My 30 Day Challenge: This is Going To Be A Tough One.

So here’s the thing.

I’m a yeller. I was raised in a family of yellers. My family yelled when we were happy, yelled when we were sad, yelled when we were angry, yelled when we were having fun. We just… yelled. It was part of the family identity. Hell, it’s hard to find a family in my town of New Jersey that DIDN’T yell! It’s just what we did.

Thing is. I married a New Englander: a man who grew up in a family of Not-Yellers. And though I contributed DNA to our son in the form of coloring and eyes, he’s pretty much a carbon copy of his father in personality and temperament – with a little more chatter, maybe.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I yell far more than I’d like to. I yell because I struggle with patience. I yell because I struggle with having my words heard. And I yell because I swear to god there are days my words mutate in the milliseconds they hang in the air – by the time they get to Jeff and Owen, all they hear is: “Wah WAH, waah WAH.”

I am like a balloon that keeps inflating when this happens. I say it a little more passionately – while feeling, come ON! Just LISTEN TO ME!

And then all of a sudden I’m yelling. And I’m angry. And it’s effective, of course. Both Owen and Jeff listen to my words if they’re said angrily.

The problem is, I don’t much LIKE the emotional fallout of the yelling. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like being angry all the time. I don’t yell at people at work – because it’s disrespectful. And I shouldn’t yell at home, either – at the people I love most in the world.

And yelling is not effective – honestly, if the only way my kid and husband listens to me if I’m yelling, what does that say about my communication skills? Not much that’s good, for sure.

Yelling is a bad habit, and I want to break it.

And via the beauty of social media, yesterday I stumbled upon the blog The Orange Rhino. And the author of the blog committed to 365 days of Not Yelling, and her experience with it is so eye-opening. I love how she blogs her struggles so honestly, and I love that she’s committed to making her family better.

I want to make our family better. I am so lucky to even HAVE this family, and they deserves better from me.

But I can’t do a 365 day challenge – it’s overwhelmingly long.

But what I’ve discovered with my running: it usually takes about a month for me to find my groove: that space where it doesn’t feel as hard. Where my muscles don’t hurt as much when I’m not running or running… and I stop THINKING about it. It becomes habit.

So I made the decision last night.

I am committing 30 Days of Not Yelling in June.

Except I’m starting The Challenge a weekend early, because that’s what I do. (I’m not kidding, either. I start my New Years Resolutions in November so they’re habit by January. Yes, I know it’s OCD and ridiculous, but I like getting a head start on resolutions. :))

I have the feeling that this is going to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve undertaken.

But I’m up for the it.

I’m blogging about it because I want you all to keep me honest. I want to share with you the ups and downs of my Not Yelling Challenge in the coming days and weeks. Because the act of writing this post commits me to it: it will act as a contract on the days where I need to scream in frustration.

There HAS to be a better way. I’m committed to finding it. Will you all help?

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Having It All. Except Not Really.

I am of a generation of girls who was raised to value strength and intellect and fairness. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be, as long as I focused and worked hard. I’m the generation of Title IX sports, where I could play baseball and football and organize races with the kids the neighborhood. I was raised to believe I was equal in every way to boys, and there were no limits to what I could do when I was a grownup.

And so, when I got my MBA nearly 15 years ago, I decided I’d be a CEO. To that end, I spent my first years in business working as many hours as possible. I changed careers – picked accounting because I knew it would be recession-proof, and it was intellectually challenging. I loved it those first years, before I started burning out. There was just so much WORK. Busy seasons were grueling – I worked every weekend and most days from 7 in the morning to 9, 10pm.

And then I finally got pregnant with Owen. And I worried. How would I make those hours work when there was a baby at home? I mean, honestly – I worked 80-90 hour weeks up until the day I delivered my son. It was my last day in the office, and I was squeezing in doing a friends’ tax return at lunch when my water broke. I spent the afternoon in the hospital waiting for him to be born, on my Blackberry, letting my clients and managers know I wasn’t coming back that day because I was having a baby.

It became clear to me that I needed a change. So I took 6 months when he was born – an extended maternity leave. I figured it would give me a chance to try out the stay at home thing, give myself a break from the working hours. I figured it would be refreshing not to have to go to work. I’d surely be on top of everything around the house!

There were a few things wrong with that picture. I was not a confident parent early on in Owen’s life. I wasn’t much for schedules, and he was an abysmal sleeper and therefore a fussy baby. I spent that time with him completely sleep deprived and stuck in the house, because we never really had a “good time” to go out. And there were days I never even got a shower.

Quite honestly, I hated it and assumed I just wasn’t meant to be a stay at home mom. So I went back to work.

And for the past four and a half years I’ve spent my days working while Owen is in daycare. He is thriving, and I have no regrets about the decision. For us, it was what was best for our family.

The thing is. Being in the business world is HARD. It’s 24/7, and it’s a constant stress, even when we’re home. Not just that, but it’s hard parenting when you AND your husband consult. We aren’t always in the the same place, which makes things hard to plan. Our days right now are spent juggling meetings and being at clients and our work schedules. We’re fortunate that Jeff is working from home right now, so when I’m needed at a client site we have a little more flexibility, but that will go away this summer.

And Owen goes to kindergarten this fall. And for some reason, I’m feeling strongly that I want to be there when he gets off the bus every day. Maybe it’s because I can hold him accountable for homework and studying. Maybe it’s because time is going by so quickly and I want more time with him every day. Maybe it’s because I don’t find accounting rewarding anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of sitting in my car for 2-3 hours a day stuck in traffic. I’m not entirely sure.

But here I am. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that I should just quit my job.

It is so interesting to find myself in a place where I feel like I have a lack of motivation – or drive. I can’t really believe I’m thinking about hanging up my CPA and my MBA in order to stay at home and raise my family. Where I’m CEO of my house, not a corporation – or even my own small business.

Plus, I have an only child. Often, I think, Really, Karen, how hard is it to coordinate the schedule for your ONE kid to get to and from school?

So many working parents have to content with multiple kids and multiple schedules – and I can only imagine the logistics required to make that work.

But as I sit here, looking at the piles of mail that we’ve stacked up because we’ve been too busy to go through it and recycle/shred it, I am realizing that it’s not really POSSIBLE to have it all – at least not in the definition I’ve lived for the past 37 years.

I recently read this article by Beth Woolsey: 20 Things Every Parent Should Hear. And it was #19 that got me: Balance is a myth. Parenting isn’t a tight-rope walk; it’s a dance. Strive for rhythm instead of balance, and trust yourself to move to the ever-changing beat.

It’s impossible to be everything at once: Super Worker, Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Friend, Super Organized, Super Volunteer, Super Baker-of-Cookies-Just-Because, Super Writer, Super Painter, Super Runner, Super Cook, Super Blogger. I can’t be all those things – if I tried I’d keel over from stress and anxiety and exhaustion.

So, really, then, it’s a matter of focus. Focusing on what’s needed in the here and now. If that means my career takes a backseat in the coming years so I can focus on other things, then so be it.

How do you find rhythm in your family life? What choices have you made in order to maintain the dance of your life?

The Runs.

Okay, so a running update.

Last September, I ran a half marathon with one of my best friends. Two weeks before said half marathon, I turned my ankle in the dark on a training run, and thought it was sore, I didn’t really think much of it.

And then. Literally 15 seconds after we started the race, I turned to say something to her… and turned the very same ankle in a small groove in the middle of the road. Badly this time.

Probably it wasn’t the best decision to run the race anyway, but that’s what I did. Honestly, after mile 4, I felt very little – some twinges here and there when we walked through the water stops, but nothing awful. We finished 2 hours and 17-some odd minutes after I turned my ankle, and within minutes of stopping I found I couldn’t really, well, WALK at all. My ankle swelled to massive proportions on the drive home that day, and for three weeks I hobbled around and couldn’t run.

During that time, I had a lot of time to think. About what I was doing with my running, how I was approaching it, and my goals.

So I did what any person who couldn’t run does: I decided that I’d run a marathon in 2013. 🙂

Except THIS time, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure I wasn’t injured this year. I talked with my PT, who helped me rehab from my ITBS. I hired a running coach to help me get my running form back, who would keep me honest over the winter. I did PT exercises on my ankle and my IT band and strengthwork at the gym. I ran when my coach told me to, didn’t run when he told me not to.

And the biggest thing: after looking at my spring half pictures, the day I broke two hours in a half marathon, I looked heavier than I had in 2010, when I finished the Smuttynose half marathon. I had put on muscle, yes, but I also had put on fat. So I also started counting calories on myfitnesspal.com so that I could shed some weight.

Since then, I’ve lost 15lbs, and am at my lowest adult weight ever. And I am back logging regular, consistent mileage, peppered with speedwork sessions, strength training, and long runs.

A month ago, I ran a half marathon in Central Park in 1:56:31, a personal best from my last half marathon of more than 3 minutes.

And couple of weeks ago, I ran a local 5k and ran a personal best by a full minute and forty seconds – my official time was 23:15.

So running, right now, is going really well. Even the hard runs give me something to take away. Like last week: in one run I gained confidence that I can keep running a number of miles when my legs are really fatigued without losing pace. In another, I figured out that I’m really bad at tempo pace and I need to focus some workouts on that.

Every run I do is leading towards a goal race.

My goal race this training cycle? Boston’s Run to Remember on Memorial Day weekend.

My ideal time goal is to break 1:45:00. Realistically, I’ll be happy with anything under 1:50:00. And if it’s hot, I’ll aim at 1:55:00, which is still a PB for me.

And honestly, it’s kind of insane that I’m looking at these numbers.

Because I remember the days where I’d need a gel at mile 4.5 because I had been running an hour – where I had to walk a hill I regularly use as my warmup. I remember the days where running my 6 mile loop around town felt like a really far run. I remember my first 5k, where I walked multiple times and finished at 32:48. The day where I ran my farthest distance – 6 miles – and realized, holy shit, you can run as far as you want. It’s actually possible!

It’s not been that long since my first race – 4 years ago this August.

So really, I kind of have no idea what I’m capable of as a runner. I’m just going on faith and working hard and making sure that I put all the pieces in place in the hopes that I can do something awesome.

Which is kinda how life works.

So here’s hoping. 🙂

Morning Magic (Aka: My 4 Mile Run.)

A night of insomnia; wordless dreams from which I wake often and forget nearly immediately, only to be plunged back in when I fall asleep again.

The alarm rings much too early. It’s set to the local classical music station to ease my wake up, but today it doesn’t matter. I only have the energy to slam the snooze button, hard. So, so tired. I do not want to get out of bed.

But my mind is awake. It moves restlessly; I’m focused on the number of miles I want to run this week and how I’ll juggle everything I need to get that accomplished. I won’t have another chance to run in the morning – the best time, given the heat and humidity – for another three days. When the music starts again, I turn the alarm off and get out of bed quickly, not looking back in case I’m tempted.

Once in the bathroom, I change into my running gear and put my contacts in. Within minutes I’m downstairs, sitting in the dark mudroom, lacing my sneakers.

It’s dark outside; I have yet to hear birds, but the drone of the insects is soothing somehow.

I strap on my garmin and head out; the sky near-black in front of me, but getting lighter behind. Impatiently, I wait for the watch to establish the signal with the satellites so I can start my run. When it vibrates, I start down the hill to the main road, stiffly at first.

The first few minutes of a run always feels like I’ve forgotten HOW. My legs move, but my cadence is off and I feel awkward and stiff. But I know it fades once I warm up, so instead I look around and breathe in the morning air.

This early, there are very few people up and around in my town. I run down to the river and cross the street, barely looking over my shoulder, since I hear nothing but the insects and my breath, and wave to the town cop parked across the post office. I turn and head over the bridge.

Mile 1 comes before I know it, and my legs are fully warmed up. The humidity is making me breathe a little harder than what I’d like, but I keep on, even though it is starting to hurt. I know that if I just keep going, it’ll get better.

It’s always in the beginning of mile 2 where everything settles down; my breathing is deep and regular and my legs have found a good rhythm. I find that place where there is nothing in my head except my breath.

In and out.

In and out.

In and out.

I can run forever like this. The morning, the river on my left, the insect droning. I’m warm and strong and happy and relaxed.

It, of course, doesn’t last forever. Because the rolling hills at the end of mile 2 always hurt.

I tell myself, out loud, Nice and easy to the top, then a recovery. You got this.

I don’t always believe myself, but today I actually AM able to run all the way to the top, recover downhill, and power up the second hill. I know all I have to do is make it to mile 3, which is close, and I get a good downhill for a long time, where I can really roll.

Thank god, mile 3. I take a minute to recover, and then I let my legs go, following the downhill. My breathing hitches a bit, but I focus on my exhale. Breathe OUT. Breathe OUT. I keep going.

A slight incline to the bridge again, and I’m only .25 miles away from the end of my run. That’s a 400. I can run a 400 in less than two minutes. I lean forward just a bit, pumping my arms a teeny bit more, because I want to finish this run STRONG.

And then it’s over. As I walk back to my house, I can see the sun warming the sky in front of me.

And.

I feel so good.

For the Love of the Run.

I signed up for my redeux 5k in a moment of weakness; borne from disappointment that I had to walk some of the last mile of my Mother’s Day 5k.

I couldn’t focus on the fact that I ran the fastest 5k I’ve ever run. Instead, all I saw was Fail.

And then I ran a 5 mile race a week later, one where I thought, you know, I don’t expect I’ll do much of anything at this race. I’ve run it for the past three years, and it’s a favorite. I kind of wanted to run it for FUN. It had beer at the end, and Jeff and I made a day of it in Boston.

Ironically, I ran a personal best, there, too. In fact, I shaved five minutes off my best time there.

Which, if you’re keeping track, is three weeks of races and three PRs.

The thing is, though. What made the race so amazing for me?

Was mile two and three. Where I felt AMAZING. Light. Happy. In control of my pace, smelling the sea breeze, feeling the sun on my shoulders. For two amazing miles, I was SO happy. Practically danced to my music.

And you know something?

I want more of that.

I want to get back to rediscovering my love for the run. I want to run and feel strong, to run because I love it, not because there’s something on my schedule that tells me I have to run 5 miles at a 8:00 pace.

I want my zen back.

So when I woke up on Sunday morning, and it was rainy and cold… I skipped my redeux 5k.

Instead, I went to the gym, and swam for an hour. And yesterday, I ran my own 5k before a strength workout.

And I feel GREAT.

For the love of the run.

Yes.

Mishmash.

So apparently not running is not just hard on me, but on my blog posting as well.

Um.

I’ve been doing PT now for a little more than a week, and I’ve definitely seen improvement in the pain in my knee. My ITB is still super tight, but the rest and stretching and heat and ice seems to be helping it.

Thank goodness.

I still haven’t attempted a run. I’ve been pain free since Thursday morning. And though I am completely OBSESSED with the WANTING to go out for a run, I’ve forced myself not to. Because I want to heal.

So instead I’ve been swimming. Which, truthfully, I enjoy. It’s not the elation of a good strong run, but it’s a good substitute because I can push really hard and feel the burn in my lungs and muscles. Only without the pain running has given me in the past month.

I also tried a Barre class at a local studio Sunday night. Which was NOT the dance class I thought it was.

It was about an hour of Core Hell.

Pushups. Planks. Thigh and butt and hamstring kicks. Lower ab work. Oblique work.

Now see here. The abs I have? I got them from my long runs. At the end of a run, when you’re tired, and your form is suffering, apparently THEN is when you feel the core work.

I’ve never done a plank. The last crunch I did was in high school – back when they called them situps.

I totally SUCKED at them. And they hurt. A LOT.

(Especially yesterday. Ow!)

But. I’m going back on Saturday morning. Because now it’s my personal challenge to get BETTER at this damn class.

And I have some hope that when I DO get back to running, it will be better because I’ve got a stronger core.

Or something.

Other than that? I’ve been hanging out with my kid. Who is RAPIDLY becoming my Favoritest Person Ever.

I’m not sure what happened last week, but all of a sudden, he’s starting to CREATE things with legos and sticks and other toys. He’ll line up his stuffed animals and call it a “traffic jam.” He’ll built a log loader truck out of legos (and seriously, it LOOKS like a log loader truck!)

He’s currently obsessed with airplanes, and so before bed every night I pretend I’m his copilot. And he orders Jeff to stay in the other room (in the COACH, Daddy!) while he and I go to the cockpit and fly the plane.

And he’s really starting to grasp the concept of time, too.

Like today, when he woke up and asked me where his daddy was. When I told him that Daddy was at the gym and then at work, he stopped for a minute and said:

So it’s a school day?

I mean, I know all parents think their kids are brilliant.

It’s just that my kid IS brilliant. 🙂

Now, of course, on the flip side… the focus on play and learning means he doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing. Like ever.

Which means he doesn’t want to eat.

It also means he doesn’t want to stop and use the bathroom.

(Okay, so maybe not THAT brilliant.)

But I love watching how he gets so focused on something new and immerses himself in it. I love the obsession, the way he can be in the moment, FULLY in the moment, without really thinking.

I wish I could be like that.

Therefore I love spending time with him.

It’s a nice reminder – that sometimes it’s okay to stop thinking for a moment and just be.

Confession.

I first started running seriously two years ago to lose weight. My friend D, who had run a half marathon, told me that if she could do it, anyone could.

So in November 2009, I had enough of being overweight and unhappy. I signed up for weight watchers online… and signed up for a half marathon in Middlebury, VT.

The fear of having to run 13.1 miles consecutively is what got me out of bed during that winter. I was terrified of the distance, scared I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Then I ran 13.1 miles. And I wanted to better my time, so when I got home, I signed up for ANOTHER half. In Summer 2010, I ran something like 15 races. And in October 2010, I ran another half marathon.

I had a rough fall and winter with running last year. In November last year, I lost a lot. A (very) early pregnancy and my godmother suddenly to heart disease.

In retrospect, I can say that I was probably depressed last winter. But I just couldn’t get out of bed to run. It was too hard.

Signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon on Mother’s Day this past year kick started my running again. Because, again, there was the panic that I would have to run 26.2 miles consecutively and I wasn’t certain I could.

(To be honest, I’m STILL gobsmacked that I ran 26.2 miles all at once. I really DID that?)

Over the past few months, though, running has become something more to me. It’s my therapy, a way for me to work out my anger and fear. It’s a way for my OCD chick to feel like she has SOME control over her life, because the older I get the more I realize just how little control we DO have over things.

Running, for me, is the great emotional equalizer.

It’s a way for me to celebrate the strength of my body and my mind while acknowledging that there’s a lot of shit that scares me.

And so, these past two weeks since the Marine Corps Marathon, where I haven’t been able to run, are KILLING me.

(Because seriously? It’s only been TWO WEEKS. It feels like eons. Ages. Millennia. Billions of trillions of lightyears.)

I’m living the old adage that you know what you’ve lost only when it’s gone.

I didn’t realize just how much running helped me cope with my worries. I didn’t realize just how many worries I HAD until I couldn’t run anymore.

I mean, really, I sat and read the ENTIRE Grand Jury report on Jerry Sandusky. And then I spent the night tossing and turning, planning in great detail what I would have done if Victim 2 had been my son Lucky. (And I’ll tell you, castration was part of the plan.)

Clearly I have issues.

But I’ll tell you something. I went to my running coach last week, who promptly dug into my hips, noting that they were really tight (OMFG that hurt), which was causing pressure on my ITB and therefore knee. I went away with stretching and self-massage homework, which I have done religiously.

I even went to two Bikram Yoga classes this weekend in the hopes that I can loosen up the tight in my legs so that I can run again.

I have not had any knee pain since last Tuesday when I tried to run. My ITB has loosened up quite a bit from the foam rolling and stretching.

So.

I will be attempting a 4 mile run tomorrow.

Please, please, PLEASE let it go okay.

I really, really need it.