#Microblog Mondays 2: Quiet Happy.


(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)

I have been getting up a half hour earlier every day to write in my journal – even if it’s just a word or two – for a month now. Even on the days where it feels like I have little to say, the experience of it has been so good for me.

In the years of fertility treatments, where we were hoping against all odds to have a baby, the silence of my house mocked me; a reminder of how much I longed to be a parent and how scared I was that it wouldn’t happen. I avoided it at all costs; listened to music, talked over it, moved through it too quickly.

Now, my favorite part of journaling in the early mornings is that stillness. On most days, it infuses in me a quiet happy which I can use as an antidote to the stress of the day.

I love starting out my day communing with quiet words, coffee, and the sunrise.

#Microblog Mondays 1: The Boy Who Loved Nonfiction.



(Want to know what #Microblog Mondays is? Click here)

My son treats the library as his own personal learning experience; he spends all his time in the kids room in the Early Reader Nonfiction section with the books on emergency vehicles – Fireboats, Ambulances, Fire Trucks – construction vehicles, and thankfully has moved on to natural sciences like the book on the lifecycle of a frog and salmon and bee.

It’s a hard sell for me to get him to agree to a book with a Story, but I keep trying. Because *I* need a book with a story sometimes. Took me three tries, but he agreed to Charlotte’s Web, which he thankfully enjoyed.

I recently convinced him to try Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this last trip to the library, and so the book came home with us. He wouldn’t read it right away. And when I was out one night, Jeff asked Owen if he wanted to read that it.

Oh, that book, Owen said.

Mom made me get that one.

(Someday. I still have hope.)

Tribute Miles.

For the few of you who don’t know this about me, I was in the marching band at college.

Yes, I went to band camp.

No, I did not play the flute.

I don’t have the words, really, to describe for you the magic that was the UMMB.

Within literally moments of arriving to college, I had a tribe, a family. A group of 300 people I knew I could rely on. They got me up at ungodly hours (for college, of course) for rehearsals on game days. They were my constant companions every weekday at 4:40, rain or shine. They were my saviors the semester after my cousin committed suicide. And to this day a good number of them remain my closest friends.

Last night was the wake for a husband of one in my tribe. Kyle passed away this weekend from cancer. I hate wakes (though truly, who likes them?) almost as much as I hate cancer, but I was inspired at how open Kerry and Kyle were about his fight. Even near the end, when he in hospice with liver failure, they were both inviting as many people who wanted to come visit and say their goodbyes. “You are our family,” they wrote on Facebook.

It was amazing. If it were me, would I be that open, that loving, that caring?

I went to the wake – it was the right thing to do. When one of your tribe needs you, you show up.

And afterwards, 15 of us or so went out to a local pub. What was amazing: over the course of the next hour or so, it was like the years were stripped away, and we were talking and laughing and reminiscing as if college was yesterday.

And there was a moment where I just sat back and looked around, marveling.

College was more than half my life ago, and here we were gathered after a WAKE, and there was that magic, that love, again.

I’m not at all religious. Quite honestly, I don’t really believe in God or heaven. I don’t believe that when we die, we go off to some other place that’s better than here – I think we just die.

But last night, in the midst of the laughter, I could see a little of God in the outpouring of friendship and love and support surrounding us.

I stayed out too late, of course, my friends fed me beer and nachos and waffle fries and spinach dip, so when my alarm ran at 4am this morning so I could get into Boston and run 5 miles on the Charles today, I expected this run to kinda suck. But I decided I wasn’t going to care, I was going to run easy and comfortable and enjoy it.

This run. Today.  It’s one of my mantras; something I have had to keep in the forefront of my mind this summer as I deal with work stress and achilles tendinitis and acute (and awful) insomnia.

So imagine my surprise when my run felt great, comfortable and easy, even with the humidity (and headwind, both something I hated and enjoyed) and tired legs and not enough water or sleep.

And, honestly. To run along the Charles, watching the sun rise, the sweat prickling my back, feeling the wind, smelling the freshness of the sea, my legs carrying me every step…

I am so lucky.

Today, I dedicate my miles to Kyle Gendron, his incredibly brave fight against cancer, and his wife Kerry, and their three kids.

Pushing Through the Winter Blues.

Remember how I said I decided I’d run a spring AND a fall marathon in 2014? I’m currently training for the Providence Cox Marathon on May 4, 2014.

And see, I’ve never actually trained for a marathon during the winter before. Two years ago I was coming back from injury, and last year I was building my mileage up for a fall marathon.

Consistency wasn’t an issue for me, though – even with snow and cold. In fact, my favorite run last year was the day after a blizzard, when I strapped on Jeff’s yaktrax and went out to play in the snow. I had an 8 mile run that was sheer joy in the snow; I got to stop and talk with people shoveling. It was amazing, and freeing, and relaxing, and meditative.

I loved that run with big fat pink puffy hearts.

I haven’t had a run like that since, though. And this training cycle, my winter blues started two weeks ago, when it was snowing and I had to run a 5 miler, with 2×15 minutes at my goal marathon pace. It was a tough workout, but I nailed it, so I felt pretty good when I got home. Except then I had a 10 mile run that weekend, with 4 miles being at GMP. And this time, I didn’t bring yaktrax, because it was two days after the snowstorm, and OF COURSE they had plowed the roads well enough, right?

Yeah, not so much. That run was 8 miles of snow and slush and the negative temps and wind chill and my marathon pace miles had me actually crying with frustration.

It’s rare that I loathe every minute of a run, but that’s exactly what happened that day.

In hindsight, I should have either run a treadmill, or given myself an out on the pacing – (aka: slowed it down). I did neither, and I paid for it that night – was absolutely knackered for the rest of the day; I basically passed out at 8:30 that night from exhaustion.

Since then, though, every one of my runs has become a huge mental battle for me. It’s like I’ve lost my running mojo. I don’t WANT to go for a run, and when I’m running, I want to quit with EVERY footfall.

I have to use every trick in my toolbox to keep going and get to the next mile.

Last week when I went out for a 4 mile shakeout run, I questioned the whole way. I should just text my coach that I don’t want to do a spring marathon. Why am I doing this? I don’t even LIKE running right now. Why keep pushing? Isn’t one marathon a year good enough? Really, Karen, why the HELL are you trying to do this marathoning thing? It takes away time from everything you need to get done, and you’re overbooked and you keep taking too much on and SOMETHING needs to give. Why not just do a half marathon in the spring instead of all this?

I hate not being able to be in the present on a run.

And I ESPECIALLY hate when my Inner Critic hijacks my runs.

My Inner Critic is right. I would be so easy to say: a spring marathon isn’t for me. I don’t like winter training. I can spend less time running and focus on shorter distance and do that okay. I’m tired and I don’t want to take on too much. I need to simplify my life. It would be easy to decide I’m not going to run a marathon this spring.

But that very decision is why I’m not good at running marathons.

Because the fact is, running a marathon is an exercise in happiness AND pain. It hurts and you ache and you wonder why you’re doing it in the first place. Distance running is about how you get through discomfort to find a place of contentment. Seriously, there are miles where you feel like you’re going to die. And then there are miles where you feel on top of the world.

And I’m not good at pushing through the bad stuff. I get scared, and I panic, and I think, This really hurts and I can’t DO IT.

My Inner Critic takes over and I give up. Like last fall: I didn’t give myself the chance for the marathon to come back to me – I gave up on myself halfway through.

I don’t want to do that again. I want to run the whole thing; I don’t want to stop and walk. I WANT to find the well of strength that helps me keep going when I don’t want to, when it hurts and I’m scared and I don’t shut down and run away from it. I want to accept it, embrace it, and run through it.

Because running marathons is life. So much of life is finding the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of another during the periods where you don’t think you can do it anymore.

So. It’s winter. It’s cold and snowy and I kind of don’t want to keep training.

But I’m going to anyway.

My 2014 Not-Resolutions.

I admit it.

I’m a little… erm, obsessive when it comes to goals and new year resolutions.

For the past few years, I’ve started thinking about my new year resolutions come fall. And when I alight on a goal, I figure, why wait for the new year to start them? Might as well start them now.

It was November 2012 when I put into place my 2013 resolutions: I decided I would run a marathon in fall 2013. I hired my running coach and started tracking my calories to lose the final 10lbs I felt I needed to get to my ideal “racing weight.”

And I did everything I wanted to in 2013. I ran my marathon, ran a total of 1,538 miles for the year (which, by the way, totals more than the prior two years COMBINED), and lost 10 more lbs.

It was a good year, goal-wise.

Except I found myself in the fall pondering my resolutions yet again.

What could I do THIS year which would be better? Lose more weight? Run more marathons? Run those marathons faster? Make more money? Write more? Leave my job and start a new career?

Change, change, CHANGE.

And it got me thinking.

Every fall, I fall off a precipice into an emotional darkness. Part of is is that I live in New England and the fall gets dark and cold and I know winter’s on the way. The change of seasons, I’ve realized, REALLY affects my emotional state. Part of it, too, is that I’ve suffered a lot of loss in October and November. But a lot of it is knowing that another year’s gone by, and wondering really, what do I have to SHOW for my year? What have I actually ACCOMPLISHED?

So my instinct is to make plans for next year, because it’s a new start and clean slate and then maybe NEXT year I can be the person I want to be!

Um, yeah.

Not healthy.

So this year, when I felt that itch to change everything and set my new year resolutions, I decided to end the madness. And thus, 2014 would be the year I set Not-Resolutions.

And I only have two of them.

1. I will not diet this year. I will refrain from weighing myself and panicking when I see the number on the scale, and then obsessively recording my calories. Because I have plans to run two marathons this year, and I know that as I train I will need to listen to my body in order to fuel properly – instead of listening to some website tell me how many calories I can ingest on a daily basis.

And what I hope, as I let go of the fear of the scale creeping up and trusting that my body knows what it needs to fuel, I’ll be able to take baby steps to a place of real acceptance of my body – the body I have now, with the extra skin and padding in my midsection, crisscrossed with stretchmarks from my pregnancy with Owen (6 freaking YEARS AGO. Yeah, those suckers ain’t going away anytime soon. Sigh).  I will accept that I will never have a thigh gap, and that I have to be careful with jeans because they sometimes are too tight in the butt and calves.

My body can do some amazing things, and it’s time I started really listening to it – and trusting that it can do what it’s supposed to do.

Plus, I am training for two freaking marathons. If that doesn’t earn me burgers and beer and ice cream, what DOES? Food is GOOD. It’s tasty. I run enough that I should ENJOY my food.

2. I will say “no” more often. Just before my marathon last year, after a month of working silly hours – WAY more than full time for my part time job – my boss called me and asked if I’d take on another client. I had been looking forward to a couple of weeks of a break, which would have coincided with the marathon timing. Truth be told, I NEEDED the break – I had worked nearly double my regular hours for an entire month.

But in the moment, I found myself agreeing to take it on. Then I waffled. And agreed. Because, you know, I didn’t want to disappoint, or make my boss turn down potential work just because I wanted a break. And when I started working there, I felt resentful and tired and not at all motivated.

It was pretty eye opening to me: how often I agree to do something which might not be the best decision for me, just because I’m afraid to disappoint someone.

Seriously, I am REALLY shitty at saying no. If you ask me for something, and it’s within my power to get it done, I’ll agree to it. Even if I don’t think I can do it, you’re more likely to have me say, I’m not the best at this, so and so is better, but I can TOTALLY take care of this if you need me to.

I don’t know if I’ve ever said, I’m sorry, no, I can’t really take that on right now.

(Even just WRITING that phrase makes me all jittery and nervous and anxious. It’s ridiculous.)

But it’s not healthy for me and my family for me to be overbooked. So I need to learn how to start saying no.

So those are my two Not-Resolutions. Simple.

I mean, I have goals for this year. I want to learn from my dog – learn how to love the snow, take a nap when I feel tired, and meet new people with real enthusiasm. Which, quite honestly, is a post in itself.

I have running goals – two marathons this year, and I’d love it if this is the year I run a Boston Qualifying time in one of those marathons. But I know I’m still relatively inexperienced when it comes to marathoning, and so really this year I want to learn more about running marathons. By running more marathons.  So if I don’t BQ this year? Maybe some other year.

I’d also like to spend more quality time with my family, take more breaks from work this year, get a membership to a local pool this summer so we can spend more time outside.  Our life feels it moves at breakneck pace, and I’d really like to spend more time together – in the moment – than we do now. (Plus it’s winter and I’m cold and I’m dreaming about summer barbecues and swimming pools and sun… ahhhhh.)

But these are more ideas, rather than A List of My Accomplishments in 2014 Which I Will Be Forced to Outdo in 2015.

And I hope that my Not-Resolutions will be where I start to slow down, look around, and live in the here and now.

Thestrals and the Holidays.

I loved the Harry Potter books. I ALWAYS pre-ordered the next in the series, and every year, I’d “prepare” for the next book by re-reading the prior version at the beach down the Cape, where my aunt and uncle, my godparents, used to vacation.

It was one of my favorite traditions.

Books are my escape. When I read a good work of fiction, I’m am never aware of reading the words. I see it happen, in my head. Coming out of a book for me is akin to being woken up from a deep dream; it takes me a lot of time to shake off the experience of the book and come back into my real life.

Getting unbroken time to read, these days, is rare.

So I have such fond memories being on the beach, with the white noise of the waves, the salty tang of the ocean on my tongue, immersed in a whole other world – it was one of my favorite places to be.

And it was where I read in horror as Cedric Diggory died.

And then, a summer later, Harry could suddenly see the creatures that pulled the carriages from the train station to Hogwarts.

Thestrals, Luna Lovegood tells him. He’s not crazy – only people who have seen death can see them.*

* * * * * *

I started my first blog in 2006, and I found a community of women out there who were just like me. Back then it felt like we were all connected; I met some of the people who have become my soul sisters.

And I KNOW things change, but lately I feel like everything you put online has to be perfect; the perfect recipe, the perfect Elf on the Shelf setup, the perfectly staged selfie.**

There’s so many voices out there, so many people showing off how perfect their efforts are… it can be so isolating to be surrounded by Perfect sometimes.

* * * * * *

For a lot of years, I justified not allowing myself to grieve over my cousin’s suicide. Because, I intellectualized, my grief wasn’t as valid as my aunt’s, or my cousins’ – they lost a daughter, a sister. I felt like I didn’t have any right to attach myself to her death because my pain was nowhere CLOSE to theirs.

I played the pain olympics a lot, too, when we were trying to have a baby. At first, I’d say, at least we hadn’t been trying for 2 years – wow, that’s a long time! And then, when we were going on year three, I’d tell myself we had it good because at least I didn’t lose babies. And then, when I lost babies, I told myself that at least we had Owen, because wow, there were so many people who wanted a baby and didn’t get one.

It’s taken me a really long time – a lot of pain, a lot of struggle, and finally a lot of accepting the validity of my emotions – to realize this.

Death and loss comes in all different forms.

Not just losing people to death – like Harry did with Cedric, or my aunt and cousins did with their daughter and sister, or I did with pregnancies.

Loss can be also about the death of your dreams, too. Losing the dream of getting married, or being a mom someday, or having as many children as you dreamed of, or saving the world, or making a difference in someone’s life, or playing basketball for Duke, or being rich and famous… it’s loss, no matter what the dream is.

Loss is loss. Period.

* * * * * *

Christmas is supposed to be the best wonderful time of the year – the songs say so. The pictures on Facebook say so. The stores tell you buying more, more, MORE will make Christmas the best time of the year. I feel like I’m surrounded by all this noise – perfect people doing perfect things and having perfect Christmases.

I should be, too.

And, of course, I AM enjoying my Christmas season. I love writing my cards out, listening to holiday music, relaxing in front of the tree with eggnog, playing Santa, seeing family and friends and spreading the proverbial Christmas cheer. I found the VERY BEST version of a Christmas song (which: I didn’t actually like this song until I listened to these guys do it. Go check it out – seriously amazing. I’ve been listening this on repeat on a daily basis).

But it’s NOT perfect. There’s also loss in there, too. I miss my aunt, and I grieve that it’s been almost 20 years since we lost Amy, and I feel the sting of broken dreams when I hang up three stockings on our bannister, instead of the four we had hoped for.

So for me, what I see on social media perpetuates this idea that maybe I am the only one who feels this way. Because around me so many people are baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, and playing Santa far better than I am. Happy, HAPPY! my Facebook feed screams at me when I log in. HAPPPPPPPYYYYYYYYYY!!! NOW WITH EXTRA SMILEY FACE EMOTICONS!

It’s not until I have conversations with people or read blogs that I hear about the loss, too. The friend who is still mourning the loss of his mother. The friend living childfree who is reminded at Christmas that she wanted a very different experience. The friend with a newborn who is mourning that nursing didn’t go the way she had wanted. The friend dealing with uncertainty of an IVF cycle and whether she’ll make her son a sibling. The friend who struggles every year with buying presents because money is hard to come by. The acquaintance whose 5 year old daughter with cancer doesn’t have much time left with them. The parents who lost their children a year ago to devastating violence at the elementary school. The victims of the Boston marathon bombings, who lost their old way of life and are having to forge a new life for themselves.

It’s not just me.

Loss is everywhere.

And that’s what we need this Christmas – a reminder.

We’re all in this Being Human thing together. What we see on social media is life PR – life the way we WANT it to be. But real life is messy and chaotic and full of complications like loss and grief.

So for those of you who are struggling with this holiday season – for whatever reason – and feel like you’re alone?

You’re not crazy.

I see the thestrals too.

*I never understood this. Didn’t Harry see his mom die in front of him when he was a baby? So why couldn’t he ALWAYS see the thestrals? Probably me taking things too literally – and yes, I’m aware that it is a work of fiction that has to do with wizards and witches, so there IS some relinquishing of reality which must go on. But still.

**My good friend Mel wrote about this too. Worth a read.