Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Is this what Snarky had in mind?

Cause I could certainly help her out with the training portion of swim starts. Me and 299 of my best friends...

(wink, nod)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Swimming with Snarks

I know there is a race report due, but I have to get this off my chest so I can move on, like a happy little triathlon clam and leave this nasty little interlude behind me.

Okay, so. If you’re following my training log on TP, then you may have noticed that last week was one full of days upon days of swimming frustration. Not that I was frustrated with my own swimming…no, I’m sure that’ll happen more than enough. Nope – I was frustrated with my swimming options.

For example, Wednesday I hit the pool very early to accommodate my early morning Board of Directors meeting. I really (really!) wanted to have some time to go over, in my head, my approach to the myriad of questions I knew I would be getting. These meetings tend to be extremely stressful for me, and a little swimLove in the morning ahead of time was exactly what I needed.

But, that didn’t happen. That pesky Masters class was taking up a vast majority of the lap lanes in the pool. Result? They were all full with swimmers. It was mobbed. Mobbed, I tell ya. At 6:00 AM.

Not that I mind the Masters crew – in fact, I'd love to have the gumption to step up and swim with them, too. It’s just that our Y doesn’t include info on the swim schedule as to when to expect them to take up each and every lap lane available to the membership. Were it on the schedule, I would have STAYED IN BED.

Sooo…(I’m already making this short story long...sorry) I try to go that night. Of course, no lanes. I just couldn’t win! Repeat the next day. I mean seriously! All I wanted was about 50 minutes of a lane. That’s all! Sigh.

So, Saturday I’m totally jazzed about the fact that my internal alarm clock woke me up at 7:00. And, trust me people, this is a GIFT from the internalalarmclock GODS. A gift! So, I wiggled out of bed, threw on the suit (swim, that is), and snuck out of the house before Mighty M even knew what was going on.

And there was a lane. I kid you not. A bunch of them. Lots of lanes. I sighed in relief. Clearly, the swimming gods joined the internalalarmclock gods in smiling on me this day. Ah, yes.

So, I’m plugging away at my long set and thinking how I want to bump it up to 2000, instead of 1800. Then, I see her – sitting on the end of my lane. I was startled, but I stopped. Clearly we needed to chat for a second to figure out what she wanted/needed that kept her perched on the edge of my lane. And I had a bad feeling I knew what it was.

So, here’s how the exchange went…editorial notes included…


Snark: “I’m going to hop in and share the lane.”

[Join me? Oh no…I hate sharing a lane. I can’t seem to count when I’m sharing. It’s not that I’m greedy, I’m just counting impaired. And I came early so I wouldn’t have to share this nice little lane. Oof…what to say…]

Me: (Looking around) “Is that lane a walking lane?” (Pointing to the clearly open lane, two slots down. I already knew this was for laps, but hoped she would see that there was a completely open option for her right over there. Passive aggressive, I know...but I was off my game.)

Snark: “I don’t know. Regardless, I’m swimming here.”

[Oh, my. She’s a bit of a bitch. First, she didn’t ask to share and now she’s blatantly refusing to use another open lane? Is this some weird power struggle? In the pool? While we're in swimsuits? Odd, but she looks pretty serious…perhaps I’m out of my depth…]

Snark: (Seeing my confusion/frustration…) “Don’t worry, you won’t notice me…”

*and here’s the kicker*

“I swim with 300 people in the ocean all the time.”

[Blink, blink. Wait a second, she’s not just a swimmer, she’s a triathlete. Perhaps there’s some common ground we can find here.]

Me: “Really…are you a triathlete?”

Snark: (Smugly) “Um, yes.”

[And then she gives me the once over with her eyes, clearly indicating that I was not up to her standards! I’m dead, stinking serious!]

Me: (Barely holding it together) “That’s nice. Are you training for a particular race?”

[Inside, I’m seething and starting to get truly annoyed. Seething because she just gave me the once over – how DARE she?! This is the YMCA for goodness sake! Back off!]

Snark: “Yes, a number of them.”

Me: “Great! Me, too.”

[Okay, so here’s the chance for some – “No way! Which one? Come here often? How’s training going? Nope…instead I get this…]

Snark: (Dripping with disdain) “Well then it will be good training for you to swim with someone else in your lane.”

...and then she pushes off




Did she just really give me unsolicited advice about what would be "good for my training"? Did she just really presume that she was a more experienced triathlete than me, and that I would benefit – BENEFIT – from her wisdom? Did she actually just do that?

And then the inevitable happened. I spent the next 800 yards contemplating exactly what I should have said to her...had I been terribly sharp and smart and witty and had the mental reflexes of a ninja. Basically, everything that I am not. Here’s a sampling of all of my smart responses (dare I say comebacks)…

  • Perhaps it would be good exercise for your ego to swim in the walking lane, cha’think?
  • How nice for the offer, but today’s session doesn’t call for sharing a lane with snarky brats…that’s next Saturday.
  • Give me the once over one more time and I’ll punch you in the nose.
  • Since you're so experienced with open water starts, then you won't mind when I casually kick your goggles off on the way past, right?
And, of course, I never would say any of those things. And, of course, I never would even consider doing any of those things! But I would absolutely come up with them all -- in my head -- as I fumbled my way through the next 16 laps.

But you know what I REALLY wanted to do? Really, really? I wanted to drop the Ironman bomb. I wanted to be able to say, "Thanks for asking! Actually I'm training for IM Wisconsin in September!" Why? Don't I realize how indelicate it is to drop the IM-bomb? That it's reserved for only the most emergent of circumstances?

You know what, I really just wanted her to know that, NO, this wasn't just my casual Saturday New Year's resolution that I've managed to carry into February by the grace of God. NO, I'm not here to practice my crawl or play around. NO, this wasn't just some outing for me, where I can experience the awe of sharing a lane with someone as experienced as you.

Instead, it's part of a plan. Part of a major goal. I don't need to practice swimming with others right now, since today my goal is different. Today my goal is to do a continual set of 1800. Today my goal is to keep my pacing spot on like it was last week. Today my goal is to shave another 5 seconds of my average 100.

And, you know what, Snarky? Today my goal isn't discussing your other lane options in the middle of my set. Today, I didn't set out to completely screw up my numbers by having this enlightening conversation with you at the lane end. I've had enough distractions this week.

Today, I just want to swim.



Monday, February 26, 2007

Coming soon...Ugly Mudder Race Report!

Yesterday, I climbed a mountain. And then I went down it. And then I fell over in exhaustion.

In between I spotted rare things like the US Orienteering team, moose, and a pagoda. I had the pleasure of chewing GU and realized how best to spend $24.95. I chatted with marathoners from Jersey and helped seniors to stop sliding down slopes. I climbed what felt like a gazillion rock formations, what felt like a hundred steps to the Great Wall of China (Reading), and managed to claw my way up the vertical Mount Mud.

And all of that was in about 7 miles.

It was the Ugly Mudder and it was fun. And a real, blog-worthy race report will be on its way later this week and it will even include pictures.

But for now I'm spending much of my time attempting to walk upright. Without crying. In pain.

Need a little preview? Here's the Garmin output...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lil' Sis is TAGGED!

May all ya'll underachieving bloggers be ashamed!

My sister -- who doesn't even have a blog! -- finished the most recent tag! Honestly, I think she's just a weeeeee bit bored at her brand new job, but we won't fault her for that.

What is it about the first couple of weeks at a new job that make you feel like a complete idiot? You usually have n.o.t.h.i.n.g to do except try not to yawn in front of your co-workers or make a total fool out of yourself by setting up your voice mail!

Oh...come on, people...we've all done it...

"Hi, you've reached (blank) at the Office of (blanketyblank)..."

...darn, that doesn't sound more time...

"Hi, I'm not available at the moment...", no, no...too personal! One more time...

...and it goes on for at least an hour until you finally get that just perfect outgoing message (that you won't hear again for another few years, until the day you forget how to direct dial into the voice mail system), leaving you with another 7-1/2 hours to fill...well...finishing up a blogTag when you don't even have a blog!


So, here's a little insight into my wonderful baby (not really a bay anymore) sister, who clearly shares my love for the use and abuse of the ellipse...


A-Available or Married? How come this is always the first question...augh- available! Why, do you know someone?

B-Best Friend? I would have to say my sister and my fam is truly the best...I feel sorry for everyone else who is not a part of our crew...

C-Childhood Memory? The piano played a huge part in our childhood-almost like a third sibling it was always there- playing along with us- I can remember building forts underneath the piano with a large sheet- and spending time with my family- we were one of those families that spent a lot of time the time it seemed lame but now I see that time was the greatest gift our parents gave us...

D-Drink of choice? Diet Pepsi

E-Essential Item? SLEEP- I need my beauty sleep!

F-Favorite Color? Blue- any shade of blue

G-Gummi Bears or Worms? No thanks

H-Hometown? West Chester, could have been quite possibly the best place to grow up- a small college town just outside the big city (Philly) and for some reason it always seemed full of friends...still does...and now returning there is one of my most favorite things

I-Indulgence? Books- my dream is to live surrounded by books- hopefully a few of them written by my sister...if she ever gets the HINT!

J-January or February? Ummm...I believe the answer is MARCH!

K-Kids and Names? None- but I do have a few baby names stored up somewhere- none which I will reveal of course!

L-Last Lipid profile results? Lipid...what the heck is a lipid...does this have something to do with trans-fats...

M-Marriage Date? Ummmm...let's focus on my birthday, which is March 13th!

N-Number of Siblings? One -- a fabulous and terribly successful sister, who is my daily inspiration and constant reminder that we are all much stronger than we think we are...

O-Oranges or Apples? Stamen apples

P-Phobias/Fears? The cracking of knuckles, large waves, small insects, car accidents, damaging my Achilles heel, amnesia, losing a limb, sharks, major heights, failure, being abandoned in a strange country, Lord Voldemort, learning I never graduated from college and have to go back (Frequent dream), earthquakes, tsunamis from earthquakes, needles/shots (especially tetanus), unfriendly cats, scary movies, AIDS/HIV, cicadas, fast balls, change, public restrooms, asking for money back from a pizza delivery person and wondering if the tip was enough and if they are now judging me as they walk back to their car, the Mexican-American grocery store down the street, Anacostia, 495 in rush hour, and the list goes on and on...

Q-Quote? "If you want to fly you need to let go of the shit that holds you down" - Maya Angelou

R-Reason to Smile? My wonderful family and amazing friends and the fact that today is almost 45 degrees outside! Also the House Committee on Ways and Means hearing room - it is the most awe inspiring thing and I work there!

S-Season? Fall- I love the foliage and the faint smell of a fire in the fireplace and the crunch of the leaves...and the colors...oh, the colors

T-Tag 3 people! I most certainly will not!

U-Unknown Fact About Me? I pray daily to thank God for the blessings (s)he regularly bestows upon me...also I"m still not sure what the procedure bells mean on the House of Representative floor (but I look like I do!).

V-Vice? My credit report

W-Worst Habit? Speaking way too fast...

X-X-terra or regular tri? Wait...are these bikes...then forget it...this is not a question for me

Y-Favorite food? Seafood...crabs with lots of butter and hush puppies...I love it!

Z-Zodiac sign? Pisces...I am a fish!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bank of Me

It's graphs like this that make me happy. Happy, happy, happy.

I'm at one of those moments in life that everyone hits at some point where there never seems to be enough -- enough money to cover obligations, enough time to finish tasks, enough energy to do everything and then some. The constant refrain is more, more, more. And I constantly feel like I have less, less, less. And when you barely have what's needed, trying to balance all those responsibilities is significantly harder than when your flush with time or money or energy. Careful planning will get you there, it's just a bit draining along the way.

But it's so nice for me to be able to look at my training and know that here is an aspect of my life that is a given. It's set. So long as my YMCA membership is paid up and my bike doesn't break, I always can go out for a run or swim and there's nothing stopping me from at least achieving that goal each day. Nobody will come in and say "Nope, sorry, that's can't have that ride and you owe me a long run." It's mine, all mine. Nobody wants it and nobody can have it.

That analogy about training being a bank in which you deposit session after session, mile after mile, in anticipation of the big withdrawal? Yeah, that's making some sense to me. And at a time where there's not enough money to deposit in a real bank and there's no magical bank of time to save up for movie marathons or evenings with Mighty M, at least there's one aspect of my life where I'm building, rather than just getting by.

For example...(drum roll please) swim! These past two weeks I've focused on my form and my drills and really pushed through the fartlek sets and intervals. For the first time, I was actually sweating in the pool! (I reiterate...gross, but cool!) And, my friends, it's paid off.

Sunday was the long straight set (this time 1700) and my average 100 dropped 5 seconds! And that's not just one session or one set of 500 -- that's been consistently, over the whole week, my times have been getting faster. I'm no longer the salmon swimming upstream -- instead I'm making progress!

Even my run has improved, although I have no idea how with such low mileage. (Okay, I training, not mileage, makes you a better runner...I know, I know... .) Last night I did a 65 minute run (not usually a problemo for me), but was stuck on the treadmill for it. Usually, my speeds on the treadmill are A-TRO-CIOUS. But, last night I'm cruising along at a pace over a minute and a half of my usual (treadmill joke pace). And it felt.just.fine.

Oh, and not to mention the fact that I've just hit ANOTHER 100% week out of the park! (Pats herself on the back.)

Things are certainly looking up in training world, and I'm damned proud of that!

Friday, February 16, 2007

My Inconvenient Truth


I don't know, sure about this global warming thing?

I'm in a pickle. This week, I've been totally landlocked since Tuesday night. My wonderful new(smelling) car is frozen to the ground. Okay, not really to the ground, but completely locked in place by the slow moving iceberg that formed underneath it over the course of Wednesday. The municipal plow company didn't help the sit-cheation at all by sealing the deal with their plows-of-perpetual-frustration.


So, I've been without my Y for nearly three days. THREE DAYS!! I'm woefully behind on my swimming (okay, missed one session...but still!) and I really, really want to go outside for a run. A real run. Not a treadmill hour of pain in the basement. An honest to goodness run in the outdoors.


I'm only 4:04 into my week plan of 8:17 hours training. Damnable weather! I'm hoping to get my car off it's perch on the tundra and to the Y before they close the pool tonight. Mighty M is off with the boys playing Texas Hold-Em, so I can play a little on my own with zero guilt.

I guess it's time for some flexibility here...something about worrying about the things you can control, and letting go of those you can't...

For my own sanity, I think it's time to invest a tiny bit on this little gift so I can go out and play in the snow like a real runner, not some treadmill monkey in the basement. Yeah, these would be nice...

But don't worry...I LOVED the feeling of finishing last week strong, so there's no way I'm falling short this week -- ice storm or no ice storm! Watch out!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Are you feelin' it, baby? I. Can. Too.

Something clicked this weekend.

It wasn't the goal reaching and perdy nail painting, although that was fun.

It wasn't, exactly, the 10 hours of training I managed without injury, fatigue, or childlike hissy fits on the floor.

It wasn't, quite, that I was able to (for the first time in FOREVER) meet each and every planned session without killing myself.

And, I don't think it was the personal swimming bests or "Wow, nice stroke" or running and stretching beyond cramps.

At least, I don't think so.

Whatever it was, something clicked last weekend. Just fell into place, like a fine swiss watch.

I'm actually going to do this. I really, really am.

It has been so easy to get caught up with making fancy hands distractions for myself -- crafting the charity website, researching training plans, and checking out this site or that site for guidance. In a way, I think I've been trying to distract myself just a wee bit so I can try this Iron Lifestyle on for size and see how it feels.

And, the conclusion feels good.

Real good.

Last Saturday, I spent some hours at the gym getting through my last handful of tasks before finishing up the week's responsibilities. And when I came home, I was SO INCREDIBLY ENERGIZED by the whole thing! My body felt great. My mood was over the moon.

I was just plain, old happy. So very happy. And it came from inside -- from me. Not from anything I bought or borrowed. Nothing I consumed. Nothing lived through another. Nothing at all adulterated.

Just happy.

And, for the first time, I really thought, "This is something you can do!" I really can do this exceptional thing called Ironman. I can do the organization and discipline parts. I can juggle my personal and emotional needs. I can avoid the pitfalls I know will be placed in my way.

It's all possible, people. All of it. You think it isn't for so long, but that's not true. If you spend the time and put yourself out there, honestly and fully, it absolutely is possible to live your dream life.

This is my dream life. This is what I always wanted. This is what I deserve. My history has taught me valuable lessons, but I've moved forward with only what I choose to take.

I wanted this badly enough to remove the counterintuitive and counterproductive. And now I'm there. Now I'm doing it.

Can you feel it, baby?

I. Can. Too.


My favorite Mom from Texas tagged me, so I'm off to the races with this little nod to the alphabet. Enjoy!

A — Available or Married? Um...neither? For tax purposes, I'm single. But, thankfully my full-time Race Sherpa/Dish Washer/ Success Story (Mighty M) came along about a year ago. Do I hear bells in the distance? Oh...wait, maybe that's ringing in my ear from the swim...hmmm...

B — Best Friend? I have too many to have one. I'm lucky. Really lucky. But I wouldn't trade my sister for anything in the world -- she's just simply wonderful.

C — Childhood memory?
Playing hide and seek in the woods near my house, climbing the broad tree in our backyard with my sister, hearing the sound of piano washing through the house every day I came home from's such a long list...

D — Drink of choice? Crystal Light Fruit Punch. Nummy...

E — Essential Item? Just one??? Alright,, probably a cup of Dunkin Donuts coconut coffee with cream and splenda, please. Dad is convinced I just carry it around with me everywhere, and forget to drink it along the way. I actually do drink it...once it cools down properly to the perfect temp. I'm picky. A little.

F — Favorite Color? Purple. Definitely purple. Or sage green. I like green, too. Reds and burgundies are nice, too.

G — Gummi Bears or Worms? WORMS

H — Hometown? West Chester, PA. A way cute town outside of Philadelphia that, much to our surprise, actually just made the top whatever list of best towns by the Historical Society. For me, it's full of great memories and there's always someone I know from way back around the corner. I spent so many years of my young adult life seeking happiness elsewhere -- what a surprise it was to find it right here, in my old back yard.

I— Indulgence?
Cooking -- I can't resist a beautiful steak or bright, fresh asparagus. Whole foods make me happy. Chopping veggies is therapy for me. Thank goodness M is content doing the dishes!

J — January or February? real joy is in the summer months.

K — Kids and Names? None yet, but we've done the truly annoying thing of talking about names before, um, we're even engaged?! Isabelle and Sabina. I'm convinced we'll have only girls, so it'll be a scramble if there's a boy in the picture!

L — Last Lipid profile results? Fantastic. Fried foods don't do it for me. (Whew!)

M — Marriage Date? Wouldn't *I* like to know!

N — Number of Siblings?
One -- a fabulous and terribly successful sister, who just landed an incredible new job in DC. As always, preparing her steps towards world domination!

O — Oranges or Apples? Apples. Every day.

P — Phobias/Fears? Joints and kneecaps. Ugh!! I can't stand seeing people move them or play with them or hyper extend them....blah! I don't know if it comes from worrying about it as a young violinist (who was forever worried about breaking a finger or busting a joint), or just because they're plain gross. I think it's mainly because they're gross. Just plain gross.

Q — Favorite Quote? "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined." Thoreau. Certainly easy advice to read...putting it into action is the challenge!

R — Reason to Smile?
My life with M. Hands down. Just walking through our front door and seeing him can wipe away an entire day of stress. Normally, I'm articulate, but trying to describe my life with him leaves me speechless. Love. Him.

S — Season? Summer. It always means time with family at the beach and the perpetual pursuit of the perfect tan and quiet naps. More recently, memories of early Sunday morning drives to races and car trips with Mighty M. Nothing too bad seems to ever happen in the summer for me...knock on wood.

T — Tag 3 People! Okay, so I'm going to be a spoiled sport and tag everyone who wants to do their own alpha assessment! It's fun...go for it!

U — Unknown Fact About Me? I used to be a part of a professional motorcycle drag racing, seriously, I was! I was only support -- not a racer! -- but we traveled all over the East coast for about 7 years. Such a fun time and amazing people! Plus, it pays to know a little about a four-stroke engine now and again...if only to impress....

V — Vice? Right now, it's caffeine. Definitely caffeine.

W — Worst Habit? Bossy bossy bossy.

X — X-terra or regular tri? Regular is fine for me...I have this horrible image of me flipping my bike backwards while clipped in, going up some ridiculous incline. (And the pic on Iron Kahuna's recent post doesn't help much!) For this year, regular is fine-by-me.

Y — Favorite food? Steak. Medium Rare. Filet, preferably. MMMMM.

Z — Zodiac sign? Libra. And, seriously, folks, I actually am really very measured and balanced! No, really, I am!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

E.N.O.U.G.H. S.A.I.D.


and after

Thanks, M!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fit for press

So, an update on the great challenge and various sundry developments...

  • Six sessions down...5 to go. Bike/run tonight, and then Swim/Lift/Run tomorrow. I don't really think of them like 5 sessions... more like two -- two times I stink up laundry and need to take a shower to be tolerable. Even if I kayaked, juggled, lifted ice blocks, and then took a jog...if I only needed one shower, it only counts as one session. Regardless, by tomorrow afternoon, it's all about hot wax and buffed cuticles.
  • Buoys rock my world. Not David Bowie. Buoys. Sounds the same, but not the same. I'm starting to get much more confident of breathing on the right using one. No buoy? Sink like a rock. Buoy? I rock.
  • Smart training in shorter periods is better than being a bonehead in search of duration. And once you get over the numbers, it feels just as good.
  • I know I've ranted about drills recently, but I'm still in love with them. Currently, my swim drills and I are having an illicit affair. NOBODY MENTION THIS TO MIGHTY M. I love the catch-up and one-arm-at-a-time and finger drag. I even made up my own drill to fix my obsessive need to stare straight ahead when I'm swimming. It's my chin drill. It's fancy.
  • Oh, and speaking of drills -- I CAN TOTALLY DO THE ONE-LEGGED CYCLING DRILL NOW and I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!! I can't believe I waited until the 6th bullet to mention it. Practice does pay.
  • Enough with the cold, okay? Enough.
That's all that's fit for press.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is that a challenge?? Huh, punk?? You challengin' me??

Oh, he di-ent.

Nooo, he di-eeent.

But, yes he did.

Last night I caaasually mentioned to Mighty M that I was thinking about a little reward system for this week for myself. I'm on my new Training Peaks plan, and it has quite a few more sessions each week then my flybytheseatofmypants plan I was making up as I went. So, knowing my proclivity for bartering with myself in the morning when the alarm goes off and the propensity of my life to blow up at least once each week, I figured a little wager was in order.

IF I make all my sessions for the week, THEN I will treat myself to an eyebrow wax.

(And, frankly, people, I'm due. It is definitely time for some TLC up there on that brow of mine. I think I saw an icicle hanging from the left one yesterday.)

So, M hears this and ups the challenge, the crafty man he is. He'll match my brow wax and raise me a mani or pedi for a 100% week.

Did he really just bet me a manicure that I can't finish the week of training? Did he REALLY JUST DO THAT???

Get out your checkbook, M. I'm all over this challenge. I have something like 8 sessions between me and some perdy nails and some perdy brows.

Now THAT'S what I call motivation.

Monday, February 05, 2007


[I'm often asked what it means to be an alcoholic. How is it possible to be otherwise solidly rational, yet repeatedly make bad decisions that are guaranteed to hurt yourself or those close to you. Didn't I understand how dangerous and destructive my behavior was? Didn't I know that there were better choices? And of course I did understand and I absolutely knew the impact of my behavior. But, by the time it reached the point of destruction, I was no longer under my control.

This is, of course, a departure from triathlon. But it's a way for me to illuminate my personal history. And, just maybe, help those out there trying to understand how even a smart, capable person can drink themselves into near oblivion.

And sometimes it's just important to remember where you're coming from in order to make it to where you're going.]


I hate to feel vulnerable. To feel exposed and perused, critiqued and judged. I fear it for reasons you may expect – I worry I won’t meet expectations or be a disappointment to anyone who cares. I have carried these worries around since childhood, tucked away from sight and rarely mentioning them to even my closest confidants. I think if I considered it carefully, I would have realized that I wore these emotions on my sleeve – that my fears were as easily identifiable as my behaviors were predictable. But I thought I hid them well, even craftily. Of course I didn’t. Such is irony.

I remember so little clearly from my childhood, and often envy those who have bright and crisp memories of both the banal and monumental experiences. But I do have certain moments that stuck in time for me, that I can still feel the air around my body and the emotions in my bones. The clearer memories are often the most evocative ones – those that elicited some new reaction or emotional response. The fuzzier ones bear witness to moments of comfort and careless joy, love and acceptance. I carry those with me as well, but they’re in a different suitcase.

I remember as a child wanting to live up to expectations – to those expectations of my parents, my teachers, my music instructors, and my extended family. One slip, one deviation from the expected or the hoped for would send my small body into a tail spin. I remember clearly my fourth grade social studies class – the last hallway of classes towards the road, down the hall, past the bathrooms, and on the left. I can’t remember the teacher in detail or by name, but simply his form. He was small, diminutive, with soft edges and a fuzzy balding head. He wore cardigans and bow ties. He used a pointer with a cream colored rubber tip on a pull down map that would rumble and shake with each articulation. I sat in the very middle of the class and learned the continents and basic geography. I remember knowing where Europe was and having no idea where anything was in East Asia. To be honest, I’m still pretty hazy on that area of the world to this day.

These details are fused with me through memory from one moment in time. I had received a failing grade, passed back from the student ahead of me and the one ahead of her. I was shocked, affronted. I felt exposed and disappointed and confused…and fearful. I flushed directly. I sucked in a squeaked breath and my insides turned to jello. I was either going to vomit or have diarrhea, or likely both. My fear had liquefied my insides like a destructive acid, invisible to the other students, but burning a fire throughout my torso. I desperately feared disapproval. I feared admonition. But, mostly, I feared being found out. My body revolted at the possibility. Having my shame exposed, my inadequacies confirmed. For public confirmation of being an outsider, not belonging. I somehow knew that I was that one thing that did not belong with the others.

I never learned what to do with those feelings, how to manage them. I bore down and pushed through the emotion. I ranted and raved against the feeling and tore into my parents, looking for response. I quietly consumed the confirmation and felt full with my own frustration. As a child I could not find the words, I only experienced the raw emotion. As an adult, I did not realize it needed articulation, no one told me life didn’t have to feel that way. I thought my fears and worries were an approximation of real life. I thought that this unmentionable measurement against the rest of my world was both private and unique, but shameful.

The anxiety was exhausting. I was twisted up with anticipated expectations and imprecise rules. I was a constant barometer, measuring others approval in casual glances and subtext. I never knew what I should be, or how to do that. I saw the ease with which my friends floated through life and I compared my own toppled insides. I never felt appropriate, so I always did the appropriate thing. I never felt like an insider, so I craved belonging. I continued to be convinced that there was something inherently wrong with me – so deeply connected with something I did wrong or was foolish about years ago and long forgotten. Something so wrong that I could never allow that fear from social studies, the fear from camps and middle school dances, the fear from acne and double chins…that cumulative construction of my conclusion of ineptitude.

So I hid. I hid myself. I hid my fears. I hid my progressive shame. And as an adolescent I was awkward, yet gifted. I was told of my talent but terrified of whispering in corners. And it was fine to be awkward, for a time. Through college plowed through the emotion again, revolting against my own potential, convincing myself that it was a farce or some cruel construct placed on me by fate.

I hid from commitment, I hid from responsibility. I hid from any challenge that may reveal my true adequacies. I hid from my own potential and progress.

And it was exhausting. Exhausting and lonely. So I drank. I drank with friends. I drank with family. I drank alone, after seeing friends and family. And I started to drink alone on weekends, and then during the week. I hid bottles, and then boxes, of wine in drawers and closets. I planned my life around my mistress, my dirty secret.

I coveted the warm surge of wine soaked belonging. I could feel graceful and thin, gracious and uniquely beautiful. I could feel like a jewel and loved. Without question, my intoxicated self was intoxicating. I was addicted to her -- her without the weight of insecurities. Her, who had style and grace, said all the right things and found creative ways to engage and elicit. Her.

And I coveted. Those moments were mine, all mine. I knew the key and knew it's price. And I was willing. Willing to pay the price of loss, disappointment, and failed promises to have those moments that far outweighed my reality. Those moments of complete levity and release. I had eyed those emotions -- those great crests of confidence and beauty -- dolefully from behind a glass partition. Wine crashed through the resistance and allowed me to bathe in it.

And, as you would expect, my life began to fade from view and slip away. The harder I pushed for that time alone, the more I had to trade for it. Every day was a compromise and every day capsuled a palatable failure. Every day I would promise myself that I didn't need this to be Her. And every day I was unable to find out, even for those few hours, what that would feel like. And every day I gave in. And each time it reminded me of why that was all I deserved.

To be an alcoholic seems like an indulgence to those who don't experience the why. To skip out on responsibilities and add only the minimum required appears to be the easy way out -- a self centered exercise for all to see. And it angers and incites and frustrates. It harms and alters those in its wake. It spits on all the work you do -- your hard efforts, your good decisions.

But to an alcoholic, there is nothing indulgent about drinking. Nothing is ever enjoyed without taint -- every moment, stolen or earned, is poisoned with your own shame. Shame colors your own reflection and erodes the lining of your soul. Shame is the inevitable parasite that is barely tolerated as you barely make your way through the day. Shame answers back from the bottom of a toilet and through the din of a headache. Shame pierces your future and drains your promise. It is a lifestyle. It is an imperitive. It is an absolute and the only emotion you can manage to experience. Shame doesn't require articulation, it just is. And then, when you're not looking, it is what you have become.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I’m not that guy…am I?

Ugh, people. I think I turned into a creepy guy the other day at the pool.

And – TRUST ME – I’m usually really well adjusted and manage not to burp in public* or stare at people’s facial moles. Uuuusally I’m a totally sane, bring home to mom kind of gal.

This morning I think I crossed over to creepdom.

You know, I remember in law school a teacher saying in his wise but uber-friendly, let-me-put-you-first-years-at-ease (and-guarantee-you'll-like-me) way, that there is always that one person in the room. That one guy (or gal) who everyone takes note of...and not for a good reason. Keep asking stupid questions about nothingrelaventwhatsoever…and you’re that guy. Keep raising your hand when you’ve already spoken SIXTEEN TIMES TODAY…yup, you’re that gal. Make it clear to everyone in the room that you want to sleep with your professor, not learn from them…no DOUBT everyone in the class has your number.

And, if you don’t know who the “One” is…then it’s you.

Pretty darned sage advice, I think. At least it worked like magic in law school…

Anyway, I digress.

So, I get into the pool for my little endurance session and was really (REALLY) looking forward to not having to remember how many intervals or ladders or whatever I did. Warm up. 35 minutes even pace. Cool down.

Now even my sleep deprived brain can manage that task.

And all is cool because there is – literally – nobody in the pool. And I – literally – woke the lifeguard up from her NAP when I walked in. And about halfway through my set the WednesdayFriday guy comes in.

Now, I digress a little more. There are TuesdayThursday people who I’ve gotten used to in the pool, but recently I’ve found I’ve needed to do a makeup session on…you guessed it…a Wednesday or Friday. Go figure.

And there’s this guy who swims WednesdayFriday and is, well, ridiculously fast. I mean, I think his stroke count for one length is, like, 4 strokes or something ridiculous like that. He pushes off the wall and just motorboats it to the other end before the lifeguard even knew he was in the pool.

And his stroke is perfect.


Entry is practically silent. His arm is *always* at a 90 degree angle out of the water, elbow forward. He hands are perpetually cupped properly. His kick is silent but deadly.

And, guys, seriously. His pull is a thing of beauty.

Think I’m exaggerating? Meet me at the Y next Wednesday, around 7:00.

So, CLEARLY I have a thing for this guy’s stroke. Embarrassing, I know. But I do. And normally I just sneak glances here and there and think, "wow, he's pretty damned good at this stuff." You know, play it cool and all while checking out the pull from underwater.

But yesterday, I was trying so hard to make my form right, I just couldn't help but to STARE. I mean I just blatantly STARED at a complete stranger. A stranger in a speedo. In a practically public pool.

Ogled. Gawked. And -- likely -- creeped him the heck out. Who is this total weirdo? Why is she watching me swim? Good lord, lady...face front or get outta the pool!

(You know...I betcha he has a blog. I betcha he wrote about the creep in the pool who couldn't come up with enough to occupy her brain that she had to watch the show. I'm mortified in advance.)

Thankfully for both of us, my set was done before he called the cops...or at least notified the napping lifeguard. But I think I learned a lot about form from watching him. And maybe a little about boundaries. Possibly not as much about the boundary stuff as I should have. Next Wednesday's main set: exercising safe pool gawking boundaries. Do you think that's a preset in the TrainingPeaks library? I'll check...

* I make no promises about home. No. Promises. At. All.