On the Run

(or Left, Right, Left, Right…)

Once upon a time, I fancied myself to be a runner.  Before I had kids, I used to run regularly and it was my exercise of choice.  I preferred running outside, but probably did most of my runs on a treadmill at the gym at work because it was convenient and appealed to my statistics-oriented brain.  I could monitor and track time, distance, speed, calories, all right on the treadmill console.  I kept a running log in a spreadsheet (of course!), charting my progress to run longer and faster and tracking when it was time to buy new running shoes.

I really started running seriously when we lost the baby.  I poured most of my grief onto the treadmill as running felt like something I could actually control.  I could control the speed of the treadmill or how far I wanted to run each day.  I got lost in tracking the numbers and statistics and could therefore avoid dealing with the overwhelming grief I experienced inside but wasn’t able to process.  I loved getting lost in my own head for a while, far away from the torturous real-world.

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This Ashram Life

(or What Do You Mean There’s No Coffee?)

Sometimes I think that it might be nice to live in a convent.  I find the idea of always knowing that you have shelter, food, a job and a purpose in life to be quite comforting.  Never mind all the many sacrifices required: I’d nearly trade marriage and motherhood and free-will for a life where I didn’t have to worry about bills and career and retirement.  I said nearly.  Plus I’m not religious, much less Catholic.

This weekend I got a 48-hour insight into what a monastery life might look like.  In search of a break from the unrelenting demands of motherhood and an intense need to reconnect with the outdoors, my own breath and spirit, I headed to a yoga retreat at a nearby ashram.

I’d never been to an ashram before, and I probably should have done more research first (although to be fair, the website could have included a bit more information about exactly what I had just signed up for).  The specifics of the retreat really didn’t matter to me; I just wanted a time-out for a few days and the promise of hiking and yoga was enough for me to commit.

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unFramed

(or 2,700 seconds)

The therapeutic frame.  That pillar of the therapeutic relationship draconically enforced by authoritarian therapists and equally loathed by clients everywhere.  Or so I thought.

Shrinky term:

frame (noun, frām) – the setting of boundaries or ground rules for the contractual aspects of therapy. [1]The therapeutic frame governs the rules and expectations of therapy: time, place, fee, confidentiality, contact.  It is a crucial element for the creation of safety, for both client and therapist.

I spent 4 years in therapy where the frame was decidedly gray.  I’ve spent much of the last 9 months having to re-learn how to be in a healthy, boundaried therapeutic relationship.  All that time, before, I thought I was fighting against boundaries.  Now I see that I was actually reacting to a distinct lack of boundaries.  Just as children do better with well-defined boundaries and expectations, so do therapy clients.

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You Are Not Alone

(or This One Time, At Summer Camp…)

Twice a week, just after lunch, you can usually find me downstairs in the fitness center where I work, suiting up for yoga class.  We are very lucky that we have two wonderful yoga teachers, exceptional in their own right and not just by traveling corporate yoga teacher standards.  We have not had nearly such good luck with the substitutes, though.  There was the one who didn’t know the class was only 45 minutes, and had to bring everything to an abrupt end when the angry meditators assembled outside the door, impatiently waiting to be let into the room.  There was the one who simply ended the class without shavasana.  For those of you who are not yogis, this is practically sacrilege.  Many of us spend 40 (or more) minutes in practice twisting our bodies into strange poses and awkward forms just to get to those blissful 5 minutes of corpse pose that is promised at the end.  There was the one who was so overly obsessed with proper form I have sworn to turn around leave the class if she ever subs again, such was my irritation level at the end of the last class she taught.

And then there was the one who brought along a playlist unlike any other I have ever encountered in a yoga class.  It was bold and loud and so completely out of sync with what I need to practice yoga.  And then, about halfway through the class, a familiar tune rose up:

Another day has gone
I’m still all alone
How could this be
You’re not here with me
You never said goodbye
Someone tell me why
Did you have to go
And leave my world so cold

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Left Behind

(with Unfinished Business)

It’s been 15 days (and counting) since I last saw my therapist.  The last time I saw her I was still functioning under the illusion that she and her doctors were working, slowly, methodically, through a long diagnostic process.  Initial signs, along with a family history, pointed to MS, but in order to diagnose, they had to work down the MS rule out list.  There was a long list of possibilities to test for and that would take time to get through.  I did not sense any urgency.  It seemed sensible to remain calm and carry on with these rule-out tests.  Cancer was in the mix, and mentioned, along with the caveat that it seemed unlikely.  At one point, less than a month ago, there was even talk of just needing back surgery, with a mere 10 days to recuperate.

So I wasn’t worried.  And I wasn’t prepared when the very next day, the cancer diagnosis was made.  I had no time to prepare.  I didn’t know we’d be heading into a long, traumatic break.  When she took a 3-week break last spring, we had time to prepare and plan and find ways to explicitly stay connected.  This time, the bottom just fell out.

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The Missing Piece

(or Simple Questions, Complicated Answers)

People can ask the darnedest questions.  I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked “Are you going to have a third?” or “Do you want to try for a daughter?”  Usually this comes in the form of idle small-talk and meaningless banter.  I have to hope that the questioners are just naive, and that they haven’t given much thought to the myriad of ways one could answer these seemingly innocent questions.

No matter how often it happens, it always takes my breath away, even for just a minute.  My heart wrenches, a sadness overwhelms me.  I might pause for a minute to think about how to respond – or how I would like to respond.  I usually defer to simple answers: “oh, I think we’re done” or maybe even “you never know.”

Truth is we already have a third child, a daughter.  She was our first and had to leave this human realm before we even had a chance to hold her.  She wouldn’t have survived here on earth, but I have to think she is somewhere, without pain, in the great beyond.

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Around and Around

(or I ♥ School Supplies)

As a kid I loved buying school supplies at the start of every school year.  I loved everything about the process: going to the store, carefully picking out everything on the list, coming home and opening everything up – oh the smell of new pencils and notebooks!  Then I would methodically lay everything out on the floor, survey my new supplies, this new school year landscape.  And then I’d pack it all up and put everything in my bag, just so.  And I would repeat this process for as many days as I had before school started.  I’m not sure how many other children “played” with their school supplies, but I sure did.

When my son started school last year, my wife gleefully announced that she had bought school supplies through the Parent Teacher Association.  Everything he would need would be in his classroom, waiting for him on the first day of school.  Now I know this makes so much practical sense, as no parent really wants to run to every store in town trying to track down all the items on the shopping list, but I was gutted.  The buying of new school supplies had always given me such pleasure, and I was looking forward to doing it all over again with my son.

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