Do It Anyway.

I think what scares me the most about TIME right now is how quickly it is flowing. It started when Owen was born, and the days were long with sleep deprivation and anxiety.. but then the weeks seemed to fly by.  As he’s grown, time has seemed to pick up speed, going faster and faster.

I often just want to scream WAIT, SLOW DOWN! I can’t keep up!

Two nights ago, I had an amazing and completely exhausting swim workout. When I got home, I was physically depleted, to the point where I considered sleeping in my car in the garage, because idea of walking into the house was a monumental effort. But I was also ravenous, so I made it inside to our kitchen table, where I collapsed, with cold leftovers. (Which, as an aside, were AMAZING. Food is SO good.)

Owen had just gotten home from a soccer game, was also ravenous and wanted leftovers. So he and I sat there and ate our dinners – mine cold, his warm- at almost 9pm.

Unlike me, he was NOT depleted from his soccer game; he was energized and had a lot to say.

And in this one moment, as he was talking, I saw both the chatty 9 month old baby with the chubby cheeks who would have a conversation with me (which sounded like Maaa ma ma mamamama MA MA MAAAA!)… and a flash of the man he is going to become.

Forward and backward, past and future, all wrapped up in the bubbling energy of my 8 year old son. I saw it so clearly in one moment, and I was left feeling full of love and gratefulness and wonder.

I can’t stop time.

I can’t slow it down.

Frankly, I can’t keep up.

But I can record my stories and the moments where I see.

So. I signed up for the writing class.

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The Not Enough Demons. (Or: Why I Need Hope.)

I woke up Not Enough this morning.

Well, maybe it’s truer to say that I went to bed Not Enough last night. Sleep doesn’t erase Not Enough; instead it seems to amplify it.

And so I woke up this morning, on a Tuesday, already Failing.

There are lots of reasons why I feel I’m Not Enough.

Someone I respect and admire disagreed with me on something I feel is important but can’t justify beyond saying It’s important. And because I can’t justify it, I can’t argue. If I can’t argue it, then maybe that means I’m wrong. If I’m wrong, then my life feels both hard… and pointless.

Work is busy and my knowledge of what I’m doing is tenuous at best because it’s my first year end, yet I cannot work the kind of hours I need to work, because life is crazy… and they can’t afford for me to work those hours. Besides, I shouldn’t NEED to work those kind of hours, because I am a CPA with nearly 15 years of experience.

I made a mistake with the woman we hired to help out at home; I gave her a key to our house despite my misgivings about her commitment – the day before she disappeared and stopped responding to my calls and texts.

For years I swore I’d never get a dog if we couldn’t give him what he needs. We are not giving Finley what he needs right now. We don’t have the time to give him exercise every day. And so EVERY. TIME. I try and leave the house, he comes over and looks at me expectantly, then hangs his head whenever I tell him that he’s not coming with me, I’ll be back soon. It’s an awful way to leave my house, and I do it every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

Yesterday I found a 6-week writing seminar in a town next over that I really, really, really want to do. Except I am pretty sure I can’t swing it, because committing to six Thursday nights in a row this winter- for something that’s my HOBBY- is too much, and now that the woman we thought we hired is no longer an option, I don’t have the help I was hoping to have in order to have the time to do it.

I have friends who are grieving and suffering right now, and there’s literally nothing I can do to help them.

And I don’t need to tell you what’s going on in the world right now, whenever I look at the news. I’m so, so, SO tired of feeling afraid. But I’m really afraid.

The Not Enough demons are strong today. I feel small. Powerless. Exhausted. Low on hope.

And how it manifests in me: I’m grumpy and quiet and clipped and snappish. I have no tolerance for questions – especially ones which require me to make more plans or figure out a schedule. Everything in my being screams JUST LEAVE ME ALONE. I want to escape and run away.

You guys, I have a family.

This is not okay.

So the thing is: I have this idea.

Maybe if I can find hope – even if it’s infinitesimal right now- I can spend my time working hard to foster those tiny moments of happiness and gratitude inside me. If I do that, then maybe they can grow, and get bigger. And when they do that, maybe, just maybe, I can live from a place where I don’t wake up on a Tuesday morning feeling Not Enough.

I need hope.

So this morning, when I was driving to work, crying, because oh my god do I feel Not Enough right now, and it’s only Tuesday, and all the days I need to get through are stretched in front of me, weeks and months and years and decades full of tasks and To Dos, and I’m so scared I’m always going to be To Doing and my heart will never feel full… I looked up and saw this gorgeous sunrise.

And even though I was crying, I stopped and took a picture.

It’s not the greatest picture ever, not filtered and instagrammed and perfected like some kind of postcard. It’s just the sky.

But I took this picture this morning, when I was feeling scared and exhausted and feeling hopeless.

For today, that’s Enough.

 

Posted in #BrainDump, Out of My Head, Rants | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Cultivating Hope.

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 just discovered this Washington Post article, even though it’s been out for a few weeks. In it, a DC-area unitarian minister talks about three different ways to cultivate hope in a the new year.

I’ve actually been struggling with this for a few years now; balancing a need to be aware of current events with the hopelessness I feel every. time. I. read. the news.

So I really love this idea that hope is an intentional practice, like lighting a candle in the dark. It fits really well with my goal this year to be more intentional about where I spend my energy, too.

One of the biggest things I’m working on right now is actively changing my perspective. Because I’ve found that I have a pretty damn negative, mean, and judgy voice inside my head who’s been allowed to manage my thoughts and worldview for wayyyyyyyy too long.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to be hopeful when you’re focusing on more of the positive and feeling grateful.

(Also, it’s pretty eye opening to realize that negative and hopeless was my default setting.)

Does this idea of cultivating hope resonate with you? How do you practice hope?

Posted in Challenges, Goals, Meditation, Strategies | 4 Comments

When Being Good at Life Tetris Isn’t Always a Good Thing.

One of my intentions this year is to be more mindful of where I spend my time and energy. When I started this, I assumed that I’d have to give up most forms of social media, because maybe I was mindlessly surfing and wasting time.

But after about a week of tracking where I spend a lot of my energy, I’m realizing that it’s not really the social media that I have trouble with. It’s not mindlessness that I struggle with.

It’s the opposite, actually.

I spend most of my time in my head, planning out the flow of my day.

I’ve mentioned before the fact that I’m pretty damn accomplished at Life Tetris. The thing is, I LIKE it, too. It’s wildly satisfying to finish a day having accomplished getting everything done when I didn’t know how it would all work. It’s a puzzle which requires creativity and thinking… giving my mind something to DO.

Except it’s also physically and mentally stressful and exhausting and completely inflexible. And hard on others, too.

Because if I miss or forget something, or am given new information on something I wasn’t expecting… I make it really hard.

I’ll give you an example: this very morning’s issue.

So work is incredibly busy for both Jeff and I right now. I am trying to close the books for the year so that the Treasurer can have some useful reports which show our results for the year. He’s trying to send this report to the board this weekend, and though he’s saying that these are “preliminary” results, he basically wants the numbers to be the final numbers. Jeff has been running into configuration issues on his project and, instead of his client being willing to rework the timeframe for the project, he’s being forced into more status meetings, which requires him to work after hours if he actually wants to get work done. Jeff worked last night until about 9, and I was in bed before he got home.

(As an aside? This client reminds me of everything that’s wrong with corporate America and makes me so damn grateful I am the non-profit world)

So this morning I went downstairs to make coffee. In the dark kitchen, while doing a few dishes and some other things, I started planning the flow of my day. Friday. Work, run, Owen gets off the bus, library, some chores, dinner. I’ll make the Moroccan fish stew today, take the fish and shrimp out of the freezer. Okay, coffee. Owen will buy lunch today, so I don’t have to do anything there…

Jeff comes downstairs, and I tell him his coffee and lunch is ready to go, and I tell him what my plans for making dinner are.

He responds, Um, aren’t we going out tonght? Remember, Celtics game?

My first reaction: blame.

What? You didn’t write “Karen and Jeff out” on the weekly menu. How am I supposed to remember if you don’t do that?

My second reaction: grumpy.

It’s Friday night after a long stressful week. I don’t even WANT to go out.

My third reaction: annoyance.

Now I have to go back and plan the whole day over!

My mood changed instantly. I gave Jeff a hard time about dinner plans, telling him I needed him to tell me where we were going for dinner ahead of time because I needed to make sure they had something I could eat. (You know, because the whole no-grains thing.)

That was the moment where I heard the niggling voice inside me.

Usually I can drown it out.

But today, I stopped for a moment.

Wait. STOP IT RIGHT NOW, KAREN. Jeff and you never go out. You have been looking forward to spending time with friends at the Celtics game tonight. Do not make this a problem. THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM.

*Deep breath*

*Another deep breath*

This is not the person I want to be.

And holy shit, I spend a lot of time in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, Challenges, Marriage, Out of My Head, Wellness | 3 Comments

Gut Issues.

In November, after my annual physical blood draw results came back showing I was anemic with low ferritin and low-ishl B12 levels, my doctor prescribed that I take an over the counter iron supplement for the next three months which would increase my iron stores.

But also, in the nurse’s words, it would give me some digestive trouble, too.

After the years of hormones when we were trying to get – and stay – pregnant, I’ve turned into a bit of a nut about what goes into my body; I’m just not keen on putting stuff in there that isn’t food, or at least food-based. I DEFINITELY wasn’t into putting more metal into my body. I decided, no, I’m not really into taking something that is going to HURT me for months, thanks.

So I increased my red meat and spinach intake and decided to make an appointment with a holistic doctor in the hopes that he’d have a better way for me to get more iron into my system, hopefully by using food, not pills.

His methods of diagnosis were a little, uh, out there. But as it turns out, he believes I have a nutrient absorption issue, rather than an full on iron or B12 deficiency. Essentially, he told me, my sympathetic nervous system – the part of me that governs exercise and movement and adrenaline – was overworked… and my parasympathetic nervous system – the one that helps with recovery and digestion and sleep – wasn’t working enough.

It made SO MUCH sense to me.

But then he told me that my body was reacting to most every grain I was eating.

And I walked out with a piece of paper that said this:

Avoid soy, wheat, corn, gluten, and high fructose corn syrup*.

Ummmmm. I’m an endurance athlete. Which means that wheat, corn, and gluten are pretty much staples in my diet.

(Also, was I really jumping on the no-gluten bandwagon? Because I have to tell you, as a mom of a child with life-threatening, very real allergies, the words gluten interolerance bother the everloving crap out of me. My child nearly died from anaphylaxis when he ate a cashew. Gluten intolerance IS NOT A REAL ALLERGY.)

But the doctor told me to give him three months. If I can’t fix your issue by then, I can’t fix your issue.

So I gamely decided, okay, fine, I’ll cut them out and see what happens*. I stopped eating my morning sunflower bread. I quit the cookies, and I gave away the rest of my homemade (also the. most. amazing!) gingerbread. I stopped snacking on tortilla chips. No more tacos, or pasta, or bread. Or beer. Fine.

You know what happened?

I had a day where I felt like absolute shit. But then? It was like magic. I felt GREAT.

Because I’ve basically had a stomachache for the past three months.

And I didn’t realize it – until it was gone.

 

 

*There’s more to his diagnosis than just cutting out the bad stuff. I need more salt, some cider vinegar, and probiotics, all of which I can get from food. He did give me some supplements – calcium and vitamin D – which are food-based as well. He told me that at least until February, I should avoid the stuff which causes me trouble, mostly because my stomach is reacting to everything right now. Once it’s healed, then we can see if I can tolerate a bit of it here and there.

 

 

 

 

Posted in #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, Strategies, Training Plans, Triathlon | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: Redemption Race.

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

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My relationship with running has been a little, well, complicated for the past few years. I had a flash of brilliance in 2013, where I set a number of personal bests at races and ran faster than I ever thought I could run… but then, when I didn’t BQ break 4 hours meet my lofty expectations do as well was I was hoping to at the Baystate Marathon, I went too far with both disordered eating and overtraining that winter. I spent the next year climbing out of the tired and sluggish hole I dug myself into.

Then I discovered triathlon. The training has been amazing, but I spent a lot of time running easy in my training… and when I get off the bike to run after a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride, my pace isn’t exactly blistering.

So I have spent the past few years telling myself that maybe my fastest running days were behind me.

But, man, I still have some goals for my running. I’d really love to qualify for the Boston marathon at some point, and I’d like to get better at my speed off the bike in my triathlons. I used to LOVE running fast, and I really want to get back there. So my goal this offseason was to work on my running speed and race a number of different races.

First up was the 5k.  Which was a disaster- I blew up and fell apart. And that voice – Your best running days are behind you, Karen. You’re done! Was really, really loud.

Yesterday, though, I ran the Hangover Classic 10k. And in full disclosure, the title was fitting, because I was kind of hung over for the race; we spent New Year’s Eve with my BFF and I ate far too much bread and cheese and cookies and dip and drank champagne and stayed up far too late and then I couldn’t sleep in that morning, because I’m conditioned to wake up at freaking 6am.

(Totally worth it, though!)

But during my warmup, my heart rate was WAY higher than it should have been for my super slow pace. And I thought, well, maybe I should just take this one slow.

Yet when the race started, I decided to give it a shot and race it a little faster than I would like. I don’t run a lot of 10ks, and my best time to date was 52:38. If I could keep my pace below 8:30, I figured I’d have a shot at maybe getting a new personal record (PR).

And I sustained the harder pace, more or less, for the next 6 miles. I listened to music, a treat for me. When it got hard, I focused on running strong and relaxing my shoulders and using my arms and staying with the people in front of me.

And damned if I didn’t finish the race with a shiny new PR.

Intellectually, I know that running is largely a mental game, but yesterday’s race highlighted it for me.

Maybe my best running days aren’t behind me.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, Races, Running, Training Plans, Triathlon | 2 Comments

New Year, New Goals.

Until a few years ago, my new year resolution-setting was a study in perfectionism. Every year I’d make myself a To Do list of all the things I’d do to better myself in the coming year. I’d lose weight, tackle a marathon, write every day, meditate, yell less, stop eating sugar. Et cetera, et cetera et cetera, ad nauseum.

I started to recognize the pattern: create list of Things I Need to Be, write it down, put it into practice, ideally in December, so I could have head start on the new year, and then working on all the things I don’t like about myself until I either hit the goal or felt so shitty about myself that I gave up on the idea.

So I gave up the practice of making resolutions for a couple of years.

But my fall and early winter has been so crazy and hectic that I feel like I’ve lost sight of what’s important to me – it’s buried under all the to dos and busyness. And I have been feeling like a ship without a rudder lately.

So it struck me that I could use this time, right now, to re-set my intentions for the coming year.

My goals, then:

  • To be more mindful about where I spend my time.. and make the time to write daily.
  • To be more intentional about the kinds of food that go into my body.
  • To meditate daily, no matter how hectic.

More on how I got here to come, promise. 🙂

In the meantime, Happy New Year to all of you!

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Challenges, Goals, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When You Need Help.

This summer, I accepted a new job – one that I thought would give me more time.

It was flexible, quiet, didn’t consume me the way my other corporate jobs did, and 20 minutes from home. It allowed Owen to come home on the bus three days a week, instead of going to the afterschool program. It allowed him to join a club soccer team as well.

The reality is, well, different than I expected.

Taking this job also required me to take on 95% of parenting and life administration duties as well. And it’s really, really busy.

I’ve all but given up on finding time to write. I have been meditating during my commute to work, where I listen to Tibetan Singing Bowls in the faint hopes that maybe a few minutes of meditation – even in the car – is better than nothing. My workouts are crammed into too-small pockets of time in the afternoons, and I’m often forced to cut them short or forego a shower when I’m done.

My days are spent playing aggressive Life Tetris; moving my blocks of time in order to be the most efficient, fighting to get rid of lines of obstacles like work schedules and Finley care and Owen homework and laundry and dishes and dinner prep and soccer practice and games and seeing family and having some kind of semblance of a life outside of my home and chores. I’ve stacked up my days such that every moment I am awake must be productive.

I thought it was okay. Even when my pants were tight and I got on a scale and discovered I was up 10lbs from  stress eating. Even when I got sick over Thanksgiving when we finally didn’t have to be anywhere or do anything. Even when I started to be mean and fight with my husband about how streamlined HIS life gets to be – get up, gym, work, home, and oh, hey dinner’s ready! Even when I’ve rushed Owen through his homework so we can get to the next activity.

And then there was last week.

It was already a hectic week, with three birthday parties on top of the regular schedule. And then, on Wednesday, we discovered that Finley had gotten bitten by another dog when we were away over Thanksgiving… when the bite got infected and burst. It meant daily visits to the vet, medication, compresses, no walks. The first night I was up overnight for a good portion of the night worrying about how it was all going to work. We got more bad news on Friday night – his wound wasn’t healing well, and they were considering putting a drain in.

And then I raced a 5k on Saturday.

It was the worst race I’ve had in a long, long time.

The thing with the kind of workouts I do: they are usually pretty easy. Easy in the sense that they aren’t INTENSE workouts. I can always let off the pace, run easier, take deep breaths, etc. It’s a low, slow, long burn. And 5ks aren’t those kind of races. They are intense and hard and consume you like wildfire.

And at the race, in mile 1, when it was hard, I freaked out and panicked and completely crumbled.

I have run half marathons faster than I ran the last 2 miles last Saturday.

I knew I had been strung out and stretched thin and stressed out for far too many weeks, but somehow seeing how the stress played out for me during a race… it made me realize I need some help.

It’s REALLY hard for me to admit that I can’t do it all.

But I can’t do it all.

So the first part of the solution: tonight we are interviewing someone who I’m hoping to hire to come to our house twice a week and help with housekeeping and babysitting and homework and meal prep and dishes and laundry.

(The second part of the solution is, obviously, to get back to meditation and writing. I’m hoping that the woman we interview is a good fit for us and we can utilize her help so that I can, in fact, get back to it.)

I can’t do it all.  And that’s okay.

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, #ThingsIHaveLearned, Parenting, Races | 3 Comments

#MicroblogMonday: Giving Thanks.

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 caught a cold during our trip to visit my family in North Carolina. I rarely get sick, so at first I thought it was allergies from the wildfire smoke in the area; I just couldn’t understand why I seemed to be bothered by it when Jeff seemed to have no issue.

Then my throat got REALLY raw and my teeth hurt and I was achy and hot and I couldn’t sleep. I am not kidding when I say that discovery of nyquil in Jeff’s toiletries kit saved me a couple nights ago.

But it’s funny how it works: when something doesn’t hurt, we take it for granted. Breathing without sinus pain, for example. Or swallowing without feeling like I ate glass. Or sleep.

It got me thinking about all the things that I am so grateful for but take for granted most of the time.

I am grateful that I grew up in intellectual and economic privilege, where it was assumed I would get my college (and by and large, my master degree, too).

I am grateful I have a career where I will likely always be able to find a job.

I am grateful that I am largely healthy and can do things I love – like triathlon – with relative ease.

I am grateful that I have a loving and supportive husband who works hard to support our family in all ways.

I am grateful beyond measure that we had access to the medical technology who gave us our son.

I am grateful that we live a life where I can actually contemplate all the things I’m grateful for on a daily basis.

I hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving as well.

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday | 1 Comment

#MicroblogMondays: Turbulence.

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’m a nervous flier.

I know, intellectually, that planes fly because, well, PHYSICS, but I cannot get over how unnatural it feels to be sitting in a massive and heavy metal bus, hurtling across the sky, held up only by air.

Still, though, I love to visit new places and very much dislike taking days to get there. So we fly a fair amount.

And nearly every time we fly, there’s a moment where we hit some turbulence.

Owen finds it all really fun; he smiles and laughs at how the pilot is making his “belly feel funny!”

I, however, feel absolute and deep panic. I break out in a cold sweat, I NEED to hold onto something hard and real, and I close my eyes and literally force myself to breathe. In and out. In and out.

I hate those moments. I feel caged and terrified and completely powerless.

But I keep a tight lid on that panic, because my kid is sitting next to me, and he’s smiling.

All I tell him is that the motion makes me feel a little sick. And since I get motion sick really, really easily…

He believes me.

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The election last week turned my world completely upside down. I assumed that people felt the way I did. I just KNEW that they wouldn’t vote for a man like Trump, because people are good and want to do the right thing.

I didn’t realize I was living in such intellectual and economic privilege. I CAN use my vote to satisfy my ideals, because I’m white and educated and I have opportunities because of that. I had no idea, and I’m sitting with reality.

I’m also sitting uncomfortably in the position of hater right now. I really THOUGHT I was different than that, that I believed in the inherent good of people, and tolerance and kindness and equality for all. But I loathe Donald Trump, more than I’ve ever hated anyone before. I understand why people voted for him – I think, anyway. But I hate him, and I have no idea how I’m going to manage to listen to his words or see his face for the next four years.

And I feel like I’m stuck on a plane in the middle of heavy turbulence, and Owen’s sitting next to me, and it’s all I can do to keep breathing. In and out. In and out.

Yeah.

I feel a little sick.

Posted in #BrainDump, #MicroblogMonday, #ThingsIHaveLearned | 3 Comments