Refections from the road

Refections from the road

I’m sitting in a hotel room outside Boston, trying to think of a way to work in an 8-mile run today. I woke up too late for starters. Didn’t wake up until my 16-year old was demanding breakfast. So we ate at the hotel’s buffet. Now I’m too full to run and she’s got a day of sightseeing planned before we have to get back on the road for (what should be) a 4 hour drive back to New Jersey. It doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying a weekend road trip with my girl and I can run another time.

I love road trips. And road trip songs (My daughter’s favorite from the Cars Soundtrack: Life is a Highway; mine: Radar Love)…and road trip movies (my favorites: Easy Rider, Thelma & Louise)…and road trip books (On the Road is on top of both our lists). Since I was a kid, I always loved seeing everything along the way. Flying is certainly more practical, but there are times when the road is so much more fun. Of course I grew up as an only child so there were no backseat sibling squabbles. Now I just love the time in the car with my girl. We always seem to have our best conversations in the car. Plus we are creating memories that will last a lifetime…which is more important than ever now since this weekend’s road trip was for our first official college visit.

 “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I have road trip memories with my daughter dating back before she can even remember. There was the trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee just after she turned one. I was so overwhelmed as a young mother that I left all her clothes in a hotel room in North Carolina (they shipped them to me at no charge). I wish she could remember the Smoky Mountains or the ferry ride between Maryland and Cape May.

When she was three we went to Folly Beach, South Carolina. And when she was 7 we did the road trip every family should do – once – to Disney World and the obligatory stop at “South of the Border” since she didn’t remember it from the South Carolina trip. Honestly, never need to do that again. Actually, I’d be okay with avoiding I-95 – forever. On my bucket list however is a road trip out west. She mentioned this weekend that we should do a cross country road trip (I’m 90% sure she said WE). So although my girl is growing up maybe there is still hope that she’ll still want to do another big adventure with her mom after the college-visit trips have run their course.

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The University of Maine was this weekend’s destination. On the way back we took this side trip to Boston. I told her it was kind of like a trip her dad and I took over 20 years earlier. On that trip we detoured by Lowell, Massachusetts to pay our respects at the grave of Jack Kerouac. She asked where that was and I said it was off this exit coming up. She said, “lets go!” and we did. I know that would have made her father smile. He once told me I was the only girl he knew that actually liked On the Road, and a few years ago he gave his daughter his copy when she went to him looking for a book to read that would impress her English teacher.

The best part of the trip is sometimes the detours. The unexpected twists and turns.

“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The road is always calling. The journey. An experience. Sometimes it’s on foot and sometimes it’s by car. Today it will be by car. Tomorrow I will run. Yes, Jack, the road is life.

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IMG_4853Edson Cemetery. Lowell, Massachusetts. August 2016


What to say

What to say

Having (in an eight year period) lost both of my parents, a close aunt and uncle, my dog, four jobs, my husband and had cancer, I’ve frequently been on the receiving end of friends trying to offer support. Most of whom had no idea what to say. Many found the right, at least good, words. A few did not. I forgave any gaffs very quickly, and honestly, maybe because I was too self-absorbed at the particular moment, but don’t really recall anything specific to use as an example. I’m certainly not in the position to be judgmental either. I know I haven’t always said the right thing or have had what I was trying to say be perceived all wrong. So no judgement.

So what IS the “right” thing to say? It might actually depend on who’s on the receiving end. So it’s kind of tricky. I think the best thing people said to me after my husband’s sudden and tragic death was simply to admit, “I am without words.” They were acknowledging me and the severity of my loss. Sometimes it’s not that obvious and it’s our tendency to offer condolences that include a pep talk about survival. Survival is, of course, a goal, but regardless of the loss, struggle or disappointment, everyone needs to first be acknowledged. Just a few weeks ago I said something really stupid to someone when I knew two seconds later, I simply should have said, “I imagine that’s really difficult for you.”

So acknowledge the loss. And then realize everyone needs time to grieve. Then and only then can we begin to focus on our future. I came across this article recently and shared it on Facebook…

Author Tim Lawrence says, “I am here — I have lived — because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me and alongside me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes. Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is. Healing and transformation can occur. But not if you’re not allowed to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.”

Read the full article here:

It’s a powerful piece. Yeah. Platitudes suck. I think “everything happens for a reason” can only be said by the person going through it and is never appropriate when someone dies. Who could possibly think that someone had to lose their life for another to experience growth? I know after a job loss, when I get a new job and come to the conclusion I’m better off, I might say that for myself. I know I have. I hope I’ve never said it to someone else. People need to reach their own conclusions about what brought them to personal growth.

I have always hated “god doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” WTF? Seventeen years of Catholic school and I was never taught about a god like that. A lot of people told me “you are so strong.” I wasn’t offended by it. I know they meant it as an acknowledgment and something positive, but I really didn’t feel strong. I just felt like I didn’t have a choice. And in a way, by telling me I was strong made me feel weaker when I was privately losing it; like I wasn’t living up to everyone’s expectations. But again, I understood they meant well. I didn’t hold it against anyone.

I also came across this piece recently, and if there was ever a perfect thing to say, this is probably it:

“Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky. You’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

The full response:

Nothing is trivial. Losing my dog was almost as painful as losing the people in my life. Here’s another piece worth sharing:

“Research comparing grief over the death of pets to that over the death of friends and family members has come up with different answers. A 2002 article in the journal Society & Animals that reviewed multiple studies found that the death of a companion animal can be “just as devastating as the loss of a human significant other,” not quite as severe, “far more intense” or, well, just about the same.”

Read the full article here:

Yeah. Grief is a necessary process. So sometimes the best thing you can say is often nothing at all. Be the shoulder someone needs to cry on. Be that listening ear. And just listen. Acknowledge and try to empathize.

IMG_4780Piermont, NY, August 2016

Keeping it Real

Keeping it Real

A few weeks ago a coaching client said something like, “but I’m not focused or disciplined like you…” So I feel a need to clarify a few things…

First, as a coach, I partner with a client to help them achieve their personal best, accomplish their goals, and achieve what they want to achieve. I have absolutely no agenda but theirs, I am not anywhere near “all-knowing” nor do I hold any power in or over the relationship. The power is in what the relationship is able to achieve. We do that together. And I hold clients accountable only to themselves.

Second, we’re all human. I am human. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel superhuman and on a day like that I may run really well, or check-off everything on my ‘to do” list, or make a healthy meal my teenager actually enjoys. That’s when I’m focused and disciplined. That’s when I tend to update my Facebook status.

Then there are lots of other days – that sometimes turn into weeks – where I feel sub-human. Where I just can’t get my s*** together. Like now. Back in June I wrote about how I was taking “a little break” from running. I justified it because of my need to let my post-marathon(s) body heal; that I needed to do a little more stretching and strengthening (legitimate). Except I didn’t really do that. I just goofed off. I’ve tried to get back on track, but I’ve gotten suck a rut and it’s hard to pull myself out. Getting up at 5 am to run used to be easy. I used to get up and run or swim before commuting to my job in New York City. Now I only have to go to 15 miles within New Jersey, but I can’t seem to do it. Even when I go to bed early.

I’ve had some false starts, I’ve put training plans on paper, but can’t seem to stick with it. It’s kind of embarrassing since I am coaching a weekly group summer session for my running club yet I’m being so half-assed about my own commitment at the moment.

On Facebook yesterday, a memory from last year popped up, “18 miles. 9 weeks to go. Getting serious.” I was training for the Chicago Marathon and probably close to the best physical shape of my life. Not so today. I feel like a slug. But you know, I decided to update my Facebook status anyway:

Keeping it real here on FaceBook…since I tend to post about the runs completed, perhaps time for a reality check. I am not always the focused and disciplined person you think I may be. And certainly not the person today who I was a year ago. For the last 13 weeks, I have averaged just about 7.5 miles *per week*. In an effort to get ready for a half I’m signed up for in October, yesterday I mapped out a training plan. It was going to start this morning with a simple 3 mile run at threshold pace. Clothes laid out; alarm set. What did I do when the alarm went off? Reset it for an hour later and went back to sleep!

So, no, I’m not always the focused, disciplined, or strong person I’m often perceived to be (I mean good lord, I haven’t even posted anything on this blog in two weeks!). Just like everyone. We’re human. We get into bad habits. We get lazy. The saboteur voice in our head talks us out of achieving our goals and arms us with excuses. Or sometimes, for good reason, it’s simply a matter of our priorities changing. Because we can’t do everything, we have to make choices about how we spend our time. As a coach, I help clients distinguish between the good and bad reasons they’re not getting stuff done. We clarify a client’s values and help them make choices that best honor those values, and together set out a plan for achieving what they want. I’m not an expert at much and I don’t offer advice – except maybe to suggest that we all shouldn’t put too much stock in the “perfectly, wonderful” lives everyone else is leading on Facebook.

Now to go call my own coach… 🙂

IMG_4691A view of my lake front running route on a recent trip. Chicago 2016