Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why I'm Not a 'Real' Running Mom

 “I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac."  ~ Anne Lamott
The 'Running Mom' movement has really, really, gained momentum, and I am happy and grateful for it. I'm grateful that moms have the support of other moms to get out there and run: to carve out time for themselves; to understand that they have a right to claim that time for themselves; to get that they are better moms when they take care of themselves, that they still count too. Let's face the truth - there's still A LOT of people out there who believe that mothers should always put their families before themselves in everything they do. We moms even foist this crap on ourselves, berating ourselves for being selfish if we really want to go for a run. Moms have serious issues claiming time for themselves and feeling okay about it, so the moms running movement is a fantastic development, and it means that so many more moms are out there running, feeling strong and supported and empowered. And this makes them better moms. And let us not forget, that 40 or 50 years ago, women were simply not allowed to run long distances. And mothers??? No way. It went against nature. Things have changed so much, so much for the better, even in my lifetime.

Before I begin: A disclaimer
What I am about to say has to do with ME and me alone. This is not a comment on my friends, who I value and treasure, and who happen to also be moms. This is not about the wonderful groups of moms I sometimes run with - they energize and invigorate me. I envy their belongedness (Hmmm, There's a world) and I'm just trying to find my place in this silly world.

But here's my thing - I am NOT a 'Running Mom". Oh, I wish I was. I wish I fit somewhere, but I just don't, as much as I have tried. I usually feel that I'm in a no-woman's land of neither here nor there, and it can be a lonely place - or at least an awkward place, for me. I don't fit with my kid-less friends, and I don't really fit with my mommy friends - well, not the way they fit with each other.  It's sort of like that truism: Being a mother (biological) does not necessarily make you a mother/mom in the sense that matters - the "mothering' sense. There's reproduction - simple biology - and then there's more. Well, just because I'm a mother (I hope in BOTH the biological and nurturing sense) and I'm a runner, does that make me a "running mom"...OR, another mother runner????

First: I'm old: Older than all the other moms who have kids the age of my kid. Now, I may be immature and 'young for my age' and in denial about a lot of stuff, but I'm still sometimes 20 (or more!!!) years older than many of them. I could be their mother!!! So, this is awkward, and while they are nice to me, the truth is that they relate to me differently than their other mom friends.

Second: I was 'me' for a lot longer than I have been a mom: How do say this without offending people I admire and care about??? I am a mom who doesn't really feel that this is what defines me - but it's part of me. I spent the first 43 years of my life as 'me', no kids, no desire to have a kid until I hit 41. So, this mom thing is a bit of an after thought, and truth be told, I often feel like a bit of a fake in the company of other mom-runners. I mean this wasn't just part of my nature that manifested itself at the appropriate time. I'm all off, as usual. Un-natural. Odd. Oy.

Third: I was selfish for 43 years and that habit is ingrained: I've never had a problem claiming time for myself for running. My husband and I DID argue about OUR time, but we both stood our ground and claimed it. Yes, this can be a point of friction, but we worked things out, usually. That's still something we have to balance. I ran through most of my pregnancy. I bundled up my 5 week old daughter, in a Colorado, January winter, and ran for hours with her in the BOB without the slightest guilt about it. In retrospect, perhaps I should have felt guilt, but at that point, a new-old mom, I had no running mom friends - so I didn't even know how this stuff was done. I wasn't even on Facebook then! I knew running. I did not know mothering. So I muddled my way through. What did the other, 'real' moms think of these mothering gaffs? I can only wonder.
March, 2017: Three moths old
I suppose I approached the whole thing a bit like some of my climbing mom friends. Interestingly I do not see a 'climbing mom' movement the way I see a 'running mom' movement - maybe climbing moms are different? Hmmm. But my climbing mom friends took their infants out to the crags in back packs, bundling them up and attempting to keep them safe from any rock fall potential. Bringing the kid to the crag just seemed to be an extension of bringing the dog to the crag.

April 2017: 4 months old
Perhaps it's just the fact that I ran for so many years before I became a mother. Perhaps this is all 'in my head'. Perhaps I am making something out of nothing. Perhaps, perception is creating my reality. Or, maybe it just is true that some of us don't fit nicely into these things, as I have never fit anywhere. And this is one reason I love running - Runners often don't fit well anywhere, and find a fit in not fitting along with others who just don't fit so well. And mom runners, themselves, may not feel that they fit so well with non-running mothers which is why they gravitate to this community.

And yet, becoming a mother changed me. I may be a little less selfish. I know there's someone else in the world who I would die for without question and who I could not possibly love more, even when I'm angry as hell at her. Being a mother makes my actions in this world more important. She adds to my self, something I could not know before - but even that is a selfish thing - all about me - what she does for me. She renders all my actions more important in some intangible sense, can't quite put my finger on it, way.

And so I am a mother. And I am a runner. Does that make me this breed of 'mother runner'? I don't know. And perhaps I'm not the only one out there confused and conflicted about how these pieces fit together. It's a work in progress.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Father's Advice

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  ~ Umberto Eco
My father has been gone for 7 and a half years. He died 4 days after my daughter was born. And I never got to ask him about all the parenting stuff because I had no experience with that and so I wouldn't have known what to ask him. Now questions occur to me almost daily. Though he was 1600 miles away from me I talked with him daily that last summer and fall -  over the course of his illness, while I was pregnant - I was creating a new life, and he was dying. 

Of course I've written about my father many times before, mostly with respect to running. He is why I am a runner - both the encouragement he offered and the example he set, but he made me in other ways as well. I get my philosophical temperament from him. My mother always got irritated and bored with our philosophical banterings and digging into subjects that made her squirm - like the absurdity of God. For us, these exercises were necessary.

 
My dad was a horticulturist. He began working in a greenhouse, in the Garden State, at 16. Now, this was a tough Brooklyn kid. He grew up in Flatbush where all the Irish kids were destined to be cops or inmates, as he told it. His delinquent proclivities lead his parents to send him away to school in Goshen, New York, fearing he was falling in with the wrong element. Soon after, the whole family moved to Cranford, New Jersey. He drove hot rod cars too fast, drank too much, and carried his cigarette packs rolled into his shirt sleeve. He was just a bit of a hellion boy. But, as my mom describes him - he was different from the other boys. There was something deeper there.

So what would lead this tough guy to start messing with flowers? And how did he know, at 16, that that was what he wanted to do with his life (he claimed that he knew right away)? I asked him this once, when I was a teenager. His response: "I knew that I would want to do it even if they didn't pay me".  I will never forget those words. They burned into me and set me on one path rather than another.

We say things to our kids. We never know what will stick and what will bounce off, away, forgotten down the path to oblivion. Today I am grateful for the things that stuck and for the father that I got.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Being Present

"The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present." ~ Eckhart Tolle
Time passes. Things happen in time. But in reality, time is nothing. All there is is now. The past is no more. The future is nothing but possibility. Sometimes we become confused about the real nature of this existence we have in our grasp now. This happened to me recently and now I'm trying to learn from it.

How did it all begin?...

When last I wrote I was in the middle of my great experiment: My week off from running post Colfax Marathon. This was the first voluntary (non-injury caused) break I've taken in, well, ummmm, yeah. Decades. Though I've only been back at the racing thing for a little over 5 years, I still ran and ran and ran, day after day, week after week, year after year - steadily since I was, hmmm, 21ish. Before that it was more on and off. But, for most of my adult existence I have just run and run and run.

So, I took a week off - Okay, technically 5 days (a work week) and then ran a short 6 mile jog with some friends and then took the 7th day off. During that week what did I do?? I biked, quite a lot for me, but short rides by biker standards (20-25 mile rides) and I swam. But zero running. Oh, and weed pulling - I did a fair amount of that. And I tuned into my recovery - I enjoyed my rides - took it all in - went to new places - saw old things in different ways. It was a pretty good week.

And then Monday rolled around and I ran - a sweet, hungry, freeing 10 miles, bright and early on a sparkling Memorial Day morning. And then I went off to enjoy a wonderful time on the Bolder Boulder Women's Elite Press Truck.
 
...and then off to the Boulder Creekfest with the family. It was a frenetically busy, wonderful day.

And then as I stood on the potty line waiting my turn, I pulled off my shoe, standing on one leg, to extract a pebble. As I pulled the shoe back on I felt a sharp pain at my sit bone. OUCH. Oh. What...the...He%%??!!. And it continued hurting, a little, in the worrisome 'what is this' way that these things tend to do. The next day I went for an easy 5 mile jog but all was not well. So, I gave it an extra break choosing to bike the next morning. And things felt better by that night, good enough to give a short gait clinic and run with a local running group.

And as I jog around Waneka Lake, as the sun sinks behind the Rockies and the air cools, I am tuned in completely to everything my body is telling me. I am being present...


Things are looking up...But after a week off, and this little blip, I'm champing at the bit a bit.

The next morning: I leave early for another easy, testing, 5 and things feel much, much better. Not 100%, but better. Phew. Nipped that.

Then I jump on the bike and coast the half mile down to my daughter's school to volunteer for the Heather Heatherwood - her school's end of the year 1 mile fun run.

And, all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This day is a shiny happy place. All is good and right.

The kids arrive, assemble, and we're off.


 
My husband, daughter and I trot along and my daughter is doing great. Friends crack jokes about how it's cheating that I'm pacing her. We all laugh and soak up this moment. I pick it up a bit to get ahead - snap a picture, fall back into the the flow, and repeat several more times. Each time I tell myself not to push it - but I feel good...
 

I keep reprimanding myself for going ahead too fast - for worrying about the pictures. "Just run with Sophia" I hear in my head.

As we turn and head up the hill, the last quarter mile, I see the fire trucks ahead, and a tall arc of water spraying up into the sky and showering the kids below. I want to get a picture of this, and so I gun it up the hill. As I get about 20 meters from the trucks, I turn my gaze back, over my shoulder to see where my daughter is. As I do so, my left foot hits a drainage dip in the road.

I never even see it coming, though the mistakes I've been making all along have been asking for it. But as my brain registers that my foot is not landing where and when it's anticipating the landing, my entire body responds. I catch myself with my still mending left leg - fully extended - and due to the dip, overextended. In an instant my hamstrings, glutes, and piriformis shoot intense pain to my brain. 'Oh no no no no." I say as I grab my butt and slow to a hobble. My left leg cramps up. I try to jog. No go. I walk to the finish, too slow to get there to see my daughter finish. I am stifling the tears as the day turns instantly dark.

Why the darkness? It's not actually the pain. It's not actually the injury, though I realize immediately that this one is serious (and yes, I am VERY upset about this - mainly because I caused this. Stupidity caused this). The darkness results when I realize that I was not present - not for me, not for my daughter, not for this day and these moments that will never happen again. We can get so sucked into taking pictures that we miss the moments, the actual experiences, and on this day I was slapped in the face with this truth.

I had succumbed to what Plato refers to as the world of (mere) image. A dull copy of the real. Even in the world of perception, there are levels of reality. A copy of an experience is pretty much on the bottom of the divided line. I had chained myself up in Plato's dank cave of ignorance, thinking that what I see is real, through that lens. But what's real is on the other side of that lens.

The rest of the day, I am in tears because I wasn't there for my daughter, for me, for my family. I missed out on something I can never have back. She ran the whole race, and I wasn't there. Why?? Because all I wanted was the damn picture. I should have been running beside her, with her. She will never run that run again. This is a day we can never do over. This is the first time I have looked at most of the pictures that I took that day.

And I hope I've learned my lesson. I pray that I have learned this one thing: Be present.
"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment." ~ Buddha

Addendum: My awareness of this phenomena first occurred to me in 1999, at the Louvre, in the Mona Lisa room. I didn't own a cell phone at that time. Or maybe I did, but it was decidedly low tech. My husband and I stood before the Mona Lisa, and all around us were others, phones and cameras pointing at the painting. No one else was LOOKING at the painting. WTH??? You can see a picture of the Mona Lisa in any art book. But are you experiencing the Mona Lisa, as it hangs before you, looking through a lens?? Look with your EYES. Be there when you are there.
Similarly, we all know that a picture of a breathtaking sunset pales in comparison to the real thing. The picture is always a bit of a disappointment.

The Things That Change Us

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.” ~ Goethe Sometimes we never "go back" to what we were before....