it a little more slowly and thoughtfully than that - it's not a race.

2. Listen to what you write
From the book:  "The skill that's most actively engaged during a Write isn't the writing skill at all.  It's the hearing skill...To hear your own thoughts and to awaken your auditory imagination, you must develop within yourself your capacity to listen.  Thought can always be voiced, but to hear it requires a certain kind of intense, focused listening, a quality of attention:  curious, patient, even tempered...It never judges, edits, censors."

3. Be ready to ask the Proprioceptive Question
The question is the tool you use to develop your ability to listen to your thoughts.  It is, "What do I mean by ____?"  For example, if I write down, "I want to cede control of it all" and it feels like the concept of control needs more elucidation, I will follow it by writing out, "What do I mean by 'control?'" and then delving more deeply...until I feel the need to ask it again, and delve deeper, ask again, delve deeper - you get the idea.

Every aspect of this technique appeals to me.  I love the ritual of it all - the candle, intentionally carving out the space and the focus.  Often times when I write I lose focus so much that I might as well have not written a thing.  At first I hated the idea of loose and unlined white paper (as a leftie, I don't usually write in a straight line) but it's actually been great and feels strangely freeing.

I also find that having that one technique of the Proprioceptive Question is like turning on all the lights and unlocking all the doors in my brain.  My first few Writes coincided with some turbulent days and they were like free therapy where I went down some avenues of my mind I hadn't gone down in a very long time.

As I said above, I'm a lifelong, daily journal-writer.  It's really important to me and to my sanity (it's probably how I've been able to get away without going to therapy at this point in my life - not that it's going to be a substitute for it forever...) but it's also something that I truly love.  As evidenced by the obscene length of this blog post - I love to write and it's something I've always loved and been good at.

If you do not consider yourself a writer, or if you hated it in school the way I hated math, or you're just new to the idea of journaling, I think this is the perfect technique to get your feet wet.  You aren't writing for a grade or for anyone else's eyes.  Hell, you don't even need to ever read it again unless you really want to.  You could burn each and every Write you do for all anyone needs to know.  But the act of writing, the act of asking and answering that question, is an active step toward knowing yourself better.

The only thing we can really control and count on in life is ourselves.  We can't control what happens in our lives or our country or even in our bodies.  But the better we know ourselves and take care of ourselves, the better prepared we are to face whatever the world has in store for us.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

March, Get Mad, and Get KIND

Another quickie post today.  It's been a really emotional week for a lot of reasons that are just not quite blog-appropriate.

One of the reasons, though, is the fact that the US Government has neither the resources nor the desire to get their act together and reunite over 2,000 children with their families.  They are continuing to detain people seeking asylum, which is legal to do in the United States of America.

The government is taking a sharp turn down a terrifying road, but we are a nation of the people, and we can fight it.

There are over 700 protests happening today in all 50 states.  Go here to find one near you and let's put our bodies and voices on the line for what's right.

Once you do that, donate to my beautiful friend Laura's marathon charity, KIND - Kids in Need of Legal Defense.  Hopefully it will be mine too if I'm cleared to run, but even if not, I will be doing everything I can to work with Laura in her fundraising effort.

Click here to donate and learn more about Laura and KIND's efforts.

I'll leave this brief post with her words:

When I first saw the image of children in cages, my heart sank. As a runner, I couldn't get the thought out of my mind that all these children have as a protective barrier against them and the concrete, metal inclosure they found themselves in, were mylar blankets. As runners we know all too well that mylar blankets are uncomfortable and only used to shield you slightly from the elements, but yet this is what the children were given to comfort their poor, lost, weary, souls. I thought of the babies, stripped from their mothers. Babies, who, more than likely, were still breast feeding. Working with infants in my daily like as a post natal yoga teacher, I know all too well what happens when babies begin to wean from the breast, the challenges that can occur, and the hurdles both mother and baby face. I started to ask myself, "'did anyone think about this?", "whose changing the diapers on a regular basis?", "whose making sure the infants aren't allergic to the formula?", "whose taking care of the diaper rash and the heat rash and the neglect and the cries and the pain?" These are the questions that called me to action. No child deserves this abuse. Period. I make the calls and I show up to the protests, but if running has taught me anything, it's that I'm strong as hell, I'm healthy, I've got a voice and a mind, and I have no excuse to NOT do more for these children. My mother raised me to stand up for all children in need, and out of respect for her and the mothers who have been stripped from their children, I plan to do just that.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Together Rising.

I finally had gathered up the courage (a word which seems really stupid now) to write a little more in depth about my journey with my injury and how it's affecting my life and my goals, but it just feels too petty today.

I work with children every day, some of whom I have known and loved since their mothers were pregnant with them.  I have four nephews and a niece that I love more than life itself.

What is happening at America's border is breaking my heart.  The Statue of Liberty feels like a joke right now.

And not one person on the religious right seems to be thinking when they see these poor people, "There but for the grace of God go I."

So, please, take two seconds out of your day, and donate to Together Rising, where every single penny is going to legal fees to help these families and children.

Take five minutes out of your day to call your representative, especially if you live in a a blue or purple state, and tell them where you stand.  Let's make those phone lines explode.

Take one day out of your life and protest on June 30th, and wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.  You may be far from the border, but you can still physically show up against this.

Finally, and most importantly, VOTE.  Make sure all your friends are registered to vote.  Vote in primaries, vote in November.  The only way to stop this administration's myriad of ethics violations, illegal actions, and horrific policies is a Democratic Congress.  The "never-Trump" GOP does nothing more than tweet their disapproval.  That's meaningless.

Please take the time to make a difference.  And count your blessings, while you're at it, because seriously - there but for the grace of God go I.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Music Therapy

You know how sometimes you have a lot going on, a lot of which would be excellent writing / reflecting material, but you're too deep in it so it wouldn't make much sense to write about it?  I'm sort of in that place right now.

There's a lot I could say about patience, listening, certainty, hope, attitude...but I'm too busy trying to cultivate all of those with only the most fleeting of success to really write anything decent about it.

So instead, I'm going to completely cheat and cop out of this entry, and leave you with not a playlist, but one single song.  Why even bother posting this?  Because it will drive me nuts if I don't post something once a week when I don't have the excuse of vacation to get me out of it.

With all that said, this is a spectacular song to listen to if you're in any way feeling beaten down, broken, sad, or just having your run-of-the-mill shitty day.

This song has been such a touchstone for me for the last four years that I wouldn't be surprised if I've done an entry solely dedicated to it before.  Big heartfelt thanks to Dayle Pivetta, a spectacular yoga teacher, for introducing it to me - during my first yoga class after my marathon injuries.

Listen and try not to feel better about your life.  Just try. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Global Running Day

I didn't date at all in middle and high school until I was 17 and fell in love with my best friend.  I was single during almost all of college and after, until I was lucky enough to snag Marc when we were a month shy of 25.  So, I've had my fair share of Valentine's Days as a single girl, and honestly - I love Valentine's Day.  I've always loved it.  The elementary school years imprinted themselves firmly on me - this was a holiday that celebrated love (friends & family) and chocolate.  What's not to love?

Even when I wasn't happy about being single, even when I was lonely and felt like the only one in my circle without a boyfriend, I loved Valentine's Day.  I always thought of it as a choice - you can mope about what you don't have, or you can embrace the love that you do have in your life, and write cards for all your friends just like in the good old days.  And enjoy all the chocolate.

People who don't like Valentine's Day, single or not, tend to say it's a made up, commercial holiday.  They aren't necessarily wrong.

Today, June 6th, is apparently Global Running Day.  I'm not sure who made this global decree, or for how many years it's been the case, but I have been faced with a choice today.  My love of Valentine's Day never felt like a conscious choice or decision.  This, however...

I had fervently hoped two weeks ago that my two whirlwind trips away - to my sister's for Memorial Day and to Philly for Marc's show - would be the break from reality and the rest that would finally cure my whatever-is-wrong with my right side.  I made a fantastic training plan that started with two weeks of "test run's" - running for only a minute at a time, coupled with a ton of other strength and mobility work, to see how I feel - to begin today.

Unfortunately, I forgot that air travel, train travel, suitcase hauling, toddler hauling, and high-heel wearing were not exactly restful.  My magical cure of leaving town didn't work.

I finally saw a doctor this past Monday.  Probable diagnosis - a partial labral tear in my right hip.  I have shallow hip sockets (who knew?) and the repetitive movement of external rotation in yoga and just my own habits have likely caused a form of impingement.  Groin strain - that one wasn't news, it's just so damn slow to heal.  Hamstring strain.

So, no, I'm not running today.  And I could so easily be bitter about it.  There is a part of me that straight up is bitter about it - bitter, angry, resentful, self-pitying...you get the idea.

But that doesn't help.

Instead, I had my first ever chiropractic and acupuncture treatments at the wellness center that gave me such great care (and x-rays) on Monday.  I'm packing my bag for PT tomorrow morning.  I'm starting a journey not just to heal pain or an isolated injury, but to finally, once and for all, fix my form.  Not just my running form, but my biomechanics in every possible facet of my life and movement and all of the repetitive and everyday activity I do as a teacher, as an athlete, and as a human.

It's not what I want.  But I have to choose to take what I can take out of this journey and of this arbitrary Global Running Day.  I would much rather be able to just post a selfie of a sweaty tomato-face after a four miler (this morning was perfect running weather!), but I have to trust that what I'm doing instead will ultimately make me stronger.  Luckily for me, when I can't find that trust, I have enough positive cheerleaders out there who trust for me and remind me and encourage me and make me dinner and get me chocolate.  (Laura Frye, I'm staring at that card you gave me right this second.  You are the best.)

I don't just want to run for a day, or for one race, or for one season.  I'm running for life.  So, first thing's first.

To all of those blessed enough to run today, I hope you ran with your whole heart and treated yourself to something cold and delicious afterward, and took a moment of gratitude for the gift that running is.  I'll be back out with you soon, and I will be seeing you at the New York City Marathon this November.

Monday, May 21, 2018


This past Saturday was the Brooklyn Half, and good lord did Mother Nature have it in for everyone.  Cold, driving rain, gusty winds - absolutely miserable conditions.  The runners gutted it out impressively and I'm very grateful to whoever gave me the weatherproofing advice for m poster, and even more grateful that Laura loaned me her raincoat.

It was really hard to be there and not be running the course.  It was even more disheartening when I broke into a jog to be sure I caught Laura before she passed by and I still still still felt the pain in my hip that sidelined me in the first place.  It's been plaguing me since April 7th and healing so slowly that some days I really can't tell if I'm making any progress or not.

But it's always gratifying to cheer for runners and to be inspired by them - and I was even more inspired that Laura set a PR for the course!  I assume she just wanted to run the damn thing as fast as possible to get warm and dry.

Now that it's done, now my attention is turned toward November and the full marathon even more than it was.  In a perfect world, I'll be starting my training in four short weeks.  We'll see what my body actually has in store for me.

One of the most important things I took away from the day came up in conversation with Laura on the long (looooooooong) train ride home as we talked about how she made it through.  We had planned to talk on the phone a lot - Laura loves company on her runs - but the rain and the madness just made it too hard to do anything but focus on what she was doing.  She told me she talked to herself, reminded her that her quads are strong, reminded herself of all her training, reminded herself that she was capable - and, surprise surprise, it was incredibly helpful.

It got me thinking that because I love running so much and I miss it so much whenever I'm sidelined, my mental state with injuries is usually one of panic, worry, paranoia, and being so overly in tune and in my head that there's no room to think about anything else.

I need to remember to have faith, hope, and the hardest one of all, patience.  I want this over now.  I want to be back now.  I want to feel strong now.  Well, I'm not getting what I want, and certainly a negative or fear-based attitude isn't going to get it to me any faster.

So as so frequently happens, I'm taking a cue from Laura to try to choose my thoughts more wisely.

I will also, very happily, be headed out of town for two fabulous short trips over the next two weeks - first, to spend the holiday weekend with my family in SC, and second to Philly for Marc's opening night and another long weekend.  The distraction, the break from the day-to-day, from the stress teaching can put on my body, and from my awful mattress, will hopefully get me out of my own head, and allow time to do its thing and heal.

Which means, dear blog, that I will see you again in June!  I hope everyone who is able to has gotten outside today, because oh my goodness it could not be further from Saturday's monsoon.  Spring is back on track.

Deciding not to decide (a marathon update-of sorts)

The last time I saw my wonderful mother-in-law, she was sweet enough to loan me three books that Marc and I had gotten for her.  I got her i...