Thursday, August 21, 2014

You're Kidding, Right?

My boss and I grabbed a drink after work today and after a couple he asked me, "Who's going to pop out a baby first - you or your sister?" I wasn't surprised by his question. While not as bluntly as my boss put it, I have been asked that question many a time before. My husband and I are together over 10 years and I am almost 33 years old, so I suppose people are starting to wonder...  Are Laura and Justin going to have kids?

The decision for me was never hard. I always knew I didn't want children. As a kid growing up I always felt uncomfortable around babies and kids younger than me. And I have always been so tragically unnatural around children. Should I pick it up? Should I wait for its mom to come back? So confused. I never know how to act around them or what to say to make them happy. Also, they are incredibly self destructive... one peanut or a slice of cheese and poof, I have a dead kid on my hands.

So the decision to not have children wasn't difficult, it was coming to terms with that decision. I've always felt so alien about not wanting them. I'm a woman so of course I'm supposed to want children. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?  A lot of my friends, co-workers and family have or are having kids. So I should totally be having kids too... right?

No. No you're not.

I felt such despair and confusion... why don't I want them? My head screamed at me all the time. I was mired in negative thought about how I felt.

I felt so alone and uncomfortable with myself, my feelings & the thoughts that I had. I felt left out too. Everyone else was going ahead with the next phase in their life - the having children phase. And here I was hardcore resisting to even approach the stairs that entered that bus.

Of course Justin and I talked about it often. Turns out he had similar sentiments. One night, after having rehashed my dismay for the thousandth time, Justin said "Wilbur (our Shih Tzu Poodle) is our baby. We can change our minds later about kids if we want. We could even adopt if we are too late. But, right now we're OK. We don't need a child to be a family and to be happy."

He was right. 100% right. I suddenly let all my animosity towards myself go. I'm also not alone. More and more woman in my generation are deciding to not have children. And we don't need a reason for it to to explain it to anyone.

So, while my boss may have been a bit forward about his curiosity for my future plans, for once I wasn't offended by that question. I have come to peace with it, and I replied to him "I bet you $20 my sister beats me to it." We laughed and the conversation moved on. I'm certain he thought no differently of me at the close of that chat... and for one of the first times ever, I didn't think much differently about myself either.

Little does he know, my sister doesn't want children either (at least right now). Ha.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Beard

When I met my husband Justin he was a clean shaven, baby faced guy. He remained beardless throughout our courtship, and to me Justin was always the kind of guy that shaved everyday. I was accustomed to his hairless face and that was pretty much how I recognized him so when the beard arrived after we got married, I was a little surprised.

The beard started off subtle, a sort of "just a for now" kind of thing - it had a "I just don't feel like shaving" sort of presence. I thought maybe Justin was just going through a phase with the beard and I didn't pay it much mind. But soon enough the beard grew comfortable, and with that comfort the beard grew great strength. I knew nothing of the beast that lay hiding beneath Justin's unassuming, shorn and smooth skin from the days when we dated. And before I knew it, the beard exploded into my life.

My husbands Italian decent only helped strengthen the beard and within a month or two, the beard had grown into Brian Wilson like proportions. Dark, black, present, menacing - THERE. ALWAYS THERE. It was all I could see. The beard commanded attention, the beard commanded respect, the beard had announced its arrival and the beard was here to stay.

"Get rid of that beard! It doesn't look like you!" I'd cry. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I can't do that. I really like the beard," said Justin.

The beard had taken over and with that it had started to grow indefatigably long. I resisted kisses, as with them came prickly scratches and the wet remnants of whatever Justin and the beard had just drank. The beard held onto food like a skiddish squirrel would hold onto nuts in the cold, late fall. The beard was there even when Justin wasn't, in the corners of the bathroom and occasionally stuck in the bristles of one of my brushes (the beard likes grooming).

Quite comfortable, the beard hung around and inevitably after 5 years I got used to it. I came to like it and enjoy its warm, pirate like company. But most of all the beard and I had an understanding: it made Justin happy and it made him feel more confident and with that, I came to accept my husbands whiskers. Whatever makes him happy makes me happy.

So it was quite the catastrophe when my mother in law asked Justin to shave his beard for our nephews christening. Justin obliged and I enjoyed seeing his face for a day or two till the beard inevitably came back a week later. But I think we both felt a little naked the day we christened our nephew. And in the pictures, Justin just didn't look like himself without the beard. I think the beard is part of our family now, and we both miss it when it's gone. So after that, I promised I would never ask him to shave his beard again.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Musings of an Anxious Runner with a Drinking Problem

I don't know what on earth possessed me to become a runner. Even though I draw myself as pretty much a stick figure, I'm certainly not fit. One day in early 2013, I was horrified by a picture that was posted of me on Facebook. In the picture, my bloated face had eaten my neck and I barely recognized myself.  I decided that if I was going to lose weight I was going to jog because I was too broke to pay for a gym membership at the time. I hadn't done much exercise in about a decade so I muscled up the spirit and energy to get off the couch, throw on a pair of old hiking sneakers and throw my fat ass out the door.

Having just rounded a corner, I was slowly dragging myself through a nearby park when I happened upon a deer. It was maybe 6 feet away from me, standing quietly, looking at me. I had like a Harry Potter moment when he sees (spoiler alert) his like, dad dear in the forest and I was like OMG, this is so magical, beautiful and whimsical. That mystifying feeling lasted about half a second when horror set in and I ran like a mother fucker out of the park, fearing a ferocious and rabid deer on my tail. I decided upon returning home that I was never to enter that god damned Narnia-like place again.

However for some odd reason the next day I went out and ran again in search of that deer. He was like my spirit animal - a spirit animal I needed a picture of because, well, there's a deer in the park and there's never deer in the park where I live. But I was also kind of moved by the deer and the whole encounter. The whole experience was drenched in this sappy, ironic symbolism that basically summed up my life at the time:  I had been running away from everything. I feel super cheesy saying this and it's an uber cliche but, the thing I was running furthest away from was myself.
My panic disorder and depression were well out of hand and if I wasn't keyed up & nervous in the midst of an anxiety attack, I was mired in self loathing and angst. To escape my plight, I was doing everything I could to not feel anything. I was drinking a fuck ton of beer and eating a fuck ton of food every night. I was going to work with raging hangovers everyday, all to just load up on booze again once I got home at 5:30. My previous 130 lb healthy frame had ballooned to a hearty 190 lbs and to feel better about that I just avoided mirrors and cameras as to not see what I looked like. I had about zero fucks to give about anything and I had completely stopped caring.
I had been drowning for so long that any time I tried to surface, something would pull me back down to into the abyss: a bad day at work, a fight with my spouse - virtually any blip in the road would capsize me. Call it bad coping skills or whatever, but it wasn't until I found running that I felt I was able to get my feet back on dry land. Something about running woke up the person in me that I had lost at the bottom of the beer bottle, and I was happy to be back among the living.

One of the best things about running is getting back outside and into the world. After being holed up for so long, a little bit of sunshine is a shot in the arm. Even getting outside on a cloudy day is better than a dark room lit by the bouncing light of a television. While I was never a morning person, I started getting up a bit earlier in the morning to get in a 2 miler before work. The scent of fresh dew, a slight fog and a sunrise is one of the best things to wake you up in the morning, next to a cup of coffee (never mind the aerobics of running). And instead of crashing out of the door 15 minutes late everyday, getting up earlier made me feel more productive and prepared for my day.

Running also gave me time to think. In order to hide from my problems when one would arise, I would usually leap down some sort of irrational rabbit hole of thinking and then pour enough alcohol into my face to kill a small teenager.  Running gave me the time I never gave to myself to be alone with my thoughts and think them through. What I found was that if something was bothering me, typically, I would have somehow mentally resolved that problem or came to peace with it upon completing a run. Running taught me to take a minute, and not jump to conclusions.

Also, and this has been said before and I don't know by whom but I run to stay calm. It really is the best antidepressant. I find that on days where I run I am far calmer than I would be if I hadn't. Running has really changed my life for the better and I am so thankful for it.

So it was quite the surprise when I won the lottery for this years New York City Marathon just days after running my first half marathon. Training has been immensely difficult as a still quasi new runner but it has also been teaching me new things about myself: that I can conquer hurdles, that I can run further than my 14 mile commute to work, that for all my failings in life - I am actually powerful and strong. That certainly isn't something I would have thought about myself a year and a half ago.

So if I see that deer in the park again, I will stand there and stare back at him until he runs away.