Monday, February 28, 2011

Marathon Memories

Sometimes I feel like running this marathon is fate. It is a fate I have tried to deny, but in the end it won out.

And, like everything for people of my generation, I waited until the last minute, until the window of possibility was almost closed, and now I am going to try to tinker with nature and sneak through that closing window...

I waited until the last possible minute to get married, and the last possible minute to get pregnant. I have tried to leave every option open for as long as possible, until the option itself is about to disappear.

I am the daughter of a a man who ran before running was hot. My father started running in the early Seventies so he could eat butter. He wore flat shoes that wore out fast. He has had yellow runner's toenails for as long as I can remember. As a child I rode beside him on my bike as he ran through Mystic. He would push me up the hills when I got tired.

Amby Burfoot, the legendary runner, whose words now appear as a blurb on every real runner's book, used to run by our house in Mystic when I was a child. He had won the Boston Marathon and he would sprint down Noank Road in bare feet, with nothing but a pair of skimpy seventies running shorts, with a big beard. He looked like the Indians we heard used to live in the woods around our house. He had a long, beautiful stride and we would rush to the edge of our yard and watch him go flying by. A clump of slower runners, less beautiful, with shoes on, would come huffing along behind him.

When I was still in elementary school my father decided he would run a marathon. He was still on a submarine, on land for only three months at a time. So he started training on board the submarine, running in place in some grey corner on his submarine. I imagine him trying not to bump his head or his six foot frame on the pipes and doorways inside the ship. When he got home he trained for three months, then ran.

I did not go to the marathon itself. But I remember my mother driving him home. He lay prone in the back of our Vega station wagon, his legs sticking out the back like a big corpse. He could not walk for days. He is in the camp that believes if you cannot run a marathon in the threes, why bother.

Then there are my Ironman Aunt, Uncle and cousins. My Aunt and Uncle co-created the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Doing grueling long distance events seems to be normal for them. They are slow. But they keep pushing it.

Every cool friend I have known, practically, has done a marathon.

And Wellesley, my alma mater, was the half way point for the Boston Marathon. On the way to college my mother and I sat beside a man on our transcontinental flight. He asked where we were going.

I said, "Wellesley. You probably haven't heard of it..."

And he said, "Wellesley.." I thought he would go off about the brilliant women who had graduated, how his mother had gone there, all the things that people who know Wellesley say.

But he said, "I love Wellesley. It is the half point of the marathon and those women have saved my life. They are young and beautiful and at mile 13 they surround you and cheer for you and it is so incredible it keeps you going to the end..."

I ran the half marathon for two years after that, just to experience that Tunnel of Love. It was like a hallucinogenic experience. One year I was on such a high after the screaming, beautiful women that I kept running and forgot to stop for two more miles.

I digress. But the point is, though training for this marathon has taken far too much of my time and life, to the point that I am ignoring some other important things--I do feel like I have been working towards this point for a long time. A lifetime.

And it feels so good to be back at the top of my game, doing something I have never been able to do before. At 44.

Whatever happens now, and I pray my body holds strong, already this training, these miles, have been a victory, a gift.


I triumphed over the fears and fatigue. I ran my 20 miles. I did not die. And I can walk.

I was scared so I asked advice of everyone I knew. And I got a lot of good tips.

My mantra as I ran was: Don't get injured. Finish.

Everything else was beside the point.

It was a perfect day, clear and gorgeous and clean. On the way over I saw Gonzalo running down Los Felix Blvd in his red running shorts. I honked and shouted his name but he was in the zone. Still, it felt like a good omen. My running sage was still going. Maybe I will run into him on race day. That would be so cool.

I stashed a little container of sumo mandarins (my new favorite fruit) behind at wall at what would be my mile 6 and my mile 14. I carried dates on my person, plus a map and my music.

This time I did not listen to music. I had played the Lion King in the car and I sang to myself mile 1-10. After that I was quiet. I stopped more. I stretched a lot. I ate dates and oranges like fuel, and I stopped at every drinking fountain I saw and I drank. I did not experience euphoria in the drug-induced endorphin sense. I did not feel universal love, or one with all runners. But I did start crying as I crossed the street at the final traffic light.

Now I know I can do it. I was slow. Slow as a snail. But I know, even if I have to walk, I will finish.

Half-way through my return trip in Griffith Park I saw a woman wearing a T-shirt that said: 20 miles. Race Ready!

I want one!

I soaked in an ice-bath post run, per the advice of my super athlete friend Doug Robson. And I feel OK.

In bed all night my legs tingled. Not a bad tingling. Just tingling. And when I closed my eyes I was still running--the way you are still skating when you take off your skates.

All I have to do now is taper, and I know I can do that!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some Things I Have Noticed

Running makes my head clearer, my skin clearer, my cravings more healthy. It makes me sleep better and it makes me appreciate my life more. It allows me to be truly still, something I can rarely do. (Even when my body is still, my mind is still running...)

Running so much also makes me tired. I realize this is a vanity project of sorts. I am pushing my body beyond where it wants to go to prove to myself that I can run 26.2 miles. I am not doing it for charity, as my sweet sister in law suggested (why ELSE would you do it? I am sure she thinks). I am not doing it for health reasons, really.

I guess I am doing it for a boost of self-esteem.

Today a guy in my yoga class told me that right now in my training I should be at a place where I am on the cusp of injury. That is right, but it also means I have to be really really really careful. If my body starts twinging this weekend (yes, I am obsessively nervous about the 20-miler) I should stop. I should not be afraid to walk. Whatever I do, do not push through injury. At this point I have no time to heal.

I am at the cusp of injury. Fine. but on the edge of fine. I can just feel it.

Today I promised myself that if when I am running, on the actual day, I am really hurting myself, I will stop. I will not risk a life-long injury for a day of glory in my own mind. This could be my biggest challenge of all. I am good at pushing, but not so good at pulling back.

It is a lot to balance in a mind.

If you have any marathon wisdom, please forward it here.

Daily Tune In

Yoga teachers always say to tune into your body at the beginning of class. It will let you where you are.

True. Sometimes I am strong, ready to try any arm balance, even if I smash my nose onto the floor and want to cry. Other days I am stiff, and can barely raise my body off the floor for a backbend. Sometimes I feel invincible. Grateful. Wow!

But this is even MORE true for running. My daily (or semi-daily) run is the ultimate check-in. If I drank the night before, My God that run is a slog. If I rested, I feel light and happy on my feet. If I feel blue, it will take two miles to get me out of my funk. If I didn't eat enough I will run out of gas part way through.

If I eat fruits and vegetables and greens and nuts, I really do feel better.

Running so much has also shown me that my blueness often starts with my body, not my head. Interesting...

Of course I know that food and sleep affect physical performance. But to tune in daily and see what that really means in an endeavor that I cannot coast through is astounding. It all matters. It all matters more than I want to believe. It matters sooooo much. If it matters that much I am a fool for not paying attention. Even when I am not running.

Don't you think?

I need to pay attention.

My body is trying so hard for this endeavor. I need to respect it and help it out. No more martinis the night before a long run.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Thing That Is True

I feel better when I write every day.

How about you?

The Mythology

We are a nation dissatisfied.

Our entire nation, our entire economic system, is premised on cultivating dissatisfaction, and then commoditizing everything that could make you happier.

I am aware of this.

Still, the rivers run so deep. And the lies.

This past Sunday I flipped through the Sunday New York Times Magazine. There was an article by a Dad, who cooked for his family. Healthy food. Every night. After he got home from his high powered job writing food columns, I guess. This article was his swan song, his chance to say his true thoughts on the subject, before he said Goodbye to us, the readers, forever. You can read it here.

I read it. I liked it. I pushed it to Jonathan.

In it, the author, confessed that once he had been a good cook, even wooed and won his wife with his spectacular kitchen cooking skills. But he confessed that cooking joyfully for his kids and wife, at the end of a long day, in a household with two working parents, was pretty impossible. He got home late. He still had to get ingredients. Sometimes his kids were crying on the floor in hunger as he dipped his filet of sole in egg, then batter.

He confessed that, although he wrote this column encouraging parents to cook healthy meals every night, (and probably making a lot of people feel really bad in the process) that it was hard, close to impossible, and he advocates more healthy instant meals.

So when I read it, I thought: Thank you. I am not even a working parent. And I appreciate that on a typical weeknight in today's world, it is hard to cook a perfect healthy meal every night, and even the simplest meal does take time. Probably at least 45 minutes. And with kids and homework and exhaustion, that can be a lot to ask. Not including the time to get the food...

I was grateful that he came clean.

But Jonathan was enraged.

He saw the guy as a hypocrite, who made his money making other people feel bad for not living up to this standard that he promoted, only coming clean in the final column that he could barely make it work himself. J saw it as one more step in a society that creates these impossible standards to make everyone feel bad, and promotes them (in this case, not even as an ad, but as a professional journalist).

It made me think.

I guess I am at a place where some friends are struggling. They are struggling to do everything that society tells them they are supposed to be able to do: raise great kids, all in the 99th percentile of everything, have a fantastic loving marriage, on five minutes a week, have two parents working full time at jobs they love with no commute, home for dinner every night, have a wonderful circle of loving friends, and working out daily and eating healthy food.

Hopefully doing a little social service for the causes you feel passionate about, too.

And the truth is, I believe in all of these. They are my standards. But when you cannot do them all, you feel so bad.

And so I got J's point to the author of the offending column. Don't promote and celebrate a lifestyle that you yourself cannot maintain. Don't pretend this is possible, when it is not. Live truthfully. 'Fess up. Be real. Break down the mythology and help people out with some compassion.

In the end, I agree.

What about you?


This weekend I run 20 miles.

I am already nervous.

For the first time I wish I had a partner, a best friend, a coach, a companion. Anyone!!!

I have no idea what I am doing.

Because I have been running alone, with the exception of my chance meeting with Gonzalo, and a video, book and pacing metronome about ChiRunning from my bionic Aunt and Uncle, creators of the Ironman, I feel at sea.

I have not gotten injured, a victory in and of itself. And I no longer get sick--now that I rinse my nostrils with a neti pot post-run per the instructions of a G.P. who recommended it to get all the LA toxins out of my nose. I have run farther than I ever have in my life--lots of times.

But I am getting sooooo tired. I am getting tired like some one injected me with a sleeping pill on slow release. I am getting tired like all I can do when I wake up is think about when I get to go to sleep again. I am weary. Not my body. It is strong. But way down inside, in my bone marrow, I am so tired.

It is fatigue. Last week I texted while running--my friend who ran the New York Marathon in October. "Did you get tired near the end of training? " I asked.

Tired FROM running or tired OF running?" he texted back. For him boredom set in, but no fatigue. I have been running the hills in perfect spring weather and doing different trails so I am OK on boredom frong, but my GOD, what to do?

Yesterday I panicked. I pulled out multi-vitamins, fish pills, B-12 in droplet form, all of it. I loaded every pill and tablet into my body. I think I am eating well, but maybe I need to eat even better. It is not that I am losing weight. I am the same. Just stronger.

The author of Born to Run, a journalist turned ultra-runner (not me) said he started getting so tired training for an ultra-marathon his doc told him to start eating salads for breakfast. Huge piles of kale and chard and spinach. I just don't think I can do it...

If I can get through this weekend's long run I am home free. And I guess I should experiment with eating Gu, or Power Bars, or nuts, or something. I do not run with a belt of water bottles, or stash little packets of carbohydrate rocket fuel along my route while I run. But perhaps I need to.

W.W. G.D.? (What would Gonzalo do?)

If you have a secret energy source for a depleted running mama, please post here!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Italy Is Calling Me!

I think Italy saved my life. I think Italy saved my family. I think Italy saved my parents' marriage and brought my sister into this world.

I think I might be dead if there had been no Italy in my life.

Italy was sunshine and joy and perfect fruit and Vesuvius and buried cities and turquoise waters and people who loved beauty and loved food and loved life. It was an antidote to America.

Italy has sustained me through hard times. I eat her food at least four times a week, and a bowl of pasta always make me feel restored, grounded and back to myself. And now, my boys, too. I have gone back every few years to refill my soul. Jonathan was the first man I took there (and look what happened!)

It has been ten years since I last went. When I can't sleep i think of the Bagni di Tiberio, or walking up the Phonecian Steps, or walking out to the Faro, or floating in the blue, blue water. That is how much Italy, and Naples, and Capri, are inside me.

Theo is seven. The age I was when I was there. I want him there. I want to go back. I want to eat pasta and pizza and lie around fat and happy in a too small bikini. I want my children's cheeks to be pinched and I want them to be loved and adored by every Italian that walks by, like I was.

I feel Italy calling to me. And I feel my soul crying out, "You need to go, Hilary. You need to go. This is important. Now. Don't wait."

But we are poor. We cannot go now. So I guess I will eat my Italian food, listen to my Italian music, smell the smells of my garden and neighborhood, which, through no coincidence, look, feel and smell like Italy.

Oh, Italia, I hear your call and I wish, how I wish I could come.

Ti Amo!



This morning I woke up blue. I was blue from something Jonathan shared with me last night. I was blue because I hate winter and long days and cold--yes, even in California. No amount of caffeine or running or reading or sleeping can bust the mood.

So I walked into the Y for Benji's basketball game, and went to deposit Theo in childcare so he would not have to sit in the bleachers trying to read Percy Jackson. There on the wall was a picture of one of my favorite childcare ladies. Her name is Harriet. I have known her since Benji was born. She has loved my boys and appreciated them and loved me and been a wonderful presence at that Y.

When she asks me for money for the Y, I always give. She was older than the rest of the childcare people. I could tell she did the job simply because she loves kids. She noticed them, delighted in them, loved them. And I loved her.

Well, she died.

I hadn't been at the Y for awhile because I have been running. It didn't seem like long. But there was a picture of her on the wall, with a note that said, "Rest in Peace."

I felt sick. I felt sad. I felt heartbroken. I didn't get to say, "Thank you." I didn't get to tell her that I want to be like her when I am older. I will want to work in childcare to be around children, too. I didn't get to tell her how much I appreciated her smile and her cheerfulness and seeing her. She made me feel like part of that community.

And now she is gone. I took a month off and she is dead.

I ran to Ricardo, my favorite swim coach to find out what happened. He said she died suddenly. She had leukemia, but no one really knew how badly because she did not talk about it. Her body just gave out, and they found her alone in her condo. Ricardo said the day before she died she had gone around hugging everyone, as if somehow she knew.

Her turquoise Y shirt was laid out to go to work.

I am devastated by her loss.

She was not a major person in my life. She was peripheral. But so wonderful, so cheerful, and yes, so important. I stood at the desk at the Y with tears streaming down my face. I saw another mother crying, too.

I miss you, Harriet.

I can't believe you are gone.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Yes! I'm a Mom! And Trying to be Proud of It..."

A famous dad from our school recently made this video about the Larchmont Schools: You Tube: YouTube - LarchmontCharterWeHo's Channel

I love it.

Of all the snippets woven together, the part that makes me weep every time are the immigrant parents saying what they want for their kids, and why they are grateful. Their need is so raw and naked. They all speak English, but for this, they spoke in their native tongue (with subtitles) and it felt more powerful.

One of the mothers who speaks is the mother of Theo's best friend, Stephen, a truly great kid. I don't know the exact situation, but I do know that his father has returned to Korea and is NOT in the picture, and that he means the world to his mother. I know that he is smart, kind, amazing and beloved.

In one email to her about many things (playdates, birthday parties) I told her I had seen her in the Larchmont video, she was great, and she is one awesome mama.

She was so happy I said she was a great mother. She picked that out of everything I wrote and took it as the highest possible praise. It meant the world to her. That was obvious.

And I was jealous. I was jealous that she could take my comment at face value and it brought her joy. I have been so warped by my Wellesley education, by 21st century America, by rebellion against my father, and by American social values, that if/when someone says I am a great mother (it has happened...) I feel a flurry of emotions.

I feel suspicious. Are they saying I am lazy, and I am so lucky to be able to stay home with my kids and my husband must really spoil me rotten? Are they saying, must be nice? Are they saying, it is so nice you can do that, but I can't believe you are not working? Where is your self-esteem? Are they saying, are one of those scary mothers who once worked but now focuses all her insane over-educated mother energy on raising her kids and makes everyone else feel really bad about themselves? Are they saying, how just mother full-time? Are they saying, I can't believe you don't work...

Never, ever, do I consider that maybe they just mean it at face value.

And I cannot accept it as that. My own feelings about motherhood are far too conflicted.

And yet, the truth is, I do care about being a good mother. I do believe it is one of the most important things I will do. When I tell another woman she is a good mother I mean it deeply and sincerely. I see the effect on her child and I am amazed and awed. I want to be a good mother.

But the very word "mother" has been so demonized, so polarizing, so contaminated, I am scared of it.

And so, when Stephen's mother responded so simply, I was moved, and wanted to be like her. I wanted to simply acknowledge without shame that being a good mother is a priority for me. I do not hate it, or feel put upon by it. Having children is absolutely one of the greatest joys of my life.
I think it matters, and I can see it in my children. But I do not feel valued by society. And that affects me, as much as I try not to let it.

I envied her clarity, her sense of self-worth, her lack of conflict about the whole motherhood issue.

Sad. But true.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Too Late

Last night when I logged on for my once monthly facebook session there was a message waiting for me from someone I had never really known: a guy who dated my friend Natalie.

He dated her long ago and began what I consider her sad dating period, when she hooked up with a bunch of guys who were outwardly pursuing enlightenment, and spoke the New Age lingo, but were really nothing more than horny assholes reaching middle age who realized that there were some pretty awesome women out there and they had a shot.

They met at Esalen. He made my friend happy for awhile. She really liked him. They went on some fun trips together, and he made her laugh. He was funny. But in the end he cared about his job, didn't want to settle down, and didn't even want to date just one woman. She was into him, so it broke her heart a little. But what can you do?

He emailed me asking if I knew how to reach Natalie. He said he wanted to make amends.

That was a LONG time ago. Like eight years go. Still.

I sent him an email. I wanted to say, "Too late, asshole!"

But I just wrote, "Natalie is gone. She died three years ago. If you want to talk more, please call."

By the time I walked downstairs to get my tea, the phone rang. It was him.

Of course he was shocked. And sad. He wanted to hear about her. All about her. He wanted to have his own private memorial on the phone. He wanted to comfort me. And tell me how much I had meant to her (I knew. I was there.)

He told me a beautiful story, about a trip they took to British Columbia. He told of how they were on a boat crossing some Sound when suddenly their ferry was surrounded by a hundred viking boats, with sails billowing, heading in the opposite direction. It was some weird subculture of people who made viking boats, and they were sailing them. He said it was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen, and the two of them stood in the front of the boat on the prow, on this sunny day, with hundreds of boats going by like something out of the past.

It sounded like Natalie. She found the beauty, and she threw it up for you to see. She could be annoying, but she never stopped looking, and when I think of her I think of my moments like that with her, too.

So I will hold that image of them on the prow of the boat yelling for joy into the wind.

But I also thought, act now! If you hurt someone, or broke their heart, or were unneccessarily harsh, don't wait eight years to tell them. They might be gone. As in his case. But even if they are not. It is too long. Act now to correct the pains you caused. Don't wait for the perfect time. It may never come.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Four More Days...

until the dirty green boot comes off.

After the swelling stopped, my boy has been an angel, never complaining about his foot. He has hopped around in a special high-speed run hop he developed, and even hiked through gardens without whining.

He has read like a maniac and built hundreds of lego constructions.

His toes are so black that even scrubbing leaves them only a lighter brown. His cast is wearing through and his little cast shoe is worn down to the nub. Perhaps no cast-bound child has ever been so mobile.

Friday the cast comes off. Sunday he sword fights at his own birthday party.

Will my eight-year-old peg leg still be able to hold his own with pirates and fellow fencers?

We shall see.

Arty Photos

A night at Le Figaro with Meg and Joe.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Me and Flea!

I just found out Flea is running the marathon, too!

He is running it to raise money for his Silverlake Convservatory, an amazing community music school he created to give affordable (and scholarship) music lessons to any kids who want it. He graduated from Fairfax High and he regards his school as a way to help keep music accessible to any kid who loves music, since the arts have largely been cut out of public schools.

Theo took lessons there, and I have been there when shipments of old violins have come in from orchestras, to give to kids. I am going to give to Flea and the Silverlake Conservatory. You can, too!!! Go to Crowdrise (created by Ed Norton) and find Silverlake Conservatory.

Factoid: The great musician himself does not listen to music when he runs. He listens to his heartbeat, his footsteps, the world around him. He hears music in the world. I love that!

Standing Up For Myself

Standing up for myself is so hard.

I am interesting because I am not weak or confused. I am not cowardly, or afraid to stand my ground. I am not deferential, or scared. But when someone I disagree with vents some intolerable opinion, I do not stand up for myself verbally. Especially if I think speaking up will make no difference.

On Tuesday I took my boys to piano lessons. Their lessons are high on a winding hill street above Hollywood. I pick them up straight from school, where they get to play outside a total of 20 minutes on a schoolyard that is looking smaller and smaller as my boys get bigger and bigger. They can only play outside during limited hours because an angry neighbor behind the school is so irritated by the cries of children playing that the city has said OK, no playing outside at a school before 10 in the morning, and not within 20 feet of the back wall, because that could be really irritating to you, you one grouchy person.

This is relevant.

The road in front of the piano teacher's was crowded Tuesday, so I pulled up and parked illegally in front of a beautiful old Moorish apartment building. Benji had spilled popcorn in the back of the car, so I brushed the spilled pop corn onto the street (the birds can eat it, I reasoned) and shepherded the boys into the house with their piano books. They leapt and laughed and raced in.

I walked back out to my car quickly, was scribbling checks on bills I have to pay before shooting down to the post office, when an older man came and tapped on my window. I could just tell it would be bad news.

I opened my door. "Yes?"

"Are your children students of Gigi?" he asked. Yes, I said. "I am a writer," he said. "I live here because it is quiet. Your youngest child just ran screaming across the street at the top of his lungs."

I searched my memory. I recalled no screaming.

"The shouting of children, the barking of a dog, can interrupt a writer."

Still, I listened. "I live here because it is quiet."

He stopped, and waited for me to respond.

I recalled suddenly that I had heard this same man a few weeks earlier venting to Gigi as we went in, going on and on about how no one disciplines their children, it just shows how bad parents are today. Some other parent sat in the car outside their house for an hour with a screaming child. How do they put up with it? Parents are too scared to step in, blah blah blah. It is so cliched and curmudgeonly I had no time.

I said, "I am searching my memory, and I do not recall my child screaming."

He said, "Your child was screaming. We all have different thresholds. It may not sound like screaming to you, but it is to me. And we need to co-exist in this world."

I knew what he said next would be the same tirade he had unleashed on Gigi the last time, so I kind of tuned out. He finished with, "I am not going to tell you how to raise your children. I know better than to wade into that territory. But people need to learn to discipline their children. To set standards."

I was so angry I feared for his safety. But still I did not speak.

Then he pointed to the popcorn. "And that." I said yes, I am sorry. "My dog could eat that," he said. "He could get sick."

I said, "Fine, I will pick it up." I got up and picked up the 10 pieces of popcorn. He said, "No. No. I can get a broom." I just picked it up and put it in the trash can. I said, "Next time I will drop my children off in front of Gigi's door."

Then I walked away.

He shouted after me. "I love children. I have a daughter. I have a grand-daughter..."

I did not turn around. I did not respond. I got in my car and drove away.

I was furious.

Why was I furious?

I was furious because I did not tell him off.

The minute he began with "I am a writer..."

I wanted to say, "I am a writer, too. And so is my husband. And this is a public street. If you want silence you should move to the wilderness. You have chosen to live in an apartment building in the middle of Hollywood. The shout of a happy child is not criminal. If your ideas are so fleeting that the shout of a child drives your brilliant thought from your mind, it must not have been very brilliant. Writing is made up of life. And children, and dogs, and cars, and birds are part of life."

I wanted to say, "Yes, we need to co-exist. But your standard is not real. No on one in the universe would say my child was wrong for running happily across the street with a shout of joy in the middle of the afternoon. Not midnight. Not at dawn. We have different levels of tolerance, but yours is not realistic."

And when he said, "I like children. I have a grand-daughter." I wanted to say, "And I have a father. And he is an asshole."

(My father is not an ass hole. And my father would NEVER say the shout of a child distracted him. He thinks more children should run shouting through the streets for joy. I am not kidding.)

The point is, that when people like him, angry, bitter people, feel the need to vent, I stand silently and listen, while words and sentences and counter-arguments run through my head like mental subtitles responding in real-time. Each word he says, my response ticker-tapes through my mind, while I stand silently.

He knew I was mad. It is not that I did not make my feelings known.

Still, I was angry at myself. I stood up for myself, but I let him stand unopposed, with his warped view of the world intact. I tell myself I will never change his mind, so why bother, and that is true. But I can also offer him another point of view. I can not be verbally bullied. And I can make him pause before he balls out the next person who walks by his house with a child, or a dog.

And I wonder why I do not stand up.

I worried about Gigi. He is her neighbor, and I don't want to screw up her neighborly relations. I feel it is hopeless, because I will never change the angry, self-righteous man's mind.

And my father made me feel like standing up for myself was disrespectful. Like he had the right to say anything outrageous he wanted, and I could not fight, or I would be punished. I learned that my response could hurt others, and I should always think of them, first. (When I did respond he would say, "You have a sharp tongue, Hilary. You really hurt people." He acted like it was some evil gift channeled by the devil, which he does happen to believe in.)

It is probably one reason I like to write. No one can stop me on the page. And ultimately written words have more power than spoken ones. If the words hit the target, it knocks them over.

But in this case, I should have stood up for myself.

He was a jerk, and if he is going to tell me I am a bad mother and my children are bratty and noisy, I think I have the right to tell him, you are an angry old man and a sorry-assed writer who cannot sustain his concentration. Lame. Or, shell out the big bucks and buy some Boze headphones.

I will have to practice. I will have to give my subtitles a voice. It is a small thing. But big, too.

It is probably why I love Italian families. They all just shout what comes into their heads, then cry and laugh and it is over.

I say nothing, stew, review what I should have said, but never do, except on this lonely little blog he will never read.

How about you?

Do you speak your mind? Do you call jerks on their shit when it flies out of their mouths? Do you unleash your intellect to take arrogant, superior, self-entitled assholes down a notch?

Tell me you do. And tell me how you got that way. I need a training program!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Boy is Eight

Picture to come, I swear, of my eight-year old and his green cast.

We had crepes for breakfast, and a birthday sign. He had a candle in his crepe, he played Happy Birthday to himself at piano and we sang along (me, Benji and Gigi) and we had lasagna and Capri cake for dessert, with vanilla ice cream. He got a mountain of books and legos and he is so very happy. No homework for a night.

I asked him how seven had been.

"I liked it," he said. "I can pretty much do everything now."

"Like what?" I asked.

"I can make food, I can grow food. I can read. I can swim. I can do pretty much everything I need to do."

It was wise, and true.

I am not ready to leave him, we have so much more to teach. But if he were on his own, abandoned, or we died, he would be fine. Not just fine, he would be great. He could survive in the shanty towns of Rio, or the streets of Hollywood, or in a forest. I am not saying it would be easy, but he can read people, do math, sell things, find good people, and navigate. He is good and has a moral compass. He could take care of his brother, too.

He just feels grown-up.

He has brought so much joy into my life. Oh how I used to roll my eyes when people said that childhood flies by. But my boy is almost eight--halfway done. Holy Macaroni!

My Sage from El Salvador

I was running on Sunday in Griffith Park. It was a 15-miler and I was scared. The last time I had gotten sick, and I as I mentioned before I have weird superstitions around this distance. It is when my body gave out in training last time and I was so ill after 13 miles. I played games in my head. Maybe I would only run 14 miles. Maybe 13. Maybe I would walk the last one.

I started and I felt good. I had eaten a big protein filled breakfast which turned out to be good because I could not run very fast without getting a cramp. It pulled me back. Important!

Griffith Park is filled with runners in training because it is the one beautiful place you can run on this side of town. Packs of runners go by in every direction. Some fast, some slow, some overweight, some training for marathons, some escaping their wives. But it feels like a secret community of runners, and it is cool.

I am always watching people trying to figure out if they are training for a marathon. Sometimes people ask me. Usually when I am near the end and probably look like a soldier coming back from war.

At around mile 3 a man saw me, smiled me, then ran across the road and started to run with me. He was really warm, probably in his fifties, and had a beautiful smile.

His name was Gonzalo. He said I looked strong, and really good. (It was not a pick-up line, I swear.) He has run 30 marathons and had run 20 miles the day before, up to the top of some inland mountain I have never heard of (He kept trying to show me.) Sunday he was doing his recover run--of 12 miles!!!

He had run since he was a teenager in El Salvador. He really loves running. You could tell. He kept telling me I would definitely finish, and I should run up the mountains, to make my legs stronger. He suggested 12 mile runs where the first three miles are all uphill. "It is so beautiful up there," he kept saying. "And it really strengthens your legs. It is the only way. Do the hills and mountains."

I listened and asked him for advice. He gave me lots, in a kind, not overbearing way.

Then I asked him:

"Do you think the marathon is about the mind or the body?"

"Oh, the body," he said. "The mind has nothing to do with it."

If you are strong enough, if you have put in the miles, you will finish. If you have not, you will not.

I don't know why I found this so deep. I guess because I think the marathon is all about the mind, about pushing yourself, about managing your head, about using your mind to keep going when your body is giving out. But he was saying the opposite: If you do not train, and prepare, and put in the miles, there is nothing your mind can do. You will not finish.

It is very practical. And demystifying.

And true for so very many things, don't you think?

So I leave you these words from Gonzalo, for whatever endeavor you are undertaking:

"Put in the miles."

Good luck!