You might chalk it up to the stupid idea to train for a half marathon as I approach 40 years old, or the fact that I’m doing a lot of miles on brutal hills. But, if I’m honest, these aren’t the reasons that I’m crying on these runs.
I’m crying lately because 2018 has been a tough year.
Until September of this year, I lived bi-coastal for about 14 months, working one job on one coast while keeping an eye on the company I founded and loved on the other coast. I was constantly on planes, constantly trying to squeeze in an extra hour here or there, constantly tired, constantly trying to help my teams, constantly feeling like I wasn’t doing anything good enough.
And just when I thought that things on both coasts had the potential to click into place, things spiraled.
In August, my siblings and I were summoned to my dad’s hospital bedside as he navigated some pretty scary heart issues. Two days after I got back to California from dad/hospital world, I got a stunning phone call that the woman who was my best friend when I was younger was killed in a freak accident (and then I made the equally stunning phone calls to those I love to tell them, which were hands down the worst phone calls I have ever made).
A few weeks after I got back from the funeral, I was fired from my job in California. I moved back East a week later, sending my stuff ahead while I did a tough, catharsis ride back to New York from San Francisco on my motorcycle. I rolled into NYC tired and shredded, discombobulated.
A few weeks after getting back East, the three of the four partners in my company unexpectedly quit, one every day for three days. Without partners and with me worn out, I decided to close my company.
I decided to close my company.
These are words that I did not think I would be writing right now.
I got fired from CZI.
Again, words that I didn’t think would be on the screen in December 2018.
There’s an intellectual reaction that happens, here it goes:
Intellectually, I know all this shit is surface; the real things — health, material comfort, true friendships… those things are intact and those are things of life. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think to myself, thank god for that.
Intellectually, I also know these are the problems of the privileged. Getting fired from Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy isn’t exactly hardship. Closing down a successful company isn’t disaster. Dealing with a professional setback, versus the setbacks that so many people deal with in this country, isn’t exactly life-destroying.
Intellectually, I also know that the universe only does these kinds of bomb-drops when there’s something else that I’m supposed to be doing. It’s happened to me before; I’d be an ungrateful shit not to trust that there is something bigger going on here. And there is a sense of relief in both of these things being cleared from my life — there is an opportunity to re-focus based on who I am today.
Intellectually, I get it.
But emotionally, goddamn.
My sense of who I am has been rocked. My confidence has been deeply shaken. I’ve retreated into those I have trusted for years, those who are strong enough to hold me up and to the places that heal. There’s a lot of sweatpants and cheese as well as furious journal entries and days where the couch is my best friend or other days that I just walk and walk and walk.
Right now, it sucks.
Some mornings, I can barely get out of bed.
Some nights, I can barely sleep and can’t wait until dawn so I can get up.
I look in the mirror and wonder if I’m over.
I think I’m gaining weight but I don’t own a scale and my boyfriend is way too intelligent about the preservation of his testicles to comment on that one.
I catch myself thinking about myself in the past tense.
Spoiler alert: there’s is no shiny ending to this. I am in the heart of the pain bomb, I have no words of wisdom around “growth from pain” to share right now.
So why write this?
I write this because I’m a woman.
And it sucks right now.
And I don’t think that we (especially us women) talk about when things suck.
I get it. It’s too risky — we already have enough against us without broadcasting when we’re down. No need to give fodder to the jackals that lie in wait for women to stumble.
But I can’t stop thinking about the dinner I had with my niece right after everything went to shit and I closed W&W. My niece is amazing. She’s wicked smart. She’s strong. I look at her and all I see is power and potential. But when we talked about what she wants to do with her life, she has decent amount of fear, a fear that may hold her back. She’s afraid of stumbling, afraid of choosing the wrong path, afraid of failure.
I fear that if she lives too long in that fear, she won’t try.
That makes me crazy. The world, especially this world right now, needs people like her to try; people like her are the ones that make the present and the future happen. And yes, they’re going to stumble, they’re going to get knocked on their asses, but my god, they have to keep trying.
But I get why she’s afraid.
There are parts I can’t help her with by writing this post: the stakes are high — the student loans are crushing, the jobs grow rarer, the security net is more fragile, the rhetoric and legislation are terrifying. So to help with that, I vote, I harass Congress-people. On it. But a post isn’t going to do shit about that.
So I write this because I suspect that a big part of the fear comes from this relentlessly comparative culture we live in. We are surrounded with the idea that the paths should be smooth, the steps forward always make sense, the journey will shine and we’ll always look good doing it.
No one that has actually lived an interesting or deeply fulfilling life has lived a smooth one.
I’ve been reading a biography of Ulysses Grant. The dude was considered a hot mess until he was almost forty, written off as an alcoholic and a military failure, sent to a far Western outpost to get him out of the way.
Can you imagine the red-heated shame of Grant, the West Point grad, as he rode a horse across the country to that outpost? What it took for him to wake up every morning, put on some clothes and get moving again?
Let’s sit with that for a moment. Let’s feel it.
He kept going. Even when it undoubtedly hurt.
That’s what the journey really is.
But this environment that we live in is making us ignore, look the other direction and art direct the whole damn thing. We airbrush the journey. I’m guilty of it, too. My Instagram looks absolutely jolly to the outside observer, even though right now life feels the exact opposite of that.
All that art directing is dangerous. We’re in danger of losing our resilience, our perspective, our willingness to try and to keep trying when the universe (and it will) knocks us on our ass. When we only see the shiny, our failures seems disproportionately dire as opposed to the fact that we all fail. We all have moments where we have to choose to keep going even when it’s ugly, it’s hard, when you can’t see where you’re going.
At most, we talk about the pain later, after the emotion has seeped out and the triumphant return has been well-executed. We then smooth away the jagged edges and take that failure as a stepping stone to something amazing.
Yes, I do believe in all that, I do believe that this moment a stepping stone for me too. I believe that when I’m really living life, I’m taking chances and I have to take the downs with the ups and that’s why I am where I am right now. I believe there’s something more interesting, more authentic, more true coming my way.
But I don’t know that right now.
So yeah, I’ve been crying on my runs lately.
PS: I wrote this in December 2018 but didn’t publish until the end of January 2019. I waited because I was pretty worn out and low and wasn’t strong enough to deal with the energy that might come from sharing something like this at that time. Just in case you’re clocking dates…