#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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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.

The Bonk.

The Bonk: /n/ That moment during a run where you don’t think you can take another step, much less finish out the mileage you have planned.
Bonk: /v/ to hit an invisible but very physical threshold during a run that robs you of all confidence in future runs.*

I Bonked last night during my track practice.

The past week has been kind of hellish. The combination of crazy-work-deadline stress plus holy-shit-my-kid-is-going-to-kindergarten stress plus get-my-miles-in-because-I’m-marathon-training stress plus some other low-level stresses has given me trouble with insomnia.

Insomnia is bad in general. But it’s REALLY bad when you are running 45 miles a week. And working to meet a deadline. And getting your kid ready for kindergarten.

But. Last night. The workout was a ladder – 400, 800, mile, 1.5 mile, mile, 800. Which is a tough one.

And within the first 400, I had doubts. In the first 800, I had serious doubts.

And within the first lap of the mile, I had this panicky feeling in my chest.

I can’t do this.

I had NOTHING. No energy. No zip. Nothing.

It was like running in a nightmare, where you feel you’re in quicksand and you have dead legs like they’re not even attached, or alive, and you need to get away but you can’t go anywhere.

So I stopped. In the first mile. I actually laid down on the grass, and when someone else ran by and asked if I was okay, I gave her a thumbs up – I wasn’t injured, I was as okay as I was going to be. I was just trying not to cry from exhaustion.

I got up and tried again. I stopped.

And this time, I gave into tears.

I was just so tired. I had nothing to give, no kick, no reserves. I figured I’d just quit and call it a night.

And then a running friend, who was struggling herself, gave me most practical advice and got me to keep going. Karen, she said, you’re not going to win any money in the marathon! No one but you cares how fast you go. So just run slower. Pick a slower pace and run that. You are putting way too much pressure on yourself.

She was so right.

It’s funny how I didn’t even NOTICE. Work has picked up. My testing is going slower than I’d like and so I’m working more hours than I expected. My mileage has picked up too, so I have to spend more time in my day running. Owen is going to kindergarten, and I’m trying to prepare him (and me!) for the changes, and trying to do special things for and with him to celebrate this milestone.

All along, I’ve been putting more and more pressure on myself to be better. A great, productive, effective worker. A great, loving, kind mom, who takes time out of her day to make her son feel special. A better runner who nails every one of her workouts. All with a sleep deficit.

Okay, so maybe I need to let go.

So I did.

Thanks to my running club friend, I finished the workout. The mile and a half repeat was a beast, even with the slower pace. The next mile sucked too. But then it was the last 800 – the last repeat. And when I rounded the corner near the finish, with maybe 200m to go, I found some spark in my legs, and I pushed to the end.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

I am doing the best I can.

And you know what?

That’s more than enough.

 

*yes, these are made up definitions. Why do you ask?

One. Enough?

I know, I know. I wish I had a good reason for not blogging often. It’s time! I have lots of ideas, but not enough time to get it out.

I promise I will update you all on my 30 Day No Yelling Challenge. Which is almost over, and has been, overall, a good exercise.

________________________

We get questions from people, sometimes.

Just one child?

Is he your only?

Most people don’t know that it took us three years, one chemical pregnancy, two surgeries, three fresh in-vitro fertilization cycles, however many frozen cycles, and ten embryos to get pregnant with our son. They also don’t know that after he was born, we spent another two years on three more fresh IVF cycles, a couple of thaws, and ten MORE embryos. Which, this time, resulted “only” in two early miscarriages. No baby.

Last fall we found ourselves in a place utterly without hope. And so we walked away from fertility treatments.

Since then, we’ve been working on getting more comfortable with the idea that Owen will, in all likelihood, be an only child.

Changing our focus on our one son has been good for us in so many ways. Instead of the fail of all the years we spent trying for the family we dreamed about, it’s really made us focus on the family we DO have. I will often look over him and be struck with this thought: we are SO lucky to have him here with us.

And really, there are so many benefits to having a family of three. We’re closer. More focused. Owen doesn’t have to share a room, or his space, or my attention with another sibling. Jeff and I get to parent to HIS personality, his quirks, and we can focus on him when we need to. We can also switch off and get space when we need it.

Which for me, is a big deal. Me time, space, I’m finding, is important.

But it’s also tough in a lot of respects.

Like with fielding the above questions.

People mean well, and often they will ask us if we have more children because they’re interested in learning about us. I do it myself, when I meet people. And arguably, I could be sensitive to the question simply because we’ve struggled so much with family building over the years.

But I have also noticed how it’s phrased. The words “only” and “just” are used; which, to me, infers that there’s something wrong with the choice to have one child.

A couple of weeks ago, good friends of mine forwarded me links to op-ed pieces by Lauren Sandler. Honestly, until I read the articles, I had never heard of her. It seems she has a new book: “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One.”

In each one of her articles, like the one I read here and here and here, she takes apart, bit by bit, the myths surrounding only children.

Further than that, though, she goes on to propose that having an only child can actually make parents happier.

Since I’ve spent the six months sitting with the idea of Owen being an only child, trying to sort out how I feel about it, this is an issue that’s fairly close to my heart.

First of all, I like how Lauren Sandler addresses what I, too, have noticed. There is this idea out there that only children are lonely, and not well adjusted, and socially awkward. Only children are missing out on something.

I mean, hell, *I* have struggled with this idea. Whenever Owen asks us if we can play with him, kind of longingly, or remarks, Mommy, you NEVER play with me! I wonder. Will he grow up to be lonely? Should I do MORE?

This kind of thinking makes it hard for me to balance fostering his imaginative play – I feel strongly that my adult intervention in his playtime unwittingly teaches him rules that he maybe doesn’t need to learn until later in his life – and making sure I give him the attention that he needs.

And then there’s the worry that I’m giving him TOO much attention. I often joke about being THAT mom, the one my future daughter (or son) in-law would loathe – being too involved in his life, having him orbit my life too closely.

And then there’s the fear that I’m somehow robbing Future Owen. I feel so lucky to have siblings. Maybe not everyone feels like this, but I feel like the three of us have this bond of years of shared history. All of us are similar, yet different – and we have a relationship that will always be there, regardless of distance and history and life.

Owen has his cousins, and Jeff and I, but I worry that he’ll feel like something’s missing.

So I take great comfort in the studies done that reassure me that only children are intelligent, engaging, HAPPY people as adults. Because I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, I read the studies Lauren Sandler mentions in her articles with relief.

The issue I have with her stance, though, is where she talks about the choice to have one, and that parents of only children might be happier than parents of multiple children.

I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have CHOSEN to have my one son, if my hands weren’t tied, medically speaking. I still struggle with feelings of being forced into our situation by circumstances not within our control.

That said, I cannot understand how she can suppose that she is happier than any other person, all because she chose to have a single child. Because happiness is relative, and it’s based on criteria that isn’t the same from person to person. Perhaps a career-oriented woman who loves flexibility like she does might be happier than a woman who finds happiness in taking care of people. Maybe she’s happier because she had an element of CHOICE, where we did not.

But it’s not for her to say that she’s better off than any one else.

Ultimately, I’m glad that someone is raising the discussion about the unspoken bias we have as it relates to only children. I feel it whenever anyone asks me if Owen is our only and we answer in the affirmative – that the click of judgment happens in that moment and the person thinks of Owen: Ah, poor lonely, maladjusted child. I love the reassurance in the DATA that my only child will be FINE as he grows.

But I disagree when she says that deciding to have an only child will make you happier.

Because for me, that is not the case.

The Answer to an Unspoken Question.

Lack of updates is nothing more than pure busy: I am having a hard time keeping up with my life right now.

This weekend, after the end of a long walk with Finley on an absolutely glorious night, I was heading back to the house when I ran into my neighbor.

My next door neighbor, you see, is the pastor of the church down two doors from us. He and his wife are wonderful neighbors; kind to Owen, who is prone to walking through their hard-earned flower beds to get a stray wiffle ball. They see me run past their house many times, and ask about my race plans and how I’m doing.

They’re wonderful people, and great neighbors.

We chatted for a few moments about his youngest son, recovered from cancer which ravaged him only a few short years ago, who just graduated college. We spoke of how Owen was heading to kindergarten in the fall.

How fast time goes, we agreed.

And he pointed out that it was nearly five years ago that we baptized our son. And he was too kind to ask out loud, but an unspoken question hung between us.

Why hasn’t he seen us in church?

Five years ago, my grandparents and parents and aunt and uncle came to visit us, and we had Owen baptized in that church. We joined that church afterwards, in part because we thought it would be a good way to meet people in the community, and we wanted Owen to grow up with a good foundation in religion.

We stopped going, in part because Owen hated being in the nursery when he was a toddler, and he was too young for the Sunday School classes.

But mostly we stopped going because a lot of kind of crappy stuff happened in my life and being in church made me kind of pissed off. Jeff didn’t really want to go if I didn’t go.

My relationship with God and religion is, well… complicated. I have a hard time believing in “God’s plan” whenever something bad happens. I have a hard time with people using religion to duck accountability and responsibility for their hand in causing pain. I have a hard time when religion or God is used to discriminate between the “good” people (who are clearly going to heaven) and the “others” (who have not yet been saved from the fiery pits of MORDOR!).

I have always felt that religion was man’s way of trying to put a box around something that was too big for us to understand. And I despair when I see people fighting in the name of religion.

And then? I started running. And I ran country roads when I was training for my marathon.

My town and the surrounding area is woods and farm and marsh and low stone walls.

It’s breathtaking.

I have seen deer, and listened to deafening birdsong in early summer, and smelled the fullness of the woods all around me. I run in the warmth of summer, the riot of color in fall, the crispness of winter, the green of spring. I run in the darkness of early morning, the dew of late mornings, the heat of the afternoons, and the softness of the evenings.

On my run, I feel closer to a god, the universe, the pulse of humanity – whatever “God” is – than I EVER did in any church. I feel connected, and part of something bigger. I am strong, and thankful for my life, for the power that flows through my legs.

I didn’t know how to say this, though, to our pastor – whose own son spent years in cancer treatment, who can’t work in certain fields because of his “medical condition.”

So I didn’t say anything.

And instead, I stood with my neighbor and marveled at how quickly time flies.

Beach Dreams – A Decade Later.

Jeff and I honeymooned in Fiji. Which was, in a word, ah-FREAKING-mazing. (And yes, that’s a word. I just made it up. But it’s TOTALLY a word.:))

Every night, after a day of snorkeling or or rafting or kayaking or scuba diving or whatever, we’d take a walk on the beach and watch the sun set over the water before we’d head to dinner.

The sunsets were pretty, of course. But what I remember from those beach walks was our discussion. We were newly married. We had dreams and hopes and talked about what we wanted out of our marriage: two kids (preferably three years apart, of course), a big house with land, careers that afforded us balance and family and vacation time with opportunities for advancement. And travel, lots of travel.

Both of our families didn’t have a lot of money when we were growing up. And the one thing we talked about was this idea of never having to WORRY about money. We wanted to live within our means and keep a savings account balance. We wanted to pay off our credit card every month so our debt was limited to mortgage and student loans. But we also wanted to be able to splurge here and there without too much worry: vacations, tee ball, dinners out, weekends away, etc.

It’s no secret that I don’t love being an accountant. I picked it because it was recession-proof and I figured it would be intellectually challenging. Which is was. Is. But it’s hard to separate what I COULD do with what I actually have time to do, and it can be stressful when I find an issue I don’t have time to find, and my clients often don’t love me, especially when it’s Sarbanes-Oxley work.

And I loathe, utterly LOATHE, the commute. Driving into Boston every day sucks the soul right out of me.

So this weekend I ran actual monthly numbers to see if we could afford for me to stay home. And discovered very quickly that, while it’s DOABLE, it would require us to significantly change our lifestyle. For the first time, we’d have to WORRY about money.

There’s plenty we COULD do, mind you, to save money. We could get rid of our gym memberships, and I could stop doing my running clinics. No more budget for a running coach, or deep sea fishing or golf for Jeff. No tee ball, no Museum of Science membership.

We could make it work.

But then I remembered our discussion on the beach in Fiji. So many of those beach dreams didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. We don’t have the two kids three years apart like we had hoped: we are SO fortunate to have our son, but there will likely never be a sibling. Balance with family and work does not come easily for either one of us. We do have the big house with land and great neighbors, but it means a long commute into Boston – for both of us.

I am fully aware of how fortunate I am to have choices, this day and age. I’m only a few generations removed from a woman who didn’t have the right to vote, work, or do ANYTHING with her mind.

And even, right now, I know so many people where both parents HAVE to work – there’s no choice in the matter. I also know people who have been looking for work for a long time and would LOVE to have the flexibility I do with my career.

At the end of the day, I have a choice.

And right now, I will choose to continue to do what I’m doing. Which means the suck of a three hour commute, but hopefully some time off here and there – and flexibility to work from home when I need to. It means I continue to work as an accountant, even though I don’t love it (on the good days) and hate it (on the bad days). It means Owen goes to aftercare at school three times a week. It means I continue to juggle and feel like supermom (on the good days) and an utter failure (on the bad days).

What we didn’t see on that beach in Fiji nearly a decade ago was the full picture; in our honeymoon haze, we saw our dreams through rose-colored glasses and imagined the perfect life without the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

The reality is that life is kind of hard, and it’s impossible to do it all without sacrificing something. My sacrifice, right now, for the flexibility to do the things we enjoy outside of work is a long commute and time at a job that I don’t love.

Really, at the end of the day, that’s not so bad.

And yes, remind me of this when I’m complaining about how I loathe it sometime soon, please. 🙂

What are some of the choices you’ve made to live the life you want? Are they sacrifices you’d make willingly if you could do it again?

Recovery (Aka: The Week I Fell Apart, Physically).

I don’t know if this is delayed-onset fatigue brought on from last week’s race, but the past few days have been TOUGH for working out.

First there was the cold. Last week I noticed that Owen had a runny nose and was rubbing his eyes. I assumed that he had a touch of seasonal allergies, given the pollen dust I see on my car every day. I even put Children’s Claritin on my to-pick-up-from-the-store list.

And then I started to feel imminent doom: the combination of dry throat and the feeling that you are swallowing glass.

I removed Children’s Claritin from my list.

I follow a simple rule when it comes to running and colds. If the cold affects anything that is ABOVE my shoulders, then I’ll run. I might take it slower, and have to stop more for, er, nasal-cavity elimination, but I have no issue with running.

Anything that includes lungs, or aches and pains, or fever – I stay home. Period.

This cold, though annoying, was a Runnable Cold.

But then.

90-degree heat and humidity which moved in on Thursday. Or Friday. I don’t remember; it’s so hot my brain is melting and I can’t even think anymore. Honestly, what the FUCK, mother nature? Can’t we have a couple of in-between 70s, 80s in there? We have to go from 42 degrees and raining last Sunday to 95 degrees with 95% humidity? Seriously?

No wonder I’m sick.

Yesterday morning I went out, early, with the goal of running an hour. I was in light clothing. I carried my handheld water bottle. I was hoping for 6 or 7 miles; within 2 I knew it wasn’t happening. I was tired and a little dizzy, and my muscles screamed at a pace that is usually pretty comfortable for me.

So I called it at a reasonable 5 miles and went home. To the blessed air conditioning. I spent the day cleaning and doing errands and laundry and whatnot – but I wouldn’t call it a physically TAXING day.

Nonetheless, by last night, my IT band was SCREAMING at me whenever I walked down the stairs. My quads ached, and I had a random shooting pain in my left calf. I was exhausted and went to bed at 8:30 last night.

As an aside, is there anyone else like me out there? I, apparently, do not have the DNA required in order to “sleep in.” I would MUCH prefer going to bed when it’s still LIGHT out than trying to force myself to sleep late in the mornings. Jeff makes fun of me incessantly for this – I hate being up late and cannot sleep late.

Also: seriously, body? We’re falling apart NOW? I haven’t felt IT band PAIN in more than a year. My calves, though tight, aren’t usually painful without good reason. This week has been a very low mileage week, and I’ve been keeping a Be Kind To My Body pace.

I swear this is delayed-onset recovery; it’s taken me a week to actually feel like I am tired and need a rest.

So I am taking another rest day today. Because it’s still nasty swampy hot out there, and my head aches from the cold, and I’m tired, and honestly, there’s no sense in pushing it.

The good news is that my house is clean, and there’s pulled pork going in the crockpot, and I’m nice and cool hanging out with the puppy. Finley knows where it’s at – licking, laying on, and sleeping on the air conditioning vents is one of his new favorite summer hobbies.

To sum up: I’m tired and sick this week. It’s hotter than Hades outside, and I’m a little bitter.

And a question: Am I the only one who prefers to go to bed early, or sleep in late? Please tell me I am not alone here.