Metaphors

I’ve been absent from my blog. One reason is that for the first few weeks after my concussion, I wasn’t supposed to read or write or think too much. [in addition to everything else in the world I enjoy(ed)]

A second reason is that I just haven’t felt like it. After about a month to five weeks most of my symptoms started clearing up–dizziness, overwhelm, brain fog, not thinking clearly, anxiety, depression, cognitive lapses like missing words–and I was able to slowly incorporate more mental activity into my life. I’ve even been doing some creative writing. The only lagging symptoms were headache, some visual intolerances (I couldn’t tolerate looking at fast-moving or visually complicated things like animated or action-filled movies, some blurry vision) and a bit of dizzy/lightheaded blood pressure faint feeling.

On Monday, I received the Christmas present I was waiting for, the hope that kept me going for six weeks of being sedentary and at times patiently, but more often, impatiently, waiting to get better: All clear to exercise. My Christmas wish.

Better for Christmas, better for Christmas, I can make it to Christmas.

My neuropsychologist said he thought I was good to go. PT agreed. GO forth and exercise (hold off on heavy weights until I get an MRI of my neck and rule out physical issues ongoing).

Christmas Eve I ran three miles. I wanted to cry from the sheer joy of running again. This was what I wanted. I’m running, I’m running. I love to run!

olaf

Then Wednesay, boom! I felt like I woke up three weeks ago, back into a mess of concussion symptoms. This is like a race where the finish line keeps moving, but it’s not even a race, because races are fun.

It’s more like a rollercoaster ride you never wanted to go on, and when you finally roll into the platform, weary and starting to catch your breath, you try to push up the bar.

But the bar snaps down again and off you go…for another round.

Now I’m on an upswing again, because it’s Friday and I feel better and PT thinks some of the symptoms are from my neck/inner ear/ocular blah blah blah issues instead of concussion returning.

I’m going to try a stationary bike workout and see what happens.

Wish me luck.

Again.

Again again again.

 

PS> I’m working on a longer post about this whole experience, and how I’ve weirdly grown spiritually from this crap. But I need to be in a better place to work on it. Let’s see.

 

 

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Soul Cycle Review

Just don’t call it biking, and we will be okay: My Soul Cycle review.

 

 

 

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Almost Three Week Update

So this concussion thing is my least favorite thing since… my entire life.

I’m not sure I can write about it yet, I’m still too IN it to do it justice. Tuesday will be three weeks. I feel better about it all, thanks mostly to acupuncture (miracle of miracles) but the previous two weeks have been among the hardest of my life, no hyperbole. Well, maybe a smidge of hyperbole. It all goes down better with some hype.

I’m feeling finally a bit optimistic and positive but to say I haven’t been positive up until a few days ago is a gross understatement. Right now, words aren’t quite coming as easily as normally (which is very easily, so to be 80% of me means I can still scribble things off but of course, I want to be 100% me. Don’t we all?) and I’m not super dizzy, so this is a good day. Most of all, I am scared. I am scared I’m not going to get better soon enough, or soon, or ever. I don’t know why I fear this so much. I think it’s just something about having your own brain feel foreign to you, like I imagine your immune system must feel when it gets a new heart in. The heart may be great in the end, hell, for all you know it may end up an overall win for your life, maybe it’s a way more empathetic and kind and loving heart than that old clunker you just got rid of, but our bodies are kind of used to their parts, you know? They’re fused and the regrowth, the grafting of new feels terrifying, it feels invasive and wrong and sudden, it feels full of grief, even as it also feels weirdly liberating and expansive.

This explains it pretty well:

I sincerely hope I recover sooner than she did, I’d like to run, and be myself, and not be dizzy and be able to take my daughter to see Frozen before it’s out of theaters. That’s my Christmas wish list, to be well by Christmas. I will do whatever I can.

Resting of course is problematic. Mary Poppins the full-time concussion care nurse will not sweep into my chimney but I have a few tools and plans in place and some specialist docs to see this week.

Wish me well! I was very attached to my old noggin, it’s served me well these 32 years. If I can’t get it screwed on quite the same way again, at least I hope I will get a better, upgraded version. Post traumatic growth is the name for it, and weirdly enough I already feel it. I can’t stop being deep and profound all the time. So sorry for more deep and profound. My neural rewiring is just happening this way.

Right now I’m just happy the worst of the emotional fog is lifting. I’ve never been one for fantasy and role-playing games likeĀ  Jane, the creator of the Concussion Slayer from the video above, but I’m throwing up my hoodie and at least taking posturing selfies. I’m ready to fight this and come back 100% sooner rather than later.

 

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The one in which I envision the universe as a female deity and then call her “bro.”

Dear Universe:

Some may shy away from bad luck or misfortune by hiding away, fearful of inciting your further wrath. Fuck that. Here is my respectful middle finger. I know you wield ultimate power and that things happen without reason or without meaning I can discern with my lowly monkey brain but this monkey doesn’t give a shit.

This is my profanity-filled and profanity-fueled stand. I am made of titanium. I was birthed in steel.

Under my skin are phoenix bones. I eat ashes for breakfast and regurgitate them as art, as power, as thought life and children by night time. You can wound me and I will not break.

Peel back my eyelids and yes, there is pain, and hardening against all the disappointments of a life, any old life, and there is the tiredness of knowing and seeing injustice and sadness but doesn’t that make us the same after all? You with your unrelenting seeing, the beauty of all your seasons and everything on earth you’ve made, and me, here in the maelstrom of deed, of fact and happenstance and circumstance, of action and thought and yet not knowing, never knowing what is coming next.

But I know only this one thing. I will rise again. And again and again if you must, if your green Mother Earth incarnation feels the need to shower more shit on my head, if the tornado is up my alley, if you’re aiming a bowling ball right between my eyes, it’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. Come at me, bro.

(Runs, ducks and hides).
Me.

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i guess i’m not okay

So turns out I’m not really okay. I hope I will BE okay at some point in the near future. In fact, this situation feels so bleak to me that I felt the need to actually write down anything GOOD I could think about it. And by GOOD I mean NOT AS BAD AS IT COULD BE.

I have whiplash (cervical sprain) and the doctor today wasn’t immensely reassuring. Amidst the haze of forms, insurances, crying, and trying to cope for my children, there is more crying, because he didn’t say, Well you’ll be back to running and health in no time. I also have some form of concussion. I’m still waiting to find out more details when I see a neurologist tomorrow.

the grateful list post accident

1. Henry wasn’t hurt (this is worth Infinity points)

2. We didn’t have to be admitted to the hospital

3. Both whiplash and a concussion are not PERMANENT injuries

4. I was strong and fit when I got hurt, so I will recover

5. I am determined to get back to my old physical level 100%, determination will help

6. I didn’t black out or lose consciousness; whatever level of concussion I have is likely to be mild.

7. I can always get back into shape, once a runner or an athlete always a runner

8. I can access good medical care

9. They totaled our car and we will get a nice new one

10. I can relax and spend time doing things with Henry while Anna is in school until I can run again

11. I may be allowed to ride a recumbent bike and do light weights soon

12. I will be more grateful for my health

13. Brand new car seats and stroller and maybe I’ll even sue because I’m fucking mad

14.I still have my family and my beautiful children

15. We have food and the basics of life

16. I can always laugh

17. I likely (?is this true?) won’t suffer long term symptoms and I can manage whatever comes

18. If exercise and physical therapy can help me get well, I will do it

19. I am tough and resilient, I can handle a lot

20. I am alive and I have a long life ahead of me to do all the things I want and know I can do once I’m healthy.

21. I’ve been injured and thought I wouldn’t recover for a long time and it all ended up okay in the end. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m optimistic.

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Whiplash!

It’s not just a metaphor.

I’m not sure I can write about the past few days in a linear way. I feel like I can only touch on it obliquely, from the sides. Like:

Yesterday was the first day in three that I didn’t walk around with vomit on my clothes, unable to find the moment to change.

(Henry’s vomit. No time, because the three days were a blur of after hours pediatric clinic, breathing treatments, bronchiolitis, cranky clinging baby clinging and cranking to an extreme previously unimaginable, vomit, steroids, vomit, Albuterol, more doctor, breathing checks, counting breathing, frantic Googling, freezing cold outside temperatures, no way to run, DAMMIT, then driving home from the pediatrician on Tuesday morning, we stopped to pick up his prescriptions at the drugstore, dropped off Anna at preschool, drove the half mile toward home, stopped to make a left onto my street like I’ve done a million times before, sitting there with my blinker on, waiting for a pause in oncoming traffic, and then I look into my rear view mirror and see a car. Barreling. Is he going to stop? I wonder. He’s. not. stopping.

Slam.)

Henry is okay. I am okay. I have some whiplash. We did go in an ambulance to the hospital to get him checked out. Today he seems past the worst point of the bronchiolitis/breathing issues. Our car is totaled, towed away, we have a rental, we’re all still kind of a mess though. .

Did I mention the driver had no license and was all at the scene lying like I had no blinker on and I stopped shorting and I’m running into my house with my baby and all I can do is put on his favorite Elmo movie, the one we put on for him when we have to give him the nebulizer and he’s running around pointing “LMO LMO” he says ELMO now because he’s so obsessed with this movie, he’s waving to the EMTs and the volunteer firemen and showing them Elmo, my son who seems delightfully normal at this moment. When I tell you that I ran on adrenaline for the rest of the day, well, that’s an understatement. I didn’t even feel my body until 6 p.m. I hadn’t had a bite of food or more than a single cup of coffee all day and I wasn’t even tired despite sleeping no more than four hours in two nights.

So now for the immediate future, I see terror. I’m terrified driving with the kids now. I’m terrified every car behind me is coming for me. I’m terrified I won’t be able to get back to running and fitness soon, my lifeline, my sanity. I’m terrified of his breathing. I’m terrified I will never get a break from this relentless stress.

I feel like my life right now is that moment when Tom Hanks holds up the volleyball and thrusts it at the sky, like COME AT ME BRO (Bro being The Universe) like what else ya got for me? I can take it. I can take it.

I think I need this shirt.

My husband told me last night that I was so strong. You’re so strong, you’re so brave, you’re doing such a good job.

I don’t want to be brave. I said. I want to be happy.

 

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Retiring and Responding

I’m trying to retire. Nope, not from running. On the contrary, I’m eating, sleeping, reading (the hilarious Let’sRun.com forums mostly) breathing and talking running. And running. I’m running way more than I ever have, six days per week, 35 miles or so, a lot for me, my first double digit long run in there, and I love it. I’m on a running binge.

But I’m trying to retire my boobs. It’s going…slowly. I’ve been trying to decrease day nursings down as far as Henry will allow without making a big deal over it. I figure it has to be a gradual process, and he’s only 13 months old. I don’t want a traumatic abrupt process, I just want to be done. Soon. Even if the whole thing takes six months. Night weaning is another bear, and I haven’t gotten to that yet. I’m happy to leave the going to bed nursing for a bit. There have been a lot of days in the past two weeks that he didn’t nurse at all until 6 pm or so. He eats a ton of food but doesn’t love whole milk.

I know they don’t need whole milk, but I tried the vanilla organic milk boxes and he’s so-so on those. He’d rather drink water and juice and eat cheese and yogurt. The problem is nursing is not just about sustenance. It’s all about comfort and going to sleep. I never realized when I was so eager to be successful at breastfeeding a year ago that once you’re in…it’s not so simple to get OUT. He doesn’t take a pacifier and doesn’t sleep without nursing. It’s going to a long, complex road I’m sure but I’m heading down it. I’ve even considered giving him a BOTTLE, anything to as an interim step to get him used to sleeping OFF of me, somehow.

I’m still not really sure how to do all this. None of my friends have any advice. They either supplemented a lot of with bottles early on, so that by the time their babies were a year old they were already weaned in the sense that they weren’t used to nursing in an on demand way. The standard advice to “reduce feedings one by one for a week at a time” is useless, bordering on the absurd for me. Henry is 13 months old, he never had a feeding schedule to begin with, never mind now. And anyway the problem isn’t just reducing FEEDING, it’s not even about feeding. It’s about attachment, and comfort, and habit, and sleep. It’s hard.

Although now that it’s getting cold and he had his bad breathing virus experience I’m thinking if he gets even a bit of breast milk over this winter it won’t be so bad. The spring may be a better time to go completely without the immunity. Who knows how much immune boosting he gets from the amount of nursing we do now though? He is croupy coughing right now as I type this. I’m getting worried it’s going to be one of those winters.

But I really want to sleep all night. It’s been 13 months. Blegh. Anyway, running. I love running. I think my training plan is working. Whenever I run without the jogging stroller I hit my paces and feel pretty good. Stringing together seven something miles in the middle of longer runs, on tired legs, or as repeats in a speed workout gives me some confidence that on a taper in a few weeks I can reach my goal: a 10K PR.

That means I have to break 50 minutes, and run 6.2 miles at about 8 flat pace, maybe 7:50. I know I CAN do it. The question is, can I on that day? Will I be up 45 times the night before? Will I have a good race? Can I finally get a new personal best after almost two years of pregnancy and then lackluster post-partum running?

One weird thing I’ve been doing lately on runs is kind of mentally envisioning myself as what I want to be: a good runner. An athlete. A runner. I say to myself, you are a runner. You have the ability. You have a good Vo2 Max (lol). You are a good training RESPONDER.

That's a Destiny's Child song, no?

You can get fast.

And for better or worse, I believe it.

I came across this test that can supposedly measure your genetic potential to RESPOND to aerobic training. I pitched it as a story idea to a magazine I write for, which would then mean I’d be the guinea pig and would get the test done.

But I wouldn’t want to know. What if the test results came back and said: You are Low Responder? How demoralizing would that be? The test makers defend the utility of this, arguing that if you know you are a low responder, you can focus on other things, like weight training or cross training or overall fitness and not a futile kind of quest to run 80 miles per week and then wonder why you aren’t getting faster.

But me? I don’t want to know. I’m going to run through the woods, pretending-believing that my potential is unlimited.

I’m going to keep getting better. Even if better goes in a circle and it just means I keep coming back to where I was before, but with more wrinkles, and gray hairs, and war stories behind me. Even if it means a measly seven second new personal best, this time with no sleep.

I’m a responder.

 

How about you? Would you take that test? Would it bother you if it said you were a LOW responder?

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Eat Food, Mostly Edible

SO Update to my last post about being super slow with the stroller since I’ve upped my weekly miles: I ran my tempo run without the stroller this week and I was fine, I hit like slightly under my tempo pace for five miles. So I’m totally blaming the jogging stroller for everything. But you all had some good advice that I’m taking to heart. This whole idea of doing lots of easy runs is new to me, and I’m embracing it. It’s a change of pace but I’m accepting that if I have to run 11 minute miles sometimes with the stroller that’s what I will do. I want to train smart and race fast.

Anyway I want to talk food. Because I love food. And I eat a lot of it. I read this op-ed the other week, about a parent who decided to stop trying to make their picky eater eat their vegetables. I have a very picky eater (four-year-old) and an easy eater (one -year-old). I WAS a very, very picky eater as a kid and yet as an adult, I am an adventurous foodie type. I will eat everything. I love vegetables, bitter greens, brussel sprouts, fish, kale, escarole, radicchio, frisee. I eat that shit for breakfast. I also eat junk and potato chips and brownies and Halloween candy for breakfast, if I want to. I just eat whatever I want. It’s fun, you should try it sometime.

Look how happy I am, knowing I will be eating Reese's cups for weeks to come.

But growing up, my father was of the clean your plate school of parenting. Unfortunately, he was also a terrible cook. Sorry, Dad. He made tasteless frozen vegetables with no salt or fat added. Think mushy, tinny cooked carrots and those big bags of cauliflower mixed with broccoli except the root parts were like mildly undercooked and toothy. It’s a wonder I ever grew up to like vegetables at all.

I had to sit at the table until the food was gone. It did go…into my jewelry box, pockets, the toilet bowl, the closet. We didn’t have a family dog. One time my grandmother came over and mercifully threw away the plate I was still sitting in front of hours later. I was supposed to eat the entire baked potato, skin too. I gagged on every bite. I also had to drink a huge glass of milk with every dinner. Now, don’t get horrified, I wasn’t an abused child, I just had a parent who was concerned about my nutrition in a well-meaning but misguided way. My mom worked nights a lot but if she was home she made much better food and was way more lenient. But I will never forget the horror of being asked to swallow food that I couldn’t get past my tongue.

I wasn’t filling up on too much crap either, I was just a light eater. One time the doctor told my mother I had to gain weight. I think I was like eight. I just preferred to sit around and color and read Sleepover Club novels. This is amusing to me now, because I eat like a famished teenaged racehorse boy. I eat a ton. Like, I eat more than I see most people eat. I don’t know if I have a fast metabolism? I do work out a lot. I’m also not stick skinny.

[Have you heard about that study that connects butt size to brains and longevity? Yeah. I’m way running with this theory. I gotta feed my booty so I can continue to be a superior human being.]

The bigger your butt, the smarter your children are? You're welcome, kids.

Like right now, I’m about to eat a Kashi roasted vegetable pizza. Now, I’m not sure, is this SUPPOSED to be a personal pizza? Because I’m eating it as one segment of lunch. There was also a leftover bagel half, a Butterfinger I stole from trick or treating loot, a small spinach pie, and there will probably be more after the pizza appetizer.

I kind of love running more, not because I GET to eat more (I will fucking eat as much as I want forever and everĀ  in a manner NOT related to any physical exertion) but because it’s MAKING me HUNGRIER.

FEED US

But anyway, back to the hot topic of force-feeding kids. My personal experience leads me to be kind of lax on this. I feel like the more it becomes a battle the worse I fare. It is frustrating to deal with Anna’s eating. She’s very picky and is always asking for sweets. She has a tremendous sweet tooth and refuses most vegetables, mixed dishes, and meat.

Right now she’s inexplicably eating lox cream cheese. Who knew she would ever eat that…so I’m going with it. Lox cream cheese for lunch every day it is. At least Henry will eat what I cook.

Were you a picky eater as a kid? Did you grow out of it? Do you believe in forcing your kids to finish their peas? Do you eat like a bird or like you have an intestinal worm like me?

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Questions for Smart Runners

I posted before about following a real running plan for the first time in pretty much ever. I’ve been glad to find out that I can run almost every day and easily do 25 miles per week (was running three or four times per week and usually around 15 miles per week before this) without injury. BUT I have been really slow.

Like really really really really slow.

At least I can do a few of these?

I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, from increasing miles, and eventually my body will make the gains and I will be faster. This makes sense to me theoretically so I hope it’s happening. I run with the jogging stroller Monday through Friday so I can’t really tell if I’m hitting my tempo paces. On the weekend I run without it for a long run, where I have struggled to hit the last couple of miles at goal pace as my plan calls for.

At least until they sit on my head.

Then the Great Bronchitis of 2013 hit and I had to take off a lot of days. I took off five days, thinking that HAD to make me better, than ran five more than took off three again. Today I started Week Four of my plan for the third week in a row. I don’t want to skip the week since I think I need to repeat it and actually get the key workouts in (tempo and long run.)

Maybe some smarter running brains than mine know the answer – Is it okay to just run with the jogging stroller at a pace that feels the same exertion-wise as my tempo run pace even if it’s almost two minutes per mile slower or is it key for me to hit the tempo pace? If so, I can finagle running without the stroller during the week one day for a tempo run, even if means running at 7 p.m. in the dark (boo.)

Also, is it normal to expect to get slower before I get faster? Or do I just suck?

Don’t answer that last one.

 

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Gosh Darn It I’m Good Enough

I’m currently working on an article about New Year’s Resolutions and why we fail so spectacularly at them.

I spoke with Tara Newman, who is a healthy lifestyle blogger by night but an organizational psychologist and goal setting coach by day. She had a lot of really thought-provoking things to say about what goals we set, how we should approach making changes and common pitfalls. It got me to thinking.

See, “my friend” has a little problem with yelling sometimes. Well, not really a friend. A little birdie that lives in my yard and has my face and name is what I mean.

Yelling.

Now, I have to preface this by explaining that yelling seems normal to me. I grew up in a half-Italian family where yelling was just one setting on a vast dial of emotion, one that could slip momentarily into happiness, elation, anger, sadness, and myriad other expressions and then back as if it had never happened. Like a loose dial that could spin around and around. You were never meant to be upset about the yelling because kissing and love and tomato sauce were around the corner. It never meant anything. Just an opera of unmediated human expression.

The problem is other people don’t experience it this way, people like my dad, and my husband, and the vast hordes of pale Northern Europeans that have mostly populated North America, and even me, even with that upbringing, I know it’s not quite right. It’s not the way to be. But at moments of stress, exasperation, overwhelmed, I revert back to what I know. The easiest path. The worst response. I’d like to not yell as much.

Tara brought up the point that a good way to start is to do a little research. Why do I yell? What happens right before it, both externally and inside my brain? What are the circumstances surrounding it? Do I really mean to say something else, perhaps:

UNCLE!

Or I GIVE UP Or I NEED TIME ALONE Or I’D LIKE TO GET ON THE FIRST GREYHOUND BUS TO FUCKING ALBANY I DON’T EVEN CARE WHERE IT’S GOING BUT THEN I’LL MISS MY KIDS SO I BETTER STAY HERE AND YELL BECAUSE NO ONE IS GETTING DRESSED AND I HAVEN’T BEEN ALONE IN THE LAST 500 HOURS

Or whatever. And then instead of just setting the goal to “not yell,” which is way too big and unwieldy and non-specific, I should set action-oriented smaller goals like 1. Plan for a small mental break each day to keep sane and avoid getting overwhelmed 2. Express my feelings in other ways and so on…

So I’m going to try this jazz. Me and Stuart Smalley, we up in this bitch.

Yell Free 2014, here we come. This is going to require a lot of drinking, but please note I did not say Drink Free 2014. I’m good enough, but I’m not a saint.

 

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