Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I ran a half-marathon recently.

It was hard.

The air was extremely humid and knee pain shadowed every step. I didn’t run as fast as I had been training. I had to walk a few times. But I was able to smile and wave (albeit weakly) at my family and friends who came to cheer me on. I finished and it felt so good to sit down, pour some water down my back, and rest my head on my knees.

I knew I wasn’t at my best, but overall I was proud and happy. 13.1 miles is a long way.

A couple days after the race, I received an email link to the pictures of me the race photographer had taken around at various points around the course.

These pictures were a visual confirmation that I was not at my best.

I recoiled when I saw them.

And a familiar voice started rattling in my mind:

"Wow. I look like shit in pretty much all of these. Why didn't I even try to smile when I saw the camera guy? What's with that look on my face? Too bad my shirt was riding up the entire time. I look so pale and just done. And look at this one. I am only at mile 7. I really looked about as garbage-y as I felt. Wow. Ugh."

This self-deprecating rant is one I'm familiar with.

It’s usually one-sided dialogue. I usually just sit there listening to that berating voice, that mood-crushing voice. And I shrink.

But I've learned to make this a two-way conversation, that I actually have the option to come back at that voice with kindness:

"Look at you, how hard you were pushing, how tough that really was, how you didn't quit even though you wanted to. Look at how strong your arms look, that's definitely new. And then please look at this second picture, and don't say a word about your goofy smile. Sure, it's not one of the "official" race pictures, but let's talk about a different lens. How do you think the kids saw you? Not ugly, not skinny, not terrible, not struggling. They saw: strong, amazing, proud. And you know that's so much more important than analyzing these race pictures for every flaw you can find."

I've never been friends with pictures of myself, but I'm starting to find ways to be okay with them.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I feel like I've gotten things pared down pretty well lately, fitting into my day all the essential extras that have become important to me. I've got my morning pages (sometimes), walking the dogs (all the time), working out every day, extra writing time when I can squeeze it in between the lines of everything else, a few stolen minutes of meditation, and some pages of reading at the end of the day.

These things are largely done before the day starts or after it ends: these essential-non-essentials book end my days. Sometimes one thing or another is woven into the regular flow of the regular day, but I get a pulling sensation whenever I do this. Hand my four-year-old the iPad so I can meditate, ask the 11 year-old to babysit so I can run. I trade things, negotiate, sometimes steal time to make space for these things I need-don't-need to do. Because these non-essentials are really as essential as eating, sleeping, working: they keep me engaged, keep me from imploding. They are the bracing joints that keep my lungs inflated.

But I don't like for there to be tightness around these things. I don't like when I'm making dinner and it's taking longer than I thought because --

step 1 cook the chicken,
step 2 make the sauce,
step 3 remake the sauce because it burned in step 2,
step 4 the seasoning,
step 5 the other sauce,
step 6 roll the enchiladas,
step 7 do so many dishes,
step 8 figure out what else to feed the kids because the enchiladas are definitely too spicy too cheesy to red-saucy --
-- and I thought this wasn't going to take this long and the window I had for running is closing and I'm about to slam it on someone's fingers, the next person who asks for a glass of juice while I'm cooking dinner in my bare feet wanting my socks and shoes to be laced and already carrying me out the door.

That's the tightness.

It doesn't let up until I'm two miles into my run and I realize I started out too fast and I'm pushing against the ground instead of floating over it and the heat is high in my face and the blood pounds in my ears and

I notice this and --

pull in a deeper breath and --

work against this tightness like a knot: drop my shoulders, open my fists, shake my head a bit.

I look around. It's a beautiful evening.

When it's time to walk I let it be slowly. I watch my breath come down. My heart rate slows enough to wait for me. I walk back into myself. I had been hanging onto the backs of my shoes, carried along almost against my will, a shadow glued there.

When I come back in the house I'm dripping in sweat and something else too, something that's melting. It feels good running down my spine, down the backs of my arms, dripping and pooling on the floor.

I could even smile.

I could even wash the rest of the dishes without breaking any at all.

Not even in my mind.