What to Choose

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I need a new pair of sneakers. Does anyone even use the word sneakers anymore? I mean, I’m looking for a pair of shoes that will serve for walking and running, something sporty. I tend to like bright colors, perhaps turquoise or purple. But I’m not able to find a pair in my size, with a proper arch, that’s good for city streets. They usually don’t have enough support, or they’re too cushy or too heavy. Or the hue or color combination is wrong. It’s easy to eliminate the choices. I don’t like the style. I don’t support the manufacturer. Today it’s running shoes, but on any given day I can easily find something I don’t want.

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Running shoes are particularly tricky. When I was very young, my father owned a shoe store. He would bring me home a pair of Keds with a rubber tip. Red was my color of choice, but I usually got whatever he had left in my size. I was reminded often of my wide feet. At seven I no longer wanted the childish sneakers with the rubber tip. They were for babies. But I couldn’t complain, that was a house rule. I had to ask reasonably. Diplomacy was fostered at a young age.

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By the time I was eleven I preferred P.F. Flyers. I liked the name.   And all the cool kids had them. I was not cool, but I imagined that with the right sneakers on PE day, I would be welcomed into the club. Even saying PE instead of Phys. Ed. was cool. Bu that was not to be. I would wear my P.F. Flyers privately gleeful as I looked down at my feet.

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As my feet grew I became the lucky recipient of the expensive Tretorns my mother wore for tennis. Once the tread wore down, she needed another pair for the slow clay courts of the Cherry Hill Tennis Club. The Tretorns were soft and comfortable. With their inner cushioning, and the white canvas exterior accented with a wave of blue leather, my feet were happy. My hand-me-down tennis shoes became the one piece of clothing with a recognizable label. I didn’t have to play tennis, I just had to wear Tretorns to feel a little bit more like a belonged in Cherry Hill.

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Even after I moved away to college I received my mom’s old shoes when I came to visit. That was fairly often since I lived in Philadelphia, the closest city. My mom switched out her shoes every three to six months. I wore the sneakers for a year or so. By that time my sister ,Susan, could also wear my mom’s old sneaks.

Once I moved to New York things changed. It was my therapist’s comment about wearing my mother’s used, tennis shoes that had me start looking for my own sneakers. By then cross trainers were popular with the rise of Jane Fonda workout tapes. I hated to spend my hard earned money on sneakers, but I was trying to be a grown up, and that’s what grown ups do. So I purchased whatever wide-width was on sale. More often than not they didn’t reflect my aesthetic. New Balance changed all that in the ‘90s. Finally, I could choose good athletic wear that lasted a good amount of time.

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I’ve since moved beyond New Balance. Yet, now I have the entire Internet to peruse. Plus, I’ve been given conflicting advice. One professional tells me to get extra support because I’m walking on concrete sidewalks. Another person says mimicking bare feet is best for the spine. And, on and on. This morning I settled on a pair of Rykas. They discontinued my bright turquoise design, but I can count on their soft bounce to my hard steps. I didn’t wear out this pair as quickly as my last pair of running shoes. I injured myself so I missed a few runs this year. It’s a minor injury, and PT is working, but my running shoes are more about the slow walk these days. I feel fortunate that I get to choose a new pair of shoes. I feel lucky to have choices in life. It didn’t always feel that way. So if I now have a hard time choosing what’s good for me, then I’ll choose that option every time.

 

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What I’m Not

 

 

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We just took a trip to a resort in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. It was beautiful. The weather was warm and clear, and everyone was friendly. I wanted to enjoy this vacation. Last year was hard and I was looking forward to some R&R.   But the food, though plentiful, went from bland to awful.   The amenities promised were elusive or not as advertised.   The other travelers seemed to be content, but I couldn’t help notice the missing details, the absence of my desired holiday away. I would go for a run on the beach, grateful for the easy breeze, and the laps of the ocean. Yet, I kept thinking of all the things I didn’t like about being there. I was angry at myself for booking and paying hard-earned money for this trip. I kept playing back other vacations I should have taken. I was blaming myself for not being able to let it go. Why couldn’t I simply enjoy what I had. Why was I so upset? Why couldn’t I be a more spiritual being? There are so many who are scared for their families and loved ones. There are those dealing with death, health challenges, immigration issues. And, I am feeling sorry for myself for not enjoying the beautiful resort I was in. What kind of person am I? And, the self-criticism was relentless. I am not grateful. I am not selfless. I am not worthy.

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This is not a new theme for me. I have a long history of being hard on myself. I understand that it’s not productive, yet I don’t seem to stop. In fact with the time and space on vacation, I seemed to swim a little in the outdoor pool and swam constantly in a state of condemnation. As the week continued, I’d have moments of peace, thinking that this will be a really funny story with some distance. And there were other times when the inner monologue chattered on.

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I am not a published book author, I’m not a size 8. I’m not a home owner. I’m not a multi-millionaire. I’m not a doctor. I’m not organized. I’m not young. I’m not coordinated.” The list could easily continue. I am clearly aware of what I’m not. In fact, sometimes my mind is so crowded with what I’m not, there’s no room for what I am.

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What I am is a mother and a wife. I’m happy with my work. I have a private practice and work with amazing individuals. I’m a friend. I’m a sister and a daughter. I am a theater and arts lover. I’m a subscriber to theater companies and a member to a number of varied museums. I’m a walker. I love walking the city. I’m a Manhattanite. I’m funny at times, and critical at other times, I’m a foodie. Life is good. But it won’t always be good. Sometimes a vacation turns out to be a vacation from what I love. And being away gives me greater appreciation of what I have.

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So I’m thinking this vacation was about taking vacations every day from self-criticism. It taught me to spend less mind-space on what I’m not, and celebrate more on who I am. Maybe this bad vacation can have a good outcome.

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If nothing else, I’m blogging again. So, yeah, I’m a blogger, too.

Slowing Down

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This past week I had jury duty. My first reaction was one of annoyance.   I’ve done a lot of jury duty, even one stint for three months. So as far as I was concerned, I’ve done my time. But then I thought again. It’s an enforced day of quiet. I promptly changed my schedule around and planned my reading accordingly. First were some back issues of The New Yorker. Then, much to my delight I was going to be able to read Paul Lisicky’s The Narrow Door. The book came out the day prior to having to serve and I made sure I had my copy.

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Years ago when I walked downtown to the courthouses, just north of the Brooklyn Bridge, I had a clipped pace and could make the five-mile trek in 90 minutes. But this time it took me 110 minutes. 20 minutes longer than in the past. It wasn’t the cold weather. I walked throughout the winter in the long trial. Though cold and windy, I enjoyed the empty sidewalks allowing me to walk with ease. Perhaps the 20 minutes isn’t so bad given it was 20 years ago when I moved quicker, getting to my destination with time to spare. But I did notice I’m losing some stamina.

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I enjoy walking just as much as I did in the past, but I’m slower, tending to walk shorter paths. 20 years ago I’d walk to and from 100 Centre Street, last week one way was more than enough. I also started noticing that I’m doing less outside of work. I’ve always been a busy person, mainly pursuing the arts such as exhibits, theater, films, and the occasional dance performance or opera. Now I’m more selective, finding I prefer to rest more.

I guess I couldn’t keep up with my previous pace. And, I suppose I don’t have to. Losing a minute a year for a five-mile walk allows me to enjoy more of the scenery on the way.

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The Last Word on The Marathon

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So, I’ve been writing a lot about planning on running the marathon, training for the marathon and running the NY Marathon. Not only was the run a personal endeavor, but having written about it, it became a shared event. I secretly think it was self-centered of me to do this, and perhaps even more so in writing about it, but it’s a risk I’m taking. That said, I do want to complete this cycle, so I’m writing what I believe will be my final chapter on this subject. As selfish as I was in working towards and running the marathon, I have been acutely aware of how kind-hearted and generous my friends and family have been.

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In fact, more than anything else I’ve gained from my experience running the TCS 2015 New York City Marathon is that I’ve gained an appreciation for all the good will out there. Even though I trained for the marathon, I’m not a serious runner. I started running five years ago, treading lightly to avoid extra knee pain. I’ve always loved walking but never in my dreams did I think I could run. Nonetheless going at my very slow pace, I could maintain a runners gait. After a couple of years running from time to time for a couple of miles or so, I thought I’d enter a race. I didn’t care about my time, and resented those who kept encouraging me to pick up my pace. I am usually a private person, so I was uncertain about the yelling that took place. “You can do this!” “Go, go go!”

Instead I put on my head phones and finished the race noticing people 10 years older pass me by. I didn’t check my time, and was happy to have done it on my own terms. From there I entered other races. I still had a “leave me alone” attitude, but I was proud to be in the races, increasing my distances. For my first half marathon, which was the More Half, I liked that there was a mix of women all ages, shapes, ethnicities and sizes. I felt like my unique running style was perfectly suited for me and for the event.

A friend said if I could do a half marathon I could do a whole marathon. But I thought getting through half a marathon was all I would ever be able to do. I loved going to First Avenue year after year to cheer the runners on the first Sunday of November. I always cried because I was moved by their determination and stamina. But they were runners. I was not. I contemplated walking the marathon. And when I thought of that it seemed doable. At some point I decided I will try to run the marathon. Maybe not completely, but as best as I can. My friend Jeannette was very encouraging. She had gotten into the marathon and was committed to her training. Zena, another friend who lived in Chicago until recently, was a complete champion of my running. She gave me a half-marathon necklace to commemorate my first half. She gave me advice about running. And when she was in New York she ran a race at my pace even though she is twice as fast.

Then there were my friends who would compliment me. I didn’t always take in the comments, replying, “Well, I’m really slow.” But people were kind. When I did announce that I was going to do the marathon, I got so many encouraging and enthusiastic comments. In the past I might have felt that I was now obligated to run because I said I would. And, what would people think? But instead I felt grateful. I was happy reading comments from friends and family. I felt supported.

And, as I thought about it, I knew if I showed up I would complete the marathon. I just had to show up. So, Sunday morning I got up early, got dressed took the subway to the Staten Island Ferry, took the Ferry and a bus to the Verrazano Bridge, where I would start the race. It was unseasonably warm. For me the weather was perfect. I prefer to be warm rather than cold. As a slow runner I don’t get as sweaty as those at faster paces.

I was in the last group of runners. Many were running for the first time, so there was a friendly yet nervous energy in the air. I had my playlist on. Fabulous music for 10 hours created by Larry. The gun went off and I started at the pace I kept throughout the race. When I was in pain I walked. I only stopped to use the porta-potties. I drank the Gatorade. I like luxury bathrooms and I don’t like energy drinks, but that was a small price to pay to do this race.

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What was most amazing to me were the crowds of onlookers. I painted my name on my shirt. I knew I needed encouragement to do this run. Partyers would chant, “JANET, JANET.” I would hear my name from balconies, from strangers, from tourists and cops. It kept me going step after step. At mile 15 I was sure it was mile 16, and felt deflated for that mile. But then came mile 16 and I knew I could do 10 more. After 16 I was met by friends, first Zena and Seth, with an awesome sign as I entered Manhattan from the Queensboro Bridge, one of five. Then later Larry and Emma with our dog Lucy. They were with our other friends we met through Lucy, Just down the street stood more friends with another sign and a banana. From there I was met by many strangers wishing me and the other runners well. It was amazing energy.

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In some ways the psychological training was more significant than the physical training. I had to get out of my own way. I had to learn to be less judgmental, at least for the duration of the race. I had to let in others’ enthusiasm. I had to appreciate the love shared. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments. At two separate times I thought, “Fuck You,” when marathoners who wore tee shirts stating all the marathons they had run were condescending to me, a mere novice. They were nice in that fake way that lets me know they have “Experience.” But those moments were fleeting. Mostly I felt and continue to feel grateful.

Even though I ran this race for me because I wanted to do it, a bucket list item, everyone was so amazing. And that is what kept me going. I am surprised at myself for enjoying such a positive experience. I can latch onto the gaps in life complaining about what I don’t like. Yet for one day, one very long race from morning until night, I was smiling. A true reflection of all that was given with love and generosity. It brought out the best of New York City and the best in me. So thank you. I am now a proud New York Marathoner.

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Charleston

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It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from Charleston, SC. I so needed to get away, and Charleston was the perfect escape. It’s a great walking city. And, jogging in the city proved to be perfect. It’s surrounded by water with stunning homes in the interior. So running the streets, the parks, and up and down the historic district in the unseasonably cool days, was therapeutic for my mind, body and soul. As an extremely slow runner, I had a chance to take in the sites, and I drank them in for thee and half days.

When I wasn’t walking or jogging, I was enjoying the wonderful cuisine or napping. Both felt simply indulgent. It was all great for a vacation. The restaurants take pride in their food and it shows. I enjoyed new southern cuisine, fresh seafood, and traditional fare. From fine dining to easy cafes, the servers and staff were friendly, but not overly solicitous. It was so easy to dine alone. And being alone gave me time to refresh and restore.

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On one of my longest days, I ran by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in the morning and walked to and from the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, going over it’s 2 ½ mile expanse coming and then again when returning. There were a lot of walkers and joggers, so I surmised it’s a popular track.

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Later the same day, weary from being on my feet, I went to the pool for a quick swim. I found the water too cold, so I merely soaked my feet and ankles. It was wonderful. Sitting on Chaises was a lovely couple from Lititz, PA, in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, Trish & Gerry Link. Our family is big fans of Wilbur Buds, wonderful chocolate drops from the Wilbur Candy factory in Lititz. It’s a small world.

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We spoke as the sun set. And, we shared our experiences on our short vacations. They had walked on the bridge their first day in Charleston, while I took a walking tour of the Historic District that day. They were kind enough to send me some pictures of their time in Charleston and the Bridge pictures are courtesy of Jerry.

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It was good to get away. I had burned out and this short, yet essential vacation was invaluable. I know it’s a luxury, not only to go to Charleston, but to do so with a teen daughter, husband and dog at home. However this trip allowed me to regroup and refresh to start anew. I’m happy to be home. Being away really does make the heart grow fonder.

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Audiobook Activity

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I love audiobooks. Mostly I listen to them when walking or jogging. Though I’m happy to listen when in a car, but that doesn’t happen much living in Manhattan. Right now I’m enjoying The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, which I’m enjoying immensely. The first time I read Alice Hoffman was in the early ‘90’s with Turtle Moon. As an author she has a great knack for weaving a story while allowing us to develop a relationship with the characters. And she does that by creating a strong sense of place. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is wonderful because it gives us an historical perspective on New York City. And, much to my pleasant surprise Judith Light is one of the narrators.

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I was soap addict in high school. Four years after Dark Shadows, I started watching One Life to Live. I came home from school shirking my homework until after the precious 45 minutes had ended. But it wasn’t until my senior year when Judith Light lit the screen. There was a depth to her acting that swept me away. I was an unhappy, mix-up teen and her acting was the therapy I needed to get through my days. When Karen Wolek, her character, didn’t appear I felt a deep loss, hopeful that the following day would contain a riveting scene. Judith Light’s acting work kept me going through my tumultuous college years, too. After moving to New York City in 1981, I was hopeful I’d run into her. That never happened.

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And when Ms. Light left the show in 1984, they lost this viewer. Life went on. I went to therapy and 14 years later I became a therapist myself. I continued to walk the city. I listened to books. I went to the theater. Sometimes I saw a show just because Judith Light was in it. It’s been a pleasure to listen to The Museum of Ordinary Things. Thanks Alice Hoffman for another good book. I’m looking forward to your upcoming The Marriage of Opposites. And, thank you, Judith Light. I’m grateful to hear your voice, reminded of how you helped me through difficult times years ago.

Walking on

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If I’m not aware what I’m feeling, I become acutely aware when I start walking the city. Walking through beautiful Central Park on my way to a morning appointment a runner came towards me. As far as I was concerned she was going against the clearly marked directions on the pavement. I held my ground, and when I kept walking towards her, righteously indignant about following the markers, she barely moved to get around me, whispering, “Fuck you.” I wasn’t sure I heard her right. But she was a fast runner and she was well past me when I started to think of replies. My first thought, was, “Have a nice day.” Like I said, I was feeling righteous, and I thought my fake kindness served my feelings well. Sometimes I can just stew over a simple incident like that. But it was a beautiful morning, and I had gotten a rare early start.

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Then I was crossing 72nd Street, it was my light, but a cyclist tore down the road. He waved at me, indicating that he’d go around me, and I smiled back. A lovely New York moment. I forgot my self-righteousness after that. I find it amazing that a mis-matched moment can embroil me, but an act of kindness lifts me to a better place.

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This happens a lot as I walk or jog public areas. Sometimes someone takes up the whole sidewalk. He or she unconsciously walks in the middle so no one can get by. More often than not, I get irate, as if it’s my private sidewalk and I take it personally, silently cursing them out.

I went for a short jog this afternoon, but school was letting out, and, again, I got angry at the parents and caregivers who straddled the sidewalk.  Funny how I love to walk, yet I can get worked up over minor inconveniences. Perhaps my walks give me a chance to move through my emotional repertoire. An inner drama played out on the streets of New York.

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