Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

I was driving south on Rt 95 yesterday, in the left lane, singing aloud to Hamilton, when all of a sudden there was dirt spraying and this Jeep tumbling madly. Right in front of me.

It landed upside down, its wheels spinning.

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, I kept saying. I stopped my car, put on my hazards, and got out –  the first person to get to the crumpled, upside down Jeep. I had no idea what I was going to see.

There was a guy in it, hanging upside down, held into his seat by his seat belt. He responded to me through the window when I asked, Yes, I’m okay. He was alone. He managed to wrench the door open, told me again, I’m okay, then released himself from the seat belt – falling on his head, groaning, then crawled out of the car with the help of another man who had also stopped. And he sat in the dirt, next to his smashed, upside down car.

Like a true Massachusetts driver, his first question was, Did you see the asshole who cut me off? Did he bail? I hadn’t seen anything but dirt and tumbling car, but the man who helped him out of the car had, and the other car did stop and was waiting on the shoulder across the highway.

Then, from the other side of the median, an unmarked police car pulled up with his lights on and started walking across the median. And I felt like there wasn’t much I could do, so I walked back, got into my car, and drove away, a little shaky from adrenaline.

Thank goodness he was okay.

It happened right in front of me.

It could have been me.

I work really hard at staying alive. I exercise every day, prepare healthy foods for my family and eat very little junk food. I always match my carbohydrates with protein to avoid the diabetes that is so prevalent in my family. I see a therapist and meditate and write.

Thing is? It could have been me yesterday, and I could have walked away from it like the guy did, or I could have been really, really hurt. Or I could have died.

You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

I’m sitting with this today.

Posted in #BrainDump, Challenges, Deep., Wellness, Writing. | 1 Comment

Life Tetris and End of Summer Blues.

And once again, I find myself apologizing for my blogging hiatus. We were on vacation at the lake last week, then Owen and I went to Canada to spectate at the Ironman Mont-Tremblant – I had 6 friends who were all competing, and it was wonderful to see them ALL for the weekend! But it was not ideal, timing-wise: we literally got home 15 minutes before Jeff showed up with my parents, who are visiting for the week.

So right now I’m playing an aggressive game of Life Tetris, trying to fit in writing, the last few weeks of half ironmman training, work, visiting with my parents, bills that I didn’t do last week (crap, I need to write a check to my contractor!), returning my overdue library books (ooooops), and all the back to school stuff we will need to do.

The first thing we need are Epipen refills. He needs three of them for school: one for the nurse’s office, one for his teacher to carry wherever they go, and one for the afterschool program. Every year we spend $1000 on them, thanks to our high deductible prescription plan. I had intentions on calling around this year to see which place had the cheapest pens, but I just don’t have the time. We’re going to go with Walmart and hopefully Jeff hasn’t spent the amount he sets aside in his HSA so we can buy them using that. But I need to make the call and get that coordinated.

Then there’s school supplies. Up until now, the teachers Owen has had have either sent a supply list via email or updated the class page on the school’s website. I’ve seen nothing from Owen’s teacher this year – her page is unused, and there’s been no other contact. The feedback I’ve heard about Owen’s teacher this year is that she’s very good with the kids, but not very organized, so this is going to be interesting. I actually don’t really care how she runs her classroom – Owen is smart and curious, and I know he’s going be okay no matter what – but it’s harder on parents like me, who prefer to be prepared ahead of time. I really don’t want to be running out on the first day of school for supplies.

Looks like it might happen that way this year, though. Sigh.

Then there’s clothes and shoes and all the stuff he’s outgrown from last year we need to get. Which I’ve been putting off, because I hate shopping for that stuff. As does Owen – he actually refuses to go shopping with me when I ask him.

But! My mother loves to shop, so I’m actually thinking of sending her with some cash to Kohl’s with him for this stuff this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to get a few things – pants and socks and underwear and long sleeved shirts. And shoes – he needs new sneakers, too.

As I’m writing this all down, I’m realizing there isn’t much cause for anxiety in this. It’s just stuff, and it’ll work out, and really, the only thing he NEEDS on the first day is his epipens.

I think it’s just the anticipation that’s getting me. I’ve really enjoyed the extra time we have in the mornings before we have to get out the door to camp, the warm weather, the early light in the morning, the flexibility we’ve had with bedtime.

That all changes next week when school starts. It means it’s fall, with colder weather and shorter days and winter hovering right around the corner.

Sigh.

Posted in #BrainDump, Out of My Head, Parenting, Schoolhouse Rocks, Strategies | 1 Comment

Triathlon Training/Race Update

I realized the other day: I’ve done three triathlons this summer thus far… and aside from updating my results page, I’ve not actually written about any of the races here.

Last year, after Pumpkinman, I made the decision to hire a triathlon coach to help me this year. I knew I could do the distance and loved the training, but I needed someone to help me tweak my training to help me better my results. I hired a great coach who juggles a family and job and training himself, who gets that things need to be shuffled because of Life Tetris sometimes.  And he made some immediate changes: more time on my bike, less running, and all of my training is done by heart rate.

Because longer distance races are primarily an aerobic exercise, this year, we are focused on building my aerobic base. Therefore my runs and bike rides and swims are all done at a fairly comfortable pace.

And I LOVE it. I love this training so much, it gives me such joy to swim in this absolutely awesome pond near my house… and bomb down hills on my bike, riding through some beautiful, wooded, quiet small towns… and run my country roads. Triathlon allows me to work out every day, which is exactly what I need to keep me mentally happy and balanced. It’s been great.

I’m seeing results, too. I went into my half iron distance race in June hoping to break 6 hours, expecting to be between 5:47-5:50 or so. My time for that race was 5:43 – faster than I expected. And I felt good most of the race (it always gets hard at the end, no matter what).

And in the past two races I’ve done, I’ve placed: I took second in my age group (AG) at a sprint last month, and 3rd overall (OA) this past weekend.

Third. Overall. Woman.

That, right there, is the part that I’m having trouble accepting – It boggles my mind that I’m placing at races.

I started running 6 years ago, knowing that I wasn’t particularly fast – even at my fastest, when I was hoping to qualify for the Boston marathon, I wasn’t fast enough to win races. And I’m STILL not particularly fast. And I’m not really a super fast swimmer or cyclist either. I’m OKAY at all of them, but not fast enough to win on their own.

What I am good at is consistency and focus. I love this stuff and want to learn more about it, and I’m fascinated by the psychology of racing – how to manage the anxiety of race nerves and how to keep my center when it gets physically really hard and my brain screams at me, trying to incite panic. I love the process of getting better at something – having a plan, following it, seeing how a test result plays out (aka: a race), then adjusting and tweaking and seeing how THAT works. It’s playing with plans, and it’s really fun.

I’m a little over four weeks away from my last triathlon of the season – I’m doing Pumpkinman again. I do not expect to place in this race – last year, the winner of my AG did her half in just over 5 hours. I’m not there. But I am hoping I can shave a few more minutes off my overall time, and keep the process going of getting better and better at this stuff.

We’ll see how it goes.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Heart Rate Training, Races, Training Plans, Triathlon | Leave a comment

Finding Peace In Clutter?

I have always detested clutter.

Whenever I see things like dishes in the sink or the Sunday paper on the table or Jeff’s tools from the basement not put away or Owen’s toys out on the dining room table… it kind of stresses me out.

Or course it has to do with control. All of it. I might not be able to control the fact that there are people who seem to want a dangerous, sexist, bigoted, arrogant pseudo-Republican to be the next President… but I CAN make sure that my counters and tables are clean and everything has a place and our house feels open and spacious.

My house, then, gets cleaner whenever I feel out of control and uncomfortable. Which is okay, mostly.

Except I live with two other people on a daily basis. And those two people are fundamentally different from me. Not only do they have a higher tolerance for clutter, in general, but they both also have a different process for cleaning.

I like to clean as I do something. When I make dinner, for example, I’m multitasking while everything cooks – putting the dishes I use in the dishwasher (or rinsing them and stacking them in the sink), rinsing out the recyclables, wiping down the countertops.

Jeff is the opposite – he cooks, focused only on that, then cleans up, focused only on that. It’s like his cleaning is project-based: he will focus on the project at hand and complete it, then work on cleaning up after the project.

And Owen seems to be similar, at least right now. In his own room – which we allow him to keep the way he wants it kept – he tends to leave clutter when he’s in the middle of a project and then cleans up when he’s either done or uninterested in finishing whatever he’s been doing.

I spent the first decade of my marriage trying to get Jeff to see the value in cleaning as you go. Which he does. But seeing the value in doing something one way is different than actually DOING it.

And I spent a fair number of years being pissed off and resentful about it, actually. If he really loved me, I thought, he’d help keep our house clean and neat and the way I’d like it.

That kind of thinking, in a marriage, is really, really, really bad. Putting conditions on your spouse, focused on him proving his love by doing something that’s not natural to him, and then telling yourself he doesn’t love you because he’s not doing what you want him to do? Recipe for resentment and anger and pain and suffering, right there. On both of your sides.

Because the thing is: watching him work, I’m a little in awe of the fact that he has this amazing ability to focus, that he can lose themselves in the task at hand. When he reads the paper, he’s IN those words. He hears nothing else, sees nothing else. Same with cooking – he’s in this zone of just working and doing, and isn’t thinking of anything else.

I do not share that ability. I am always planning and thinking and figuring out what I have to do next, thinking 4 steps ahead and working on getting everything done efficiently. So yeah, I am damn good at Life Tetris and fitting a lot of tasks into a given timeframe, which is a good skill to have, too.

But my way isn’t necessarily best.

So I’ve been practicing living with clutter, allowing my husband and son to have their process. It’s hard, especially now, during times where I am unsettled with a lot of change. I tell myself a lot, we’re different, we have different ways of doing things, and that’s okay, Karen. And I’m trying to look at the clutter as evidence that my boys have been absorbed in what they are doing, which makes them happy. I keep my office space clutter free and open and spacious. And when the clutter gets too much for me, I ask, nicely, if they would help me clean up a space so I find it less stressful.

It’s helping. I can’t say I’ve found peace in the clutter yet, but I’m getting there.

Do you clean as you go, or prefer to focus on your task and clean afterwards? Do you mind clutter?

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Marriage, Out of My Head | 3 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: At The End Of My Comfort Zone.

Microblog_Mondays

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

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I did, in fact, make it out of my basement alive last week when I went to open the fireproof safe. My trip was a short one because I realized very quickly that I did not actually have a key to the safe – they key in question was on Jeff’s keyring, which was with him at Lake Ontario.

I found no evidence that any living dead things were in my basement.

I did, however, disrupt a few hundred teeny spiders, which creeped me right out. Meh.

The rest of the week was spent at my new job, trying to figure out which way is up, who can help me with what… and if there’s anyone there who actually knows what they are doing.

**********

I have a card that I taped to my office wall which reads: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. I bought the card a while ago, when I was feeling uncomfortable about all the uncertainty I was feeling about work and this coming fall, because I liked the idea that there’s some good that comes from being uncomfortable.

Because we’ve seen a lot of changes in our house this summer. Jeff, for example, took a position with his national office. His new gig will require a significant amount of travel, depending on where he’s staffed next… and we’re not sure when he’ll be staffed next. Or where the next engagement will be. We’re just waiting.

Owen will be starting third grade at the end of this month, which, in Massachusetts, means he’ll start yearly standardized testing. And book reports, and a lot more reading. As much as I’ve tried to get incent him to read this summer, he’s managed to read a whole TWO BOOKS on his own. (Which, I suppose is better than none?)  Also, he will get a pair of glasses this week, which I normally would be excited about, except the optometrist told me, glasses might make it harder for him to focus on tasks that require close up vision.

Like book reports and reading, whee!

He’s also committed to doing a club soccer team, which means he’ll have practices two nights a week and games on Sundays. We do not know what his school workload will look like, nor when his practices might be.

And I have a new job, making much less money but with more regular hours, where I’ll be shouldering more of the burden of the home stuff. I’m not yet certain what my actual schedule will look like, though – can’t plan that until I know the two days that Owen will be heading to the afterschool program, which I can plan when I know when his soccer practices will be scheduled.

All this uncertainty has left me feeling, well, as if I’m at the end of my comfort zone. I feel unsettled, and I’m not sleeping well, and though I am trying to keep up my writing practice, I’m finding the same thoughts go through my head. Over and over and over.

I’m trying to PLAN, you see. Trying to put some order to the chaos. I’m always thinking and planning and wondering and trying to figure out the potential directions. My head right now is full of words and half-formed plans, fitting about me like the winged keys in the Chamber of Secrets, and I can’t see the real key – the one who can get me to the next room.

I’m definitely at the end of my comfort zone.

So is this is where life begins?

Okay then.

Let’s go.

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, Career, Challenges, Writing. | 9 Comments

#MicroblogMondays: The Dark Places.

Microblog_Mondays

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

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This morning, I am gathering all of my courage to do something absolutely terrifying.

I need to go into the basement, find the fireproof safe we keep there, and retrieve my passport so I can fill out the employment forms needed for my new job.  Jeff is away until tomorrow night, and I need it by tomorrow, so it’s all on me.

Basements scare the crap out of me.

Always have. The dark shadowy sections, the cooler-than-the-upstairs air, the dust and dirt and cobwebs, the musty smell… it’s a place where humans don’t normally spend their time.

There’s a reason why most horror movies featured basements prominently: because it’s closer to hell and the devil and the boogeyman lives down there where it’s cold and dark.

I’ve gotten around needing to go into our basement very much by sending Jeff down there to get stuff for me. Our basement is better than some – there’s a lot of windows and lights down there so it’s not nearly as creepy as, say, the house we rented where we had to do laundry in the basement and the stairs had those open backs.

Every time I used those damn stairs back up to the kitchen, I had to fight the panic that I’d look down and see a mottled, dead hand, reaching to grab my ankles.

Dead things live in basements. Not living things.

I recognize that this is a completely unreasonable, childish, and therefore completely ridiculous fear. I am 40 years old and own this house, and there has been NO evidence to suggest that any boogeyman or evil dead thing lives in that basement.

Still, though, I cannot shake the fear.

So my plan is to head down there today around 2pm, when the sun is high in the sky and it’s nearly the hottest part of the day – the middle of the day. That way the dead things that don’t actually exist outside of my imagination in my basement will be slow and sluggish. And if I move as quickly as possible, they might leave me alone.

But if you don’t hear from me in a couple of days, send help.

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, Challenges, Mindless Posts, Other Stuff | 9 Comments

New Job.

Before my interview for this new job last Thursday, I told Jeff that there was maybe a 30% chance I’d take it if they offered it, even if they came up and offered me the number I asked for.

And then I went to the interview. I met three really nice people, who talked to me about flexibility and leaving work at work. And when I left, I thought, I think I really want this job.

Actually, no, I didn’t think that – it was a feeling more than a thought. Whenever my mind got involved, it got all caught up in the back and forth between the security of the regular hours, the 11 mile commute, the flexibility… and the fact that I’d be making less than half of what I make as a freelancer.

But my heart is the one that made the choice. Not only does this job provide me security with the knowledge that I’d have regular hours,  but it also means I could focus more on my family… and the things that are important to me.

And my heart whispered, This could be our accounting exit strategy.

So when they offered me the position earlier this week, I decided to accept it.

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In November 2004, right after Jeff and I got married, I went to a party at a former coworker’s house. She had hired a psychic to come to the party and do half hour consults with all of us, we just had to send her our date and time of birth and location where we were born, and then we’d meet with her.

It was my first experience with a psychic. I found her kind of odd. But she did seem to know a lot about me – stuff that a normal person wouldn’t know.

She essentially told us that we were infertile, though that became clear in hindsight. We were planning on starting to try for a baby in the new year, though I didn’t tell her this. When I asked about kids, she told me that she didn’t see kids in our future for a while. I remember thinking, Little does SHE know!

But as it turned out, we didn’t have kids for a while. Owen was born 3 and a half years later, after a lot of doctors and treatments and heartbreak.

She also told me that, career-wise, I wasn’t going to be doing what I was doing forever. You’ll find a new career when you’re 45, maybe. And when you do, you won’t have to worry about money.

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Every two years I have to renew my CPA license. It requires that I do 80 hours of CPEs, which costs me $250 for online access, and I pay the board of accountancy $165.

The past two times I’ve renewed, I’ve done so with a hope. Maybe this will be the last time I have to do this.

Every time I say that out loud to someone, though, they look at me like I’m crazy. You worked so hard to get that – why would you let it lapse? Easier to keep the license up than to get it reinstated.

Here’s the thing:  accounting was a choice at a point in my life where I wanted the security of never having to worry about finding a job. It’s been good to me – in the past 13 years, I’ve never HAD to worry about finding a job.

But whenever someone asks me what I do, and I answer I work as an accountant, and they inevitably make their judgment about me (good at math, OCD, organized, boring)… the part of me who wrote poetry in math class because she hated it so much, who translated Latin in the library in college, who devoured books when they came out, who spent her first transatlantic flight absorbed in a short story she was writing, cries out in despair.

I want so much more from my life. SO much more from my job.

So this new job – even though it’s still accounting – is a change. A good change: I can carve boundaries around it – it’s the first job in the past 13 years which will actually stay at work when I leave. It gives me more time at home, to focus on the things that are important to me.

I feel like, in navigating the course of my life, this job represents a change of a degree or two.

But still… I am turning more towards my true north. And it makes my heart really, really hopeful.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Career, Challenges | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Looking For The Light.

Microblog_Mondays

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

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When I look around right now… I feel mostly scared.

Scared of the current political environment.

Scared of guns.

Scared of the palpable anger I see when I get online.

Scared I could lose my son.

Scared that people seem to be more likely to scream at each other from their well-defended positions instead of coming together to work on real solutions.

Scared of clickbait media stories, rather than real reporting of truth.

Scared that I don’t actually KNOW what the truth is anymore, because everyone has a bias.

Scared because I feel so powerless to effect any change.

Scared that it’ll always be this way, and I’ll never be able to use my voice or help make the world a better place.

I’m tired of being scared.

As I was writing all this fear down into my journal this morning, I realized the people I love the most on social media are the ones who post the positive messages. People like Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle and Brene Brown and Kripalu teachers like Jess Frey and Jurian Hughes.

And it struck me: maybe there IS something I can do. Something small, yes, but something.

What would happen if I started posting positive stuff – for everyone, not the #humblebrag stuff about how lucky I am, etc etc – on social media?

What if I started a big metta, inclusive, positivity club, where all you need to do to be included is to have a beating heart?

What happens if I start putting love out into the world, beyond just in meditation? Could making someone else’s day a little better by reminding them how awesome they are for just BEING make the world a better place?

I feel like the more we love and share that love and look to the light, the less the fear will keep hold on our hearts. Trump and his supporters are scared. Hillary and her supporters are scared. The world is a scary place – maybe it’s always been a scary place.

But if we look out for each other and hold space for each other’s ideas and feelings and opinions and beliefs – no matter what that is – we can only make the world a better place.

The dark place will always be there, but there is also light. We just need to find it.

turn your face

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, Out of My Head | 4 Comments

Sticky Summer Memories.

I left my house this morning, later than I intended, for my scheduled 75-minute bike ride feeling tired and more than a little sore from the strength work I did earlier this week.

The weather here has been hot and humid – in the 90s, and every morning the humidity is really high. Today our (thankfully air-conditioned) house was coated in condensation, and it was already in the mid 80s when I left. My warm up was slow, then, because it was hard to breathe and I was hot. Already.

But I’ve been playing with my workouts lately; finding a quiet space within the fatigue where I can keep going for what seems like hours and hours. And today was a workout where that would be possible, some aerobic work with a nice low heart rate.

So I kept pedaling, making my way from the pothole-strewn main road to the glassy, buttery new pavement on some quiet side streets in a quiet tiny town near mine. As the sun came out, my muscles loosened up, I was pedaling faster and more easily.

And all of a sudden, I’m struck with a memory: Getting out of the pool on a hot, sticky, July day, putting my jelly sandals on, and riding my bike in my neighborhood streets, clad only in my bathing suit, racing down the road, the wind in my face, the sun on my back.

Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent on my bike in the summer.

I love the feeling that regular exercise brings: endorphins and balance and happiness. I felt this when I was just running, of course.

But biking brings me such joy.

I am so very thankful for it.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Ancient History, Triathlon | Leave a comment

What Is The Story of Your Computer Me?

A couple days ago, a girlfriend and I were talking about our love-hate relationship with social media; how often we get sucked into believing that what’s posted on Instagram or Facebook is the whole story and truth of someone’s life… and how easy it is to dehumanize someone in the computer because they are #humblebragging or #blessed or just putting stuff out there that paints them as entitled and egoistic and narcissistic.

And then only cure for disliking someone’s online persona is to actually see them in person, because then you’re reminded, Oh, hey, they’re not nearly as bad as they seem on Instagram! Seeing them in person reminds you that they are real people, with fears and baggage and insecurities just like you.

This conversation has stuck with me – because I’m obsessed with Hamilton and the idea  you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

Last night, I got a Facebook friend request from a former client. Because I consider her more than just a professional contact – we have a lot in common – I decided to accept her friend request.

And, of course, immediately went to check out her wall, because I know her on a professional level, had heard about her family, and I wanted to put faces to their names.

But then, a question niggled in the back of my mind.

If she was looking at MY page right now, what story would she read?

I don’t spend a lot of time managing the Computer Me. I use Facebook as a way to keep in touch with friends, but I’m not good about posting pictures I take up there. Consequently, most of what happens on my Facebook wall is posted by friends at races and random funny articles my friends find for me.

My Facebook wall, then, is 90% triathlon and exercise pictures/posts, and 10% other stuff. Which, yes, I love triathlon and training and races (okay, well maybe I don’t LOVE racing, but I do love how I feel after a race!), but that’s not my whole life.

If I had to make a pie chart of where my time and energy goes in a given day, I’d say the training and racing is maybe 15-20% of my life.

So it makes me wonder how many people are looking at the Computer Me and thinking, Man, she’s obsessed with this triathlon stuff! and getting annoyed at me because I’m #humblebragging and #grateful and putting stuff out there that maybe paints me as a bit entitled and egoistic and narcissistic.

I’m not sure I’m going to spend  significantly more time and energy managing my Computer Me, honestly, but it does give me pause a bit. What story am I telling via social media?

Do you ever get annoyed at some of your real life friends for their social media personas? Do you ever consider what story you are telling through social media?

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Out of My Head, Social Media, Triathlon | 5 Comments