Celebrating my birthday

19 Jun

For as long as I can remember, I have absolutely and positively loved my birthday. When Cancer is doing whatever it’s doing, or the sun is in it, or whatever is happening in my houses, I feel on top of the world! I am vibrant and joyful and sexy and smart and funny and exciting and awesome every ding-dang day leading up to my birthday. It is, without question, the best time of my entire year.

Birthday Cake 5

But I never plan a celebration because I know what will happen. As the day of my birth approaches, and we move out of Cancer and into Leo (grrr), I steadily deflate until I become a whimpering blob curled up in the fetal position watching Netflix and drinking kombucha. Well, that hasn’t happened in other years but it is possible this year.

I recall experiencing this pre-birthday slump since the year I turned 40, though it may have occurred before then and I just didn’t notice. Everything is magnified when you’re in your 40s.

The year I turned 40, I had a big party planned, and a couple of days before my birthday I canceled it — without apologies. I was a big baby. I was also a mess. Like, I kind of had a little nervous breakdown despite the fact that I had been out-of-control excited about turning 40 for the 23 or so days of June leading up to the cancellation. So, no party. No cake. No streamers or confetti. No 70s songs or even 80s songs. A month later, I invited some friends out for ice cream to celebrate my birthday. Dumb.

You see, I get depressed because I am not in the place where I think I should be at my age, or where other women I know are. And truly, I mean, thank goodness I am where I am! I could not be happier with my place! I have a job I love, I am near my family and able to see them as often as I like, I have good friends, I’m healthy and strong, and I have everything I need.

It’s what I don’t have — a partner and a family — that makes me feel as though there’s something wrong with me. There isn’t. I’m fine. Life is good. But, you know.

This year, I don’t want to let that happen. I watch way too much Netflix and drink too much kombucha every other day of the year. So I’m going to celebrate for a solid week and kick that pre-birthday letdown right the hell out!

At least I think that is what I am going to do. I have to begin tomorrow, so I’d better make some plans.

Loving completely

16 Jun

I have a friend who (I think) loves deeply and completely: her family members including her children and especially her grandchildren, her pets, her significant other, her friends, and her students. She shares a lot about her life on social media, which I appreciate, and recently she wrote about being away from her beloved. Her post made me feel both a little bit jealous and a lot inspired.

If you’ve known me for more than a few days, you know that finding a partner has been and continues to be perhaps the deepest desire of my heart, second only to running a 4-hour marathon. Just kidding. Finding a partner really is my deepest desire. If you know this about me, you also know that I suck at it.

There are a number of reasons I have been largely unsuccessful in this endeavor. It doesn’t take an analyst (I heard a mental health professional referred to as an “analyst” in a 1960s movie I watched last night, and I think we should bring that term back) to identify my issues. One of my problems is that I’m afraid to actually meet people.

I know that’s utterly ridiculous. I mean, trust me, I know.

I get very nervous about first meetings because I’ve had so many of them where I can tell within the first 10 seconds that the person is not at all interested in me, and it just makes for an awkward and uncomfortable hour. Even when I try to squeeze the best out of the situation, it’s still weird when we get to the end and there has to be an acknowledgement that we will never see each other ever again in our lives unless we happen to run into each other at the grocery store, which can certainly happen in the small town where I live now. And then, again, awkward.

Because I’m afraid of rejection, I usually do something to sabotage my interactions with men on dating sites, like judge them harshly for their spelling or grammar or disqualify them because they hate coffee or cats. Then we never get to that “Would you like to meet for coffee or drinks?” stage. A lot of the guys on the dating sites lack written communication skills, so it’s kind of easy to be all judgey and cross them off my list for dumb, trivial reasons. 

I’m doing it wrong. That’s not how it’s supposed to work.

After reading my friend’s Facebook post about missing her friend, I thought, What if I loved deeply, everyone in my life, all the time? What if I gave people a chance instead of finding reasons not to like them? What if I were more open and less afraid? I wonder what kind of a difference that would make in my interactions with others.

how-to-honor-love

So I’m going to try this. I’m going to try really hard to exude love, even to people who don’t know the difference between your and you’re. Let’s see what happens!

Setting lofty goals

27 May

For about six months, I’ve been working on a running goal I have. I have made this goal public now, and I’ve asked for advice and input. I want help taking my marathon training to a level I have never reached, so I’m sticking this out into the blog-o-sphere. 

Here’s the deal: I want to run a marathon and finish as close to 4:00:00 as possible before I turn 50.

Here’s the background: I started running in 2010 and finished my first marathon one week before I turned 40. My time was around 5:15 (I can look for the official time, but that’s close). In the last seven years, I have trained for ten marathons and completed eight. Even with those finishes under my belt, I’m still relatively inexperienced because I did not run consistently before I began training.

Here’s the setup: My best marathon finish in 2014 was 4:39:46. That’s a 10:41 average pace per mile. In order to finish a marathon in 4:00:00, I’d have to run 9:10 per mile.

Here’s the reason: You can say this is misguided, unhealthy, or even stupid. Years ago I heard someone say that most people don’t consider you a real runner unless you can run at least 10 minutes per mile. I know that’s rubbish and poppycock, and what constitutes a “real” runner is completely and totally relative to each person, but I have always had that in my head. And by that standard, I have never really been a real runner. Who cares, right? Let’s go with this instead: It’s important for me to set this goal and to be able to say I did everything in my power to accomplish it. I want to try, and even if I fall short, I know it will be a valuable learning experience.

Also, the BQ for me is 3:55. Not that I even care!

runner

I might look like this at the finish. But with slightly more agony.

What do I need to accomplish this goal?

I need help to create a strategy. This is a lofty goal but it is by no means impossible. I believe it will require attention to all aspects of training including nutrition, sleep, recovery, stress management, weight, body mass, strength, flexibility, gear, and (of course) running.

I need help figuring out how to safely lose about 15 pounds while training. Imagine running for four hours while carrying a gallon jug of milk in each hand. That’s the same as running a marathon with 15 extra pounds of fat on your body. It is logical to assume that losing fat will increase the chances that I can run faster over a period of four hours. I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be strong! I am strongly opposed to using pills, potions, or powders to lose weight, so don’t suggest I use your plan. I realize that losing weight requires adjustments to caloric and macronutrient intake as well as activity, so I want to choose (and eat a lot of) the foods that will support my goal and eat little to none of the foods that do not support my goal.

I do not need a training plan. There are literally hundreds of marathon training plan resources available online and in actual paper books. I have tried several different methods and not one has resulted in a more significant improvement to my performance than any other, but I do know what has worked well for me in the past and I know where to find plans.

I do need to run faster. That’s obvious, right? In order to run faster, you need to practice running faster! I’ve worked with trainers and have incorporated focused speed work into my training, and every single time I’ve gotten injured. That is a real danger for any runner, and it speaks to my inexperience and overall conditioning. I need help with this aspect of my training!

I might need a coach. I probably can do this all on my own, but there is no question that an experienced running coach would be helpful. I do not need a coach to write a customized training plan for me (see above). What does a coach provide, then? Guidance to help me get from where I now am to where I want and need to be.

I need your support and encouragement! Go for a run with me, or go for all of my runs with me! Tell me you’re excited and you believe in me and you think I’m gorgeous. It won’t make me faster, but it won’t hurt! Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t tell me I can’t do it or it’s silly to make a goal like this.

What else do I need? Should I join a running club? Eat more kale? Practice meditation? Get the same surgery that Jamie Sommers (the Bionic Woman) had? Spend a week with Shalane Flanagan or Bart Yasso? Do I just need more hugs?

 

Have you ever set and accomplished a goal like this? What did you do? What did you not do? Who helped you? What, if anything, would you do differently? Share with me!

Getting picked last

23 May

Last week I had a junior high school flashback, and it was unpleasant. Does anyone have pleasant flashbacks to junior high? I’m sure some people have fond memories of their young teenage years, but for me it was all angst and embarrassment and trying impossibly to figure out how the hell to fit in with a bunch of people who were trying to figure out who the hell they were.

Out of the blue, my coworker said, “I should set you up with my buddy.” He texted his buddy, who replied immediately, “Send pics.” We snapped a picture. I tried to look cute. Since I have not received any follow-up from my coworker, I assume his buddy’s reaction was not favorable. In fact, I imagine he said, “Um, no thanks. She’s ugly.” I am positive he did not say, “Wow! She’s gorgeous! What is her number?” or I would have heard about it by now.

I had, and still have, no idea who this person is. I don’t know what he looks like or what he values. I don’t know what he does in his free time. I don’t know if he even wants to date anyone. While his rejection of me should not matter one tiny little bit, it does. It stings. Why? Because being picked last — or not being picked at all — hurts, no matter how old you are.

In junior high I had a terrible crush on a boy one grade above me. I wrote out the lyrics to Lionel Richie’s Hello and put them in his locker. If he told his pals about it, and I have completely blocked the memory if he did, I’m sure they all stood around and laughed at how gross and weird I was. Clearly, I still feel foolish and mortified by it, which is ridiculous because it happened 30 years ago.

do-you-like-me-lg

I also got picked last all the time in junior high. Last for kickball and softball and dodge ball and anything that required height or agility or speed. If we had smarts contests or spelling bees, I would be picked second (after the smartest girl in the class), but I don’t recall that we had a lot of smarts contests in my school. So that, combined with the fact that I wrote out song lyrics in an attempt to win the hearts of boys made me a bit of a loser. And I also loved Classical music more than 80s pop. 

So much of my life has been defined by the search for a partner and the rejection of hundreds (am I exaggerating?) of people. Of course I have had (a few successful) relationships! Of course there are seemingly well adjusted, normalish people who have liked me and wanted to kiss me! Lately, however, the people who are interested in going on a date with me are 1) married, 2) scammers who I assume live in a foreign country and are waiting for the right time to ask me to wire money, 3) sporting gold-capped teeth, or 4) located hundreds of miles away from my town.

I have a full, wonderful life. I am healthy and happy. I am surrounded by friends and family who love me and care about my well-being. But I really and truly want to be in love with a partner who loves me. Just one time, maybe for the only time, I want to be picked first. I want to pass that boy a note and have him return it with this message: Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Fuck junior high, man.

Giving thanks

10 May

It’s Grati-Tuesday. I am in a Facebook group of women (there may be men, or people who identify in other ways, but I’m not sure) who support and encourage each other. I used to see posts from Mona, the group’s leader, almost every day, but I have missed many of them of late. Today, however, I saw her post suggesting that we make a list of 15 things we are grateful for — and 20 if we didn’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it, so here’s 20:

  1. I am grateful for my sister, Megan, and her family. I moved here to be closer to them (and my other family members). I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to see them frequently.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to play games with and read stories to my nephew and nieces.
  3. I am grateful for hugs and kisses when I leave their house.
  4. I am grateful for my coworker who gave me a hug and told me she loved me today. She even said I was on her top 5 list of favorite people, and I know she meant it.
  5. I am grateful for another coworker who gives me a daily double fist bump.
  6. I am grateful for Charles, my Caribou bourista boyfriend, who makes delicious drinks for me.
  7. I am grateful for bacon. Let’s be real here.
  8. I am grateful for depression and the intense and frightening feelings I’ve been having lately because they allow me to reach out to and truly understand other people who are feeling suicidal.
  9. I am grateful for the friends who know what this feels like.
  10. I am grateful for the Facebook mental health support page.
  11. I am grateful for coffee. That should have been #2.
  12. I am grateful for Melvin.
  13. I am grateful for Instagram because it makes me feel popular, and yesterday a woman I follow commented on my post when I made her turkey kale appel meatballs and said my idea to add cider vinegar and sauteed apples to the sauce was amazing! Squeeee!
  14. I am grateful for my health.
  15. I am grateful that I can run.
  16. I am grateful for all of the teachers I’ve had and especially for my friends who are teachers today.
  17. I am grateful for the YouTube video I watched this morning. It was a powerful message from the father of the young man  who died of suicide last week in the town where my mother lives.
  18. I am grateful for surprises.
  19. I am grateful for laughter.
  20. I am grateful for Mona, who encouraged me to ponder gratitude today.

Taking life seriously

3 May

Life is too important to be taken so seriously, I was thinking as I angrily ripped cilantro leaves from the stems so I could finish making this guacamole to eat with the plantain chips that just came out of the oven. That was the actual phrase running through my mind.

I was fuming about something that happened on a Facebook support group in which I was a member — until the thing happened and I promptly left that stupid group. Serves them right. See how they fare without me and my years of therapy-produced wisdom.

Cliff’s Notes version: In a group about Whole30 Reintroduction (where you begin to systematically add back into your diet foods that you had stopped eating during your Whole30) I posted a question about chocolate. My post was deleted because chocolate is a trigger for some people…who are learning to deal with their food-related issues and searching for the happy destiny known as “food freedom.”

What the ever-living you-know-what?

So I was in my kitchen, tearing cilantro with a bit more gusto than is required to remove the leaves from the stems, writing in my head the diatribe I wished to post on Facebook, and chuckling to myself about adding to the post a picture of a candy bar or a bag of kettle cooked potato chips. And of course the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

I keep going back to the quote I can’t find, the one that was maybe a Facebook post written by one of my friends and not an actual famous person. It was about what we choose to get angry about or the weight of the thing that brings us down and what that reveals about us.

I have a friend who is preparing for another round of chemo. I have another friend who is recovering from a surgery. On Saturday, a family I know will have a service of remembrance for their family member who died last weekend of suicide. And I was upset that my post about chocolate was deleted in a group (of strangers on a social media site) where I was asking for support.

I knew, the whole time this was happening today, that I was taking it all way too personally. Have you read don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements? Don’t take anything personally is one of the agreements. “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” he writes.

You guys, some days it takes so little to upset me, while on other days I fly through life without having to take my frustrations out on a cilantro plant.

I will be better tomorrow, and the guacamole will be better tomorrow, too. That’s how it is with guacamole.

Speaking plainly about suicide

2 May

Trigger warning: In the post, I am going to write about my personal experience with suicide and depression. I understand that this is a sensitive and painful topic. Please know that it is not my intention to hurt or offend anyone. I am writing because I believe this is an important issue that won’t get better if we refuse to speak about it.

***

Yesterday a young man in the town where my mother lives (pop. less than 3,000) died of suicide. I did not know him. I don’t know what happened or why, but I understand that his death was a shock to those close to him. No one saw it coming.

This news has hit me hard. These last few days I have been feeling down. Not very down, but especially blue. Particularly low. Depressingly…depressed. What is the modifier that explains I am not simply “sad” and about to feel a hundred percent better as soon as you tell me a good joke or hug me tight enough? I don’t know the best descriptor. I’ve been in the hole, and the news of this young person’s death is more meaningful to me today than it might be on any other day.

The other day, as I was turning into the parking lot behind my apartment building, I had the fleeting thought: Maybe the world would be better if I were dead. It came and went and I didn’t give it much weight, but a little piece of it lingered, waiting for today.

I have always thought of this thought as a symptom of an illness that I will probably have forever. It’s a chronic illness–sometimes I’m in remission for long periods of time, and then I have a flare-up. There is no warning. It doesn’t come on because someone made a mad face at me or because I don’t have a boyfriend or because it snowed. Before I realize what is happening, I’m in a black hole.

Depression is a sneaky, relentless bitch. It brings to the fore (in the middle of the night) every single mistake I have made in my lifetime and helps me imagine (in full detail) mistakes I have yet to make. It highlights all the people who dislike me and downplays the hundreds of people who love me. It points out my faults and weaknesses. It tells me that “someone is always listening” is complete bullshit, even though I know someone is, or will. It finds the one thing that will hurt me the most and says it over and over and over again. It convinces me that the world truly would be better if I had never been born.

I cannot be sure, but I imagine it is this way–and worse, yet–for others. Some of us live with this day after day until we can’t take it anymore. We don’t tell anyone because depression tells us that no one gives a good goddamn about us. We don’t want to bother anyone. We don’t want to make a big deal of it. We don’t want anyone (who hasn’t got a clue what this feels like) to offer advice. We just want it to go the fuck away.

Today was a hard day, but I am not in danger. I do not need to go to the hospital or call a hotline. I am remembering. I am mourning. I am worried. I am grateful. I am a little bit scared, but I will be ok.

I don’t want to say I am special because I know what it feels like to want to die and to try to die only to come out of it on the happy, shiny side, because that’s ridiculous. But for years, I have hoped that my ability to feel so deeply would one day become a gift, like a superpower that would allow me to literally feel another person’s pain and take it from them. Maybe it really is a gift. Maybe I already have that power.

I do want to say, “I am fucking listening.” Call me. Text me. Instant message me. Tell me exactly what you feel, the raw and real feelings, and I will not tell you to take a walk or a bath or a pill. I don’t know what I’ll say, but I just don’t want anyone to suffer alone.