Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of Year Funk and Downtime Blues

“A boo is a lot louder than a cheer.”  ~Lance Armstrong
1:58 a.m...my eyes pop open...and it's off - the mind races...but this time my mind was ready to put to right what I've been tormented over for the past few days.

A couple days ago, for no apparent reason, the thought of pulling the plug on this blog popped into my head. I don't know where it came from, and I didn't even see it coming...but there it was, screaming at me. I made the mistake of Tweeting this thought...and the results were not exactly, well, uplifting or encouraging...Though they were pretty much what I expected.

But let me backtrack for a moment...What's the real reason behind this...

First, I've been writing this blog for almost 2 years. I had no goals with it when I started. It was for me, and in fact, I started freaking out when I saw it getting hits. Ewwww. Strangers are looking at this. This was initially a very uncomfortable feeling for someone who has always written, has always loved to write, but has never allowed ANYONE to read anything she's written. I had the pseudonym for a reason, and initially my real name appeared nowhere...And then I relaxed a bit.

But now, 2 years later, I find myself wondering "What's the point?" "Who really cares (besides me, which was the whole point)?" And I tell myself...this doesn't matter. No one cares one way or the other...and suddenly that mattered in a toxic, soul-killing way. There are, after all, gobs of running blogs out there that are wildly popular. They have thousands of followers and readers, and I shake my head wondering what I'm doing wrong because I don't find (some of) them particularly interesting (Yeah. I know I'm biased - and that sounds like sour grapes!). The thought occurred to me that 2 years, perhaps, is enough for this silliness. Time to grow up and face facts.

And this sent me off into a pit of sadness...

Add to that the fact that I have given myself a forced 2 weeks of very easy and minimal running following a long fall season, and you've got a very anxious, antsy runner...post marathon(s)...an enforced downtime which never settles well, holiday madness, an ailing mother (yeah, I'm not going to go into that), a myriad of other stresses and demands, and the result is a total mess of whirling emotions...because that's the way I am. Post race depression is a common, though little discussed, phenomena among runners.

And so I stupidly "put it all out there" and got what I thought I deserved.

Think about the times you really want to do something scary - that is, scary for you: Run your first 5k...your first half...your first marathon...try to qualify for Boston...And you gather the necessary courage, say it out load, and someone snorts in response. You will hear those snorts of disbelief banging, like a drum, in your head. The high-fives and encouragement will be drowned out by the cacophony of one negative comment. How does that feel? I'm sure we have all experienced that at some point, and it can make you feel foolish - Unless, of course, you are blessed with a large and healthy ego, which I am not, and then you let the negatives float off into the void.

Jean-Paul Sartre convincingly argues that we tend to ask questions of those who we believe will give us the answers we already know are in our hearts - but we look to someone else as an excuse, an out, a way to avoid our own absolute freedom and responsibility.

But the instant I pressed 'enter' I knew it was a mistake.

Silence speaks volumes, and the responses from many friends and self-professed supporters (and I never asked for this, it was offered) was utter silence. From others who did speak up, the suggestion was that maybe this little experiment no longer served me. Maybe I should just let it die on it's own. All of this was well meaning...but it was not what I wanted. I, of course, wanted others to scream at me "No! Don't do it". But that never came, and so I began to morn the death of this little creation.

Then at 1:58 a.m. I woke and a name popped into my head: Carolina.

Carolina...holding a beer, before noon...I'm on the left (yes, holding a cigarette!)

Carolina is one of my dearest friends. We've been friends for 30+ years. I've written about her here many times. Right now we live far away from each other and we are not in constant contact, in fact we've "lost" each other from time to time over the years. But the fact is that we are joined in a way that distance and time, and death, can never separate us. I know she's always there.

Wells College Swim team...I'm front left. Carolina is directly behind me

She reads this blog, I know that because she always fires off a word or two via e-mail (she's not on facebook and doesn't do social media - smart move) JUST when I need it. The emails appear in my inbox at the exact time I need them.

Leading up to Boston, 2012, worried about the weather, worried about the fuss-and-bother, and blogging ad nauseam on all of that, her message was:
"Now just enjoy all of this, even the hours of hotel searching, because, seriously, this is all really cool and extra-ordinary.
It deserves all of the fuss.
Embrace it!
I am following this with great excitement!
Love you!"

Two days before Boston, after deciding not to defer, this was in my inbox:
"Good luck! Good luck! Will be thinking of you on Monday..:)))"

And after Boston, which didn't exactly go well, I hemmed-and-hawed over whether to try for another marathon 4 weeks later...her message was:
"Do it, you weirdo."

After qualifying for Boston again at the Fox Valley Marathon I received:
"Yay!!!
Congratulations!!
So Very Cool!
:)"
And now, after Tucson:
"You rock. And are amazing. And are a weirdo. :)
Much Love."
And in many ways we keep in touch through this silly little blog.

So, it occurred to me that while I may not reach many, those I do matter to me. I realize that I can't allow my self-worth to hinge on the acceptance of others - but as human beings we all do have a need to reach out and connect with others. This is one of the ways I enjoy doing that.

And so I will keep at it...for another year anyway...
“A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”~ George Eliot
Epilogue: My Inbox today, Dec 21, the end times...:
"Ok so I'm reading your blog post, thinking "No! Don't give up the blog because this is how I keep up with you! Don't do it!"
Then I get a little further . . . 
then I got goosebumps.
I guess we really are linked at the metaphorical hip.
Hang in there.
Much love. As always."

14 comments:

  1. It's hard putting ourselves out there. I thoroughly enjoy your blog and am glad to hear it won't go away :) Cheers.

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    1. Thank you. As much as I know that the acceptance of others does not determine my self value, we also live with, depend on, and love others. Support and a kind word makes the world a whole lot brighter!

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  2. Caolan, I don't read your blog all the time or comment all the time, but whenever I do read it, I LOVE it - not because I am a runner (you know I'm not) but because you use running to distill pithy wise life lessons that are applicable to me in my pursuits as well. Re my own blog, I don't have a lot of readers, but the ones I do have enjoy it, and I have to confess I LOVE scrolling through my old posts and seeing this little public diary of my life. So I guess I write mine partially for myself, to keep a record of the moments of my days I found worth sharing.

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    1. Thanks Claudia! And I read yours, also not all the time...but often, and I know that you and I are of like minds on this.
      BTW the friend I'm talking about lives in Indiana and wants to run into you ;) Her husband is a Phil prof. there and she's a writer.
      Thanks, always, for your encouraging words - and from a 'real' writer ;)

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    2. I also do not read all the time but when you post in FB I do read more often; however I value all your insights even those which relate to people I do not know...you are a continued inspiration to me! May your Christmas be rich with knowing we do care and I in particular would miss your blog!

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  3. Thanks for writing! I read the blog but I don't often comment. Here are some thoughts from Petrarch's letter about his climb up Mt. Ventoux... more eloquent than I'd be! He reaches the summit and opens his handy copy of St. Augustine: "And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not."
    Petrarch then writes, "I closed the book, angry with myself that I should still be admiring earthly things who might long ago have learned from even the pagan philosophers that nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself. Then, in truth, I was satisfied that I had seen enough of the mountain; I turned my inward eye upon myself, and from that time not a syllable fell from my lips until we reached the bottom again. [...] [W]e look about us for what is to be found only within. [...] How many times, think you, did I turn back that day, to glance at the summit of the mountain which seemed scarcely a cubit high compared with the range of human contemplation..."

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  4. I visited Petrarche's home in Arquà, near Padua, the Fontaine de Vaucluse in Provence several years ago...and he surrounded himself with wondrous earthly beauty. In truth, I believe one feeds the other.

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  5. Sorry I missed your tweet while traveling or I would have replied! I really enjoy your thoughtful blog posts & hope you keep going.

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  6. I'm glad you're going to "keep at it...for another year anyway...". I'm sure that more people read than comment. But I liken reading AND commenting as that interactive energy that feeds everyone involved, particularly the writer who puts so much of who they are out there. My commitment to you for 2013 is to comment more frequently so that I'm not just taking but also giving back something of substance in return.

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    1. Thank you Ken. You have been a tremendous supporter from the beginning, and I really appreciate it! I wish you and Nancy a wonderful holiday!!!

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  7. I read but never comment- mostly because I don't know you personally. FB really changed running/triathlon blogs several years ago. If you want to connect with people through your blog now, you really have to engage in other blogs and promote giveaways. On the positive side, I've met so many really great friends through running blogs and meeting up at races across the country. People care!

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  8. Stick at it. It's by reading other people's blogs, like yours, that old fuddy-duddies like me are encouraged to keep running well into our dotage. Believe me, we need every ounce of encouragement we can get - so please, please keep up your regular contributions.

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  9. I like reading your blog and your fb posts. I don't often come here immediately when you post links, but find my way here sporadically and would miss it. It is nice to read intelligent things that make me think. Glad to hear you will be sticking with it!

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