Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Maggots Line Up

I am gloating over a major conquest. Jo has joined the Maggot Corps:
I’m running because if I don’t get outside and move fast down the street and through the trees, under the sky and in the rain or the cold or the sun, my animal self will be lost. And that’s the part of the brain, paradoxically, that keeps you sane.
Creating runners is one of the greatest joys of my life. The knowledge that there are people out there who have had the experience of using their bodies in this fundamental way because of me has cheered me even while I was in the depths.

And the testimonials … I eat them up, even if I don’t always respond to them directly.
Testimonials like Jo’s above, and like these:
I just wanted to thank you. I first found you and read your posts about running about 3 years ago, when my youngest child was 6 months old. I started running about 2.5 years ago, very slowly, thank you! And I’ve kept it up, increasing speed and distance, and ran my first half marathon last weekend. Thank you so much! I started (~44!) just because it was quick – I could leave the house for just half an hour, and get in a good workout. But I’ve grown to appreciate the space it provides me, as well as the sense of accomplishment I have afterwards. I have a running partner as well, and she has become a good friend – another perk. – Michelle
I just wanted to credit you – I started running back in the day after reading your “maggot” posts. On 10/10/10 I ran the Chicago marathon. It’s all your fault ;) – Bobbi
I wanted to let you know what an inspiration you have been to me since I came across your blog in late 2007. I was never a runner and was one of those people who said, “oh, I CAN’T run.” Well, I am proud to say that I completed my first marathon last weekend! Thank you so much for all of your advice! I have referred so many people to your blog whenever they say “oh, I could never run like you are.” Thanks again! – Sarah
When you wrote your first few blog posts about how anybody can run, I was in a stressful job, a mom to one, and a wife to boot. I read the posts with interest but just really could not find the time. In all honesty I didn’t think I could possibly run. Slight jog maybe, fast walk more like it. I revisited your blog posts and read them a few times. I thought, “well, I’ll start off slow, embarrassingly slow, like Dr. M says.” And so it began. I have now run two 5k’s, completed my sprint tri, and I am signed up for a 6.66 mile Devil Run on Halloween. – Hdh500
Four years later ... just want to say thanks. I’ve been working on “a new me” for the last 6 months or so; dropped a lot of weight, started exercising (mostly speed walking daily — about 5-6 miles/day) and really wanted to up the ante; tried running, but couldn’t do much more than 1/2 mile on a REALLY good day. I read your blog yesterday, and was able to run 2.5 miles yesterday following your advice to slow down. What a difference that made on my lungs! Thanks for the tips. I think you’ve made yet another convert. – EW
I commented a couple times in the past year or two to thank you, but I just wanted to thank you again. Using your “go slow” technique I got to running three miles regularly. Then I had a sort of breakthrough and now I’m running 4.5 miles every other day, like clockwork. Today I ran five! And my time is even improving. I used to run 12-minute miles and now I’m closing in on 11. Thank you thank you thank you. Also, my biggest motivation? I’m sorry to be so shallow, but that photo of your abs on the beach. I’ve had two kids, it’s hard on the body, I’ve never had a lot of physical self-esteem anyway. Running makes me feel a lot better about my body. – Laurel
.. and these are just some of the recent ones.

The funniest ones start out something like “I always rolled my eyes and snorted when you put up a maggot post, but ...” If you’re not yet a convert, but you’re still reading this post—well, you just may be next. And I will be cackling with glee.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

File Under: Happiness, Miscellaneous Benefits of

I got in the cab (wearing a ridiculous outfit—I was traveling home and these were the leftover clean clothes) and chirped “Good morning! How are you?”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the driver slightly warily. “How are you?”

“Great!” I said. Then I used a line I’ve never used before that I’ve heard some of my favorite patients say: “Every morning you wake up is a great day.”

“You got that right!” he said, and we were off on a wide-ranging conversation in which I learned how much he loved driving a cab (“I’d truly do it for free if I didn’t have to pay bills”), how he spent his summers as a boy learning from his Cherokee grandfather how to survive in the woods, how some riders don’t talk, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people, they might just be in their own heads,” how he got an insider trading tip from overhearing a broker on his cellphone and then invested in the stock and made enough money for a cruise around Greece …

As he dropped me off (and after I’d paid), he said mournfully, “I can’t believe what a great team we make! You are such a lovely person, I don’t want you to leave.”


The workshop—well, it went better than any workshop I’ve ever attended, much less given. I was nervous beforehand, but the room was full, nobody left to “answer their phone,” and at the end, they asked us to keep going. And applauded. One person confessed that she’d gotten choked up during it; someone chased me down at the airport to tell me again how much he liked it; I even got a job offer. (The topic included a lot of what I talk about here. How fun is that?)

Best of all, I did it with someone I used to work with and have sorely missed since she moved away. I suckered her into doing it with me and then after I got the grant left her to do a lot of the heavy lifting as far as preparation was concerned. Half of the time we were “working” on it I was chewing her ear off, because I love talking to someone who gets it, and I had forgotten how much she does — and with my “screen” gone, I have nothing holding me back. The workshop sort of felt like an extension of the conversation. (Incidentally, she is a also new Maggot, though she resists the designation. Welcome, B! Hope those knees are holding up.)

I churned through my recommendation letters, sat for my Boards recertification, covered for a colleague on vacation, and am pretty much through to the other side and can focus on the grant work.

I have bad hours and even days; my car got sideswiped ($1300), the garbage disposal cracked, HB wanted to punish me severely for going on my trip—and: every morning I wake up is a great day. Put it on a poster. With a cute kitty. But not a dog. (I was at a stoplight when I took that. I did not get sideswiped while using my phone.)

(Re HB’s knitting: he learned to finger knit at school, and as is his wont, insisted on taking it to the next level: needle knitting. Fortunately my mother is a master knitter and taught him on a recent visit. This is what he made for me to take with me on my trip for when I missed him and needed something to cuddle.)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Six Zeroes

TH took HB camping for the night. HB prepared for this by donning a shirt and tie and packing his knitting. Originally I had planned for some wilding on my part, but ...

A few months ago I put in this last-minute grant proposal? That I was not at all hopeful about? That I pretty much only did because my boss told me to?

I’m now the Program Director/Principal Investigator of an educational project that got funded to the tune of 2 million dollars.


Which is nice.

And in the next TWO WEEKS, I have to:
  1. have my usual patient hours
  2. write 19 reference letters
  3. write evaluations and submit grades for my most recent group of students
  4. put on a workshop for a national meeting in a state far, far away
  5. sit for my examination for Boards recertification (an every 10 year thing), and, oh yeah,
  6. implement this TWO MILLION DOLLAR program (it has to start immediately).
I am not whining, I’m just saying no wilding for me tonight, and I’m guessing no posting for at least the next couple of weeks. (And I’m really, really sorry if my hare-brained scheme means your taxes go up.)

Wish me luck.

I am not afraid I am not afraid I am not afraid I am not afraid ...

*I do not actually get to put my hands on any of the money—not even a tiny little slush fund—so do not expect to see me partying with Paris. I do get a new title and, eventually, 50 percent “protected” time, i.e., time I do not have to spend seeing patients. (Which may be tricky, since I already have 60 percent protected time. Perhaps the patients will have to try to fix MY problems 10 percent of the time?)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gender Bender Fender Benders

One of the most popular searches that bring people to my site continues to be “boys who wear tights” or some variation thereof. I’m really hoping that this represents parents who are looking to gain insight into or support for their oddly attired sons, rather than … well, I don’t even want to go there.

HB hasn’t been wearing tights as much lately, but he continues to make gender-ambiguous personal adornment choices. He’s currently a fan of nail polish and skin-tight jeans—jeans that can only be bought in the girls’ department, because even the skinniest of the skinny boys’ jeans are too floppy for his taste. He is also cultivating a Mohawk that he talked me into dying black (blue was his first choice, but that proved too challenging). Much of last year he wore a suit and tie (even to the Caribbean); he learned to tie a tie before he could tie his shoes.

For a while I wasn’t sure if he much cared that anyone found his appearance odd. This summer, though, he left his super-accepting school and ventured off to day camp. A groovy, anything-goes kind of camp, but unstructured enough to allow for a lot more teasing than school.

The first thing he got grief for was his swim wear. He finds boys’ swim trunks ugly; he prefers sunsuits. But after one day of being teased for wearing a “onesie,” he switched to trunks.

Another was his nail polish. A boy who waited at our bus stop frequently asked, “Why do you wear nail polish?” And HB would do what he usually does when he finds a question rude or intrusive: he acted as if no question had been asked. (It’s almost spooky to watch that.) On the very last day, though, the kid asked him yet again, and HB finally burst out: “I’m not even wearing nail polish! It’s all worn off!”

“But why DID you wear it? It’s for girls,” the kid said.

HB was quiet for a moment, then looked the boy in the eye and asked, “Do you have a dad?”

Now, HB knew this boy’s situation very well: he was adopted from Russia by a lesbian couple. So the question was really a challenge: You want to talk about people being different? I’ll talk about differences. Game on.

The boy happily gave an answer (that he has a biological father, etc., etc.), and the moment passed and they resumed making scatological jokes.

I wasn’t thrilled about HB essentially teasing someone else, but I was proud of his ability to maneuver through the situation without losing his cool. When he talks about these encounters, he is most frustrated by the fact that no one else can see that their clothes are ugly; he doesn’t question his own taste at all. When he does try to conform (e.g. with the swimsuit), he says it’s because he just gets tired of having to explain himself over and over. And I find it interesting that socially, he is pretty shy; he wants to stand out for the way he looks, not for what he does.

The day after camp ended, HB asked me to paint his nails in rainbow colors, and wore his sunsuit to the pool. He also asked me to buy him a pink shirt: “A lot of boys turn their backs on pink, but it’s a nice color. And every color is for everyone.”

I’ve had some nice comments from guys to my earlier posts about HB’s penchant for tight-fitting clothes and what this doesn’t mean about his future sexual orientation. In fact, HB already seems to have a pretty firm hetero orientation; he gets all soft and gooey around girls (“Lena sometimes pulls on my Mohawk, but gently, and it feels really … niiiiiice.” I can almost hear the bass line thumping) whereas with boys he is mainly interested in beating them at ball sports. On the other hand, he would like to be Miley Cyrus when he grows up. But also a professional pitcher. He was very into t-ball … as long as he could wear too-small pants and some nail polish ... Listen, make your bets if you want, but I truly do not care where he ends up on the orientation spectrum.

I don’t get why anyone gets bent out of shape about any of this. Do you?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In Which I Preach About Anger

I think I can now say, six months in, that my new outlook is pretty robust. I recently went through a rough on-call three-day weekend, followed by a grant writing session that was like having ten term papers due all at once, and although I had some unpleasant moments/hours, it did not affect my overall sense of wellbeing.

One episode did rock my boat: I thoughtlessly embarrassed a student in front of another student, and this upset me for days. I apologized immediately, of course, but I bobbed around in a sea of self-flagellation for several days afterward, and the mix of emotions was far more Old Me than New Me: shame, fear, defensiveness, etc. If I had stopped to think beforehand, it was something I would never have done, and this is what made it hard to forgive myself. (What helped was to confess it to TH—and, fortunately, hear him say “That is NOT a big deal.”) (If he’d said it WAS a big deal, I’m not sure what I would’ve done—actual self-flagellation with a cat o’ nine tails?)

So I think I’ll have to work on self-compassion in this area. I just really, really hate to hurt people. I blew off visiting a penpal when I was in Europe the summer I turned sixteen—I chose to hang out with my new boyfriend instead—and I have yet to forgive myself for this. And there’s no way to apologize now; I don’t even remember her name.

Anyway. About anger. First I’ll talk about the few instances in which anger HAS helped me.

I think that the utility of anger is to motivate people when they’re paralyzed by fear. It tips toward the “fight” side of fight or flight, and sometimes this is the better course. For instance: I used to play the violin. I was never great, but I was proficient. Yet I had such paralyzing performance anxiety that whenever there was any kind of tryout, I would end up placed far below where I should have been. (It’s a vicious, dog-eat-dog world, high school orchestra.) Then one day something the director said just before tryouts really pissed me off—and I performed brilliantly. After that, I would try to work myself into a rage before any performance, and it usually did the trick.

Another time it’s helped me is when I’ve had to say something very difficult but important to TH. For instance, last year he was having serious trouble handling HB. It was hard to watch, and maddening, because everything I suggested he do, he ignored. Then, on his impetus, we paid a visit to a psychologist. That session REALLY pissed me off, because it felt like TH and the psychologist were inappropriately demonizing HB. What was going on was that TH had a very hard time setting boundaries and sticking with them; he’d engage in these endless debates with TH, AND he would change the rules on him—quite unintentionally, but still. (The ghost of Nana, I guess.) And HB was acting up with him in pretty horrible ways (e.g., kicking him). Yet HB didn’t do these things with me.

I was afraid to really say it straight: I’m doing it right and you’re doing it wrong. But after that appointment, I was seething. I was angrier than I remember being in a long time. Thank heavens TH responded the way he did: he said, “I know you’re angry but don’t want to say anything. I know I’m doing it wrong. PLEASE just tell me what to do.” And I did, and he did it, and it was all fixed. (He also read the book 1-2-3 Magic, which didn’t speak to me, but had the vital advice that TH needed and that he’d ignored when I said it: No Talking and No Emotion. This is quite easy for me, and profoundly foreign for him.) (I’m starting to see a pattern of TH and good responses here …)

So I’m not saying anger never ever has a place. Neither do I wish to imply that righteous anger is not righteous (some of the time). It just takes a much, much larger spirit than most people (including me) have to channel it safely. I call it radioactive, and I think it’s a good analogy: like radiation, it can be wonderful when used the right way, deadly when not. And when you think about it, most of the amazing things that people have achieved in the setting of righteous anger were done nonviolently.

But in my daily life, and I’m assuming many people’s, anger is a dangerous remnant of a primitive necessity, the root of which is an often irrational fear. Stopping the fear can keep the anger from even entering the picture.

Think about what you were most afraid of when you were ten years old. Fifteen. Twenty. Twenty five. I’m betting that when you think back on it, almost everything you were afraid about turned out to be the wrong thing. Bad things happen, but they tend not to line up with the things we most worry will happen. (YES there are exceptions, I know.) So what makes you think that you’re worrying about the right things now? Have you really learned so much? Or will you look back in another ten years and think, how naïve I was?

And don’t forget that most of your fears are, like anger, useless. Yes, putting your kid in a carseat and installing smoke detectors are wise fear-based actions. But not asking because you’re afraid someone will say no is not. Not speaking up because for fear someone will think you’re stupid is not. Not enjoying the now because it will soon be gone … these are all things I’ve wasted too much of my life on.

I know I keep dancing around the how. How did I give up the fear? I’m still unable to write that manual. I can tell you my mantra: I am not afraid. It is soooo soothing to me in a tough moment. (“No fear” is more pleasing esthetically, but it didn’t work for me. I kept forgetting it, strangely enough.)

Here are some other ones that work for me and might for you:

Zoom out. This too shall pass. Choose compassion. This is my one life. I am not a victim. Let it go. This can’t hurt me. I am not the center of the universe. What shall I do with this energy? No whining. Pay attention. Listen.

Cheesy, bumper sticker- (or kitten poster-) worthy, yes. But I am not afraid of what people will think!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Total Anticlimax

She behaved herself. She wore capris and a black top. She said nothing untoward, forward, or bloggable.

I am so disappointed.

As a consolation prize, here is a picture of HB in fresh nail polish, working at his new job:

(He rides with Mr. Softee almost every day. And dips the cones.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Real Maggots Love the Heat

... and then they turn into flies.

Boy, do I love a good hot-weather run. Muscles loose, no extra clothing, the amazed stares of neighbors as I return beet-faced and trailing a rivulet of sweat up the street ...

It’s going to get hot, and you are going to run, maggots. Run early if you can; go even slower than you originally thought possible; drink before you go, but not so much that you get hyponatremic; and don’t listen to the haters who tell you you’re crazy.

Find your wings, little maggots!

[Update: some answers in the comment section.]

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

If a Nana Says Something Crazy in the Forest and No One Pays Attention ...

A few commenters have wondered about a) how TH grew up to be not particularly crazy and b) what he thinks about my being happy.

I thought about interviewing him about this. Then I realized that the interview would go something like the following:

DM: How did you grow up to be so awesome and relatively normal despite your batshit crazy mother?

TH: I’m awesome? I’m relatively normal? My mom is batshit crazy? Oh yeah, that’s right, she is.

DM: What was it like growing up with her?

TH: Not good. I don’t remember.

DM: Um, ok. Well, what do you think about my being happy?

TH: You’re happy?

DM: Remember, I told you about this? I’m all different and nice and stuff? I let you read those posts about it?

TH: Oh right. Um, it’s good? … wait, what was the question again?

DM: How was that race you did Sunday?

TH: Great! Riding kit shaving cycling bikes drafting intervals training pack sprint collarbone Cat 3-4 cleats riding Masters power meter laps turns monkey butt holding the line criterium time trial bonk leading out road rash drops watts course hill VO2 bridge the gap embrocation tubes wheels chamois max heartrate shelled monster climb breakaway chase points chafing podium ...

TH is kind, nurturing, tolerant, and overall wonderful. He also lives in a sort of happy fog. He puts a laser focus on one thing at a time, and everything else blurs out. This is actually quite nice for me; I like to fly under the radar most of the time. I’m capable of taking his face in my hands and saying, “Eye contact! Here! Now!” when necessary. He has a hard time remembering things that he has not focused upon. (For instance: our neighbor dropped dead and he forgot to mention it to me.) He also sleeps. A lot. As in 10 hours weeknights and 11-13 on weekends. I think he slept through much of his early years. He really does not remember a lot of the stuff that went on. He has his anxieties, but they’re different from mine. He worries about what’s in front of him, not what might happen down the road — so we tend not to be worried about the same things at the same time, which is good. He is an optimist.

TH’s dad is very much like TH. He was a steady, no-drama support through it all, as was his second wife. TH wishes he’d moved in with them for high school, but he was still too afraid of his mother’s reaction to go through with it. (Nana kicked TH’s younger brother out when he was fourteen because he wouldn’t obey her; he did move in with their father — and gave him a pretty wild ride too. Once past his Rumspringa/rehab years, he grew up just fine; I really like him. The sister, well … she’s sort of Nana minus the Histrionic Personality Disorder, which makes her more tolerable, but only to a point. She regularly dumps her two sons — aged 5 and 3 — with Nana for a week of free babysitting, despite having issues herself with how Nana treats them. Her older son is a rather timid, biddable child, so he just does what Nana says, poor kid.)

TH says he just figured out over time that he couldn’t take any of Nana’s advice or criticism seriously. He has always sided with me in any disagreement. Nana can be very fun, and he decided he was willing to take her as she was. This changed with the arrival of HB.

TH has a lot of healthy denial — he doesn’t dwell on the past or the legacy of Nana’s craziness. When I said he was having flashbacks with the newest drama, he said, “Oh, I wouldn’t say flashbacks.” When I reminded him of recent instances when he’d gotten upset over something small and then said that it was because of something from childhood, he said, “Oh, you mean those flashbacks.”

I’m not complaining. I think one navel-gazer per family is enough.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Nana Wars Updated Update: Game Back On!

First, as OMDG noted after my last post, b***jobs was not a reference to boob jobs. (I wouldn’t asterisk out that, for one thing.) It was the other kind of b***jobs Nana was discussing. (And did I mention that the underwear she flashes are Armani thongs?)

So of course mere hours after my last post, TH received the following:
From: Nana
Date: May 13, 2010
To: TH
Subject: HB

I was quite disappointed about your reaction to my visit and HB’s melt down. I keep thinking how to respond to your email, since I want to have a relationship with HB and we love him very much! Just to set the record straight about the sequence of events that morning. [Oh boy, here we go: your wife is a big fat liar. Never a wise battle strategy.] I woke up at 8 A.M. and noticed that there was only 1" of snow on the ground. So, I decided while you were sleeping that I should drive home rather than get completely snowed in for 2-3 days. Not knowing that HB would be so agitated by my quick decision to leave, I walked down the stairs and told DM and HB what I was preparing to do. [Nope—she only told me. Otherwise accurate.]

Then HB went crazy [if you call trying to walk away from her “crazy”] and screamed at me “not to say another word” [quite accurate, except I would say “shouted”] and he was out of control. [Out of Nana’s control.] DM didn’t do anything during his tantrum [quite true—and I’m sure this is what pissed her off the most] and I should have tried to find out the reason he was so upset. [He did tell her: because she kept pestering him.] Now I realize that he gets sad and upset when I leave....and my decision was sudden. [Nice rationalization—he loves me soooo much, that’s what made him mad! Only problem: she hadn’t yet told him she was leaving.]

When I was leaving, and he still was yelling, I said to him, “Your behavior makes me feel not unhappy that I’m leaving.” [Nope. It was definitely “I’m leaving because of you.” Did she look up the “constructive” way to argue, I wonder? You know, “When you do ____, it makes feel ____?”] At least he would hear the consequences of how people feel when he behaves that way towards them. [People = Nana.] These things happen and we deal with it, and then go on - it’s a long road to adulthood! [“These things” being that your grandmother is mean to you? Well, we are dealing with THAT! And TH agrees that it was indeed a LONG road to adulthood with her.]

I do feel that this is was an isolated instance. [Not.] We’ve been with him alone lots when he visits here or we go there and haven’t had that happen. [Not.] The loss in this situation is HB not seeing us more often than his birthday when there are many people there or once every 2 years on Thanksgiving. [Who said we were going for Thanksgiving?] I feel that we have a very special fun time when we are together - whether on our tractor or at the adventure park or at the zoo! [Excellent use of guilt, I must say.] We love him very much and do have an understanding about appropriate behavior when he’s with us. He’s OK with it. [Not!] [Too bad she doesn’t have an understanding of what behavior is appropriate on her part …]

So, we plan to attend his birthday party - wouldn’t miss it for the world! We’ll stay [70 miles away] for the weekend and drive in for the day. [Another excellent use of guilt, no?]

Love, Nana
Let me be clear: HB is not respectful of adults in the sense of obeying them simply because they are adults. This is a battle we have not even tried to win with him, because a) we have had a lot of other things to focus on and b) we don’t really subscribe to that philosophy ourselves. It would be nice sometimes if he could be more actively polite, especially to people he doesn’t know, but trying to get him to say something he doesn’t want to say is unbelievably hard. As I said, we’ve achieved the no name-calling, no swearing, and certainly no hitting limits. It’s not too hard to get him not to do things. He can remain silent when he has nothing nice to say. It’s when someone keeps pressing him to say or do something that trouble ensues.

I’m sure some of our friends and family don’t agree with us about not trying to enforce a Because I Said So policy with HB. (Though not my mother; she raised me the same way.) But most of them are very accepting of this being our child, our family and our decision, and are willing to interact with HB on his terms, i.e., letting him come to them.

I’m really not getting worked up about this even though the red italics above may suggest otherwise. This can’t even come close to upsetting my bliss. (A few things can, I’m discovering. More on that another time.) Poor TH, on the other hand, keeps having flashbacks from childhood. He’s holding up well, considering. He says this is going to be his response:
Thanks for your email and for the nice anniversary card.
Looking forward to the party!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Nana Wars Update

It’s looking like there will be no big drama … which is good for HB, but not as fun for blogging purposes.

There was silence, then TH sent Nana a Mother’s Day card (okay, I handed it to him and made him fill it out), and then TH accidentally dialed Baba (his stepfather) instead of his brother and Baba was pleasant, and yesterday we got an anniversary card filled out by Nana that made no mention of anything.

I’m guessing she’s suppressing the part where TH told her she shouldn’t lie to HB, and has decided that HB just has behavioral issues. Because nothing could be her fault.

Don’t know yet if she’ll come to the birthday party. If so, that will be guaranteed to entertain. (At one birthday party, she wore a skirt short enough to flash her underwear and tried to discuss b***jobs with a rather conservative work colleague of mine.)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, Part 2: Turn and Face the Strange

So that phrase was haunting me: This is your one life. TH was having some struggles at work, and I said it to him. “Um, you already said that the other day,” he answered, which made me think, hmm, maybe I mean this is MY one life.
That had always been a chilling thought for me, but for some reason it started to feel empowering instead. Not this is my life, not this is my life: this is my life. Mine to enjoy — or not.
Slowly, so slowly that I didn’t notice it at first, something began to fall away from me, something I couldn’t identify. Every day somehow seemed a little less … fraught. Christmas at my parents’ was easy and fun, despite a broken toe and a sprained back. (I find it significant that this all started before the solstice.)
Yet it bothered me not to know why things were better. I need to be able to put things down in words. Since I couldn’t define what was happening, I didn’t want to talk about it —as if trying to describe it without the precise words might make things go back to the way they had been. It felt as if some malevolent presence that had always been in the room with me had stood up and walked away. (Yes, it was definitely a he.) I was afraid he would return, and needed to know what to say if he did.
Fast forward to Valentine’s Day. We went to visit my (good) in-laws, and it somehow worked out that they took HB for the whole day, and TH and I ran/biked and got to see a movie and have dinner out. And here’s where the Avatar part comes in, because that’s the movie we saw.
In my new state, I was able to plunge into the movie in all its gorgeous, silly, romantic, 3D glory. It felt fabulous. I haven’t felt that absorbed by a movie since the first Matrix (which had the same plot, come to think of it). No worries, I have no desire to run off and romp around a forest in a G-string.* But in analyzing the movie’s flaws (I never said I didn’t remain a critic, just that I could love it despite its silliness), I stumbled across the words to describe what was happening with me.
I’m perfectly happy to accept an utterly ridiculous premise for a movie—it’s not a documentary, right? But there were plenty of other things in the movie I would have done differently, if I were a director with hundreds of millions of dollars to throw around. Take the lead character’s awful hairdo. If only they’d put him in a Mohawk earlier! (If you’re reading, James Cameron, could you do that for the director’s cut DVD, please? It’s all computer-generated anyway, how hard can it be?) Then there was the cheesy dialogue. One of the lines I took issue with was when Jake asks Neytiri why she saved him, and she says, “You have a strong heart. No fear.” I’m thinking, first, puh-lease! Second, it’s a lie. She saved him on account of the little floaty thing that gave her a sign. Third, he seemed pretty afraid to me. If she’d said it later, it would have made more sense, because when he was learning all that warrior stuff he was pretty game; he definitely wasn’t afraid to make a complete idiot of himself …
… unlike me.
The realization crept over me like a cold chill: That’s it. I have been afraid. Practically every minute of every day.
I can’t properly describe how earthshaking this was to me. Until that moment, I’d thought I was a fearless person. And most of those who know me would have agreed. I’m known for speaking truth to power, giving my honest opinion, not backing down when I know I’m right. But I now realize that I had been courageous, not fearless.
Fear of what? So much. That this pleasant moment will vanish soon. That if I say everything is going well, someone will think I don’t have enough to do or will take me for granted. That if I enjoy this, I won’t find something better. That people will be angry. That someone will think I’m stupid if I don’t know what to do or say even in trivial situations, like standing in line to buy something and not noticing the lane has closed. That someone will notice my pimple. That if I say I like something silly people will think (know!) I’m not cool. That HB will behave badly at the restaurant. That I will be late. That the cat will pee someplace I can’t find. That I haven’t packed the right things. That something is going to annoy me.
I suppose I was being afraid as a defense mechanism. If I worry that something bad is going to happen, I won’t be taken by surprise when it does. The absurdity of this is apparent to me now.
Angst is probably the best word for it. The future had always rolled out in my mind like a line of dominoes poised to click-clack a path to disasters small and large.
It crystallized in me down to my very core: I must give up angst. That was what I had been doing, bit by bit, but once I could articulate it, it was as if a screen that had been separating me from the world was lifted. And everything became so much simpler. I am here now, present, appreciative, aware. The difference this makes is incredible. I can relax. I can enjoy. I can like things or not like them without that horrid overlay of whether I should feel a certain way. I can talk to people and smile at them genuinely (and I found out that I’d had no idea how many people will respond to that — it’s as if there is a whole secret society I just discovered). I realize that anything can happen at any moment. The world is beautiful; heartbreaking, and beautiful, and fascinating.
I should say I am not talking about the opposite of depression. My episodes of depression have been distinct; qualitatively different from the rest of my life outlook. Nor is this mania — my new feeling is peaceful, not hyper. No profligate spending, promiscuity, or delusions of grandeur. And I doubt I’m done with depression forever; I know it’s a chronic, periodic disorder that may well visit me again. I’m not about to go off my meds.
I didn’t even tell TH about this for a long time; instead I watched for differences in how he reacted when what he expected from me didn’t happen. What I saw made me ashamed. Was I really so hard to please, so prone to being thrown off kilter by the slightest problem? Did he really need to tiptoe around me so much? How awful.
One might think that all of this would make me less diligent at work, but it doesn’t seem to. With the angst gone, I can do things because I want or need to, not because I’m afraid of what might happen if I don’t. I work more efficiently and with less resentment. For instance: about every six weeks, I have to cover the weekend. This means that I work 12 days in row, in the middle of which I’m rounding in the hospital (one of my least favorite places), admitting patients to nursing homes, and fielding pages from outpatients and nursing homes for 60 hours straight. In the past, during the first week of this stretch I was crabby because I knew I wouldn’t have the weekend off; during the actual weekend I was unbelievably stressed; and the final week I was burned out. But I’ve worked two weekends in the past three months, and they were — fine. Each day was just each day. One Saturday I was in the nursing home finishing up my last admission at 5:30 pm when a nurse informed me that there was a new patient they had forgotten to tell me about. In the past, my cortisol levels would have gone through the roof. This time, I thought: okay, need to get that done. How do I feel? I feel … hungry. Do I need a snack, or can I last until I’m done? Eh, I can wait. And I did the admission and that was that. The other day I had my “annual” (really first ever) evaluation with the Chief of Medicine, and I looked forward to it. I have actually found myself saying “It doesn’t hurt to ask!” — a sentiment I couldn’t come close to understanding before, because I used to find the very act of asking painful.
I am still shy in new surroundings and with new people. But I am no longer afraid of being shy, and I am a happy shy. Instead of berating myself I have compassion for myself: needing to warm up to a situation is no crime. This seems to have the effect of letting people see that I’m feeling shy rather than cold and mean — and then they’re more likely to take the initiative with me.
I am having to relearn some things. I can speak more bluntly, which surprises people and sometimes hurts them, something I most certainly don’t want. Perhaps this is balanced by feeling more free to say good things as well, but I’m not sure. I’ve had a few misunderstandings with TH where he thinks I’m being sarcastic and I’m just saying something nice — did I not say nice things before? Yikes. I also get frustrated when other people are grumpy and are bitching about things instead of being happy — especially TH — which is pretty funny, since I was on the other side of that line just a few short months ago.
Some of my habits have changed without any conscious effort. I used to turn the radio on whenever I was in the car alone, and now I almost never do. It interferes with my thoughts — something I used to like, and now I don’t. (This means I need to figure out an alternative source for news.) Yet I enjoy listening to music more — and louder — than I used to. I am reading fiction again, something I once loved but more recently couldn’t manage to concentrate well enough to really enjoy. And when I feel jumpy — which is often — I think, what shall I do with this energy? Rather than, I must be anxious. I used to try to think of things to be anxious about!
As with anger, the angst bubbles up every now and then. But it’s exactly like that: a bubble I can reach out and burst with the slightest of touches.
Alas, the question I cannot answer is how. A comment on my last post: “The flip side of anger is fear, always. … We get angry when we perceive that something we value is threatened, whether it’s respect, safety, way of doing things, sleep, health, sanity, etc. … So how in the world do you transform anger into emotions and sensations other than its root, which is fear?” The simple answer is, give up the fear too. But can this be a conscious decision? I was in a good place, thinking about the right things, but … how did I manage to convince my angst to get up and walk away? I don’t know. Writing about this feels like trying to describe how to ride a bicycle. How did I learn that fear, like anger, almost never helps in the privileged life I lead? And how did I let go of it before even understanding that? I don’t know. But I’d like people to know: this happens. It happened to me, and it can happen to you. Maybe I’m the only person who was entirely blind to a enormous part of my personality and motivations, but I kind of doubt it.
Will this last? It feels like riding a bicycle in this way as well: once you’ve learned … but I can’t be sure. I feel like I will recognize that malevolent presence if he does try to come back, and in recognizing him be able to keep him out, but I’m learning to be humble about my own self-awareness, so who knows. I do know that even if this all goes away, it’s been an amazing few months.
*Though I would very much like to be a Toruk Mocto, so if anyone is selling an orange pterodactyl, drop me a line. Also I found the Tsutay character to be pretty hot, in a blue, hamster-eared kind of way.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, Part 1

I don’t think that enjoying the Nana saga is weird at all. Hell, I’m waiting for updates. (Thus far, still silence. And we’re all more peaceful for it. It’s so much simpler once you stop rationalizing, isn’t it?)
I’ll let you know as developments occur. But right now I’m going to try to articulate what I hinted at in my prior post: the Big Changes in my outlook on life.
I am in a good place, and what follows is part one of a rough travelogue of how I got here. (“How” in the sense of snapshots of sights along the way more than where to book a reservation for yourself – I have no idea if it will be of any benefit to anyone else, though I certainly hope so.)
I’ve been working on my own outlook for years. I am a tremendous fan of many of the tenets of AA — especially “act as if” and “fake it till you make it” — despite not having any addictions myself. I figured out long ago that you don’t have to feel something deeply to act as if you do; often, the feeling will follow. For instance, in medical school, I started out being too reserved, and then learned to act as if I were outgoing. Eventually, I started to enjoy the sound of my own voice, and there was no looking back. I advise my own students to appear interested and happy, and they may become so; even if they don’t, they’ll get higher marks. As an intern, I noticed that my favorite residents were the ones who appeared serene no matter what kind of insanity was going down. I resolved to be this way myself, and I became famed for being unflappable and cheerful. (I admit I am by nature relatively unflappable, but when you have 12 admissions to your team and they’re bleeding out or seizing or screaming about the bad food or scoring crack in the cafeteria and then developing chest pain, the temptation to freak out is great.)
I learned to give up anger. (Apparently another recovery thing! Perhaps I’m an addict manquée?) As with flappability, anger has never been a huge problem for me, but I started to notice how dangerous an emotion it is. Righteous anger in particular is radioactive. So I quit it. Not that I never feel it — I often have that immediate flash — but I am able to let it go. The trick is, pretty much anything that makes me angry also makes me something else. Humor is the most frequent fallback; a situation that can piss me off can also make me laugh. There are others: pity, envy, sadness, compassion, on and on — I swap out the anger, and there you go. If someone cuts me off while driving: maybe they have an emergency. Or maybe they’re just lost in thought. It’s not like I’ve never cut someone off, and I don’t think I’m an asshole most of the time. I have a sticker on the back of my laptop that reads “HAS ANGER SOLVED YOUR OTHER PROBLEMS?” that is quite entertaining to make people gaze upon in meetings.
I made an “attitude list” years ago when I was hunting unsuccessfully for a job and a baby. It helped immensely (I think I’ve lost it, but mostly it was about realizing I’m not the center of the universe, that pride doesn’t help, and that I have to connect with people), but I can’t say it made me happy. I have arranged my living and working spaces to be as bright and colorful as possible. The rooms in my house are painted yellow, green, red, orange, and raspberry (the guest room is a pale cream, so visitors have a safe soothing place to retreat to if they’re rattled by the loud palette). I have nearly a dozen pairs of different wild eyeglasses to match every outfit. I run, of course, which is the closest thing to mainlining happiness I’ve ever found.
So I’ve worked for years on at least appearing to be one of those serene, cheerful people who make others happy (at work, anyway; home was harder), and for the most part it worked. And sometimes, just sometimes, I came close to making it.
But over the past few years, I stalled — maybe even backslid.
Having HB was a derailment of sorts. It was a hard five years. There were most certainly moments during that time I felt I’d made a mistake in deciding to reproduce, when I had to just have faith that one day it would get better — though I did have a sense that most of the things that made his baby and toddler years so hard would also make him a really cool kid eventually.
This is the year. He is perceptive, analytical, logical, kind, loving. He is magnetic — everyone in the neighborhood knows him. The other day I dropped him off at school and a very hip-looking middle-schooler leaned over the stairs and yelled, “Hi HB!” He waved, then whispered to me, “I don’t even know her name.” He has gained much insight and control over his frustration. The lines that made me happiest in his recent progress report from his teacher: “His intellectual and emotional understanding of what is going on in our class is really exceptional for a child his age … He, more than almost any other kindergartner I have known, really seems to care about his friends’ thoughts and ideas.” I let out my breath and thought, I haven’t totally messed him up. Don’t get me wrong — he’s still prickly, quirky, and exhausting, but it’s finally becoming worth it, you know?
Work has also been going well. So the ground was fertile for me to feel good this year. And yet — I wasn’t there.* I was starting to wish that I could just be anesthetized to get through a lot of my normal (nondepressed!) days. (I am ashamed to say I sort of tried that, in fact — fortunately it didn’t work.)
I think things started turning around sometime in December. I was putting together a seminar for my interns on well-being, and I spent time looking over some of the happiness literature. As I was reading, I was thinking, yes, I know that. Yes, I do that. And that. And that, and that, and that. So … what the fuck is wrong with me? I have a wonderful husband, child, job, friends, city, family; everyone’s healthy; I have no money worries; hell, I don’t even want to lose weight. If I can’t be happy, who can be? Am I really going to spend the rest of my life bitching, moaning, complaining, and feeling not really here?
A phrase started to knock around in my head like a moth looking for an open window: This is your one life. This is your one life. This is your one life.
(Part 2 coming up within the next week ... )
*Why be happy? A comment on my earlier post mentions the “cult of positive thinking,” and my answer was: well, yeah, I know what you mean. But shouldn’t we — and by “we” I mean anyone who has the means to access the internet and the leisure to poke around on blogs — be able be positive and appreciative? Including appreciating the importance of sadness and the existence of suffering. It’s the whining I have a problem with, not the acceptance of reality. Especially when one’s own reality is very, very good.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Nana Wars Continue (Continued)

Looks like TH is going to have to gird himself for battle. Gah! Will let you know how it goes.
From: Nana
Date: April 15, 2010
To: TrophyHusband
Subject: HB's b'day

Hi TH:

We can do whatever you're comfortable with that birthday weekend. We can also pay for our own room! It's not possible for us to visit before then? Baba hasn't seen HB since November and I since Dec. I'm feeling that you/HB/DM aren't comfortable around us.....why is that? I know that HB had that outburst when I was there, and it was very upsetting for everyone. Am I the only one he throws tantrums to?

I just don't understand what's going on? Enlighten me, please!

UPDATE: here's TH's email back:
From: TH
Date: April 17, 2010
To: Nana
Subject: Re: HB's b'day

Yes, HB does act up when you’re around, and after you leave. You and I disagree on how this should be handled, but as his father I decide what’s best for him.

What made me upset about the last visit was not his behavior when you were leaving, but that you told him you were leaving because of him. You were actually leaving to beat the weather, but even if it was because of him, that’s not okay to say to a child.

But that incident is beside the point. The problem is that these visits in general have not been good for HB.

Right now, the best thing is to not have one on one visits.

We love you and HB knows that you love him. It would be great if you can come for the birthday party.

He's prepared for just about any response including total shunning. He said the only thing she definitely won't respond with is to say "you're right, and I'll be going for a year of dialectical behavioral therapy!" (Loved that comment, victoria.)

So far, no response at all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What Excuse Do You Think You Have, Maggot?

A friend of mine with two kids around HB’s age just spent four days in the hospital because she had developed an odd neurological symptom. Yesterday they told her she has multiple sclerosis and did a spinal tap. This morning they discharged her. Do you know what she did this afternoon?

She went RUNNING, Maggots.

Now if that doesn’t get you off your asses, I don’t know what can.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TH's Question

Update: TH is reading all of your comments with interest and gratitude. They are surprisingly (to me) consistent. You are right: it is easier to deal with the whole thing if we keep our eyes on the prize, i.e., what is best for HB — and clearly protecting him is best. Also that you can’t argue with a crazy person. (And to be very clear: we are not in the least interested in any money or inheritance from Nana. We just think HB might like to hang out at her place once he’s old enough to ignore the craziness.) So thank you.

So here’s the deal with TH’s mother, Nana of the Histrionic Personality Disorder (and I don’t mean just aspects of it — all of it). (Pardon the wordiness; I’m putting this out as fast as I can since I shouldn't be on here at all!) I’ve discussed some of my (our) struggles with Nana in the past here and there, but there’s of course a lot more. For instance, when HB was around two, after he’d spent any time alone with her, the next time I said “I love you!” to him, he would answer, “No you DON’T.” She frequently talks about some scene in Steel Magnolias (I think? never saw it) where one of the grandmothers pulls a child aside and tells her that the other grandmother is evil, and I suspect that’s what Nana was doing to HB about me. Nice, right? And the time we let her babysit one evening and HB told me that when he cried because he missed us she got mad and told him he would get a time-out if he didn’t stop crying.

TH has awful stories from childhood about how she pretty much lied to him every day to get him to do what she wanted—constantly shifting the rules, telling him it was later than it was, that there were laws against this or that, that he wouldn’t get any presents for his birthday if he didn’t whatever, and, what he found worst of all, making all sorts of promises that she never kept. Then really, really crazy stuff when his parents got divorced. So it really pushes his buttons when she does any of this with HB.

So the final straw happened about two months ago she came down for a grandparent visit to HB’s class – which went fine by all accounts. What I didn’t know was that she kept pestering my husband to let her take HB back to her house with her for a “few days” (she lives six or seven hours’ drive away) — to teach him how to behave. Because “he’s polite when you two aren’t around.” (The only non-polite thing he’d done with her is to prefer us to her — e.g., to sit on my lap instead of hers and to get annoyed when she pressed him on it.) TH said no, of course, to which she said, “Why not? Didn’t you have a wonderful childhood?”

Several times during this visit, any time HB was paying attention to me and not to her, she’d say, “You’re NICE to me when your mama’s not around ... You’re in LOVE with your mama.”

Friday night we hear that a big storm is coming, and that she’ll probably be stuck until Monday earliest. But Saturday morning she realizes the storm hasn’t hit yet and she can drive away from it. So she packs up her car. HB was just waking up and unaware of any of this.

Then HB gets up. He’s not a morning person; it takes him a few minutes to even start speaking. She starts pestering him in her baby-talk way and he’s doing his it’s too early, get the fuck away from me thing that he does to anyone who gets in his face in the morning—nothing serious, no swearing or hitting or name calling, just saying “stop talking to me!” and walking away. So she follows him and says, “It hurts people’s feelings when you’re so rude to them. And you know what? It has consequences. It makes me want to leave. So I’m leaving RIGHT NOW. Because of YOU.”

And she went out the door, jumped into her Porsche Cayenne, and peeled rubber out of here.

TH called her later to see if she’d survived the drive and she started lighting into him about how he has to crack down on HB now or “he’s going to be the kind of eight-year-old who says ‘fuck you’ to his parents!!!” (I will add here that HB is considered one of the best-behaved and politest child in his kindergarten.) (I will also add that TH’s younger brother got into trouble non-stop as a child and was in drug rehab by the time he was fifteen …)

I know that it’s an old, old story, the grandparents who interfere/disapprove with how the grandkids are being raised, and whatever, I’m fine with that, I can agree to disagree. What I’m not fine with is her deliberately trying to bully/frighten HB, tell him lies, or turn him against me. And TH, well, this makes him CRAZY. It brings back so many ugly memories of childhood, plus he’s very protective of HB.

The short-term goal is: only let her see HB in a large group. For instance, we usually have a huge party on his birthday weekend and last year we put her and Baba up in a hotel for a night and that was fine. His birthday is in June. But aside from that, we just don’t want her around him.

The long-term goal is not to start a family feud, and to leave open the possibility of a relationship once HB’s old enough to not be so hurt and confused by her. There are some benefits to having a relationship with her (not least of which is that she lives on 50 acres in a resort area in a house that could be a B&B with no renovations required …)

I’ve offered to let TH use me as a scapegoat. She likes me for my fancy credentials, but personally, well … so no big loss there if he tells her it’s my doing. But he doesn’t want that, in part because he’s noble and because HE doesn’t want her around either. What TH really wants to do is to get her to understand how her behavior is unacceptable—even though he knows that’s useless.

So his question to you all is, what should he actually SAY to her? Anyone have any experience with something like this?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Previews and Excuses

The excuse: the last little while has been crazy with nonstop work (including rounding and taking 24 hour calls this past weekend and 2 big deadlines last Friday), so not much blogging activity going on. But I am going on vacation on Friday (Mexico!), and will take my laptop (for fun ONLY, work will be ignored).

The previews:

1. TrophyHusband wants your advice on how to tell his mother we are not allowing her to spend time with HB anytime in the near future.

2. My big epiphany. (To make you laugh and roll your eyes in the meantime, in this piece I will mention the movie Avatar. Not exactly in a Groundhog Day or Atlas Shrugged way, but it will show up.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Tried It But Didn't Like It. Really!

I have a pretty crappy track record when it comes to choosing men. (First off, I have mostly let them choose me, and there’s an error in judgment right there.) I think I’m a decent life coach in a lot of ways, but if you bring your relationship questions to me, the best I can usually do is ask a few clarifying questions and then say, yeah, been there—sucks, doesn’t it? (I may be being a little too harsh on myself since I did manage to remain unwed until landing my TrophyHusband, but I suspect that was more good luck than good planning.)

So my college boyfriend. I didn’t love him, but he was fun. (And boy did he loooooove me … he must have, because why else would he get so jealous about me talking to other guys, or having had previous boyfriends, or wanting to spend time with my friends and family instead of him? And why else would he say he would kill himself if I ever left him? You can see where this is going, I’m sure, but I couldn’t.) And boy did he love his mind-altering substances. You name it, he’s smoke/sniff/swallow it. (No injecting up to that point, but that was probably mostly from lack of opportunity.) And whatever the substance du jour, he would do the mostest of anybody. I once counted 36 shots of tequila in one evening.

My college was not a party school. At my school, the girls were anorexic (no, not me!) and the boys were premed, and there was a paucity of peddlers of mind-altering wares. But my boyfriend came from the inner city, and he had connections. He had the connections and the appetite, but not the cash. Hence a brilliant plan to provide a much-needed service to his fellow students was hatched.

It started small—a little vial of white powder brought from home. Sold briskly, with enough left over for some nice parties. Another couple vials. Then another. Pretty soon there were nightly scratchings at the door from desperate souls looking for a little more, a little more, a little more … and yet there was less and less as more and more flew up my boyfriend’s nose. (I was lucky, myself. I found it to be about equivalent to very, very expensive coffee. I’m lacking some receptor, I suppose.) He pretty quickly tapped out his sources from home.

In the meantime, I apparently hadn’t read enough women’s magazines, because I missed the article on 20 Ways to Recognize a Potential Abuser, You Dumbass. I developed a headache that lasted for a solid month, yet somehow failed to connect this to any problems in my personal life. I told you, I’m not smart that way.

The light finally went on for me was the day I unlocked the door and walked in on him and a actual armed, dreadlocked gang member standing in front of an actual balancing scale with actual heaps of white stuff. My boyfriend said something to the effect of my being ok, and I smiled weakly and pretended to fetch something and got the hell out.

Did I do the brave thing? No, I just hightailed it out of there and then dropped out of school for a year (which turned out to be an awesome thing to do, and I had enough AP credits to graduate in three years anyway). My ex did not in fact commit suicide when I left, nor, thank goodness, come after me. He miraculously escaped arrest, but did not escape ten years spent crawling around abandoned houses and, I think someone told me, losing an eye to some “accident.” He called me from a rehab once saying he was supposed to do the step of apologizing to those he’d hurt, but what he said was, “I don’t really remember most of what happened when we were together,” so I didn’t expect that attempt to take. (But from what I’ve gathered, he is now sober,  has a job and a daughter and a wife, and things are good.)

Take-Home Lessons:
  1. Read that article about 20 Ways to Recognize a Potential Abuser, You Dumbass.
  2. Don’t rely on me for relationship advice.
  3. Don’t use your own product.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Shiny Happy People

I have a friend whose father, a really smart, successful, funny guy, was also kind of an asshole. He was arrogant, negative, selfish, and prone to anger. Then, at the age of 50 or so, he went to see the movie Groundhog Day, and suddenly decided that he was going to be a different person. And he was. From that day onward, every time he had one of his old negative impulses, he would think “Groundhog Day” and then react the way he wanted to be. Other people were even allowed to remind him if necessary. It’s been something like 15 years now, and he’s never slipped back into his old ways. He’s kind, thoughtful, positive, and accepting now.

I’ve been hoping for that kind of moment myself, ever since. Not that I’m particularly arrogant, negative, selfish, or prone to anger … though I’ve had my moments of all of the above. I’ve got lots of impulses that I don’t like, but the main thing I’ve wished I could change is the lens through which I perceive my life.

So this is very scary and even embarrassing to admit, but … I think I’ve done it. It’s only been a month or so, but it feels real. However, it feels too soon to write about, which is why I’ve been quiet here. Another month, maybe, and I think I’ll be able to describe it more. (No, I haven’t discovered religion.)

In the meantime! Would you like to hear about the time I was attacked by a patient? My college boyfriend dealing serious drugs out of his dorm room? (Did I already write about those?) Other? None?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Don't Make Me Squash You, Maggot

I’m quite pleased that so many of you are still out there running while the winds of winter snatch at your snatches*.


Unless you are running between the hours of, say, 8am and 4pm, you should know that if you are not properly attired, NO ONE CAN SEE YOU, MAGGOTS.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a nice, legal, slow turn onto my block, only to have to slam on my brakes for a jayrunner attired entirely in black. Who then had the gall to flip me the bird. I felt like stopping and yelling “You’re lucky I LIKE runners, Maggot!”

There is a tricky turn near my house where two lanes of cars must try to enter a street on which there is already a salmon stream of cars jockeying for position. Anyone with the temerity to cross the street on foot risks going under the wheels of a driver who has suddenly spotted a tiny hiccup in the flow and guns it. Recently, as I took a quick look to see if there were any pedestrians about to make a squirrel-dash before I turned, I spotted one of my best friends poised at the curb. I managed not to flatten her, but it gave me the vapors. Later she cheerfully said “Of course you saw me, I was wearing bright pink!”

Um, sweetie, you know I love you, but as Ben Franklin said, in the dark all cats are gray. So I immediately ordered her one of these.

If you ever run in the dusk or dawn or dark in a place where you could cross paths with a car or even a bike, you MUST have one. (No, I am not being paid to say this. In fact, I’ve paid for three of them myself already.) Wearing this, I feel like I’ve gained a super power. It practically makes you visible from the space shuttle; I can hear cars hesitating when they’re still blocks away. One time I forgot to wear it, and suddenly felt like someone had put a bounty on me—why are all these cars trying to kill me? And it’s much less annoying to wear than a traditional vest, which flaps and twists.

Of course, it’s possible to get taken out at any time of day by someone who’s, say, steering with their knees while lighting up a crack pipe. So you might think about purchasing one of these as well. I’ve got one that attaches to my shoe; it has my name and birth date and my husband’s name and cell number. My husband has a wristband version for when he’s on his (goddamn) bicycle. It was a pity that a teammate of his didn’t have one last month, when he crashed and got concussed and couldn’t remember his own name. (Oh and I have a discount code good for 20% off in the month of February: PC613486BBAF.)

Go ahead and ignore my orders if you want, but just know that if I squash you flat and you’re taken to a hospital as Runner Doe, it’ll totally be your own damn fault.

*or packages.