“If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it.” Ann Lamott.
It’s hard to write when you’ve lost your voice, or rather you haven’t lost your voice, but suddenly feel in danger of losing yourself again; and the words that are caged in your heart and need to pour out are not really yours to share. I suppose that I could blame the very busy last two months as my reason for my absence from this space, but that would only be a fraction of the truth. I went on a magical week-long yoga retreat in the middle of a jungle on an island in Thailand that forced me to not only embrace my ponytail resolution but at least temporarily let go of all makeup and shaving my legs as well. The experience and the lessons gained there could be several blog posts, but I don’t feel inspired to write about it.
I could write about my triathlon that I just did the day after my 44th birthday, and about how proud I am of myself for not dropping out despite the daily temptation to do so over the last month. I could tell you the whole story of the surfer and lifeguard that had to come to my rescue when I had a panic attack in the middle of my first attempt at an ocean swim, and about everything that it took for me to recover from that and get myself to the point of completing the ocean swim this past weekend. I could write pages about how I was overcome by anxiety during each ocean swim, how the lack of sense of control and not feeling my feet on the ground would cause me to lose my breath, and how once you lose your breath, it’s all over. At least for this moment, my heart does not want to write a dissertation on that.
The real truth is that long before I started running, I put myself on the back burner and was drowning in motherhood and taking care of everyone and everything but myself. Over the last few weeks, I’ve felt myself be in danger of slipping back into being that person again. The words that are caged in my heart are about parenting issues that have hit me out of the blue, but when your kids are teenagers, it is their story and their life. It’s hard to write about yoga and triathlons when what’s actually on your mind most of the time is that you are facing your greatest parenting challenge, and there isn’t any manual for it. You certainly didn’t learn about it during your pediatric residency, and even the last 15 years of being a practicing pediatrician haven’t prepared you for it. And so when all this is happening, how do you find your own voice again… the voice that is only yours and can be shared and doesn’t involve them.
Last night I listened to a little 15 minute Ted Talk from Anne Lamott on 12 truths that she has learned from life and writing, and I knew that I need to figure out a way to find my voice and write. I have missed this little intimate space so much over the last couple of months, but I haven’t known how to get back to it. Now that the triathlon is over, I need to resume training for the Chicago Marathon in October that is just 3 months away. Yet I woke up this morning and didn’t want to go for my run. I didn’t want to run because with everything that is going on, I don’t know if I have the energy to train for a full marathon right now, and more than that, I don’t know that I want to leave home and my kids for even 3 – 4 days for a destination race. I went on my run this morning with so many questions in my mind and tears streaming down my face, feeling the danger of going back to the person who forgot to put her oxygen mask on. And as I ran, I kept asking myself can I be these two different people? Can I still be the me who likes to buy 4 inch heels and drink all the wine and laugh in yoga with friends and eat all the carbs with girlfriends while all this other stuff is going on? And I knew that the answer had to be yes. I have to hold on to the heels, the brewery tours, the silliness, and most importantly my own time with adults outside my home if I’m going to be able to handle what the next few years are going to throw at me without drowning again. I have to keep running if I want to stay afloat through my children’s teen years which have me reliving and reanalyzing my own teen years. I can be these different people. I have to be.
I don’t know if I will run Chicago or defer it for one year or forever. I know that for the next month I will continue to train for it and decide later. I know that whether or not I run Chicago or any other full marathon, I will continue to run because it is my oxygen mask, but maybe when I do race, I will make them all local for a little while. After listening to Anne Lamott, I know that I will continue to write. That writing may sometimes be in this space, and it may often have to revert back to writing privately in a journal that no one reads but myself, but I will take her advice and take it bird by bird. When I first started writing, it was privately with 2 other girlfriends and we’d meet once a month to share only with each other what we had written. We took a little break, and I’m grateful that we are resuming our group. I so need that private writing space right now.
It’s been several years now that “The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or sea” has been my favorite quote. It’s been at least 2 years that I’ve been thinking of getting the words “sweat, tears, sea” tattooed inside my left wrist. It’s a reminder to me that I can figure out all the answers myself. After this morning’s tear-filled run, it is clear to me that the decision I made a few months ago to go ahead and put that permanent reminder on my wrist for my 44th birthday is the right one…. sweat, tears, sea, and I guess time… will reveal all the answers.
****If you are a subscriber to Women’s Running Magazine in print, then look for me in the September issue that will hit newsstands sometime in August. I wrote a personal essay for their new “Your Voice” column, and it is a piece that is close to my heart. If you haven’t heard Ann Lamott’s 12 things talk, it is linked in the body of this essay where I first mentioned it. Give yourself the 15 minute gift of listening to it.