Coping with past histories

M and I have been married nearly 20 years, together for more than 25. A long shared history.

However, we both had lives, friendships, relationships before we became a couple. Like everyone else. Not so stark difference with us is that vast majority of my friends pre-M have become part of the fabric of our lives post relationship. In fact, many of my old friends became close (or sometimes even closer) to M through the years. M, however, took a 20 year hiatus from ALL his closest friends in his long running career. I mean, zero contact. It’s made for an interesting integration in the years since he began running again and crossing paths, making inroads into the old trail running ultramarathon world.

And being absolutely honest: it’s really hard for me. After a few false starts where I felt trapped or ignored or minimized or any other range of negative emotions – only a fraction of which are all in my mind – we have come to a solution that mostly works for us: M attends significant events alone.

It’s not that the runner people are mean or unpleasant or don’t try to somehow integrate me into the conversations. No, not all all that. There is just this whole big giant block of shared history and then 20 years of catching up and including the shared history, and then there is this non-runner wife who is clearly bored AF by endless running stories and updates on new running adventures and yet more rehashing and retelling of stories and memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life with M.

Even typing that, I feel the twinge of childishness creeping into my own judgment. It’s not like I haven’t tried; I have. But my own capacity and social skills have me hamstrung, and it’s hard to bridge the gap with folks who treat running as a religion and your husband as a trail running legend, if not elevated to demigod status, retired or not. Because of that, I must be equally special or gifted somehow with the fleet-of-feet sport, right? Fuck no. I’m accustomed to that surprise-to-incredulous expressions that cross their faces; sometimes I’m even mightily amused by it. Their eyes go from glowing in anticipation to anywhere but mine when they try to engage me. Because I don’t run. Like Ever. Maybe if I’m being pursued by someone with murder and mayhem on their mind, but since that has yet to happen to me, I cannot be sure. Possibly I could be persuaded to run under those circumstances.

I sound really small and petulant, particularly to myself. But I’m over it now. I’m tired of trying to fit in with the great unwashed asshat community that are many of M’s former competitors and “friends” in the racing circuit.

Anyway, when we have invited runner people to our home, I’m fine to infinitely better. We are hosting, I am busy, I have a relevant role. In another type of social setting – at a race, at a banquet after the race, at other running events – I feel like an unnecessary accessory. This does not come from M; that part originates with negative girl and persists in my general boredom. Bad, bad combination.

I’m wrestling with it again this afternoon. M is attending a wedding, the groom is his best friend’s son, and my hyper-responsible side is sort of squirming. M had said we would both attend, and after a bit of a snippy tiff this morning, we agreed it best if I stay home. I do not typically fail to meet my commitments unless the reasons are valid. My not wanting to go is not really a valid reason in my book.

Snippy tiff – still not sure if this was me picking a fight or me just expressing how I feel and it falling short of M’s expectations. Bride and groom have this magical and romantic love story, per M’s telling. Since I barely know them – the groom have met in passing a few times, have seen the bride from a distance on another occasion – they quite honestly mean very little to me. Wife of the best friend – we have nothing in common, and as far as she’s concerned I’m dumb as your average box of rocks, not at all socially prominent, and therefore someone to be polite to and then set aside. It’s fine with me; we are just very different. I will not fake what I don’t feel, and I quite sincerely wish the happy couple well, but I do not find anything especially romantic or extraordinary about their relationship. Maybe I was a lot too blunt about it, but I essentially said to M that they really do mean nothing to me. I’m happy for them. I hope they have a long and happy union. But I’m not all ooey-gooey about their romance and very special love story.

M thinks my outlook is dark. I think I am realistic and honest about how I feel. However, he felt it would be unlikely that I could avoid showing my indifference. The rest of the tiff – M’s joking references to A and K as “future ex-son-in-law” or “future first wife” have not set well with me and I have told him so in the past. But compared to his glowing optimism and joy about the “specialness” of this union, frankly it irritated me far more than usual. I saw or heard little of this sort of thing when G and K got married, although we both love and adore K and G and K as a couple. For C and A, there has been a conservative concern about their long-term relationship, because there are some unique challenges built in. Our concern as parents – we want our kids to be happy, to have healthy and thriving relationships – and the way we show it is just different. I get it. But since I’m already in a bit of an iffy, vulnerable state, it’s impossible to not feel a little hurt by the contrast.

So I am sitting at my desk pondering things rather than watching the this couple walk down the aisle and then eating and drinking and being merry at the reception. And we are all so glad. I’m actually happier here, and in truth it’s healthier for my own relationship that I am here.

But I wonder if I will ever be confident enough to withstand running-related events. M does not compete anymore, but he’s still highly regarded and respected in the running circles he travels. Many, many of his good old boy network is still active in local ultramarathon circles, including volunteering at races, mentoring others new or growing into the sport, crewing other runners during actual races.

Many of the folks M knows and hangs with now – I enjoy being around them and would gladly, happily go to their weddings or events. Thing is, these are relationships M has begun, fostered, built during our marriage. I am not just the woman he left racing to find; I’m the one who finds dirty, sweaty people standing on my pool deck when I get home from work. I have shared history with these folks along with M.

However I try to describe it, it is just different. And while our solution to my feelings seems extreme (even to me), it is also the only thing that truly works. Hating myself for feeling the way I feel does no good, and in truth M is comfortable with going alone. While he will never openly agree with me, he enjoys himself a lot more not having to be concerned about me.

By the time he left for the wedding, we were fine. Usual, typical, relationship normal type fine.

Like weddings, life and marriage are imperfect. Many a bride has hopes and dreams of the “perfect” wedding and something goes wrong or falls short of lofty expectations. Same with marriage. In my own, it’s fortunate we can be honest about our disagreements. M doesn’t always see the snubs and such that I feel, and I accept full responsibility for my own insecurity and social awkwardness. This world of his old friends, many of whom are athletically-snobby (M has his own strong and wide bias in this area as well) – I don’t belong there. It’s good that I recognize it and dial direct in dealing with it.

But I don’t always feel great about it. Human here, with my own little fragile ego to make me absolutely certain it’s real.

Giant step forward, tiny steps backward

When I dared to imagine being off the insulin, I thought life would be better, that I would feel so much better. And for the most part, like 99%, I do feel better, more accomplished, even proud of myself for working hard, trying hard to learn and to adopt new ways to manage my eating and physical activities.

As for the oral meds, I imagined a long, frustrating slog waiting for the medical team to examine my test results and slow strip them away, one by one. Instead my doctor did something akin to ripping the bandaid off and set me free to pursue my life without oral or other medications.

I really never even dared to imagine what this might feel or be like for me.

And guess what? It feels f**king GREAT!

The elation continues, because I have woken up the last few mornings and realize that I do not have to take anything today. I still take a vitamin D capsule, because apparently everyone is deficient, but anything I can buy anywhere is not really the same as prescription medication for a chronic condition.

However, and as I remarked yesterday, there always seems to be a “however” or a “but” or another shoe out there waiting to drop, it feels like my joy and elation over something so wonderful is leaving me vulnerable to negative girl and the anxiety, the doubt, the insecurity, and the fear she generates. Instead of looking forward and planning my meals for the week ahead and thinking about the exercise and how I could potentially add some cardio to my days, I am sort of cowering and afraid of my own shadow. Again. All day today. *sigh*

GIANT step forward, and a few tiny steps backward. It’s the dance of my life, only this time I am not losing the same type of ground that finds me behind the initial starting line.

And I feel like I need to give myself a good shaking and turn down the volume on negative girl’s megaphone.

Today I had a meeting with my long-time client; it is becoming a Saturday habit for us. He was very pleased and highly complimentary about last weekend’s efforts and reports. This weekend it was normal quarterly stuff for us, but he also floated an idea of my working for him in a more official capacity. Right now, I handle his personal books and as well as other things that crop up each month and throughout the year; it is primarily very much a part-time gig, maybe 15 hours per month most of the time on regular responsibilities. If I were to consider working for him in a corporate capacity, it would mean a lot more hours per month and some pretty good coin in compensation.

I am not especially worried about it, even if I turn him down. But as we were talking about it, I recognize the old paralyzing fear that absolutely does not want to find myself in any sort of corporate organization ever again. The politics, the games, the back-stabbing, the negativity – all that stuff I am so ill-equipped to cope with on a day-to-day basis.

But I told him I would give it some thought. It was weak and sounds and feels diluted, but then again, everything I say and do right now sounds to my ears as if it is stated in the same weakened tones.

My confidence in work is sort of fluid and can be impacted by other factors in my life. Yesterday’s asshattery wounded me more than I like to admit. Not because the guy was an asshat – not a thing I can do to cure anyone of that – but because I lack the spine to shake it off or shrug it off or crush it into a ball and toss it back at him with all my might. I was at the gym this morning and torn between looking at all the faces I passed to not looking at anyone at any time. I did my stuff and left with enough time to shower, dress, and make my appointment. And this many hours later I still feel this growing anxiety and fear.

Sorry to be repetitive, but sometimes I have to word-vomit the poison to get it out of my system.

The good stuff is happening for me because I worked hard to overcome what holds me back. Like my gym crazy, with its anxiety and its fears and its avoidance tactics and its excuse making. Seriously, all day long I have been thinking about what plausible excuse I could or would come up with for J that would let me off the hook on Monday morning. Dishonesty does not work for me; I cannot lie believably to strangers, much less someone who gets and has come to understand the full force of my gym crazy. It is also against my moral code to try to lie to someone I hold in such high esteem. Plus I would feel terribly guilty and end up regretting the decision later, which would leave me vulnerable to cancelling again on Thursday. It is a vicious cycle I am all too familiar with. Even telling the truth only makes it worse, makes it easier to backslide into not training, not practicing, not eating right, not staying off the meds for long. It would be so easy to bail tomorrow – rest day and all that, no break since this time last month – but Monday is trickier and has required a boatload of battle with negative girl to get to this point of rationality. I have not cancelled an appointment with J since we restarted after my jury duty last summer. We have both gone on vacation and we have both had to reschedule because something came up for one or the other, but in all these months I have not missed an appointment or a session.

And for the first time in several months I feel the urge to cancel just because I feel … inferior. Or defective. Maybe both. Because of one truly ignorant person believing himself right and benevolent to share his ignorance with me, and I seem to lack the backbone to empower myself to shake it off and Let. It. Go.

Bottom line: I am absolutely determined not to let myself slink on down that particular bunny hatch. I am gritting my teeth and will not give in to the voices in my head and cancel something so critical to my ongoing success. I also will not let myself bail on the gym tomorrow. Unicorns and rainbows were nowhere in sight today; I feel like the forces of darkness had gathered and were following me around all day long. It is hard right now, in the moment, and I am glad my blog exists to download and sort out all my untidy mental and emotional laundry.

Many may pronounce my ongoing thinking and obsessing about yesterday’s incident as overreaction on my part, and I can readily accept that judgment. I can probably even agree with them saying it to me directly (because believe me, they have throughout today’s wobbly, waffling texts and emails), and because I hear the same things inside my own head as I do battle with negative girl. Negative girl whispers about my weakness, tries to generate doubts about my success, suggests I will be falling off the diet and fitness wagon within a matter of days because I am so frail.

Nope, nope, nope. I am at least strong enough to stand up and battle back from that kind of negative crap.

Life is difficult sometimes, and sometimes I make life more difficult for myself. While I am absolutely right in what I was doing yesterday, I still hear that man’s voice telling me I was doing it wrong. And it sounds and echoes just like everyone else in my life who has left scars on my heart and my mind. It’s a quality that makes me careful with what I say and how I say it to other people, why I choose to remain silent rather than express an opinion that serves no real purpose except to create pain for someone else. I tend to be pretty frank in my assessments when I offer them, and I always strive to think carefully and speak thoughtfully.

And for goodness sakes I would NEVER approach a stranger in a public place to express any opinion on their exercise form. It is just wrong on so many levels.

Even commenting on other blogs, I try very hard to be careful and thoughtful in my responses. My peek into what is going on it their lives is very narrow, very in-the-moment, and I want to stay on point and not project my bias into whatever they might be going through right now.

All that said, I am very appreciative of the positive, supportive comments on this situation. I wish I could honestly say, dear friends, that I am the better, stronger person who is no longer bothered, has been able to mentally tell the jerk to f**k himself, and just let my anger burn through and turn the situation around. Unfortunately I’m not quite there yet. I am still mired in the mud, although less so than earlier today.

Because I feel afraid of it happening again. I felt apprehension in the gym this morning that has not stricken me for months. It will pass, because it does. But if I ever see that man again, I wish I had the courage to tell him to his face how his thoughtless words affected me. Probably it would not make a difference. Probably he would think that I am a lightweight, don’t belong in a gym, and need to toughen up and stop giving 2 shits what others say or do or think. (Thank negative girl for her most helpful perspective.)

But I know better. I KNOW it, just presently buried under a blanket of insecurity. I have real success. I am off diabetes medications, which is something so few people achieve. I eat more protein, and I overcame this morning and made myself go to the gym, through the doors, and to get my practice done. I nearly made myself sick over it, and I am almost ashamed for not being further along in this process, on this journey, that one stupid POS scum sends me diving down the rabbit hole of doubt and fear and nauseating stomachaches. There is a big wide chasm between almost ashamed and ashamed, though. Qualified progress, but progress nonetheless, and I will gratefully accept it.

But I have the courage to seek help, to hire a professional team of hand-holders to get me around that next lap on this circle. Monday J will likely torture me with new a new mini band routine. Tuesday I will have to ask TM to help me build a stronger teflon shield. M has given me some suggestions should that asshat or any other ever try to give me advice on exercise, besides hiding behind J’s red shirt.

Last night I was using my mini bands here at home, walking up and down the hallway, thinking of all the reasons I do not have to go back to the gym this morning. It was as if I was starting all over again. I recognize the signs of me contemplating a serious backslide, and I resolved to not let myself go there now. I see how I am letting one stupid ass guy ruin days of my days; I cannot allow another’s thoughtlessness undo my great progress.

I wish I had the magic, the confidence that makes it fade. I am getting stronger, enjoying really amazing victories. I need to keep those in front of my eyes, always, and fight back hard and not be even budged backwards by the ignorant, thoughtless minions.

Ugh. Today I’m not sure who I am more upset with – thoughtless guy who ruined my day or me for allowing it to continue into my weekend.

Tomorrow will be better. I have a plan to improve my mindset, and having a plan in place this time will get through my practice and not let me be distracted or derailed by the voices in my head, spreading anxiety and doubt. I got this. Yep, writing this on my mental whiteboard at least a hundred times between now and tomorrow morning (and thank trainer J for the gist of this sentiment):

I will not let some ignorant, thoughtless cad ruin my practices ever again; he can go f**k himself 1000x over. 

Yep, I got this. Good thing my mental whiteboard has unlimited markers in rainbows of colors.