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" 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Johnny's 20th Runnin' O' The Green

I don't particularly like this race. I mean, I like that it exists. It's iconic. It's accessible to everyone, from 5 minute milers to first time 5 milers, even those who want to run while drinking beer (I don't know why anyone would do this. It seems like there is less drinking of the beer and more sloshing the beer everywhere. But I have seen people doing this every year I've run this race. And I guess there are weirder ways to celebrate the death day of an Irish saint). So it's a great race. It's just that if I'm going to pay money for a race, I'd rather it be a really long, small, snack-filled party in the woods than a short, very crowded and jostle-y party on a road. But Pete likes this race and I like Pete so here we are again this year.

How Pete prepares for a race: wakes up leisurely (at I don't even know what time since I am already out the door), drinks coffee, reads the news or looks up random things on the computer, gets dressed very slowly in stages. Stages 1-10 are mostly just him walking around in his underwear until I say something like "Nice running outfit, honey." Stage 11 is him realizing his one running jacket has a broken zipper. Stage 12 is him putting on something that is camouflage and/or says Navy on it. And then he is ready to go.

How I prepare for a race: wake up before it's light out, drink water, poop, run 5 miles to cough up and snot rocket out what I hope is the last disgusting remnants of the flu I had last week, return home to eat first breakfast (PB toast!) change into a green shirt and poop again, hug George several times, cut the top off of my hat because I never liked it as a hat and have just had the ingenious idea to turn it into a buff instead, pin my race number on 3 different ways before it comes out not entirely crooked. Wait for Pete to be ready to go.

I wasn't looking forward to this race. It was cold and crowded and those aren't my favorite things to be. Pete was like "Have you heard of prepping? It's where you prepare to have a good experience. It's nice out, it's warm..." And I was like "So, it's just lying?" It was not nice or warm (nice and warm is 75+ degrees and I can wear shorts and a tank top). But it was sunny and we were going to breakfast afterwards. He should have lead with that. Then we got hugs from Mort, who told us he was going to be announcing names at the finish line and I asked him if he would give us funny names when we finished.

Once we started running I was happy. Because running. And because I don't care about racing but I do care about running with my favorite people (or strangers who will become my favorite people). And Pete is strange and also my favorite person. I let Pete set the pace and just ran along, watching the weird parade that is a massive road race. There was colorful spandex everywhere. A spectator said "You're almost there" about 0.2 miles into the race. It was impossible to get lost because the course is literally just run out 2.5 miles, go around a cone and run back the exact same way. We got passed by a jogging stroller. Pretty typical road race stuff. During the last mile, we saw Ron out taking pictures and he captured this epic shot:

Photos Thanks to Goat Factory Media


Then he ran ahead of us and worked his photographer's magic to make us look like this:




Pete ran the whole 5 miles without stopping and without any breathing problems! This was his longest run so far this year and he said he felt good, so mission accomplished. As we approached the finish line, we saw Steven who had come to cheer, and Pete asked me if I would hold his hand. So we finished hand-in-hand while Mort called out "Megatron and He-man!" We grabbed some water, drove Steven back to his car, then went to Balsam to get bagels.

And that is how you take a day that is not nice and not warm and fill it up with miles and people and awesomeness and two breakfasts.

Lyric of the moment: "There is an answer in a question. And there is hope within despair. And there is beauty in a failure. And there are depths beyond compare..." ~Death Cab For Cutie "Black Sun"

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Surly Skier. And other choices.

Last Saturday morning, while running snow-encrusted trails at Mendon Ponds Park at the TrailsRoc group run, two different cross-country skiers had two different reactions to our presence on the trails. (Some of the trails at Mendon are groomed for xc-skiers, but we were running on the side of the trail so as not to ruin the ski tracks). As we started, one skier coming towards us asked "You're not going to run across the groomed trail are you?" Sheila explained that we were going to be on the side edges of the trail, to which the skier responded "Oh good, thank you!" Most of the other skiers we saw didn't say anything, except for one woman who angrily yelled at us to "Get off the trails!"

I've been thinking about that incident and about the ways in which people have different responses to the same situation. When you encounter a situation that concerns you or that maybe you don't particularly like or just have some words to say about it, how do you respond? Are you Sensitively Assertive Skier? Or Surly Skier?

Despite our best intentions, I think we have all been Surly Skier at times (or Silently Surly Skier, where we say nothing aloud but are secretly resentful or angry. I am so guilty of this. I'm not proud to say I have spent entire relationships wearing Silently Surly Skier boots. It's not a good look. I have attempted to move on to a better look - gold pants and elephant pants - but I'm still a work in progress). We're imperfect, we make mistakes. Life is hard and everyone has struggles. We can't ever fully know what it's like to ski in someone else's boots. Maybe the Surly Skier was having a bad day or had a bad experience with runners in the past or I don't know, was auditioning for one of those You're not you when you're hungry Snickers commercials.

But moments like this remind me that in every situation I have a choice. I get to choose how to respond. I can give people the benefit of the doubt and respond with curiosity and kindness. Or I can be defensive/judgmental/angry. I can choose to add more fuel to the fuming pile of anger. Or I can choose to see other people's defensive/angry behaviors as what they really are: the outward manifestation of their own internal pain and suffering. Then I can choose to not take it personally and to respond with compassion. This is really freaking hard to do. It takes effort and practice and continually filling up your own internal reservoirs with love and happiness. But it's the most worthwhile choice you can make.

Ski on, my friends. May we choose sweetness (and Snickers) over surliness.

Lyric of the moment: "You're around 'til you're not around. And that's all I need to know. Every time you decide to stay. Then the world will make you go. And that's all you need to know. Enjoy your youth. Sounds like a threat. But I will anyway..." ~Regina Spektor "Older and Taller"


Thursday, February 22, 2018

This Is Life: Tiny Poems


What It's Like To Live With Me
Me: What do you want to do for Valentine's Day?
Pete: Whatever you want to do, honey.
Me: No, I mean a real answer, not 'what you think women want to hear.'
Pete: Well, women do want to hear certain things.
Me: Yeah, like 'Here's equal rights and equal pay.'


What It's Like To Live With Pete, A Haiku
Don't pee in the sink
Is a thing I had to say
To an adult man


Life Advice
Live each day as if it were your last
Seems like impractical advice
Only one day will actually be your last
The rest, you will have to deal
With the consequences of those before
I much prefer
Live each day as if it were your best
Or just
Live each day 
Or even
Live each day with kindness and cookies
Those are the best things to live with anyway


Superpowers
One day you will learn
That in everything there is pain
That in everything there is beauty
That with courage, honesty and love
You can transform pain into beauty
Darkness into light
You can endure anything
You can find joy anywhere
If you have compassion for all beings
You have everything


Marriage

I                    Do
We Said        Til Death
Do            Us            Part
Now                                We
Must                              Live It
Which                            Is So
Much                    Harder
But               Live
It        We
Will



Lyric of the moment:"It's not what you thought when you first began it. You got what you want. Now you can hardly stand it, though. By now you know. It's not going to stop, it's not going to stop, it's not going to stop. Til' you wise up..." ~Aimee Man "Wise Up"



Monday, January 29, 2018

This Is Marriage: Day 874

We hit a milestone savings goal on Saturday. Pete thought it felt anticlimactic. I ran around the house excitedly singing a song I made up about it. Pete said nothing has changed. I said everything has changed. At the beginning of our marriage, we had three mortgages. Now we have zero mortgages and we've hit this goal, meaning we are solidly on track to retire early. That's a lot in 2 years. Pete seemed unconvinced. I remained ecstatic. When I was younger, I never longed for marriage, I never dreamed about weddings. I longed for financial independence, I dreamed about this particular net worth goal. (Admittedly, I was a weird kid. Which probably surprises no one). We didn't do anything elaborate or groundbreaking to achieve this goal. We spend money on the things and experiences that make us happy (travel, experiences, a comfortable bed, races and socializing with friends, Pete: computers/tech gadgets, Jen: 8' tall giraffe) and not on things that don't. We put money in our 401Ks and Roth IRAs. We put a sizable amount of money well sizable to us, maybe not to others) in our non-retirement investment account every month, which is just invested in an index fund. But mostly, we are so incredibly lucky (to have similar attitudes/habits about money, to have gainful employment, to have sold our 2 houses from our single lives for more than we paid for them, to live in a low cost of living area). I'd be lying if I said the money wasn't nice. I don't think money can buy happiness, but it sure can make a hell of a lot of things easier. But true wealth is not measured by the amount of money you accumulate. True wealth is living life with a richness and depth of relationships, gratitude and meaning.

I wanted to do something fancy to celebrate. But I didn't want to spend any money. So I'll have to wait and see if I can think of something creative to satiate those competing desires. In the meantime, Laura and Jon were coming over to meet George and so we could go eat at Brooklyn Ramen Rochester (which was meh) and see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (which was fantastic). Laura asked Pete what he thought when I brought George home, he smiled and said "Jen was just so excited about it." Though I didn't make up a song about it and run around the house singing it, my heart did explode in feels. We are different people. Pete wasn't expecting marriage to include living with a giant stuffed giraffe. I wasn't expecting marriage to include watching my husband sitting on the couch peeling an orange and then nonchalantly putting the orange peels on a pillow as if that is where orange peels belong (no, really, this is a thing that happened). But it's those differences that make us who we are, a fact that I sometimes forget, such as when I am horrified and frantically picking orange peels off a couch pillow. Things will change, we will change. That is inevitable. We vowed to weather the changes together, the bear markets and bull markets, our best moments and our worst moments.

The thing that I want to celebrate isn't that the stock market went up or we're saving more money, it's that we're building a life together and that life is pretty freaking sweet. Marriage is building a life together that is bigger and better than both of us.

Lyric of the moment: "And the only way to last. And the only way to live it. Is to hold on when you get love. And let go when you give it..." ~Stars "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It"

Friday, January 26, 2018

A series of spectacular failures

I had a minor epiphany during a restorative yoga class, in a warm room lit with candles, supported by blankets and bolsters. It felt restful. I was resting. No, but like for real. I was still. And it was enjoyable. The kind of joy I usually only experience in motion. My mind had wanted to go to the gym. But my body was like no, dude, go lay on the ground for an hour. So I did. I made time for stillness, which I used to think was just a failure of motion, but now I think is a necessary compass. And it was glorious, this stillness. A glorious failure of motion, a glorious triumph of rest, relaxation and restoration.

I had a minor epiphany on a party boat, being yet again the only person not drinking in a sea full of people drinking (and playing icebreaker games. I hate icebreaker games or any sort of mandatory fun. Being forced to participate is the opposite of fun). At times like these, I feel isolated and irreparably weird for not doing the things everyone else is doing, even though I have no interest in doing those things. I feel like I'm failing the Turing Test, a lone robot amidst the humans. Then I had a sudden realization that many times when I've felt like I'm failing at everything, the only thing I was actually failing at was in being someone else. I was failing at doing the default traditional things or being what I thought I should be. Most of the time those should be things weren't even things I wanted to be, they were just what is expected or idolized by society. I was failing to be what other people wanted me to be because I was busy being who I was. (And the few times I did try to be what someone else wanted me to be, I became profoundly unhappy, which festered into seething resentment, which blossomed into relief and happiness only when I gave up and went back to being who I wanted to be). Looking at it that way, I hope my life continues to be a series of spectacular failures. In failing to be others' expectations of me, I succeed at being myself. In failing to do what others are doing, I succeed at doing what I want to do.

It's easy to get caught up in what other people are doing or all the cultural noise telling us to do certain things or be a certain way, to buy this and that and of course that too. Part of stillness, I'm coming to realize, is a break from all that external noise. It allows me the space and the silence to figure out what feels right to me, what I want to do and what I don't want to do, what will bring me joy and what I can let go. I used to rely on running for this space but now I know it's always available to me, if I pay attention to it. The external noise will still get through sometimes, but I can just think to myself "That's not true" or "I don't accept that" or "Not for me" and keep blazing my own weird, ridiculous trail to Awesometown. With stops for giraffes, obviously.



Lyric of the moment: "The walls in my mind. But I can climb. In the darkest of days, when I think I've lost my way, I step into the light..." ~Matisyahu "Step Out Into The Light"