#MicroblogMondays: Sorted Wrong.

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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For as much as I love JK Rowling and the Harry Potter books, it’s a little ridiculous that I had never been over to Pottermore until this past week. I’m not even sure why.

But , when I saw people posting about their Patronus, I went over, created an account, and did the Patronus test. My Patronus was a grey and white cat, which made me very happy, because when I was growing up my cats made me very happy, and I love the idea that a cat would protect me from dark and evil things.

Then, though, I took the sorting quiz.

And it put me in Slytherin.

WAIT A SECOND.

No. I don’t WANT to be a Slytherin. I never wanted to be sorted into Slytherin. I’m sure there are plenty of nice people in there – the ones who didn’t cause any trouble, who just went about making friends and learning how to be wizards and witches and never bothered anyone. But it’s not for me, no thank you.

So I looked for ways to change it, and retake the sorting test, because clearly the Hat made a mistake.

I did not see a way to change it. I was in Slytherin, and that was that.

I was not okay with it. I mean, even HARRY had some control in which house he was Sorted into. Why didn’t I?

This wasn’t okay.

So I deleted my Pottermore account. And I went back in and REDID the Sorting, and the quiz gave me different questions this time, and again, I had no choice in the matter.

But this time, it put me in Ravenclaw, which is where I belong, and I was SO RELIEVED.

The only thing is that I had to re-do my Patronus test. And instead of a grey and white cat, my Patronus is now a rare Eagle Owl.

Which is fine, I guess. But I would have preferred my grey and white cat.

Pottermore, you need to allow people to have some say in the Sorting. Otherwise it’s not at ALL true to the book.

Posted in #MicroblogMonday, Mindless Posts | 1 Comment

The Solution (Part of It, Anyway) To Finding Time.

I can’t tell you all how frustrated I’ve been with my lack of getting my ass into my writing chair this summer and just writing. I can SEE the fact that I’m making distractions for myself, getting caught up in email and other tasks. I watch it happen, and I get frustrated with myself.

I know it’s better for me to write daily, too. I used to have a blog that I wrote in daily, no matter what, and my writing felt like it flowed so much better than it does now.

So two days ago, after I wrote and scheduled my blog post… I drew up a contract with myself.

I wrote out this quote from Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird:

You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

And then wrote out a contract for myself: Through December 31, for one hour every day, after Owen goes to bed, I will commit to this process.

I signed it, dated it, and posted it on my wall.

According to actual research, it takes 66 days for something new to become habit. I’m giving myself a little over 100 days.

It’s a start.

Posted in Challenges, Goals, Strategies, Writing. | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Making Time Is Hard. Especially When It’s Hard.

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’ve been really struggling with creating the habit of writing. I do actually spend 20 minutes to a half hour every morning – first thing! – doing my morning pages, so it’s not that. It’s the practice of sitting down at my computer and actually writing that I’m having trouble with.

What happens is that I have a great idea, usually when I’m in the car. When I get to work, I’ll maybe take some notes and promise myself that I will absolutely sit down and spend some more time with it later. Sometimes later never comes, because it’s busy with training and work and then parenting and soccer practice and then meetings and oh wait, I forgot that there’s some important task to finish or I need to see my friends and aw crap, I forgot to get some ingredient at the grocery store so I have to go now. On those days, I tell myself, okay, I’ll write tomorrow. And I console myself with the fact that it’s the first week or so of school, it’s busy, I’ll get back to it once things settle down.

But then, when I have actually managed to carve out some time here and there to write, where I sit down at my computer with the best of intentions that I’m going to set my timer and just write – about anything, Karen! Anne Lamott says so! – I end up staring at a blank post or word document, then clicking onto another web browser and going onto Facebook. Or checking my email. Or checking my phone to see if a friend has messaged me. Or calling my sister. Or finding some obscure psychology article to read.

Until all the time I had planned fades away, and it’s business as usual; dinner, shower, bedtime, my own bedtime, spending time with my husband, etc etc etc etc.

This is a a problem.

It’s a problem because I actually need to spend time writing more, not less.  I need to get all the gunked up crap from years of not writing out of me, and the only way to do it is to write a lot more than I do now. It’s so hard, though. I’m simultaneously trying to be okay with writing crap, partly because I know perfectionism if my enemy right now.

But also? Finding the words to get to the heart of a story is really fucking hard.

And I think that’s why I keep getting distracted and finding other things to do instead of sitting and focusing on writing. It’s why, before I actually began this post, I started to write myself a grocery list for tomorrow. It’s why, in the MIDDLE of writing this post, I started copying down a quote of Anne Lamott’s which I want to tape to my wall.

Writing when it’s hard is part of the process. It’s hard though.

Especially when it’s hard.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Challenges, Writing. | 5 Comments

An Ode: Why I Run. And Swim. And Bike.

A note: I FINALLY HAVE INTERNET ACCESS AT HOME! Our router died, and it took us this long to get a new one. Please forgive my absence, mmmkay?

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My parents were in town a few weeks ago for a visit. And as is their custom for the past half decade or so, there is ALWAYS a discussion whereupon my father or mother says, somewhat wonderingly:

Where did you get this Running Thing from?

(Ummmmm… actually, Mom and Dad, now I bike and swim too!)

I recognize that from the outside, it’s hard to understand why I, willingly, wake up before 4am in order to get a workout done in the mornings. It’s hard to fathom the hours I put into swimming and biking and running – unless you are into it as well. Even Jeff thinks I’m crazy to spend as much time doing what I do.

It’s possible I AM a little crazy for doing it. I certainly was obsessed years ago. That obsession has faded into a feeling of, well, this is just what I do.

Every day.

Happily.

Why?

There’s a moment in every workout: The intake of breath as I stand in waist deep water in the pond, regarding the rising sun, before I plunge my face into the cool water to start my swim… The warmth and strength in my legs as I pedal my bike hard, my eyes streaming from the wind in my face, the sun warm on my shoulders… The cadence of my feet as I run, my breath coming rhythmic and regular, my heart beating strong.

In those moments, tension and to dos and thoughts and worries and responsibilities all melt away.

I am fully present in this body of mine, with its strength and fatigue and heavy limbs and aching muscles.

I’m alive, I’m breathing, I’m present.

I’m Enough, and all the Not Enoughs that dog me relentlessly most moments fade away, leaving me with just, well, ME, in the afternoon/evening/morning air.

I am everything and nothing.

I am human and alive.

And then, when I get tired, I find that edge of discomfort, and I tuck myself away on one side, breathing, watching my mind scream, I can’t! and comforting her with a you CAN. You ARE.

It’s so empowering: finding that edge, the place where you think, I can’t do this! And then going past it, turning back to see it behind you. It’s made me more flexible, willing to tolerate discomfort in my regular life. It’s helped me make changes which allow me to creep ever closer to my True Self; becoming aware of myself deeper than the voice in my head, the one that dictates all the tasks of my days.

That, Mom and Dad, is why I run and bike and swim.

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, Races, Training Plans, Triathlon, Wellness | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: In Defense of Downtime.

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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Our August was busy with vacations, pool time with friends, parties and gatherings and dinners, time with visitors, and camp and library visits. And, really, we do this every summer –  stuff as much as possible into the summer months, because we know we will be heading into Hibernation Mode come October, where it gets dark and cold and grey.

But it doesn’t leave much in the way of downtime. For the past few weeks especially, I’ve felt as if I’ve been in kind of a Survival Mode; trying to stay on top of the most pressing items on my To Do list. I have only been able to take my life one day at a time; I have been too overwhelmed to look beyond it.

And it has affected me emotionally. I’m tired and grumpy and anxious and stressed. Especially these last two weeks, I’ve been struggling with anxiety, enough that I’ve had to take a few minutes multiple times a day to focus only on my breathing in order to stave off what feels like a mounting panic attack.

This weekend, Owen had his first club soccer tournament, which was scheduled for Saturday and yesterday. We spent most of the weekend after his games being social and then doing fun stuff together.

Today the weather was supposed to be cold and raining, so we deliberately did not make plans today; we thought maybe we’d have a family movie day. I even had a rare rest day from workouts scheduled, since I have my next half ironman race next Sunday.

The weather changed, and it’s gorgeous and sunny.

So we slept in, had some breakfast, then I wrote and meditated… then, while Jeff and Owen went fishing, I’ve puttered around and done all the things I haven’t made time for this past month: cleaning/decluttering, going through mail, changing and washing our sheets and towels, prepping food for the week.

It feels luxurious. It feels calming. I can feel myself unfurling, the tension in my shoulders loosening, my breath coming easier.

I need to remember this for next summer, when I keep adding things to do into our schedule. Down time is important, too.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, #ThingsIHaveLearned | 1 Comment

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. | 2 Comments

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.

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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