Fact: I haven’t posted here since my Mother’s Day rant.
Also fact: it’s okay, because I’ve been doing important work that needs to happen.
Also fact: but I want to be here more, so let’s do this.
I believe in the work I am doing at the Fitness Protection Program, which is why I’m not going to waste time beating myself up for not writing more. My brain may be Harvard-educated, but it is still a finite space, and I now live a life where I get to have more reasonable expectations for what it can hold than I once did. This is actually part of why I think runners need Fitness Protection - and perhaps even specifically me delivering it to them. I believe that shame isn’t a good or worthwhile motivational tool, and I’m trying to teach people to stop using it on themselves (and if I’m going to do a good job of that, it has to start with me).
Almost no one who runs “for fun” has reasonable expectations of themselves. Almost no one we encounter as coaches is equipped to cut themselves the amount of slack they need and deserve. In fact, most of them think that their problem is that they aren’t working hard enough. They come to us trying to hand us a stick to beat them with so that they’ll work harder. I need tough love, they say. I need a kick in the pants, they say. Accountability. No excuses. They find out soon enough, though, that we’re not really the pants-kicking types. If they’re “making excuses” and therefore not running, our default assumption is that there was probably a very good reason (if not several).
And so it is when I visit my lonely and unattended blog, my Mailchimp account filled with longing. I get a little bump of that familiar feeling. Guilt, with a little spritz of shame (because the great thing about a public facing outlet is that everyone knows when you’re not doing the work). What happened to that once-strong resolve to write here every day? Where’s my discipline? Where’s my drive? Why don’t I want it badly enough? Stupid bitch (Rachel Bloom always says it best).
Well, I am a running coach now, and I see this kind of self-directed abuse on an almost-daily basis. “I’ve been so lazy about getting the runs in” - “I’ve been really bad about sticking to a plan.” I don’t see it leading to results, though. I know that I am am a fitter and happier runner than I have ever been in my life, and I know that it’s not because I shamed myself into it. I connected with a coach and a group that validates my choices and sees my struggles as valid outgrowths of living rather than evidence of my personal faults. Running at a certain point stopped being about results and started being about daily work for its own sake. It became something I chose every day, freely, and not out of a sense of obligation or a fear of shame. And the more I do it, the fitter I become, the easier and more joyful that choice becomes.
Writing this blog began as a choice, not a thing I felt like I had to do (contrast that to revising my dissertation into the eventually-rejected book). And I know that I love writing too much to make it a stick to beat myself with. So I’m skipping the part where I apologize for not writing this past month - I’ve had some shit going on, you know?
One of the things that makes Fitness Protection unique is its monthly reset. Our members pay a monthly subscription fee in exchange for access to our community, our coaching, and our newest content. They are paying for the chance to start over again every month in the midst of people who welcome them and validate whatever it was that got in the way of running consistently last month. They pay to be part of a group that says “HEY, welcome back! We missed you, because don’t worry because you didn’t miss a thing. Here’s where to pick things up again. Let’s do this.” Every person needs a place where they can fade away and come back as needed without judgment, because some months are just harder than others.
Every year for the last 19 years, the month of May has descended on me from all sides, testing my resolve and my endurance and my spirit. On May 22, 2000, my mother died of breast cancer, and her timing was such that every year thereafter I get to feel the unique and ever-changing ache of her absence from the lead-up to Mother’s Day (did you know that Shari’s Berries offers a special discount for listeners of [insert podcast I normally love] to send their moms some…I don’t know…berries covered in stuff?) to the 26th, the anniversary of her memorial service, which was held in the very church that I recently started attending again. Every year I think, “I’m prepared for this” and every year it turns out that being prepared doesn’t matter because it still hurts. I go to my job - both my jobs - I parent my child, I try to be something adjacent to a decent partner to my husband, all of which is normal, but the lump in my throat rarely subsides. On May 28th I recorded an episode of the Morning Mantra podcast in which I finally identified why May is so hard: everything about living, the most ordinary and boring and mundane living, reminds me of the places Mom is not. And when I am in it, I can’t see an end to it in sight.
When I am in this stage, this May stage of every year, I feel very hesitant to inflict myself on a captive audience any more than I already do. What a bummer I become. I texted MK an apology after the May 28th episode - everyone must be sick of this mode by now and don’t worry, I get it and I’m working my way through it. I thought I was maybe starting to come through it, but then Season 2 of Fleabag broke me apart again in one fell swoop. I won’t spoil anything about it yet - it’s just too good and I want everyone to watch it without knowing what will happen - but here’s this: Fleabag is a show about the way it feels when you don’t think you can trust anyone with the actual depths of your sadness. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since the final episode cut to black.
While Fleabag made me feel all my sad feelings all over again (Anne Helen Petersen refers to this as “the bruise that loves to be touched”), it also reminded me why I really want to be writing more. Not should be, not have to be, but want to be. There is so much that I am watching and reading that I want to write about, and yet I’ve found myself yet again in a place where I feel like I can’t write anything unless it’s going to be definitive, conclusive, something I would proudly tweet with multiple @s and then refresh my feed again and again basking in responses. I will have time to write like that again someday. But I don’t want to wait until that kind of time comes back. I want to write. I want to rave about Phoebe Waller-Bridge and about Roxane Gay and about Lindy West and about Patricia Lockwood. I’m going to do what we urge our Fitness Protection people to do and hit the reset button, and I’m going to try some different work in here.
Thank you for being the understanding audience that you are, and thank you to all of you who have reached out privately to ask why I haven’t posted or to appreciate the writing I’ve done. It makes me happy to know that you miss me. I miss you, too, and I miss this. It’s June, and it’s time to start again. I’m ready.