I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Friday, June 08, 2018

Darkness - A Cry for Help


“Please repost. I’m trying to demonstrate there is always someone listening” The post is usually followed by #suicideawareness.
That, to me, is the equivalent of “Let me know what I can do for you”
Is there really someone listening or do we want to look to our social media friends like we care or like the “Let me know what I can do for you” because we don’t know what else to say?
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that line. I don’t know either how many times I’ve asked for help, but I can tell you how many times none has been received. Probably just as many times as I have asked.
Some of those favors have been monumental like when my daughter laid in a hospital bed and I asked those offering to take my son for the evening so he wouldn’t have to spend one more day in the hospital with her. To give that boy a relief from the nightmare we were all living. Others have been easier, maybe pick up my daughter from track so she doesn’t have to stand in the dark while I drive to her from work. But usually there were things to do that prevented people from fulfilling their offer: “I was going to do laundry that night.” “I’m washing my hair, polishing my nails” “I want to go for a bike ride after work”
I have also recoursed to someone to listen to me. Those times when the darkness enters my mind. When a panic attack gets a hold of me. I know the drill now and I seldom ask for help. After all people know me as happy, outgoing, funny. Why spend time with me when I’m irrational, quiet, and scared? There are better things to do than spend time with me, but…but you offered. Yes, you did, so I reached out.
I have waited for that phone call someone promised they would make when I’ve been in that abyss of my fear hoping to find in that voice relief to my despair. That call has failed to come as many times as it has been offered.
So, let me ask you this, is someone always listening or does it feel good to post it on social media? Are you willing to listen to a depressed person who is far from fun? When you give the blanket offering of “let me know what I can do for you” why not just tell that person what you can do for them so you might be more inclined to actually fulfill that promise.
Landing a hand is not always easy. Listening is not always fun, but you didn’t offer to help because it was. It’s about helping someone in need not about you, or maybe it’s all about you.

Streak Running


As much as I love running, I don’t want to run every day. Honestly, I don’t want to do the same thing, eat the same thing, see the same person every day. Guess that explains why I’m not married anymore!
Even during my most stringent marathon trainings, I have done cross-training on the bike or the elliptical one day a week.  I certainly have enjoyed my off days doing absolutely nothing. I admit that sometimes, if I am not training for a race, I have those days when sleeping one more hour feels so good or taking another day off because “tomorrow I’ll make up for it” seems like a good idea, and then I find myself slacking too much, and I secretly wish for a structure or routine that made me get out there to run at least one mile a day.
That routine is called the “run streak.” The art of running every single day. I’ve met a few remarkable runners who have done long streaks, like Christopher Regan (896 days), Harry Owens (1066 days), and the incredible streak of Dick Vincent that lasted 34 years. You hear that? 34 years running every single day. But, I’ve never met a streak runner in the making until I started running with Heather Fassell from Wurstboro, NY.
Running with Heather is always an enjoyable experience filled with laughs and good conversation. I noticed she was running with me, and her brother, and on her own, and many of her runs were done at the break of day to ensure she would get it done. One day she shared she had not missed a day in a month. “Cool!” I remarked, and went on my merry way. But then came the second month, and the third month, and then I had to ask her--why?
Heather confided she had always battled her weight, and running helped her control it. In the past, in preparation for a race, she would follow a training plan, but when the race was over, the thought of running because she had to felt boring, so she would stop and the pounds would add up again.
One day she vowed to run a whole week, and then another week, and then the whole month. After that, she realized she was not running because she had to, but because she wanted to. It felt good. Her weight was now in check, but no longer her reason to run.
A run streak is not for everybody, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s not for me. The closest to a streak I’ve kept is having a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee every day, but I admit the structure of it is appealing. Knowing that the decision to run is already made would provide the discipline I often lack. Maybe doing the same thing every day is not so bad after all. Plus, if I need a running partner, I know Heather is out there every day.
“If I didn’t have a streak I would go long periods of time without doing it. The streak gets me going. It just has to be done.” – Dick Vincent

 

Cartagena


I started running when my children were small. Back then I ran in the morning to avoid losing any time with them. Even on vacation, I would go for my run early, then wait for them to wake up.

It was easy to do because running is so simple. I can bring it with me everywhere I go. It fits in a small bag. Running has been by my side when I felt the world was not. My kids understand that running and I are perfect together. Well, not perfect, but together we are kind of cute, and I am more tolerable after my run.

Recently, I took a vacation with my kids. Now in their 20s, they agreed to visit my native country, Colombia, and we spent a week in Cartagena.

I woke up early and went for a run on the streets of a city that breathes history. The heat was overpowering. Sunny and humid, these were beautiful conditions to be at the beach, but not for running.
A mile from the hotel I reached the Walled City, the historic old town section. Memories of elementary school stories about Cartagena under the attack of Francis Drake came back to me with ease as I spotted the cannons positioned all around the fort to protect against the impending attack of the pirates.
The many sculptures lining the streets on my run commemorate the talents of famous artists, like Botero and Obregon. I can’t help but wonder why this talent is never mentioned when talking about Colombia. I passed the statue of a palenquera, one of the black women dressed in colorful outfits who sell fruit. They carry in the swing of their hips the folklore of their ancestors, and in their wide smile the joyfulness of their culture, but in their eyes is the painful memory of slavery, and I wonder if we have come far enough away from dividing people into skin color categories.
I kept running. Fishermen greeted me politely. I ran on, and in the Plaza Bolivar the statue of La Gorda de Botero, the sculpture of a voluptuous woman rested on her side. Stores were beginning to open their doors. Past the Walled City I entered a business area where people going to work waited for the bus, the main means of transportation in Cartagena. A city so populated with one and a half million inhabitants that the traffic and drivers make Manhattan look lame. I stopped at a store to buy a bottle of water. The cashier didn’t have change yet, and a woman offered me a bottle. The hospitality of this city is a sweet reminder of the good in the world, and of a country that thrives on friendliness and warmth.
I started my run back. The sweat dripped down my neck and my shorts stuck to my skin. Looking for relief, I went in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a few minutes. Locals walked by undisturbed by my presence. I got out of the water and remembered I had left my fanny pack and all my money on a nearby rock. It was still there. I smiled, feeling good to visit a country that is so safe.
My kids were awake when I returned. They didn’t ask about my run, they never do, but the look on their faces told me they were concerned. Not waiting for me to catch my breath they asked, “Did you bring empanadas?”

 

 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Reply, It's Not That Difficult

In my personal life, voluntary work, and professional life, the one thing for which I have no tolerance is the failure to respond.
It is a trait that symbolizes total disrespect.
Responding to people when they reach out to someone is important in every aspect of our lives. It shows respect, it shows appreciation, it shows professionalism.
In my business, when someone contacts me for a timing quote for their road race, I respond as quickly as possible. It is part of establishing myself as a professional and it shows to my prospect customers that I respect and appreciate their time. However, after I reply if they decide not to do business with me, I don’t hear back from them even after I follow up.
As a race director, I’m in contact with diverse sources. I reach out to vendors seeking to hire their services for one of my events.  Photographers, timers, DJ, volunteers, etc. In my experience, when they are not interested in working the event they do not get back to me with an answer.
The success of an event depends greatly on planning. I depend on these people, the vendors, and the volunteers to have a good race. When they are not going to be at the event, they don’t need to tell me why, all I need is the courtesy to let me know they will not do as requested so I can cross them off the list and pursue another alternative.
I make a point to always reply when the message is addressed to me, that excludes mass emails or spam, of course. I receive several quotes from timers, t-shirt stores, website designers. I thank them and let them know I already have someone lined up for the job. I give them the respect of an answer. I do the same in my personal life. I reply to my friends regardless of the nature of the message. I always reply. By doing so I let them know I appreciate their contact, and I appreciate them. I give them respect.
I give what I like to receive.
I answer emails, I reply to text messages, I call back, I show up when I’m invited. I treat others like I want to be treated. It’s not that difficult. It is doing exactly as I want done onto me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Drifting Away. Is That What Friendship Is?

I saw her pass by my vehicle as I was parked waiting for a friend to go for our run. She waved effusively with a broad smile. It took me a minute to recognize her under her shades and hat, but a quick search in my memory bank reminded me of her. My friend! We had been such good friends a few years ago! “Had been” was the key word. We no longer were. Well, we had not stopped being friends, we had just stopped communicating.

I thought about stepping out of my car and following her to catch up on our lives, but what would I ask other than the simple pleasantries I’ve been known to avoid: “How are the kids? What are you training for? Where are you working?”
It was not worth the effort. Better yet it would not change anything other than give me a more recent picture of my friend.
I thought about the many friends that have passed by my life in the same manner. There have been no bitter break ups or fights, no bad memories of our times together to account for a separation, all the contrary I hold good memories of those days. Yet, somehow, we drifted apart.  Perhaps we served a purpose to each other while we were together. They needed someone to listen to them, to always reply to their messages, to always answer a call, and more than anything someone they could trust with their most intimate feelings and I…well, I needed to be needed.   On occasion, one of those many friends has been someone I trusted with my own intimate secrets but that was rare, yet special.
I often wonder if in becoming friends with someone when we are in need, and drifting away when we are not, we are not using a person for our own selfish purposes.
Or is that what most friendships are?
My perennial friends defeat that theory. They have been in my life for no other reason than to be and remain my friends simply because they want to. We have been friends when it has been fun, difficult, sad, boring, and anything in between, and yet we have never drifted apart. Not even a thought of it. We are friends. And maybe that’s what real friendship is. To be friends when there is no need, only the desire to be with someone for no reason other than we chose to be friends.

 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Run For The Real Reason

It was a long time before Celebrate Life Half Marathon gave out medals. For a while there didn’t seem to be a need, but as the race grew in popularity, so did the demand. Fifty Staters, Marathon Maniacs, and Half Fanatics began to see “bling” as a prerequisite for registration, as the medals that once were the exclusivity of full marathons became a feature in half marathons. After a discussion among the long- time collaborators, medals made their entrance to this race in 2015.

Despite the obligatory increase in price to accommodate the new expense, the addition was well received. After all, awarding medals was not a new thing. Boston Marathon has been giving medals to all finishers since their debut race in 1897.
The industry rapidly changed from medals for marathoners to medals for half marathoners, then for every distance, and to bigger and bigger medals, putting at stake the quality of a race based on the size and look of the hardware received. Some of the medals are so big that, let’s face it, they come with instructions on how to carry that much weight.
 I don’t dispute the symbolism of a medal that commemorates an accomplishment. A survivor medal to a person who faced cancer, a ribbon in a 5K to a person who lost a limb, that is a tangible reminder of a major goal achieved, and one to be proudly hung on a rack. A medal is also a souvenir, a reminder of a memorable event and the effort invested in a race regardless of the distance. Just ask a person who trained to run a hard mile and they’ll tell you they worked as hard as you did for your marathon. But I wonder if in all the demand for bling we are losing sight of the real feat: the glory of reaching a goal, of following a training, of toeing a start line and crossing a finish line. Are we belittling the joy of conquering our fears, facing our demons (I see plenty of them at mile 23, believe me) and neglecting to celebrate our accomplishments?
This new “must have” and everybody is a winner in this privileged society we live in, is making race directors scramble for ways to satisfy the hunger for bigger and better while increasing the price of registration to accommodate the somewhat unnecessary expense. And while we feed the demands of the privileged we increase their demands.
Take for instance the person who, instead of being grateful for lunch served after a race demands vegan or vegetarian dishes or the ones who return and demand an exchange of their SWAG because a small thread came loose. How many times we hear of people who complain of not getting something the race had even when it not included in the race entry? Are we signing to run a race or are we trying to score the best deal in meal and attire and while we are at it, can we take some of the left overs home?
It’s not an auction nor flea market. You signed up to run a race and if you are there to support a charity, then pay an entry fee that covers your expenses and if you can, donate a little more.
What if instead of asking “Are there medals for all finishers?” or “Will there be awards for my age group?” or “Are there awards for walkers?” that runners and walkers participate just for the mere joy of doing so and celebrate their triumphs even in the absence of the weight of a medal around their neck? Wouldn’t that be a goal worth pursuing? What a novelty that would be.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Promise


There are moments that stay frozen in our minds whether they were of uplifting happiness or unprecedented misery.  They mark our lives and they are never forgotten.
I remember clearly, after hours of insults, walking into my mother’s bedroom and seeing her drunk husband sitting on the floor. I was 17 and my English still limited. In a firm voice I made a promise to him and to me, “I’ll raise above you. I’ll never let anything control me like it has you. I’ll never have an addiction.”
Months and years of hard work followed that day. I walked hours under the scalding sun of California to make it to a factory where I made cassettes 5 days a week and two days at the garage in the Ontario Airport. When those jobs didn’t have enough hours, I was a maid at a Motel 6 and I lasted a few months at a laundry mat where hot sheets fresh off the dryer burnt the tip of my fingers. Eventually I bought an old car and with two dollars gas a day, I made it to college in the evenings.
During those years there were times when I didn’t have enough to eat. Days when my menu was white rice with nothing else I could afford. I put back a .25 apple in the college cafeteria when I couldn’t pay for it.
But the difficult times didn’t dent my resolve. I never picked up a drug, and never smoked a joint.
Over the years I have enjoyed drinks, but I’ve made sure the drinks never enjoyed me and when a cup of coffee became too important, I made sure I skipped it a few days. Nothing, no substance will ever be a necessity in my life. Nothing will ever control me.
I have tried to help others overcome, but I can’t truly and honestly relate to them. I don’t know their struggle. I don’t know the demons that live within. I have only lived the horror of being around an addict. At times, I pity the mother who watches their kid succumb to an addiction. At times, I pity the addict and at times I am angry at both.
I sit on my porch sipping a glass of wine and I remember the dark days of my youth. I can still feel the fear, my heart beating fast to the sound of the voice of that drunk man. His tall figure balancing against the door. My mother crying yet always defending him. And I remember that promise:
“I’ll raise above you. I’ll never have an addiction.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

You, My Children


I often hold back from telling the world about you. There is really no need. The world doesn’t need me to tell them the person you became. The world is meeting, first hand, the human being you are. It does not need a preface.
You were born the same, yet you both have grown to be different. You have chosen to be unique. This is all your doing. I don’t take any credit for your goods. I do, however, own the bads that were the result of something I did or maybe didn’t do. I own that.
You’ve chosen to believe in fairness, love, and peace, in a world that constantly fights.
Race, skin color, gender, are not identifiers you ever remember or mention. I, at times, struggle to remember a friend to whom you are referring, only to finally ask “was that the Chinese kid?” and you, rightfully look at me confused. Why would that one characteristic make me remember a person and not all the others you’ve provided? Such is the world in which I
grew up, my children.

Sexual orientation in others does not change the way you view them and you are perplexed when it makes a difference in the way people are treated. You only know how to treat with respect and it flabbergasts you when that is not the norm.
You stand your grounds and you are strong in your believes, yet tolerant when a dissenting opinion is offered.
You are righteous and fair.
You are good hearted, and kind, and give more than you receive. You don’t recognize it when someone takes advantage of you because you have never cultivated that feeling in your heart.
You hurt when I am not treated fairly based on how I sound or simply on who I am not, but you hold my hand and smile knowing that is merely an isolated incident and not a rule.
You look at me for an answer when a decision based on misogamy confuses you, and I want so much to tell you that what you are seeing is not the world in which we live, but I don’t find the words to tell you it is.
I want to tell you there will be jobs you’ll leave in spite of the pay you get when you can’t accept the advances of the boss, or when your work is disparaged based on nepotism or some other attribute more desired than your knowledge.
You are confident and trustful and I know you will always be like that despite of how many times you will be disappointed. And I know those experiences won’t harden you because trust is an innate quality that we have or not, and you, my children, have an abundance of it.
You have faith and you believe in God or in a “something” that is greater than you, and that faith will, as it has me, carry you through the difficult times life will present. Of that, if nothing more, I can assure you.
You have yet to figure out the value of money. You give away $100 to a person in need with the same effervescence that you receive a dollar.
And you have not found out yet that you cannot change the world and I hope you never stop trying because knowing you, one day you will.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Laughter, Best Medicine?



Self effacing has been my preferred form of humor since my early years. I found out how effective it was when it helped me avoid the bullying of my classmates.
I quickly realized the bullies enjoyed it when the victim was visibly upset. In fact, they would increase their tormenting jokes, but they would let up if there was no reaction or if the targeted person enjoyed the pranks as I did. I became good at laughing at myself before they could. I became my own best bully. Eventually they stopped the teasing and accepted me and even made me their friend.
The insecurity of my early years carried into adulthood and so did my self effacing. Making fun of myself gave me the chance to laugh at me before anyone else could. It protected me. More importantly, by laughing at myself, I was able to laugh with others.
Laugh with others, that’s the key word.

I do not laugh at others.
Simply put I know what it feels like to be embarrassed in public.
Here is the difference; I laugh when my friends joke about their weight, but I never make a fat joke. They are the masters of their own humor when it comes to their body. They own the right to make fun of it. I do not.
Social media has provided an arena for those of us who enjoy self effacing, but simultaneously, it has also become a forum for hurtful, humiliating, and embarrassing comments that can be funny on a one on one setting, but not in a public site.
While I am good at my “own people’s” comments, my accent is the target of many unwanted and unsolicited jokes.
Recently while talking to a friend, the lady sitting with him repeated most of my sentences and followed it with a hard laugh. Twice I expanded on what I had said thinking perhaps it needed explaining. Finally, I asked “do you feel the same?” She replied with a laugh, “no, it’s just the way you say it”. If the woman thinks that kind of mockery is funny, she is sadly mistaken.
Humor serves many functions. It can serve as a pleasant exchange. It can ease the tension in a conversation, but there is a fine line that should not be crossed in humor or we’ll end up embarrassing or offending someone.
The world is a better place when we laugh with someone. But if you must laugh at someone, let that person be yourself.