Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I spent the weekend of August 18th in Breckenridge, CO alongside a handful of my TT1 teammates and a couple of ESPN videographers, assigned to tell the stories of the three other athletes present, and two members of the Running Team stationed several miles away in Leadville.
The guys, Jon Obst and Ryan Jones, were preparing to run the Leadville 100 - a legendary "race across the sky." 100 miles of grueling terrain in the thinnest of air, capping at an elevation of 12,000ft. While I was busy relaxing in a hot tub and looking at the mountain scenery, Jon and Ryan were prepping their drop bags and readying themselves to tackle an unimaginable feat. They talked about simply wanting "to survive," about the "endless forward motion," about the challenges of enduring the sleeplessness and the delirium.
The next morning, after the two men had finished the race, I was sitting with the Team Marketing Officer, Alex Kaminsky, back in Breckenridge. "How'd it go?" I asked. Alex told me that, around mile 80, Ryan had talked about how much he simply wanted to quit, and the extent to which he relied on his pacers to pull him through that final stretch.
"Yeah, I mean, you're 80% finished, right? Why would you quit then?"
Alex looked at me, and smiled. "At mile 80, you still have a marathon left to run. Think about that: For most distance runners, a marathon is the goal. It's the ultimate achievement. He still had that before him after finishing 80 miles."
That was the moment in which I really understood the undertaking, in which I truly conceptualized the amazingness of that effort. I've run marathons, and I know about the moment when you feel like quitting...when you look off the side of the course, and realize that the only thing stopping you from simply walking off is your own determination. Your feet hurt, your body feels as if it might break in half, and you just keep moving. To do that four times over in 24 hours? That is fortitude.

If you run - or if you don't - this is worth a look:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I have to start this post by apologizing to my friend, Jessica. I spent three days in San Antonio, and was supposed to hook up with her one of those days…but never found the time amid a dizzying schedule of events. Yes, Jessica, chasing after this pig took priority. I can only hope you understand.

And then I have to apologize to my neighbor, Helen. She and I were supposed to meet up around wine-thirty and take the tots to the park while boozing it up in the gazebo. I got side-tracked by a phone call from Henry’s school after he got a black eye trying to shoot his assistant with a rubber band, had it back-fire, and nail him square in the sclera. (When asked about his wrongdoing, he promised to “have better aim next time.” Great.)

The truth is that, though I wish to play and cavort and gallivant, alas, there are times when I cannot. Work, travel, kids…all get in the way. Kids especially. (And before some nit-picky, angry, lunatic skips to the comment section to ask me why I had kids if I was just going to complain about them, let me take a moment to say to that person, “Fuck you,” and “Go Away.”)

Of course, we all have competing priorities and, generally, I think mine are well-balanced. At least, relative to most people. With that in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to list the top three persons or groups who need to re-evaluate their priorities:
#1 : Anyone who watched TLC’s “Honey-Boo-Boo” instead of watching the Republican National Convention. I realize it's a lot to ask, but just once every 4 years couldn't we stop watching the shit on TLC and watch the shit at the national conventions?  I realize it would be more fun if Mitt Romney said, "A dollar ain't worth a holler - make it two and I'll think about it" or if Barack Obama said, "I want to protect women's biscuit rights,” but you can’t strike hillbilly gold everywhere. I just hope Mama and Sugar Bear are in on the joke and are laughing all the way to the bank.
#2 : Peaches Geldof. “Who the hell is Peaches?” you ask. Peaches Geldof is semi-famous because she is Bob Geldof's daughter. I’d like to give more insight than that, but I can’t. It doesn’t matter, anyway. The reason people are talking about Peaches is because, tragically, she was pushing her baby in a pram in London when she hit a pothole or tripped or some such thing and the baby toppled out, hitting the cement. Poor Peaches, right? Here’s the difference between you and me and Peaches: When the stroller tipped, Peaches was on her cell phone and she was photographed making every effort to avoid dropping her phone and/or ending her phone call WHILE she tried to get her baby off the sidewalk. Who does that? I’m glad the PHONE was okay. And before the throngs of judgment come my way, No! She was NOT on the phone with her transplant doctor or engaged in hostage negotiations or trying talk some guy off a ledge.

3#: The parent who sent their kid to school with head lice so they didn’t have to miss work. I found the letter in Henry’s backpack yesterday….the one designed to “educate about head lice so that parents can take steps at home to help prevent other children from contracting” the little bastards. Really, it’s a formal way to beg those who aren't doing their due diligence to stop sending infested kids to school and to get their shit together. Those stubborn little fuckers are tricky, opportunistic and crawl faster than an unsupervised baby towards an exposed live wire. I’m trying hard not to sound like a pussy here, but IF your kid has lice – keep him/her home. JESUS CHRIST, DON’T SEND THEM TO SCHOOL! I don’t care what you use to kill those nasty little bloodsuckers, just fucking kill them. But you are NOT done there. Not by a long shot.  Nuking the creepy crawlers on your kid’s melon is just the start. You have to literally boil the shit out of your linens, vacuum the beds, furniture and whatever the fuck else your kid has been near, scour your house from floor to ceiling, and put whatever you can’t boil or bleach in plastic bags for days in order to suffocate the tricky little motherfuckers. If all else fails, FUMIGATE. But please, please, please, for the love of all the is holy, DO NOT SEND YOUR KIDS TO SCHOOL UNTIL THE BUGS – OR YOUR CHILDREN – ARE DEAD. Whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Of course, we all work. Mothering is work. The daily demands of tending to children, managing a home, balancing a life of one’s own, nursing our intimate relationships…it’s a whole lot of labor.

But, when you have diabetes, or when you are raising a child with autism, the work is unending. The ebb and flow of task-to-rest is replaced by an invisible effort that eclipses each moment of each day. 

There was a time when I would simply head out the front door, hop on my bike, and ride. Now, I first check my blood sugar, eat enough to elevate it for the work I intend to perform, and carry a bunch of supplies that serve as ever-present reminders of my condition. When I tire, I wonder if I am simply weary or if my blood sugar is too high? Too low? I must check, and then again.

At the office, sitting behind my desk, head hurting and nauseous, I give myself my sixth shot of the day and then continue with the stack of papers and charts in front of me. My colleague only sees the work in my hands, and not the work of controlling my constitution. I’m always adjusting the thermostat of my body, always working to find a place of equilibrium amid a myriad of variables.

Likewise, my son is perched in the doorway of his own mind. It’s my job to help fling open those doors to the world, so that we may see his thoughts and ideas and he might find a way to interpret the space around him. Not only do I at times feel the pressure to interact with Henry every waking moment, but I’m trying to interact with a child who often does not want to be interacted with.

Henry is seated on the floor across from me, waving a wooden ladle in circles. He has taken voraciously to this particular utensil, toting it to the store and to school and the park.  Staring at the wall before him, he chews rhythmically on its handle.  He’s been doing this for five minutes, with no indication of stopping.  I could try to redirect him, engage him in something else, offer to play a game or read a story.  Instead, I sit down next to him, and playfully gnaw on the other end. Henry laughs, and then waits for me to persist. We laugh some more.  I find, for the moment, a pathway to an invitation, and the opportunity to really be present with my son.

Raising a child who has obsessive thoughts and who verbalizes them constantly can be truly exhausting. Standing at the ice cream counter in Whole Foods, I watch as Henry dissolves into a screaming, wailing mess. In the display case, there is one solitary, empty ice cream bin. I try to obscure his view, but it is too late. The vacancy is unsettling to Henry, and so, gently, as I try to calm his tears and hold the fists striking my legs and back, we leave.  And then, having breakfast with my friend LeAnn, Henry spots a bin of children’s toys. He goes over to investigate, and finds a tiny child’s computer. His fingers push the buttons anxiously, waiting for the electronic voice or the lights or sounds he expects to elicit from the device…but he gets nothing. The batteries are spent. Again, he cannot cope with the unmet expectation and I find myself holding my son as he sobs uncontrollably, his head buried beneath his shirt like a tiny turtle.

Some days, I find myself relentlessly trying to navigate the world while walking on ice no thicker than a sheet of nori. Other parents see us simply go to the park, but I have to make certain we walk the right path, in the proper direction, passing the oak tree and stopping for acorns. If I disrupt the routine, I risk the torrents of emotions that I cannot beckon back from the shore. I have to sing the same songs in the same order each night, no matter how weary I am from my day, so as to induce sleep and avoid the anxiety that robs Henry of his calm. While my friends simply see a lullaby, I am doing the work of making peace. If the forecast calls for rain, I must email Henry’s teacher in advance, warning her to put on his galoshes. What looks on the surface to be an act of overbearing and well-intended maternal love is actually a pre-emptive strike. Should the cuffs of his pants become wet, Henry will simply strip off the offending pants, and walk naked.

There is never a moment of my day when I am not on alert.

The experience of always working for your body and your child is exhausting. Most days, I don’t do it so much out of necessity as I do out of love, and the belief that my son is – like all children – a miracle. I’m grateful to be a part of raising the marvel. I remind myself, too, that  while it can be exhausting and is not without struggle, my son and I are healthy and happy, and have it in many ways better than so many we know. Still, I confess that there are days when I remember what it was like to live without the work of each second, and I miss it.

So, I did what any thinking person would do: I scheduled a vacation. I decided to send Henry and Midori to a ski camp in January designed specifically for children with autism and their siblings. Of course, I will be taking diabetes wherever I go…but it will be a welcome source or renewal nonetheless. A little less work for a few days.