Joy in the Process

@friendwithendo posted a meme in the beginning of April that brought vague thoughts to the forefront of my mind. I’m embarrassed when I start sounding like I’m saying like back in the day, when I was a collegiate athlete. But my teen years were dedicated to the goal, then I was a Division I student athlete until 22. Shaking the mentality, or more specifically, the mentality that it’s not hard work if you’re not in pain, has been something I’ve grappled with while implementing the lifestyle changes that come with endometriosis.

Credit: Andrea Bell, Chicago, IL

How beautiful is that? Allow discovery and joy in your movement. In the momement. Despite pushing through daily pain with a smile, and doing things like causing a tibia stress fracture, I try to prove to myself that I’m not *weak* and have a high pain tolerance. Wuht?

I think of the line in Michael Downs’s The Greatest Show, “If people understood the full weight of the show they watched, they would be crushed.” Each day is a show I feel like I barely remember the lines to. I do not judge anyone else this harshly, I do not hold anyone else to this impossible, illogical standard. I don’t approach creating this way either. I consider myself a writer, exploring multiple genres, moving between fluid boundaries. Art isn’t limited to the page either. I look to multidiscliplinary artists like Lynne Price, Stephanie Barber, Jordannah Elizabeth, Amanda McCormick, and so many other incredible talents that transcend genre. Why am I not living like this when I’m moving? Is this impossible in running?

I tried something different when I ran the Charm City Run’s Sole of the City 10k earlier this month. A rigid personal best wasn’t on my mind. Since February, I had been on hormonal birth control and physically and mentally spiraling (I have stopped taking it and would like to say, if birth control helps you live the life you want, GOOD! Do you and you should not be limited in your access! It is not something I can tolerate. Yes, I am hard eye-rolling to all past and future individuals that say I should just get on birth control to make endometriosis go away. Read more here about how it is only a band-aid and not a long-term solution).

Even while struggling each day, I wanted to learn from the race. The course has a challenging hill during the final mile that broke me the previous year like the Baltimore Half Marathon broke my spirit in 2011. I’m looking at you, never-ending mile around Lake Montebello. I decided I wanted to negative split the Sole of the City, starting at an 8-minute mile pace that would be an effort but relaxed.

Dare I say the race was joyful? Despite the early spring humidity, the kind special to Baltimore where even your eyeballs are sweating, I was in relatively good spirits. It was probably the last time I wasn’t holding back tears or sobbing all weekend (I’m still looking at you, hormonal birth control). Reading Partners volunteers cheered at 26 points—one for each letter, yay, literacy!—an officer was singing for everyone at mile 2.5, which carried me to Charm City Run Fells Point blasting Kesha’s Timber around mile 3.5. Then I targeted someone a few paces in front that I had seen earlier in the race to bring me to the finish. 

Screenshot from my Garmin 235

My ability to hold pace was a pleasant surprise. As reference, when I’m not doubled-over from endometriosis and related symptoms, my tempo run pace is comfortably at a 7:20 per mile pace. Keeping a relaxed mind helped me hold the sustained moderate effort. I sort of approached the Charles Street 12 this way in September 2018, but if I’m being honest, I thought it was going to be a rare approach. I had excision surgery in April 2018 and I was cured, right? RIGHT?! Cue the reality of chronic illness.

I’m learning from the Baltimore Flow and incredible healthcare providers—shouts to Sustainability Wellness and Indigo Physiotherapy—to listen to my body. To look at it as more than something broken. To approach athletics how I approach creativity—with an eye for discovery. I have to be creative as I continue to chase a sub-20 minute 5k goal. I have to trust that when I feel well, the work will fall into place. While I’m not, there is a process and joy can exist in discovery.

Stay sweaty and glittery.

An Element of Control

In the spirit of crampedstyleblog’s #selfcarefebruary on Instagram, I’ve been looking closely at what I’m doing when my body starts to shut down. Last month, so many things were missing from daily routine: multiple rest days, dedicated stretching time to keep (my) hips open, allocated time to indulge in pleasurable reading. My body starts to rebel with pain and sour moods when I try to consistently crest 25 miles in a week, at least from what I’ve gathered through tracking my runs over the past couple of years. To try and do better, I’ve added a “self-care” column to my training log.

See! It’s real. I add text or glyphs to spice it up, like executing my glute and core physical therapy exercises are MONEY. Workouts I haven’t done yet are in pink. An aside—can we have a moment for the improvement in technology, from the inaccurate Nike running chips in vogue a decade ago to the relatively accurate Garmin technology of today?

Mileage and workouts might not seem important to everyone, but testing the limits of my body has been a lifelong habit. Swimming for hours a week, sucking in chlorinated air hoping that millions of strokes will lead to some sort of momentary glory. Racking the weight at incrementally higher amounts on the squat rack, knowing that my secret weapon was kicking underwater like a dolphin for fifteen meters at a speed faster than most of my peers. Tenacity is a piece of identity I’m not willing to forgo. Chronic illness changes this perception of invincibility.

I think of this quote from Sick when the attempts to feel alive, to feel healthy, seem out of reach:

“If you know a part of you is always dying, taking charge of that dying has a feeling of empowerment.”

There is something in pushing the limits, in feeling a rush, however it is found. There is an element of control, a belief that there is a choice.

I see overlapping threads in recovery memoir, illness accounts, and athletic feminist theory, like Leslie Heywood. My curiosity piques when the author pushes against the perfect story, the perfect feminist character, the story of what is supposed to be best for your health. These accounts, these protagonists, these people are not perfect plaintiffs. I’m looking at the complex stories broadly to identify threads, like The Recovering by Leslie Jamison, Pretty Good for a Girl by Leslie Heywood, Sick by Porochista Khakpour, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine, and Annie’s Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg. There are more, but I think that brief list gives a smattering of the different approaches–in form and content.

I’m looking to expand my list, so please comment with recommendations. A few books I’ve been meaning to read: The Amputees Guide to Sex by Jillian Weise, The Carrying by Ada Limón, The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang, and Crumb-Sized by Marlena Chertock.

Thanks for reading. Stay sweaty and glittery.