You know how sometimes you feel like you are the Best Parent in the World? Yeah, today isn’t one of those days for me.
My oldest decided to try out for the select basketball team in our area. He’s always loved basketball, and he’s pretty good at it. But in the midst of soccer season, he neglected to even pick up a basketball prior to the tryout. I still thought he’d do okay, though.
The day of the tryout, he came to me practically in tears. He said he didn’t want to go; he wasn’t interested in playing basketball anymore. This turned into a long discussion, and we eventually ferreted out that he was worried he wouldn’t be able to perform. On the one hand, it’s good he has Jason and me as parents — Jason understands the psychology of sports, and I (sort of) understand the complexity of Jack’s anxiety. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like I upset him more by discussing all those emotions at one time, and Jason is sometimes at a real loss as to why Jack feels so intensely.
We talked him into going the tryout. And he didn’t do great. The kid I saw on the court was not the one I watched all last season in recreational league. This new kid was reserved, nervous and not giving his best effort. Normally, Jack is pretty competitive. He dives for loose balls and blocks bigger opponents without a second thought.
He didn’t make the team. Worse yet, most of his friends did. Despite his feeling ambivalent about playing for the season, he was crushed. He didn’t make excuses; he realized this was less about his talent and more about attitude and work ethic. My heart hurt for him.
I did my best to comfort him and reminded him to learn from this experience. There will be more tryouts to come. I told him failure is a part of life, and it’s how we grow. In my head, though….
I was berating myself for not signing him up for that basketball clinic earlier in the year. I was angry at myself for not making him eat before the tryout, even though he insisted he didn’t want to. I felt like I failed right along with him. He’s 10, right? I’m supposed to know these things.
When my cooler parenting head prevails, I know this experience was good for him — that it will only make him stronger and smarter in the future. It’s just that as his mom, I have the intense urge to shield him from pain. I finally understand why it made my mom so nervous whenever my sister or I tried out for anything.
We will move on. Odds are, when Jack gets home from school today, he will already be mostly over it. My oldest kiddo is sensitive and emotionally complex like me. He’s also tough, and I like to think he gets that at least partially from me as well.
Maybe it’s good I didn’t make him practice before or make him eat or whatever else I think I could have done to change the outcome. Maybe this lesson, this version of falling down, will teach him how to get back up again. Hey, maybe I learned something too.
I’ve always thought of the pro-life/pro-choice issue as polarizing, and in today’s political discussion, it sure feels that way. Recently, however, I realized something: it doesn’t have to be.
When I was in high school, I used to roll my eyes as my guy friends argued and postured with each other. Their classic argument:
Guy 1: I’m stronger.
Guy 2: No, I can swim faster.
Guy 1: No, I’m stronger.
Guy 2: But I can swim faster!
They thought they were in disagreement when they weren’t even expressing two opposing viewpoints. It was ridiculous; they were defensive and insecure and/or just liked to argue.
Similarly, the pro-life and pro-choice viewpoints don’t have to be diametrically opposite from each other. You can believe that life is sacred and still believe in a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion. But really, whatever you believe about the legality of abortion, I bet there are a few things — vitally important things — most of us on both sides of the issue can agree on.
No one is like, “Yeah, abortions are awesome. SO much fun!” Even those of us who believe they ought to be legal see it as a last resort. What I’d much prefer is that we dispense with arguing with each other and start talking about what we can do to support women during their reproductive years to reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy — something we can do through improved health care; more robust, consistent sex education; and access to birth control. What would happen if we took all the energy we spend shouting, “Get your laws off my body,” and, “Abortion is murder,” and used it to solve those issues?
We can all stand around with our signs, our chants, and our self-righteous rhetoric, or we can talk to each other like rational adults and actually DO something to improve outcomes for women of all races, religions, sexual orientations and socioeconomic statuses. We are all in this thing together, and I do mean ALL of us — not just white people or women or straight people or able-bodied people — every last person on this earth. Let’s finally act like it.
Several months ago, my friend Jasmine said, “Hey, let’s put together a Ragnar team!” I’d had a couple of glasses of wine, so I said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea! What’s Ragnar again?”
Ragnar is a 24-hour trail relay race. Eight team members take turns running three different loops at three, five and seven-and-a-half miles. I’d maybe run five miles once when I committed to this, so I was way out of my comfort zone. And as our team came together — a formidable group of marathon runners and Crossfit champions, I began to worry about holding up my end of the bargain. We each had to submit our “10K road pace,” and since I’d never run a 10K, I guessed. I was quite obviously the weakest link, which made me uncomfortable.
I’ve been pretty good at almost everything I’ve ever done. Yes, I’m a coordinated, talented person, but what I realized as a part of this all-star team was that I gravitate towards things at which I can excel reasonably easily — activities where I can be in the upper echelon of ability. Being more introspective than I was in my younger years, I decided that being the weakest link was good for me in a “get comfortable being uncomfortable” kind of way. I did repeatedly make sure no one was intent on winning this thing. My goal was to complete my loops without hurting myself, especially considering two of my loops would be run in the dark.
We drove out on a Friday towards our destination, ironically named “Comfort, Texas.” It was pouring down rain, and we were all worried about spending 24 miserable hours wet and cold, sloshing through the mud. I was nervous but excited. It was an adventure.
As we got settled in our camp with a ridiculous cache of gear and supplies for one short day, I chatted and got to know some of the team members I hadn’t met yet. I began to feel reassured, as everyone seemed concerned about getting through the course sans injury, and no one was obsessing over their times.
My first loop was five miles. I was so jazzed, I made my typical, rookie mistake of starting off too fast. Then, half a mile in, that adrenaline abruptly ran out, and I was all, “Oh shit, I can’t do this!” But then I slowed down and hit my stride about a mile or so in, and it wasn’t so bad. The Hill Country views were gorgeous.
Back at camp, the rain was holding off and we were all grateful. Between legs, we sat, ate, drank coffee, told stories, stretched, laughed and slept as best we could. We also poured over Jasmine’s sophisticated spreadsheet which predicted our times remarkably accurately. I napped before my second leg, which started around 9:30pm. It was just three miles of smooth trail, so even though it was dark, it felt like a cakewalk.
Flash forward to 4:30am. I’m outside the ready tent, waiting for Laura to return. I am sleep deprived and standing in duct-taped rain boots in eight inches of squelchy mud, watching the screen that will alert me when Laura is a quarter mile out. People are sitting around a bonfire making s’mores to my right. Wonder Woman is playing on a big screen. I can’t hear the dialogue, but I keep drifting from the alert monitor over to the movie, where I get transfixed by Gal Gadot for a while before I remember I’m supposed to be watching for Laura. Runners keep returning, yelling for their next teammate: “Drew! Where’s Drew! Has anyone seen Drew?” (My guess is that Drew is fast asleep in his tent.)
Laura rolls in from the 5-mile loop at 5:25am, and I take off for my last and longest run — 7.5 miles, in the dark, on little sleep, after having already run farther in the past 16 hours than I usually do in a week. I got my mind right. I intentionally started off slow, and I told myself to just make it to the one-mile marker. When I saw that one, it was time to shoot for mile 2 and so on.
I was tired. I tripped a few times and almost fell. I walked a lot because of fatigue and fear of stumbling over rocks and tree roots. The depth of the trail terrain was washed out in the glow of my headlamp. I felt cautious and also peaceful out there in the quiet night.
Mile 5, over halfway there.
Mile 6.5, one mile to go.
Mile 7, almost to the quarter-mile gate.
As I ran the final stretch around 7am, there were no people cheering at the finish, as there were earlier in the light of day, but I honestly did not care. As I approached the ready tent, suddenly it hit me. I did it. I wasn’t sure I could, but I did. And tears welled up behind my eyes. I tamped them back down, though, because it seemed embarrassing to cry over seven miles, amongst people who regularly run 26.
We finished up about 24 hours after we started. We were delirious and relieved. We broke down camp, hauling our gargantuan amount of gear up the hill to the parking lot in an ox cart, pulled not by oxen but our own, achy selves. On the way home, when it started to rain for the first time since we drove in, we stopped for food. I have never seen eight adults devour Whataburger so fast.
It was exhausting, and I questioned my sanity at times, but it was also really fun. The bonding you do with people in a situation like that speeds the friendship process. It’s hard to put on airs when you haven’t showered in 10 miles and are so tired you barely remember your own name.
I noticed something else, too. The day after we got back, a Sunday, I was in a calmer, better mood than I’d been in a while. Perhaps it was hangover endorphins or maybe a much-needed break from the daily routine, but even a day later, all the stuff that had been worrying me — politics, the kids’ education, my career path — didn’t seem like such a big deal. Someone find me a new race before this wears off.
P.S. This part is probably only interesting if you ran the race:
Thanks to our captain, Jasmine, who got our team together and organized us right down to the minute. Thanks to Tammy and Josh for bringing the bulk of our gear and getting there first to get a good camp spot. Thanks to their daughter, Lucy, for being a good sport and shoveling mud from the walkways. Thanks to Laura for suggesting we stay up and shotgun beers all night (and then thanks to her for not actually doing it.) Thanks to the bad-ass Elizabeth for being a perfect tent mate. It’s not often you meet someone who knows all the requisite tent etiquette. Thanks to Christy for driving us and doing the very last leg of our race. Thanks to Tad for doggedly doing most of the packing up and hauling back to the parking lot. We made a good team, y’all.
It’s been a long time since I felt this low. But such is the nature of the beast known as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. I can go along fine for six months, and then for no apparent reason start sliding down into that moody hole again. I cope with it a lot better than I used to.
I used to try to repress those feelings — that “I just dropped my keys and it makes me want to cry” sensation. And just like most contents under pressure, it would eventually erupt into a violent, volcanic spew of uncontrollable sobbing and an inability to accomplish anything at all. I’d go through a good patch and think I had this PMDD thing licked, so I always felt blind-sided when it began its molten rumblings again.
Now, no matter how long it’s been, I’m not surprised when it shows back up — dismayed, yes, but not shocked. I give myself some space to do the things that help a little — journal, meditate, drink ginger tea and cry some. If I do that, let it out a little when I feel it coming on, I can avoid the big eruption that sprays fallout all over my family (mostly Jason).
This is where I am this morning — trying to take care of myself. The hard part is this: there are people who expect things from me today. There are deadlines and things I promised I’d do, and I hate disappointing people. I hate rescheduling things and asking for extensions. And the emotional state I’m in right now makes it even harder to do so because it requires a grand effort to talk to anyone coherently.
I’d like to have a sign:
Temporarily out of order. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Or maybe a more modern,
Website down for maintenance. Please try again later.
If you’re reading this, and you’re my friend, just know, if I don’t text you back today, please excuse me. It’s not you, it’s me…honestly.
I’m feeling a little bummed. I’ve spent probably an ill-advised amount of energy debating other people on Facebook over the past few days. I normally stay out of social media arguments. They have a tendency to devolve into name-calling, personal attacks and a lot of unnecessary exclamation points. But recently, I’ve come across a handful of people online who are willing to have civilized intellectual conversations, even though our politics don’t agree.
It’s mentally exhausting.
It wore me out supporting my point of view with informed commentary and research, and it was good for me. It’s easy to engage in e-shouting and spouting violent solutions to get rid of the opposition. It’s much harder to have an actual dialogue involving a well-thought-out exchange of ideas, where you are forced to take a look at your own beliefs and why you have them.
It’s no secret I lean liberal.
And it’s easy and comforting to submerge myself in my liberal compatriots, where we all like each others’ posts and it’s a big love fest. Comeraderie is great, for sure, but the challenge of those who don’t agree is too. During the online conversations I chose to participate in over the weekend, I learned why some of my conservative friends think the way they do, and I was prodded into putting a critical eye to my own beliefs.
I didn’t change my mind; neither did they. But we (or at least I) came away with a better understanding of people. Most of us want to do what we think is right; we just don’t all agree on what that is. Talk about the American way. And those that are willing to open their minds and hearts enough to have honest conversations with those on the other side of the issue, those are the people we need working for us.
Political discussions seem to go one of three ways, whether online or off:
Everyone agrees with each other because we’ve built social circles that don’t include anyone who doesn’t share the same views as the rest of the group.
People get very angry.
People with opposing beliefs speak to each other in a way that is productive. Each explains his or her viewpoint, and both walk away understanding the other side a little bit more, even if they haven’t changed their minds.
It rarely goes the third way.
I’ve seen politicians and the general public alike resort to yelling threats and personal attacks at each other. I get the frustration; it’s human. But…
if we can take our egos out of it for just one conversation, imagine what we could do together.