I could write a book about running a marathon

In the time I would have usually given to post on here I've been forcing (not a good word to use, sounds like a backhoe should be involved) myself to work on revising my novels and short stories instead. I didn't want the blog to become yet another distraction from larger goals, yet another fake To Do item on a fake To Do list. That same "busy on purpose" theme from back when I started writing this blog -- I just can't get away from it. All the things being too busy saves us from. Having to be organized. Having to grow up. (Staying disorganized itself seems to keep us in perpetual kid-role. "I keep getting late fees" and "I can't find my keys" are just new versions of "I can't find my backpack" and "I keep forgetting my lunch".) Always running from one thing to the next keeps you from having to figure out priorities. Something more pressing than what is really pressing. Fear, sadness and silence of course are easier to block out. Giving real goals an honest chance. Always much easier to say I would have if I'd had more time. (My brother-in-law and I were joking while out on a jog Thanksgiving morning about how everyone talks about running a marathon just like everyone says, "I could write a book". He came up with "I could write a book about running a marathon." We pictured someone in an easy chair cracking open a beer.) Just like I get so annoyed at that infuriatingly simple yet helpful happiness book (Gretchen Rubin). It's not like I really could have written it. Obviously I have not done anything close to it. Instead I'd rather have 10 much-better books that I'll one day write. There's a great quote I read recently about how we should give up trying to be perfect and start becoming ourselves. I'll give up trying to be perfect and not bother trying to figure out who said it before posting this, meaning it would become yet another of a dozen or so drafts that haven't been published. 

Oh, here it is, Anna Quindlen: "The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." Oh man you all have to go read this right now. Her 1999 commencement speech at Mount Holyoke. Just please read it immediately or at least add it to your fake To Do list with a big star next to it.

In writing the blog, I started to get through some of the crazy thoughts I didn't realize I had. (I really hate the word blog. Doesn't it take too long to say given how short it is?Also it just sounds self-indulgent --my blog, my blog, have you seen my blog? Read it all the way back from the beginning hopefully in order? Memorized it so I don't have to tell you what I've been up to lately? Why haven't you had time to catch up on it? BTW, those of you who tell me you have trouble keeping up with it—surely I’ve given you enough time now.) And getting through those has allowed me not to need to prove so much. I think I was always trying to prove something to myself through others; I suppose this isn't uncommon. But I tended to do this in an odd an unproductive way. Like with the fear of asking to be removed from mailing lists. I tried to get off Macy's. I've only bought one thing there once. They did let me squirrel out of receiving coupons and cancel a credit card I never signed up for, but they pressed about why I couldn’t simply receive email offers and I eventually caved. You’re right, I guess that’s really not much of a sacrifice. I can easily delete those. What was I proving? In that small ridiculous way that I wasn’t a jerk who was going to say no, flat out.  That’s just one small piece of it.  Plus I’m doing something I’ve often been advised not to do – writing about an area where I have no authority. But I really don’t have authority in any area at all except former wanna-be-rock-star future wanna-be-writer current mom to kid who played today for an hour in a sensory gym and 2 hours in the dirt and walked a full mile and still can’t fall asleep. I guess I am a little bit of an authority on that. 

Wally will likely continue his party tricks. Like this evening in front of the Christmas windows at Macy's when a woman pointed and told the crowd "Look, he gets out of his stroller himself!". This is the big stroller where he actually has to climb out because I accidentally left the toddler stroller in Mass. 

Yet in so many ways he's just been so easy, so much fun. Taking off his shirt today and saying, "This is not my tummy." (Not sure what that meant.) He listens and looks at me when I talk. He doesn't run off too much. We do art projects, quick ones, like stringing noodles together. He held my hand as I pushed the stroller for a mile and he's now figured out what to do when waiting for the lights to change. He jumps in place. I thought about how people were probably thinking -- Why doesn't she put him in the stroller? The streets were packed and it was ridiculous to walk in that fashion.  "She has no control over her kid" rearing its head again. And the truth is, in that way I don't have much. At least until I find a stroller where he can't undo the straps and climb out. But a man sitting on the street outside D'Aiudos loved it and said, "Good for you little man. Get your exercise. Make those legs strong." The rest of the way Wally kept saying, "That was funny" and then asking for confirmation that he'd see the funny man again tomorrow. So maybe not everyone was thinking about the bad mom stuff. Maybe, like Grandma Eleanor used to say, you'd be amazed to know how little people are thinking about you at all. Or did someone more famous say that, like actually say that. Eleanor Roosevelt or something? I need to get more sleep (thanks, Gretchen Rubin) and start making more sense. Or stop, Talking Heads style. I'm getting into free-associative state and should clearly stop this post and go write Haikus. (Or work on my "novels". Oh, and there's a contest for 30-word stories, deadline today. Go apply! I sent in 3. Surely we all have time for that.) 


  1. Brilliant, Anna (first part kills me, esp. paragraph #4), and brilliant, Rachel (thankful that blogs, yes, such a strange word, still...can degenerate into stream-of-consciousness, thank God for that). I am literally on the edge of my seat, awaiting your novels. 10 of them, please. And it's the real me, waiting, and not some imitator. I know it will all be just like you said it would be.

  2. I LOVE that man on the street. I mean, we complain about our sedentary society and then people want children strapped down or reined in at all times it seems or we are deemed to have no control.

    Of course, this comes from the women who turned her back for one second to look at a skirt in a department store yesterday and my three year old climbed into the window display and tried to hug a mannequin. Thankfully, it didn't fall and I had to explain that we don't climb onto the window, it is just for decoration. It wasn't that he was bad. I had never directly explained not to do that and it was ground level and very Christmasy and inviting. I wish that man from the street had been there. "Good for you little man. Follow that curiosity and explore the world." Instead, I just felt like the terrible, out of control mom.

    I have decided lately that I live in a constant free-associative state. It reminds me of fifth grade when Mr. Mac had to explain to me that when we make a comment or ask a question, we need to provide a context for the other person to know what the hell we are talking about. I still struggle with that one. Maybe that ADD diagnosis was spot on. Anyway, I am off to bookmark that Anna Quindlen piece to read while Avoiding my Daily Duties another time(ADD). Thanks for the wisdom once again.

  3. "she has no control over her kid" this is something that has freaked me out since I had kids, even when they were infants. You know "why can't that mom stop her baby from crying?" Well you know what? I've given up, thrown in the towel. I really don't care what my kids say or do in public anymore as long as they don't hurt anyone or themselves or insult anyone. I get notes home from my daughters school teachers saying that Millie needs to stop using potty words at lunch. I don't think these words are harmful, just plain silly, I laugh too. I guess when it is disruptive in class then that is disrespectful but we're working on it. For the time being kids; get out of your strollers! run around! say crazy potty words! why? because your kids so enjoy it now.

  4. There's a move afoot to get kids outside, cut down on the average of 7.5 hours a day kids are planted in front of TVs or other screens. But I guess if we do get them outside, we have to keep them sitting down, strapped in; we can't risk taking this outside exercise thing too far.

  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u2ZsoYWwJA

    The part about parenting and what others think...reminds me of what you wrote re: "why doesn't she put him in the stroller?"

  6. Ps, and I just unsubscribed from a mailing list in honor of Cousin Rachel.

  7. This is my favorite Anna Quindlen piece:

    And I love the quote from your Grandma Eleanor - so so true!

  8. K.B.E., thank you for tolerating stream-of-consciousness. Roo & Moo - -I can't stop laughing over the idea of living in a free-associative state and what Mr. Mac said. People still say this to me on a continual basis "What made you think of that?" Or imply that I can't simply jump from subject to subject in conversation, that there has to be a transition. Love new definition for ADD. I TOTALLY agree re: Mael -- why shouldn't he have jumped in there? This is a much bigger topic we have to talk about and explore ourselves (meanwhile jumping around to all kinds of unrelated stuff). So much of what's considered bad behavior is natural. What's unnatural is expecting little kids not to explore/run/be loud, etc. Always reminds me of people asking why Sky (our dog) was barking and Alex saying, "She's a dog." Not that that is the WHOLE explanation, but dogs do bark. They don't have that many other options, really.

    Jessica - can you give some ex's of potty language? I completely agree that it's silly and great that she's enjoying herself. I don't get this idea of not letting kids be kids now. When will they get a chance to be them? (When they're our age apparently and can't find a single matching sock.)

    Leah - http://www.41pounds.org/about/
    Have you heard of this?
    Will check out youtube vid and thank you.

    Rhonda - I think Gr E said it often about what someone was wearing, too. Like you get so worried about how you'll look at a wedding or whatever and meanwhile no one is looking at anyone but the bride, (hopefully, I have known of some awkward exceptions...)

  9. Hawkeye, do you have a citation for 7.5 hours??? That is horrifying.

  10. Rhonda, that piece is incredible! For those who don't have time to read the whole thing, here are the best parts:

    "Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything."
    "Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, 'Remember-When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame.' The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs."
    "Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were."

    Jessica - I was out on the street laughing to myself about the potty words. The whole idea that they are offensive to begin with is ridiculous. Don't we want kids to be potty-trained and semi-comfortable using appropriate "potty" language? Not to say it isn't funny. Which makes it all the better.

    Throwing in the towel: I stood eating a bagel in Grand Central today while Wally threw himself on the floor screaming and crying because we were not going on the "bigga train". I thought he'd love seeing the holiday train display. Can't win. Though it was a good bagel and for once I didn't mind the stares.

  11. Hi Rachel, Elizabeth here, a.k.a "mommytown." Thank you for commenting on my blog. I love this post. I feel like you said so much of what I am constantly thinking, although it is so much better now in terms of hearing the running bad mom commentary in my head all the time. I have three kids and I have been humbled so many times in public that I just don't care anymore. It's a good place to be, I guess. It's so true that no one is thinking about you as much as you're thinking about yourself. Even when someone goes out of their way to comment on my parenting weaknesses, I feel like it says more about them than it says about me. Like, why are they so insecure that they have to put me in my place?

    My oldest is seven now and I see so many good things about her. Not that I'm responsible for all her good qualities necessarily, but possibly some of them I had a hand in. She's becoming her "true self," and it's a wonderful thing to witness. I can't wait to read more of your blog and the Anna Quindlen link you posted. Thanks!

  12. I never have a problem with Moms walking their kids, even if they have strollers. How much attention do you really think NYers are paying to you? It's like I said to someone once, who was paranoid to be on the subway stoned--you have to be REALLY OBNOXIOUS for anyone to care about you. And trust me, you aren't being obnoxious.

    Re the 'Remember-When-Mom-Did Hall of Fame': one Saturday afternoon my always pretty perfect, Girl Scout leader, stay at home mom got fed up with us, ran to the car, and drove off. My sister and I were pretty worried, but if my Dad was he didn't let on. She returned about 30 min later with some popsicles for us. If all I do is drive away for 30 min when I am a mom, I will consider myself WAY successful.

    And Re writing goals/projects: UGH. Have so much stuff and can't even manage to write a witty holiday party invite

  13. Elizabeth -- Mommytown -- you're absolutely right that those critical comments say more about the other people than us. I am so tired of "He should be wearing a hat" or "He looks tired" or "It's too windy for him to be outside" or even the absurd questions -- at 10 in the morning -- "Why is he so tired already?" Oh I don't know, maybe because he's been up for 6 hours. But then I shouldn't get into even answering/humoring these people. Once a one of Wally's therapists answered that question with, "Well, he was wide awake at 2 in the morning. What were you doing then?" Rhonda pointed me to your blog and the Anna Q article you had posted. I'm impressed with everything you are doing -- and that your novel is being read by agents. With 3 kids! Inspiring.
    Evie -- I really can't fathom why people take such an interest given that I'm not doing anything interesting. I do think a baby carriage makes you a slow-moving target. It's just harder to dash by people and pretend you're in a hurry. Wow, your mom's little outburst really is the gentlest, most generous way to show extreme irritation. Holiday party invite was a scream.

  14. Put those bad mom voices in the stroller and strap them down...they will never help you.
    Or write them out...that helps, doesn't it?

    I don't remember which of my b l o g s
    (blabs?) you visited it...but please put on your fake to do list to read the ever so organized...essay style logical etc. - Why We do the Things We Do - It's on my writepurpose blog....come on do it "just for not fun."
    Seriously, we are echoing each other in odd ways.

  15. Jeanette -- I love the idea of echoing each other in odd ways.


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