Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I see you

I keep telling myself I will finish each piece of writing I begin, but today I hold a vision so clearly in my head. I hold a moment so dear that I need to write it now. Everything else will have to wait.
 I ran the Hyannis half marathon this morning. It was my second year participating in this event. This was also the second time I decided against running the full twenty-six point two distance. I was over-trained and injured. Today I was running for the American Liver Foundation. I had raised over fifteen hundred dollars for the organization a few months back when I was planning to run the Disney marathon with the Connecticut American Liver Foundation team. The constant expenses of child care set against the reality of the cost of the trip, as well as assorted medical reasons, forced me to back out of the race. I wanted to still hold up my running commitment to the generous family and friends who donated to the foundation on my  behalf. I also wanted to raise awareness of liver disease and the importance of being an organ donor. Today I ran the race as a team of one. If anyone could pull that off, I knew that it is me.
I drove with Elijah most of Saturday. I took off a valuable weekend shift and made the trek to my mother’s house in a town nearby to Hyannis. I declined the hotel accommodations offered to me by American Liver Foundation as I felt that this was a waste of fundraising resources. I had a free place to stay. I have previously been reluctant to collect donations from family and friends. I am more comfortable offering my own services or help, actually doing something for someone else. I have a slight lack of confidence in nonprofit organizations possibly because of my own level of poverty. This may be from feeling as though someday I may need to ask for help. I am always prepared for a life of becoming destitute. It is something I attribute to years of living out of bags and having zero security.
I arrived late afternoon and the winds on the Cape were treacherous. I felt the pit of anxiety brought on by my own self-imposed pressure as well as my obsessive nature. I had already logged 44 miles of running this week. I should have cut down.  My mom felt my apprehension as she googled the following day’s weather. She assured me that they were predicting the winds to diminish after midnight.
After a restless night of sleep I awoke, and immediately heard the sound of wind gusting. I grudgingly put on my layers and headed down to the ten o'clock start time. Going to a race alone is always a different experience. Races, especially one with longer distances and larger ones have very social atmospheres. There were a collection of local woman who ran together, triathlon groups, locals and visitors alike. Families and children were holding elaborate signs, and cheering on participants. You felt the support that others had, you saw the families waiting out in the cold, becoming excited as they cheered for something that they themselves may not have understood. They recognized these runners’ decisions to conduct themselves in this crazy manner, running mile after mile under the pretext of training; out there every day, and in every kind of weather. They listened to descriptions of absurd training schedules that the runner would put him or herself through. While the spectator may understand the significance of supporting the runner, they did not have a clue why the runner did it.  When running the Hyannis Half marathon last year and knowing that my family was in the area, I passed each mile wondering if one of those people standing alongside of their car, or at the finish belonged to me.  I felt a deep loss, a pain, a disconnected feeling, having no one there. None of those family members saw what I did, or what I had accomplished, or what it meant to me. In all fairness to my family, I am sure that I understated the importance of the race to them. I was already assuming no one would come, and did not ask them or tell them that this was something I want them to be part of.
I sent my father an email. I told him I was in town for the race.  I was direct and told him I was going to finish running 13.1 miles at around 11:50, and would be in front of a hotel in a neighboring town from his home. I told him I was alone at the race. I told him I would like him to meet me.  My father is 67 years old. He is soft on the inside, but tough as nails to the world. He is angry; still angry at my mother after a twenty years of marriage and twenty years of divorce. He is not particularly affectionate; he keeps to himself about many things. We have somehow, despite busy lives, maintained a relative closeness. Over the years though, as my own parenting took precedence and as he lives nearly five hours away, we have become unavoidably distant. He suffered a massive heart attack at the age of sixty, and has ongoing health issues.  He has been reaching out over the last few months, sending one sentence emails, and even including a set of pictures of his beloved dog. When I deal with my family, I feel a need to protect myself. I feel like I have been in survival mode, and my family, all of them, have been a source of anxiety. I focus on what I am not getting from them and others, rather than what I am getting.
I ran the race, starting out too fast, with the cold wind scolding my face. The wind was so bad I could not speak after a few miles. In the back of my mind I was thinking of my father. I dismissed the thought with every agonizing mile. I was all too familiar with the heartbreak, yet sometimes I still allowed it to rush over me at each couples’ embrace and families’ cheer. I was strong. I didn’t need anyone.
My dad continued to creep into my head, and at mile ten, the route veered slightly to the left and up a hill through Cape Cod year-round residents’ homes. I began simple math equations, thinking I told him 11:50. At the pace I am going I will make it, but what if I stop and walk, what if he was there and decides to go back to the car? What if I miss what I so desperately need, or worse, he sees me succumb to giving up. Perhaps he will think this is how I always am. Will he think: when things get uncomfortable, when things are difficult, I give up?  I pushed along, making it to mile 13...one tenth of a mile to go, just around the corner. I headed towards the finish. Amid the spectators seven or eight deep alongside the barricades, I hear in the distance someone call my name. I look to the left and see him there among the other families. In that split second, everything slowed around me. I felt my voice deep inside, my arm waved in the air and I felt a sudden burst of energy in my tired, weak legs. I yelled: "Dad, Dad! You're here! Dad!” I had often pictured this moment at races. I would be struggling. I would pretend someone was there, someone who knew me from the inside, someone who had known me my whole life. 
I hold my father so dear. At his weakest, I helped him get on his feet, watching him as he crumbled through his own life choices, his own addictions, his own darkness. I worked through the hard steps of seeing my parents as humans. In that rush, in that instant, I knew all that I wanted to know for 39 years, I knew that my dad loved me.
I crossed the finish with the time of 1:50.30. My perfectionism, my brutal self, the one that is constantly beating up on myself, it all fell by the wayside. I rush across the finish and tried to pull myself together. I ignored the reality that my legs were wobbly and my face was numb. I walked quickly towards my dad, hundreds of runners and spectators were between us. I rushed past them, mumbling a crazy runner’s chant of “my dad is here! He has never come to a race!”At last, I hugged him hard and sensed his surprise. I didn't care. I thought: this is who I am, this is the part I wanted him to be part of. I took out my phone and snapped a picture so suddenly that it captured all of this, beyond a thousand words.
  He was cold, teary eyes. His shoulders were hunched up, under many New England layers of clothing.  He looked older. We quickly went inside to warm up and to escape the wind. I was slightly taken back by his ease of weaving through a packed hotel lobby full of runners. I got him a cup of chicken noodle soup, as I nervously and excitedly chatted at him. We decided to venture out into a quieter part of the hotel lobby. Neither one of us were ready to depart just yet. I smelled coffee and asked my dad if he had a couple of bucks on him. I understood this didn’t seem like a big deal, but this normal sort of parental interaction did not exist for me. We shared our similar sense of humor with an older woman behind the counter and found a quiet place to sit. Upon leaving, we stopped at a corner. My dad reminded me to put on my coat so I would not get sick. He held my water bottle and waited for me to put on my coat. It was another startling parental interaction. We saw a father and two small children getting respite from the cold wind. I asked them if they were waiting for their mom to finish. They said that they were, and that they hoped she would be done soon. My dad then looked at them and said, "If she is anything like her," gesturing at me, "she will finish all right. She might need to be carried off in a stretcher after ...but she will finish.” 
I got this overwhelming sense that all this time my dad did know what I was doing. He did know who I was...
 He saw me in that moment.
He has seen me all along.

The Beginning, A story from the New York City Marathon

The Beginning
   I was dropped off a few minutes before 5 am on 7 Th. Ave. to find the media bus and ride to Staten Island. The previous plans of riding with friends to the start fell by the wayside as my conversations with a media agency became more frequent during the tapering weeks prior the marathon. I had submitted my story to NYRR, a 500 word or less story  describing my motivation. I can barely say hello to someone in less than 500 words, and my story and its content can well-fill at least a dozen books. I wrote some bullet points, forced myself to dust off my story telling brain after a long week of waitressing, single motherhood, and training.  I have always known that I need to write this story down, I need to expose more than bullet points. I need to provide the sometimes harrowing details that led me to today. To remind others that no matter how many bridges you burn, one can always be built again. What I hadn’t realized until the morning of the marathon, is that I was trying to start my story from a line that had long since past. I needed to look forward, to the start line that was glaring ahead of me.                                                                                                                                            
    I was  looking for a man who called himself “John Smith” I was shunned and asked for credentials by bus after bus. My credentials were a cell phone number that was not being answered and my CT drivers license I had tossed in a Ziploc bag.  My self doubt crept in every minute that past..At 5:28 the buses started to pull away, tears in my eyes, but falling back to Plan B in my head my friends will be here in an hour, I will board another bus . My survival skills and my unwillingness to quit slowly boiled up as they always have. When a tall attractive woman, Jackie, hovered over me in the street lights and the idling of engines and said 
 "Are you Heather?" I looked to her and nodded. She said “Hi, come with me...”
   I then met John Smith, briefly. He placed a yellow rubber wrist band on me and said " keep this on VIP"   I thought, this is very exciting, and John Smith REALLY does exist.  I made my first of many friends that morning. Kristen, a blonde with piercing blue eyes, looked over the back of my seat and said, “Hi, I think we should be friends.” We chatted and quickly bonded only as woman can, getting right to the core of things, personal issues, fears and of course, running. As we arrived in Staten Island and the light appearing from the sky uncovered the sheer magnitude of the NYC marathon we, as a bus load of runners, interviewers, behind the scene people, crossed the gates into the running village and made our way to various tents until settling in one. We shared  line free portolets  with the celebs and were warm in heated tents unlike the over 40,000 other runners. As we stood Kristen knew several of the folks there, she introduced me as her “new dear friend” from the previous 45 minutes, it made sense ...The often accelerated bonding process many runners share, pre-race, during race, post-race. 
  The time went fast, I found myself with five other woman and our fearless leaders Brian and Jackie. We made our way to the UPS trucks. We all felt the pressure of time closing in, the race start in a mere hour. We agreed at that moment to strengthen our bond by sticking together... Crossing the field covered in hay and runners in sleeping bags seemed daunting and our presence in the first wave somewhat tentative, I looked back at the woman behind me, I took Duffy's (another pretty blonde runner from Fairfield CT) hand and said to her, “Look, I have been to many Grateful Dead shows, I can weave through crowds like you would not believe. Follow me and no one will get lost.” So on I weaved with Duffy, Kristen, another Heather, Tara and Jenny..Heather  suffered from tourette syndrome which was intensified by being in crowds  was running to conquer her fear and to raise money for the disease..We all succeeded checking our bags and met back up with Brian and Jackie to lead us  through the gate for wave one and to the start. During this time I met David. He looked so familiar to me, he looked like a runner / a reporter, a handsome man with chiseled features. I would not realize until the day after the marathon who he was. When I opened my issue of Runner's World and read the editorial, realizing David was editor in chief at the magazine.  David was genuine and warm, he  instantly made me feel important and validated my presence not only at the marathon but with the group. 
  Only a couple of hours had past but that accelerated bonding process of runners had taken hold. We stood together in a circle, waiting. Energy levels high,  full of excitement and pre race  anxiety. Our words and spirits  bounced off of each other, chatting about  race times, hometowns and calming Heathers growing fear of the crowd.  We gently poked fun of each other's neurotic running habits...OK maybe it was only mine, but we accepted each other. The national anthem played followed by goodbyes and encouragement.  We all hugged validating what a memorable marathon morning it already had become, validating the community we have.   "New York, New York" then played.  This may have been one of my highlights of the marathon, clothes flying in the air like a runners' striptease. Then, the cannon echoed in the air… The race began. As we all separated across the Verrazano Bridge, putting one foot in front of the other, no finish in sight, just the start...Moving forward with thousands of other souls.Knowing something new was beginning.
Heather and David Willys, Editor in Chief/ Runners world 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Days between

I asked a friend to write in the “about me” section of my blog a few weeks ago. I am sure most of us can agree it is hard to write about oneself. Yes, there are the constant Facebook status updates and twitter feeds, but that isn't really about anything, any solid thing. I do give credit to Facebook, however, for reminding me in the last few weeks of my voice, the voice that I have stifled with each passing year for various reasons and life circumstances. Recently, when the Susan Komen for the Cure foundation pulled its funding to Planned Parenthood, it set me off. I raised my voice, even if was only getting my point across to a small circle of friends. Usually, I keep my radical thoughts to myself, and leave my activist side restrained. I have also shaved off my self-righteous edge. My ultimate goal is to live by example, rather than telling people how I think they should live. I have fine-tuned this approach through my son. He is a devout vegetarian. He is an animal lover, a musician, and a child that is so unbelievably strong in his ten year-old convictions. He shows more empathy for someone of his young age than I thought possible. Yet I remind him to avoid being self-righteous. One loses credibility.   
These recent thoughts and concerns have intensified my feelings to do more, for others and for myself. 
  What is my blog about? Several friends have posed this question to me, and frankly, I do not have a simple answer. It is about my life, as it unravels, in no particular order, of stories of desperation, redemption, horror, as well as of grace. My young life ravaged by the real world, the hard world of drugs. A life of being trapped and indentured by coke lords, junkies and prostitutes. My present life as a waitress and single mother for 30-plus years, at diners and truck stops. The insanity and community of my current employment. It is about my struggles with food, with anorexia, body dysmorphia and self-destruction. These struggles are part of my life; then, as well as today. It is about my story of my health problems, how I overcome them, live with them, embrace them and most importantly, how I am my own advocate-in all that I do. Stories of family, of making choices, hard choices for my child, positive choices in the face of a constant volatility of a mentally-ill parent, an onslaught of denial, including my own. Stories of poverty, homelessness and other adversities so challenging, then and every day. Stories of pushing myself in a healthier way.  Running, swimming, cycling, endurance, challenges. Endurance I take from my last 39 years and put it in the right place. Finding peace through my voice, community, my son, and hard work, both physical and mental. 
  We all have struggles in life that we have overcome or succumbed to. How is my struggle different?  My story, blog, life is about not being broken, and not allowing myself to give up. I share my strength, my weaknesses, my insecurities, my addictions. I share them as inspiration, as motivation, as entertainment...
As life as I know it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mile 8

                 Late nights make room for vulnerable feelings. Those quiet thoughts creep up in all of us now and then. Particularly when there is no distraction, no self-medicating, no others around. The doom, the moments of despair, guilt, sadness. True silence.
            I awoke at 6:45 am and stumbled around the morning, coffee in hand, layering running clothing.  I am uncertain what drives me on these mornings as I have never been able to get up for anything else- school, work, doctor appointments. Working nights and maintaining a constant self-preservation mode until the early hours of the morning prevent me from feeling anything close to exuberance in the morning.
I arrived at the runners group meet-up late. The group had already left 15 minutes earlier in the first of three five-mile loops. Two others stood in the parking lot. We decided to not waste any time lingering. We started at a steady pace, but after a few miles I hold back a bit. I was planning on completing the full fifteen-mile run. I watched my friends who had just met in the last mile instantly bond. They were chatting away with the rising sun. We caught up to the rest of the group at 8:30.  We set out again through suburban neighborhoods, down busy roads. By mile eight, I got a sudden out-of-body familiar sense. I looked around me, within me, and slowly fell into a steady pace. My body lightened, my shoulders lowered. Finally, I felt like I was breathing. I heard the birds, and the despair from the nighttime faded away while the sun shone faintly across my face. I began to consider the coming hours of a busy Saturday. The hours working hard in a place I have spent many years. The monotony of each footstep of a busy night at the restaurant fights against the peace and connection I feel to running. To the earth under my feet. I carry that feeling to the people I interact with, what I draw from them, whether it be it a familiar face or a stranger. It is a never-ending quest to come out of myself, out of that self-conscious and anxious existence I sometimes lead. I go back to the feeling of  hovering over myself at mile eight. I grab onto that moment of peace and keep moving forward.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love. Crazy.

Heavy heart for Valentine's Day, sounds so cliché. I Love Valentine's Day. I like February, the name February, the letters in the word, the impending closure of winter. I love hearts because they bring out the eleven year old girl still living in me somewhere that drew hearts on anything and everything, often with a boy’s initials in them. Now I find myself at thirtynine years old, months away from turning forty. Single on the most celebrated couples day ever. I find myself typically bitter towards these relatively harmless, seemingly happy folks, coming to the local restaurant, buying ugly heart boxes or cheesy notions of sex inuendo items they would not normally buy.
We met at a Grateful Dead show in the parking lot. I was in the back of a make shift camper, housed in a Chevy pickup truck. A group of us were making spaghetti on an old propane single burner stove. He stood at the back of the truck. He was tall, with a long black pony tail, a startlingly handsome face with cheek bones set high. He wore jeans, ripped slightly in the knee, old, beat-up converse and a purple nondescript shirt. His deep-set eyes looked back at me briefly, holding a loaf of bread, offering to contribute some for the pasta. This is how we did things at shows. I felt my back straighten; drawn to this person, unlike most others I had met. He was still in college at the University of Maine. He was well-spoken, well read, well travelled. Traveling, the way we, as deadheads, saw traveling. All you needed you carried with you. You were road savvy, crafty, resourceful, concert venue savvy and, mostly, Jerry Garcia savvy.  We shared very few words. He paid no attention to me. This added to his appeal. He stood with a carefully packed frame pack with a Jack Kerouac book stuffed in his back pocket. I was young, 20-ish, and new to the Grateful Dead scene. I was coming out of one of the darkest places in my life: murders, heroin, cocaine, scary world-big world stuff. I found the Grateful Dead. I remembered I liked the color purple. I remembered who I was. I found the music, the music that shut off my brain, that made me spin in circles and put bells on my body. I was home, but something was missing...
Then, I found Evan.
Months had passed before Evan and I would have another conversation. He was thumbing around the country as a modern day, self-imposed philosopher. What eventually brought us together again was not surprisingly the Grateful Dead. I had been taking ethics classes and asked Evan for a little help. It was a class about animal rights, a subject that inspired me, and that I am still passionate about. The Dead were scheduled to play the Boston Garden for six nights. Three days later, Evan and I were on a Peter Pan bus, two frame packs instead of one, and on our way to spend seven nights in a city. Together we searched for cheap, safe places to stay. We had no tickets to the shows, we had nothing but a mutual will to see the music we held so dear. We travelled well together. I did not have the concert savvy that Evan had, nor the silver spoon upbringing, though I was able to bring ample street sense to the table, as well as persistence and cleverness. The friendship between Evan and I grew. The relationship took its natural progression and we began seeing each other. The trip to Boston became our destiny for the next twelve years. Evan and I were best friends. We were inseparable for months, years. We camped in small spaces, all the time growing closer. As the years advanced, our motto became: "When in doubt, keep moving."  When we would settle for too long, like when we camped for a month in a national park or on someone’s driveway, we would equate this with our cosmic minds becoming stagnant. We also travelled with the seasons, and with the Dead. We identified ourselves as "rainbow chasers" or some other title that described a state of drifting and dreaming, philosophizing, and seeing our country, always practicing philanthropic acts, eighteen times back and forth. That is another story that I will not get elaborate with right now. The thought was Valentine's Day, the hearts, the loves, present and lost long ago. 
As I previously mentioned, part of traveling with Evan was about being resourceful. It was a trait I was born with, and I have used it throughout what life has put before me. I started to see Evan’s patterns and how similar they were to those of my divorced parents. His bouts with depression were more evident, as was his lazy silver spoon entitlement attitude, and his I am more educated and smarter than most, so therefore I deserve more manner. It is easy for me to tell someone else's story, but I will only tell my story, and writing about Evan will be an important and continual thread throughout my narrative. He is the father of my child. I believe that despite some control issues and possessiveness that therapy may have helped, he was indeed the love of my life, thus far.
Evan and I would roll back into town just a day or two before Thanksgiving.  The weather and the shorter days made the slow but steady return (to his affluent town in Connecticut ) in  VW bus , and then later, in a 54 passenger army green school bus, a bit more appealing. Winter would bring that stagnant thinking, but working, pot smoking, and idealistic conversations kept us sharp. We were both dreamers, although I was more of a realist by nature. I had to survive for years before I met Evan, and would continue to years later. Then after seven years of travel, death, friendship, drifting, I found myself pregnant. I did not particularly care for children, and was not expecting it. I was even less expecting Evan’s full-blown manic episode. It was the morning of Easter, and I was ten weeks pregnant. Evan had been acting very oddly. I thought perhaps it was a different batch of marijuana, or maybe I was viewing him differently being thrust into sobriety and the early stages of motherhood. He called me at about six am with desperation in his voice, desperation and mania, a tone my son and I would later on become accustomed to. He pleaded with me from a Dunkin Donuts parking lot to meet him. He wanted to take me to the local pond. He had been hanging out at this pond for weeks, blurting out biblical quotes and practicing strange rituals. I was alarmed with the biblical stuff. He had been raised by a strict Irish catholic family, and according to him: “religion was forced down my throat as a child and altar boy.” I reluctantly got into my car and drove a mile down the road. I had changed somehow in a few short weeks, having the most powerful, first-time feeling that the life I had known was no longer just about me. Evan stood pacing in the lot, crazed. He begged me to get into his mother’s Mercedes and go to the pond, where apparently the disciples of Jesus and Jesus himself were waiting for him. For the first time possibly in my life, I was not led by my co-dependence. I heard a voice within me that told me to go home, to go back to sleep and care for the new life growing within me. Less than 4 minutes later Evan drove the Mercedes into a tree outside of his deceased brother’s home at one hundred and twenty miles an hour. Evan got out of the car and continued to walk to the pond. The entire passenger side of the vehicle was gone. I was not with him. Elijah, my son, saved my life. This would not be the first time.
This was to be the first of many manic episodes, Jesus fixations and hospitalizations.Evan would be hospitalized with more severe episodes over a dozen more times for the first 9 years of my son, Elijahs life. Each time promising a more compelling story than the last. The evening he was first hospitalized I found myself pushing through what would become an impenetrable wall of deep-seeded family denial. Evan was tied down in the back of an ambulance.  He was completely detached from any reality.  In tears, I talked to him, calmly, with the sympathetic presence of the paramedics. I was scared and shocked. He was brought to the hospital. He came in and out of psychotic episodes. At one moment, he asked why I was crying, why he was in the hospital. In the early morning hours I went back to the bed, to where I was when he first called some twenty hours prior. I lay on the bed, in a fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably, visions of the half of car that remained, visions of my unborn child, eyes wide, I was unreachable  rocking myself with the quiet, painful sound of a rhythmic moan. Evan had left. For the first time, I was afraid that he would never return. 
Visiting someone in mental institution has its own array of pain and agony. You walk through two or three steel doors. You take your shoelaces off so the patient cannot use them. You are searched and questioned. Evan impatient hospitals stays grew worse from one place to the next, the facility itself and the fact that I had a growing child, who loved his father. I had to shield him from the other patients; they would be yelling violently into the wind. They would be so medicated that they could not stand up or would be screaming obscenities because of a bad visit with their family. The hospitals got so bad, and Evan got so much worse, that many times I would not allow Elijah to even get close enough to his father to give him a hug. Every time we drove away from a hospital, Elijah and I would just stop, maybe a half mile away, and we would cry. We would hug hard. I would kiss him and tell him his daddy loved him.
Evan stayed on his medication for a while after those first few manic episodes. During those times, he was a wonderful, loving father. Every spring equinox he would have a psychotic break. Elijah and I finally left when he was almost three years old. That Easter was eleven years ago. Eleven years and counting of chaos and denial. Of behaviors so bizarre, so frightening, from someone I thought I knew, from someone I was closer to than anyone than anyone I have ever known.  This story, however, is still about Valentine’s Day.  It is about losing a love; in my case, not though divorce or death, but through mental illness. Someone vanished before my eyes, yet still remained, standing in front of me. I learned about letting go of a person who I cared for very deeply. I learned about letting go of my own co-dependence to benefit another: my child. I know  that all the love in the world will not direct another in their journey. Love cannot fix someone. I believe the act of forgiving is love. Have I forgiven Evan? He has caused so much damage to his son and me. Crushing pain and agony, moments of fear for our lives. He will continue to do this, although perhaps not intentionally. The Evan that I knew does not exist anymore. I mean that in the realest way. Do I have hope that he will someday return? Yes, for his son. I now wait. I tolerate. I assert rules. I try to forgive. I control environments and situations to protect my son and myself every moment of every day. I have love in my heart above all else. I have hope that Evan will find his way, that his life and destiny will become clear, and that his story will ultimately lead him to the peace he so desperately needs. 
That is love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Would you like feta on your salad?

  I  can be positive.  I can often see the good in situations and people. This new blog is bringing out a positive force within me. That said, I have more than my equal share of bad days. The days I am constantly trying to run from the grit in my story. The still questionable choices I make. The days I cannot control my temper. The days that I do not take care of myself, emotionally or physically. The days I push so hard, too hard. I have stories that make me who I am today, that make me react the way I do. There are common threads in my life, patterns we all have, that are prevalent in our lives.  When we recognize them and they make us uncomfortable enough, this is when we opt to change. Or when we decide to just live with them, when we tolerate behavior,  in ourselves or others,  and that tolerating eats away at us,  numbs us, and keeps us farther away from what we need to do, want to do or should do.  I am generous, even when I do not have the means to be so. I love people. I despise people. I have no tolerance for passive aggressive behavior. I am constantly pointing out this behavior to my ten year old son, Elijah. I explain to him that the way you express yourself and how you put those words together can make you feel more powerful. For example, Elijah will say: “Oh, [spoken with a desperate sigh) I am so thirsty.” Now that sounds like a normal thing that a ten year old would say. BUT it is astounding how typical it is of adult behavior. I explain to Elijah the difference. The power that HE has by saying: "Mom, can I have a drink? I am thirsty.” Saying what you want, insisting even. I then pull from life an everyday example...
  Customer (say an over forty year old woman): “Oh, I forgot to ask for cheese on my salad," whining slightly, with a desperate audible sigh. I respond with a strong, direct voice: "Would you like me to bring you cheese? It is not a problem at all." Ok, to my dear reader this sounds absurd. What the hell is she talking about, a freaking salad and a ten year old wanting a drink of water? 
I then continue, telling my son that if she had just confidently said to me: "I forgot to ask for cheese. Can I please have some?” Then, instantly, she asserts herself. Instantly, in my world, she is worthy of something. Something more than a sprinkle of cheese. She is being direct, not wishy-washy, but confident in what she wants. This ridiculously minor example still provides an insight into this woman, perhaps she is direct in everything, perhaps she is successful, or on her way to becoming successful. Perhaps she too is training herself to become more powerful, effective or direct. Of course, Elijah is also quite witty and sharp,  and with  a slight smirk on his face, he  scoffs  at the idea that asking for cheese in a restaurant can REALLY direct, change or mold your life. I point out how much more appealing the woman is because she just dropped the passive aggressive, waste of energy dance, and took the bull by the horns. I told him how many people operate on this level, and are just spinning in circles. 
I should have asked this, I should have said that. If only I did this...
Being a mother, my behavior is brought much more into focus. I have evolved considerably watching another human being emulate my behaviors. I often see in him what I want to change in myself, and at times this vision is intense and sharp. I See his anxieties and fears so clearly, and know where these come from. My patterns are becoming his. One of my biggest struggles in life is staying positive, giving a shit about other people when sometimes they may not deserve it. I am trying to like myself in any situation, regardless of the pain or ridiculousness of it. Do I do this every day? No.  I get swallowed up in my own lack of confidence, my own co-dependence, of being too concerned and preoccupied predicting what others might say and might feel. Yes, the more we identify one pattern, no matter how minuscule, the more we start to see all the larger ones. The more you take control, the more power you have. Call yourself and others out on when they say one thing and mean something else. Go ahead, ask for what you want or what  you need, what you wished you had...GO ahead-it could change your life.

Friday, February 10, 2012

You can call me sweetheart.

  It is only appropriate that I finally write about a race since racing takes up much of my time. I train all week, race on the weekends.  I am running the Bob Andruilis sweetheart run tomorrow in Litchfield; this race is very special to me for several reasons. I first ran the race 3 years ago. It was the first time I ran 5 miles. I was a ball of nerves and crashed hard at mile 4, and like a new runner dragged myself across the finish line being as dramatic as if I just completed a full marathon. Then, I felt wonderful.  The race itself is the epitome of  New England. It begins at a community hall. Bob Andrulis, who passed away years ago from a heart attack, clearly was a beloved member of the community. His children run the race. His great grandchildren speak to the shivering runners lined up in a typical pre-race scene parking lot. The race follows a dead end road and takes you a quarter miles down a woodsy path, only to put the runner back out on a large main road, winding and curving past the maple trees. It then enters White’s Woods state park, turns around and circles back, finishing in the same lot. There are usually several older woman with many blankets huddled together cheering on every runner until the last one finishes. The runners are then given a cellophane bag full of different Valentine's Day candy, and are encouraged to go inside to join the masses for homemade soup, a table of fresh baked goods and happy, excited volunteers. When I entered the hall those few years ago, I felt like a part of the community. I felt like a friend of Bob Andrulis. I felt like a runner. 
   When I drive to Litchfield I am blasted with childhood memories, from the Gooseberry drive-in where I ate my first hamburger with an onion on it; and past the Northville grocery store, that used to be home to many many stuffed animals. My beloved stuffed Ostrich, named Oscar, resided there. I have faint visions of cross county skiing through White’s Woods, of family day on Sundays. Those days are long ago for most of us, but so much longer in my story. Such a brief time of family history that then collapsed into real life, real worries, real pain. 
As I think of the race tomorrow, my thoughts become much different. I know who my competition is, I know they will be there. I have been nursing an injury, so am uncertain if I should give it one hundred percent; the biggest reason being that I am afraid of failing. Running five miles isn't like what it used to be. I used to be afraid I would not finish, now I am afraid I won't win. Or rather, if I feel I didn't do as well as I think I should, I will have to deal with my own disappointment. At times, this thought process makes me wish that I never got better, that I never placed at a race, that I was not so hard on myself.  Smart training is always looking ahead, and always listening to your body. Smart running is running against yourself, and running FOR yourself all the time, every time. I will lace up my running shoes in the morning and put all the layers on. I will remind myself how far I have come, as a runner, and as a person. I will slow down as I pass the Northville market, the Gooseberry diner. I will take a deep breath when I enter the White’s Woods Memorial Park. I will remember my mother and father taking four children skiing, with a thermos of hot chocolate in tow.  I will run, I will finish, I will bring my bag of candy home to my son. Fast or slow, I will cherish the cold February air on my face, I will feel my heart beat with the sound of runners’ footsteps, of runners all around me. When crossing  the finish with cheers from  old women clad in wool afghans, I will be grateful to be alive.
On the road , San Francisco California, 90's

Dear diary...

At my friends insistance that I post a new entry, I find myself here at my kitchen table, very little time to spare succumbing to his persistence. He said " You must write, knowing that people will be reading your blog, they will be waiting for it..." This may someday be true and I will feed the public, my people... with all that circles in my brain, but for now it is somewhat comical. I have been part of this social media, blogger scene for less than 48 hours, I have also yet to make a public announcement to these" followers" that are somewhere out there not knowing they are waiting at the edge of their seats, mid day in the suburbs longing for my words. 

A post, a blog, my thoughts, how does this work? I have a million things that I want to cover, opinions, stories....Beliefs. Today however, it is  Thursday at 2:46 in the afternoon, I go to work in an hour and have a list a half of page long of things that will most likely not get done in the next 60 minutes. Do I twitter-ize my....
 Today I drove my son to school one hour late

 I then went on Facebook,while drying my running clothes on an old radiator

 Chatted with a friend about the horrible men she has met on match
 Ran 8 miles
 swam a mile

 And lastly, as of 3 pm ...was harassed by my dear friend to "post"
  I am not so great with single dialogue, I often get stuck with my own neurotic , obsessive thoughts and like many of us strive for distraction.  Do I dare say I am a people person? I need REAL  dialogue to really get my mind sharp? People person, not sure that sounds right to me...I  can't help be reminded of the 80's collection of self help books, as in "I'm ok you ok"..."Real men eat quiche" ( Ok so that is a cookbook but prevalent in the 80's) I will admit the tittle of the book is almost always reversed in my world...I'm ok , your NOT ok. I would also love a man that loved quiche and knew how to cook it. 
  Hmmm...I will dig in, I will write:
I slept until 9 o'clock today, I awoke tired, the sun shining it's far away February light through the window. I looked over at my son and asked him if he minded being a bit late to school.
His response was predictable as he climbed into my bed , his warm sleepy body clad in monster truck fleece jammies and put his head down near mine. "How about we take the whole day mom? You said we could play hooky"..."No Lij  " I replied, what time is art? Lets get there by the time it starts." I then called the school with a bit of a half way truth and told them we would be arriving shortly. I made Elijah a waffle, with blueberries. I love to feed my child. I prepared his lunch and wrote his note, full of stickers, having the 100% knowledge that I will miss the day of not writing these notes, I make an extra happy face, and write I love you one more time  at the thought.
ELijah arrived to art class half way through. I began my day. Running is most always first. I ran about 8 miles, through the familiar streets, I was cautious of an injury I am nursing. I thought of my race weekend ahead. I shut down the voices that said I wasn't good enough, the voices that try to ruin my run and same voices that I allow to ruin my day or a moment. I have no tolerance for them during a run .In between run and swim I made a game plan of gathering more sponsorship for a race that I have thrust myself into, ( separate blog) out of love for running, out of my love of cows and the farm the race is being held on and out of knowing I have something to give to this race. Something about being involved is calling , I am hearing it, I am  going where it feels right. 
  I am not sure how my first real life day post is turning  out. I do  know that my rush/busy -ness will continue until around midnight. I know that I have so far made it thru another day in my world. I have methodically controlled the crazy elements of my life. I will work, I will force myself  out of myself and my thoughts that so often come in my head..."What the hell am I doing?And why am I still doing it here" I will give someone something today, maybe a humus, maybe a dollar, maybe a laugh... Every one I meet I give them a little bit of me, some empathy,some attitude, some excitement, some encouragement. Whatever I get, whatever I give, I am positive will help me thru tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Molten Java spilling the beans

I met with Sandi today. She is a reporter for the Danbury News times. She is also a fellow runner in the Woodbridge running group. I recently joined. She is a petite fast runner, very warm, with many children, and seems to easily make friends. Sandi is doing a story on the running club, and a separate piece on me. I have what will unravel slowly as an unbelievable, compelling story: a story of struggle, addiction, health issues, mental issues and pure determination. Some days this determination has a direction, others it quietly boils within...always there. I told Sandi  a bullet point timeline, finding myself saying" off the record" wondering: s there really such a thing? I mean once you put it out there, is it not indeed " on the record"? Either way, as I chose my words ( of which I rarely do) and emphasized my dislike for disclosing personal information that could possible be relayed as either drama or sympathy  as I also do not care for the rubber necking crowd that is so prominent in our society, I told her simply, as I whipped through years of my life, story after story; I just want to inspire. To give someone hope to keep going, or give them an idea of a coping method, or just purely for entertainment... Of which I will do with this blog.

I will write as I speak, sometimes humorous, always honest, many times raw. I am smart woman, trapped in a life that I love, yet despise. I only feel whole when the ball is rolling ...and only rolling forward. There is nothing more unpleasant than being stagnant, than waiting for more. Than being stuck, in our own mind, routines, circle of people or job. I am a definition of this. I work in a restaurant that I worked in 20 years ago. I watch myself and everyone around me become older. Life going by so fast as the cliche always tells us, but none of us believe it. The feeling of not wasting any precious moment becomes stronger and stronger. I have a perspective on life, on struggles, and even the constant ridiculous struggle I deal with every day that makes me not so much unique, but rather positive at some moments, weak and disparaging at others, but all the while pushing through the every now and then self-inflicted situation that makes parts of my life astounding and others downright comical. We all have our own list of "rules,"  of moral fiber that holds us together , or doesn't. I am full of ideas, fear, motivation, love, resentment, confidence and too much self doubt. I push through the way we all do, but I am pushing for more. More understanding, from others and myself, more connection, more exposed raw truths. The intensity of life is what  whether we all participate or not, makes us feel alive, gives us drive, makes that inner voice yell while we stuff more in to muffle it. I hear the voice, I have tried for years to fight it, and now...I am closing my eyes, opening my ears and diving in, head first.