Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 1, 2009

Breaking the log-jam.

Okay.  That’s it.  I swear.  Today, right this second, I am breaking the log-jam.  I don’t care if it’s late.  I don’t care if I should be trying to wind down and address this recent bout of horrendous insomnia.  I don’t care if I write things in a less than elegant way.  I don’t care, I tell you!  There are too many thoughts rattling around in my brain, too many things I can’t figure out unless I write about them, too much desire to put myself Out There in the wild and public landscape of the internets, because someone might read my words and really hear me.

I think the last time I posted was sometime in June.  It is now October 31st.  That’s just great.  No, wait, I do NOT want to turn this into an opportunity to bash myself for not posting regularly.  I really do want to write more regularly, but there have been too many hurdles.  Part of it is my inability to schedule time to write.  Part of it is the impossibly high standards I set for myself, i.e., all posts must be inspirational, wise, thoughtful, scintillating.  But this blog is not called “Scintillating Through and Through,” now is it?  No.  It’s called “Scintillating Speck.”  This is my little reminder to myself that I don’t have to be amazing and brilliant.  Instead, I can trust that the speck of brilliance that resides within will manifest itself despite my quotidian, human bumbling.  There are so many other blogs out there.  I don’t have to worry that too many people are reading this anyway, right?

So, all two of you who stumble across this, you have been forewarned: I am just going to write and whatever comes lurching out is allowed to stay.

Today I went running.  I haven’t gone running in over a month.  You may remember, if you have talked to me or read my silly Facebook updates, that I have been on a quest to improve my health through diet and exercise.  I had gotten some wonderful momentum from the UMass study on prediabetes and exercise, and I sorely miss my trainer, Rob.  He was a truly kind and supportive guy.  I was very worried about losing that momentum, and decided to sign up for a membership at the Y, since they include child care in the family membership.  I figured that that would help me focus on exercise.  In mid-August, a few weeks after I signed up, there was a fire at the Y and it was closed for over a month.  In a bit of a panic, I decided to run regularly.  This happened only when Tom was around to watch Lily (mostly early mornings and late at night in the dark).  When the Y re-opened, I tried to start exercising there again, but Lily was having a really hard time with being in Child Watch.  Each time I would leave her there she would cry and beg me not to leave her, then eventually sit down at the little table with her snack.  And at the conclusion of each workout, I would return to get her, and the child care person would tell me that Lily hadn’t budged from that seat for an hour and a half.  She was frozen in place.  I can hardly blame her; maybe it was the time of day that I was leaving her there, or the particular mix of kids, or some other set of variables, but it seemed like a pretty intense place to be.  There were at least two times that the child care person told me that another child had shoved Lily or knocked her over.  There was a lot of yelling and a chaotic feeling, and parents dashing off to work out while their babies or toddlers wailed and screamed.  So recently, something in me snapped to attention, and I realized that there is no way I can bring Lily there and have a clear conscience.  I’m not trying to fault other parents about this, or the Y; I understand that people are trying to be healthy and exercise, and this is the way they are able to make it work.  But it’s not working for me, because it’s definitely not working for Lily.  I am going to have to find a way to do this differently.

So today, with almost no forethought, I decided to go running again.  Lily had just fallen asleep for her nap and Tom was home because it’s the weekend.  I ran for about 25 minutes down the bike path, up Ice Pond Drive, through the parking lot of the Methodist church, and back up to Rocky Hill via the path through the woods, twice.  I realized a few things while I was running: it was much more pleasant to get exercise outside than at the Y.  I liked being alone and observing the trees and leaves and my thoughts.  At the Y, I mostly worked out on machines, and was subjected to a bank of televisions which made me feel assaulted by visual and advertising overload.  Also, I felt so much more peaceful knowing that Lily was happily asleep in her own bed and Tom was there to take care of her, instead of knowing that she was in a place that made her miserable, and knowing that I was consciously putting her there.  I know, it’s not as if I was out to make her miserable; I was trying to take care of my health, because Lily needs a healthy mama.  But I don’t want this to be set up as some kind of false dichotomy, where the only way I can take care of my own health is by making my child scared and unhappy.

The running itself was hard, especially towards the end.  I have never been an especially athletic person.  Combine this with my traumatic experience of being forced to play team sports in a very cut-throat, competitive atmosphere in prep school (of the many traumas that prep school offers), and it’s a wonder that I’m able to exercise at all.  In my mind I was imagining my trainer, Rob, saying encouraging words to me: “You can do it, Jen!  You are so strong and motivated!  You know you can do this!” and suddenly I was brought back to another time when I received encouragement.

When I was in the eighth grade (otherwise known as Fifth Class at my school, Noble and Greenough, in Dedham, Mass., which I attended 7-12 grade) I was on the cross-country ski team as my winter sport.  Unlike public school, it was required that I participate in sports every season, every single afternoon and often on Saturdays for games or races.  In general, the cross-country ski team was a bit of a haven for me, in comparison to my experience with field hockey every fall, which was invariably grueling and awful.  The x-c ski team was much more laid-back and playful in many ways.  Races were still serious and competitive, however.  One of my first races ever was pretty much a total disaster.  For some reason I was racing with a bunch of wiry, quick, junior varsity boys from a slew of other area prep schools; I can’t remember if I was the only girl among them, or one of only a few, and in any case I was most definitely not wiry nor quick.  The race was bewildering and long.  I was in last place from the very beginning.  I think I got lost in the woods a few times.  I was skiing my hardest and totally out of breath, feeling painfully flushed with exertion and embarrassment.  It took me so long to get into the final stretch that most of the other participants had already left and gone home.  I wanted to die of shame.

But there, at the finish line, what did I see?  My coach and teacher, Tim Coggeshall, was calling out, “Go Jen go!  You can do it!  Go Jen!”  He was cheering me on with all of his might.  He didn’t care that I was so very last.  He beamed with pride as I struggled to make it to the end.  And when I arrived, he threw his arms around me and I burst into tears.  I still burned with shame and I was a little upset that he was calling attention to me– if not to the other people who had left, then to my schoolmates, who couldn’t leave because they were all waiting for me.  But that moment of unabashed support, of pride in my accomplishment even when I couldn’t see it as such, stays with me still.



  1. You can do it! I firmly believe that the human body was made to move, but sometimes we first have to convince our mind that we should do it!

    I also wonder about all the kids in day care at the gym. EVERY time I have taken Winston to daycare at the gym (this would be a total of 4 times) he has come down with a vicious cold. Most recently we tried again after a year hiatus and within 48 hours we were at urgent care getting breathing treatments. I don’t know if it is the cleaning products they use, kids with more exposure to icky stuff or just the trauma of mom leaving him behind, but it just doesn’t work for us either!

    P.s. I enjoy your writing for writings sake, in addition to hearing your story.

  2. I just love you, Jen. And your writing. You’re a natural, and I do find your writing to be scintillating.
    I struggled for years to find exercise that I enjoyed and that fit into my schedule. I found biking this year. I’ve found the time to do it, as well. Took me 52 years, but I did it. What joy it is! I hope you continue to find pleasure running. How lucky for Lily that there was a fire at the Y.

  3. I appreciate your sensitivity to Lily, Jen; that you see her…really see her. What a gift! That’s something you and I, and so many others, did not get growing up. And you honor her sensitive spirit and protect it. She will grow strong and wise.

    And I am reminded of how fortunate I’ve been throughout the years to have a person here and there to support me in the way your coach supported you. It’s often the little things that mean so much. It doesn’t have to be big. I want to remember that as I think of encouraging and supporting others.

    And you are such an inspiration to me with your exercising. Kathie is, too. I think I’m ready to jump aboard now. I’ll let you know how that goes.

    As for your writing, I agree with Kathie. You are a natural! Keep writing as you desire and don’t when you don’t.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Alison, thanks so much for your encouragement and for sharing your experience; it helps me to hear about how it is for other moms and toddlers. I’m glad Lily and I are not the only ones having a hard time with the gym.

    Kathie, you are a big love and always make me feel reassured and inspired at the same time. I am thinking about biking more seriously and trying to identify and address the hurdles with that.

    Carla, you have offered me so much support–although I agree that support and encouragement don’t have to be big to matter and have a major impact, your support truly IS big. Just to have you tell me that you appreciate my sensitivity to Lily, it’s huge, it keeps me going, it makes me feel like maybe I’m actually doing okay as a parent. And as for exercise: I am so excited that you are feeling inspired to take action, and I support you! You are strong and grounded and I know you can simultaneously respect your limits and push yourself forward.

  5. Oh, and Kathie, I loved your comment about how lucky it was that there was a fire at the Y! I couldn’t see it as lucky at the time, but I see it now. Thanks for pointing it out.

  6. Welcome back! And hooray for fresh air. Let’s do lots lots more hikes, for sure. Also, though you’d like this Hassidic saying, if you don’t know it already. Keep two pieces of paper in your pocket. On one, write “The world was made for me.” On the other, “I am a speck of dust.”
    A lovely speck, all the same.

  7. Adrie, that’s a wonderful saying; I didn’t know it. I am going to get two pieces of paper and write those exact words down, to keep in my pocket. And I would be thrilled to take more hikes with you and Ella.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: