Wednesday, November 4, 2009
- Every uphill battle has a downhill reward.
- Get to eat cake and drink beer, often at the same time.
- Better emotional health.
- Exploring new places on foot, in the wee hours of the morning.
- The pleasure associated with 50 BPM.
- Hearing my daughter say, "Mommy, is running your job?"
- Satisfying stockpile of race t-shirts.
- Finishing a race, drinking beer at 9 o'clock in the morning.
- Having another way to define myself, aside from what I do at the office and whose diapers I change.
- Overcoming psychological hurdles, getting faster every year.
I ran the Children's Hospital Half Marathon on Saturday morning. It was a smallish race, just under 1,400 people, which suits me fine; I dislike the anxious jostling associated with bigger races. My plan was to go out easy, about 9 1/2 minute miles, and speed up in the last half if I was feeling strong. I started at what felt like an easy pace, and was shocked to hear, at the first mile split, that I was running an 8:30 pace. My first thought was that I needed to slow down, but then again, it felt easy, so I figured I'd just roll with it, see how I felt at the next split. I ran the next mile at the same pace, then the mile after that, then again and again and again. I felt a surge of excitement as I entered the park and passed the halfway point: I was on track to set a personal record, and I felt amazing! I ran the rest of the way through the park and back up St. Charles Avenue in a state of relaxation and tremendous pride; I screamed "More Cowbell!" at the shirtless dude laconically ringing said instrument from his position on the neutral ground; I chatted with a friend of Cade's during the 11th mile; I smiled and high-fived the kids huddled in their Halloween costumes, cheering us on in their tiny little voices; I visualized calling Cade after the race to tell him how I had so easily surpassed the goal I had set for myself. At the final stretch I kicked up the pace just a bit and came in just under 1 hour and 55 minutes. I felt awesome.
This is why I run. Not just for the easy, satisfying races, but for the hard, discouraging ones as well. I'd had one of those runs--hard and discouraging--last Wednesday, the last day I ran before the half. I felt terrible and ran slowly, lethargically. I was bored and distracted and achy. I thought to myself that I wasn't ready, I was not prepared, but then I remembered the single most important lesson I've learned, not just with regard to running but to life in general: that every day is a new opportunity, every day is a different experience, and what matters most is the overall effort, the persistence, the faith that every effort, exhilarating or discouraging, is equally valuable.
I think that running has helped me be a better parent. No, not just running--I've been doing that for a long time--but running with focus and goals, as I've been doing for the last couple of years. Before, when I would run, it was simply to stay in shape: I felt better emotionally and physically when I ran consistently, and that was enough. But when I started learning more about training strategies, and focusing on preparing for races and getting faster and stronger, a new sort of patience emerged. I'm talking about patience with myself--knowledge that the small mistakes or failures don't matter as much as the aggregate, the accumulation of efforts. For example, sometimes I yell at my kids. I hate to admit this, but I do. I don't fly off the handle and scream and lose my shit, but I yell. I lose patience. And when I do this, I feel so incredibly guilty, so worried that I am doing something really damaging. Or rather, I used to worry. Now, I have more patience, more faith in the aggregate, more secure in the knowledge that a small failure here and there is not going to permanently fuck up my children. Just like a bad run here and there doesn't mean I'm unprepared for a race.
Look, I've never been an athlete. I think I could have been, but childhood circumstances prevented access to the sort of training required to make the teams. I've always admired athletes, the incredible power and wisdom they exude, the discipline they apply, the comraderie they have with each other. And it's so nice, now, as a 30-something mother of 2, to have a small piece of this for myself, to call myself a Runner, to watch my daughter watching me lace up my shoes and to know that I am setting a fine example, to flick a little sideways wave to the people who I pass on the streetcar line on any given Sunday, knowing that we have this thing in common, that I am one of them.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Like, for example...
- Subject spots some lunatic mowing her front lawn in the dark on a Tuesday evening. He wonders aloud, "Who is that crazy person?" Camera zooms in for the close-up as the subject slaps his forehead and exclaims "Hey! That's my therapist!"
- Subject is browsing the aisles at her local organic foods market when some lunatic brings down an entire display of glass jars of caramel and fudge sauces. Subject makes small but audible noises of disapproval, then loudly exclaims "Hey! That's my therapist!"
- Subject is driving to church one frigid Sunday morning when he spots a red-faced jogger execute one of those disgusting sideways booger-blows that runners and other disgusting individuals are so fond of. Subject emits noises of disapproval and, of course, disgust, then after a double-take that nearly causes him to crash his car exclaims "Hey! That's my therapist!"
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I love watching you interact with Evan. He is at the age when he's into everything--particularly everything that belongs to you--and while I know this causes you distress, you rarely show it; instead, you are patient but firm. "Please give that back," you will say, in your sweetest voice, prying the object from his tiny hand. You monitor his activities from the corner of your eye, and are quick to catch him on his way to a dangerous activity, or making off with something he is not allowed to have. You give him hugs at school, take him down the slide at the playground, fall into hysterics when he gets annoyed with you and tries to push you down, share your animal crackers with him on the way home from school. When I was pregnant with Evan and was having trouble imagining how things would be when it came time to share my love with another child, a friend told me that the best feeling in the world comes from watching your children play together. She was right: it is magical. You are magical.
Speaking of magic, you have fallen in love with Harry Potter. We talk a lot about the stories, the characters, the good and bad, the scary and the exciting, the happy and the sad. You have a lot of empathy. You like Harry Potter because "he is a good boy and he is nice to his friends." You admire his courage and enjoy the scenes where he acts bravely in the face of fear. I think you harbor the secret hope that one day, on your birthday, Hagrid will come to our house, break the news to you that you are a wizard, and cart you off to Hogwarts.
You are in full-blown princess mode, and love dressing up and putting on lipgloss and wearing your "clip clops"--chunky, bejeweled light-up shoes that match your Cinderella and Snow White dresses. Despite this desire to emulate the fairer sex, you also love farting, making fart noises, and talking about butts, farts, and boogers. This, again, fills me with joy and pride, though I know I should tell you that these are not polite topics of conversation.
You are so beautiful, so strong and vibrant--every day with you is an incredible gift, one I never take for granted. Thank you for your hugs and kisses, your laughter, your compassion and honesty. Words could never express the love I have for you; hopefully, my actions will. Happy birthday, baby.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
My dear son,
You made a year nearly 3 weeks ago, and I am just sitting down to write this letter. I can blame it on the fact that your birthday fell during our big vacation to an area devoid of every type of modern technological coverage, or the insane schedule we've all negotiated since coming home, but the reality is probably closer to this: as the second child of two people with questionable organizational skills, you will likely be subject to this sort of thing over and over throughout the course of your childhood. Things will be late, or rushed, or half-done, or not done at all. I am truly and deeply sorry about this, I wish I could promise to make it otherwise, but here is the good news:
We are absolutely, positively, almost frighteningly WILD about you.
I mean, who wouldn't be? From the instant you were born, every moment has felt incredibly precious. The first night we had you, I sat up in bed at Touro and held you close, staring at you while you slept and nursed and stared back. I saw in those early minutes and hours what has proven true over this first year of your life: how alert you are, how engaged, how wise and persistent and curious. We brought you home and you watched with quiet attention as your big sister danced and squealed around your seat and patted your cheeks and hands and feet. You spent the first 3 months of your life nestled in the crook of my arm, where you slept each night; I couldn't bear to hear you cry when I laid you in the crib. At 4 months you seemed ready to spend the night in the Pack-n-Play in our bedroom, and I was more than a little sad to let you go, even though you were only moving to the other side of the room. I can't even imagine how I'm going to feel by the time you read this, when you are old enough to truly leave--but no, I won't go there now.
At 4 1/2 months you managed to roll yourself off the edge of our bed--although you were not yet rolling over--and ended up having a CAT scan and a concussion. It was then that we were reminded again of your persistence, your curiousity, your ability to get to whatever and wherever you want, regardless of your supposed abilities. This will undoubtedly serve you well in life, and means that we, as your parents, will have to exercise extraordinary vigilance in the service of keeping you safe.
At 1 year, you are a sweet, bright boy with a beautiful laugh and a generous spirit. You are good at playing alone but love to engage with other kids. You are pickier with food than your sister was at this age. You are good at getting your needs met: you shake your head and push hands away when you don't want to do something, you clap and yell and nod when something favorable grabs your attention. And you are so much like your Daddy--that persistence, that quiet intelligence, that penchance for problem-solving that often leaves me speechless and smiling as I watch you from across the room, unraveling a piece of ribbon from your sister's tiara or poking a piece of plastic into the air-conditioning vent, over and over and over, in quest to discover just how far it will go and what the heck might actually be down there.* And these similarities are wonderful, not just because I love your Dad more than anything and love to see his qualities in you, but because it is living proof of the connection, the handing down, the circular nature of things. And that makes me happy. You, my son, make me wildly, completely, and sometimes inexplicably, happy.
I hope we can do the same by you. I hear a lot about parental failings and ineptitudes during the course of an average work day, and it leaves me with a sober sense of all the things that are working against us. But for now, we will try, to do our best, to love you for everything you are, to hold you close enough for comfort but not too close, to show you all that is good in the world but teach you also about the injustices, the sorrows--to make you into a whole person, with hopes and fears and compassion and strength. I love watching you grow up. I just wish I could slow it down a little.
Happy birthday, my boy--three weeks late, but no less sincere. I love you.
* I recently learned that your Dad used to do the exact same thing when he was your age. Amazing.
Monday, July 13, 2009
- Sydney: 3 years and 10 months, swimming, able to name most letters of the alphabet, incessantly curious about the origin and nature of all things, losing her baby fat, finally potty-trained, sleeping in Mom and Dad's bed, jealous of her brother, totally in love with her brother, incessantly curious about the ramifications of picking up her brother by the head/arms/waist/legs, mourning the loss of Hermit Crab #1 and Hermit Crab #2, ready for a dog, talking about kindergarten.
- Evan: 11 1/2 months, walking, eating finger foods, rejecting baby foods, demonstrating object permanence, slightly afraid of his sister, loving the big bathtub, protesting violently during diaper changes, incessantly curious about the contents of everyone's dinner plate, demonstrating some serious musical talent, nursing at night, getting ready for Ms. Gwen.
- Chrissie: 33 years and 8 months, walking, swimming, regularly forgetting her letters and numbers, running less frequently in the summer heat, looking forward to Maine at the end of the month, proud of herself for flying solo with 2 little ones, slightly obsessed with smoothies and daquiris, filled with sadness for a friend, no longer pumping at work, needs a haircut, would love a massage, could never be a SAHM, thinking about kindergarten, already missing Ms. Gladys, cannot wait for Ms. Gwen.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sydney: "Mommy, where do babies come from?"
Mommy (stalling): "What kind of babies?"
S: "Baby lizards."
M: "Baby lizards come from Mommy and Daddy lizards."
S: "But how?"
M: "The Daddy lizard gives the Mommy lizard something, and that makes the baby."
S: "But how are baby babies made?"
M (stalling): "What do you mean?"
S: "Like, babies like Evan."
M: "Well, Daddies have a, uh, special thing, and they give to the Mommy, and she has a special thing, and they put the special things together and that makes a baby."
M: "Does that make sense?"
S: "Yes. Mommy?"
M (struggling to find a child-friendly equivalent to semen): "Yes?"
S: "But how is the the world made? How is everything made?"
So obviously this is some sort of payback. Right?
First tactic: Total Transparency.
M: "Well, there was this thing called the Big Bang-"
S: "--like a big explosion??"
M: "Well, sort of..."
S: "Things blew up? That's scary."
M: "Well, they didn't really blow up, they sort of imploded.."
S: "What's imploded?"
Second tactic: Mystery
M: "Well, no one really knows how those things were made."
S: "But Mommy. Tell me."
M: "I don't know, baby. No one knows."
S: "I don't like you. You're an idiot."
Times like these, I wish we were believers. It would make it easier--not just for me, but for our little girl, who just wants to understand how the world works. I wish I could just tell her, with great conviction, that God made the world, that God is waiting in Heaven; I wish I could provide that consolation and that promise. But I can't--and not because I do not believe, but mostly because I am unsure, and believe like Richard Dawkins that:
Humans have a great hunger for explanation. It may be one of the main reasons why humanity so universally has religion, since religions do aspire to provide explanations. We come to our individual consciousness in a mysterious universe and long to understand it. Most religions offer a cosmology and a biology, a theory of life, a theory of origins, and reasons for existence. In doing so, they demonstrate that religion is, in a sense, science; it's just bad science. Don't fall for the argument that religion and science operate on separate dimensions and are concerned with quite separate sorts of questions. Religions have historically always attempted to answer the questions that properly belong to science. Thus religions should not be allowed now to retreat away from the ground upon which they have traditionally attempted to fight. They do offer both a cosmology and a biology; however, in both cases it is false.
But you try explaining all that to a 3-year-old.
* Which is in itself an ontology. Ha ha.
Friday, May 29, 2009
1) The shirt is bright blue, and I never wear brightly colored clothing.
2) I bought the shirt after spotting it at Jazz Fest, covering the expansive gut of a scraggly-bearded hippy-looking college kid. It probably goes without saying that I (rarely) attempt to emulate the clothing patterns of scraggly-bearded hippy-looking co-eds.
3) The shirt is funny, so so incredibly funny, but also a wee bit controversial. Check it out and you'll see what I mean.
So anyway. The other day I changed out of said t-shirt, into my running clothes, and hit the streets for a short jog. I was at the corner of Broadway and St. Charles, thinking about the shirt and wondering if it would be appropriate to wear to a (child's) birthday party that afternoon, when a car turning right at the red light came dangerously close to crushing me. The driver slammed on the brakes and glared at me and I glared back at this person who nearly ran me down in his slick black mid-size sedan and then I realized that this person was...have you guessed it yet? James Carville.
I guess he lives here now, which is cool, but I suppose I will have to be extra-vigilant on my runs from now on.
Runners, take heed: Look both ways, because James Carville will kill you.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
- Overheard upon entering house on a rainy day:
- Overheard while watching daughter climb into carseat, littered with crumbs and sand:
- Overheard in the early morning hours, from my prone position in our obscenely comfortable king-size bed, sheets pulled up to my ears, groaning at the daybreak peeking through the blinds:
Monday, April 13, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
But then: Sydney is Evil Kneivel on a bike and Evan loves kisses and cuddling. My daughter digs for bugs and insects so intently, so persistently, that I've given up on attempting to remove the dirt caked under her fingernails each night. And even at the tender young age of 8 months and 2 days, my son displays a wellspring of empathy and tenderness, tearing up at the sound of his sister's cries, cuddling close when someone seems sad or distracted, bursting into radiant smiles at the sound of laughter. So there's some variation there. I guess my job is to step back and let it all unfold.
But again, to invoke the gardening metaphor: a hallmark of a good gardener is one who knows when to prune for the sake of further growth and when to leave the hell alone. As a parent, it's not sufficient to step away and let the magic unfold; our kids need pruning, careful attention, direction and guidance. And this is where I feel stuck.
* What is up with this show? Half of the women aren't even housewives, for god's sake.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I've been running. A lot, consistently. I've been running for several years now but only recently have I begun to take it seriously: doing tempo runs, interval training, long, meandering, meditative Sunday runs. God, I love the Sunday runs--the 7 or 8 or 10 miles up and down St. Charles Avenue, as the street car clangs past and people stumble by with their dogs and mugs of coffee and the church bells ring and the world seems new. It's beautiful and exhausting and I look forward to it, without fail, every week. So that's good.
I've been struggling. Of course--what parent worth his or her salt doesn't struggle? The evenings are particularly hard. I leave work and pick up my kids and we come home and I start dinner and they both need so much. They need me, more than anything--my presence, my attention, my affection, my lap. I strongly suspect that if I made the mistake of lying down on the floor on a weekday evening that they would swarm and literally devour me, bit by bit. So I try not to put myself in that position; I try to stay busy, to distract, to entertain, to structure, but eventually I give in to my urge to just enjoy my children and fuck--I lay down on the floor. They swarm. They devour. I tickle and poke. They giggle. I laugh. They laugh harder and swarm closer. It's uncomfortable but wonderful and I give myself over to it, the painful parts and the beautiful parts;I let them swarm, I let them nibble; I give and give until they run out of steam and then I send them off to bed and sit and think about everything I could have done differently, and better.
During a long-ish run the other day a song came on my i-Pod mix that I had not heard--or maybe I'd heard but not paid attention to--in quite a while. If you like Tori Amos, you might remember these lyrics that caught my ear:
I know a cat named Easter,
he says Will you ever learn?
You're just an empty cage, girl
If you kill the bird...
2 years ago, not long after I started this blog, I wrote a post about gathering and scattering, how I felt as though motherhood had relegated me to the latter occupation. I remember that time, how I felt both immensely content and intensely sad, and how confusing it was. I think I understand it better now; I understand that motherhood involves both an evolution and a loss of Self, that it requires both selflessness and self-awareness, self-sacrifice and self-care. So where is my Self in all of this?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
2. Sydney has a tantrum in the middle of Whole Foods wherein she manages to take down an entire display of jarred pasta sauce. As I kneel beside her flailing figure, covered in splattered sauce and pleading with my child to please calm the fuck down, a fellow shopper walks by and I realize that it is one of my therapy clients.
3. After a particularly vigorous workout I retire to the gym's locker room, where I proceed to change back into my street clothes. I am naked for a brief moment, as is the woman at the locker next to me, who I suddenly recognize as one of my therapy clients. *
4. After utilizing a public restroom I neglect to wash my hands. As I push open the door I realize the woman standing at the sink is one of my therapy clients.
5. I am nursing Evan on a bench in the mall when he decides to pull away from the boob to look around. A stream of breastmilk shoots in an arc above his tiny head, puddling on the bench beside us. As I lean over to wipe up the milk, breast exposed, a therapy client walks by. *
6. After one too many glasses of wine at a wedding (or other social function), I hit the dance floor with an uncontrollable urge to bust the Funky Chicken. Guess who's watching from the other side of the room?
* Already happened.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Or I do, anyway.
Try as I might, I cannot seem to find words sufficient to describe how I felt yesterday, as President Obama (clumsily) took the oath and became the 44 th president of our country. I've come to realize something about myself: that I am much more adept at describing my own negative emotional states than I am at relating more pleasant--optimistic, hopeful, content--affective states. I'll save the deep analytical work for my therapist, but let it be known that one of my resolutions for the New Year is to find a way to write and talk about my happy feelings without feeling or sounding like Joel Osteen.
My favorite synopsis of the day's events and emotions came from my 3 year-old, when asked to tell Mommy (for the 500th time since November 4th) who the President of our country is:
Me: "President Obama."
S: "We had computers at school to watch Obama."
M: "You did? Did the kids get to watch, or just the teachers?"
S: "Kids got to watch, but some kids didn't want to so they drawed [sic] instead."
M: "Did you watch or draw?"