About two weeks ago I was at a rehearsal and felt a sharp, stabbing pain every time I would walk up and down the steps to the stage. The pain worsened as the day went on, and by the following day I was literally gripping the banister every time I went up and down stairs. I handled the unexplained injury as the Internet told me to- rest, ice, Alleve, glucosamine- and by the weekend the pain had lessened but was not completely gone.
This would normally not be too much of an issue… I’ve danced my whole life and incurred a number of injuries that have run their course on my body. But the timing of this was particularly poor because I was registered to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon just 10 days after the day the knee pain hit. Last weekend I made the choice that I would buy a knee brace, continue my repair regiment, and if I was feeling okay by the middle of the week I would run it. On the Monday before the race I did 5.5 miles around Central Park, knee brace on, and felt alright minus the pain starting in my other knee. My solution? Buy a second knee brace and run this sucker, gimp legs and all.
I’m relatively new to running. Literally speaking, that is. Figuratively I’ve been a runner my whole life, but that’s for a different post. Last spring I ran my first half marathon in Nashville after only training for about 8 weeks, and it was one of the hardest things I ever did. You can read about that experience here: Lessons From a Half Marathon: Do Epic Shit. When I was running the BK Half this year, I thought about what new things I had learned in training for and running this race. I thought particularly hard during miles 9-13, when the only other thing to cross my mind was I would welcome the knee pain back to take me down and end this torture.
Here’s this year’s pearls of wisdom on life, running, and the ups and downs of both.
1. When your body tells you something is wrong, LISTEN.
I am a stubborn person. I’m very competitive and I don’t like to lose or admit defeat. This will either make me wildly successful or be the token trait of my demise… jury’s still out. When it comes to life, you can afford to be a bit stubborn, justifying that you’re holding out for the best it has to offer. When it comes to your body, different story. I had two big injuries hit over the past three months of training. The first was either tendinitis or a stress fracture on the top of my foot that throbbed for a good week and came back a month after it healed. The second was the aforementioned knee. Both times I had to seriously suck up some pride and admit I had to stop running for periods of time or else this race wasn’t happening. And you know what?
Of all the athletic events I’ve participated in over the years, I recovered from this one the best. Hell, I went out dancing with my girlfriends, in HEELS, the night after the race and lived the walk the next day.
In New York it’s easy to get up with the hustle and motion of life, feeling like if we stop for even just one minute someone will catch up to us and beat us to the top. We live in a city where competition is a necessity, talent is not enough, and though everyone is trying to make their dreams happen, the majority of us spend day to day treading water just to stay afloat. It’s not pretty. But it molds you, and it makes you value every tiny, invisible piece of yourself because your body HAS to be on it’s best behavior just to be able to walk the city streets without getting taken down. My knees? Without them, I couldn’t get in/out of my walk-up studio apartment. Or up and down the multiple subway lines I take every day to work and meetings. My legs carry me all over this city and this life I’ve carved out for myself, and though their length and shape often have me hurling things at mirrors, truth is I need them more than my brain sometimes.
When my body told me to give them a break, I listened. Always listen.
2. Just breathe.
As a teenager, the one critique my dance teachers always gave me during rehearsals was to breathe while I was performing. I’d be concentrating so hard on the choreography- the turns, the leaps, the presentation- that I’d literally be holding my breath, leaving me tense and probably looking more constipated than emotionally connected. When I started running, finding a good breathing pattern was a challenge. Finally one day I just stopped thinking about it. Breathing is natural right? So there’s no need to control it. Now when running distances, I have learned to let loose. I pay attention to my posture, and the little ticks that go off in your body after moving nonstop for an hour. I notice when I’m tensing up and take a deep breath in and out. I go at a pace that feels comfortable and most importantly, I absorb the environment around me. Fresh air, trees, open space, water, busy streets, bike riders… breathe it in.
3. The right playlist is everything.
Around mile 9 I started to tire out, hard. No water or Gatorade was cutting it, and the last 5 miles were a straight run down Ocean Parkway so there weren’t many distractions. Fortunately I had made a solid playlist the night before, and Sara Bareilles’ “Let The Rain” came on just at the right time. That song is my JAM. Busted right through that bitch of a mile and next thing I knew I was in double digits. I love playlists because I tend to wander a lot and the right songs help me feel like I’m in an epic movie of my own life. At least until I almost get hit by a cab- that’s always a buzzkill. Anyway, music is a very personal thing, so it’s hard to advise what songs will light that fire under your ass. I would say know the average pace you run, and map out your playlist accordingly.
4. Don’t just be a runner.
We have a running (no pun intended) joke in my family that it’s impossible for me to be just one thing, and this applies to my workout of choice as well. I suppose I have a bit of ADD of the soul, and get bored relatively easily. A big difference I’ve made in the past year of working out and training has been incorporating cross-training, strength training, and more stretching into my running schedule. Essentially, I never do the same workout twice. In alternating workouts and focusing on different body parts, I felt like a stronger, more solid runner. I also think my recovery was easier because I was in different shape overall. As humans we are made up of many different parts. Feed each one accordingly, and you’ll have a much healthier, colorful, and balanced life in the mind, body and soul.
And so here we are, another year down, another claim that I’m “never doing this again” being overshadowed by my other favorite phrase…
Never say never.
Disclaimer: I have the utmost respect for teachers in any school system. I worked in a high school for 2 years and as a dance teacher for 10 years, and have many family members and friends that are currently employed as educators.
For the past month and a half I have been working as a substitute teacher in a variety of private schools uptown and downtown. Each day that I’m called in brings a new adventure and set of experiences, some more noteworthy than others. For the record, I’m not complaining about having to work- in New York City hustle is both necessary and the norm, and I hold (and have held) many jobs in addition to this subbing position.
However, it is slowly sucking the last bit of soul out of my body. When I started this job, I had high hopes of being regarded much like Robin Williams’ character in Good Will Hunting. In truth, I feel more like Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher, or Michelle Pfeiffer in the prep school version of Dangerous Minds.
My first week teaching I was called in to sub Pre-K, Kindergarten and high school. The first two days I spent losing to 5 year olds in checkers and listening as the other kindergarten teachers bitched about all those runners in the park in the middle of the day, who must be “artists.” Yes, those “artists” have it so easy, working like maniacs to pay rent and survive in New York while pursuing their dream, as you sit on the playground babysitting a bunch of 5 year olds before snack time. Please.
I was excited the day I was called in to the high school, ready to do some real teaching! Be careful what you wish for. One period I was asked to proctor an English exam. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except there were two pages of instructions on all the class stipulations- Person A, B, C, and D may use their computers, Person E, F, and G have extra time, Person A and G can take their extra time in after school, have person B e-mail this to me and Person C and D… I blacked out after the fourth paragraph. What ever happened to “Here’s the test, keep your eyes on your own paper and good luck.” The following day I received an e-mail scolding me for letting a student with a stomach issue spend too much time in the bathroom, with explicit details on how to handle this problem in the future.
Hey asshole, in the future, give the test yourself.
Another highlight of this job was the day I taught P.E. to 1st graders. What is going on with children these days? Man up little ones, a little exercise never hurt anyone. I have never seen so many “injuries” incur in a 30 minute period. My favorite was “Ms. Morelli, he pushed me.”
Hey kid, you’re playing tag.
The best gig so far was the three week stint teaching third grade at a private school uptown. The kids were great, even the non-diagnosed ADD child who made ME want to be on meds. The subjects were fun, the teachers were all really nice, and I only got in trouble once for not dressing “teacher-like” enough. I quickly rushed to DSW to get a pair of flats to squeeze my fat, damaged feet into, accenting my short, stubby legs, and proudly wore my dumpy look for the final week.
Which brings me to the past two days. Or as I like to call it “14 Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back.” The school I’m placed at is downtown, which means a 45 minute commute to work. Fine. I’ll get up at 6:30am, even though it fills me with dread and makes me a cranky bitch for the rest of the day/week. I arrive at the school and I’m given all the lessons I have to teach for the day… in Spanish.
No hablo español.
I trudge through two block periods (75 minutes) at the computer lab, and go to lunch. There I’m ignored by every teacher at the table, so I quietly eat and courtesy smile every now and then when the rest of the table laughs. My final class is Philosophy, stocked with obnoxious high school kids to which I am invisible.
Day 2. I arrive at 8am. I have no classes until 11:55am. At 11:55 I am put in a study hall with a group of 8th graders who are throwing Cheerios around the room and walking in and out with no regard to my request to please stay put. No one disciplines them. No one peeks their head out of the classroom to tell them to get where they need to go.
Second half of the day. No class once again. I’m asked to go to the teachers lounge and cut out laminated signs. Final period now. I’m watching an intermediate Spanish class and counting the minutes of the clock like it’s my last day of parole.
I know I should look at this as “easy day!” and “easy money!” No, not really. I don’t find being disrespected and ignored enjoyable for any amount of money. Well, maybe a certain amount of money. But definitely not what I’m making.
Therefore, I leave you with this:
Please buy DEFRIENDED, and then share it with your friends, so I can pursue my career as a writer and stop taking jobs that chip away at my already shaky self-esteem and sanity.
Love for Certain Work
From “A Year With Rumi”
Traveling is as refreshing for some
as staying at home is for others.
Solitude in a mountain place
fills with companionship for this one,
and weariness for that one.
This person loves being in charge
of the workings of a community.
This other one loves the ways
heated iron can be shaped with a hammer.
Each has been given a strong desire
for certain work, a love for these motions,
and all motion is love.
The way sticks and pieces of dead grass and leaves
shift about in the wind
and with the directions of rain and puddle-water
on the ground, those motions
are all following the love
they have been given.
DEFRIENDED was selected for a local NYC book club this past month, and I had the pleasure of meeting the group and answering a few questions. After getting past the initial “I know nothing about anyone here and they’ve now read about some of the most personal and embarrassing situations in my life” moment, I had a great time chatting with the ladies about the ins and outs of dating, life and love. Here’s a little peek at a few of the questions up for discussion:
Q: Are you writing anything else right now?
A: Yes! A fiction piece. Though I find nonfiction writing comes naturally, I need a break from myself for a bit. DEFRIENDED was very expositional, and I’m still adjusting to having a huge chunk of my life out there for all to read. With this new project, I have a specific character I’ve been developing, and I’m looking forward to telling her story in a unique way.
Q: Did “Jack” read the book?
A: Jack bought the book. He actually pre-ordered it when it first came out. He Instagrammed a picture of it. Whether or not he’s read it, I have no idea.
Q: Have you tried all the fitness apps recommended in the book?
A: I use about half of the ones listed. The others were recommended to me by friends or discovered during research. I’m open to learning about some new ones if you have any you love!
Q: Do you find it’s easier or more difficult dating now [that the book has been published]?
A: I think dating sucks across the board, whether you’ve written a book about it or not. I am definitely more aware now that I ever was, a bit more cautious for sure, and have learned to speak up when something doesn’t feel right. I don’t string people along if I’m not interested, and if I find myself behaving in a way that has not worked well in the past I make a conscious effort to change it. If nothing else, the book has made me very accountable for my actions and reactions, which can be very powerful. I don’t want to be a hypocrite… which means letting go of certain tendencies I’m infamous for. Easier said than done.
If you read DEFRIENDED and would like to set up a Book Club Q & A (or just chat about life over a few cocktails, I’m down for both) please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!
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Today is “Poem In Your Pocket” Day at the school I’m working at. Each student and teacher must keep a copy of their favorite poem and share it with another randomly throughout the day. Though I have several, ranging from childhood favorites to adult standards, I chose to share Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.”
The Road Not Taken
By: Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Today we celebrate World Book Night, and as a lifelong reader and new author I wanted to reflect on a book that inspired me along my journey.
“Someone asked an artist how long it took him to make a certain picture. ‘Five minutes and my whole lifetime,’ he responded.”
Years ago a friend recommended I read Hope for the Flowers… I later had the pleasure of interviewing the author for NYC Art Scene and understanding what truly made this book so magical. In honor of World Book Night USA, I’m sharing it once again. A story that will touch of the heart of every adult, told with the simplicity of a child’s eyes. Though the Kickstarter campaign is long over, the message of hope lives on. http://www.nycartscene.com/?p=1760.