Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I See Dead People...Sort of

For seemingly forever and a day, my friend has been encouraging me to write a post delving into the world of mediums.

You know, those people that have the gift of being able to "cross over" to the other side and engage with the deceased.

Take for example, the new TV show, the "Long Island Medium," focused on a woman who claims to be able to make contact with the departed.

Do you buy it? Is it conceivable?  Or is it simply a hoax...preying on the vulnerability of the ones left behind?

I'm not sure.  The only thing I do know is that during seasons of my life when I've missed a loved one that is no longer with me, I've prayed and tried to connect with them, especially when I'm hurting or lost.

For example, my paternal grandmother loved cardinals.  She had statues of them all over her home.  She incorporated them into her Christmas cards.  She believed that they were magical whenever we were in their presence.

And so now, when a cardinal comes and perches on my fence post, I feel as though she is somehow with me.  Since she's died, I've never heard her voice or necessarily been aware that she's heard mine, but the symbol of the bird signifies both a feeling of calm and freedom simultaneously...and somehow, I feel that she's connected to this life I've carved.

Maybe I would feel differently if I had some unfinished business with a member of the dead.  Maybe if I needed closure or an answer to a question left unresolved, I'd want to know more.

The truth is that no one really knows what happens post death and when someone leaves us, we are left to try to fill in the blanks.  Many times, we rely on our faith teachings believing that we will one day be reunited again.  For others, it's simply the end of the relationship.

Either way, is it possible that people live on this earth with one foot here and another foot in the hereafter?  Interesting thoughts to ponder on the eve of Halloween. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Erosion of the Spirit

It wasn't what she said.

Eerily, it was the tone in her voice.

Resigned.  Renouced.  Abdicated from the joy that I had been accustomed to knowing for so many years.  And then, after some dialogue, what appeared to be surrender to her situation.

After countless dialogues with girlfriends about themselves or those closest to them...I'm convinced her situation is not unique.

When the power balance shifts in a relationship and one person consistently and often cruelly subjects the other to their demands, the spirit of the overpowered is lost and their identity is morphed into what the dominator decides it should be.

Mark my words.

It's happening in more relationships/marriages than we care to concern ourselves with...until, it's someone close to you, and then, it makes a difference.

But how?  How does it happen?  What perfect storm of factors or convergence of scenarios would allow a beautiful, educated, capable woman to fall prey to the harsh extremes and irrational behaviors of the man who vowed to love and protect her for the rest of her life?

Let me begin by saying that it doesn't happen over night.  Not even remotely.

There may be a sign, a red flag here or there of controlling behavior, but often in the dating stages, it's passed off as attentiveness or territorial love, which may be welcomed if the woman hasn't been loved in some time.

And then once a life is created....a house, a business, children, extended family...well, then beyond the blessings, stress rears its ugly head and unfortunately, what appeared to be love before is now the reality of the situation....control, limitations, ugly outbursts, and blame.

Most of these scenarios feel shameful and humiliating to the one who's finding out the real side of her partner....which is both frightening and frustrating.

But who do you share the details with?  Especially, when your partner is loved by many and appears "normal" to the outside world.

The answer is you don't.  At least probably not for a long time.

And by that point, your spirit becomes eroded, your confidence diminished, and your prospects for the future are grim.

But as I sat on the phone with my friend...I gave her this advice...

"Find your voice again.  Never, never, never stop fighting for what you know to be true in your marriage.  You are in a partnering relationship, not a parental one.  You are to afford each other mutual respect and to make decisions jointly.  You are competent, capable and resourceful and no one can take that away from you.  We teach people how to treat us, so let him know that you will not accept abusive language, controlling demands or irrational/fear based behaviors.  Enough is enough."

I am bloody over this control dynamic that I'm witnessing in too many relationships.  Men and women deserve respect in relationships...this comes from actions, not from words.

Until then, I swear to God if I hear of another man trying to usurp his power over the hands and heart of one of my girlfriends, I'm taking a God damn two by four to their heads.  Mark my words.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When an Email Changes Everything

It had been over ten years since she'd heard his voice, seen his face or known what he was up to.

Her hunch was that he'd settled down, gotten promoted, and maybe had kids of his own.

Their friendship hadn't ended well and lots of things that should have been said weren't, while other things that shouldn't have, came out in droves....making a reconciliation highly unlikely.

And then out of nowhere on a spring day, the message came, "I'm sorry.  I miss you.  I wish you well."

He wasn't an old boyfriend or past love, no he was more.  He was a really good friend...which is unfortunate because really genuine, giving, platonic relationships between guys and girls are rare.

But the truth is, she'd wondered and hoped that he'd found the love of his life, that he was making rituals of his own, and that the world was treating him with the kindness that he deserved.

The question was whether to write back.  And then, of course, what to say.  Had too much time passed?  Was it all simply water under the bridge?  Would they have anything in common and beyond that, how do you move past the awkwardness of the events that led to their separation?

In the end, hope usually wins and faith in their foundation forged a path.

"Thank you for reaching out.  I'm sorry for my part in how things went down.  I'm so happy to hear about your family.  Let's try again."

It's not always easy to reach out, especially when an extraordinary amount of time has passed.  It's not always easy to know what you'll get, when you do, but most of the time it's worth it.

Often, it just takes a little courage, vulnerability, hope, and a few key strokes.  Typically, I'm sorry is a good place to start.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Happens When Its Not Enough

Have you ever done that thing...

Where you say to yourself...I'll have just one...beer, piece of chocolate, handful of chips...

Or, that other thing where you say...I'll be really good once the holidays are over or when we get back from our trip or after I make the project deadline...then, I'll concentrate on doing the right thing.

And when you're doing that thing....that rationalization of indulgence...and all along, you're fully intending to get buzzed, to eat the whole bag of M&M's or to spend time doing something you shouldn't...you're thinking ugh, why do I always do this to myself?

And so the question is...what happens when it (fill in the blank) is not enough?

And why can some people live within the realm of moderation and others well, not so much?

Does it make you a bad person?  Do you struggle with a character flaw?

Or is this the essence of what it means to be a human being?

And the sooner that we own our cravings/desires and work toward honoring the feelings connected to them...well, then are we on to something?

Because most of the time, it's not about the beer or the chocolate bar.  Isn't it about being transported to a place not connected to the stress, exhaustion, predictability or blah of the current status quo?

And so the real question seems to be how to transport oneself to the fun, the spontaneous, the free...without feeling the shackles of the guilt in the interim.  Because really, it's no fun if you're feeling bad about it in the process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Hell Of A Week

Today didn't go down the way I wanted it to.

As I write, I'm stowed away in bed with some intestinal yuck, looking outside my window at a gorgeous 78 degree fall day that is begging me to join it.

My plan was to go to mass early with my family, help my son sell Boy Scout popcorn after church and then go for an 11-mile run.

The run was to cap off a beautiful and nearly gut wrenching exhaustion of a week.

With events/meetings every night, a memorable birthday party for my mother, lots of volunteering at the kids' schools and five days of running...my body was wiped out.

So, I was eager to be by myself with my iPod running on probably one of the last beautiful days of the season.

Until I woke up and quickly realized, that's not happening.

I'm learning that I suck at managing my own expectations.  When I decide how I want something to go down, I'm pretty resolute to see it through.  And so, well, argh.

The Sunday New York Times, cat napping, water, tea, and the hope that this is a 24-hour deal.

If not, I'm going to seek out a Shaman or a Buddhist monk for healing.  No rest for the weary. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Your Crazy Big Idea

Each morning this week, I've woke up wanting to curl up and go back to bed.

4:30am comes too early when it's dark outside, it's cold, and flannel sheets are taunting me like sirens with their melodies of warmth and peace.

But alas, I get up.  I turn on the coffee pot.  Eat a banana.  Put on my shoes and go.


I thought I would be sick of it by now.  It's been almost a year since I've taken it up and with most new ventures in my life, I get bored easily.

But interestingly, beyond the physical benefits of weight loss, the greater energy reserves, and the discovery of my belly button again...I've located parts of me that were, well, lost.

I'm not sure that until I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone for an extended period of time that I appreciated what I was capable of.  In fact as I look back over the last 10 months, I'm aware of more fear than I care to admit.  More insecurity.  More trepidation.

And the truth is life is just too short.  It just is.

We fall down thinking that there is always tomorrow or another chance.  Many times there is, but sometimes there's not.

We're never 100% prepared for any given situation and if we wait to do what our heart is calling us to try, but scared to attempt, the only fact is that we'll never know how amazing or horrifying that it could be.

Running has taught me to take risks.  They may be calculated.  But they're a far cry from thinking about it and never doing anything with it because it's a crazy idea.

If we all took our one crazy idea and shared it with the world...we might just be a happier, funnier, healthier group of people.

What's your crazy deal?  What makes you all giddy inside just giving it ten seconds of thought?  If money was no object, what would you be doing?  Where does your passion reside?  What's holding you back?

And if you knew that your days were limited, what crazy, big, beautiful, bold, YOU idea would you bring to the world?

Come on...I'm dying to know.  We all are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Schizophrenic Living and Dreaming

It was really quiet. 

And, I, well, I was soaking wet.

That's what happens when you forget to bring clean towels from the laundry room and you've turned off the shower and you're exposed with no protection in sight, literally.

And I was cold.  And tired.  And then, crunch.  My toes smooshed a cheerio.  Perfect.

And then, looking in the mirror, I heard her voice.

"It's all normal...all of it...this schizophrenic life that is yours.  You can't imagine not being there for your kids' everything.  And then when you are, you just want to run away and start a new life in...I don't know...Zimbabwe.  And then you feel guilty because your Catholic, a mother, and trying to be all things to all people, always.  Knock that shit off.  It doesn't do anybody any good."

And then last night at a party, I heard his voice.

He was sharing his travels to Tuscany and his love for all things Italian.  I was hanging on to his every word and sharing that my dream is to one day get there.  "Then you will, if it's your dream.  No one can take that away from you."

So, my plan is to keep doing the towel folding, cheerio pouring, diaper changing, stroller pushing, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" singing mama thing now...so that one day, I'll find myself in Italy writing with a glass of something bubbly on a veranda overlooking the countryside.

Hopefully, I'll be in my 40's...I hear that's when life begins anyway and according to my mom, her 40's were her sexiest years...here's hoping.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slow Down, Sister

The other day I found myself at my second home.


My sweet five-year old daughter, Kate was accompanying me and within five minutes, she knew that her lunatic, crazy mother was on the scene.

It's no joke.  I long to be one of those ladies that peruses the aisles reading labels, checking out the sales, enjoying the colorful displays, trying things on.

But the truth is that most of the time, my jaunt into the Red Target land of glory is an on-the-fly, "Aw fuck, I forgot the fill in the blank," and I've got a whopping 20 minutes to get that shit and be back in the car, on the road, definitively late for wherever I'm supposed to be.

My daughter is the antithesis of me.  That girl lives in the moment.  She understands what it means to appreciate the aesthetic and to take time to go through those fucking dollar bins that they strategically place by the shopping carts....crack for kids, a nightmare for parents.

So, while I was trying to convince her that we did not need another Halloween decoration, sparkle glitter pen, tube of finger nail polish or knock off Hello Kitty post it note, she belts out...

"Slow down, sister...what's the rush?"

You know what happens when you're running on empty and your kid makes a retort like that?

Shit gets real.

And just as I was about to get snarky back, an elderly woman burst out laughing.

"Oh my God...now that is funny."

Yep, showed up by my kindergartner.

Great lesson for me at Target.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Story in the Reflection

Three ice cubes and 50 ounces of water in a Camelbak.

Three pockets of Espresso Gu and 8 Sports Beans.

This is my standard fuel reserve for an 8-13 mile training run.

An ipod with a playlist.  A Garmin monitoring my heart rate, elevation, distance and speed per mile.

Short shorts.  A tank.  Running shoes.  Colorful wool socks. And lip gloss...pink, shiny gloss to be exact.

It's a routine that transpires every Saturday morning.

I run through parks, neighborhoods, down busy streets, up hills, under overpasses, along side cyclists, and try not to get hit by cars.

My music is obnoxiously loud and my heart is always pounding.

Today was hard.  My hips hurt.  My legs were tired.  My mind was racing.  And more than a handful of times, I wanted to bag it and call it a day.

But the thing that always stops me is that I've never done that before.  I've never not (I love the use of double negatives) finished a run.  And I always lean on precedent.  I don't want to break the stride, literally.

So, I started telling myself a story about the woman I am, not the woman that I often apologize for being.  I started visualizing strength and releasing of fear, doubt, guilt, indecision...because they're so useless anyway,

And then I caught a glimpse of myself on the side of a retail building and I was stunned.  That's me.  All strong and shit.  How did that happen?  When did I become that?  Was I always that?

I'm a fan of power.  Owning who you are and recognizing what you've earned.  And not apologizing along the way.

Today's 10-miles taught me that good things come when you keep lacing up the shoes and doing what you know to be healthy in your life.

I really liked the reflection...the image of a powerful me. I think I'll keep running toward it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Love Upon Demand


Beat up from the feet up.

So tired that my eye balls hurt...and my hip, can't forget the new war wound.  It must be that I get to test out pain in all parts of my body to determine that yes indeed, I want to be a runner, badly enough.

It also must mean that it's 4:00pm on a Friday afternoon that is cloudy, damp, and cool outside.

And then when I think about where the week went or better yet the day, I see her coat.  It's red velvet and little, really little, hanging out by her shoes, her pigtail holders, and the back pack that she's been carrying around pretending that she's a big girl like her older sister.

And, it's the revolving plate of cookies.  And the spelling test prep.  And the talk about flag football and the fire truck that came to visit school. "Do we have two escape plans in case of an emergency?" 

And it's the cub scout uniform crumpled up in the corner and the macaroni and cheese smooshed into the socks by the library book bag and the cobwebs that will not go away.

And it's "Mama...Mama...Mama...I'm here, hold me, love me, be available to me now or I'll explode."

And it's that feeling of wanting to curl up and be held by a force that will just take care of everything for you upon demand and your command that I get.  I really get it.  And it's not unreasonable.  It's just that somehow we grow out of expecting it because it's not reliable or organic to every situation.

But right now, in this moment, I say simultaneously...bath, wine, nap, sushi, chocolate, love, breath...immediately.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Change of the Leaves and Me

I remember walking at this time last year.

The leaves were doing that magical thing that they do claiming all of their vibrant autumnal colors and making the landscape so inviting.

You know how it goes down.  One day it's cold.  One day it's unseasonably warm.

And you're mindful that like a good thing, it can only last so long, before the leaves will all be crunched, the trees will be barren and the winter will set in.

Last year at this time, I was in a remarkably different spot.  Overweight.  Tired most days.  Nursing an infant and trying to manage the "zone defense" life that is raising three kids.

This year, I feel changed.  As strange as it is to say, I'm not afraid of the cold.  In fact, I'm kind of excited about the first snow.  I'm eager to see how my winter weather running gear holds up to the harsh temperatures and to the challenge of staying fit in the face of shorter days and less sunlight.

I'm also hopeful for continual transformation.  Because everything happens in due time, right.  It happens when we're ready to accept it, to put in the work, and to integrate it into our lives permanently.

My hunch is that my running is only going to become more and more a part of my life and that I'll delight in the snow crunching against my shoes and the well deserved hot toddy that ensues after a long trek.

The change of the seasons seems like the perfect time to assess the direction that I'm moving...and I think the consensus is that I need to keep on keeping on.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running For You...And You...And You

It was cold.

The high was in the forties and I wasn't ready to put on my shoes and make a go of 9 miles.

I had a cold...one of those phlegmy, snotty, feverish sort of chest colds that makes you want to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself.

Except I'd been playing that card for the last three days...and so, it was time to suck it up.

I pulled out the winter apparel...ear band, gloves, capris and decided that I would give it my best.

At the beginning of my run, it hit me.  I would dedicate segments of my run to friends/family members who are in need.

As the hills got steeper, the north wind became more biting, and the desire to throw in the towel grew greater, I would use these stories as beacons...a way to see my way through.  And in some sort of masochistic way, I prayed that as my pain became more intense, theirs would lessen.  Weird, I know.

My first three miles went to a dear friend...probably one of the strongest, most inspiring women I know.  Mesmerized by her ability to keep it all together raising a brood of four boys while under duress and constant friction at home...she encourages that all things are possible if you believe, put a little elbow grease into it, and laugh with the world.

The next three miles went to a friend who shared coffee with me that morning...staring down an unknown path in her marriage and raising her daughter potentially on her own...I prayed that she would know she's not alone.  Ever. 

The last three miles went to another sweet, off-the-charts amazing friend whom I look up to on a daily basis.  I prayed that she would know that she's an incredible mother, a dedicated wife, a ridiculously available friend, and an incredible nurse.  And that someday, one day, all of the answers will fall into place.

But my last mile...well, that was mine.  Because the last mile turned into an unexpected 10th mile.  I prayed for grace, kindness, trust and a belief that all is well and that I am enough. Always.

It was quite the experience.  Definitely much more than a run.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blessed to be Doing what I'm Doing

Most of you know that my parents divorced when I was little.

Four to be exact and my brother was two weeks old.

My mom was hard pressed to make sure that we had dinner on the table, parent permission slips signed, and a ride home from school.

So, activities like Daisy Scouts, ballet, and gymnastics really were not on her purview or remotely in the budget.

It was last night in the middle of kicking off a Daisy Scout parent meeting that it hit me, I am extraordinarily blessed.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide this gift to my daughter.  I am thankful that it is me that picks up my children each day from school and walks them through their homework in the afternoons.  

I am mindful that our time together in this way is limited and unique to the ages that they are.  And so for the time being, we live in a small house, drive older vehicles, and make it work on one income.

My hope is that as we look back and as they remember their childhoods that they will know that we were there.  Mama helped them to earn their badges (as did my husband who is the Cubscout Leader), walked them through their spelling tests, crunched leaves with them, and snorted chocolate milk out our noses as we made bubbles in our cups.

Life is short.  No matter how hard it is, I'm thankful that I get to spend my hours and days making these memories.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's Just The Period Talking

Like it's my job, I'm a religious charter.

Of my period that is.  My menstrual cycle, my anticipated visit from Aunt Flo, my monthly reminder that I am indeed without child.

And so I'm very aware of how it all goes down.  The days leading up to the premenstrual lunacy that is about to ensue.

But even though I'm completely experienced in the whole deal, I am still 100% taken aback by how much I HATE...triple fucking...HATE, HATE, HATE my period.

Bloated, crampy, irritable, fatigued, hormonal, and frequently irrational is not even the half of it.

I am one mean, in-your-face screaming, crying, over-the-top raging bee-yatch.

Exhibit number one...I can not, I mean can not deal with slow service people.  And by service, I mean the only service that I indulge in...Starbucks.  So, yesterday, when I needed some caffeine and had a 20 minute window to get it in between slamming 15 grocery items in a cart, comforting a teething toddler and trying to get back to pick up my daughter from ballet....

I had NO time, patience, or interest in watching the Starbucks barista at Target gently sprinkle the Pumpkin spice on top of a patron's latte.  Bitch...just give me the iced coffee before I cut your throat.  I modified that so that I could write it in my blog.  Much worse in real life.

Exhibit number two...my kids.  "Mama...why do I have to do a spelling quiz every day after school? Come on."  Because it's 15 God damn words and you will get an A + in this subject if it's the death of me.  Now sit your ass down and write.  I didn't give up a career and back burner my graduate degree to hear your whiny little ass moan and groan.  Suck it up.  That was modified as well.

Exhibit number three..me to my husband.  "Damn it!  Why do I always incessantly look like I'm 3 months pregnant?  Fat Ass Anonymous here I come."  To which he simply shakes his head and I say, "I know that look...you're trying to figure out how to not answer the question, so that you don't have to admit that I am a fat ass.  Well fuck you too."  Yep, another slight modification.

As I lament these period trials and tribulations to my girlfriends, they all echo the same sentiment, "Yep, that's just the period talking."

Well, shut the fuck up, period.  You're not welcome here anymore.

Whew, I feel better.  Now, where's the chocolate?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

When you've been around the block a few times, you know that pain is a given.

You recognize that what you expected to go down is not...and after anger, tears, bargaining and ultimately, surrender, you get that life's not fair.

And that maturity is simply the state you find yourself in when you accept reality gracefully.

So, it was with an extreme lack of character, grace, and maturity that I attempted to do hill training last Saturday morning.

I'm preparing for a half marathon in six weeks and am keenly aware of how much work lies ahead of me.  The course is hilly to say the least and my legs, ass, and least of all my head is in the game when it comes to going up and down for 13.1 miles.

But while I was running, I was simultaneously aware of how it doesn't matter...most of it at least.  I spend a good chunk of time worried about the balance in the checking account, questioning if I'm doing the right thing by staying at home, fearful that my kids will be jacked up if they don't live on a street with lots of kids or play club soccer.

And in the end, these "worries" will all take care of themselves.  And like hill training, life is simply a series of ebbs and flows; peaks and valleys; good times and bad.  In theory, it's how we recognize the seasons.  We can't appreciate the wind in our hair and the cool breeze of the sweet spots unless we feel the pain in our ass, the stitch in our side, and the overwhelming heaviness of breath.

I'm learning, truly learning what it means to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, uncertain, and fearful.

It's painful, but it's doable.  And ultimately, it's real.