The golden patina of accuracy and imperviousness

February 7, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Posted in read this, running, the firm | 5 Comments
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I made a mistake at work last week. Not a proofing error, but a process error. A mistake in judgment. I didn’t do anything illegal, nor did I lose the client any money, and it was ultimately corrected. I have spoken with both the senior associate and the partner involved, owned up to my error, and assured them it would be a profound learning experience. The associate told me, “No harm, no foul.”

Nevertheless, I have been in a deep, deep funk since then. I dread being in the office, and my stomach is in knots when I’m there. I literally cannot eat. I feel as if I let down two people whose opinions I value, with whom I want to continue working. I know, I know: what matters is how I handle the mistake, what I learn from it, that I pick myself up. Outwardly, I’m trying to do that. Inwardly, however, I’m still cringing. I want to hide under my desk. Better yet, I want to stay in bed.

Friends have helpfully shared their work blunders: sending a prospective off to the printers with an error, disclosing too much information in a negotiation. My law school friends have, as usual, been particularly supportive. One told me of a tongue-lashing she was given by the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company. Another of sending documents to the wrong client. The most helpful piece of wisdom was provided by my friend Jill, who pointed me to this blog post. I have been trying to figure out why I remain so depressed, and this piece distills it perfectly. For inherent pleasers, such as I am, law school is awesome. You learn things, you are tested on them, and then you are given feedback in the form of a letter grade. If you do well in law school, as I did, these grades are the signs of approval that we pleaser-types so crave. In a law firm, you may be given feedback twice a year in your review. Otherwise, you spend your long days fielding assignments and completing them with absolutely no idea if you are doing the right thing or, more important for someone like me, doing a good job. I realized that I have spent the majority of my days at the firm feeling like I am on the brink of disaster — that I’m about to screw something up. In some very small way, it was a relief that I finally did make a major mistake, one that I and the people I work for had to acknowledge.

Dear readers, I do not write this for praise — I swear! But just to articulate the anxiety that perhaps so many of us are afraid to voice. As my friend Monique wrote me, “My fellow associates at work rarely admit to being anything less than perfect, so I often feel very alone, and very much like I missed the day in law school when they dipped students in the golden patina of accuracy and imperviousness.”

What is the most difficult thing for me is that I disappointed someone I respect and generally enjoy working for. Most likely, this partner has made mistakes and hopefully will give me a second chance. But what just gnaws at me is that I won’t get that chance and that, really, I’m not very good at what I do (which snowballs into all the reasons why not: I’m not detail oriented? I have no attention span? I rush things so that I can get home to my children?)

I don’t know how to get out of this funk. I did go to the office gym for the first time since I joined almost four weeks ago and ran the fastest three miles I have in months (which admittedly isn’t saying much). Has this happened to you? Were you depressed? How did you get your groove back?

New Year’s – again? (as in, already?)

December 31, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, music, not yet written, NYC, read this, running, SAHM, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, Uncategorized, wine, yoga | 1 Comment
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You know I love New Year’s resolutions. Two years ago, my resolutions were clearly defined and yet highly unattainable. Last year, they centered around  simply finding happiness (hot showers, more wine, more yoga…). I understand why people eschew resolutions in that they set unachievable expectations, leading to disappointment, etc. etc.  Looking back over the past two years, it’s clear that I’m not one who makes resolutions and actually sticks to them, but I do get a lot of pleasure out of making them (in that I set up some sort of idealized vision of the future?). This year, I’m less able to articulate my New Year’s resolutions — I have some vague ideas about living more simply, lowering instead of raising my expectations, and trying to exist in some sort of more tempered universe. Of course, in the back of my head is a little voice saying, “Run more! More yoga! Spend less money!” but at the end of the year that included birth and death and health issues and lots and lots of sleepless nights — and somehow, in the midst of it all, a growing sense of contentment — I’m going to resist the urge (at least publicly) to enumerate my Resolutions.

Instead, my friend Lindsey had a fun and introspective little survey/questionnaire on her blog this morning, which I’m going to adopt. I’m answering these less thoughtfully than I otherwise might (blogging, as I am today, in the short window of Little O’s nap!) But maybe that will make my answers more honest.

What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? I spent seven months as a stay-at-home mom. I took a weekend trip to Florida with my college girlfriends. I participated in a competitive blogging challenge. I went three (almost four — since September 1, basically) months without running. This last one sounds like a crazy thing to list, but it actually imparted to me an important lesson. I used to think I needed to exercise for weight-maintenance. Eleven months of nursing, however, took care of that for me, and I realized that running in fact gave me much more than the ability to wear skinny jeans. If I have any resolutions at all for 2011, it is to remember that running keeps me sane, not thin.

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions and will you make more for 2011? Of course not. And of course — albeit with a more measured approach, I hope.

Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes! I did! But also my sister. And several close friends and seemingly half the tax department at my firm (literally — nine women in my relatively small department had babies this year!).

Did anyone close to you die? My great-uncle. And, just last week, a close family friend.

What countries did you visit? None. Sigh. Again, if I do have a resolution for 2011, it is to “remember Italy” (a metaphor and theme in a striking book I read recently, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is by Laura Munson — see Lindsey’s interview with her, here) — although in my case, it would “Remember Paris.” More on this in another post.

What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Patience. Acceptance. Faith. Confidence.

What was your biggest achievement in 2010? Having a healthy baby would have to be it. But I’m also proud of myself for going back to my job. It wasn’t clear I was going to, but I do think it was the right choice, and perhaps the first time in my life I’ve done something truly rational, career-wise.

What was your biggest failure? A few work-related ones come to mind. But mostly I regret the times I’ve been short-tempered with Little Bug and a less-than-present daughter, sister, friend, and wife. I didn’t put down my iPhone/work email enough to stay focused on my family.

Did you suffer illness or injury? I feel like I’ve been sick a lot this year — an immune system no doubt compromised by severe sleep deprivation and preschool germs.

What is the best thing you bought? My iPhone and Pilates. (Am I a yuppie or what?)

Where did most of your money go? Starbucks and J. Crew. Ha ha, just kidding. Sort of.

What did you get really excited about? My girls’ weekend in Florida. My husband would tell me that I’m being all “Joy Luck Club,” but oh, god, there was something so refreshing and invigorating and inspiring about spending three days with the women who were with me when I became the woman I am, the women who have been there for me for the biggest hardships and greatest joys in my life, the women with whom I speak an abbreviated shorthand language and who can finish my sentences. And now, at this stage of our lives, the women with whom I can discuss my career, daycare, siblings, husbands and parents. Even though they may not be part of my day-to-day life, the are a part of the foundation of my life.

What song will always remind you of 2010? Have I listened to so little music that I can’t answer this? Probably, however, something country (since that is all Tim and I seem to listen to these days). I really like that song Welcome to the Future by Brad Paisley, though I suspect that was not released in 2010. OK, so, maybe I’ll make another resolution: listen to more music. It makes me happy — just as Glee made me so so happy this year.

Compared to this time last year, are you:

— happier or sadder? Happier
— thinner or fatter? Well, as I was eight months pregnant, this isn’t really a fair question!
— richer or poorer? It’s probably not a good thing that I can’t really answer this literally, but I imagine that since we spent most of 2010 paying two mortgages, poorer!

What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d written more — here on this blog and elsewhere. I have a great idea for another blog, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it happen. I wish I could let myself go with my children — really play with them, focus on them wholly, without thinking about what’s next (be it cleaning up lunch, or what’s for dinner, or how much work I have, or even who has posted what on Facebook).

What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I had spent less time agonizing over my job — both preemptively before I went back and then also on a daily basis once I was back. I think it affected my relationships with my family. It’s just a job. It’s not the greatest, most important job in the world, it’s not the end of the world, and I’m not a victim. I have to remember this.

How did you spend Christmas? As we do every year, in New Jersey, with my whole big crazy family. We snuggled in during a blizzard and took Little Bug in to New York City to the Museum of Natural History the day after the blizzard — rather ill-advised when it took us 4.5 hours and four different trains to get home!

Favorite TV program? Glee and The Good Wife.

Favorite books? I actually had a lot of time to read and finished more books than I have in years, both fiction and nonfiction. In the former category, the three books that stand out are: Dear Money by Martha McPhee, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. They weren’t earthshaking, but I just loved each one. In the nonfiction realm I really liked No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (the Roosevelts on the home front in WWII) and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison.

Favorite films? I only saw one movie in the theater this year — Eat, Pray, Love. (But I loved it. Sue me for my questionable taste!) Recently, I’ve seen The Town and The Kids are Alright on OnDemand, and, surprisingly, liked both (as you know, my taste in movies runs towards the saccharine, e.g., Eat Pray Love…)

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you? I can’t even really remember my 36th birthday! Luckily, I blogged about it. It was spring, and I was still home on maternity leave, and Tim took me to a local Italian joint for dinner because I was craving a real Bolognese.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying? Just knowing from the start that I was going to go back to my job and that it would all be OK.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? I have to divide this in to two parts: January – September and September – December. In the former, it was black yoga pants and spit-up stained black t-shirts. In the latter, it was black Theory pants or skirt and cashmere cardigans or blazers.

What kept you sane? Red wine. For reals. And phone calls with my mother. Daily, sometimes twice a day. Also, emails and texts from my hilarious friends.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010? You are not your job. In fact, I suspect that nobody really cares what you do except for you. You’re not a victim of some amorphous FIRM that is out to get you (a la John Grisham?) — you’ve made your choice and you can unmake it at any time. You’re not trapped.  Also, even though you may get frustrated that your husband doesn’t like to hash out the nuances of your day, he is listening. More important: baby boys may not sleep and pre-school girls may whine, but it’s all doable. You can be much happier being grateful for what you have than wanting more, more, always more — this easier said than done, of course, especially for me, but slowly, slowly I feel like I’m on the verge of grasping this. I haven’t actually grasped it yet, but at least its a tangible concept now, something I can turn over in my mind, rather than something completely inaccessible.

Me at 36

May 12, 2010 at 4:30 am | Posted in running, SAHM, Starbucks, the 'burbs, Uncategorized, wine, yoga | 14 Comments

(Today’s Five for Ten topic is Happiness)

I have a birthday this week. Today, in fact. I can no longer claim I am in my lower- (or even, really, mid-) 30s. I have wrinkles on my forehead and my dimples seem to be elongating into deep smile lines. I’m in the midst of the three-month postpartum hair evacuation. (My hair quite literally falls out in clumps with every shower.) While supposedly I have lost all of the weight I gained with the baby, things have settled a bit differently. I’m not sure my clothes quite fit correctly (e.g., button-down blouses and jeans).

Here’s what else is going on at 36.

Coffee. My automatic coffee maker is getting more attention than Starbucks. This, for those who know me, is shocking. But I can no longer think clearly without a cup of coffee right away. Like, there is no time to even get to Starbucks. My mother always said, “I just can’t function without my first cup of coffee,” and I kind of laughed at what I thought was motherly exaggeration, but I get it now. Before Tim leaves in the mornings (which is usually while I’m still tucked into bed with the baby), I beg him to throw the coffee. Now, we did buy one of those coffee pots that you can program to turn on automatically, but far be it from me to actually remember to do so each night. I read recently that one tip to getting your baby to sleep through the night is to give up caffeine entirely. Ah, the Catch-22.

The ‘burbs. In addition to a grill and a swingset, we now also own some patio furniture and all sorts of lawn equipment (long and short trimmers, a fertilizer spreader, etc., et al), and we drive around town critically noting other people’s yards and gardens. And I think I am becoming more sure about our new town. I can still hop on the Red Line and into the city in 15-20 minutes (the other night I even visited a friend up the northern reaches of Cambridge via the Red Line!). I’m also slowly starting to meet some “friends” in town, as people start to emerge from the long winter. No one that I could call up yet and invite over for dinner, really, but perhaps a playground date. One friend, herself now a two-year veteran of a different suburb, tells me that I have to be extra bold when making new friends. “Get their cell numbers and text them!” she told me. “You have to stalk at this stage in life!”

Along those lines, at 36, with small children, I’ve realized that one’s social life necessarily revolves around others with children the same ages or else one actually will have no social life. Getting together with other couples, then, goes something like this: 8:30 a.m. brunch at the diner or 11 a.m. lunch at someone’s house while the preschoolers run around in the sprinkler (extra points when Bloody Mary’s are served along with the coffee) or a 5 p.m. barbeque. And, of course, even these earlier get-togethers happen more frequently than “date nights” because it is easier to drag the children along than deal with a babysitter. Some of my close friends have children older than mine, and some have no children, and — while they remain dear friends — we just do not get together as couples. It’s easier for me to see these friends one-on-one (and, since that in itself involves leaving children home with either Daddy or a sitter, this does not happen as frequently as I’d wish).

Little buglets and the existential questions they raise. I have really enjoyed this time at home on my maternity leave. Does this surprise me? A bit. I had looked forward to not working perhaps more than being at home (there is a difference). But it turns out that I like knowing what my daughter had for lunch (because I made it) and what time she woke up from her nap and, especially, our car rides home from preschool when, on the verge of her nap, she tells me (somewhat deliriously) about her morning (“Remember, today, at school when we learned about spider webs and CHARLOTTE’S WEB and horses eat HAY and pigs eat SCRAPS and Michael Foley liked the ORANGE popsicle best but Michael Murray liked the green one…”). At the same time, I do know that for various reasons I’ll be going back to work in the fall. I had told myself that I wouldn’t even think about work, or what comes next work-wise, until Little O was three months old. So only recently have I started to reconsider the inherent value in being home with one’s children versus the continuity of one’s career, and the conversations this balance has started with friends — both close friends and people with whom I’ve become reacquainted since having children — have been provocative and encouraging.

One close friend accurately and bluntly identified one of the issues I grapple with the most — that of affirmation (whether internal or external) of my law degree. She told me, “You have to ask yourself whether you are always going to want to wear a t-shirt that proclaims, ‘I made law review and worked at [BigLaw Firm].'” This from a woman who used to manage billions of dollars before leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children — but who would never, ever mention this unless you got to know her and asked. She lives in the present, and I so admire that, and her point to me was whether, if I pursued a career that was less intense, I’d always be justifying my decision. Or could I accept that different choices provide meaning and value in different ways.  [The subtext to this, I feel compelled to point out — again — is that I have a choice. I’m not talking about the “Mommy Wars” choice to work or stay at home, but, rather, knowing that I do want to work, to choose in what capacity I will do so:  big, fancy, stressful job with lots of cache, or a less-stressful, less-lucrative job that would allow me to work part-time but that may not “use” my law degree? Obviously, the former is attractive to me for all of sorts of intellectual and self-validating reasons and the latter attractive because, as it turns out, I like spending time with my children.] These are the more weighty issues that preoccupy me at 36.

The less-weighty issues include:

How many followers do I have on Twitter? Why didn’t I think of the concept behind my new favorite TV show, The Good Wife, before its writers? (I should have.) Did I waste money on my Kindle because the iPad is so much cooler and I want one? When do I make the seasonal switch from red wine to Oyster Bay Sauv Blanc? Are all the inchworms falling from the sky going to destroy my trees and how many carpenter ants should one see in one day before calling the exterminator (two? six? ten?)? Can I sneak in a run before the babysitter leaves or should I suck it up and take out the double-jogger? When will my hair stop falling out? Will I ever, ever sleep past 7 a.m. again? Should I go to BlogHer in August? Should we have our neighbors over for cocktails, even though we don’t know very many of them? What is the suburban protocol after one moves to a new neighborhood?

In Conclusion. At 36 I am:  a woman with two advanced degrees, two children, two mortgages, and two cars. I am still a voracious coffee-and-wine consumer, reader, and pop-culture junkie. I used to be a voracious yogi and runner, and while I miss the intensity of these pursuits, I can accept why I had to dial it down. I love my family fiercely, including my large extended family of aunts and uncles and sisters and step-parent and my many, many in-laws. I love my friends, too, in ways I could not have foreseen a decade ago. I notice that I am getting older chronologically in that those close to me are getting older, too — my children, my parents. But I don’t mind it, really, and I do like the mellowing part — more so mind than body, of course. My sister remarked recently that I’m so much more relaxed these days. Maybe this is because I’m on maternity leave and not working, but I’d also like to think it’s just me.

Courage: For my Mother

May 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Posted in running, Uncategorized | 20 Comments

I signed up to tackle the Five for Ten blogging “challenge” — I’ve never done anything like this before but (a) could use a kick in the butt in terms of posting more often and (b) it’s always nice to be given a subject. Today’s subject is COURAGE.

I had wanted to post my “courage” piece yesterday, for Mother’s Day, but struggled a bit with the vagaries of the word. On a sparkling, crisp, windy Sunday, then, I set out on a long run thinking about the word and, probably because it was, in fact, Mother’s Day, my mind kept coming back to my mother.

I do not consider myself a courageous person at all. I cannot even call the plumber to schedule a repair. I am still scared of thunderstorms (for real). To an outsider, certain decisions I have made perhaps seem courageous. Arguably it takes courage to end a long relationship in which you have invested everything. Or it takes courage to restart your life at 30 and go to law school. For me, however, these decisions had nothing to do with being courageous. They were simply right, and, at the time, there were no other decisions that could have been made. Instead, I see courageous as having a connotation that leans more towards “principled” than “brave” — because sometimes the line between “brave” and “foolish” is just too porous.

Still, I knew intrinsically that these decisions would be supported by, if no one else, my mother. Her own decisions regarding her marriage, career, and most important her children, were made as much out of principle as they were bravery — and, as such, are to me the definition of courageous.

My mother is one of the few people I know who has never veered from a set of core principles about fairness, equality, and love. In our yuppie New Jersey suburb we were one of the few families who didn’t belong to the country club. My mother would not join a club, she said, that did not admit Jews, blacks, or Italians, to name a few. “You can have an exclusive club, I don’t care,” she said. “But I cannot condone excluding people on an external bias.” (At the time, I was kind of peeved that I couldn’t join all of my friends poolside, ordering grilled cheeses and fountain Cokes all summer long.) Or, for example, when my father’s law firm held its annual dinner dance at an exclusive men’s club in the city, the wives were made to wait in the ladies room until their husbands arrived. My mother refused. These principles gave her the courage in spite of public opinion, even if that public was only the small worlds of our town and my father’s colleagues, to act in singular way. Later, during my parents’ rather scandalous divorce, these same principles morphed into pure courage, enabling her to hold her head high as she walked through town while all other heads leaned together to whisper about her. Ultimately, she emerged as the woman to whom every other housewife in town, as their marriages fell apart, sought for advice.

At the same time, in addition to her stances for what is inherently “right,” a deep, unwavering, principled love for family is gave her the courage to get out of bed when the entire town was talking about her. It gave her the strength to herself go to law school in her 40s (with three children at home). It gave her the courage to open her heart again to love and marriage.

A friend once said to me, “Your mom is the quintessential mother.” (At the time I probably quite literally said, “Whatever” or some other similarly dismissive response.) This comment was made after my mother had taken a group of college friends out to dinner in Washington, D.C., where I was on an extended visit with my father, who was dying. My parents were no longer married, and all of the surrounding stresses were taking their toll on me physically and emotionally (obviously). My mother drove down just for a day. She took us to dinner and we ordered wine and laughed about college, and for a time I was buoyed. I now understand what my friend meant — my mother sometimes glows with her unshakeable love and faith in her daughters. It is so obvious to anyone who knows her that there is absolutely nothing she wouldn’t do for us.

Do you know what it is like to go through life with that sort of faith and love behind you? It gives you, yes, courage.

Though I was a heady, selfish, precocious teenager who made some stupid decisions, I did know — as much as I thought I hated her at the time — that my mother loved me and would stand by me. And, I must say, reciprocally, she had the courage to do so, even when she didn’t know whether I’d ever have a good relationship with her.

So when I went through my “decade of troubles” (I just made the phrase up now — doesn’t it sound sort of Gothic?)  — the death of my father, the end of a major relationship, the uncertainties of my future — I didn’t so much tap into any sort of courage of my own as look to the path she had blazed before me. Her actions taught me that by holding fast to one’s principles — equality, love, hope — one could create a good life out of adversity or even a new life, of sorts, if necessary.

Most important, when I became pregnant with my daughter — a bit more quickly and surprisingly than I would have planned — I knew, once again, that I’d have her support. (I tucked my daughter in last night and thought, “My God, what if I hadn’t had her?”)

As I ran up and down the hills yesterday, thinking about this post, and courage, and, of course, my mother herself, I thought, “This is all I want for my children.” For them to have the courage to make mistakes and to live by their principles and to know that, no matter what, I will always love them and support them and help them.

My mother might argue that she did not have courage. She might tell you that she tried to hard to pretend that things were alright when they weren’t or that our lives were still perfect when, clearly, they weren’t. She might not forgive herself for this. And, consequently, now she might tell you that the most important thing you can do when you raise a child is to teach her to deal with adversity.

Still, while she may have not thought she was teaching us these lessons at the time, through her comport and manner — her graceful bearing, her calm, her ability to listen without judgment, her articulate words, her protectiveness, her humor (which, of course, we often did not find funny) — we nevertheless learned them and have them as our touchstone for our adult lives. It is my fiercest hope as a mother that, if nothing else, I can live in a manner as principled as she does and teach my own children that adversity is something to be tackled — with courage, sure, but I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you know that someone loves you no matter what, perhaps you don’t need to pretend things are perfect. I think it took both my mother and me a long time to realize this, but I wouldn’t change a day of my past in exchange for this epiphany.

Vanity or Insanity?

April 7, 2010 at 6:18 am | Posted in Little O, running, the 'burbs | 7 Comments
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Gretchen Rubin writes often of exercising for the sake of sanity, not vanity. This is a noble goal, and I’m sure most of us feel better with endorphins racing through our body after a run, but let’s be honest: most of us likely exercise for at least a degree vanity. I simply cannot force myself to eat salads and fruit all day long. I don’t eat a lot of meat, and my husband will not eat fish: ergo, we have pasta for dinner almost nightly. I also like sugar. I need to exercise to keep my clothes fitting properly.

Exercising immediately after having a baby is not fun. There is a lot of relaxin still coursing through your body, so after a three-mile run, if you’re not winded from a few weeks or months of laying off the cardio (or having modified it down several notches), your hips feel loose and kind of achy. I have found, with both of my children, that nursing — far from helping me shed the pounds quickly, as celebrities are so quick to claim nursing does for them — makes me retain a bit of weight. I’d like to think it’s biological and that my body needs this weight to produce enough milk. But it may also be that jogging with three sports bras is not all that comfortable, and so my running is less enthusiastic than it might otherwise be. I’m an impatient, instant-gratification-expecting person, however, and I want my old jeans to fit now. Not in four or six or eight months when I stop nursing. It’s time to get drastic.

Regular readers might recall that for the past two years I’ve run half marathons with my law school friends: the Great Bay Half in 2008, which I ran about nine months after having Little Buggy, and the Run to Remember in Boston last May, which I ran four weeks pregnant with Little O. In a burst of energy I signed up to run the Run to Remember again this May with Ellen, although only after warning her that I would be running with only the expectation of finishing — no thoughts as to time or even trying to run it without walking breaks.

Run to Remember, 2009. Don’t we look like we’re having fun?

I love training for races. It forces me to get out and run three or four times a week. I love the feeling of completing an eight- or ten-mile training run, but I’m not the sort of person who would ever run such distances without “having” to, without a goal at the end. This year may prove a bit more difficult: not only did I have a baby two months ago and am perhaps not physically totally ready, but my energy levels are low from getting up once or twice a night. In addition, now that I’m in the ‘burbs, I no longer have the gorgeous esplanade along which to take four, six, or ten mile loops. Ellen and I will have to make a concerted effort to meet from our respective suburbs to train together.

Hopefully, all of these challenges will make completing the race that much sweeter. And, to be completely frank, hopefully my jeans will fit perfectly by then, as well.

New Year’s, again

December 30, 2009 at 7:00 am | Posted in gastronomy, little bug, running, Starbucks, the firm, Uncategorized, weekend, wine, yoga | Leave a comment
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Last year my resolutions were regimented and ambitious and accompanied by this photo:

Unabashed self-improvement, complete with a killer bod. This year, when I’m quickly moving into end-of-pregnancy, out-of-breath lethargy and clearly will be starting my new year at a decided fitness disadvantage, I almost have to laugh at last year’s idealism.

So I’ll be a bit more realistic. I really do love making New Year’s resolutions — I love a challenge, and I love self-improvement. I love setting goals and diving head-first into meeting them, even if they are forgotten in a few weeks. The planning and that initial, exhilarating dive energize me.

Gretchen Rubin, who writes a blog called the Happiness Project (and has a new book out by the same name, which I pre-ordered, of course!), had some thoughtful suggestions for die-hard resolvers such as myself:

  • Ask: “What would make me happier?
  • Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?
  • Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?”
  • Ask: “Am I starting small enough?
  • Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?”

With these tips in mind for 2010, I considered not that which would make me better (e.g., eat healthier, lose weight, etc.), nor anything rigidly goal-related (with a baby and a six-month work hiatus rapidly approaching, I just have no idea how anything career-related is going to sort itself out — and I’m not going to try to force anything, e.g., “bill more hours” or “turn blog into advertising bonanza”). Instead, I considered that which, simply, might make me happier.

What does actually make me truly happy? I didn’t consider the obvious yet existential stuff — such as my daughter laying her head on my shoulder or my husband rolling over and putting his arm around me in the early early mornings for a few more minutes of sleep. But almost guilty, materialistic pleasures — what if I tried to embrace these with the resolution to be, well, just happier

What makes me happy:

1.  Very very long very very hot showers. 
2.  Saturday morning yoga with Claire or Rhea at Baron Baptiste.
3.  4.5 mile runs when the stars are aligned (pleasant conditions, before breakfast or as the sun sets, a good running mix)
4.  Starbucks grande soy no foam no water chai (oh, but these are SO bad for you, so perhaps they are best saved for an occasional indulgence of which that I will try to be mindful in the moment — see #9, below).
5.  Opening a new bottle of red wine — from the sound of the cork popping, to that first swirl and smell, to pouring another glass. I love the ritual as much as anything else.
6.  Afternoon naps on the weekends (especially if they follow either #2 or #3).
7.  Friday nights, with wine, in front of the TV and a good dinner of something with pasta and cheese with Tim (though depending on how much wine, #2 or #3 may not be as pleasant).
8.  People and US Weekly.
9.  Catching myself in the present, as brief or startling as it may be: hearing a song in the car that links past to present; running; yoga; wine; reading a passage in a book or magazine or blog that strikes me as true and real. 

My friend Lindsey has been featuring a series on her blog called Present Tense, in which she asks bloggers about the moments in which they are truly present. It’s interesting to read about what the idea of “being present” means to others, and it’s also nice to know that it is as difficult for others as it is for me.

As for resolutions, then (and thinking back to last year’s), cleaning up the house and cooking  — while I enjoy the results of both, and am learning to love the process of the latter, especially with a glass of #5 in hand — don’t necessarily bring me immediate pleasure, as aspirational as they are.  Maybe, then, all of these things that do bring real relaxation and happiness serve as subconscious conduits to #9? Is that the point?

As I embark on a year that promises a few changes, the clean house will happen or it won’t (remember this post ?). Perhaps clearing a path for some of these less lofty moments – and acknowledging how much I enjoy them – can lead ultimately to #9.

13.1!

May 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Posted in running, weekend | 2 Comments

Believe it or not, the half marathon went much better than expected. When we were lined up at the start, the announcer said it was 87% humidity — yikes. There were 8,000 other runners (supposedly), which is always motivating, and Ellen and I were in much better shape by mile 10 at this race than the last half marathon we ran (last April) — we even managed to finish five minutes faster! I knew I was more mentally prepared for this race (if much less physically prepared), but it made for what was actually a fun race! 

run

Mile 7


photo-5

 Mile 13


photo-6

Hooray!

13.1

May 21, 2009 at 10:45 am | Posted in running, weekend, yoga | 3 Comments
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I am running a half-marathon on Sunday. I write this not to self-glorify, but to ask why. Why am I doing this? I am a remarkably slow — steady and consistent, but slow — runner. I run a 10-minute mile when both sprinting and slogging. My knees turn in and my legs flail out (to the point where little kids watching me run often imitate me mockingly. Quincy once kindly told me I was like a young calf, or colt, but, in short, it’s not pretty). I’m a fair-weather runner. I like to run at 7 a.m. on a spring or fall morning, or just before sunset on a similarly warm but not humid day. I like to run with my iPod. And I like to run with people who will run slowly enough to chat with me — the list is short! In no way do I consider myself a “real” runner, such as my marathon-running husband who will head out for his “usual” 12-mile Sunday run no matter the weather or, as I’ve noted previously, no matter how much wine he has consumed the night before.

I’ve run one marathon (when 13 years younger and 13 pounds lighter), and two other half marathons. When I’m “training” for one of these longer races, I have to remember that I feel like crap until I have run for about 45 minutes. Then I feel good for about 30 minutes, and then I feel like crap again. Usually, it’s blisters, or just plain aerobic fatigue. Why do I sign up for these races? (1) I feel like I need to get in shape, and the looming challenge of a race is all that will motivate me and (2) that’s about it.

Here’s what does feel good: after you come home from an eight, nine, or 10-mile training run and are showered and have eaten whatever you feel like because you’ve just burned 2,000 calories and then and walk around ever so slightly sore in the hips for the rest of the day. Here’s what also feels good: sitting in a diner immediately after the race, salty sweat dried on your face, proudly wearing a race-issued long-sleeved t-shirt, drinking a chocolate milkshake or coffee and eating diner pancakes. And, also, knowing that a six-mile run is no longer a daunting, long-ish run, but, rather, just an everyday run.

Sunday will be tough. The longest run I’ve done while training this time around is 10 miles (for previous half-marathons I’ve gotten in 12 miles), but I will excuse this with balance this out against my full-time job. I ran 6.5 on Tuesday (felt good), 4.5 this morning (felt awful, but will chalk it up to not drinking enough water last night? I hope?) and will run three tomorrow and will try to go to yoga on Saturday morning. And will then cross my fingers!

 

Milestone

May 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm | Posted in little bug, running, Starbucks, the firm, wine | 5 Comments
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Hello! Remember me? It’s my birthday, so I’m going to use this occasion to try to start posting again. If the camera on my Blackberry hadn’t broken the last time I dropped it (iPhone here I come!), I would have posted a picture of my desk at work today, which featured a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my coworkers friends, another goregous bouquet from Winston Flowers from my dear EAPL, and a genuine Starbucks mug from the original Pike’s Place Starbucks in Seattle, lovingly carried back by Sarabclever, who knows me too well. There was a leisurely lunch at Boloco (where else?) with coworkers friends; voicemail messages from friends trying to sing happy birthday (love you KRB and QBMc!); a real, old-school birthday card from LMR (of course!); presents from my loving family, including a framed, matted reproduction of the Maira Kalman print of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the one featured in the post below) from my incredibly talented sister (now open for freelance stationery business!). And lots of emails and Facebook messages. Plus, Tim walked in from a business trip with pizza and mint chocolate chip ice cream from J.P. Licks. And, I am drinking a Chateauneuf-du-Pape given to me by my coworker friend, Jean-Michel (and he didn’t even know it is my absolute favorite varietal!) My baby is sleeping soundly in the next room (hopefully, with her pajamas on. Her new habit is unzipping them numerous times throughout the night). I am a lucky, lucky woman.

Not to say that this birthday hasn’t been a little fraught — poor Ellen got an earful on our 10-mile run around Castle Island on Sunday (yes, the half marathon is happening Memorial Day weekend!). It’s a milestone of sorts — no longer am I in my “early” 30s. If and when we have another child, I’ll be of “advanced maternal age,” and my insurance will cover all the early pre-natal testing that it didn’t the first time around. But it has been milestone also in that it has, somewhat surprisingly, put me in touch, for various reasons, with two important people from my deep, dark past. I’ve grown a lot, and karma has won out (I hope), and attempts at closure have, perhaps, finally been satisfied. I’d rather be 35 and who I am right now than young and face-line-less.

Good Friday

April 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Posted in little bug, Massholes, running, the firm, weekend | 3 Comments
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It’s Good Friday, and I am at work. I realized this morning that I have never worked on Good Friday before. The good lord knows that I am hardly an observant Catholic anymore; however, I feel strangely guilty for being here (even though it’s not like I would be in church or something otherwise).

Good Friday used to mean those three hours Masses where you weren’t allowed to sit down. Catholicism is still a central tenant of my identity, more cultural than religious, but to this day if I go to a church service that is not Catholic, it doesn’t quite feel like church (even an Episcopal service — the Lord’s Prayer is just ever so slightly different at the end…)

We’re not going to church this weekend.* And I hadn’t really thought about making an Easter basket for Little Buggy (to my mother’s horror — but don’t worry: we have been invited to some Easter egg hunts with friends and their children, so at least she can observe that pagan ritual). I do sometimes wonder if I’m doing the right thing by not introducing religion to my child. Tim would argue that we are absolutely doing the right thing, but I think his more traditional (think: lots of kids, Catholic school) religious upbringing has scarred him more than it has me. Still, a nice, liberal, welcoming church with lots of music and stories of love and goodness (such as the church in which we baptized Buggy — see my prior post on that lovely day, here) would be something I could get into — if it didn’t conflict with naptime.

I’m surprised that today is not a holiday at the Firm — it’s a market holiday, and we are in one of the most Catholic cities in the country. The halls seem somewhat quiet today, and I haven’t received many emails, so even though this is no longer a religious holiday for me, I think I shall mark it in my own way by sneaking out a bit early, taking a long run on the river in the spring sunshine, and taking my baby to the playground.

*In addition to this being Easter weekend, it is also Master’s Weekend, a holiday in its own right that borders on the religious in our house. You think I’m kidding.

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