#Microblog Mondays 2: Quiet Happy.

Microblog_Mondays

(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.

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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.

Making a Plan.

Thank you for all the support – it was a little scary, yesterday, to publish my idea. Because it’s so tenuous.

I’m not SURE I want to teach, but I have an IDEA I want to teach. Very hard to throw that idea out into the universe when it’s not a real formulated plan.

That said, I DO need a plan if this is something I want to pursue.

The first obstacle is schooling if I want to be licensed to teach in public education. In Massachusetts the requirements for obtaining an initial license is that I complete an “Educator Preparation Program.” There are lots of flavors of this which I have spent time researching.

I could do an immersion program – teach AND do classes at the same time, which would be incredibly hard to balance as a mother.

I could do a masters program – there are many schools in the area, which have myriad options. Full time, part time, etc. I like this option; there’s a program which would ask only a weekend a month for me for a year and a half and then a student teaching assignment.

I would like to get my license to teach in the public schools. Mostly because I don’t want to limit myself to only charter or private schools.

But it requires an investment of time and money. Which I would wholeheartedly pursue if I KNEW my vocation was a teacher – that is, if it wasn’t just an idea.

I just don’t know. I need to get into a classroom and see if I like it, or see how the education system works and whether I think I can handle the specific pressure on educators.

And so I don’t think I’m in a place to move on this right now.

The way I look at it, maybe I need to substitute teach*, or volunteer at the school, or work for a non-profit in education. Or maybe I start at a private school/charter school and go from there.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea to change careers, reinvent myself, at age 40. It WOULD be a bad idea for me to  do it without really KNOWING that this is something I want to do.

Really, the bottom line is that I don’t want to waste money on a degree if it’s not going to make me happy.

All careers have pros and cons. I might not like the work I am doing now, but I make good money and it’s relatively flexible. I often cannot imagine doing this for the next 10, 20 years, but I KNOW this career.

It’s possible it might be better to stay where I am right now, too.

So I will continue to research. And when Owen starts kindergarten next week, I’ll talk to his teacher about volunteering in his class, and see if the principal would be interested in me volunteering in other classrooms, too.  Maybe I’ll see what’s involved with being a substitute and whether it’s something I can commit to when I don’t have an active work project.

As much as I want to MOVE on this right now, I know I need to be practical and smart and make sure I know that this is the right choice for me.

________

*Because, seriously. If you are a substitute teacher, you see the worst of kids. Sometimes the best. But the worst, too. If you can survive running the substitute teacher gauntlet and STILL want to teach, maybe that’s a vocation. At least, that’s what I figure.

Being Clear(er).

So I want to start this post off with an apology.

As a blogger, I often feel as if I don’t post enough. SO when I DO find time and something to write about, I want to hit the “Publish” button quickly. Last week on vacation, I was trying to post from an iThing, which is not compatible with wordpress. It was a pain in the ass to write much of anything. But I had the time and desire, so I hit publish on my post about my career and my new idea.

Except I broke my own cardinal rule: DO NOT, under any circumstances, vagueblog.

Rule #1: If you’re going to write about it, THEN WRITE ABOUT IT.

So please, please accept my apologies.

And let me start over.

I have mentioned before that I’ve spent YEARS now thinking about my career path. And with all that ruminating, you’d think I would have come up on this idea sooner than now. But this has come up in the very same way you put together a puzzle. You know, when you are looking at one or two puzzle pieces without any real understanding how it fits in the whole. But then,  you find that ONE piece that makes the pattern clear, and all of a sudden the pieces fit.

Back in 2003, when I started working in public accounting, I had about 6 months where I absolutely loved it. I loved the fast pace, loved having to step up and learn, loved putting the theories I learned in my Master program to use.

And then reality set in. I’m not naturally a detail oriented person. Where I excelled at auditing was really on MANAGING an audit: the planning of procedures and budgeting, the utilizing of the audit team to get stuff done. I was decent with my own tasks, but I really didn’t LIKE auditing. What I liked was the audit room – the asking of questions, discussion of theory, walking the new associates through the theory and procedures of how to test an area, talking the partner through his review.

Teaching. I have, in one form or another, considered being a teacher – for most of my life now. When I was younger I would have told you I was either going to be a famous Broadway star – or a teacher. For my high school career day, I shadowed a high school English teacher.

I made the decision in college, when I was a clarinet major, that I didn’t want to teach music.

And I am not sure why I opted out of education altogether when I went back to the English department. I think it had something to do with feeling like I needed to be a different person after my cousin’s suicide – I needed to distance myself from, well, myself.

Anyway, I ended up graduating with an English degree and figured I needed a practical career. Enter a MBA, then a CPA.

I have looked into teaching a few times over the course of the past couple of years. But I’ve always thought I needed to teach high school. My English degree was 15 years ago. I’m a CPA, but there is no way in hell I’d be able to teach high school math. I do not have the interest in doing that, either.

Not to mention the schooling I’d need to  complete in order to get certified in Massaachusetts. Yet another freaking Master degree – my THIRD.

So I gave up on the idea and have been trying to figure out alternatives, where I can use my CPA but maybe can do more fulfilling work. I’ve been spinning my wheels over this for a long time now, with no real solution.

The reason: I really just don’t like accounting. I can do it just fine. But I don’t like it.

Enter thoughts of drama and guilt over having a job which provides well but I don’t like it. Really, is it awful to work a job you don’t like if the rest of your life is fulfilled? Isn’t work, by definition, well, WORK?

I’ve mentioned before I don’t believe that there’s a soulmate equivalent of a career. And truthfully, I’ve had two different careers already – once in marketing, once in accounting – and haven’t found that happiness I am looking for. What really makes me think that yet ANOTHER try would be different?

But when I started thinking about Owen going to school, I started thinking about the things we could do at home to augment what he learns in school, and thought about the stuff I might be able to do with volunteering in his class. I had a schedule set in my head – when he gets off the bus on Fridays, we’ll go to the library and hunt for books that match what he’s learned about that week.

And then I started remembering my own grade school years. How my fourth grade teacher made me feel special and smart, even though I struggled with my organization and study skills.

The thought struck me: maybe I should teach elementary school. Literacy – books. Math – accounting is, essentially, grade school math. Science – since Owen has kind of a scientific mind, we’ve already had some experience teaching him everyday science. I could learn how to teach social studies through the more schooling I’d need to teach.

So here it is: I think I want to teach elementary school.

And the thing is: it is such a small, shaky idea right now. It’s a tiny sprout in a garden overrun with weeds.

So many reasons NOT to do anything: Education is hard. It includes entitled kids and even more entitled parents. Special needs. Mandated curriculum. A new career in at 40. Dwindling energy. Wasted money on a MBA and CPA. More schooling. Less money.

And the biggest worry: what if I invest the time and money into this, and figure out in ten years I don’t like it either?

But it’s the what ifs that keep me up at night.

What if I DID like it?  What would it be like to feel fulfilled in my career, to really like going to work every day, to do work I enjoy?

So I’m researching. Talking with people. Looking into the schooling I’ll need; I found a program that requires only one weekend a month for two years. (Ha. “Only.” Right? But it seems a hell of a lot less overwhelming than one or two weeknights every week for a couple of years.) Navel gazing.

Because if I’m being honest, this is the first time I’ve ever thought about doing something I WANT to do, rather than what I should do. My MBA and MSA were practical decisions; I needed more schooling and the money was in business – and stability in accounting.

A career change at 40 is not at at all practical. It’s terrifying, actually, to contemplate.

But. What if?

The 30 Day No Yelling Challenge: What I Learned.

So. My No Yelling Challenge.

I HAD intended on updating you weekly about how it was going; the writer in me imagined that I’d see real progress over the course of the month and I could close out the challenge with a neat and tidy ending: I learned so much about myself, and I’m kinder, gentler, and a better mom and wife to boot!

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I still yell sometimes, even AFTER working at it.

Part of it is years of ingrained behavior and reactions. My default to pretty much everything is annoyance. Little annoyances over the course of a few days turn into frustration. Lots of little frustrations build up over time, and like a pressure cooker, I inevitably POP.

And then I’m yelling.

It was clear to me that first day (where I yelled at every one of the Important Beings In My Life at least once) that this was going to be a REAL challenge for me.

Because it’s a simple fact: I am not zen, as much as I’d like to be.

So last month was not a success if you define success as becoming a zen mother/wife/dog owner who never yells.

But it was a success in other ways. Because I figured some stuff out.

The first thing I figured out? Generally, I yell before I even realize I’m yelling. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there was a moment soon into the month where, as I was talking, I realized that my voice was raised and I was punctuating my statements with emotion. I wasn’t angry at that point.

But I could see how someone outside my head would think that I was mad.

I had never noticed that about myself.

And, of course, it makes sense that I don’t just go from calm to screaming in 60 seconds, that things build up before I lose it.

I spent time trying to figure out how to prevent getting into a situation where I yell. What were my hot buttons? What did it FEEL like when I was getting into the red zone where I snapped and let my frustration out?

I noted a couple of things:

1. I need space. I need, on average, an hour or two a day where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and breathe. (And yes, this confirms that I’d be an abysmal stay at home mother.) I struggle with this, because time alone seems like such a luxury. But I am a better person for it.

2. I need to simplify. My worst days are the ones where I am trying to do too much: squeezing in a run before daycare drop off then 3 hours of commuting time and a busy workday, only to have to go out for dinner with a friend or do dog training classes or whatever. Then, Jeff’s focus on work only while I’m gone – the coffee cup on the dining room table, the dirty dishes in the sink – are enough to blow my top.

3. I need sleep. I can subsist on 6 hours of sleep for a bit, but it’s not enough, and when I’m tired I get snappish and grumpy and have very little patience. Ideally I need 7-9 hours each night. Which means I need to commit to a regular bedtime, no matter what. And I also need to be on alert when I haven’t gotten enough sleep that I will have a harder time with patience.

4. I need to let go of expectations. I discovered that I was far more stressed out and therefore yelled when I was trying to do something special for Owen or Jeff or the dog. Seriously, go ahead and laugh, but I was that mom/wife/owner who was hissing through my gritted teeth I am doing this for YOU, so you better [expletive] ENJOY IT. And it was because I had set myself up with EXPECTATIONS. In my head, I had created a fantasy image of how things would go, and when it didn’t meet those expectations, I would get angry at them. Which, if you think about it, is a twisted sort of hurt. Acknowledge, please, I’m doing something NICE for you? I’d love it if you thanked me for it.

The biggest thing I got from this month was the ability to take a step back and observe my actions and reactions. Because until the Challenge I had never really acknowledged that my yelling was because *I* was missing something – either sleep or space or my expectations were out of line or I was doing too much.

I always explained it simply as the fact that no one listens to me, and they only way they listen is when I yell.

I still find myself raising my voice more than I prefer to, and I will be the first to admit that there are days where my patience is worn thin within minutes of waking up in the morning.

(Or when I say something to Owen for the THIRD. FREAKING. TIME and he looks up and says, “What, Mommy?” like he’s never heard my voice before. ARGH.)

So, yeah, it is inevitable that there will be days where I’ll snap at him or Jeff or the dog. This is real life, not some fairy tale where I make some sweeping changes which results in Happily Ever After.

But when I do lose my cool, it’s a warning: I need something. And if that means I need a few minutes with my pandora Trip Hop station or I need to text my best friend and bitch or I need to go for a walk around the block, then that’s what I have to do.

And so I’m calling last month a Win.

Why I Deleted All of My Facebook Games.

Without any real planning, today I deleted the Candy Crush app from my Facebook account.

And then Criminal Case.

And then Gardens of Time.

And then Bejeweled Blitz.

And then Words World or whatever the new app I just played this morning for the first time.

Why?

Because I spend too much time on the computer, and on my phone, playing games that are essentially mindless. Which would be fine if I could do it in moderation.

But the problem is that I can’t. It’s SO addicting to match colors and crush candy and find hidden objects on a screen; enough that I need a few minutes here and there when I should be doing other things.

Like playing with my kid.

Or running a load of laundry.

Or taking my dog for a walk.

Or connecting with my husband at the end of a long day.

I’m not against playing games, or gaming, or whatever. And honestly, I loved Candy Crush, I loved that my friends loved Candy Crush, and I loved playing it.

But seriously, it’s gotten bad. I figured out that I could play my 5 lives on the computer, and then play another five lives on my phone. And I’d get so angry at a board where I was stuck that I’d play it as much as possible to get the perfect combination of candies to finally, FINALLY, win the board. And then I’d cruise through another 4 or 5 boards, and then repeat the SAME. DAMN. CYCLE. AGAIN.

(If I’m being honest, the final straw was Level 158, with the stupid multiplying chocolates and the cherry you had to bring to the bottom. It was impossible. Ridiculous and impossible.)

And it struck me, this morning, when I lost my first 5 lives on the computer and then switched over to my phone to play another 5 lives, that went just as quickly as the first 5 lives on Level 158…

… This is completely RIDICULOUS.

I don’t have nearly enough time to read, I keep telling people. Yet somehow I manage to spend minutes of my day playing games.

If I’m going to escape from responsibilities, and disconnect, maybe I should do that with a book, instead.

Or maybe I could take those minutes spent on my phone and play cribbage – which is also low-intellect – with my husband and a glass of wine.

Maybe I should meditate. Or go to bed early. Or take the dog for a walk around the block. Or give someone a call on the phone and catch up.

Maybe it’ll help me, overall, to step away from Facebook and CNN and ESPN and Yahoo and Google. Maybe I’m spending too much time a day on my computer.

Time goes so quickly.

How do I want to spend it?