600 Posts

I started this blog nearly five years ago, in January 2010.  I was approaching my 40th birthday and I felt adrift.   How did I end up here, I often thought.  Who am I and how did I become this person?  I would find myself talking to myself in the mirror, having the conversations that I couldn’t have with another single soul on earth.

Then I started this blog.  This blog helped me.  Helped me figure out, if not the answers to those questions, at least find some peace in the journey I’ve been on.  When I look back on the way I felt then, the sadness that often permeated my days, the insecurity I felt, it is nearly embarrassing.  I’m not that person anymore.  I’m not the person who needs others for validation, for them to like her.  Who needs to always know everyone’s opinion of her and change it if it is negative.

Some of that is age, but some of that is the introspection this space has allowed me.

I journeyed through time here, taking the time to sort through the stories of my past.  For most of my life, I’ve felt like a victim of the tragedies that have befallen me, the rotten luck I’ve had or the lack of closure I’ve felt.  I don’t feel like a victim anymore.  I feel strong.  I feel like a fighter.  I feel like someone who has taken the blows and come back swinging.

I was able to meet again the characters that lived in my past, in my head, in the stories I told myself late at night.  And in some cases, upon reexamining those long ago events, I discovered that I wasn’t, in fact, blameless for the mishaps that befell me.  It wasn’t always my dumb luck or the world out to get me.  Sometimes it was me, and my own actions that brought about this thing or that.  Not an easy pill to swallow.

It’s been years since I finished writing my life story, one memory at a time.  I still keep this blog, to write in sometimes.  But mostly it is like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in when I need it.  If I want to go back in time, all I need to do is click a few times and suddenly there I am, in a room with my son’s father again.  I can give myself permission to love him again, to think about the funny way he used to smile or the way he would visit me at the drive through window when I worked at Burger King, his car spewing oil smoke so thick my coworkers would shoo him away.  It is 1988 again, and I haven’t made all the mistakes yet.  I’m in love, and I’m happy, and the world is my oyster.

Or it is 1992, and I’m in a hospital room with my mother.  I can allow myself to remember not only the beauty of caring for her while she was ill, but also the hard parts, the angry parts, the parts where we argued.  It’s OK for me to remember that it was a hard thing to do, to care for her alone in addition to my 2 year old son.  I’m there again, remembering the nights we cried together before she died.

Or it is 1999 all over again, and I’m standing backstage at a Rick Springfield concert.  He is telling me that he wants me to work for him.  I’m scared and excited and sweaty and not sure how I will be able to do this, and I’m also trying to quiet the thirteen year old girl screaming inside my head.  It hasn’t gone south yet.  It’s still fun.  It’s still amazing.  He still looks at me like I’m the best thing for his career that he is trying to reignite.

Or it is 2004 and my beautiful blond boy, my silent, stormy, sweet boy hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  There’s still hope, there is still the idea that maybe we are just like everyone else.  Even though I know we’re not.  Even though I am already hoping someone will tell me what to do with this child to fix him.  Because for every problem, I think, there is a solution.  There’s a problem, and you fix it.  That’s how life is.  Right?

Going back through my blog here allows me, even just for a moment, to imagine.  To dream.  To allow myself the fantasy of the paths that I didn’t end up traveling.  But it also gives me the thing that I wanted, always.  It gives me peace.  It lets me know that I made these choices.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was an active participant.  For each thing that happened to me, I reacted.  I chose.  I forged a path.  I decided what came next.

It hasn’t been an easy journey.  But it has been my journey.  And all in all, even with all of the pain and the heartache and anger and sadness, there has also been joy.  And truth.  And discovery.  I know who I am now.  I used to need someone else to tell me, to validate me, to let me know that I was good, smart, strong.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me those things now.

Because I know.  600 posts later, I know who I am.

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Whirlwind

So I sent the email a few days or so ago, to my former boss, the Rock Star that had seventeen top forty hits, one of which rhymes with “Messy’s Girl”.  I write that in code and you’ll see why in a moment.

It’s strange to do that, after so many years of not working for him, and stranger still to prepare to go to a show, something that I haven’t done in four years.  I have grown by leaps and bounds since I used to work on his website, with his fans, and I’ve moved beyond so much that drove me to need to do those things.

A girlfriend who is also a fan had emailed me a few weeks back asking if I wanted to go to this show in New York City, a small venue, all acoustic.  Normally I’d say no; it’s a weeknight, and the city is not terribly easy to get to on a weekday.  Someone would have to get the kids dealt with after school.  And would I stay overnight or no?  ($$).  Would I take the train in or drive ($$)?  It’s a hassle on a good day, so I said I’d look into it.

Meanwhile, while we were having the conversation, tickets went on sale, and we both snapped up good seats.  A few days later, I’d asked two of my Not So Die Hard Fan girlfriends if they wanted to go, and we had a group of four women, ready to descend on the city for a RS show.

To be honest, I loved the idea of sharing that part of my former life with these women, who have never known me as the Fangirl, Fan Liason, Part of the Team.  It’s a world that seems surreal to me at times to.  But still, I thought it could be fun.

So I sent the email a few days ago, as I used to always do, and the response was lovely.  “Can’t wait to see you, please come early etc etc.”  Also a few choice words about an issue that had strangely made its way into the news of late.

Here’s where the story gets weird.

Long story short, I found myself an hour later diving into the archives of the fan email database I used to be a huge part of looking for ideas and information to pass along.  I dotted the Internet, looking for references to the issue in question and started compiling research.

I didn’t think twice about it.  I’d done work for him for so many years, researched ideas for marketing, promotion, charity, events, it was as easy as slipping on your favorite jeans that you forgot were in the back of the closet.  As if nine years hadn’t passed since I last wore the “official” hat, I posted online asking fans who had any information regarding what I was researching to message me privately.

Except.

Within twenty minutes of my doing that, another fan did the exact same thing.  Using much stronger language, stating she’d “been asked” to compile research and do legwork and on and on.

Which is fine, the more the merrier I suppose.  But somehow, it reminded me of the constant push/pull/who’s on top/who’s better than anyone else/who has the most connection/who’s the most helpful to this guy game that I so remembered and so disliked about being involved.  The work?  Loved it.  Loved being useful, helpful.  The “get out of my way, I was here first” vibe?  So don’t miss it.

It was as if suddenly my offer to help became pushed aside by someone who was louder, more overt, more forceful.  I watched, in amazement, as the online postings from her and fans went on and on and on.  I quietly posted one or two things more about my offer to gather information and watched as the same old patterns emerged.  People questioned the women who clearly had some sort of official conduit to The Man In Question, others defended them.  The other person who was helping posted some defensive remarks, similar to ones I likely had typed into some computer, some time ago, when I was being questioned about my work with The Rock Star Who Shall Not Be Named (did I really come across as that arrogant?  God, I hope not).

I saw it all shake out and it just reminded me how far I’ve moved beyond.  Beyond the need to be seen by Him and His Fans as smart, helpful, connected.  I did used to need it.  It definitely defined me.  But now?  I put my head down, compiled my information and sent it along.  Answered the emails that came in with the knowledge I have.  Did the work for the sake of the work, nothing else.  I could feel the urge to respond, to stand up, to say, “Don’t you know who I am?  Or who I was?”  I felt it, sure.  But then I realized, I didn’t need to.  I know.  I know it and I don’t doubt it.   How about that?

Frankly, it was a good lesson before next week.  Did I like being useful?  Of course, and the kind words I received in response were lovely.  But mostly, I loved knowing that no matter what happens on Tuesday at this show, I will enjoy it.  I will slip on those old pair of jeans and step back into that world for a little while.  The beauty of it, though, is that I will do so taking all of the knowledge and lessons I’ve learned in the last nine years with me.  It won’t be the same, at all.

I’m thinking it will be better.  🙂

Mean Middle School Girls

One of the themes that reigned supreme for me as a positive take away from my Fitbloggin’ conference was that we are in control of ourselves, but no one else.  We can control a lot by thinking all of the myriad of choices we have during the day, but we have to understand that sometimes Other Stuff happens that is absolutely not our fault and not in our control.  In those situations, all we have is our response.  We can control our response to a bad situation (What’s that saying?  10 % in life is what happens to you and 90 % is how you react to it?  One of my favorite quotes.).

Anyway, this was relevant not only to me, but as a great discussion point for my daughter, who is still struggling with Being A Middle School Girl  (See this post, ugh).   My daughter has this awful problem of wanting everyone to like her (can’t imagine where she gets it from) and last year she had finally found a group of girlfriends.  Three other girls that were in most of her classes who all seemed to value her and really enjoy her company.  But then, somehow, her need to be Liked By Everyone got in the way and she did some things to damage the friendships.  I tried to coach her all summer as to how to repair the damage (made so much worse by the constant stream of video chats, typed chats, texting and group texting that occurs, since it so much easier to be mean and be misunderstood that way), and during the summer we seemed to have made some headway.

But when school started, it all fell apart.

My daughter went from being a valued friend to someone they enjoyed picking apart, piece by piece.

She would go up to their table in the lunchroom, and they would proclaim it full.  One of the girls was in most of my daughter’s classes but mysteriously got switched by the second day of school.  And there were constant messages about sleepovers and get togethers that my daughter was not invited to.   Daily, my daughter would ask via text:   “What did I do?  What can I do differently?  I want to be friends again.”

Sometimes they’d ignore her.  Other times they would coach to be more like her former self.  Other times they would be downright rude:  “Shut the fuck up.”  Finally, I told my daughter, enough.  These are not friends you want to have.  These are people who are taunting you to see how much they can pull on the puppet strings.

This week, my daughter won a spot in the school play, “The Miracle Worker”.  Eighty kids tried out, including two of the girls in her former friend group.  My girl won a named role.  One of the other girls was placed in the ensemble and the other one didn’t make it.

You can see this one coming from a mile away, right?  The one who didn’t make it immediately started talking smack about my kid at school, saying that the character my kid is playing is mean and bitchy, just like my girl.  Of course since my kid is a Middle School Girl, this was reported to her.  And my kid decided that was it for her.  She confronted this girl who was talking smack about her.

Bullies don’t like to be confronted.  They get mad, really mad.  And it’s never their fault.  Never.  It’s really pointless to try and deal with them, because you’ll never change their minds, but you always want to prove them wrong.

Except you can’t.  When people have their minds made up, you can’t deal with them at all.

So when I came home from work yesterday, I found my daughter staring at a screen and crying.  Why are the so mean?  Why is it my fault for saying something when this girl talked smack about me so everyone could hear at school?  Why do they keep bothering me so much if they don’t even like me?

And after my experiences last week, I knew exactly what to say.

“You can only control yourself, and your reaction to people.  So don’t give them any more power by trying to make them like you.  It’s their loss.  You are smart, you are pretty, and you just won a big part in the play.  Focus on the good in your life right now and leave the negative behind.  People won’t believe their trash talk when you show them plenty of evidence to the contrary every day.”

Being a Middle School Girl sucks.  What sucks even more is that the lessons that apply to her are ones I am still trying so hard to internalize myself.

Fitbloggin’ and My Headspace

I ended up having a blast at the Fitbloggin’ conference.  I truly didn’t know what to expect about spending three days in a city hundreds of miles away with hundreds of people I’d never met.  I blogged about it fairly extensively at my other blog if you’d like the blow by blow.

Since the conference was geared towards fitness bloggers, sessions ran the gamut from “How to use social media to gain followers” to “Using Florida Grapefruit in a healthy diet” to “Self Acceptance” and “When You Have a Lot of Weight To Lose.”  I had originally thought I would gain a lot of information about the nuts and bolts of increasing web traffic and dismissed the thought of the other more touchy, feely sessions.

But after meeting a friend who gently nudged me towards one of the weight loss sessions, I knew that I was right where I needed to be.  The open ended group forums were like a support group, women just telling their stories over and over, peppering their tearfilled commentary with amazing advice about self loathing and acceptance.

It was like a punch in the gut for me who has been struggling over the last six to nine months with my headspace.

And suddenly, I didn’t feel so alone in my thoughts that go towards Crazytown from time to time.  For all of my struggles in my past, some of these women had experienced much worse.  Others had similar stories of difficult childhoods and losing parents early.  Some were subjected to drug abuse in their homes.  One woman, like me, had a child very young.  They were all struggling somewhere on the journey towards self acceptance.

Some inspiring women were already there.  They had managed to rise above their lousy circumstances and their anxiety filled negative self talk and found a way to honor themselves by taking care of their heads, hearts and bodies.  Others were at the starting point, wanting to head towards that place but absolutely clueless where to start.  Many, like me, were somewhere on the journey.  Some days we feel like we have our heads together, we know how smart and capable we are, and we go forward with our heads held high.  Other days we feel like the negative self talk must all be true and we let it win out with a vengeance.

It was honestly an eye opener to hear my own thoughts echoed by so many women.  I think in our daily lives no one is this honest.  For me, I am surrounded by women who don’t really seem to struggle all that much with self worth.  Maybe I’ve put them there for a reason, to help pull me out of that tendency in myself.  But sometimes that makes me feel like I am a total headcase; that I must truly be messed up if I constantly compare myself to others or think negatively about myself.  But at FitBloggin’ , I wasn’t nuts.  I wasn’t alone.  I was just another among many who are working hard to overcome whatever it is that holds us back from being the best version of ourselves.

It was really, really wonderful.

And now I’m connected with some of these women online.  Through their blogs, their tweets and their Facebook messages, it’s almost like an online support group.  And for now, it feels like enough.  It feels like therapy.  It feels like maybe I’m going to be OK.

The View From My Corner of the World

The roundup of what my world looks like since I last blogged (nearly two weeks ago?  Yikes).

Today is my eldest son’s 23rd birthday.  Holy how on earth did this happen?  It seems both a million years ago and also about a few days ago that I was balancing him on my hip while I navigated life.  He came home last weekend with his girlfriend, and we had dinner Saturday night with her parents.  It is still hard for me to believe that this is my life.  That he and I could have ended up in a very different place.  Instead, we’re eating amazing Italian food with his potential inlaws in this crazy expensive town in CT that we can almost afford to live in now.  I’m not sure if this totally set up situation for meeting her parents is a prelude to Some Really Big News, but for now, holy smokes, my kid is older than I was when I had him.

The younger two kids are back in school.  I am still desperately worried about my daughter and her swimming with all of the sharks at school.  There were whispers about people not sitting together at lunch (not on purpose, really) and getting transferred out of her classes.  We don’t know what all is true, but a glance at her iPod text app yesterday made my heart sink.  She still is trying so hard to be friends with people who really don’t give a crap about her.  I vacillate between hands off (“she’ll have to figure this out herself, as painful as it may be….after all, didn’t we all hate middle school?”) and hands on (“honey, if they treat you that way it is time to move on…why don’t we call so and so who actually likes you and invite her over?”) on a daily basis.  We’ll see what happens.

My dog is one crazy canine.  While we were out drinking heavily celebrating Labor Day with friends, he tried to escape from his crate.  Not sure what all happened (I must set up that streaming video idea I had) but when we came home his two front paws were mangled and bloody, and he’d lost a toenail.  I nursed him for two days before taking him to the vet (having decided that while we love him, we weren’t paying a thousand dollars to the doggie ER).  Having a dog is indeed like having a small child.  The poor thing is now scared to death of his crate, needs pills twice a day, and now begs for (and receives) a companion in the room where he sleeps (not our room; the den downstairs where his crate lives).  Not sure what I am going to do when I have to leave the house, but I kind of do have to leave the house, like, some time this week.

My one year running anniversary is coming up in six days.  I started the Couch 2 5K program on 9/12/11.  I saw this blog entry from this one woman on her running anniversary and she’d gone from the program to like, a half marathon on her anniversary.  I am going to be struggling through another 5K this weekend (this is my seventh), hoping I don’t die, because I let my exercise go the whole time I was in Europe (and to be honest, it was on a major downward spiral before we left with the kids home this summer).  I’m trying to focus on the positives of it:  like, I am still actually running, and that I weigh less today than I did a year ago (um, only about 9 pounds….but whatever), and that I am likely healthier and all that.  Still, I do feel an awful lot like I should be trying harder, doing more having been at this thing A Whole Stinking Year.

Speaking of OMG THE RUNNING, I am going to a fitness conference in two weeks called FitBloggin.  I scored a free ticket by applying to be a live blogger, even though at the time I had no fitness blog and no audience for the real blog I actually do have.  The ticket might be free, but the hotel room on the Inner Harbor is like $200 a night, but I’m a little freaked out about getting a roommate that I don’t know and have never met (though, apparently, people do this all the time at these things).  I tried to entice my girlfriends with the Hotel Room in a Awesome City Away From Here for a girls’ weekend type of thing, but they all have soccer games, or football games, or husbands that aren’t interested in them subsidizing my weekend in Baltimore.  So it will be me, all alone, with all of these bloggers who write about fitness while I am pounding out 40 minute 5Ks.  Still, I’m super excited anyway.  Maybe I’ll network and find a job, or something, out of it.

And that’s the view from suburbia this warm September morning.  Yes, sure, I could have written about politics, or my inner conflict about why I am not hearing back from an old friend, or some other existential dilemma but for now?  This is where I am at.

Put Your Head Down and Focus

As anyone who has read this blog for more than a minute knows, I’m no athlete.  Field day was my least favorite day in the school calendar year; I was a scholar and a musician.  I got my geek on and enjoyed it, all the way through school.  It’s why I became a teacher, I loved school so much.  When I think of most of my favorite people in my life, outside of my family (not that all of them count amongst my favorites….), most of them I either met while I was in school or were involved with school somehow.  Well, except Rick Springfield, but otherwise the statement stands.  It’s no accident that most of my husband’s family are teachers; I immediately felt a kinship with all of them.

In fact, I was so nonathletic that when I wanted to become involved with the track team in high school, the only option available to me was the manager role.  Coach Tymrak (hey, didn’t I mention him in my last post?) was polite and all, but me and my short legs just weren’t going to be an asset to his team. In fact, I ended up bailing on the position because it made me just so damn uncomfortable to be around all of those people in such amazing shape (again, see my last post regarding my insane ability to compare myself to EVERYONE and not in a good way).  My favorite quote of all about running came from the 1980s flick “Real Genius” and went like this:  Q:  “Do you run?”  A:  “Only when chased.”

But listen…my inner high school athlete wanna be is kind of cheering these days, because guess what?  I’m a runner.

I’ve been attempting to run since last September.  I started off slowly with the Couch to 5K program.  I was religious.  I was diligent.  I told all of my friends so I couldn’t be let off the hook.  When one asked me how far I could run, three weeks into the program, I sheepishly answered…”Um, about three minutes.”  Because honestly, the program builds you up so slowly that that was the furthest I’d gone without stopping at that point.  And I was proud of it, because I’d never been able to run before, in my life.

I kept going.  I finished the program in November and ran my first race.  This was the critical juncture, because I knew that lots of people just fall off the grid at this point.  They finish, they do the race, they’re done.  They don’t know what to do next.  How to proceed.  How to keep progressing.  But I told myself that wouldn’t be me.  I signed up for another race to keep me in the training loop.  And then another.

I’m not going to lie.  The three races all kind of sucked.  It was hard.  It was still really hard, even after I’d done two of them.  Wasn’t it supposed to be easier?  When was I going to hit that easy groove people tell you about, and get that runner’s high?

I decided to start a new program.  Bridge to 10K.  I never had any real desire to run 6.2 miles, and certainly not in front of Other People and all, but what the hell.  The program would keep me going and force me not to stop.   The six week program ends when you can run an hour straight.  A freaking hour.  Sixty whole minutes.  That’s insanity, right?

Today, I did it.  I ran for 60 minutes without stopping.

There’s a moment that happens for me, in these long runs, usually somewhere just before the halfway point, where I want to give up.  It’s hard, too hard, and I want to let go.  I want to walk.  I want my heart to stop racing.  I want to stop sweating.  But somehow, I force myself to slow down, lose myself in the music piping through my earbuds, and carry on.  And always, always, in a few minutes, things seem easier.  And before too long, there’s only ten more minutes, or five, or two, and I know I’m going to make it.  I’m going to have run sixty minutes, over five miles.  And that knowledge is amazing, liberating, enlightening.  Running is just like every hard thing I’ve ever done.  It’s awful, it’s difficult, it’s something you think you can’t handle.  But you put your head down and focus, and you do it.  You get through it.  And you’re better for it.

So, look at that.  I’m a runner.  Take that, Coach Tymrak.

Knocking On the Door

It took me several days.  Days of mulling over the what ifs and the if onlys and the why the hell nots.  I looked through the window online a few more times, trying to envision my friend Dennis and what his life would be like now.  He’s older, of course.  Would he have grandchildren?  I was sure he’d retired from teaching already, and clearly was making music in a band.  But what else?  What else?

I went back and reread all of what I’d written about him here, trying to form in my head his possible responses if he heard my voice on the other end of the phone.  In every case I couldn’t imagine him not wanting to catch up or talk to me; we’d left things on very good terms.  In fact, truth be told, it has been me all these years that has stopped keeping in contact;  I guess I had never been quite sure how to merge a part of my former life into the new one I was trying to build for myself.  My marriage, my pregnancies, my children….did I really want to muddle that all up with someone whom I’d loved once upon a time?

But then I realized, the love part of it, the romantic love part of it, was only a small piece of the puzzle.  If the puzzle was the entirety of what Dennis had meant to me and his place in the story of my life, the part where we were involved with each other was just the top right corner.  The rest of it was a wonderful care and concern of a man who saw a young girl in harm’s way and did a million little and not so little things to make sure that harm didn’t take her into its dark being.  He held my hand as I cried over my absent father, my abusive brother, my crushing insecurities and my suicide attempt.  Later he offered a shoulder as I navigated becoming a single mother at age 19 and my mother’s cancer at age 21.  I wondered, sometimes out loud to him, what on earth he received on his end of the relationship; it felt often like I was taking, taking, taking.  But somehow, he never made me feel anything less than a valued friend, a person important to him in the most equal sense.

And when I added all of those things up, I couldn’t think of any reason not to open the door.  So yesterday afternoon, with my heart racing, I picked up the phone and dialed.  He answered the phone, and it felt as if the 13 years we hadn’t spoken to each other hardly existed.  The conversation was easy and genuine, the casual back and forth banter that I had always loved between us.  My curiosity slowly ebbed as he talked about his life since we’d last been in touch.  He admitted to thinking of me and consulting Dr. Google as well when his questions had reached a critical level a few years back.  His chuckle at hearing about my Rick Springfield adventures sounded exactly the same as it was twenty five years ago when he read the essays I wrote about that far away rock star.  “I wasn’t at all surprised to find that you’d found a way to him,” he laughed.

An hour and twenty minutes later, I looked at the clock and realized it was likely time for me to hang up and let him get on with his day.  After all, my children would be home soon and there was plenty I needed to do as well.  We exchanged email addresses and promised to connect in person the next time I go out to visit my family.  Just like that, the conversation ended, and I went about my daily tasks of children and cooking and chauffeuring as if nothing had changed at all in the world.

But something is different, of course.  Something is very different.  A piece of my former life, the person I used to be, a piece that had long since gone missing and left a tiny hole in me, was put back in place.

It feels good.

I’m glad I knocked on the door.

 

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