A THOUSAND TINY STEPS

The Tell Tale Tummy

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bobcat digging up where picket fence and stone walkway once existed. The giant rock lay buried beneath
This is where a white picket fence and stone walkway once existed. The giant rock lay buried beneath

My tummy has been a gurgling unsettled mess for the last week.

bobcat digging up where picket fence and stone walkway once existed. The giant rock lay buried beneath
This is where a white picket fence and stone walkway once existed. The giant rock lay buried beneath

As I sat down to begin this blog my daughter Gracie came home from her morning coffee run. She is in the throes of acute bronchitis so in asking her how she was feeling we digressed into a conversation about my childhood experiences with asthma. That conversation, in turn moved into my fear of being murdered for having asthma based on my reading of The Lord of the Flies. Piggy and his ass-mar have haunted my anxiety filled dreams since 1976. That in turn led to Gracie regaling me with her Edgar Allen Poe experiences and how The Tell-Tale Heart lives in her anxiety filled dreams.

Then it hit me.

“Gracie!”, I exclaimed, “You have just given me the title for my blog!” (See above title).

Anxiety has always manifested itself in my tummy. I would say stomach but that word isn’t quite right. I have a stomach of steel, meaning I seldom get indigestion. I couldn’t burp on command like my friends growing up. I do remember my mom telling me I was gassy, but that was, once again, asthma related. And that condition mostly caused me to fart.

This drove my older brother crazy.

As a competitive runner I often threw up before races. Much of this was dependent on what was happening in the rest of my life, but race day food was minimal and bland. I have two favorite vomit memories. One occurred in the last 100M of a cross-country race at Franklin Park. For us to win the team title I had to pass the runner in front of me. My puking was loud and forceful. It was enough of a distraction for me to eek out the win for 4th place. I peed myself here as well but was nonetheless regaled by the men’s team and carried around the finish area.

My humiliating foray into popularity with college boys.

My other vomit memory occurred at the start of the 1500m at a twilight meet when I was running for Nike. The starter raised his pistol and said “runners to your mark!” We toed the line and I held up my hand and said “wait!”. He lowered the gun and I turned to the infield and promptly puked. It was over quickly, I wiped my mouth with my hand, wiped my hand on my shirt and said, “ok. I’m good.” And we were off.

I placed last in that one.

So today as I write this a back hoe is digging up what was once the yard in front of my house. The fence is gone, the walkway is gone. Large boulders and pieces of granite long buried are making their way into a pile in my side yard. I am trying to be okay with all of this, and for the most part I am. It is time for this change. We have a beautiful house. A prime piece of real estate.

My tummy just gurgled a loud response. It is not so sure.

I am learning now to pay more attention to what my tummy tells me and even more so, to follow those digestive messages with action.  I had this tummy all day as Molly laid unconscious in the ER and yet I pushed them away. Many of these feelings are in the front of my thoughts due to the book event coming. I relive and relive and relive all of those horrifying moments.

I am glad I know EMDR. And tapping. And deep breathing.

A week from today I will likely be writing about my kitchen and Coach Luti’s front hall. Both will be undergoing major renovation. Again, this is all good, and terrifying at the same time. My tummy is telling me so. In my years coaching high school girls in cross-country and track & field, nerve management was a major focus. I tried to use descriptions of anxiety that were light and jovial.

As the character Chief says in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,

 “If you lose your laughter, you lose your footing.”

I have lived by this mantra my entire adult life. A runner of mine named Rachel came up with the perfect analogy for illustrating anxiety. She likened it to needing “swimmies” to stay afloat. Swimmies are the inflatable rings that children wear on their arms to stay afloat in the water. A “two swimmy” day was mild anxiety. Even though you needed to wear the swimmies, they were above the elbow, you could still use your arms.

Severe anxiety was quite different.

Swimmies extending from shoulder to wrist, and then perhaps hip to ankle. Paralyzed by swimmies. I think of Rachel every time I see a child wearing these. And I smile. My current reality is full blown swimmy limb paralyzation. This is metaphorical of course, I am typing just fine right now, but you get the idea. Thankfully, I take comfort in task completion. I can lose myself in the movement. I can quiet my mind with the execution of skills that take little concentration.

This is why I like chipper workouts at the gym.

Long workouts filled with high repetitions of movements that can be done without thinking. I see a lot of this in my near future. This is a good thing. Chipper workouts calm me down, ease my mind, settle my tummy. A few home chippers await. We have to empty a kitchen, re-create one in the play room. Move the toys upstairs, move the garage into the barn. So many things to move. So many tummy gurgles. So many swimmies.

Three-Two-One-GO!

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