Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I can't jump on the #metoo bandwagon

#metoo . .  A hashtag and 5 letters can say a lot about someone's life experiences.  It can unite strangers in a common pain, common healing, common awareness.  The sheer volume of people who have shared their experiences or simply posted #metoo somewhere on social media is astonishing.  But really none of this is that surprising, not even a little.  Any woman, of any race, social class, or education level, regardless of attractiveness (or not), can tell you that sexual assault and sexual harassment happen every day, to every kind of woman (and girl).  If you're a woman and you tell me it hasn't happened to you or anyone you know you're either lying or oblivious.  If you're a woman and you tell me that problem isn't as bad as everyone is "outing" with the #metoo hashtag you have been incredibly sheltered in life (and well, lucky for you).

The reality, and it's a frightening one, is that the problem is likely 10 times worse.  For every woman who reports sexual assault to the police, there are many, MANY, more who do not.  For every woman who reports sexual harassment to a superior, there are many, MANY, more who do not.  How do I know this?  I fit both categories and I have many friends who fit one, the other, or both as well.

And while I believe the #metoo campaign (campaign, is that even the right word?) is important for awareness, and I vigorously applaud those willing and able to use their voice to advance this cause, I cannot be one of those people.

I knew at the time my sexual assault occurred that the backlash, the victim blaming and similar behaviors would be more than I could endure.  Especially in my then-fragile state of just trying to survive each day.  I knew that I would never see legal justice, as very few do, and that his job as a prosecutor (in the county where it occurred) would be more than I could overcome with the truth.  Even though I knew, then, deep down inside of me (and 18 years later, I know with certainty) that it was not my fault, that I did not do anything to cause him to rape me, that he alone made the decision to hurt me.  I also knew that the in my survivor-mode I did not have the courage to fight that public battle of reporting the incident.  I did not have the courage to look my father in the face and say "this happened to me, your little girl."  I did not have the courage to tell my mother that I was now blemished for life.

Over the years I have had the courage to tell exactly 3 people: my best friend at the time, my therapist (the hiring of which was to deal with the assault after my best friend pushed and prodded me to get desperately needed help to deal with it after I spent several months sleeping in a closet with the lights on), and my now husband.  It was difficult to tell each of them, though none of them judged, thank God.  But as #metoo has spread, my husband continues to express shock as to how many people he knows who are "coming out", if you will, who he had no idea had endured such issues.  When I tried to explain to him that probably half the women he knows has had some kind of issue, he blew it off as an exaggeration.  This is my own husband, a man who believes in women, who respects women, who supports me, always and unconditionally, and who is appalled that there is so much of this out there.  Yet, he is oblivious as to the scope of the problem and can't imagine it's really as big as I'm trying to tell him it is.

And as powerful as #metoo is, over of the last few days I've read the comment boards & I've heard some of the discussion (mostly, but not entirely from men) that the women in Hollywood knew exactly what they were doing and they made millions off "enduring" (used with easily identified sarcasm) the advances.  That women get ahead by lying on their backs and spreading their legs every day and that all women do it one way or another to advance their careers.  That "what did they expect, going to his room"?  The mentality that "maybe women should go to all Dr., professional, etc. appointments with a friend" if they can't handle it on their own.  How about those in power simply not rape women... has anyone ever thought of that?!  The ignorance and disrespect spewed by these comments, and the fact that so many people truly believe this crap is exactly why I will never come forward as a #metoo survivor.  I've struggled with the pain of the assault and have come out as a stronger woman.

And as sad as it is, this doesn't even touch on the sexual harassment I've endured, both as a teenager, college student and professional. I've had a college professor offer me a better grade for a "favor" (I got up and walked out of his office without saying a word).  I've had a judge tell me, off the record of course, that he "didn't care what I wore as long as it was a skirt," and then proceeded into court to argue my case.  I had the same judge proudly tell me about how he was directly responsible for hiring the stripper for the annual county bar association meeting many years ago even though the few women of the bar were highly offended.  I've had male professionals make highly inappropriate comments to me, even suggesting we take a sauna together, "just joking, of course".  I've been in rooms with clients that made my skin crawl, thankful the exit door was only a foot away.  I've had male clients tell me "I know where you live" and not because they were my neighbor or had any other reason to know, and not in any context that could be construed as anything but creepy.  I've had the CEO of a client specifically ask how my sex life is, and when I tried to change the subject, he went into a detailed story about some sex scene in a movie he saw.  I had a male colleague pursue me almost to the point of stalking, only backing off when I loudly proclaimed to another lawyer in his presence that I both own and happen to be a pretty good shot with both a shotgun and a rifle (and thankfully I am).  I've been stalked by an ex-suitor, to the point that I slept with said shotgun under my bed for several months.

None of these incidents have been reported.  Who would I tell and what difference would it make anyways?  And frankly, do I really want some idiots out there blaming me, telling me that it all benefited my career so who cares if I had to endure a few crude jokes.  I'm thankful that none of these incidents were by my superiors or co-workers so I've never had to decide whether to keep my mouth shut to keep my job.  I just kept my mouth shut because of shame, embarrassment and the knowledge that what I deal with isn't any different what most women in our country deal with at some point in their lives.  That somehow this is just what it means to be a woman and I can either let it roll off my back or I can be bothered by every incident.

In fairness, not all incidents are the same and some are significantly more traumatic than others, and I've dealt with each one differently.  I never saw my assaulter again, which means that I've walked away from friendships with mutual friends without explanation.  The judge has retired.  I made sure to never be alone in a room with the CEO again.  I now own a pistol, which is tucked away in my bedroom (which was a gift courtesy of my husband).  I've grown older, grayer and now carry a "don't f*#! with me" confidence.  But I am not ready to be judged by strangers for actions others have taken toward me (that I didn't even get a say in).  I am not ready to break my father's heart by letting him know that I was harmed so seriously as to require months of therapy to stop sleeping in a closet with the lights on.  I'm not ready to be accused of making professional advances for any reason other than the fact that I've worked my tail off to get here.  And for that, I am not nearly as courageous as all of those willing to admit that they, like me, know we belong to #metoo .

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Setting Goals - looking ahead

I think I'm official in mid-life.  I'm 45, which means that if I think I'll live until I'm 90, I'm at the mid-way point of my life.  As a result, unknowingly, I have found myself contemplating my life (thus the failure post a few weeks back) in different ways.  When I was young I wanted to change the world (don't we all?).  When I started working, I just wanted to do good work and help people and maybe get recognized a bit for my hard work.

Now I just want to survive the day.  Well, not exactly "survive", but many days feel that way.  I do want to do good work and help people, but I no longer care if my efforts are recognized or not, likely because in my line of work the "thanks for your help" acknowledgments are very rare.  In fact, I have saved every thank you note over my 20 year career and I can count them on one hand (including those as short as a sticky note attached to payment that says nothing more than "thanks so much!").

I also have found that I care less about the words of thanks from clients and co-workers and care significantly more about the time I spend with Chad & the kids.  I've found myself considering how I can work less, bill less, and play more.  I find myself thinking about how life is happening and I feel more like a spectator than a participant.  I know this isn't true and I/we do all kinds of fun things every day (well, most days).  But I feel like I'm more and more sucked into the daily grind of "just getting through the day" and that it's only going to get worse as the kids are more and more busy with their own lives.

The result of this, as I think about it, has been my push for time with the kids, mostly time running.  The memories I'm making running with them single week are huge for me, even though I know they are often bored when running with mom.  The moments we share, especially on the trail and when we're one on one are not necessarily prime photo opportunities, but they are burned into my brain, both snippets of watching the kids leap over rocks and obstacles and the intimate discussions we have.  So, I've set them on a path of reaching for goals and feeling the enjoyment of reaching them.  And they have done well, and are proud of their hard work and efforts (as am I).

And I've set goals for myself and have found the joy of reaching them as well. Half marathons, marathons, back to back multi-day running races, a few bike races, and even a few tris (have I mentioned how terrified I am of drowning?).  Each has brought its own challenges and rewards.  This year, I think because I'm still striving for new goals, I finally wanted to find a way to run a sub-2:00 half marathon.  My old ways were not working.  While I had brought my time down from just over 2:20 in 2005 to just under 2:03 in 2015, I couldn't get to that magic 9:09/mile pace.

So I decided to do something for me, just for me, and hired a running coach.  This was one of the most selfish, but also one of the most rewarding, things I have done.  Most of what I do is for someone else, really pretty much everything I do except when I run is for someone else.  So spending money on something that benefits no one but me felt wrong, but over time has come to feel like the most important investment I could make.  She has kicked my butt day in and day out for several months.  She has taught me that what I thought was "really hard pace" was actually only "sort of hard pace."  She has taught me that I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself (though I've also realized that I still have much to prove to myself), she has believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and yes, she has trained me to run a sub-2:00 half--not once but twice in about 3 months.  The first time I broke my PR by almost 4 minutes, running a 1:59:08 and the second a 1:57:23 (sub-9:00/mile pace).  Wahoo!

So now where do I go?  What goals do/should I have in my sights?  Do I continue to try to get faster (did I mention I'm 45 years old and have asthma?!)?  Do I try to take some time off my marathon PR (which isn't all that fast)?  Or maybe, just maybe, I start wondering if I might have it in me to run an ultra...  A 50k isn't really all that much more than a marathon, right?  I'm guessing those 5 extra miles could feel like eternity, but maybe, just maybe, there's only one way to find out.  I've got time to contemplate, as my racing season is over for 2017.  But, I am looking for new goals to reach, new times to set, new hurdles to overcome.  Some day I'll be too old, too tired, too something to continue seeking these kind of challenges, and I know someday my time will eventually run out.  But today is not that day, and until that day comes I will keep looking for ways to push myself to make the second half of my life even better than the first was.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Live another year

Once a year, and thankfully only once a year, I have to visit my local oncologist and today was that day. She's a nice enough person, and a good doctor, but I dread this appointment nonetheless.  Truth be told, deep down I know I'll very likely receive the same news as last year; "You're slightly anemic, but your blood counts are holding steady and nothing has changed."  This is, truly, good news.  I get to live another year. But no matter how optimistic I am that each year will be the same, there's still a part of me that wonders if this will be the year I instead hear "your white blood counts have gone through the roof and we need to find out if it's spreading." They say that day might not ever come, but also that it could.  It could be next year, or in 5 years, or 20, or never.  And until then, I live in one-year increments.  I get to live another year, but what about the year after that or the next one after that?

I spend a fair amount of time in between these annual visits reminding (convincing?) myself that if it was spreading I'd know it.  I would feel different.  Something would hurt.  I'd be exhausted (well, I am but I know it's from hard training and not getting enough sleep).  I wouldn't feel good after eating.  Something.  I like to think that I know my body pretty well and am pretty tuned into what is going on after all these years and especially the years of running and training and listening to my body every single day.  But would I? Would I really have some warning?  Or will I one day show up at my yearly appointment and have the surprise sprung on me that not all is as good as I had thought?  I don't obsess over it (well, maybe a little because I am the obsessive type), but it's always just kind of there in the back of my mind.  And I go to my yearly appointment, and I see the people in the waiting area, or receiving treatment, and I think "that's probably going to be me some day."

And that, that, is why I run.  That is why I train and push my body.  That is why I try to eat as healthy as I can (and organic as much as possible).  I have to do what I can, whether it actually helps or not, to try to decrease my odds of getting that bad news because I've got a lot of life left to experience and things I want to do.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Failure

The thing about failure is that it mostly matters to no one but yourself.  Nobody cares that you didn't accomplish what you set out to do.  Nobody cares that you worked really, really hard and it wasn't good enough.  Nobody cares that you really put yourself out there just to try in the first place.  Nobody, but you. And when you are your own harshest critic, frankly, failure feels just as big and as bad as it would if everyone else did care.

I have failed at numerous things in my life, but it has never gotten easier.  I've learned and grown from most of those failures, but they still sting.  I have forgotten many of my failures over the years, but some of them still haunt me regularly.  I have gone back for redemption, sometimes succeeding and sometimes finding that I've failed that too.  And while that stings the most, what I've learned is that I. AM. NOT. A. QUITTER. even when sometimes i am . . .

To the outside world, I have it all together, but inside my head I hear the constant scream of "Failure!  You are a failure!"  It's not the 1/3 (almost) success rate in my Half Iron quests.  It's not the soul crushing day to day life of my work.  It's not the daily feeling of not being good enough . . . for my kids, for my husband, for my clients.  It's not my incredibly high standards I hold for myself, even when I know those standards are nothing short of ridiculous.  But, if it's not any of these things . . . then what is it?

If I were to say that the last 2 1/2 years of my life have been incredibly difficult, I wouldn't be lying, or joking or even exaggerating.  Everything has been turned upside down and I'm still grasping for some normalcy, some resemblance to something that makes me think that when the dust finally settles it will all be okay. I've had many people tell me how strong I am, how strong I was and how they don't know how they would have gotten through.  I got through it, but here I am almost 3 years later wondering how, knowing I'm not as strong as anyone thought, knowing I didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't have done and heck, they probably would have done it better, more confidently, and even had some fun along the way.  They would have handled the situation with success, not still be dwelling on what will never be almost 3 years later.

Who is this person?  What happened to that woman who would do whatever she said she'd do, even when no one else thought she could?  How did she end up chasing goals just to prove to herself that there's still some of that in her?  How did she end up thinking she was a failure even when she succeeds?  Who is this person I have become?  And how do I make her go away so I can find the real me again?

And yet, here we are.  I get up every day.  I make my kids lunch, and get them off to school with hugs and kisses and lots of love.  I push client work out the door and earn a living.  I eat as healthy as I can and run, and run and run and run.  I walk my dog, run with my kids and tell my husband I love him (and unlike a lot of married people, I actually mean it).  I read, and knit and clean up around the house and then go to bed and do it all over again, and again and again.  I wonder if this is all there is, and if so, is this failure? Is there something else out there that will allow me to find success?  Or at least to stop feeling like I'm failing everyone, including myself, by never being enough?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Four hours to nowhere

Four hours is a long time to ride a bike. It's even longer when you aren't actually going anywhere.  And you're staring at the same four walls, in your basement, with only one window, starting at 5:00 a.m. On a Saturday.  Four hours of spinning your wheel, without moving one inch.  Watching YouTube videos and counting down the miles, to nowhere.

The thing about riding on a trainer is that it gives you a lot of time to daydream, to think, to pray.  Sometimes this is a good thing, a great thing even.  Sometimes you just wish you were done.  Occasionally you do all of the above and then realize that you still have 3 hours to go.

But at the end of the ride, my legs are tired and I feel accomplished.  I know I've done what I need to do to prepare.  I also know that these training rides to nowhere in the basement in the dark of the early hours before anyone else in my family has woken for the day are mentally tougher than anything I'll face on the road, anything I'll face on race day.  That preparation is just as important as moving the legs for 4 hours non-stop.  The toughness I'm building inside will be so important on race day, when I'm tired and thinking about quitting.  And in life, when I want to give up, like I wanted to so many times over the last 4 1/2 months.

And in the end that's the real beauty of all of this . . . having the dedication and learning the patience to work toward a goal that won't be accomplished for months.  There is nothing more satisfying than working so hard for something for so long and then finally getting to the finish line and knowing that in this "I want it right now world", you were willing to give 6 months of your life for this one, brief moment of success.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Early hours

When I decided to train for the 70.3, I seriously thought "I'll only have to get up 30-60 minutes earlier most days.  That's not too bad."  While it is somewhat shocking that I've remained dedicated to the time-intensive training plan (only missing one scheduled workout in 10 weeks), 30-60 minutes less sleep six days/week has turned out to be huge.  It probably doesn't help that I'm still covering the vast majority of home duties...but honestly I don't think I've ever been this tired in my life.  Not even when the kids were infants.  There's no way to describe it except to say that I'm exhausted.  Biking, running and swimming 100+ hours every week is enough to make me tired (although surprisingly generally not sore or stiff), but getting up at 3:45-4:30am six days every week has made this a test of devotion and mental strength.  I didn't expect this at this stage of training.  Thankfully I've recruited a friend of two crazy enough to meet me at the house once a week at 4:30am to run with me.

Anyways, the result is that I can now nod off (for at least a moment or two) almost anywhere at almost any time.  Work is my favorite dozing location--I can't call it napping because I am typically on alert for someone entering my office.  But, I've also stolen a moment or two while waiting in line to pay for groceries.  While using the restroom . . . embarrassingly I will admit it.  While folding and putting laundry away . . . sure thing.  I've even resorted to making my kids pick bedtime books that they can mostly read to me (instead of me reading to them) and only opening my eyes when they startle me awake to help sound out a particularly tough word.  Today was supposed to be nap day, but it's clear it's not going to happen.  But tomorrow's another day, right?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Swimming, or something like that

Swimming is not my thing, and by "not my thing" I mean REALLY not my thing.  Neither of my parents know/knew how to swim so as a child I endured round after round of swim lessons because they felt it was of the utmost importance that I at least knew the basics in case I ever really needed it.  I somehow managed to pass most of the swim classes, even if I am still traumatized by the thought of diving, and even managed to pass the required swim portion of 9th grade Gym.   I was always the kid who seemed to "forget" my swim suit at friend's pool parties and was happy spending my day under an umbrella reading when we went to the beach.  Friends who see me coming out of the pool, even now, immediately ask "Why are you swimming? Are you injured?"

When my husband suggested that I should do the Xterra sprint-length triathlon two years ago, I thought he was kidding and I may even have laughed out loud at him.  "Come on, it's only 250 yards.  Anyone can swim 250 yards." he said.  Um yeah, whatever.  250 yards is 2 1/2 football fields!  Did he have any idea how far that really was?  Meanwhile he was preparing for his 1 mile swim, the whole time making it look as easy as sitting on the couch watching TV.

I did eventually take on the challenge and managed to swim that 250 yards, in open (cold) water.  I spent most of the swim on my back with my dear friend Amy grabbing my arm to pull me in the right direction every time I headed off course, but I completed the swim and wasn't even the last one out of the water.

It's been two years since he first made that suggestion and while I still don't like to swim, I've managed to subdue my fear of being in the water, and have even managed to find a comfort zone--at least when the water's shallow enough that I can touch.  It is not pretty, it does not feel good,  and most swims include at least a half dozen brief moments when I feel like I'm suffocating, but I've somehow managed to transform from the runner who could almost make it one length of the pool (20 yards) to just someone who can swim over a mile (with my face in the water) in less than an hour.  I've got a long way to go from swimming laps in the YMCA pool to an open water swim of 1.2 miles, but considering what I've already overcome the rest (hopefully with some actual swimming lessons) should be a piece of cake.

And if not, there's always the rescue volunteers, right?!