Pushing beyond my limits

I started my day off at a yoga class one of my Mom friends was teaching locally. Nothing says “Namaste” or “I’m going to have a great day”, as taking a kick-ass class at 8 AM on a Saturday morning. I sweated and grunted and somehow managed to complete the class without falling over, which was amazing, because even though she said it was Yoga 1 level, what she meant to say was that it was Yoga 1 for people who could do headstands with little effort.
I was proud that I was able to finish, even while discovering that I am really weak. I mean really weak. And I’m not joking around. Those poses may look easy, but unless you’re strong, and even if you are strong, your muscles will quake while you hold them. I pushed my body and moved it in ways I didn’t know was possible. This seems to be a theme in my life right now.
In January I began a couch to 10 mile training program (yes you read that correctly, MILES) for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on April 7th. (I have tendency to bite off a large chunk) I followed my training religiously and felt great, until I was struck down by the stomach flu. And then my two boys were struck down by the stomach flu. All this happened 1 ½ weeks before my race. Let me tell you, the stomach flu can play with your mind. It will make you believe that you will NEVER eat again. And make you doubt your ability to even walk 10 miles. But on race day, I felt great, besides nerves, and off I went, completing 10 miles without stopping. Slow, but heck, who cares? I didn’t – because I did it! I DID IT!
And then, two months later, I find myself in Jess’ class, moving and stretching and pushing myself beyond my physical boundaries again. And it felt great. Really freaking hard, but great.
This is something I’d like to teach my boys by example – how to push through, even when things are really tough. Someone once told me that just when you don’t think you can stand one more minute, to hold on because the light is right around the corner. So true and so hard. It can be hard to grow. Or run 10 miles, or hold a yoga pose. As adults, most of us have learned that few things come easy and that you often have to wallow through the muck to find the good stuff and grow. As I learned in the winter, you have to put the miles on your legs by running five days a week in order to complete a ten mile race. You just don’t go out and run 10 miles. Unless, of course, you are a professional runner or slightly insane. And I can’t expect to just whip my legs up into headstand if I can’t even hold myself up in plank pose for 15 seconds. Practice and practice and more practice.
So I started my day with a challenging but rewarding activity. I’d like to say that the rest of my day was Zen and just flowed, but 15 minutes after the class, I realized that I had lost my iphone. I still had to race home because my husband was late for work (some days I really dislike his schedule). After loading my boys into the car, driving back to the studio, dragging them in and sneaking into the next class, I found my phone. Perhaps I wasn’t the best example of a Zen-like person for those 25 minutes, but I’m still a work in progress. And in spite of the iphone mishap, it was a great way to start the day. I now have another goal in my sight. Can anyone say chaturanga?

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I am not a runner?

I am not a runner!

And yet, for the past eight weeks, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn most mornings and jogging (slowly) along the Potomac River.

I’m training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, in Washington, DC. There is nothing more glorious than running under the cherry blossoms for ten miles, or so I imagine. I’ve never run a race this distance before, so any conjectures I may have about the actual experience, are well, conjectures. Still, the cherry blossoms are breathtaking and I’m looking forward to experiencing them in a different way.

It has been about eight years, a wedding, three moves and two babies since my last 10k. Let’s just say, it was something from my single days, and even then, I didn’t classify myself as a runner.

I fell into running back when I was living in NYC, because so many of the people I knew spent their time running around Central Park. Each November, I’d walk down to the end of my block and cheer for the thousands who were running the NYC Marathon, and get goose bumps. ‘I want to do that someday,’ I thought. The thing is, I’ve never enjoyed running. Ignoring that little fact, I threw my name in the NYC Marathon lottery thinking, they’ll never pick me. But they did.

And so my training began. I followed the schedule for beginners, and simply ignored the fine print about the “base” I should have acquired prior to the official start of training. After about two weeks, I hobbled into my office with a slew of injuries. Thank god I worked with such fine physical therapists – they had me back out on my feet quickly.

Next, I found a training partner who was my speed. The only problem: she did not talk and for me, that was torture. Music didn’t help either. At the end of each song, I’d think, ‘that was only three minutes?’ I felt like I’ve been running for at least ten minutes. Then I found friends who talked and made the time fly, except they were too fast for me, and in trying to keep up with them, I injured myself further. My physical therapists put me back together again, but at this point, my morale was low and it was hot – ‘I’m just not a runner,’ I thought. And so I quit.

Two years later, a close friend (who is also an Ironman triathlete) took me to a trail near our home and encouraged me to jog with her. Me, jogging with a triathlete? Clearly she was crazy.

“I’m not a runner, I told her. Besides, it hurts and I always seem to injure myself.” My wise and fit friend was not going to fall for any excuses. “The first 20 minutes always feel uncomfortable, but if you can get past that, you’ll see, you’ll have a breakthrough. It’s uncomfortable for me for the first 20 minutes.” And so we began. Step by step.

She wasn’t concerned about miles, or our pace; she just wanted us out there for as many minutes as I could go. She encouraged me, and this gave me confidence to keep running longer and longer, which in turn made me stronger and fitter. Three times a week for 60 minutes, we ran along the Hudson River. She was the perfect running partner, each time she pushed me to go a little faster AND she talked! While we ran we discussed everything from her father’s illness and passing to all the other issues we confronted on daily basis. We talked about the future and shared business ideas – it felt like life was so full of possibility during each run. Exercise, therapy and social support all wrapped up into one little hour. Some days were easy and others were tough. Still, I pressed on.

Shortly before my marriage, I moved to DC. Without my partner, my running routine sputtered and died. ‘I’m not a runner after all, I thought.’

Eight mindless years at the gym on the elliptical or in spinning class (I tried, I really did, but couldn’t get into riding a bike in the gym with all those sweaty people), I found myself back where I started. I was not fit, I was not motivated and I missed the “flow” I used to feel during and after our runs along the Hudson River.

And then one day in early December 2012, I had the wild idea to sign up for the Cherry Blossom Ten miler.

Eight weeks ago, when I started the beginner’s training program, I could not jog for more than a minute without feeling winded. This morning I ran for 80 minutes, without stopping. Surprisingly, I feel pretty good right now. We’ll see tomorrow.

Most mornings, I’m up, all alone running along my street, staring at the river. It is so beautiful to watch the sun come up over the Potomac River and listen to the birds chirp. I love being outside, even on the coldest days.

It has not been easy. My 17 month old has not been sleeping well, it has been cold, and running feels hard to me. Still, I get out there. After each run, I feel such a sense of accomplishment – ‘I finished today’s run and did not keel over in the street!’

Running along the Potomac River reminds me of my runs along the Hudson River with my friend.  Those Hudson River runs have been a foundation for me – I did it before, I can do it today. The difference this time is that I’m alone – there is no one there to make me go run, distract me, encourage me, and cheer for me.  I’m alone with my thoughts, my breath and the chirping birds.  The strange thing is, I find myself looking forward to that time running along the river, even if a part of me is also dreading it.

Step by step and day by day, I’m starting to reconsider things. Maybe I am a runner after all.

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Sad songs say…..

During a rare solo drive today, I was transported back to different parts of myself as each song changed.

For about 3 minutes and 30 seconds, I was the carefree college girl bopping to some 90’s song (so unremarkable, I don’t remember the name), riding the T in Boston on the way to a dance and laughing with friends.  Then Annie Lenox, and her soulful song “Why” came on, and I became the 20-something lost young woman, the one who couldn’t figure out who she was, where she fit in, thinking that love would conquer all and well, hoping it would make all the hard decisions too.  And just as the emotions were flooding back, so vividly it took my breath away, Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” came on, and lightness and fun returned.

Good times come and go.   And so do the bad ones.

If you just stay where you are long enough, things change.

For some reason, the happy, go lucky songs from my college days didn’t grab me in quite the same way as Annie Lennox: her beautiful voice roped me in.

Maybe there is a part of me that wants to go back in time to tell that young woman that she will find her way, beyond her wildest imaginings.  Things will turn out even better than she hoped.

It’s been almost 20 years.  I remember bursting out of college and thinking I’d conquer the world.  Then a broken heart, a few mis-steps and some very bad choices, all which left me raw, insecure, uncertain and an emotional wreck. I didn’t know my center and wasn’t true to myself.  Heck, I didn’t even know who I was, for that matter.  I drank a lot and tried to fit in with whichever group I was hanging with.  I even thought that moving to another city would help me run away from all that I was feeling.  Starting over I said.   Ahh, but as I learned quickly enough, you can run, but you can’t hide from your mess – your feelings come with you.  Wherever you go, there you are.  Oh so true, Jon Kabat-Zinn!

Sitting where I am in this moment, would I change things? I’d like to eliminate the decisions that hurt other people, but those hard moments helped me become stronger, stand on my own and to find my center.  There is beauty in the awful moments and sunshine is always behind the clouds.  If you don’t believe me, get on an airplane on a rainy day.

My path has been good so far.  At times, it has been hard.  I’ve had some pretty freaking amazing moments.  And at other times it has sucked.  And all of this is what makes life so glorious.  Just when you think you can’t bare it one more second, the song changes and so does your outlook.

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I’m back….

It has been more than a year and a half since my last post.  I’d like to say that I can’t believe it, but that isn’t true.

How to sum it up?

Three failed IUI attempts, several back issues (thank you God for my chiropractor Dr Ginger Lowe), 1 successful IVF attempt, my father-in-law’s passing from stage iv lung cancer, a car accident, 1 beautiful baby boy joining our family in september 2011, 3 bathroom renovations, selling a home, buying a home, moving, a miscarriage

And everything else that comes in life – work, being a mama, wife, daughter, sister, friend, trying to lose those last 10 baby weight lbs.  Though I’ve been falling down on the friend front.  And the baby weight too. But I’ll save those for another post.

Besides, this year is not about beating myself up.

So, hello world.  I’m back.

I missed you.

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Going with the flow


I just received an e-newsletter from a retreat I attended with my Mom this past May and this quote struck me from the leader/author, Joan Anderson –  “Life, like a beach, constantly rearranges itself and then you are left work with the new arrangement.”  

Ahh, how true!  How many times am I reinventing, rearranging and juggling?  We set goals or resolutions and then something (life) gets in our way and sidelines our plans.  Today I am wincing in pain as I type.  I strained my back yesterday while pulling my son out of the baby pool after he acted in a very 2 1/2 year old fashion.  I had PLANS for today.  You see in 16 days, I turn 40 and well, I thought I’d give it one last push to be in better shape by the time the calendar flipped for me.  Crazy, I know. But life got in the way and instead of working out for a long time, I’ve spent most of the day on the couch or stretching and using heating pads/ice packs to baby my painful back.  Thankfully, my husband is off from work today so he has been watching our son for the day.  A surprise break in a usually hectic schedule?  What a treat (except for the pain) 

If I’m honest with myself, how much of a difference would these extra workouts make in 2 weeks or even a month?  Why did I want to lose those last few pounds?  I guess a part of me wanted something to happen in this 39th year.  The big “something,” as in a baby, hasn’t happened for us.  I told myself in May that instead of focusing on getting back to the shape I was in when I was married, I’d focus on taking care of myself while trying to get pregnant.  

Our first IUI attempt didn’t work.  I thought we’d get to try again this month, but I formed cysts from the drugs, so they put me on the pill this month.  After some tears, I realized that this is a blessing in disguise.  The drugs make me very emotional and who wants to celebrate their 40th birthday hopped up on hormones? Originally, travel plans would have not allowed us to try again until October (I’m not going to cancel vacations this year!) and at least now I know we can try again in August, thanks to the pill.   Life didn’t go as I planned, but it’s ok. 

Why do we get so flummoxed when things are hard or don’t go as we’ve planned?  Is it our desire for control that takes us to this place?  And yet, if I take an honest look at my life, the best things that have happened to me have happened when I haven’t planned them.  Those moments happened when I was living authentically, living my life, having fun and going with the flow.  Things have been better than I could have imagined.  I met my husband at a wedding in Ireland I attended last minute with a friend.  I went there to support her (her engagement had broken off) and never in my life imagined I would meet my husband.  And I desperately wanted to be married, but this trip was about supporting my friend and having a good time in Ireland.  Surprise!  It does make for a good story.  Our son, too, is just delightful beyond words and we got pregnant at a time when we weren’t trying as hard (we were in the middle of a move and renting out our condo).  And it is because of him that we’d love to be blessed with another child.  

There is a great expression I have on a magnet stuck to my fridge, “Let go or be dragged.”  I’ve let myself be dragged all around these past two years in our attempt to have another child.  So today, on a rare day of rest, I’ve decided that I’m going to go back to living in the moment and seeing the grace and beauty of where we are now.  That doesn’t mean I’ll turn into a slacker, but instead of plotting and planning and worrying, I’m just going to be.  Let’s face it, all that planning and stress isn’t getting me pregnant or back to my wedding weight (which was 10 lbs thinner).  We may not be successful in our attempt to have another child, I know that is a real possibility and completely out of my control.  What I can control though is my ability to enjoy this very moment and appreciate what we have because I know, chances are, something is going to change.

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Feeling like a fraud and writing it down anyway

It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Peter is still napping, giving me a few moments to relax outside before the madness begins again.  I’ve “wasted” a good part of nap time chatting on the phone, reading parts of Oprah’s newest magazine and reading email.  Where does this efficient, “I have to always be doing something” persona come from?  I have some ideas, but am really not in the mood to analyze at the moment.  No, instead I want to type my first post for my new blog. 

For years, I’ve wanted to write.  I’ve taken writing classes, joined a writing group, only to skip all the meetings except the first one.  I even taught a writing class to nursing students at a local university. And still, I don’t write. You see, I’m scared that no one will think my work is any good, or care about my thoughts, or find any relevance to what I have to say.  And yet, today, in Oprah’s magazine, in an article there was this very quote – “Accept that you’ll never get rid of self-doubt.  An adventurous person will always have moments of feeling like a fraud – it is a sign that you are creating new roles for yourself – that you’re evolving.”  (Oprah Magazine, June 2010, p. 141)  Oh it felt like a message to me.  Written just for me.

And so, even though I feel like a fraud, I’m writing at this moment.  It feels scary and a little exciting.  So much crosses my mind that I’d like to share.  Little things – like the extraordinarily beautiful peonies that sit on my kitchen table or reading the paper outside before Peter wakes up.  And the big things  that eat away at my heart, like secondary infertility or disagreements with my husband.  Or the mundane – like how will I ever potty train Peter?

The infertility feels like a huge weight holding me underwater.  We’ve been trying for over 20 months to get pregnant with our second child and have been unsuccessful to date.  I’ve put on a brave face for people around us and know that we’re truly blessed, but there is also a part of me that cries and hurts and screams because we’ve been unable to get pregnant again.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, around me has gotten pregnant with their 2nd or 3rd child (and they’ve all had their babies already).  Of course I’m happy for my friends – especially those who’ve had a difficult time conceiving or happen to be of “advanced maternal age” like me.  And then there are others -who seem a bit smug about their second (or third pregnancy) and say, “Well you need to stop trying so hard and you’ll get pregnant” or “You’re so blessed.” Do they not know that I already know all that?  That I try really hard to stop trying so hard and relax – except it is darn hard when you’re close to your period and you are focusing on every part of your body to see if there are pregnancy signs. (I’ve given up on pregnancy tests too early in the process as they throw me in despair when they are negative, which they’ve always been of late)

As I write I worry about how people will judge my thoughts.  Are they going to think, ‘Oh get over it.. Get a life! Who cares about your infertility?’  And yet, I’m still compelled to write.  I can’t be the only one who feels this way.  I know there must be other women out there who suffer as I do each month when we find out that we’re not pregnant and then suffer again when we hear about someone else’s ease at getting pregnant. 

Remember the “smug marrieds” from Bridget Jones?  Oh how that struck a cord with me at the time.  I didn’t marry until I was 35 and in hindsight, I am so glad I waited because I had so much growing up to do (but that’s another posting).  That said, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t suffer through the endless heartache of wanting to find “the one” while all of my friends were getting married in their late 20’s and early 30’s.  

Like the “smug marrieds”, it seems like there are the “smug fertiles” out there  – the ones who “weren’t trying, but can you believe we just did it once and got pregnant again?” Or the folks who tell me to relax and it will happen. It is much harder to get pregnant than we realize, especially if you’re older than 35. 

But this blog isn’t just about infertility because there is so much more to me than my infertility.  It is about trying new things – like cooking new recipes, growing a vegetable garden for the first time and trying new foods. It is about rediscovering old passions – like swimming, bike riding, spending time in nature and traveling to new places. It is about the simple moments filled with such grace and joy – my son’s and husband’s laughter as they play together, going on a bike ride with my family on a perfect spring day, laughing with friends or how great I feel after a 6 AM yoga class. And the things I hope to do someday, like complete a triathlon, make new friends, travel the world, potty train my son and continue to write this blog, as much as it may scare me.

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