I’m thinking of changing the name of this blog from “A Long Run” to “A Long Time On The Couch In Front Of The TV.”
Last year I ran three or four half-marathons; a couple of long, mountain trail races, the Peachtree Road Race and a marathon.
I was like:
I ran 1005 miles last year. Really. Seriously.
This year I’m like:
For real. The only things I’ve done this year other than work and grocery shopping are go to church to run sound on Sundays and go to church committee meetings two or three times. Oh, and I took that trip to Selma a couple of weeks ago.
But the thing is, I don’t WANT to do anything. I only want to lie on the couch. Alone. That’s all.
I drive past Centennial Olympic Park on my way to work and I see they’re starting to set up for the Georgia Marathon. The race is Sunday. I think I’ve run it five years in a row. It was my first half. It was my first marathon.
I see the set up happening now for the thousands of runners, and I feel guilty and ashamed that I won’t be running this year. And instead of that making me want to run, it makes me want to curl up on the couch and hide and berate myself for being such a loser.
I started thinking about Tae Kwon Do on the train on the way home, which made me remember the horror of 6th grade square dancing in PE class which made me think about the goals I’ve set for myself throughout my life. (Yay, stream of consciousness!)
As I’ve noted before, one of the things that broke me down in Tae Kwon Do was the regularity with which we had to choose partners. Imagine not only having to TALK to somebody you don’t know, but also having to work directly with them and maybe even touch each other. *shiver!*
The first time I recognized the pain of partnering up was in that 6th grade square dancing section of PE. I LOVED PE up to that point. I loved to play games and be physical! But suddenly, I was betrayed. “Everyone grab a partner!” *sigh*
PE had turned into an activity based on being chosen by a boy for your popularity and looks. For the first time I realized I was a fat, ugly, naive nerd. And at about the same time, I started being picked on because of my awkwardness. I didn’t want anybody to think they’d made me cry or hurt my feelings, so I developed an armor of smart-ass, loud words and held my tears and pain in my stomach and my heart. And then I ate more to comfort myself.
The thing that helped me power past all of that was my goal of being an athlete. My brother, Mike, had played high school football and baseball. My cousin, Scott, was a state wrestling champ. And my cousin, Dennis, played baseball at the University of Tennessee and had an amazing, glittering collection of his trophies on display in the living room of his house. Every time I went there to see Granny or Aunt Jo or Dennis, I would stare at those trophies and count them and covet them.
I was the only girl on either side of the family and I wanted to prove I could keep up with those boys. They were my heroes! I wanted to letter in as many sports as I could and have a high school letter jacket just like they did. I wanted to get more trophies than Dennis had in that living room!
So I didn’t build myself in adolescence (not that I even would have known where to begin) as a pretty, soft and social girl. I set out to accomplish those athletic goals. (You didn’t have to be pretty or accepted to shoot free throws or hit homers. #marlahooch )
Concentrating on sports made the hurt from the bullying, and the lack of attention from boys secondary.
Even though I was a terrible player, I made the middle school basketball team on sheer hustle. I remained an outstanding softball player. My basketball team went undefeated and won the county championship my 8th grade year. I was one of three or four freshmen who made the softball team when I moved to high school. I continued to play basketball, and in the spring, threw shot and discus on the track team. I wound up lettering in three sports: 4 years in softball, 4 years in track and 2 years in basketball. I got that letter jacket and I wound up with more trophies than Dennis!
That goal I set for myself in elementary school had come to fruition after eight years of hard work.
In college I decided I wanted to work at Camp Glisson during the summers. This was just a matter of making it through the application process, but again, it was something I wanted to do, set my mind to and accomplished.
In high school, I decided I wanted to go to seminary after I graduated from college. I followed through, applied and got in.
But this is where everything starts pulling out of focus and heading off the rails. Yes, I got in. But I didn’t finish. For various reasons, seminary whipped my ass. It whipped my pride. It whipped me socially. It whipped me emotionally.
I started drinking to cover the pain that time, and really floundered for a couple of years until I met my future ex-husband playing coed softball. We got married and built a future together. But I didn’t really have any goals in mind. (And certainly didn’t have the goal of getting divorced 10 years later.)
And I haven’t had a real goal since then either.
I’ve finished three marathons and busted my ass to reach my goal in the last one. So my ability to set a goal and work like crazy to meet it is still there.
But I don’t really have any meaningful goals I want to reach. Isn’t that something grown-ups are supposed to have?
Shouldn’t there be something I want to accomplish? Something I want? Something I really care about?
Couldn’t someone just tell me what those things are?
Frankly, I still feel exactly like I look in this picture from when I was two or three.
Can’t we just play ball, eat supper, have somebody read us a story and fall asleep? Isn’t that enough any more?
I just want to share how much more manageable my holiday anxiety has been this year – probably better than it’s been in about 15 years. I’m sure being on Paxil for a year has helped a lot, and the realizations I had last month about my expectations for the holidays seem to have made a big difference as well.
Staying busy helps too. Frankly, I was so depressed last Christmas that it was hard for me to get off the couch and do anything. That doesn’t help my blues at all. I think the Lamotrigene prescription has helped here. It’s a mood stabilizer that’s made my highs lower and my lows higher. Not getting so low that I can’t function makes it easier to do the things that keep me from being so blue and anxious.
Being ABLE to be busier has helped so much. I was busy training and racing until the first week of December ended. I’ve been running sound for almost all the Sunday services and the Christmas cantata this month. I’ve also done a couple of funerals and a wedding.
I went to a ridiculous Christmas party for the church youth group last weekend where we played Dance Central 3 and the adults spent way too much time huddled in a corner laughing and playing with Poo Dough.
Then I drove five teenagers home from the party. They listened to the Classic Hip Hop channel on Sirius and marveled at songs they’d never heard before – songs from 1994 – before they were born…. (Seriously?) And they wrote profound Christmas wishes like “Poop” in the fog on my windows. Good times.
Just being with people, staying busy and laughing (the opposite of what you want to do when you’re depressed) makes such a big difference in how I feel. I think the mood stabilizer keeps me above that low end threshold that makes it hard to care if I’m taking care of myself or even to do it even when I want to.
I usually try to take some time off running at this time of year to let my body rest and heal some, but that time off is really bad timing for my anxiety. Even after my busy weekend, I was feeling the holiday squinkiness sneak in last Sunday night. But I did something I wasn’t able to do last year, I made myself get up early before work on Monday morning and run because I knew it would help. (And it did.) I knew it would help last year too, but I couldn’t get myself to do it.
I’ve also been wrestling with my feelings for Boo for the last couple of years. When I was in the depths of my depression last year, I got to the point where I couldn’t feel anything at all. When I started coming out of that, I had feelings again, but I had trouble figuring out exactly what those feelings were and what they were about.
I feel like I’ve about sorted all that out. For the last year I’ve assumed any bad feeling I have is sadness and unrequited love about that relationship. And so if I felt something bad, I thought it was about Boo, which made me think too hard and too much about Boo, which made me feel bad, which made me think too hard and too much about Boo, which made me feel bad….
But I had a big moment in therapy back in the spring when I realized that what I have always thought was the feeling I experience of “being in love” is very much the same feeling I have when I’m feeling anxiety. (This may be an important realization…. *snork*)
I still haven’t figured out why I feel like it’s so important to me to hang on to Boo. He’s never really done much to reciprocate those feelings I have for him. But there’s obviously something deep-seated in my need to hang onto him in some fashion and in the fears I have of letting my hopes for us go.
I wrote in a recent post that I wished “I had the courage to give up.”
For me, having the courage to let things go means being brave enough to stand on my own without having to use things and people as crutches, without having to try and control the outcome of every single thing in my life. I’m starting to feel like I’m strong enough to try and begin letting the Boo thing go.
I need to believe and trust that it’s the healthiest thing I can do. The Mr. Spock part of me knows that’s true. The disgusting, weak, clingy, needy, girly part of me is still afraid. That makes me a little anxious.
But that’s OK. I am better. And this Christmas is better – even when the anxiety still creeps in.
All I know is that I have my running clothes sitting out for tomorrow morning. I will run. I will breathe. I will calm my mind. I will keep getting better. I will keep getting stronger. And maybe one day I’ll even find something to value in the weak, clingy, needy, girly part of me.
And to you, I hope if you’re depressed or anxious or lonely or scared this Christmas, that you’ll know you’re not alone. Love is all around you, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Just keep slogging through and know that it won’t always be like this. We’ll hold each other up until then.
Much love, friends!
What do you get when you mix cold and rain and mountail trails? MUD!!!!
Sean Blanton, the Run Bum, puts on my very favorite races. His are no-frills, scenic, mountain goat races that will kick your ass AND be the most fun you’ve ever had running!
Yesterday was the Battle for Black Rock at North Georgia’s Black Rock Mountain State Park. You could chose the 12 mile race, the 24 mile race, or the 36 mile race. A few months ago I considered the 36 miler, but decided I’d wait until next year to start moving towards ultra distances.
Thank GOD! I forgot that 12 mountain miles in a Run Bum race are like, maybe, 18 or twenty regular running miles!
I can’t explain to you how wet and slippery the trails were. I slipped and fell eight or ten times. All my years of sliding into bases playing softball was actually a big help. Most of my falls yesterday just turned into nice hook slides.
It felt like the whole race was uphill and there were some steep hills that were so muddy and slippery that I had to just drag myself up on my hands and knees using roots. You can only imagine the footing trying to slip, slide and run DOWN the hills!
When we started, Sean said he really wasn’t sure what the distance would be – just something around 12. Thank goodness it only turned out to be 9.81. If I’d had to deal with two more miles of hills, my quads might have exploded!
I finished and I was covered in mud, and soaking wet and freezing cold. The race was tougher than my marathon. Even though it was an hour shorter, the terrain just shreds your legs. I was HURTING! But it was probably the most fun thing I’ve done all year!
That’s how you know it’s epic. When the hardest thing you do is also the most fun, you know, at least for that day, that you’ve lived your life to the fullest!
Avg. Pace: 21:37
Avg. HR: 156
Elevation Gain: 2757 feet
Race Results: I didn’t finish last!!!
- 10:19 – Elev. Gain: 258 Elev. Loss: 210
- 18:21 – Elev. Gain: 302 Elev. Loss: 188
- 22:58 – Elev. Gain: 21 Elev. Loss: 696
- 21:17 – Elev. Gain: 34 Elev. Loss: 558
- 17:51 – Elev. Gain: 67 Elev. Loss: 22
- 28:38 – Elev. Gain: 668 Elev. Loss: 36
- 16:28 – Elev. Gain: 102 Elev. Loss: 528
- 31:23 – Elev. Gain: 553 Elev. Loss: 218
- 27:41 – Elev. Gain: 460 Elev. Loss: 65
- 17:08 – Elev. Gain: 293 Elev. Loss: 120
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great!”
– Jimmy Dugan, “A League of their Own”
Nothing gets you out of your own head for a while like a little run. 2:13:45 – a good time for me on a very hilly course three weeks out from a marathon.
Age Group: 127/298
Avg Pace: 10:02
Avg HR: 168
Next Race: Battle for Black Rock 12m Trail Race – December 6