Monday, July 29, 2013

Vicious Cycles

Don't pretend you didn't miss me!

Instead of being silent about why I've been so silent, I'm sharing a little bit about what's been going on lately.  We are having some serious family issues right now with one of our college-age kids, and it's really been getting to me.  It is affecting every facet of my life, including running.  I know for a fact that a good, sweaty run will improve my outlook on life, my mood and consequently, I run happy again the next day, and the day after that.  Well, it stopped working.  I mean, what the hell?  I thought this running thing was supposed to make everything better.  Can you actually build up a tolerance to running, like people do with drugs, where you need more and more to get your fix?

In the real world, bad stuff happens, and for me, running usually gives me a different perspective on the bad stuff.  Sometimes, all you need is a shift in your perception to change your reality.  But lately, the perspective has been going nowhere, and therefore the running is going nowhere too.  Add to that the heat and humidity of July (minus two wonderfully cool, glorious days last week), multiply it by the kid issue and snap!  You've got a vicious cycle on your hands.

So if you're in my head, this is what you'd hear:

Starting Point:  I feel like crap, so I'll go for a run.
While Running:  Jeez, I thought this run would make me feel better, at least temporarily.  So why the hell am I crying?  Oh right, because, unlike baseball, there IS crying in running.
Post-Run:  Well, that sucked.
The Next Morning:  I still feel like crap, so I'll go for a run.  Hold on.  This didn't work yesterday. Why would it work today?  But hey, you never know what fun things might happen when you get out there, so just go.  OK, fine.
While Running:  I got nothing.  Just nothing.
Post Run:  WTF?!?

See what I mean?  So the gigantic elephant in the room, the 100-lb. gorilla, the $100,000 question is...WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT, HUH?  Something's gotta give.  We cannot continue to do the same thing day after day, and expect different results.  Routines can be great, but when you've got this vicious cycle thing happening, you have to break your routine and do something different.

So mid-blog, I've decided what that would be.  I reached out to a friend and asked him to run with me this week.  I know it sounds like nothing, but I normally run alone, on my own schedule, according to my own psychoses.  But wait.  I do know that every time I drag myself (getting out the door is sometimes the hardest part!) to my running group, I always feel so freaking great afterwards.  I get this sparkling energy from my running friends, and it lasts me until the next run, and maybe even the next, to the point where my starting point dialogue magically changes.  This is exactly what I need in order to break the cycle and get a good run under my belt.

I know myself well enough to understand that once I get this way, I need a chain gang of people to pull the bad stuff out of my head, to make space to cram some positive energy and thoughts back in there. I'm usually pretty "up", especially when it comes to running.  Like, don't even ask me about a race, or my last long run, or how my already slow paces are just getting slower, or you'll see my inner running geek rear it's ugly head.  I'm normally pretty quiet, but when it comes to running, I'll talk all dog-gone day about it.  It gets worse when the running gets bad.  My husband is a great supporter of my running, but when I get into this negative spin cycle, he checks out.

I don't blame him.  Sometimes, I need to check out too.  Maybe I can't change my family issue right now, and I certainly have no control over the weather.  I can only change what I can control.  I know what works for me, and what doesn't.  I'm going to make this one small change this week, and I have no doubt that it will turn my running upside down, which is exactly what I need right now.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer in this kind of a setting, but I realize that everyone has ups and downs. Facebook is a wonderful tool for giving and getting motivation, but you usually will not see the mundane trials and tribulations of people's everyday problems (that's not 100% true--we all have those "friends" who share absolutely everything.)  I wouldn't be true to myself if I were to project only my happy self to you.  I've been in a slump lately, for sure, but I'm doing what I can to pull myself up out of it, with a little help from my friends.

What do you do when you find yourself in a negative spin cycle?

Did you ever realize that raising kids was this hard?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

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There's No Crying in Baseball!

I watched a movie yesterday afternoon because it was too stinking hot to do anything outside.  Flipping through the channels, I saw that "A League of Their Own" was on.  I've only seen this movie once, but the best line of the movie is when Tom Hanks says, "There's no crying in baseball!"  What a 1992 gem!

It's a great line!  It's been used by the trainers at my gym, after they made me do pull-ups once,  and I cried.  (Have you ever tried to do pull-ups?  They're really hard!)  "There's no crying at the gym!"  It's been used by my husband at the office when someone has a breakdown. "There's no crying at the office!"  It can apply to so many situations, so there are many opportunities to pull it out.

The problem is, I'm a crier.  You can count on me to cry at any cry-worthy opportunity.  But I'm not a bawler, like the girl in the clip, I'm a tearer-upper.  Tears will stream down my face if I know I won't see my kids for an extended period of time.  They pop up when I think about when my kids were little babies.  They definitely made a cameo appearance when I dropped my two oldest kids off at college, and again when I have to say goodbye after a long Thanksgiving holiday break.  Oh, and again after the even longer Christmas break.  The people that make tear-worthy movie scenes, it definitely works on me.  Here's me with Luke after I finished my first and only marathon, and I'm crying.

So this morning, during my early morning run, some stupid Alanis Morissette song came on, and it ALMOST made me cry.  So I pull out the old stand-by, "There's no crying in running!"  But then, when I thought about it, I really have to take issue with that statement because there IS crying in running.  The tears did not spring forth this morning, because I pushed them back down.  I swallowed the lump in my throat that started to form, because if I didn't, I would've had to stop running, and I was so close to home.

You have to understand that during my runs, I start off pathetic and unwilling.  The first few minutes I try to justify turning around, going home, and crawling back into bed.  I've waited too long, it's too hot (cold, windy, rainy) already, I'm never going to make it, why did you take up this sport anyway?  This litany of put-downs runs through my head almost every time.  Then after the first half mile or so, I've decided that I will not, in fact, turn around, and will continue.  After that decision is made, I then I start to feel pretty good because I'm running (Running!  Me!) at 6 a.m. and everyone else is probably still sleeping.  I make my turnaround, and now I'm really feeling totally awesome (Maybe I'll go a little further today than I'm supposed to, that's how good I feel right now!) and in total rock star mode.  Ideas are running through my head like crazy, inspirations popping up left and right, I am going to do so much today!

Then the stupid song came on and threatened to wash away all those good feelings.  Noooooo!  There have been plenty of times that I have cried during runs, and while it doesn't feel good at the time, those tears represent a physical or emotional barrier that I've probably broken, whether it's in miles, time or just being out there in tough conditions.  I remember one 16-miler in particular where it was so hot, I was jumping through every sprinkler that was on, cramping up like crazy, almost being run over by a 6-year old out-of-control bike rider, and finally breaking down and walking, emotionally and physically spent.  Problem is, I was still many miles from home and I had to get back.  I wallowed in my "poor me" film running through my head for longer than I should have, then I picked myself up, and started running again and got myself home.

It's never easy to get through the tears as they're happening, but when you do come out on the other side, it's like you've earned a badge of honor, a notch on the belt, total bragging rights.  Days, weeks, months later, when you have to call up that courage, you know it'll be there because of what you went through.  As painful as the tears may be, I know that they have created tough little callouses in me, making me stronger in ways I can't even fathom yet, and I know I'll be able to handle that much more because I got myself through what I felt was the most difficult situation.

Are you an easy crier?

Do you prefer to go around quoting movie lines or songs?

What inspires you?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quiet Sunday Evening

It’s strange to be at the beach on a Sunday night.  Sunday night is when everyone packs up and leaves the island, and traffic is clogged as we speak, going westbound towards home, to obligations, and to musts.  Right now, I’m sitting here looking at this. 

It’s quiet here now.  As a mother of four, I never thought my life would be this quiet.  When my kids were ages seven, five, two and one, I never thought I’d have a moment to myself.  There were always bubbly baths to give, hungry mouths to feed, and tiny laundry to fold.  There were car seats, high chairs and diaper bags to pack.  There were ages and stages to share with other moms, there were activities to carpool to, and lunches to pack.  Not that I’m not busy now, but it’s different.  My “kids” are now 21, 19, 16 and 14.  All double digits.  I remember when my oldest turned 10—what a big deal it was!  Then there were the teenage years to deal with--middle school, and high school obligations and concerns.  I remember one year in particular when I had each child in a different school—one in college, one in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school.  That year there were lots of bills (college), emails (high school), projects (middle school) and volunteering (elementary school) to deal with.

This coming fall I’ll have two in college (shout out to Virginia Tech and West Virginia University!), one in high school, and one in middle school.  The brood is becoming a smaller unit.  Where we used to be a family of six, we are now a family of four most of the time.  Travel is so much easier; dinner reservations, a snap.  But it’s not the same—something’s missing.  Isn't it hard getting older?

Sunday nights are for planning, and looking forward to the week ahead.  They are all fresh starts and quiet reminders of things that are on our agendas.  But they can also be melancholy.  Personally, today was the first day I had not run in six days--reason alone for the melancholy! That’s not the norm for me.  I’m usually busy working, weight training, and running, and it’s hard to fit it all in.  In the summer, I get to relax and do whatever I want to, without obligations, without musts.  So I’m choosing to run more often.

On this Sunday evening, right before the day gives way to night, I will look forward to tomorrow.  Tomorrow has possibilities, whereas today may have had disappointment and failure.  Tomorrow has light, whereas today, the light is almost gone.  Tomorrow is the future and today, almost past.

Tomorrow, I look forward to my run.  A day of rest gives me the realization that the daily chore of running is not really a chore, it’s a blessing.  It makes me happy, it gives me energy to do the things that I enjoy, and it affords me the happy, worn out laziness that I earned with my sweat.

As we close the book on this long holiday weekend, I’m almost giddy that tomorrow is Monday.  On any of the other 42 weeks of the year, that’d be grounds for  blasphemy, but during these ten blissful summer weeks, Monday will be a joyful experience, and I’m ready for it.

Do you get melancholy on Sunday evenings?

Do you EVER look forward to Mondays?

Are you at a different stage in your life, trying to figure it all out?

See you soon, 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Don't Hate Me Because I'm Happy

Happy Fourth of July!

Last week I was running one morning on LBI.  I get to spend the entire summer here, and I love every stinking minute of it.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s cloudy and overcast, rainy and windy, or sunny and perfect, I love this place unconditionally.  This particular run was an uneventful run, as in bland, nothing amazing, nothing awful.  This is what I’ve come to realize is normal, and normal can be a great thing.  Normal means that I’m not injured, not sore, not agitated and not suffering.  Normal equals good.  At the age of 47, I’ve come to really appreciate normal.  Poor normal gets overlooked, in my opinion. 

Towards the end of my completely normal run, I picked my head up to distract myself with some people watching.  I happened to see a middle-aged (don’t you hate when people use that term?  what does it mean, exactly?) husband and wife getting ready to go for a bike ride.  It was a nice day, and they seemed to be nice enough people.  I was pretty happy with myself, because I get like that when I run.  So the husband happens to be wearing a Virginia Tech t-shirt.  Virginia Tech’s mascot are called Hokies.  What is a Hokie, you ask?  Well, it just so happens that my son Connor is!   He has just finished his sophomore year there, as a Forestry major.  On campus, that’s exactly what they say when you ask, too.  Question: “What’s a Hokie?” Answer: “I am.”  Yea, it doesn’t make much sense, but that’s what they’re called.

Since I’m at the end of my run, the endorphins are kicking into high gear.  I take one look at his shirt, break out into a huge smile, and I cannot help but say “Hey there, I have a Hokie too!!!”  Now who knows whether the guy borrowed this shirt, bought it second-hand, or just had no idea what he was wearing that day.   Do you know what he said to me?  He said, “Good for you.”  As in, the famous Christian Bale on-set rant.  You can see it here.  This is one angry guy. 

As a side note, it’s hard to say “Good for you” without imparting the slightest undertone of sarcasm.  Go ahead, try it now.  See?  I told you.

When I tell you I was completely flabbergasted by this man’s unfriendly response to my friendly greeting, I’d be downplaying it.  Since this guy has zero power over my endorphins, and I usually retaliate with humor to an uncomfortable situation, I pretend I’m running with a friend.  So I look over to my imaginary friend and say, “Wow, what a d!$&.  Oh, goooooood for yooooouuuuuu.  Good for me?  Absolutely!  Good for you?  Not so much.”  I mean, I’m gesturing to my imaginary friend, I’m talking to her, nodding, and she’s in total agreement with me.  Imaginary friends are perfect like that.

Now I cannot tell you what the conversation was between this husband and wife, but it was probably something like this.  Wife: “Honey, why you gotta be so mean?”  Husband: “Because that girl was just too goshdarn happy, and I wanted to impose my miserable mood on her.”  Wife:  “Oh.  OK.”

I guess my point is straightforward.  I run because when I’ve finished running, I’m happy.  The happy could last all day, or it could last for an hour.  But one thing is guaranteed.  For at least a portion of my day, I’m happy, and that's a pretty big deal, for me.  There is so much to be unhappy about, that you really have to make a point to squeeze in the happy, wherever you can find it.  Here's a favorite clip of mine, from Finding Nemo, about feeling happy.

I know it sounds ridiculously simple.  Kind of like when a child asks where babies come from.  Simple question, complicated answer.  I’ll go so far as to say that I’m a better person since I’ve started running.  Colors are more vibrant, friendships are more treasured, food tastes more better.  Yeah, I said it.  More better.   

I’ve come to know myself better and I’ve come to an improved understanding about relationships.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to understand those close to you, because by definition, the difficulties probably include you.  Running is not a cure-all, I know.  You could substitute anything in place of it, as long as it makes you happy.  I know my walker friends get the same happy feeling when they walk, and I know those who love to weight lift, scrapbook, volunteer, or finish a DIY project.  There are so many things that can make you feel happy, I hope that you know what yours is.  It’s important to define what happy is for you, and then make sure you include it in your life on a regular basis.  

Have you defined what makes you happy?

Do you go around quoting movies in your head?

Did you ever have an imaginary friend?

Enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Old Guy in Red Bermuda Shorts

Well, I just thought I'd regale you with the details of my little sprint this morning.  No big deal, really, to anyone else but me, but I thought you might enjoy it.

I know I'm not scheduled to run, but I'm not going to the gym anymore, so I'm filling in with running.  Besides, I'm miserable when I don't run (aka, yesterday), so I was definitely running today.  Started out uneventfully, happy, even, because when I stepped outside, it was kind of cool-ish, still humid, but less hot than it's been.  I know Bucks County has been getting rain, but so far, none here yet this weekend.  Walk down my driveway, cross the boulevard and start my watch.  Wait for the walkers, runners, strollers and bikes to pass, found my place on Beach Road, and started off.

At the half mile point, I pass a friend's house and I run just a little faster (you never know who's watching!).  Check out the runners on the other side of the road, and the not-so-bright ones on MY side of the road (aka, the correct side of the road to be running on!)  Give a few waves, a few thumbs up, a few nods.  Keep on running.  Pass a few walkers (yessss!), and then I come upon this old man running ahead of me.  He has a golf hat on with crazy browni-ish gray hair sticking out of it, shoes on that were NOT made for running, and red bermuda shorts.  Yes, that's right, with the pockets, cuffs and belt.  They could've even had little sailboats on them, I'm not sure.  He was running at a slow and steady pace, and I was taking him down (in my mind).  I wasn't sure how far I was running this morning, two or three miles, but at that point, I decided I was running three.  Passed the old guy, no problem.

My halfway point is the police station and the only stop signs on this particular stretch of road.  That is my cue to catch my breath and walk for a minute or so, and head back for the second half of my run.  Well, apparently it was Old Man's halfway point also.  Doesn't he run past me?  So I say, "No big deal, as soon as I start running again, I'll pass him again."  And I did, no problem, and I'm like, "That's right, old man, you got nothin' on me."  If people knew half the stuff that went on in my head, they'd think I was nuts.  Anyway, on I go, sweating now because of the humidity.  Passing some walkers, dodging some kids on bikes, the usual.

Up ahead I see some people standing in the road and I'm thinking I definitely have to go around them, into the road a little.  Well, when I come up on them, I see why they're standing in the middle of the road.  They're watching a house being demolished.  I had to stop and watch for a minute, and so I decided to remove the phone from my arm and snap a picture.

Pretty cool, right?  I thought so too.  I stood there for a few minutes, watching the backhoe take apart this house.  This woman in front of me thought it was pretty cool, too.  It was a nice break, to just stand there for a minute, catch my breath.  BUT WAIT!  I'm now behind again!  Oh no, I gotta go!  I look over at all the people I've passed, now a few minutes ahead of me again, and of course, Old Man was up there, plodding along in his not running shoes and red bermuda sailboat shorts.  At this point, I'm a little more than a half a mile from home, and now I have a goal.  I'm taking this guy down, for the third time this morning.  I take off from the house wrecking scene, and run ahead.  I can see the walker I passed, who is now running, who I also have to pass.  No problem, I got this.  I can see Old Man up ahead, but I also spot my street.  At this point, I am in a full sprint, my only goal being to pass Old Red Shorts before I get to my street.  He must've heard me coming because he turned to look and I whizzed right by him, broke the tape and won the race.  I make a right, head up my street, practically doubled over, I'm breathing so hard.  But totally victorious.  Aw yea!!

I'm sure he had no idea he lost anything, and he didn't even realize I was racing him, he was probably just happy to get out and run a few miles in his crazy getup.  But in my mind, I beat that guy three times today, and all before 9:00 a.m. on a Monday morning.  All I have to do now is stop picking on poor old guys on vacation, who just want to run a few miles.  Maybe he forgot his running gear, and that's all he had!  At least the guy got out there and ran, even if he did look ridiculous.

I don't begrudge anyone who actually gets their butt out the door, because showing up is the hardest part.  Once you're out there, who really cares what you wear, how fast or slow you are, or what the other crazy people think about you?  All I know is that the Old Guy in the Red Bermuda Shorts got me to run a little faster, sweat a little more and think of myself as a winner today.  That's a pretty big deal in my book. And the reality is, his street was my street, and so we both ran the same amount of miles this morning.  Good, bad, ugly or wonderful, a mile is a mile is a mile.

Happy Running,