Monday, July 9, 2018

Unconventional training methods

I'm not a strict planner. Because I'm just here to run and live and those things rarely go as planned. So instead of making rigid plans, I've focused on becoming more comfortable with uncertainty, more flexible and friendlier towards failure. It's also my natural inclination to do things little by little, consistently (ok, relentlessly) so if there are changes I want to make in my running or my life, I start taking little steps in that direction, trying and failing and readjusting until I get where I want to be (or somewhere totally unexpected that turns out to be most excellent). Since I don't care about things like distances and times, conventional training plans don't really appeal to me. Sure, I want to become a better runner, just like I want to become a better partner/friend/human. It's just that to me "better" doesn't mean I need to achieve a certain time or distance goal, it means growing stronger, wiser, and especially kinder. It means being able to run (and bike and chin-up and stilt walk) but also being able to rest. It means working hard and playing hard, and getting plenty of nutrients and sleep. It means doing what is right for my body and brain (sometimes that differs from what other people are doing). It means racing when I feel like it but also volunteering/banana-ing. And there's no training plan for that. So I've sort of made my own. It's not really a plan per se, more like little challenges to push myself out of my comfort zone and in the general direction of increased awesomeness.

Some of my unconditional training methods are:

Dancing. At home. At the Silent Disco. Wherever. I'm a terrible dancer, but if I like the music, I don't care what anyone else thinks about my severe lack of dancing ability. I just get out there and do my terrible dance moves and have a great time. And to think all it took was enduring several decades of extreme awkwardness and self-consciousness! Seriously though, in time I learned how to care about people without caring what people think about me. I also recommend owning toucan shorts, a banana costume and a giant giraffe. Or whatever it is that you're into. The truth is, when you embrace the things that bring you joy, you'll be too busy enjoying yourself to worry if other people think it's weird/wrong/a horrible, terrible fashion mistake.

Going to the dreaded spin class. There's this one spin class at the gym that I really dislike. I dislike the music. I dislike that the instructor yells into the microphone. (It's a tiny room, you have a microphone - the sole purpose of which is to amplify your voice. You don't need to yell). I dislike that the instructor says a lot of diet-mentality things. But I go to this class occasionally and practice tuning out all the noise (the literal noise and the figurative noise of "wellness" "advice" that is basically just eating disorder behavior wearing a shitty disguise). I practice doing my own thing, going my own speed and deliberately not following the instructions. When it feels uncomfortable (or when my brain is all maybe the instructor is upset that you're not doing what she says or maybe other people in the class think you're weak and out of shape), I just let it pass. There is so much noise out there. Listening to it made me sad. Trying to obey it made me miserable. Realizing that most of it was lies and bullshit and letting it go made me happy (and also healthy, so there's that). The more I practice seeing the noise for what it is and following my own path instead, the easier it gets.

Doing other things besides running. Yes, running is the best. No, nothing else makes me feel the way that running does. But the purpose of this is to cultivate a life outside of running so that my identity doesn't depend on being a runner. As a bonus, it gets me to do a lot of new things and not worry about being terrible at them (not that I'm not terrible at running, but after 20+ years I'm slightly less terrible at it now than when I first started running). There's a lot of freedom in being a beginner (or starting an old thing anew). There's no pressure or expectation at succeeding so I'm more likely to take risks and less likely to feel embarrassed or self-conscious. And honestly, that space is where most of the magic in life happens.

Climbing the Jacobs Ladder (this machine at the gym that is basically a neverending ladder to nowhere). I love it. I don't know why exactly, it's kind of meditative in a way. Or maybe I just really like climbing on things. So about once a week, I climb to nowhere for however long I want. Some days that's 20 minutes. Some day it's about 68 minutes, which is how long it takes me to get to 5280 ft (and about how long I can go before the ladder rungs get sweaty/slippery. I know, so hawt). I don't think this is providing me with any running-specific fitness gains but it's fun to put in my headphones and just climb to nowhere. One time I turned my head to wipe sweat that was about to go in my eye off on my arm (so classy) and I happened to catch my reflection in the gym window. My calves looked legit jacked and I thought cool. My arms looked almost like they were actually partially composed of muscles and I thought cool. My thighs looked all cellulite-y and I was like cool cool cool. Ok, so I had been watching a lot of Community reruns at the time. But still. I was having such a good time climbing and listening to my jams that I totally did not care whether my body failed to live up to someone else's beauty standards. And suddenly I realized I can do this all the time. Cellulite? Cool. Bruises? Scratches? Cool cool cool. Poison ivy rash? Damnit! Not cool. Not cool at all. Well, it's a work in progress. One rung at a time I guess.

Other weirdness, I mean 'training': Tree climbing, lawn mowing, lion taming,
Vitamin D making with George

Lyric of the moment: "At seventeen, I started to starve myself. I thought that love was a kind of emptiness. And at least I understood then the hunger I felt. And I didn't have to call it loneliness. We all have a hunger...Don't let it get you down, you're the best thing I've seen..." ~Florence And The Machine "Hunger"

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Things I want to say

My heart breaks on a daily basis. There is so much suffering in the world and to witness people inflicting more suffering on each other with their words and actions and policies is overwhelmingly depressing. When I read the news or the no good, very bad internet comments, I hear that Kate Nash song playing in my head: "Why you being a dickhead for? Stop being a dickhead. Why you being a dickhead for? You're just fucking up situations." I have thought of writing that on so many posts. But I don't. Because it wouldn't make anything better, it would only make things worse. And it's kind of a dickhead move in itself. Thinking like that makes me part of the problem. Besides, what I really want to say is this:

That is a person you're talking about. 
A living, breathing person with thoughts and feelings and struggles and problems.
Just like everyone else. 
Just like you. 
It's a fallacy to think you're separate from them. 

So you don't agree with someone? Disagree with them while still seeing them as a PERSON and respecting their humanity. 
So you want to fight for change? Fight with with love and compassion, not hate and vitriol. 

When I find myself getting worked up about a post or comment I don't agree with, I remind myself to pause and breathe. I say to myself this is a person, just like me. Then I comment or I don't or I donate money. But I do whatever it is after calming myself down and removing my own ego from the equation. This is harder for me to do during live in-the-moment encounters, but I am working on that too.

There is obviously so much more that needs to be done, so many things that need to be made better for so many people. But this is something I can do every day, as a start. I'm not perfect and nothing I do is ever going to be perfect. I have a lot of strong opinions and feelings about how the world should be. Whether or not you agree with them, I care about you as a person. Whoever you are, you deserve safety and shelter and food/water and education and human rights and love. You deserve that. And so does everybody else.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This Is Marriage: Day 1018

It's 7pm on Monday night and I'm about to head home after the radio show when I notice a missed FaceTime from Pete. I call him back and he wants to call in an order for Chinese food and have me pick it up on my way home. I don't want Chinese food. I want to go home, edit and post the radio show online, eat cold food (I dislike eating hot food when it's hot out) and go to sleep. I can tell that Pete is starting to get irritated by my lack of enthusiasm for Chinese takeout. He is telling me he just spent several hours and several trips to Home Depot to install a new antenna on the roof (we don't have cable so this is how we watch Jeopardy - the only show for which I will endure commercials). I am starting to get grumpy too, then I realize what Pete wants is not necessarily Chinese food, he's just tired and hungry and wants food to materialize with little to no effort on his part (and I'm like Dude, same. Story of my life.) So I say "How about subs instead? I'm headed home, I'll pick you up." And he agrees and we get subs and chocolate chip cookies and everyone is happy and cookie-filled.

This is a very minor example but it illustrates a point I've been trying to work on. Most of the time we want the same thing. Maybe we're not always great at saying or even knowing what it is we actually want. But if we're willing to work together, we can figure it out. Together. And then everyone is happy and gets what they need. Sometimes that's easy to do. But not all problems can be solved with subs. Not all problems can even be "solved," per se. (Of course, we are very privileged and pretty much all our problems are minor).

Because Pete and I are different people. Pete sees chipmunks digging holes in the backyard and mounts a tactical operation involving a precise vantage point and a BB gun (but apparently not any sort of crime scene cleanup plan). I find a dead chipmunk while mowing the lawn and start crying, ask Pete about it and get very upset. There are some things we are just not going to agree on (though I feel like No Murdering Things should be one of them. Or at the very least be better at hiding the bodies. It's like I'm the only one in this house who's watched all 12 seasons of Murder She Wrote. Ok, so I am. But I regret nothing. The 80s outfits, guest stars and those track suits are just beyond).  Pete wouldn't have become who he is and we probably wouldn't have met without the military/seaman part of him. I wouldn't have become who I am and we probably wouldn't have met without the bleeding heart/give-the-spiders-in-the-house-names part of me. So we're different in some ways. But everyone is. We don't always have to agree, we just have to be open to understanding each other and remember that we're on the same team (Team No Murdering Chipmunks. Maybe I need to get shirts made so it is more obvious to everyone on the team). Love isn't agreeing on everything all the time, it's fully accepting each other as we are, all that we are, whether we agree or not.

We were at a wedding a few months ago and Pete made a comment to his friend, the groom, that marriage had taught him to say "Do you need space?" At first I was a little offended, like he was insinuating that I was this terrible, difficult person to live with. But then I thought, you know, that is pretty accurate. Actually, that is exactly right. As a person, I require a lot of space. Space to be as opinionated and weird and adventurous as I am (plus at least 3/5ths of any bed). Pete loves me in a way that is spacious and expansive, not restrictive. With Pete, I get to be on a team and still be my own separate person. I don't feel like I have to shrink myself down to fit someone else's expectations of what I should be. I don't feel like I am too much. I feel like I get to be all the things I am (the good, the bad and the covered-in-poison-ivy-and-bruises).

Sometimes, especially times that involve travel or waiting in line, Pete will get very upset about some minor thing for like 10 minutes and then he's over it (and secretly I find it funny and cute so I just let him freak out while I go look something up or ask someone for help or just say "It's ok"). Sometimes I will get very stressed out (usually when I am trying to do too many things at once because it's still hard for me to say no to things) until I run or cry or eat or nap (and Pete finds it funny and cute so he just lets me work it out while giving me a hug or trying to make me laugh or saying "It's ok").

Apart, we are two imperfect people. Together, we are one hilariously imperfect team. Marriage is making space to be imperfect together (and taking turns being the one who freaks out and the one who says "It's ok").

When Pete and I disagree and I'm like "George agrees with me." And Pete is like "How come George always agrees with you? I'm going to get an animal that's always on my side." And I'm like "mwahahaha, my plan is working." Then I find a stuffed fox at a store and text a picture to Pete. This is what it's like to be married to me. 

Lyric of the moment: "All of your flaws and all of my flaws, when they have been exhumed. We'll see that we need them to be who we are. Without them we'd be doomed..." ~Bastille "Flaws"

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Adventures in France & Monaco

The guttural wails reverberated through the aisles, rendering useless my ear plugs and the over-the-counter sleep aid I'd consumed. Either there was an extremely unhappy baby on this plane or someone was staging a very convincing re-enactment of The Exorcist. This was not a normal crying baby sound. It was a relentless piercing, raspy howl, more gargoyle-like than human. Pete and I had driven to Toronto Friday afternoon for an overnight flight to Paris, where we would catch a short flight to our final destination, Nice. I had expected a long, sleepless flight. Cramped airplane seats are not conducive to quality sleep, or really any sleep for me. And especially not with this demon baby on board. But the sounds emanating from this tiny gargoyle were so bizarre that we found it more funny than irritating (plus I also felt really bad for this baby that was either in pain or just really hated air travel).

Once we arrived on Saturday at our Airbnb rental in Nice, a 3 hour car ride, 7 hour flight, 1.5 hour flight, 20 minute bus ride, 7 minute walk and 2 very overtired bodies later, it was all totally worth it. The best adventures typically require a bit of discomfort. And I love everything about France - the language, the architecture, the ease of public transportation, the fact that people bring their dogs everywhere. (Except for the prevalence of perfume and smoking, both smells that I find intolerable and give me a headache). While I really love the kind of adventure vacations that involve long runs on new-to-me trails, this was going to be more of the walking all over/taking pictures of everything because everything is so beautiful and old and amazing/eating all the bread and gelato kind of adventure. I did a few short runs along the Promenade des Anglais but mostly I walked and ate a lot of crepes and laughed and slept. And I actually really enjoyed it. Maybe I am finally learning how to rest. I might have to add some "France mode" into my running routine at home, where once a month I take a week to cut back on running, walk more and eat crepes and croissants.

We arrived in Nice on Saturday afternoon to beautiful sunny skies (Nice typically gets 300 sunny days a year! Dogs and sunshine and carbs - this is my kind of place). After a much needed nap, we walked around town towards the waterfront and ate dinner at one of the many outdoor restaurants (we ate nearly every meal outside, which was great except for when there were people smoking nearby). Seated next to us was a couple from the UK who were traveling around Europe in their sports car to celebrate the husband's 70th birthday (so cute!). Our Airbnb was perfectly located only 0.25 miles from the train station and 0.5 miles from the Mediterranean Sea so we could easily walk or take the train everywhere we wanted to go.  Basically, every day we picked a town or two to explore, then walked around finding cool things to do there.

Sunday morning we walked to the train station, grabbed some coffee, a croissant (Pete) and pain au chocolat (me) and took the train west to Cannes (you can buy a roundtrip ticket between 2 destinations, like Nice and Cannes, then get off at any of the stops in between that day). Cannes is filled with high-end designer shops and it's so fancy even the buildings have Rolexes (seriously, we saw a hotel building with a giant Rolex clock built into it).
Fancy Cannes Hotel with Rolex

Fancy Cannes Giraffe

Fancy Cannes Helicopter

We walked around for a bit, then took the train back towards Nice, stopping in Antibes. We wandered the streets, ate lunch (or actually a second breakfast since I ordered a sandwich but the waiter brought me eggs, bread and jam instead. I felt bad correcting him so I just ate the bread and jam - it was really good bread. He ended up giving our order to a couple at another table and they didn't correct him either). After lunch we checked out the Picasso museum, which I found underwhelming (but maybe that's just because I don't understand art. Pete and I joked that we couldn't tell if some of the art was done by Picasso or a 5th grader).


"All around the world statues crumble for me. Who
knows how long I've loved you..."

How is this dude's head looking at his butt. And what
is he doing with those sheep? 

We took the train back to Nice and ended up eating an overpriced fancy dinner. I never enjoy expensive food, it just never seems worth it to me. But I ignored my instincts because the menu had something called a vegan salad and I just really needed to eat some vegetables. The salad sounded and looked delicious but sadly tasted kinda meh (it was just missing something, namely flavor - which I totally realize is a very First World problem). I was just mad at myself for wasting too much money on food that I didn't really enjoy. Pete's dinner was basically 3 meatballs and a teaspoon of mashed potatoes. He also ordered a bottle of wine that he thought was a small bottle but in fact turned out to be a large bottle. But he drank the whole thing because it cost 30 Euros. After dinner we found a crepes/gelato place where Pete wanted to order both crepes and gelato. He was all "This is what happens when I drink a bottle of wine and my dinner is only 3 meatballs." And I said "So, basically you turn into me?" We ordered crepes, which turned out to be huge and delicious and then Pete decided against gelato since he needed 2 hands to eat the crepes.

Monday morning we were planning to take the train East to Ventimiglia, Italy and eat pizza for lunch. But when we arrived at the train station, we found out the workers were on strike (to protest the government's proposed labor reforms) and all stops East of Monaco had been canceled due to electrical problems. Pete looked crestfallen as he said "So I'm not going to eat pizza in Italy for lunch?" C'est la vie. Sometimes adventure requires a change in plans. So we decided to explore Nice instead, via the Hop On Hop Off Bus. First we explored the neighboring town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, including the 16th-century Saint Elme Citadel (now the site of the Town Hall), the Roux Museum (a collection of hundreds of figurines depicting Renaissance/Middle Ages life) and the Chappelle de Saint Pierre (Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen). This was one of my favorite towns we visited during our trip. The winding stone streets and colorful old buildings were gorgeous, the ice cream was delicious and admission to everything was free. It was overcast with a 50% chance of rain all day but it only sprinkled a bit here and there. We rode on the top of the double decker Hop On Hop Off Bus all day. 


Peter in front of Saint Peter's Chapel
Roux Collection

Heading back towards metropolitan Nice, we saw LaTête Carrée, a giant square headed statue designed by Sacha Sosno and housing the offices of the municipal library (sadly, you're not allowed to go inside the head, which looks like solid stone from far away, but if you get closer you can see through to the shelves of books inside it). We also saw the 7 Statues of the Massena Square, which look like 7 people sitting on tall poles (Created by the artist Jaume Plensa and called Conversation à Nice, the statues represent the 7 continents and communication between different societies). Next we hopped off at the Matisse Museum, which I liked better than the Picasso Museum) and then later at the Promenade des Anglais along the waterfront. I picked a Mediterranean restaurant for our late lunch/early dinner and it was the best meal I ate during the trip, including the best dolmades I think I've ever eaten. 

Square Head

The 7 Statues

Delicious plate of vegetarian Mediterranean foods

Matisse Museum

On Tuesday we tried to go to Italy again, this time with great success! There was still a strike but no more electrical problems, so we made it to Ventimiglia, walked around exploring the town and Pete finally got his pizza lunch. 

Jen & ice cream

Pete & Pizza

After lunch we took the train headed back towards Nice and decided to stop at Roquebrune Cap Martin because I'd read there was a castle there. It was supposedly a 20-30 minute walk from the train station to the Château Médieval de Roquebrune (a fortified castle built in 970 bConrad the 1st, Count of Vintimiglia). Pete was initially skeptical of the climb and the route we should take, whereas I was all like "Look, you can see it way up there, this is a small town, we'll just walk uphill and find it." Pete looked up the Google Map directions, but it was basically just walk uphill and climb this really neat old stone stairway for 20 minutes. It was not a strenuous walk - I did it in flipflops, proclaiming at the top "It wouldn't be vacation if I didn't make you climb something" - and it was totally worth it. The castle was one of my favorite things we did during the whole trip, and there was hardly anyone else there. The views from the top were well worth the climb (but then again, I always think the climb is worth it). 

Castle up top

Add caption

That view though

Wednesday morning we boarded a van at the train station for a day trip tour to Canyon du Verdon (Europe's biggest canyon). I had originally wanted to run the trails there, but we would have had to rent a car and also Pete isn't really very excited about running right now, so we decided to do the small group tour instead. The van drove us the 2.5 hours from Nice to the canyon, around the canyon to several scenic overlooks, and finally to the village of Moustiers Sainte Marie, where we had free time to explore. The gorges were gorgeous (more Letchworth-esque than Grand Canyon-esque). 

Moustiers was one of my favorite places we visited. I took so many pictures on this trip because everything was just so interesting and aesthetically pleasing. There's a gold star hanging from a chain over the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel, high atop the village. Legend has it that the star was originally hung by the knight Bozon de Blacas after he returned from a long imprisonment by the Saracens. The star itself has been replaced several times since then. We climbed up to see the chapel (of course! another climb!), ate lunch, accidentally left our backpack at the restaurant, were nicely chased down by the waiter who returned the backpack, and checked out a few of the shops. Then it was back on the van for the return trip to Nice. 

Gold Star

Pete made a friend

Thursday we did another day tour, this one to Monaco and Eze. On the way there and back our driver/guide, Victor, stopped at some amazing scenic overlook areas. Eze was one of the towns I most wanted to visit, but I kind of wish we had just taken the train here ourselves. The tour involved a stop at Parfumerie Fragonard, which was less a tour and more of a sales pitch (at one point our perfume guide told us that everyone over the age of 25 needs this serum for their face, as if it was some epic tragedy or horrible failure to be or appear to be older than 25. I am quite content to not pay 100 Euros for a kit of face creams and serums to fix my apparently unacceptably old and flawed face). Aside from the make-you-feel-insecure-so-you-buy-our-"beauty"-products sales pitch that I did not care for, perfume gives me a terrible headache. I wish I had just asked to wander around outside instead of going on the 30 minute tour of terrible awful no good very bad smells (not the official tour title). After being released from the perfume prison (not the official name), Victor dropped us off at the part of town where cars aren't allowed and we got to explore the non-perfumy parts of Eze. Which were far better and more candy filled. 

Then we headed to Monaco, the second smallest country in the world (and one of the richest). The yachts in Monaco were several times bigger than our house. Pete was like "I've just accepted that's a life I'll never have." And I was like "That's a life I never want to have." It just seems like an empty, super expensive life to me. I'd rather be rich in friendships and non-yachting adventures. Victor drove us along the route of the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race (which had just taken place earlier in the week so they were still in the process of taking down all the stands/fancy 800 Euro seats). We also went to the Monte Carlo Casino and another casino where Pete lost 20 Euro at Roulette. Casinos are not my thing because if I'm going to lose money, I like to get candy in return. 

The Prince's Palace Guard

Monte Carlo Casino

The entire country of Monaco 

Grand Prix Route

Pete & Balls

Jen & Birds

Victor dropped us off back in Nice and we took the train back to Antibes to go to a restaurant called Key West that Pete had seen on our first trip there. We wanted to see if the key lime pie from the French Key West tasted as good as the key lime pie from the Florida Key West. I'm happy to say that the pie definitely did not disappoint. And that pie is a good way to end vacation. 

That Key Lime pie though

We had a disagreement when Pete "surprised" me by upgrading our return flight from Paris to Toronto to Economy Plus. I still think it was way too much money and not really worth it, but I have to admit that the seats were very nice. We were in the first row behind the wall separating the First Class passengers and I got to sit with my feet stretched out on the wall, plus the flight attendants kept giving us things like face wipes, snacks, candy and drinks. And I really can't begrudge Pete wanting additional leg room. The man is a giant and regular plane seats aren't made for giants. (Plus we got home late Friday night and he had to get up early Saturday and Sunday morning to do his Navy Reserves work). While we were waiting to takeoff we heard a familiar raspy cry and Pete said "Is that the demon baby?" It was, though he was surprisingly less upset on this flight and I don't remember hearing his wails again after that. Though maybe I was just distracted by that Economy Plus life, laid back, sippin' on ginger ale. 

But for serious, I am living a very fortunate life and I feel infinitely grateful for the places I get to go, the things I get to do and especially the people I get to know. I spent a lot of time feeling like I had no idea what I was doing with my life. Hell, I still feel like I am failing at most things most of the time. But I got to spend a week in the French Riviera/Côte d'Azur, I get to be married to a person who says things like "I love everything about you, even when you're frustrated" (though I don't know how that could possibly be true) and I get to come home to weekend runs and weird conversations and delicious breakfasts with friends. And that is worth more than all the yachts in the world. 

Lyric of the moment: "May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. And may the road less paved be the road that you follow...Here's to the lives that you're gonna change. Here's to the infinite possible ways to love you..." ~Jason Mraz "Have it All"

Friday, May 4, 2018

This Is Marriage: Day 971

Pete: (walks into living room as I am measuring George's feet with a tape measure): No. Whatever you're planning, no.
Me: I'm measuring George for roller skates. I need a way to take him on adventures without getting his feet dirty.
Pete: They're not going to fit.
Me: Yes they are, I already checked the dimensions.
Pete: George doesn't need roller skates.
Me: Oh, so the man with 5 computers thinks roller skates for a giraffe are excessive?
Everyone laughs. Pete probably hopes I have given up on Operation Outside Giraffe, but by this point he knows me well enough to know that I have most definitely not.

A few days later...

Me: So you think I should just get regular shoes for George instead of roller skates? I think roller skates would be easier for moving him around.
Pete: No, he doesn't need any shoes.
Me: But then how am I going to take him on adventures? He's too big to carry.
Pete: Just get a smaller giraffe for outside adventures
Me: So you want me to get more animals?! Ok!! (Begins lengthy internal debate about if George will feel left out if I get smaller animals and take them on adventures instead of him and how roller skates still seem to be the most logical answer to this problem. Will require further analysis).

Sometimes marriage is a circus. Or maybe it's just our marriage that is a circus. Because my life is a circus (but not the kind that harms animals, the kind with jugglers and stilt-walkers and other nonsense). But funny anecdotes aside, what I really want to talk about is the hard stuff.

I have enjoyed marriage immensely, but I have also struggled with it, and especially with finding my place within in. I don't know how to be married. I'd never done it before and I hadn't seen any firsthand examples of the kind of marriage I wanted to be in. I wanted a life partnership, where two people who had built awesome lives separately, came together and built something even more awesome together. I wanted an equal partnership, with no gender roles or stereotypical divisions of labor (which never made any sense to me anyway). Which is pretty much what Pete and I have. But I still felt this weird sense that something wasn't right. I couldn't explain it except to say it was like some kind of underlying despair-rage. Despairage? I didn't know why I felt like that and I didn't want to feel that way. Sometimes I felt crazy because Pete thought everything was fine and I was all like it isn't fine, why am I the only one who sees it?

Then I realized my experience of marriage was different than Pete's. The undercurrent of frustration I felt was not with Pete or our relationship but at the actual institution of marriage, with all its patriarchal, oppressive baggage. So while we are equal partners in our own marriage, no one ever referred to Pete as Mr. Jen Lacey, whereas they did refer to me as Mrs. Pete Lacey. I don't think people mean to insinuate that I am no longer a whole person with my own first name and life. I think they just do it because it's what has traditionally been done. Sexism is so ingrained in marriage, even today, that I think sometimes people don't even realize it. Let's be honest, I am Privileged AF. I have white, straight and economic privileges that many people don't have and I can only imagine how much harder it is for them to find their place within marriage (if they choose to, or are even able to, get married).

I already felt this internal pressure of wanting to be the best life partner I could be - after all, my choices were not just my own anymore - now the decisions I make also affect Pete. On top of that I felt like I had to fight against the external pressure society puts on women/wives to be smaller, subservient, absurdly agreeable. The person I want to be and the life I want to lead could never fit in such a restrictive box. Pete married me for the smart, funny, weird, adventurous person that I am. And I married Pete for the smart, funny, weird, adventurous person that he is. Of course I want him to be happy and I want to do whatever I can to make our lives and our marriage as excellent an adventure as possible. But I can't afford to make someone else happy at the expense of making myself miserable. So I have to figure out how to participate in the institution of marriage without condoning or perpetuating its oppressive past. I have to ignore the external pressures to be a certain way or do a certain thing and just be who I am, doing my own thing. With my favorite human and my roller skating giraffe (or posse of giraffes? TBD).

Marriage means a lot of things to a lot of people. But to me, marriage is like the best hug, with the perfect amount of holding on and letting go. Where you're free to be everything you are - the good, the bad and the ridiculous - and you have a hand to hold as you make your own path through the adventure of life. 

1 Pete + 1 Jen = a most excellent circus

Lyric of the moment: "This mind, this body and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways.
So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise..." ~Fiona Apple "Sleep To Dream" (Because it's an excellent song to sing at all the mean voices you encounter, whether external or internal). 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How to be a person on the internet

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, I'm just an ordinary, flawed human trying to know better and do better every day (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much). You too? Welcome.

Congratulations! You're a person with internet access! It can be a wonderful place to connect with loved ones, make new friends and watch a seemingly endless stream of cute animal videos. It can also be a terrible place where judgment and hatred run amok. But you, Brave Internet User, have a choice! You can choose to add more awfulness or more awesomeness. If you want to do the latter, please come in. (If you want to do the former, I'm terribly sorry that life has been unkind to you and caused you to want to be unkind to others in return. Just know that you don't have to suffer alone. There are ears out there that want to listen to your story. I have two of them). And so, without further ado, my (non-expert) guide to being a better person online:

How To Be A Person On The Internet

So you've just read something online (maybe something that sparked an emotional reaction) and you are about to post a comment. Here are some things to consider before you do:

  1. Pause. Take a deep breath. Or several deep breaths. Getting some sweet Oxygen all up in your cells is a good first step to most things in life. 
  2. Cozy up in your empathy blanket, maybe get yourself a snack if you feel hungry or a drink if you feel thirsty. (Steps 1 and 2 are the put on your own oxygen mask first part of the airline safety briefing. It is far easier to be a better, more compassionate human online if your own basic needs are being met first. So do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable in your body and brain).
  3. Ask yourself: Am I taking this personally? Am I making this about me? Be honest. It's ok if you are. We all do it. But try to be aware of it. Life is not a contest or a zero sum game. There are no medals for having the worst/best/hardest/easiest day/week/life. Someone else's success is not your loss. Someone else's struggles are not an invitation to complain about how much worse your struggles are. Maybe go back to Step 1 and take a few more deep breaths. Or go back to Step 2 and figure out what you're feeling and what you need to give yourself so you don't get defensive all over someone else's post that is not about you. 
  4. Ask yourself: Am I being judgmental? Again, no judgment if you are, just recognize it. You don't know more about someone else's experience of life than they do. You don't have all the information, you don't know the full story. You can't know this, not having lived anyone else's life but your own. Most people are overly self-critical. They don't need someone else piling on extra criticism. 
  5. Ask yourself: Am I about to give unsolicited advice? Keep in mind, if someone has not specifically and blatantly asked for recommendations/advice, you are giving unsolicited advice. "But I'm just trying to be helpful!" you say. Truth: unsolicited advice is usually not helpful and can sometimes be harmful. Unless they specifically ask for advice, most of the time people are not looking for advice, they are looking for empathy. They want you to acknowledge their feelings/problems/pain and let them know they're not alone. They don't want you to fix them or imply they need fixing.  Try offering some empathy first and be a good listener. You can do this by validating their feelings (I understand how you feel that way) or acknowledging their situation (That's frustrating/hard/painful) or offering support (I am here with you). 
  6. Remember that we're all doing the best we can do and we're all imperfect. We all make mistakes. We've all said or done something we regret. But keep trying. Try to do better for others, not to do better than others. Try to add more awesomeness and alleviate awfulness wherever you can.
  7. When in doubt, you can't go wrong with videos/photos/memes of cute animals. They make everything a little bit better. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fuck yeah, thank you

Last night after the radio show, Chris said "Remember when you were in that 0spf video and you were like how can anyone listen to my voice? And now you're on the radio." It's true. For the past year (I can't believe it's been a whole year!), I've been chatting about running on the air with Chris and Kendra and Sheila. I probably laugh too much (and I definitely say "like" too much). But I haven't gotten kicked off yet, so that's something.

When Chris first asked if I wanted to be on the radio, I thought I should say no. When I got the dreaded plantar fasciitis, I thought I should quit the show because I felt like I wasn't running a lot and had nothing worthwhile to add to the conversation. I'm not particularly articulate or eloquent and I'm not a particularly talented runner. I don't feel like an especially interesting person. But I didn't say no and I didn't quit. For the simple reason that I didn't want to. (I've found that feeling like I "should" do something is not a great reason to do it, whereas wanting to do something is an excellent reason to do it). I love running and I love talking to people and I especially love being invited to adventures. Sometimes I would feel anxious, afraid I would say the wrong thing or push the wrong button. But in the moment, I forgot all about that because I was too busy having fun and being ridiculous. Even if I did say the wrong thing or push the wrong button, I was just like it's ok, I will keep trying to do better next time.

As soon as Chris made that comment, I realized he was right. And not just about the radio. I've been RSVP-ing Yes! to so much more in life. As I've gotten older, my attitude has shifted from why me? to why not? I'm not any better or smarter or nicer or more industrious. I don't have any less doubt or fear. It's just that when The Universe sends me invitations to new opportunities/adventures, I've stopped responding "No, I couldn't possibly, I won't be good enough" and started responding "Fuck yeah, thank you!"

Because you don't have to be the best at something in order to have an awesome time doing it. And the way to get better at something is by doing it, not by waiting until you are "ready" or "good enough" for it. You're already enough, wherever you are, however you are, right this very moment. If you don't want to do something, by all means say no. But if you really want to do something and are afraid of failing or not being good at it, know that you can say yes and some pretty amazing things may ensue. Sure, you might fail. But everyone fails sometimes. Failure doesn't mean you're not enough. It just means things didn't work out the way you were expecting. You can learn from it and try again. You can fail and try again as many times as you want. When you receive an invitation to awesomeness you don't have to decline out of fear, you can accept out of gratitude. You can RSVP "Fuck yeah, thank you!"

A year of radio shenanigans!

Lyric of the moment: "Jennifer you are not the only one. To sit awake until the wild feelings leave you..." ~The National "Fireproof"