Boston, one year later

We’re leaving for Boston soon (nice try, creepy burglar people, but we have a housesitter and trained attack kittens) and I’m so excited. Friends I haven’t seen in years, research for my novel, the always heart-filling fun of watching Spouse run a marathon.

But I’m worried. We haven’t told the kids about last year’s tragedies. We don’t plan to. I really, really really, really don’t want to. Really. Last year was devastating. Disgusting. Terrifying. Enraging. Like many others I spent every single ounce of saline in my body weeping for the families affected by those monstrous acts. I spent all night watching Twitter as the police went from my old work neighborhood to my improv neighborhood to my friends’ neighborhood tracking the alleged bombers. Brothers.

Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe

I’m looking forward to seeing how Boston is healing itself. I love that town and I keenly miss being a part of its crispy, crunchy shell and gooey center. (Boston is the caramel M&M that the Mars company has never successfully created.) I want to celebrate Boston and its efforts, I want to feel the community that has overcome the most horrible act during a celebratory act on a holiday of revolutionary acts. I am thrilled we’re going to cheer for Boston.

But I don’t want my boys to hear anything about the bombings. I don’t want them to see or know or think or in any way learn about the families, the sidewalks, the streets that will never be the same.

How terrible is that, though? Is it disrespectful of those families and runners and spectators and first responders to keep this painful reality hidden from young children?The mother in me says no, but it feels wrong to hide the truth.

We’re going back to Boston because I could never fathom being away from that city this week. I started training to qualify for Boston the day after the bombings. (I didn’t get far. I’m easily injured and I have limited time for training. So it’s not going to happen this year.) So did Spouse. We contorted family plans and finances to get the family out to Mass. as soon as he qualified. We’ve been practicing the proper pronunciation of the Chaaahlie Caaaahds we’ll need next week.

But I don’t want them to know.

Is that wrong? Is it disrespectful? If it even possible, given all the love Boston is pouring into Back Bay this week?

I want to honor those who died, those who were injured, those who helped, those who ran, those who sought, and those who stopped…I want so much to do whatever I can to help the healing.

But I don’t want to tell my kids.

Does that make me weak? Parental? Cowardly? Ridiculous? Mature?


I started running again a couple of weeks ago. I let go of the Shoulds and the Rules I’d constructed around my life and let myself have 20 minutes, three nights a week. Because I need exercise to feel good and I have been denying myself that because there are other, more important things to do. Because I need oxygen to feel good, but I have denied myself that, too, because there are other, more important things to do. I know I need to follow the rhythms of my body, after a day of following the rhythms (often conflicting) of two little people, to feel good, but I don’t let myself because there are things—an endless list of things—to do. I was being self destructive and eating to relax because I can eat while I do at least half of the other things I need to do.

Need. To do.

So I started running. And the first night I went, I relaxed and let go and tried to feel the night and the lights and the air and the PAIN of running after almost a year wash over me. My body has not been my own since I grew Peanut six years ago. And I took one step in getting it back.

At the midpoint of my teeny tiny run I saw a woman laughing near the window of her living room, the walls of which were decorated with exotic percussion instruments. She had her arms over her head, and she was dancing and playing some bell/drum thing. [Let’s pretend I was going so fast I couldn’t quite place the instrument; more likely I was trying to be in the moment and not stare at the neighbors.] And I thought, “That’s what I want in my life.” She looked happy. And comfortable in her body. And she was having fun with music in her home in a cozy neighborhood that I’ve loved for years.

As I ran by she saw me. And stared. Really saw me and stopped to think about it. It was probably only four seconds, but in my head it was forty. And she was thinking, according to my self-doubting Critic brain, “What is that woman doing? Is she really out running and ruining your knees on asphalt, alone, when there is life to be lived? Wow. I can’t imagine.” In my brain she is much more gentle with me than I am, because she probably should have thought “pathetic,” “delusional,” and “clearly unbalanced.”

I kept running, but seeing how this woman spent her 20 minutes this evening had me thinking about how my rejection of my rules, of my shoulds, needed to go even further. I needed to be drumming and dancing and singing. I needed to be happy. I needed to reorganize my priorities and balance my life and don only what’s most important…well, it simply wasn’t enough to work all day, without a break, then run and then write or edit and then clean and then prepare and then start all over again. It was just not enough. I am not Enough. And she’s the one who told me that with her look.

[jump forward one week]

Today after school Peanut and Butter and I went to a playground with two other families. We liked each other, we wanted to see if our kids could be friends, and we wanted some adult company while our kids burned through their after-school energy. So we talked as I chased Butterbean through a creek and across rocks and up hills and after dogs. And when I mentioned where we lived, one of the other moms told me where she lived. I told her that her house was on my new running route.

She looked at me and said, “I knew that was you I saw running. I was in my living room acting like an idiot and I recognized you.”

And there it was. She stared because she knew me. And from that recognition I read judgement and pity and superiority. I told her I thought she was looking because I was pathetic. And now that she knew I had seen her, she quickly tried to couch her reckless abandon as silliness and lunacy when all I had seen was joy and humanity.

The rules and the shoulds and the inferiority and the judgement are there, waiting to sabotage. Waiting to say it’s not enough, whatever it is.

Maybe, every once in a while, we can remember whose rules they are. Because if we’re not Enough we can change, and when we are Enough, we need to see it.

Maybe we could see into our own living spaces with the eyes of a gentle, tired, flawed human and see who we really are.

I’m pretty sure it’s Enough.


(This post is being simulcast over at Dump Your Frump, where they believe whatever you do is more than enough.)

Stress fracture whine

It’s time for my stress fracture whine. This isn’t going to be pretty, so turn away if you’re squeamish around self-absorbed melodrama. If you find a petty lack of perspective nauseous*, then do not read any further.

[*that’s right. something that makes you feel like puking is nauseous. if you feel like puking you are nauseated. people who say or write that they’re nauseous are actually saying that they nauseate others. and that is funny to me.]

So here begins the whine. I’ve been on crutches and unable to carry Peanut for three months. And it’ll probably be another two months because I made the mistake, seemingly harmless, of sitting cross-legged on the floor to do a puzzle with my son. Without thinking I put the bad foot under my right leg while we were sitting, and the pain returned. The rest of the week has increased the pain and I now feel it all the time again.

That means at least six more weeks, if not more.

We’re a sling family–we cuddle and carry everywhere. We don’t own a stroller. He likes to be in our arms a lot. And we like that, too. I like to carry him, to cuddle him, and to tell him things on our walks, during our errands, and around the house. Because of my fracture I can’t carry my kid, and I’m sad. He’s sad. He doesn’t want to go for walks because he knows when he gets tired in the middle, I can’t help him. He doesn’t want to go to the playground because I can’t climb with him. Peanut is a timid guy in new places and around crowds, but he’s had to run through an airport pretty much by himself twice, and will again this month, because I can’t carry him. (He won’t use the mei tai. I could use crutches and the mei tai, but he refuses to try.)

I’m tired of crutches. I’m tired of being non-weight-bearing but extra-weight-bearing, if you know what I mean. I’m tired of the  inability to run, the inability to hold my kid while he brushes his teeth or carry him to his room after a bath, the need to hop on one foot with our lunch plates, the pain of accidentally putting my foot down while washing dishes. I’m tired of holdng hands while I crutch down the street, four fingers held tightly by a little boy who feels sad and alone that he’s so far from me.

I’m tired of stress fractures that won’t heal. I’m tired of expecting to be fully functioning because the reality of my human body is that I probably will be less and less wel functioning for the rest of my days. So I’m tired.

And whiny.

[And this section is for all the people who seem to Google “stress fractures that won’t heal”. Today, and for at least the next six weeks, they’re my peeps.

During our move from the icky part of the state to the better part of the state, I somehow cracked a bone in my foot. I have a history of stress fractures from running, and this time I was just barely increasing mileage and frequency from a paltry ten miles a week to about fifteen miles a week (always following the 10% rule because I’ve been here before and don’t like rehab or PT or water running or crutches). And I got the familiar sense of needing to crack my foot for three weeks straight. Sure enough, my old sports med guy said third or fourth metatarsal stress fracture. Bone scan points to fourth met. (First fracture was ischial tuberosity, second was femoral neck, third was femur on other side, fourth was calcaneal. Now I’m the proud owner of a cracked fourth met.)

So I got an air cast and crutches. Doc tells me I can walk in the air cast. I do. For 6 weeks. Fracture gets worse. So I go non-weight-bearing for 3 more weeks. The cast makes it worse (it’s too heavy, and makes me rest my foot often, which hurts it).  So I ditch the cast and go completely non-weight-bearing for 3 more weeks, and after two weeks of painfree hypercarefulness, the pain is back. Know why? I sat cross legged on the floor to do a puzzle with my son. Sitting on the floor with the bad foot tucked under me set me back another six weeks. After 12 weeks of care and 15 weeks from the first pain. Even with an ultrasound bone-stimulator contraption that cost us two weeks’ rent. (Insurance paid half. Gee, thanks. Otherwise it would have been a full month’s rent. When do Americans get to have health care instead of health insurance?) That means I’m at square one, and need at least six weeks, completely non-weightbearing to heal this thing. That’ll be at least 18 weeks. If all goes well.]

Groundhog month

Since the doctor saw a shadow on my X-ray, I’m due for another six weeks of crutches.

I should be walking normally by June, they chuckled. (Actually, they were really nice and sympathetic, but I’ll go mad if I can’t make someone the villain in this story.)

This is unacceptable. I have a three-year-old hellion who never stops moving, a sick cat, a paper due, four thousand library books due on campus and no way to park within a mile of the drop slot, a novel that’s so close to being done that I can taste it, a potential move, two trips involving air travel, a filthy house, an unbearable urge to go running, and an overdeveloped case of liberal guilt pulling me to volunteer seven days a week to deal with this month.

Can’t you freaking take these feet off and give me stronger models?

And while you’re at it, fit my kid for new hands. He’s been asking and I figure it’ll be like an early birthday present.