boston marathon

How Has Running Helped You?

How Has Running Helped You?

How has your running helped you in your sobriety and just generally in your life? I’ve been running since I was 14 years old. I could probably write a book on how much running has given me. These are a few things: positive body image, friends, a tribe, endorphins, competition, knowing I can push myself to the outer limits and make it, redemption and joy. How about you?

Love is Louder and Boston is Strong

This is a repost from April 19, 2013. So much love, excitment and reverence for the runners.You are in the arena today.

 APRIL 19, 2013 - It’s taken a few days to assemble the words, but while on a run today, wearing the way-too-worn-out shoes I wore during last year’s marathon, thoughts started to string together.

I moved to Boston in 1999 from Colorado, at twenty-one, and with enough naiveté to go somewhere I’d only been once before - without a job or a network. When people asked me why I moved here, picked this city, I still don’t really know. My friend and I were throwing out cities while I was blow drying my hair in my college house bedroom in Fort Collins. It was May, just before graduation. I can still see the light and smell the air in the room as we were talking. The electricity of those first seconds as we locked eyes and surprised ourselves. “I’ll do it. I'll go,” we said.

It was one of those moments where you knew your life had already changed; that it would happen; that it was already written. We went out that night and started telling people we were moving in September.

Have you ever been there?

Nope.

Why Boston?

I don’t know!

And so that September we packed up and drove cross-country. Moved into a laughably small apartment in Davis Square (long before Davis was gentrified), on the 3rd floor of a house that smelled like old Chinese food and stale air. My room was actually a sunroom or a converted porch. I could only fit a twin-sized bed and a teeny bedside table in it. Windows on three sides surrounded by big, floppy, green trees. No dishwasher. No laundry machine. We had maybe $500 between us, an inflatable couch, one computer with shitty dial-up, no cable and no jobs.

It was awesome.

It was so hot and humid that fall compared to the dry air and lower temps of Colorado. I remember once while we were waiting for a train at Park Street, exhausted and overheated. She backed up against the sticky wall of the station and slid down it, very slowly, sweat pouring everywhere, red-faced. We looked at each other - exasperated, like "what the fuck are we DOING here?!" - and then started to laugh maniacally.

Everything was so much harder than I’d been used to and for a lot longer than I’d imagined. Little things. Lugging laundry for blocks. Not being able to write a check for food on our first day there. The hard edges of strangers who were “all set.” Only one person in the entire city that knew me.

Yet I fell in love every day. I fell in love with the struggle and the newness and I got a job near the North Station T stop (back when it was above ground and smelled like even more piss and vomit). Every day as I rode the red line over the bridge to MGH, I was awestruck. It was such a departure from my life as I'd known it - so new, so foreign, so exciting and scary - I was a stranger and oddly at home. My throat would swell and my eyes would well up regularly as I'd say to myself on that train ride, Thank you. I am so lucky.Thank you. I am so lucky. I’d repeat it over and over, safeguarding my appreciation. Blessing my adventure.

Over the next thirteen years in this city I:

  • Witnessed 9/11.
  • Attended my first Boston Marathon and thought: this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I vowed to run one day.
  • Ran it in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
  • Lived in Cambridge. The North End. Southie.
  • Went to my first Sox game. And Bruins game. And Celtics game.
  • Watched the Sox break hearts.
  • Sat next to Green Day (ha!) with my best friend at a bar while watching the Sox win the World Series.
  • Went to grad school in Wellesley.
  • Met my husband.
  • Had my daughter.
  • Fell in love with the ocean.
  • Moved away for six months and came back with the urgency of a child returning to her mother. Within the first hour, I handed off my baby, ran to the ocean, dove in and swam until I was blue and numb.
  • Ran thousands of miles around the city and matched my heartbeat to its own.
  • Learned to love yoga at Baptiste in Cambridge and then really love it at South Boston Yoga.
  • Made a chosen family of friends.
  • Drank. Ate. Loved. Cried. Won. Lost. Grew up.

And so, so much more.

But of all the moments that fill up 13 years and really through all 35 of my life, the marathons are among the most sacred. For myself, but also for this city. It’s a day to be proud of this place. Incredibly, unabashedly, shmoopy proud. I posted to Facebook from the Sox game on Monday that it is the “best day to be in Boston” and it’s true. Enough has been said about this, and by people much more eloquent than I.

Suffice to say when we heard what had happened, my mind flashed to last year, where my husband, daughter, best friend, co-workers and others were there at the finishing stretch to cheer me on. My mind raced to all I knew who were running. True helplessness and panic. It was personal. Someone is fucking with OUR CITY.

No.

No.

No.

No.

NO.

It’s been a long, terrifying and exhausting few days and nights for everyone. I am grateful for the people who ran to the victims the way I am grateful for the ocean. As Anne Lammott says, the kind of gratitude that is boundless.

And I am making space in my heart for the victims. Constantly reminding myself to breathe for them. Breathe in their pain and breathe out peace, light, warmth. Breath in, breath out. Everyone can do this. If you are feeling helpless, you can do this. We need to breathe anyway.

I have loved watching everyone come together. You can taste the pride in the air. And the sadness. The fight. I was in the city Tuesday morning and although it was quiet, people were walking with purpose. I have never loved this city so much.

(And I will be running the shit out of the marathon next year.)

Love is Louder.

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And Boston is Strong.

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I Am Not a Writer

Today’s let go is this: I am not a writer. This is an icky one to say out loud, so I know I must. As someone who writes but would never call myself a “writer,” this strikes a chord. I’ve always assumed the label writer belonged to more officially qualified folks. Say, those who’ve been published. Or have written a book. Or make money writing.

It can’t belong to me because it’s not on my business card and I’ve never been hired to write and I’m nowhere near as good - not even in the same universe! - as the real writers I adore: Annie Lamott, Mary Karr, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Joan Didion, Mary Oliver.

Or, I can’t call myself a writer when I don’t write every day. Thinking about writing, obsessing over words, reading voraciously - those things don’t make you a writer. Right?

The thing is this: there are many thoughts and fears that have kept me from writing, but the most pervasive and consistent one is the thought that I’M NOT A WRITER. How insane is that? Dear self, don’t pick up a pen or sit down with a blank screen and see what happens because you’re not a real writer.

Kind of crazy.

But also kind of human nature, it seems.

The best parallel I can draw from in my experience is around running. When people find out I’ve run marathons, the most common response I get is, “I could never do that.”

And my response back, every time, is, “You could if you wanted to.” And not as in, “If you were as driven as me, you’d be able to do it” but as in, “If you want to run that far, you totally can.”

But maybe wanting to is only half the equation, because I think what really allowed me to run those crazy distances was that I honestly didn’t care what the outcome was. I like to run. I like to do things that break my own perceptions of what’s possible. I like to push myself physically. But, I never really attached myself to an outcome. The first time I ran one, I didn’t even have a number and I can’t tell you what my time was — I just know that I finished it. I’ve never timed my splits (I still don’t even know how that works) and I’ve never felt bad about myself for having “a bad long run.” Any day I run more than 10 miles is a win. 16? I kick ass. There’s no such thing as a bad 18-mile run in my book. And a marathon? It’s a MARATHON.

This kind of detachment, but also commitment, allowed me to train for and run three Boston marathons. One in a pretty kick-ass time. One in soul-crushing, record-breaking heat. I committed to the process, submitted myself to it, let it be what it was. And you know what? I now say that I’m a runner.

But the thing is, guys, I care so much more about writing than I ever have about running. I do worry about the outcome, even if I’m the only one who ever sees what I’ve written. I judge. I criticize. I lament. I sweat when the words don’t come or come out hacky. I self-defeat. Yet still, in my heart of hearts, in the truth that runs stronger than all the other truths, is that I love to write and I love to read great writing.

When it comes to running, I just lace up and go. Some days I can blast through six miles and feel like doing six more. Other days my veins are filled with cement and I can barely trudge through two. Both experiences have happened enough times that I know neither means all that much. The point is to keep doing it; tomorrow’s run has yet to be revealed.

A few things have recently raised my attention to the exact idiocy and danger of my “I am not a writer” thinking.

1. Ira Glass’ impeccable bit on storytelling and the secret of producing great creative work. He says a lot in this video, but the thing that keeps ringing in my head is,

"The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work."

2. This little line, which has been haunting me, and I shared my thoughts on the other day.

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3. This Momastery post.

4. Perhaps most importantly, Cheryl Strayed, or the voice behind Dear Sugar is one of my most sacred and beloved current writers. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about some piece of what she wrote in Tiny Beautiful Things.

I recently revisited a piece, where she lists some nuggets of advice to a fledgling 22 year-old.

"Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet."

"You don’t have a career. You have a life." has been ringin’ like a bell in my head, over and over. Just like I’m not a mother, sister, daughter, co-worker, yogi, runner, reader or friend because it’s printed somewhere; I’m all those things because they’re what I do. Right.

"You are a writer because you write." 

Well, ok then. I am.

Love is Louder

image

It’s taken a few days to assemble the words, but while on a run today, wearing the way-too-worn-out shoes I wore during last year’s marathon, thoughts started to string together.

I moved to Boston in 1999, at twenty-one, and with enough naiveté to go somewhere I’d only been once before – to find an apartment – without a job. When people asked me why my friend and I moved here, picked Boston, I still don’t really know. We were throwing out names of cities one day in May. I can still see the light and smell the air in those moments. The electricity of those first seconds, realizing, as we both declared, “I’ll do it. I will move,” that our lives were going to change. That it would happen; that it was already written.

We threw out Chicago. Raleigh. New York. Boston. Something clicked when we said Boston. We kept rolling it around, saying the city’s name to try it out on our tongues, hear it float in the air. It was decided in minutes. We went out that night and started telling people we were moving in September. To see how it sounded.

Have you ever been there?

Nope.

Why Boston?

I don’t know. But it’s happening!

And so that September, we packed up and drove cross-country. Moved into a laughably small apartment in Davis square, on the 3rd floor of a house, that smelled like old Chinese food and no ventilation. My room was actually a sunroom or a converted porch. I could only fit a twin-sized bed and a teeny bedside table in it. Windows on three sides surrounded by big, floppy, green trees. No dishwasher. No laundry machine. We had maybe $500 between us, an inflatable couch, one computer with shitty dial-up, no cable and no jobs.

It was awesome.

It was so hot and humid that fall compared to the dry air and lower temps of Colorado that we would slide down the walls of T stations, sweat everywhere, frustrated and exhausted from getting lost, again. Everything was so much harder than I’d been used to and for a lot longer than I’d imagined. Lugging laundry for blocks. Not being able to write a check for food on our first day there. The hard edges of strangers who were “all set.” Only one person in the entire city that knew me.

But yet I fell in love every day. I fell in love with the struggle and the newness and when I got a job near North Station (back when it was above ground and smelled like piss and vomit), as I rode the T over the bridge to MGH, I was dumbfounded. Awe struck and dumb with adoration so much my throat swelled and my eyes welled up nearly every time. Thank you. I am so lucky. Thank you. I am so lucky. I’d repeat it over and over, almost afraid that someone could take it, this experience, away from me.

Over the next thirteen years, in this city, I:

  • Witnessed 9/11.
  • Attended my first Boston Marathon and thought: this is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I vowed to run one day.
  • Ran it in 2002, 2008 and 2012.
  • Lived in Cambridge. The North End. Southie.
  • Went to my first Sox game. And Bruins game. And Celtics game.
  • Watched the Sox break hearts.
  • Sat next to Green Day (ha!) with my best friend at a bar while watching the Sox win the World Series.
  • Went to grad school in Wellesley.
  • Met my husband.
  • Had my daughter.
  • Fell in love with the ocean.
  • Moved away for six months and came back with the urgency of a child returning to her mother. Within the first hour, I handed off my baby, ran to the ocean, dove in and swam until I was blue and numb.
  • Ran thousands of miles around the city and matched my heartbeat to its own.
  • Learned to love yoga at Baptiste in Cambridge and then really love it at South Boston Yoga.
  • Made a chosen family of friends.
  • Drank. Ate. Loved. Cried. Won. Lost. Grew up.

And so, so much more.

But of all the moments that fill up 13 years and really through all 35 of my life, the marathons are among my most sacred and proud. For myself, but also for this city. It’s a day to be proud. Incredibly, unabashedly, nearly shmoopy proud. I posted to Facebook from the Sox game on Monday that it is the “best day to be in Boston” and it’s true. Enough has been said about this, and by people much more eloquent than I.

Suffice to say when we heard what had happened, my mind flashed to last year, where my husband, daughter, best friend, co-workers and others were there at the finishing stretch to cheer me on. My mind raced to all I knew who were running. True helplessness and panic. It was personal. Someone is fucking with OUR CITY.

No.

No.

No.

No.

NO.

It’s been a long, terrifying and exhausting few days and nights for everyone. I am grateful for the people who ran to the victims the way I am grateful for the ocean. As Anne Lammott says, the kind of gratitude that is boundless.

And I am making space in my heart for the victims. Constantly reminding myself to breathe for them. Breathe in their pain and breathe out peace, light, warmth. Breath in, breath out. Everyone can do this. If you are feeling helpless, you can do this. We need to breathe anyway.

I have loved watching everyone come together. You can taste the pride in the air. And the sadness. The fight. I was in the city Tuesday morning and although it was quiet, people were walking with purpose. I have never loved this city so much.

(And I will be running the shit out of the marathon next year.)

Love is Louder.

image

And Boston is Strong.

image