Monday, September 29, 2014

When I learn it, I'll get it

This year, for fourth grade, Lucia is in a new school where the curriculum taught is two years above grade level. In other words, in fourth grade, the kids learn sixth grade math. In Lucia's first week,  on our drive home from school, she said, "Mom, at school we had a math test and I only got like 20 out of 80 correct!" There was no discomfort in her voice; she sounded almost happy. I eyed her through the rear view mirror to see the expression on her face. She was calm as a cucumber. As she stared out of the window, she thoughtfully added, "But y'know Mom, I don't know that math yet. Once I learn it, I figure, then I'll get it." Boom. End of discussion.

Lucia, bless her little soul, is a bit of an A-type, even at the tender age of nine. She struggles when she does not know things and is much more comfortable in environments where she feels proficient. Shock and awe were my reactions when I heard her nonchalant response to her abysmal math performance. And happiness, relief, joy and pride.

While I wanted to shout to Lucia, "Yes, that's great. What a great reaction! You are learning. You will get it....", I did not. I've been doing this parenting dance long enough to know that silence is sometimes more effective that offering my thoughts.

Since this one-sided conversation with Lucia, I have watched and helped her do her math homework. She has definitely struggled--this new math is significantly more rigorous than the math at her last school. But she's also been okay. Somehow, somewhere, Lucia got in her mind that, first you learn it, then you do it.

I've learned a great deal from being a parent, and this is another great lesson. Doing new things--harder things, different things---is hard for everyone. Sometimes things come easier for some than others. Lord knows I've had my days of stink-eye (hidden deep inside, I hope) as I watch a brand new yoga student do postures with ease that I've struggled with for twenty years! But perfection is not the point.  Learning to do something new, different, hard, is the point. Bravo Lucia! Thanks for the lesson.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Running to nowhere....

Last weekend I ran my first ever trail run-- a 10K. I really had no idea what to expect. I half-thought maybe I'd find a bunch of super-fit men and women in camouflage running gear with mud streaked faces. But when we got there, they were just regular people, runners in running shoes and shorts. There were about 100 of us running the 10K and another 50 more running a half-marathon at the same time. Being novices and not knowing what to expect, my friend Kate and I started toward the back middle. The trail was very narrow, only enough for one runner in most places, so the initial bottleneck was long and we spent a good ten minutes just getting to a point where we could run steadily.

Once we started running, the pack spread out and Kate and I ran together for about 15 minutes. Unlike normal runs where we run side by side chatting, here we were running single file and too focused on avoiding ditches and tree roots to talk much. At some point, Kate said, "Okay, I'm going to make a break. You coming?" Knowing that Kate's natural pace is usually much faster than mine, I was non-committal, "It depends on how fast you go," I told her. And off she went. I couldn't maintain her pace and with the dense forest and switchbacks, I quickly lost sight of her.

Now I was running on my own with a smattering of other runners in front of and behind me. It was so beautiful, completely green tree cover and quiet all around. The only sounds were my breath and the pounding of feet, mine and those behind me. Without Kate, I had no one to pace me and no idea of the distance I had run, how far I had to go, how many inclines, declines. I ran for a while behind a young woman in red tights with a big ponytail and an Olivia Newton John headband. She seemed fit and confident and I decided that if I could keep her pace, I was doing well. Eventually though, I felt stuck behind her. Passing wouldn't be easy because, in front of her were another few runners at about her pace. To pass, I would have to be sure that I could get past all of them and maintain a faster clip for at least a little while. If I couldn't maintain, then all that trouble to pass would have been for naught.

After psyching myself up, I chirped, "On your left" and passed all three runners in front of me. I ran faster and found that I was okay, I could maintain this speed. Eventually at the water station at the top of the hill I met up with Kate who was waiting for me. We ran together again. I still had no idea how long we'd been running, though I assumed the water break was about half-way. The running felt exciting-- we had to dodge big tree roots, decipher the direction we had to go at every fork, make way for passers, pass others in our way....

Knowing that I was likely on the second half of the run, I gained confidence. I still felt strong and took that as a great sign. Surprising myself, I told Kate, "I'm going to pass you." And again, I was without my pacer. I had to go within, feel how I felt, and trust myself. As I ran, coming closer other runners who I'd have to negotiate passage around, I'd ask myself, "Do you have the energy for this?" Once I was sure I did, I'd pass. By the end of the course I could faintly make out the clearing of the parking lot and I was able to run faster. I was so happy to find the finish line (Kate and I finished within a minute of each other) but I was surprised by how much energy I had left, how much more I could have given.

I felt a great accomplishment from finishing that run, but more than that, I felt excited about what I learned about myself, about listening to my internal physical cues. Not knowing where exactly I was going, how far I had run, liberated me from the messaging I normally experience when I run. Because I didn't know, I had to do something different. I thought about this a lot when I was doing yoga yesterday morning. If I can practice and listen more to my internal cues rather than fall into my regular patterns (tired at triangle, overheated at camel, blah blah blah), I might find that I'm stronger than I think I am.