Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's okay.

Do you ever feel like you need to sit yourself down with a cup of coffee, and talk to yourself like you are a friend? Does that make me sound crazy? I'm hard on myself. A lot. I've been reading (slowly, and still with flawed absorption) Daring Greatly by the wicked smart and sassy Brene Brown. Side note: read this book. Then read it again. Take notes. Watch her TED talks. She's so smart, and so spot on. What I've picked up from this book (besides EVERYTHING) is that I am HARD on myself. If I talked to my friends, my loved ones, the way I talk to myself... I wouldn't want to talk to me.

So I have my cup of coffee. And the things I would say to myself if I was talking to a beloved friend.

It's okay. I know it's hard, I know sometimes you feel inferior, incapable and lost. You feel like you can't juggle all the balls in the air above you... and it's okay. You are doing the best that you can. You know that, right? You are doing your best. Maybe it doesn't feel like it today, maybe it feels like a hot mess, but you are doing it. You can do it. You got this.

You are a good mom. A GREAT mom even. Sure, you don't always do it perfectly. Sometimes you snap. Sometimes your words are harsh, and his little face falls in pain. That feeling when it happens SUCKS. But you don't have to be perfect. Find the words that make his face light up. Don't worry, you aren't damaging him permanently because you were a little bit 'mean mommy' about him picking up the things on the floor, or putting his bowl in the dishwasher after you asked 5x. He needs to listen. You can speak a little kinder next time, and you can hug him now, every day, all the time, and tell him you love him, but that you need him to listen to you. You are a good mom. It's okay to misstep sometimes. It's okay that you aren't perfect, nobody is.
You did this. You are raising a great son.

It's okay not to know what you are doing with life. To have 28190 ideas of what you want to be when you grow up, not pursue any of those ideas, change your mind constantly, and never stop dreaming. Sure, you're 31, and most people have college degrees by now. Some have multiple degrees. You don't have to know. You do you. You are making a living, and you are chasing the goals you have outside of the job world. You don't have to be ambitious with a career. It's okay to be better at running a household than running a bank. And it's definitely okay to want that. If you want to sweep kitchens, cook dinners, grocery shop, do the laundry, and run a house, it's okay! You don't HAVE to climb a corporate ladder. If you want to climb though, then do it! Find the job, the path, and GO! But if you don't? It's okay. It doesn't make you less of a 'modern woman' to accept your gifts for what they are.
"Were you working? Eh."

You have to be selfish. Selfish is such a harsh word though. It's all negative, and implies greed. You have to choose you sometimes. Do you want to wind up on 'The Biggest Loser' as the contestant who put everyone else first and ate her feelings? You do that anyway, so go for the run. Fitness isn't selfish. Yes, you lose some time with Ben, but the mom he gets back is way better than the mom who never went for a run. Yes, Ironman is going to be a CHALLENGE as a single mom but you can do it. It's awesome for Ben to see you dream big, and chase big goals. It teaches him early that you can do whatever you want. That dreaming big crazy out of reach dreams is not only possible, but AWESOME! It will show him that he can do it too. He can be whatever he wants to be, do whatever he wants to do. That is an important lesson to teach.
Chase your dreams, and he'll chase his.

You ARE enough. Even as imperfect as you are. Yes, you mess up. A lot sometimes. But you are still enough. You don't have to be like someone else. It's okay that you cry over stupid things. That you cry a lot. It's just who you are. It doesn't mean you're weak, it's just you. It's okay to let things get to you. It's okay to feel it all. Sure, there are other people who handle life differently. There are pros and cons to both, but this is who you are. Don't try to smother it, or be someone else. Be you. You. Are. Enough. I can't tell you that enough times. You are enough. As you are. You will change, and learn, and grow. Someday the things that made you cry won't. Someday, new things will make you cry. But it is okay to feel so much. It's good. It's a victory to be soft and caring in a world that would tell you not to be.

Stop waiting for the day you suddenly change and become the woman who has adorable fashion like all the pinterest models. Your yoga pants are fine! Sure, you always think someday you'll suddenly have perfect outfits, a perfectly decorated home, a nice clean car and look all chic. You probably won't. Let's just accept that and move on. It's okay if this is your normal. It's okay if it never looks like something else. It's okay that you rarely do makeup or hair. It's okay to just be the woman you are, because you're still beautiful, and there are people who see you clearer than you see yourself.
You want to wear this every day? Do it! Undecorated house? Who cares.

Love. Love with everything you have. Never let your cynical side trump your optimism. Be who you want to be.  People love you for exactly who you are, the good, the bad, the ugly and the crazy. You don't have to have everything perfect. I know you thought by now you'd have it together. The picture probably looked different than it turned out, but you know you have a great life? You really do. Don't worry so much about letting people down, or disappointing them. It's your life, you answer for it. We all make mistakes. It's okay that sometimes yours are more visible. And you know what? In the end, they aren't remembered as a mistake. They are the things that make you who you are. Nobody is looking at Ben now and thinking "she made a mistake when she was 21". They are thinking "this kid is awesome, and so cool to have in our lives". Don't beat yourself up over the things that have happened. So you said the wrong thing. So you miscommunicated. So you overreacted. It happens, and it'll happen again. Roll with it and keep going.

Just keep going. You are enough. It's okay. It sounds like a bundle of cliched mantras... but it's the simple little words that matter the most. I love you, you're beautiful, you're amazing, and you're strong. You are a badass. Keep going. Don't worry so much. You are enough.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Portland 2010

I have spent a good amount of time wondering how to write what I want to write, or even if I should. I think "this is not my story to tell" and telling it makes it feel like a blatant request for sympathy. It is not that. And while I can say it's not my story, a part of it is my story, and always will be.

Four years ago I was training for the Portland Marathon. It would be my second marathon, and my goals had progressed from simply to train and PR from my 4:41 to bigger goals. I registered with a 4:15 goal. I set a sub-4 goal as I began training, and eventually the stretch goal to BQ (at the time 3:40.59). Training went so well, and I felt pretty confident in my goals. I PR-ed the half with a 1:45 a month out from Portland, and I was ready.

The Monday before the race, I got a text that set the rest of the week onto a path I couldn't have foreseen. I could have handled that week differently than I did, perhaps. But I don't think I would have. For everything I can remember with painful clarity, I don't remember the exact words of that message. But it told me something was wrong with my dear friend's son. This friend I had met a few years before. We were both single parents to little boys, and I babysat his little one from time to time when he needed it. We connected simply due to our circumstances and lives. We dated off and on, somewhat hindered by baggage we each had.

I could relive all the details of that week, but I won't. The situation itself is a matter of public record. While there was a lot of confusion at the beginning, the truth came out that the babysitter of little C had pushed him down in frustration, and he had hit his head. It caused bleeding in his brain and he was immediately unconscious. It was the kind of nightmare that you see in a Law and Order: SVU episode. You don't see it happen to people you love. Little C, who I had seen 2 days before at a softball game chasing Ben around getting into mischief, was in trouble.

What followed was spending almost every hour I could at the hospital, staying by his dad's side. I could have visited once or twice, I could have told him I was so sorry, offered to help and be there a bit. But that's not me. It seemed like the right thing to do, the right place to be. My mom cautioned me not to throw away my training in the last week, which was mostly coffee, occasional snacks, a few short runs, a few hours of sleep and constant care of others. She might have been right, but I did what I did. I stayed late into the night. I brought coffees or milkshakes to people. I sat and held my friend's hand, and listened to so much information that I can't imagine hearing as a parent. I shared the grief. I tried so hard to shoulder as much of the burden as I could. I sped back to the hospital one night, doing 90 past a cop who somehow exited the freeway without pursuing me when it came time to say goodbye. I saw the last rites. I held this precious boy's hand and stroked his hair and tickled his feet and said my goodbye. And I walked out of the hospital Friday evening next to a parent who was doing the most impossible thing I can imagine: letting go of a child. It was some of the heaviest grief I have ever witnessed or felt.

Every year, I still feel it. Every October I remember the dates of that first notification, that last night we left the hospital, and everything in between. I boarded a plane the next morning and flew to Seattle then drove to Portland for my marathon. I was in a fog. I couldn't not think about it. I woke up Saturday with a cold (no surprise, given how little I'd taken care of myself) and with that time of the month. I was exhausted, sick, and facing a marathon. A race I had worked so hard for, and that now felt like a mountain to climb. This was 2010, so anyone who ran Portland that year knows. It was the rainy year. I learned that day just how much 26.2 miles of grieving and weird joy can feel. C was free, at least. The waiting of the last week was over. There was finality, instead of questions. I ran for Cohen. I wrote those words on my arm in magic marker and I ran for him, and for all the pain and emotion of that last week. I thought of him as I ran past the train yards. I talked to him about the trains. I cried in the later miles of the marathon. From the sheer physical pain of the task at hand, from the joy of running a marathon, from grief, from release. I cried when I crossed that finish line cold, wet and alone.

I came home from that race feeling a sense of peace. I had had time (3 hours and 56 minutes) truly alone with my thoughts and feelings. I was ready to be strong for his dad, to hold his hand and support him as best I could through the next week. Through the storm of emotion, and information, and decisions. Through the candlelight vigil, the funeral mass, the fundraiser. Through the weeks and months that followed. Eventually, I was no longer strong enough to bear the weight. We made the decision to part ways, and after that, I chose not to attend the sentencing of the babysitter. I chose distance, and let that be the way to move forward. I haven't seen or spoken to the majority of the people I came to love since then. I am far removed from the people, but not from this time of year.

Every October, it weighs on me. I remember it. Small details, insignificant seeming moments that were the end of a life cut tragically short. Death is hard. It is always hard, and truly, I think it is no easier to look at a life fully lived and think it's less painful than one cut so short. Watching my little man grow I remember the age C would have been. I think of the moments his family doesn't get to share with him. This is the sort of sadness I won't forget any time soon. Sometimes I feel guilty, because I am no longer connected with everyone who went through it that I should not feel so much anymore. But that's not true, and I know that. That I remember this little boy every year, on more days than not keeps his memory alive. It is easier to remember, even if that hurts, than to forget.