Browsing Tag

running

aging, Guest Posts, motherhood

Well Played

April 23, 2020
run

By Natalie Serianni

The buzzer sounds as I pull up my white soccer socks. It’s freezing; I can see my breath.

I’m inside.

Inside but outside. An old airport hangar converted into a three-field soccer complex.

The scoreboard reads 10:52 pm.

The game is a few minutes late to start, people like ants piling on to the pitch.

It’s familiar territory, this kind of a field; my home for at least 20 years of my life.

The highlight reel:

Suburbia 80’s soccer: Members Only jackets on the sidelines; my mother, her frosted hair and Reeboks cheering and clapping as we whizzed by. Kids running around orange cones or picking flowers in the corner. Learning to kick. To run.

Elementary soccer:  Billy Ocean blaring as we drill, drill, drill. Stations: moving us along down, down, down the field.

Teen games: Sweltering summer games. Cold washcloths, straight from the Coleman cooler, strategically placed on wrists and necks. On the face, the faint smell of Tide during an inhale. Calves aching, but young bodies craving movement. Able to rest, play. Repeat.

High School: Hot sun and short shorts. Boys. Are the boys looking? Here comes the boys team. Learning how to play dirty. Sitting on busses. The spaghetti dinners and “We will Rock You” piped through the PA. Warm up tapes, mixing the power of Public Enemy and Led Zeppelin. It was theatrical: the show, the spectacle instead of the game. There were parents in the bleachers; my father at every game. Home or Away, home or away. On the cusp of a bigger game.

College Soccer: Always away; so far from home. Different state, different soil. So many sprints. Practices that were competitions. Late nights lit by black lights and Rage Against the Machine in cement block dorms rooms. Hung over mornings that began with pushups, noses tickled by fresh mowed grass, trickling temple-sweat. It was four years too long.

The muscle, the memory. That competitive monster. It does not fade.

And now, present day: Indoor and on the team. 43. I’ve returned. I’ve paid my dues. I paid my registration fee and there won’t be a trophy. Or an end of season banquet where we don something other than sweats and eat Chicken Marsala in a Holiday Inn conference room. 40 year old soccer is having carpet burned knees and burning lungs. After-game pitchers of cold Coors Light and forty year olds circled around a table, talking about “sweet shots” and back slaps with Nice move out there! Sweaty socks, tiny turf bits falling out as we munch stale, hours old popcorn under buzzing fluorescent lights. It’s the joy of knowing I’ll be sore for two days; my husband tucking my babies into bed. Returning home to a quiet house. A lone, dim light above the oven, my midnight invitation to solitutude. A late, silent shower.

There is freedom on that field.

An ability to fly. Away from preparation, or list-making, or lunch-packing for others. The anchor of motherhood and other demons temporily lifted.

It’s a game and I’m playing.

It’s just play.

And I’m just a mother running and running.

Finally, running.

***

Running was my extra-curricular activity as a women’s college soccer player.

I was running to stay in shape; training for the next match. Preparing. And also, strangely,  whittling myself down to a muscle; stripping away to the leanest version of myself. Past the woman I hated; past the woman who had to be playing a sport. I ran away from myself, from my disdain, running at 5:30 in the morning to think, and think and think and think and think

…about how much I hated playing soccer.

How much I hated my body for playing this game that was no longer a game.

I remember being a college sophomore in a dank, sweaty basement gym, floor fans blasting at 11pm.

Alone.

My old monster: Working out. Losing all traces of myself.

Fanatically exercising. An hour plus on the Stairmaster was normal. Push down, push down, hold on, hold on. Whoosh, Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

Incremental Red lights on the machine dashboard, dots, Screaming: go faster! Push harder! Pulsing: Don’t slow down! 275 Calories to go! Dripping with sweat, my hands slipped off the black handrails. Add a scratchy white hand towel and the sliding became more comical: the towel and I slipping further down the machine. I prop myself back up, my sweaty body hunched over the machine in agony, pushing myself.

And this was after two hour practices on the college soccer field.

Self-sabotage. I had to work it off because bigger, stronger, meant fat.

I wasn’t. I was a muscular 20 year old woman playing a collegiate sport, feeling betrayed by her body’s strength. Where it showed; the armor I created. I needed the heaviness gone.

Why did I confuse strength with size?

More Cardio. More stairs. Only eating small sections of apples. Maybe a few raisins.

The cycle continued for a year, my legs becoming chicken bones.

Can a competitive sport turn you into the opponent?

Trying to disappear, shaming myself away from my muscular thighs and too-strong arms.

To combat this, I:

ran at odd hours and ate salads with no dressing and drank hard liquor since my college friends told me there were no calories and wore too baggy jeans and woke up starving in the middle of the night and dreamed of delicious cheese-y lasagna all while I could not brush the stench of hunger from my breath. 

There was a warped, seductive power in wearing a white v neck t-shirt with your clavicle peaking out. It screamed small. In control. Look at me, dammit. See me. I’m more than the game.

My body wanted nothing to do with this warfare. It didn’t fight back. It collapsed. A non-female body; period loss for a year and a half. Complete disconnection.

There was running. Morning miles and marathons. Hip flexors tight from repetitive repetition.

There was pulling: a row machine. Picking up: Black dumbells from their home on the rack.

There was pushing: leg lifts. A heavy bar away from my chest.

And later, babies.

Mothering is its own kind of sport, birth the ultimate sporting event. There are not many spectators, but the world has a wager on you.

Growing big and small, and big and small. The weigh ins. Once, both of our growths recorded on charts, listening for two heartbeats and placing hands with measuring tape on bellies. There was a pre-game type of excitement, energy and even anxiety: delighted worry mixed with sweet longing.

Two different babies, two different births: a 15 hour overnight labor; a quick two hour event. No medications. Contractions that split my body from its core; hunched over on all fours. Reaching through legs to pull out my bloody heart.

I pushed, plumbing my body for a strength I didn’t possess. Searching inside, trying to get out of my own way.

And then, the after. Lightness. Relief. Like the athlete, there’s recovery. Loss of fluids, blood and energy. To be replenished.

There is a sweet decline. Loss. The gestational heft that buoyed you both, your plump – the admirable warrior who carried and grew another.

Then, moving on to figuring where you fit: new mom groups, old jeans. A new life.

The focus is on the baby. But it’s also about you. Where are you?

Nine months at the mercy of a growing body: cells restoring, blood volume doubling, hearts beating simultaneously. Placenta placement? Fine. Baby measurement? Small, but healthy. You after birth?

Just you wait.

I made an intentional choice to be big, not small in mothering –  done listening to me tell me I wasn’t up for the job. I could no longer be steam rolled by my inadeqauices. Or my core-shaking anxiety: that my baby might slip through my fingers and fall on the hard wood. That I couldn’t drive with a baby in my backseat. The imagined terror that she would tumble off the overpass while strapped in the stroller. Or stop breathing without my hands lightly on her chest, feeling for movement at 3am.

I’m left to wonder about mothers, the wounds we have. The weight we carry.

Are we ever in control?

It’s what we all know: it’s work to keep the motherhood monster in the cave. The one that consistently tells us we’re not winning, but failing; we’re doing it all wrong and one step away from messing up our children. When I can’t control, I manipulate: my mind. My body.

No more.

I question my ability to protect my child. It haunts me at night. But I name my faults and know my weaknesses. I know the enormity of living a life. There, I find myself.

***

Motherless at 25, my body was betrayed. Again.

My stomach felt it first; a sucker punch to the solar plexus.

Aching: on and on and on, through the fibers of my interior.

Her body was betrayed, too: a stroke. So fast. Was there a chance for her?

For recovery, for a life?

After eighteen years of grief, I’m finally, nearly, out.

The body does, indeed, keep score.

There is emergence: the catalyst was my baby born on September 2nd. Also, My mother’s birthday. And, also, the day my mother died. Eighteen years before.

September 2nd.

At the dawn of my daughter’s life, I’m taking my mother’s lifeless, leftover years and converting them into a kind of currency.

I’m ready to play again.

I’ll slide quarters into the machine

Put me in coach I think to myself.

I gather my curls and rake them into a ponytail.

I’m warmed up, I’m primed. Loose.

I’ve loosened around my mother’s absence.

In returning to the void, I’ve found connection. Connecting me to her, me to my body. There’s power when you inhabit what you fear. Loneliness. Longing. My body used to be a container to evacuate, curse, question and crush. Today, I can embrace. Even when grief’s tentacles have taken over the ship, how we become our bodies dictates our course forward.

***

“SUB!!!!” I hear my teammate scream from the field.

I scan the field for her voice. I look to the clock: 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game.

I tuck my shirt in.

I’m looking forward to that field.

I wait for her to run over. She looks me in the eye, and our sweaty hands slap each other.

At the same time: “Good work out there” I said, starting my jog.

“You got this,” she says, breathless, winding her run down to a walk.

Let me out there, I think.

Watch out, I think.

I run towards the game.

I run towards the things I know.

Natalie Serianni is a Seattle-based writer, teacher and mother of two. Her work has appeared in Seattle’s ParentMap Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, Sammiches and Psych Meds, and various blogs and literary journals. Her writing centers on grief, gratitude and motherhood.

Upcoming events with Jen

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Fear, Gratitude, Guest Posts

WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

August 13, 2016
running

By Kate Abbott

I didn’t know it at the time, but my writing was born on the night I nearly died.   Maybe born is too strong a word but let’s just say I was incentivized by the horror.  Not the horror of what actually happened, but by what could have happened.

I am an ordinary mother.  I don’t suffer from any health issues, well except for my obsession with running, and my kids, thankfully, are well adjusted, at least most days.  I try my best to make my sons’ lives extraordinary and normal at the same time.

It started with a fifth grade science fair project.  After procrastinating to the last possible moment, my eldest came up with his concept: sleep deprivation.  He planned to keep his father up all night and take notes on whether there were hallucinations.   The only wrinkle: dad was out of the country until after the project was due.   No matter, I told my son, mom can step in.  I had an ulterior motive.   In a moment of madness known to afflict runners during post-race bliss, I had signed up for a 100 mile race.   This necessarily meant that I would be running, or if not running at least hopefully moving forward, for probably 36 hours.   An overnight training run was strongly recommended.

And that was why I was outside in the rain as Friday night turned into Saturday morning.  I was doing various loops around the neighborhood, checking in every 45 minutes to have my mental status assessed by my son, who was playing video games.  The idea was to compare the effects of sleep deprivation on a subject who was engaging in physical exercise with that of one who was engaging in a mental activity.   He’d compiled a list of math problems that we would do. Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, The Body

Night Run

May 23, 2016

By Maggie May Ethridge

I always hated running.  Running gave me rabbit ears, pink and tender, and set an ache roaring through my temples that eventually drilled deep into my ear drum, where I could then hear it beating a protest. Running made my thighs break out in large, itchy patches that I tore into, leaving long red scratch marks. Running gave me a side stitch and shin splints, a gash, a rash and purple bumps- yes, I understood Shel Silverstein’s little Peggy Ann McKay perfectly. I would and did dance for hours, lift weights, climb the Stairmaster, do yoga, pilates and hike- but I would not run.

I had birthed my last and fourth child three years ago. I was heartbroken inside my marriage and on the other side of the worst two years of parenting I’d ever experienced. I felt lost inside the needs of my large family. My weight had crept up. I wasn’t weighing myself- with two daughters, I have mostly avoided that dangerous pursuit- but I felt bloated, anchored and exhausted. In the afternoon or evening I would put on a workout DVD and give twenty or thirty minutes to movement. I still had the Kathy Ireland workout VHS from my twenties and a FIRM butt routine, and I enjoyed the ridiculousness of existence while squatting and thrusting in my living room.

One day I sat in my living room and looked at my tennis shoes and suddenly the total simplicity of running was as desirable as dark chocolate cake, orgasm, reading. I can pull on some shoes, step out of my house, and go wherever I want, I thought. Running requires nothing other than a place to run, and the will to do so. In that moment, I had both. Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts

F*ck Bravery

January 10, 2016

Trigger Warning: This essay mentions rape. 

By Lynn K Hall

I wasn’t afraid, but I should have been. I was at the start line of an ultra-marathon, and before me lay 65 miles of Colorado’s Never Summer Mountains. I’d have 24 hours to cover them, to summit multiple peaks, to traverse long stretches of alpine ridges high above trees. If we were lucky, we wouldn’t hit thunderstorms. There wouldn’t be cheering crowds like found alongside a road marathon, but instead moose, elk, bears, or mountain lions. The race director warned us to pay attention to the pink flags marking the course which may or may not follow obvious trails. A missed turn could result in being lost miles from a nearest road without cell reception, maybe in the dark and frigid night.

I squished in a gaggle of runners as the skyline above the far mountains lightened to navy blue. Some breathed warmth into their curled fingers. Others re-organized their gear and food in their running vests. I crossed my arms across my chest and squeezed my biceps. I was numb. Apathetic. I smiled and chatted with my friends but the excitement was an act. I didn’t care about the race. I didn’t have room in my psyche to worry about mountain lions, lightning, or hypothermia.

***

Ultra-marathons are Rorschach tests. Tribulations in the mountains’ extreme environments – the exhaustion and vulnerability – elicit a depth of feelings not typically dwelled upon by your consciousness. The emptiness of miles upon miles becomes the canvas on which you project your deepest state of mind.

Nobody signs up for a 65-mile race because they want it to be easy.

***

I had woken up at two a.m. that morning, thoughts unstoppable. I wasn’t dwelling on the race. I was perseverating on my book, a memoir, a hypothetical, pie-in-the-sky dream I’d been chasing for the better part of a decade. It was a story of having been sexually abused as a teenager and raped again while a cadet at the Air Force Academy. The story contained many heroes, but most notably, it was a testimony brimming with accusations. Against multiple perpetrators. Against the institutions which protected them. Against the doctor who failed me. Against the squadron that ostracized me and told me they’d let me die in combat. Against the family members who didn’t believe me.

My memoir was an admission of my weaknesses. My failures to protect myself, to help myself, to be strong.

After years of writing and re-writing, I had a draft I was proud of. I had landed a New York literary agent who told me my memoir was wonderful. I was one publisher’s “yes” away from a book deal.

Years ago I had lost my dream of becoming an Air Force pilot, but now I had a new dream, a better dream, and one “yes” would transform that dream into a reality. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Step By Step

August 14, 2015

By Ginger Sullivan

It is hard to believe over 30 years have passed. I was a spry young thing. The mysterious underdog. Everyone worried if I ate enough. And why on earth would anyone be up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, dressed and out the door regardless of the weather?

Sometimes, I look back on those days and question my own sanity. What was I running from? Was I that intolerant of my own feelings? Was I masochistic to my own burgeoning body as a young woman? Was I trying to prove something to someone? Reflecting on those days, I often feel sadness and regret for all that I missed out on. The normalcy of adolescence. The girly-girl stuff. The endless giggling about sissy stuff that I passed up as superficial or uninteresting. And yet, there are the moments when I look back on that time with gratitude. I appreciate the life lessons that those experiences have embedded in me. After all these years later, I often find myself tapping into whatever it was that kept me going mile after mile.

As a nationally ranked, award-winning long-distance runner, I was a force to be reckoned with. When I started out, I just ran as long and as fast as my legs would carry me. It wasn’t until later that I learned that even the boys had a hard time keeping up with me. I moved through the system – elementary school track team, summer Junior Olympics, middle school cross-country. I was voted most valuable runner as a freshman on the varsity high school cross-country team. I was ranked nationally as a top miler, hitting sub-five minutes time and time again. I was awarded trips to national meets in California. The mailbox was filled with college scholarship interest. I won enough medals, trophies and ribbons to wallpaper a good-sized room.

But then, I grew up and in running years, I grew old. My knees creaked and cracked and could no longer bear the weight of the repetitive pounding. There were no more trophies to earn or newspaper reporters interested in talking to me. It was just me … facing life, without the constant pressure to perform and the corresponding glory of another race won. I had to find normalcy in the everyday that was not timed, recorded, applauded and rewarded.

The trophies are now packed away, gathering dust in a box in the basement. And I certainly have good stories to tell my children. However, the best showing I have for all that hard work are the internalized experiences that provide a constant supply of resources and reflections as my mid-life has taken on a different race – one that needs just as much stamina and strength. My life these days is like strapping on a backpack loaded with bricks, day in and day out. Some of those bricks are long-term challenges that need daily tending and care, with no immediate outcome or relief in sight. Others are shameful mistakes I have made and represent one step, one day at a time, climbing out of a hole I dug myself. Yet, just like that ten-mile training run, I start. One foot in front of the other. And then another. And then the next one. There is no end insight. You just do what you know to be right, mile after mile, day after day.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

What You Do When The Sh*t Hits The Fan (or When Cancer Comes Back.)

April 28, 2013

One of my tribe members, Kathleen Emmets, from my Kriplalu retreat sent me this beautiful piece show wrote and I just had to share. Please send love and dance parties.

What You Do When The Sh*t Hits The Fan (or When Cancer Comes Back.) by Kathleen Emetts.

I am the queen of the mixtape.

Boyfriend broke up with you? I’ve got a playlist for you. Need an intense workout mix? I will have you running at top speed, no problem. Diagnosed with cancer at 35? Hmmm…it just so happens I have a great mix for that, too.

When I was diagnosed with colon cancer on July 19th, 2011, I felt lost, scared and pissed…really pissed. This isn’t supposed to happen to someone my age. What kind of fuckery is this? It didn’t make sense. So on July 20th, I did what I always do when I feel untethered; I made a playlist.

I labeled this one ‘Survivor’. It started with Melissa Etheridge’s, ‘I Run For Life’ and ended with The Beatles ‘Let It Be’. Some songs in between were motivational, some just allowed me to cry. They quickly became the soundtrack for healing both my body and my spirit. And God knows I needed both.

During 18 months of grueling chemotherapy, I lost my hair and often my ability to walk. The drugs I was on limited my mobility, causing my hands and feet to lock up. My once trademark strut turned into a sad, slow shuffle.

This lasted for about 4 days after treatment; which I received every 2 weeks. But, as soon as I was able to move again, that playlist was on and I was dancing!

I will fully admit to not being the best dancer in the world. The only thing worse than my dancing is my singing, which I do at full volume…neighbors be damned. To be able to move my body again, to allow the power of music to recharge my soul made me feel alive. It was my companion during the darkest hours of my life. It also helped me to celebrate the amazing moment when I was told treatment was over…cancer free! So many long walks by the beach; listening to Louis Armstrong’s, ‘What A Wonderful World’ and smiling as I watched the sunset.

I made meditation playlists to calm me when I went for scans, which always brought anxiety and fear. But no amount of Snatam Kaur could alleviate the stress from this latest one. The cancer was back and it was spreading. Damn it. Body shaking sobs erupted; my hands balling into angry fists that punched my thighs. During the ride home from the hospital, I didn’t play my music, I didn’t do anything except stare out the window and allow my tears to fall.

Phone calls were placed, visitors arrived, life stood still once more. But it never stands still, does it? It keeps going along whether you want it to or not.

So many times I want to hit pause. Like when my son hugs me. Pause. Let me breathe you in. Hold on to me forever. Don’t let go. When my family is all around me. Pause. Look at me while I’m healthy. Remember me this way. When I’m dancing. Stop…hammer time! Or collaborate and listen…or stop in the name of love. Whatever the reason, just stop and dance. We take it all too seriously.

If I could do it all again, I would trust more. Trust that life works out the way it is supposed to. Trust that we don’t always see the larger picture until years later and maybe, even then, it won’t totally make sense. But it does eventually. Trust in that.

Dance more, sing more…sing badly. Who cares?? Anyone listening will envy your free spirit. And if they don’t, screw ’em. Like I said, who cares?? I dance everywhere now; in my car, in my kitchen, at Starbucks…if you’re ever behind me, join in and we can start a conga line.

Yesterday I began my new chemo pill regime. It’s a pretty intense dosage and I’m praying it does its job.

This morning in the shower I was blasting Katrina and the Waves’, ‘Walking On Sunshine’ and dancing around while I scrubbed my hair with shampoo. As I pulled my hands away I noticed far too many strands had fallen out. Pause. I sunk to the shower floor as the music faded away. I began to cry for all that I had been through and all I was, again, about to face.

I allowed this moment and then I got up, hit play again and kept on dancing because, sometimes, that’s all we can do.

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Kathleen Emmets is an avid music lover and yoga enthusiast. She believes in seeking out the good in all things and being her most authentic self. Her articles have appeared in MindBodyGreen and Do You Yoga. She writes about her experience with cancer in her blog, cancerismyguru.blogspot.com. Kathleen lives in East Norwich, NY with her husband, son, 2 cats and dog. She does not necessarily love them in that particular order. You can find her on Facebook here.

Daily Manifestation Challenge

RUN-DMC. Today’s DMC.

November 17, 2011

DMC= Daily Manifestation Challenge

I had to do it.

Get it? The DMC as in Daily Manifestation Challenge?

Do you ever feel like running? As in: running away from it all? As in: not being present? As in: escaping your life? As in: feeling like if you moved away life would be somehow better? 

Today’s Daily Challenge is about the idea of running away rather than looking within or at what is.

For a long time, it was not just a a metaphor for me. I literally ran and ran and ran. I was an exercise-aholic. Instead of facing anything in my life, I simply ran.

When I was 18 and I got a call that my step-father Carl had died in his sleep, I simply hung up the phone, laced up my sneaks and ran for two hours around Cooper River in New Jersey. It was an old habit of mine, this not wanting to feel anything.

I am sure it was the same impetus that drove me to get skinnier and skinnier. The less I weighed the less I felt. Bla bla. You have heard all of these things before if you have ever known someone with an eating disorder.

I eventually got tired of running.

Literally.

Run-DMC (They love my DMCs!)

I discovered yoga. I discovered that if I sat quietly with myself I could begin to heal old wounds and, more importantly perhaps, I could begin to be present in my life.

I spent many years being very much not present.

In fact, I can barely remember my 20’s.

I know sometimes life sucks. There, I said it.

I have a friend that you all know by now, Emily Rapp, whose baby is dying from Tay Sachs. I am sure in her fantasies she wishes she could just run away from her life.

Ain’t gonna happen.

She writes a daily blog about what she is going through called Little Seal, she exercises (a lot), she teaches her writing classes at the University, she is publishing a book, she calls her friends for support (me) and she sits with her sweet baby and husband and tries to be present as best she can be.

She does what she needs to do even when the impulse is to RUN!

Today’s DMC: Where can you stop running in your life? Where can you look at what “is” and accept it. (Remember the mantra from an earlier DMC: “And so it is“?)  Have there been instances in your life where you have run away? Please share any and all comments about this idea of Running. I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Brave Ones.

Keep Manifesting Your Life,

One Laugh at a Time,

ManifestYogaJen

PS, if you want to support Emily and baby Ronan who has Tay Sachs buy a Manifestation T-shirt. All money goes to charity. Click here. And if you are not getting a shirt but still want to pay it forward, please share link. It also goes toward Prader Willi Research, which my nephew Blaise has.

And Dear Manifesters, please stop running. Walk instead. In fact, walk this way…..

 

 

And speaking of Run-DMC, follow RevRunWisdom on Twitter. How do you like that? Used to be in Run-DMC and now is a motivational leader. So inspiring!

 

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