Baseball

"I wrote 63 songs this year. They're all about Jeter." Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls' Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don't forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: July 7, 2010

Submitted by on July 7, 2010 – 11:49 AM81 Comments

Hi Sars! To cut directly to the chase (so to speak):

About four years ago at age 28, I started running, basically from scratch (although active, I was unfit and overweight and could only run for about half a mile at a time). Last August, I completed my first marathon (verrry slow at 5:20, but I finished it!). Yay, right?

The thing is, I seem to suffer from post-race depression. It's a bit like a sugar high: you spend a few days in a euphoric state of mind and then it all comes crashing down. I guess it's related to realising you've had this great achievement but at the end of the day nothing changes, life goes on, people aren't really interested. You start questioning why you bother and who cares, anyway? I think it's at least partly physiological, to do with hormones and stuff.

This happened to me after three half-marathons and a bunch of shorter runs and the depression seemed to last between two and five days. Fine. Then I'd get back into training and life would go on. Then came the marathon. The euphoric stage lasted for about a week. Then I was pretty depressed for at least a week. I took a trip where I couldn't exercise and ended up eating all sorts of junk and ruining my healthy diet. I went into "what the heck" mode and before I knew it, it was Christmas, I'd started eating chocolate again after 3-4 years and basically OD'd on it, I'd barely run 26 miles in total after the marathon, and I'd put on 10 kg on top of already being a bit overweight. And so I was full of self-loathing. Okay, so maybe it can't all be traced back to the marathon in a straight line, but that was the chain of events.

Add to the "natural" depression the fact that I was in a running school last year, and when I went to a class just three days after the marathon, not only did the coaches not remember I'd been in the event, despite my having mentioned it a few times, but when some of the other runners asked me about it, they weren't really interested — especially after I told them my time (I guess they're used to coaching elite-level runners). At that time I was still proud of my achievement and would have been bursting to talk about all the details, especially to fellow runners! I was the only one in my group to complete a marathon last year.

But then a couple of weeks later someone from their previous year's group did her first marathon, in about half of my time I guess, and the coach asked her to talk about it and give advice in front of the whole class, and asked lots of questions. I guess I shouldn't care because I'm not in elementary school anymore, but it did hurt. At some point I asked the teachers about post-race depression and they acted like they'd never heard of it and it was all in my head.

In the new year I managed to get back into training and going to the gym and being more positive about life, but I haven't got myself motivated to diet. (I even signed up for a challenge where money is donated to charity for every kilogram you lose but failed at it, so now I've got guilt about the poor Nepalese kids in addition to my general self-loathing — great.) A couple of days ago, I ran my fourth half-marathon. I don't know if it was lack of training (although my mileage this year belies that) or the extra weight, but the whole experience was painful and a struggle. I added 15 minutes to my time, and was basically glad just to make it over the line. No euphoria this time: straight to the blues.

In a month I've got my next full marathon. Now I'm scared (a) that I might not even finish it or (b) that if I do, I'll get into the same depression cycle as last time. I've signed up for a charity fun run for the autumn, so I've got a goal to work towards — i.e. I'll have to force myself back into training during the summer. If the marathon was in my hometown I might think about giving it a miss, but it's in a different country and my husband and I have a non-refundable trip booked. Being a specific marathon trip it's much more expensive than if we just popped over there on holiday. (Hello, guilt!)

Anyway, I'd be glad to hear your take on this. Do I just need to get over myself? Should I not take part in public events? (The thing is, I need set goals in order to stay motivated.) Is there a way I could prevent the depression now I can predict it? Do I accept defeat and find a different sport? There is a whole tangled mess of other issues related to this that I could tell you about, but I guess it all just boils down to my lack of self-esteem. I thought something like running would improve my self-esteem!

I also thought running marathons would somehow turn me into a "runner" with an "athletic lifestyle" and instead I'm still the same lazy fat girl who has to force herself to exercise. And in the background is my mother's voice — she is very supportive and takes care of me on race days and comes to watch and cheer me on, but then she'll talk excitedly about how she saw the winners whizz past, they were going so fast and of course they were stick-thin! (I know she doesn't mean it that way, but…).

It's very hard for me to be supportive to myself when my progress is so slow and I know I'll probably always be in the bottom 10% of all marathon-runners, coming in just before they start taking down the finish line. I know it shouldn't be about that; it's about staying fit and staying the course and improving gradually, etc, etc.: I know it intellectually, but I can't seem to convince myself of it emotionally.

I belong to this great online community called heiaheia.com, and when I put up a really disappointed post yesterday about the half-marathon, all my online friends left really supportive and sweet comments and when I read them I felt even worse, because I knew I was just wallowing in self-pity and I didn't deserve their kindness anyway. What the hell is wrong with my twisted brain?!

I've been thinking about it, and it seems to me this whole thing could be an elaborate form of self-sabotage. Like deep down I don't believe that I deserve to succeed at anything, so when I do, I have to ruin it in some way. (Same with the weight-loss thing.) But if that's what it is, I have no idea what to do about it either.

Thanks for your comments,

Sad little runner

Dear Runner,

With the understanding that the woman you've asked for advice hates running enough that, when she thought a chunk of a World Trade Tower was going to fall on her, still did not break stride from a purposeful walk…I think that most of what you're describing vis-à-vis the after-race letdown is completely normal. It's partly the ebb of the endorphins, but I felt it after the play I put on, and after turning in my senior thesis in college; I've felt it in varying degrees after lots of big events.

Sad that it's over, sure, but in your case — and, often, in mine — I think it boils down to this sentence from your letter: "I also thought running marathons would somehow turn me into a 'runner' with an 'athletic lifestyle' and instead I'm still the same lazy fat girl who has to force herself to exercise." In other words, you thought running a marathon would change your entire life; you thought it would change you, would take that little drop of awesome you found deep down and pop it out into a big delicious fluffy whole bite of awesome.

…Wow, that metaphor was so lame that now I'm depressed. Heh. Seriously: that is a form of self-sabotage, that unrealistic expectation — because when whatever it is (running, no chocolate, putting on a play) fails to make over your entire life permanently and for the better, you use it as an excuse to give up, to not try the next time, to just load up on fries because nobody cares and it doesn't do any good anyway. And when I say "you," I mean "many many people, including this brother."

It takes many many forms: buying shoes we don't need because that one perfect pair might make us cool (or because not having it will leave us on the outside of something); turning into a Bridezilla because having that perfect wedding will mean we're happy and never have to cry or worry or work on a relationship ever again; et cetera and so on. Totally normal. Totally unconscious.

So, now what? Well, I would keep training for the upcoming fun run…okay, I wouldn't, because: hate running, but you know what I mean. Keep training for it. Anticipate that you might suffer from post-race blues, but don't let it rule the experience; accept it as part of racing, and tell yourself that, if it's too much this time, you can always move on to some other activity. Start paying more conscious attention to your aspirational style, and by that I mean, when you want to do or buy or learn things, what is the fleeting thought underneath that want? It takes a little time sometimes to get to the root of it; writing it down somewhere helps, so maybe you want to start a "race prep journal" and work things through there. Why did you start running? Why did you keep running? What was running supposed to do, or save you from, or change that it hasn't — or has?

Again: we all do this. It's why cable has so many decluttering shows, you know? It's why I have an entire drawer of beading supplies. The trick is to realize that you do this; forgive yourself for doing this; avoid choices that perpetuate the cycle (in this case, that means finding a running school that's more encouraging — or doing another sport that has different benchmarks for a while; not to get too Special Olympics about it, but you picked an activity whose measurements of achievement are not the most forgiving); and identify more realistic ideas and goals for change and improvement.

Running is great, I have heard. My chiptastic ankles and I are not trying to join the fun, but I understand it's very rewarding for its own sake and I think that's great. Your problem right now, I think, is that you're attaching all of the rewards of running (and possibly everything else in your life) to the approval of other people. We all do that, too, but spend a few months making yourself more mindful of that and trying to separate what makes you happy from what other people think is cool or impressive.

…Says the currency nerd. (Hee.)

Dear Sarah,

My mom died two and half years ago. It was horrible. We were incredibly close and I still miss her all the time, but I have managed to climb out of the incredibly deep depression that left me semi-suicidal, unable to work on my masters, and deeply uninterested in the fun things in life. I'm not "over it" but I'm living my life again.

One of the silver linings was that I became very close with my father after her death, while we had always gotten along we had never been very emotionally close, more like baseball buddies.

Last year he told me that he was re-dating his high school girlfriend, whom he had dumped in favor of my mom back in college. It turned out he had gotten back in contact with her about 9 months after my mom died, and she left her husband three months later. He told me about eight months after they started dating, basically when he was moving in with her.

I felt incredibly betrayed that my father had lied to me for 9 months and I really don't trust him anymore, even though I understand that he probably didn't want to upset my sister and me by telling us before it was serious. I kept my feelings to myself, basically, until, I came home for a visit a few months later and met her.

It didn't really go that well although nothing terrible happened. She's clingy and possessive, which I find grating in couples under the best circumstances, but I was willing to swallow that irritation and put it down to differing relationship styles. But…at her behest, my father took down all the pictures of my mother in the house. My sister and I both told him that this bothered us, and he said that he has to love someone who is alive to feel like his life has meaning, and didn't want to upset Girlfriend, who is sensitive on the topic of my mother.

I decided it would be too emotionally difficult for me to come home for Christmas under the circumstances, and went with a polite fiction about disrupting work on my MA thesis; my sister went with work excuses because she didn't want face the situation on her own. Girlfriend sent us an email taking me to task for not considering our father's feelings. I felt that this was incredibly presumptuous, ignored her email and told my father that I was incredibly pissed and expected to never receive anything like it in the future. He told me he wasn't going to tell her what to do. My sister ended up going home for the holidays. (She, I should note, was not as bothered by the email, and while she is angry at my dad, has much less antipathy toward Girlfriend.)

Now that I am actually finishing my thesis I will be returning to the city where Dad lives with Girlfriend and (when they're not with their father) her two daughters. I am really dreading this because there is nothing polite to hide behind, and despite the anger I am feeling, I genuinely love Dad, and try to avoid hurting his feelings, which makes it hard to confront these issues.

Basically, I want to have no relationship whatsoever with Girlfriend and her family. She is clearly holding onto her 30-year-old issues with my mother and encourages my father to behave in ways that are disrespectful to my mother's memory (she baked him a cake on the anniversary of my mother's death, for one enraging example).

I am angry at my dad too (after all, Girlfriend wasn't married to my mom and doesn't owe her anything), but I always had a close relationship with my family and I hate the idea of being estranged but I hate the idea more of pretending to be in a family with people who are, essentially insensitive strangers.

Is it okay for me to basically insist that I only want a relationship with my father, and that if he wants to see me, he can arrange to do so at times when he's not with Girlfriend? Is it okay for me, when they get married, to not go to their wedding? My friends are torn on this issue — some see it as equivalent to refusing to acknowledge a gay family member's partner, but others point out that the gay partner is usually not doing anything damaging.

At this point I feel like the harm is done. Even if Dad puts the pictures back up he'll only be doing it because I'm angry, not because he is actually interested in honoring the memory of my mother. He seems to be setting up house with Girlfriend and her daughters, like a substitute family of undamaged people (he took them all out to brunch on Mother's Day, which made me cry after he told me on the phone). I understand the impulse, but it hurts.

It's not my fault or my sister's fault that we are still grieving our mother, and we can't just replace our mom. I understand that Dad has to grieve in his own way, but I honestly think that he is so afraid of losing someone he loves again that he will never stand up to Girlfriend and will always prioritize her comfort over my sister's and mine because he thinks we won't abandon him. Additionally, he adopts this Pollyanna attitude about it all where he refuses to acknowledge that we're upset and just attributes our reactions to being "overwhelmed with happiness" for him.

I am afraid of doing anything I can't take back, because I know my judgment isn't at its best in this area and I know my tendency to have fantasies of not just burning the bridge but nuclear-bombing it. At the same time, I don't want to keep putting myself in a situation that hurts me either, and at this point…

Thanks in advance for your advice, harsh or otherwise,

Sad Daughter

Dear Daughter,

It's not okay for you to insist that your father only socialize with you sans Girlfriend, or to refuse to attend their wedding, and I think you know it isn't. It's okay to want to do those things, or to fantasize about doing those things, and you can try it, I guess; you can ask Dad to leave Girlfriend at home and meet you at a neutral location, and you can check the "no" box on the invitation and stay home with a good book. But it's not going to get you the results you want.

And what you want is twofold: 1) for your father to mourn your mother the same way you do, at the same pitch, on the same timeline; and failing that, 2) to keep him for yourself. If I've made it sound childish, I apologize — it is somewhat childish, but in the sense that it's very primal and natural and you may not realize consciously that you have these desires. I don't think it's crazy or inappropriate to feel how you feel.

What is crossing a line is expecting everyone else to feel the way you do, and/or expecting that your feelings should trump everyone else's. You say yourself that you didn't have an emotionally close relationship with Dad prior to your mother's death; do you know he doesn't still grieve? Do you know how he organizes these compartments for himself? Do you understand that he'll do it differently from you? "Girlfriend wasn't married to my mom and doesn't owe her anything" — is it your place to say what your dad owes her? Your dad is not you; your dad's relationship with your mother is not the same as your relationship with her; you did not know everything about the marriage, and you don't know everything about him. What is your dad owed, in the final analysis? Your mom is gone, and this cannot be changed. Is Dad not owed love and companionship unless it comes from your mother, or when you're ready?

"Even if Dad puts the pictures back up he'll only be doing it because I'm angry, not because he is actually interested in honoring the memory of my mother." See above. His failure to meet your honoring standards doesn't mean he's not honoring her. It means he's showing some compassion for Girlfriend by putting those things out of sight; sure, maybe he's over it already and isn't honoring your mother, but maybe he's doing it in his own way, out of your sight, because his relationship with your mother, as it continues after her death, is not necessarily and/or fully your business. And if he does do it because you're angry, so what? Do you want him to put the pictures back up? Or do you want him to remain a sad monk out of respect for…you?

Look, I think Girlfriend's behavior is presumptuous too, and again, you feel what you feel and that's okay, but I also think you're expecting too much from the man — starting with an ability to read your mind. It's time to acknowledge these feelings, to acknowledge them to him, to tell him in so many words that you feel betrayed and lonely and sad that he's moved on, to say that you don't appreciate Girlfriend dictating the role your mother will have in the family going forward.

It's not about making him pick a side, or assuming that expressing yourself means that you'll get what you want, and you should say as much to him. But he needs to know how you feel, and he needs to know that you need him to know how you feel, even if he doesn't do anything about it. (He should, however, let Girlfriend know that just because your mother died doesn't mean she isn't still part of the family. It's not a competition.)

But you also need to have a little compassion for Dad, and for Girlfriend. Yeah, the cake is weird, but I get the feeling that story had more layers (forgive the pun), and believe me, in her position, there kind of isn't a "right" way to handle the late wife — and if there is, it can change from day to day. She's not always going to get it right. You don't have to BFF it with the woman, but try to imagine for a few minutes what it's like to be in her position. I know that the pain of a loss like this can block out the sun, but this isn't all about you. These things are not just happening to you or just being done to you.

Own your feelings, while not expecting everyone else to share them, or to share them with you. Just because Dad isn't in bed all day with tears trickling into his ears doesn't mean he doesn't miss Mom; it doesn't mean you shouldn't be in bed all day some days; it just means he's different from you and he's trying to live his life. Taking Girlfriend out to brunch doesn't mean he's trying to make a substitute family and forget Mom ever existed; it means that Girlfriend is here, now, and is a mother, and brunch is what you do on Mother's Day. Not everything he does with or for Girlfriend is by definition at the expense of you or your mother. Sometimes it just is.

You need to talk to him. No ultimatums, no list of Girlfriend's transgressions; just tell him how you feel, that you still have a hard time, that you worry about what it means that Mom's pictures got taken down, that you love him and want a relationship with him but you can't just snap into place with Girlfriend and you'll need some time, and you hope he can be a little flexible as you figure things out.

And then you need to listen to, and try to sympathize with, a man who is probably lonely and misses having a family in the house. I'm not on his "side"; I'm not on anyone's side. There aren't "sides," is the point. Everyone's just trying to work around the hole your mom left without falling into it.

Hi Sars,

So I had a pretty solid group of seven close friends in college, and many of us have remained friends since graduation five years ago. There was never any serious in-group romance, which probably helped, though Leslie and Colin had a brief flirtation and I know Jason had a bit of a crush on Laura. Colin actually ditched us midway through senior year when he met a girl who didn't like us, and he's completely out of the picture now. Laura and I were particularly close, as we were co-leaders of a student group for a few years.

I lived with Laura for the first year out of school, then Kristen moved back to the city and three of us all lived together. A couple of years later, Laura and Kristen and I all went our separate ways, and I have consistently kept in touch with Jason and all of the girls EXCEPT Laura.

Here's the thing: I'm so, so glad we're not friends anymore. In the last year of living together, my individual friendship with Laura disintegrated. She was condescending and combative and generally unpleasant toward me all the time, but we managed to stay civil for the most part. I'm sure I was no picnic, as three years of roommate-hood takes its toll, but others have offered unsolicited opinions that she was particularly nasty to me even when unprovoked.

Laura had confessed to me several years prior that she and Colin had an affair in college (they were both in on/off serious relationships at the time), but that nobody else in the group knew about it, and that she trusted me with her secret, blah blah. I was shocked at her confession, but I didn't say anything to anyone, because it seemed like nobody got hurt and she said the relationship was long over. She has since gotten back together with her on/off serious boyfriend.

A few months before we all moved out, when all the girls were in town visiting, she drunkenly told us that she had confessed the affair not just to me, but to each of us individually, and told us all that we were the only one who knew, just to keep us from talking about it to each other!

Sars, I was livid. I felt betrayed and used and lied to. I told her that. We had it out, and mostly avoided each other for the last months of our lease. We all moved out and I have only seen her once briefly in the two years since, and have made no attempt at contacting her. I thought we were done, and I was glad for it.

Then yesterday she sent me a chatty email. I got engaged a few months ago, and aside from a Facebook "congrats!" wall post she hadn't said anything, but she just sent me a paragraphs-long email asking about plans and how I was doing, and then get this: she signed it "love you, Laura." When I first read it I actually said out loud, "No you don't!"

So I guess this very long setup is for the question: what the what? The friendship is over for me. I don't want to be pen-pals, I don't want to get together to catch up. I hope I don't run into her around town, but it's not like I walk around in dread. If we see each other I'll be civil. I know she doesn't keep in touch with any of the other girls or Jason. I don't want to invite her to my wedding in the fall, though I am aware it will make it significantly more awkward if we see each other in a year and she wasn't invited, given our past friendship.

Should I even bother answering this email? Is she just angling for an invite so she can see all the people she hasn't bothered to keep in touch with for the last few years? I do not get it. Do you?

Why now?

Dear Now,

I would answer it, keeping it as short, cheery, and generic as possible. "Great to hear from you — sounds like everything is going [however it's going]. I'm doing well, very busy with work and [whatever else]. Take care! Now."

Of course, not everyone considers "take care" as fatuously dismissive as I do, but you get the idea. It doesn't really matter why she's reached out — she misses you; she doesn't get that she treated you poorly; she does, but doesn't know how to fix it; she likes wedding cake; who cares. You aren't interested in a friendship.

But I don't think you're interested in creating drama where it's not necessary, either, so a pleasant note that sends a message with its brevity and lack of specifics is indicated. Ignoring her email entirely is also an option, but may occasion a stickier follow-up, and while the jovial brush-off doesn't mean that won't happen anyway, you can jump off that bridge when you get to it.

Don't engage her. Two sentences, zero details about the wedding, send.

Be Sociable, Share!


Tags:      

81 Comments »

  • Theresa says:

    @Sad little runner: I'm not a runner, but I've read some articles about studies that suggest exercise can be as potent as pharmaceutical anti-depressants in treating clinical depression. Could part of the crash you feel after a big race be related to this? If you're prone to depression, it might be that you're essentially stopping treatment when a big race ends and your training schedule lets up.

  • Michelle says:

    Sad Daughter:
    I feel where you're coming from, as my mom died 5 years ago. It really sucked. My dad did not move on in quite the same way yours has, but I say that just by way of agreeing with Sars: people grieve differently. Your dad may have reached out to Girlfriend because he was sad and lonely, and in need of a companionship or partnership that he couldn't have with his children. Girlfriend's focus may be on him and his emotions rather than on you–maybe she made the cake because she knew that would be a difficult day for him and wanted him to have something pleasant to think about. I don't want to be hard on you, but it seems like you're having trouble seeing how other people's needs may differ from yours.

    I think you might consider seeing a therapist yourself, perhaps one who specializes in grief counseling, because it seems like you have a lot of things to work through. You might also ask your dad if you can have some of those photos he took down. After my mom died, my dad cleaned the house, top to be bottom–steam cleaning, scouring everything–boxed up most of her stuff (I think because it hurt him to have it around) but also kept everything of hers. Perhaps some photos or keepsakes would give you comfort?

  • jlc12118 says:

    @Sad Little Runner: I don't run, but I walk (briskly) half-marathons and 5Ks (I've toyed with doing a full-marathon, but I think the mental strain of walking for 7 hours would get to me). I totally get the post-race depression, and in some ways, the lack of support. My family also has runners and running a 5K is A.Very.Big.Deal – walking a 5K – eh, good for you. A new PR? That's nice… I've had to come to grips with the fact that people don't come out to watch someone walk a 5K – it's just not that exciting.

    But – I don't do it for other people to cheer me on. I do it for me, because I want to be healthy in some way, and frankly, I really enjoy walking – much more so than running – God bless you – I hate it. Tried it. Won't do it. Am I a super-athlete because I do it? No. Do I care? No. Am I more healthy with lower-cholesterol, etc., etc. – heck yea. Does it always show on the scale – heck no. So, if you enjoy it – do it. Don't do it to get praise from your running coaches. Don't do it for time (although getting a new PR is such an awesome high). Do it because you enjoy it!

    And – don't forget to recovery run. Get out two or three days later – short little jogs… help your muscles move. Your coaches should tell you more about this.

    I also suggest, if you want to give yourself more motivation and an AWESOME support group – run an event with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training – you'll raise money for an awesome organization and everyone involved who I've met is amazing. There are coaches, mentors, other runners and walkers. They don't care how fast you are – their goal is to get you to finish and to inspire you with how many people you have helped by doing so. Seriously, check it out. It's amazing.

  • meltina says:

    @ Sad little runner:

    Sounds like you're dealing with self-esteem issues that are much larger than just the running, and while Sars gave you good advice, I have a feeling you really need to speak to someone who specializes in this sort of problem.

    I can't obviously know for sure, but I have a feeling that running was supposed to be a way in which you were going to boost that self-esteem of yours, to make you feel like a different, more capable person. Ironically, rather than doing so, running has become one more thing by which you measure yourself against others and find yourself "lacking", and other people giving you encouragement means nothing to you because part of your brain is just overriding any and all positive feedback, and only dwelling on perceived negative feedback that probably doesn't exist outside your head. E.g. – "if my instructors can't remember I ran that marathon, it's probably because they feel like I am not worth remembering or caring about, or they think my finish time is embarrassing and don't want to bring it up so they are carefully avoiding all mentions of it", whereas it's likely you didn't tell them you were running a marathon in the first place because you thought they wouldn't care to know.

    I'm not trying to rag on you with the above. It's just that I did and still do struggle with engaging in the same behavior myself: if you take away running and replace it with the other things that run my life, I see me in the letter you wrote. When I finally realized that I seemed to start new life changing pursuits and always running out of steam and actively loathing myself for not making progress, as well as losing interest in those activities and others that used to bring me job, I got myself into therapy, probably a decade and a half later than I should have. One of the first things my no-nonsense therapist told me was that if I was ever to climb out of the self-loathing moat I had dug for myself inch by inch, I had to learn not to engage into negative thinking like "people either don't care about me or outright avoid interacting with me" that was so pervasive, and had to stop comparing myself to everyone else I had ever met. "Focus on your own journey and your own accomplishments. Think of it as driving yourself somewhere: is it more productive to focus on the road you're on right now and the turns you need to take to get to your own destination, or to look at the cars speeding away a couple of miles away and say 'I should have been there by now' instead of minding your own driving?".

    I'm willing to bet that's where you're at too: you're looking at what other people did, what their time was, how you compare, etc. Your running life (and I wouldn't be surprised if the rest of your life followed suit) is a competition you've entered into already convinced that you're doomed to fall short at. It's making you miserable, which is the opposite of what you wanted to achieve. So stop. Stop comparing yourself to others. Start looking at your accomplishments for what they are, in and of itself. If you have to compete with anyone, if you must, compete with your old self. You couldn't run half a mile on a prayer before, now you ran a freaking marathon and crossed the finish line! That's a great accomplishment, and one that has gotten lost in your litany of how you've fallen short in the rest of your letter. Channel your runner's high post race into a "if I do X, I can shave Y amounts of minutes from my finish next time, and beat Sad little runner".

    Also (and you might hate me bringing this up) you might in the long run want to consider the possibility that running isn't the means by which you will be able to see yourself in a new, positive light. If so, stop making yourself miserable and move on to some other pursuit that will make you feel as if you are accomplishing things for yourself. When you do, put away that competition yardstick from the start, and keep your focus where it should be (me back then vs. me now).

  • meltina says:

    Gah. "bring me joy". :/

  • Megan says:

    @ Sad little runner

    We should be friends! Except that I am in awe of your marathoning. I am also a slow runner (12 minute miles-ish) and am scheduled for my first half-marathon this fall. I can't imagine doing a full marathon, and I am impressed.

    I think that post-race letdown is VERY common. You hear about it a lot in running forums. And I agree that I would be upset if my coaches forgot I ran a race, especially if I was the only one to run a marathon.

    Sometimes it's hard being a slower runner, but you just have to find your running community. Sure, people will run way faster than you. And people will run way slower than you too. And many won't even start. You need to find pride in the fact that you did it and you accomplished it. And don't worry what those elites think. There are lots of groups online for slower runners who are super excited when they finally break an 11 minute mile, even if they feel like throwing up afterwards. I too started running with these hopes of the pounds melting off and me being all hot and skinny. I have not lost the weight, but I am in way better cardiovascular shape than ever, and I notice severe depression setting in when I'm not running.

    I think that maybe you are self-sabotaging, because sometimes it's easier to quit then realize you will never be "good" at this. (Please note – for my half marathon, my goal is to not get swept from the course, so I am making no judgment call on your speed.) Maybe you just need a break. Or maybe you need to find a charity group to run with where you get a great community of not so fast runners who are out to have a blast.

  • Suz says:

    "Everyone's just trying to work around the hole your mom left without falling into it."

    Sars nailed it here Sad Daughter. Grief isn't a linear process and operates so differently from person to person. Please, talk to your Dad about how the recent changes in his life have made you sad without blaming him for forgetting your mother, or for taking up with a woman you don't like. Reading your letter, I was composing in my head the companion letter that might arrive from your Dad's girlfriend: "Boyfriend's daughter is still deeply grieving her mother's death, but was it really so terrible that I ask that photos of the deceased are put away now that I live here as his companion?" Living in the shadow of a revered mother/wife cannot be easy for her either.

  • ferretrick says:

    @Sad Daughter:

    "Is it okay for me to basically insist that I only want a relationship with my father, and that if he wants to see me, he can arrange to do so at times when he's not with Girlfriend? Is it okay for me, when they get married, to not go to their wedding? My friends are torn on this issue — some see it as equivalent to refusing to acknowledge a gay family member's partner, but others point out that the gay partner is usually not doing anything damaging."

    I'm the gay partner you speak of. See MY Vine letter "Homophobes Suck"

    http://tomatonation.com/vine/the-vine-september-16-2009/

    I offer my deepest sympathies on your loss. I cannot imagine how I will deal with it when I lose my mother, and I know you aren't really seeing things clearly right now. But now I'm going to get a little mean. Because I've seen first hand the consequences of the drama queen move you propose to pull on your dad, and it's a bunch of shit. Period. I've seen the manuvering it takes to arrange even a family dinner, much less a wedding, around these I won't see you if she's there things, and how it causes hurt feelings for everyone. I have to pick up the pieces and hold my partner when he cries, after missing out on another Christmas with Dear Old Dad. I watch how every Father's Day is an emotional hell for him, as he agnoizes over whether to call/see his dad at all, feeling like he's betraying the man who raised him if he doesn't and betraying me if he does. Is that what you want to do to your Dad? Force him to choose between you and his wife? And to make that choice over and over again at every holiday? Is that what you want to do to your sister, because she will be caught in the middle of this too? Is that what you want to do to YOURSELF? Because, I will warn you, you will not win. You will be the one who ends up cut off from the family, just as my partner's father is charting a great course to end up miserable and alone.

    Your father's girlfriend does sound a little insensitive/clueless. But maybe you could give her the benefit of the doubt. You're enraged that she baked him a cake on the anniversary of your mother's death? You couldn't give her the benefit of the doubt and decide that it was probably a clumsy, but well intentioned attempt to make her fiance feel better on a very difficult day? (Which I think it was). The taking the pictures down is a more serious offense, I agree-but try to cut her some slack. She's obviously insecure (and considering your father left her once for your mother, that only adds to that insecurity). So, can you try to cut her some slack and just ascribe some of her actions to insecurity? Sympathize a little while simultaneously rolling your eyes rather than take deep personal offense?

    I think that you should have a one on one talk with your dad about your feelings. Not a rip into Girlfriend session, not threats to boycott the wedding or refuse to be in the same room with her. But a one on one talk about your feelings and that you are struggling with this but will try to work on that and accept Girlfriend if it truly makes him happy. Then I think you need to have a one on one talk with Girlfriend-explain how taking down the pictures made you feel. Not confrontational, not accusing, a genuine "if you could try to understand my feelings more in future, I'd appreciate it." Just talk to her. You don't have to be best friends, but try to find some common ground. And also, I think grief counseling would help you tremendously.

    I'll admit I'm probably projecting some of my family issues onto you, and I'm coming off harsh. But, its because I think you are setting yourself on a course that is going to make you very, very unhappy. Choose a different path. Accepting Girlfriend doesn't mean betraying your mother. It means acknowledging that she is gone, but your father is still here and loves you and needs you to love him. Without conditions.

  • DMLiddy says:

    @ Sad Little Runner

    I just want to agree with what Meltina said above. I was late to the fitness game, starting at 26 or so as a swimmer. I took a masters swim course because I didn't think I could just begin on my own, and luckily the coaches there were very supportive. In masters swim they group you in lanes according to your speed, and I shared a lane with two 75 year old women and one woman who did not have the use of her legs. When I made a joke about this my coach mentioned that I could swim a mile without stopping, and that I had a really pretty freestyle stroke (thanks, coach!). Look at your accomplishments, was the point, and stop worrying about the triathlon competitors way on the other end of the pool.

    I started running a few years later, something else I don't do very quickly. I've finished one marathon, and my time was a little slower than yours. During my race, I noticed that a lot of people passed me, and in turn I passed a lot of people. Some elite runners hit the wall and didn't even finish.

    I knew pretty quickly that I would never run a mile in under 10 minutes, or swim at the speed of Phelps. This is going to sound very sappy, but one thing that helped me quit being negative about my abilities and comparing myself to others was to imagine someone I cared about doing the same thing. If my best friend had finished a marathon in under 5 and a half hours? My first response would not be about her speed. If she had then gone on to run another half-marathon, and train for another marathon? Way to go, bestie! And if she had quit in the middle of it and given up? At least you tried in the first place! Frankly, I deserved to give myself the same respect I'd give a friend. In fact, I owed it to myself.

    So every time I found myself saying something negative to myself, I'd imagine saying it to a friend. And realize it sounded really mean. After a while I stopped with the negative, and just focused on my own journey, if you'll pardon the Oprah.

  • beth says:

    @Runner: WELL DONE on completing a marathon at all. It's an immense achievement, and I'm always way beyond impressed when anyone manages it. I did a half once, and it took everything out of me – keeping on going for another 13.1 miles after that…. well. It's an amazing achievement and it speaks VOLUMES about your commitment that you did it. Also, 5hrs 20 is pretty damned good for a beginner! I just used this site http://www.liebreich.com/LDC/HTML/Various/RunCalculator.html and it predicted that my marathon time would be 6hr 25 minutes. And I would be PROUD if I made that time! And I would have been really depressed if my running mates ignored my achievement.

    I think Sars has got really good points about the 'thinking running will make you a different/better person' thing. But these points might help too? (feel free to ignore them though if not!)
    - stick to shorter races (even if that means a half marathon, it's still a lot more do-able than a full). not such a huge toll on your body; more manageable; less post-race depression (I would think?). and I'll bet it's easier to keep improving your PB on short races, even if you're only shaving seconds off it (or even just matching it).
    - no charity weight loss sponsoring! Stick to getting sponsored for completing events you know you can manage. Weight loss is a very loaded issue for many people anyway. Stick to worrying about your food intake and exercise habits. What do the numbers on the scales actually mean if you're eating right and exercising? Nothing.
    - set yourself challenges that aren't races. Run ten days out of fifteen. Complete a certain number of miles in a week. Or use this calculator http://www.marathonguide.com/fitnesscalcs/ageequivalent.cfm to compare your times with others in a more realistic way.

    If you've completed a marathon, you are not lazy. lazy people wouldn't even have got half way there. Lazy people don't run, never mind complete marathons.

    The slowest people in the London marathon this year took 9 and a half hours. They aren't lazy either.

    You do deserve the kind words from your online friends. and put up a link for the Nepalese kids – I'll donate a fiver in your name.

  • Bitts says:

    Sars, what a beautiful response to Sad Daughter. Her letter was heartbreaking and your reply was compassionate, appropriate and loving. The last sentence — "Everyone's just trying to work around the hole your mom left without falling into it." — a perfect gem with every facet exactly right.

  • Lisa says:

    How much do I love ferretrick? THIS MUCH. (And how *did* Niece's wedding go, btw?)

    I can't add any more to what Sars and ferretrick said, nor would I want to because it is AWESOME, but I do want to mention that there was a mommy-blogger meme going around a while back called something like "What everyone should know by the time they're an adult." This phrase "What is crossing a line is expecting everyone else to feel the way you do, and/or expecting that your feelings should trump everyone else's," should be Numero Uno. Because damn. If we all subscribed to that sentiment? There'd be world peace, straight up.

  • Sad Daughter says:

    Letter Writer here, an update and more info:

    I actually have been seeing a therapist for a little over a year at this point, I probably should have mentioned that in the letter.

    I am back in the states now and I had A Serious Talk with my Dad because he expected me to stay with him and Girlfriend for a few months while I look for a job and I was not up for that. The conversation was not good, and I was not as tactful as everyone is suggesting I be, although I did try to keep the blame to a minimum.

    Things are still extremely awkward between us, especially as my father fakes that everything is fine, even though I told him that's part of what bothers me.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Sad Little Runner,

    It may interest you to know that when I read the first bit of your letter ("I started running") my first reaction was a pang of envy and self-punching. "Oh, a runner. I wish I was a runner. But I'm not, because I'm fat and lazy with ankles of glass."

    (I bring this up to show that somewhere, out there, beneath the pale moonlight, there are dozens of people who are, at this very minute, jealous of you.)

    The thought that kept pinging in my head while I read your letter was a story Anne Lamott told in one of her books, about a time in her life when she was a published but broke writer and a freind of hers had just had a huge financial windfall. She kept trying and trying to be a grownup about it, talking for hours with this freind about her fabulous fortune and how wonderful her life was and wasn't it terrible that some others weren't as happy for her, and thank God Annie wasn't like that, no sirree. She would get off the phone and cry and obsess and beat herself up for being a) a failure, and b) jealous and petty.

    Finally, another freind of hers pointed out the lovely truth: that it was absolutely nuts for her to try to be happy for this woman, who was already blissfully happy for herself and wanted nothing more than a fawning audience, and also, most importantly, that our society is hugely cutthroat and competitive, but also makes you feel horrible and petty and the size of a worm if you actually speak up and say "I'm exhausted, and sad, and this thing I'm really invested in isn't paying off like I thought it would." Because you're supposed to be cutthroat and competitive for only altruistic, unselfish reasons, you petty bitch!

    When you look at how our lives in the Western world are organized around thinness, beauty, and fame, it becomes increasingly bizarre that we all pretend that we only care about our health and poor Nepalese children. We have an entire genre of TV devoted to "improving" ourselves in the most montage-freindly way possible, while carefully eliminating (literally) all those who don't make the feel-good cut. The huge idol in the temple is named "You'll Never Be Me." And you are supposed to feel bad about wanting to be!

    Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying: don't beat yourself up for the wrong things. OF COURSE you feel bad when you feel ignored by your teachers, or that your mom seems to favor complete strangers over you because they're faster and slimmer! Mind you, I'm not saying either of those things are true in the real world, but you feel as if they are, right? Why in the name of little weeping Jesus WOULDN'T you feel bad about that? Every magazine, book, website ad you have seen in your entire life is telling you that good people are good without effort, never have a bad day, and get endlessly rewarded, and that you are not one of them. Who in the bloody hell wouldn't feel like shit after being told that???

    The point is, yes, you need help with your physical and emotional issues, but feelings of failure aren't crazy or a sign that something's wrong with you–they're a sign that you are recieving the blaring claxon call of our culture loud and clear. Quit mixing up signs of depression with signs of weakness. You may be in the midst of Inferno, but you are not Inferno. Make sure you prevail.

  • Anne says:

    Sad Daughter,

    I'm so sorry for your loss. My father died when I was 11 and my mother and I struggled with the issues surrounding her dating; I really relate to your feelings here.

    There's just one thing I really want to address in your letter – the cake your father's girlfriend baked him on the anniversary of your mother's death. For years after my father's death, a good friend of my mom's would call her up, glass of red wine in hand, on the anniversary of his death and she and my mom would toast my dad together. It was incredibly meaningful for my mom, who tells me that most of her friends were too uncomfortable to talk about dad with her, much less mark the anniversary of his passing to her. So the cake might seem really… presumptuous or unfeeling or callous or something, but I suspect it meant something entirely different – and very important – to your father.

  • Linda says:

    @Sad Daughter: Your letter is so … sad. I'm so sorry all this has happened, and that you're hurting.

    Here's something I think you should pay attention to: you seem to think it will be obvious that the cake is "enraging." You don't even explain what about that is "enraging," and honestly, I think it's worth noting that not everybody who's giving you comments understands why that's enraging. Some people bake cakes for sympathy. It doesn't mean it's a party. I know it feels clumsy to you, but it doesn't mean she's throwing a "Glad This Happened" celebration. I concur with the idea that she was trying to be caring toward him, and while it seems clumsy, it certainly doesn't seem malicious or disrespectful.

    The pictures … that's so difficult. So very, very difficult. But as Sarah said, you shouldn't assume that something that would mean "forgetting" to you would mean forgetting to your dad. For some people, photographs are unbelievably precious — these are the people who would grab photos first if they ran out of their houses in a fire. I can't speak to whether your dad is like that, but it sounds like maybe you are, and I can only tell you that I'm not. Not everybody marks emotions in the same way. It could well be that he has a box of her letters, and THAT'S what he relies on. It could be that he looks at you and THAT'S what he relies on.

    And honestly, I share with another commenter the feeling that a letter could be coming from Girlfriend that said, "I love Fellow very deeply, and although it hurt me that he wanted to keep our relationship from his daughters for most of a year, I understood that he wanted to give them time to adjust. Even though we waited a long time to tell them in an effort to be sensitive, they were irate when they found out, and they told Fellow they could never trust him again. They also got very upset when they learned that I'd told him that staring at a photo of him and his wife (the woman, remember, who he once chose over me) on the mantel was making me uncomfortable, and he took it down. I see displaying photos in our home as primarily between us, and not up to his children who don't live here. I know he still loves the girls' mother; I know taking down pictures doesn't change that; he knows it doesn't change that, but somehow, his girls feel like if he takes down her photo, it's going to wipe out her memory. They seem to be upset by everything I do; they even got angry that I tried to cheer him up from what I knew was the very difficult anniversary of her death by baking a cake I know he loves. If I acknowledge her passing, they're angry. If I didn't acknowledge it, they'd also be angry."

    Do you see where this is going? Everybody's hurting; nobody's done anything in this situation that says to me, "This person is clearly in the wrong," including you. But don't force your father to choose between you and her; that would make you wrong in a way I don't think you're wrong yet. Refusing to see her isn't going to make you feel any better. It's going to make you feel worse and estrange you from your dad. Be generous and loving with the fact that your dad does not want to be alone. Be glad he has someone who loves him. Your dad probably sees you as fifty times the reminder of how much he loved your mom as any photo would ever be. Try not to make it harder than it needs to be.

  • Tarn says:

    Sad runner, I understand where you're coming from. The emotional state from happy when I'm exercising regularly to down in the dumps when I'm not is practically tangible. Yet, the memory of the high is not always enough to get me off the couch and get moving.

    I agree that you might want to try some new things. Humongous kudos to you for all that you have accomplished already…a marathon! That's crazy awesome! A half-marathon! So is that! Running for charity! You're doing good things for yourself and others! But…do you love it? Exercise can be challenging enough when you're doing something that you love, and an absolute grind when you're doing something you don't. It sounds like you're running because you have to, and if you're putting yourself through many hours of a "have to" it's going to be hard to keep it up when there aren't a lot of immediate rewards.

    I understand the need for goals, but maybe you need to look at your goals in a different way? Instead of focusing on time, speed, etc., what about goals like "I'm going to take 3 Zumba classes a week for a month?" or "I'm going to break a sweat in any way except running every day this week?" Or (and I've done this, and it's embarrassing at first until you let go and it becomes totally fun): "I'm going to Phoebe-run through the park today and wave like a loon at everyone that stares" Those are goals that still keep you healthy and in shape (and pumped up with those awesome happiness-inducing endorphins), but allow for a little more variety in your routine.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Bitts: Thank you. I try.

    @Sad Daughter: I meant to address the "Dad pretending everything's fine" aspect of your letter, but didn't for whatever reason. That's definitely an obstacle — but you probably need to put yourself in his shoes with that, too, as frustrating as it is to deal with. Given that you can't change his behavior, trying to understand where it comes from and then take it from there is kind of the only option.

  • Clover says:

    @Sad Little Runner:

    From one runner to another, you're more awesome than you think you are, and have more in common with those faster-than-you gazelles than you think you do. I took up running about 11 years ago, and it DID change my life, and I'm now a Real Runner ™ with the Boston Marathon jacket to prove it, and I still struggle with those pesky five pounds, those pesky chocolate cravings, and that pesky emotional ebb and flow after a big event.

    I think it might be helpful to you to help someone else get started with running. Maybe there's a local run club you could join and you could help welcome beginners, or maybe you could sign up to be a pacer for a local race, or maybe you could volunteer with Girls on the Run or a similar organization. When you have self-doubts, there's nothing like dealing with a starry-eyed newbie who wonders HOW in HECK you can run that far, or that fast, or whatever, and wants to pick your brain about carb-loading and running watches and other nerdy, esoteric running stuff no one else cares about. When you're an inspiration to someone else, it really helps you cut yourself a little slack.

    I also think you might want to evaluate whether your training group is helping or hurting you. It sounds to me like they're a bit too elite-centric for your needs, and that you'd be better off with a group that is less focused on speed and more focused on the experience of being a dedicated runner who's never going to make it to the Olympic trials. There are clubs like this; I belong to one. (We have members who HAVE run in the Olympic trials, but we also have members who have been at the running game for years and come in last in races and still keep coming back because they like the sport. I'm not sure who's tougher of the two demographics, honestly!) Your club or team should at least convincingly feign an interest in the activities of ALL of its members, in my opinion, and I wouldn't stick with a group that didn't do so.

    Chin up, kiddo. You're a runner, with the medals and the finisher shirts and the stories to prove it. I'll bet even with a little extra weight, you have runner's calves and other telltale "I'm a runner" signifiers. You wouldn't be asking these questions if the sport didn't mean something to you.

    Go buy yourself a copy of John L. Parker's "Once A Runner," too. It's my go-to medicine when I'm in a running slump. :)

  • Sad Daughter says:

    @Everyone:

    Thanks for the perspective it is, as you've noted, difficult for me to see the other side on this issue.

    Although the feelings in my letter and in comments are very strong, I want to emphasize that the pace I move forward with them on is glacial in an attempt to, day time talk style, check myself before I wreck myself.

  • JS says:

    Sad Daughter:

    Oh, man, that sucks so hard. My sister and I went through the same thing, only with our dad dying and our mom finding a new boyfriend 6 months later. And it's completely unfair–on top of having to deal with losing your mom– something so difficult and painful it sucks up all the air in the room — now, They expect you to deal with this enormous crap sandwich. It's taking so much strength to deal with the former, and you look at the later, and all the strength it would take to address it, and it's just TOO MUCH TO ASK, goddammit.

    But it's been asked, and how you respond in the short term will dictate your relationships with a lot of people whom you love in the long term. It's so hard to find grace in this situation, but you have to do it. Believe me, you don't want to deal with the consequences if you don't.

    So, my sister just called (and in our situation, she's the Sad Daughter, while I'm the Sister of the Sad Daughter). She tried to read this letter, but just couldn't read it all the way through and respond, because it brought her right back to that rage and grief. So she asked me to pass on the following (and to let you know, Sad Daughter, that she completely gets it, that you will get through it, and that she "wants to hug your face"):

    "The only answer here is time. The thing is, Girlfriend is in a shitty and tricky position. Everyone is in a difficult position, and no one is trying to hurt anyone intentionally, but this is an almost impossible situation for anyone to navigate. But, ultimately, 10 years from now, you will feel differently about Girlfriend, about your Dad, and about all this, but you cannot see that now, at all, because of all the Rage. So: don't burn any bridges. Talk to your Dad, write in a journal, talk to your therapist, call your sister a traitor, then call and apologize immediately, but be very careful. You have the power to do a LOT of damage here, to your sister, to your Dad, to everyone involved, and to yourself. It's so, so hard, but be civil for now, rage elsewhere, and wait for it to pass. 7 years out, and I can tell you, when I read this letter, I kept thinking about how amazing and patient my mom's boyfriend was while I worked through all this, and how grateful I am that he was."

  • Zipper says:

    @ Sad Little Runner

    The post-event crash is totally normal. I completed my first two sprint-distance triathlons last year and then didn't exercise for four months. So please don't beat yourself up because you responded like thousands of other part-time athletes. Maybe if you plan a way to deal with the crash before the race, give yourself a little time to indulge in the crash, and then implement your plan after X days, that could help.

    I'm 100% with you on thinking that if I competed and finished, then I would have an athletic life or be an athletic person. Instead of food, though, my cross-to-bear is smoking. I thought if I trained and completed tris, I would never smoke again. Wrong.

    Exercise won't change who we are, fundamentally. Nor will goal attainment. But if you can channel the strength and focus and willpower it took to move forward for FIVE hours and TWENTY minutes toward understanding yourself and forgiving yourself the little things, I bet you will feel better about your incredible successes.

    Finally, your running group sound like a bunch of jerks. If you can find another group, please do. You deserve support and encouragement and high praise for your accomplishments, not that kind of stupidity. You have done amazing things: crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles is something less than 1% of us will ever do. Don't be afraid to celebrate your greatness.

  • Erin McJ says:

    Sad Little Runner,

    First of all, no marathon runner is lazy!

    I'm a slow runner too. I think my approach is a little different than yours — when people ask how I got into it I tell them that during grad school it was a relief to have a hobby that it was okay for me to suck at. (Put less glibly, I liked having a part of my life where it was reasonable to judge myself by internal, not external, standards.) So it may be that you're looking for something different than I was.

    But in case it helps: here are two things I've figured out about myself.

    1. Some runs just suck. Sometimes there's a good explanation, sometimes not. The next one should be better.

    2. I run road races not for the race itself — the experience is not usually awesome for me — but for what happens between the races. Sounds like maybe this is what you do too. I wouldn't stop doing public events if they're helping you keep a routine that's good for you, even if the events themselves aren't always stellar (and see #1).

    Most of the runners I know are super supportive of anybody joining the sport — and my sample includes everybody from hobbyists to an Iron Man. The people who have said weirdly rude things to me about my times are generally not runners themselves. It sounds like you got unlucky with finding an unsupportive community in that class; I'd look for other local runners who are more normal. Online communities are awesome, but sometimes it's helpful to have someone on the ground — a running buddy, or someone you can go out with a couple days after the big race to distract yourself from the blues. This is such a common sport, there must be people in your area who'd love to talk about running with you and be a resource when you have a bad day/week/month.

  • lex says:

    @ runner

    A lot of people have chimed in here already, but I just wanted to let you know that everything you've been feeling is totally normal. Marathon training takes up a *lot* of time and mental energy, so when you don't have that to do anymore it's going to mess with your head. I'm not a fast runner, and I usually don't tell anyone except those really close to me my times because I don't want there to be the possibility that anyone could make me feel badly about them. I usually just say "I had a good time" because that could mean anything (even just that I enjoyed myself!) and then change the subject. And don't worry too much about the bad half- some days your body doesn't want to run. If the race falls on one of those days, there's not a whole lot you can do about it, right?

    Also, my mom does a similar thing to yours- if I tell her that I've just run my fastest 10k yet or whatever, she'll mention that maybe now I'll lose some weight! It sucks, and I'm with you.

  • Grainger says:

    @Sars:

    "Take care! Now."

    Hee. A punctuation error…or is it?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    It isn't! Grainger.

    (hee)

  • Emerson says:

    @Sad Daughter, my first response to your letter was to feel absolutely the way you do–angry and betrayed. If I lost my mom, I would expect people to allow me to be angry; I would expect the pictures to stay up, etc.
    Having read some of the responses, I wonder if it would help to ask what your mother would want? Would she appreciate your anger (again, completely natural) on her behalf? Would she require it as proof that you loved her? I don't think my mom would–she would want
    my dad and I to be happy and to remember her with love. I hope this helps.

  • Liz says:

    Sad Runner, I second, third, forth everything that has been said here. I also encourage you to find a new running group, or even just a running buddy who will be more encouraging than the class/coaches you have been running with. I was lucky enough to fall in with a group of very experienced runners whose average age is that of my parents, and who mostly run 3-5 minutes per mile faster than me. But, they have been the nicest, most encouraging group of people and I feel lucky to be able to learn from them. They also represent most of the runners out there.

    One place you might want to visit is the beginner's forum at Runner's World online. There is a strong group of posters that range from complete newbies to multiple marathon runners and the tone of the forum is very open and encouraging. Even if you don't like actively participating, it can be nice just to read about other runner's successes and failures.

  • Rachel says:

    Runner! I am clapping in your general direction because a marathon IS A BIG DEAL!! It's a HUGE deal! That's 26.2 damn miles! I was a runner in high school but then in college I switched to competitive keg standing, and now at 35 I weigh 100 pounds more than I did 15 years ago and I hate it.

    So my fat ass goes to the gym. And runs. But here's the thing: I'm not doing it for any other reason than because I want to. I WANT TO RUN. I don't care if I lose weight (though that is nice). I don't care if I ever come in the top 50% of finishers in a race. In fact, I ran a 5K once and got passed by a WWII veteran. True story. But I do it.

    I live with a triathlete. This man has completed 2 full Ironmans and is currently training for a 3rd. He is clearly insane and to a dude like that, a marathon is basically an 'easy' run. But I'm lucky because he supports me and my pathetic 50-minute 5K times.

    Anyway, other people have touched on it, but who are you running for? Are you running for YOU or someone else? Running to lose weight? Great! ME TOO! Let's start a club! Do you need someone to cheer your small successes? I have enthusiasm to spare, man. Gimme a call. I'll cheer for you until you tell me not to. :-)

  • Lisa says:

    @Sad Little Runner

    Have you heard of John Bingham? He coined the term "penguin" for those who run more for the joy of running than for recognition and public rewards.

    At the top of his webpage (www.johnbingham.com/penguin.html) are these words: "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." I'm definitely a penguin, and he's made me feel so much better about my very un-stylish running style!

  • Pam says:

    Sad daughter:
    For what it is worth, I am in a somewhat similar situation. My mom passed away almost three years ago. About 14 months after her passing (and maybe sooner, but that is when it was revealed to my brothers and me), my dad started dating again.

    While he has relationships with several women, he shares the majority of his time with one in particular. She is quite a bit younger than he is, has a questionable-at-best backstory, and has entwined herself into my dad's life in a way that has made it very difficult for him to cut ties with her despite basically everyone he knows telling him she is bad news. She has no children and has no contact with her family (red flags galore).

    My aunt (my dad's Irish twin who is very close to him), my siblings and I all sat down with him at one point and basically told him our own feelings about his girlfriend's manipulation. He listened, but I think at the heart of it all, he is lonely and misses my mom, so is not ready to take drastic steps to end things with her. And as unbearable as his new girlfriend is (there is not enough space here to begin to chronicle it all), he seems to need her at this point. He still honors my mother's memory, but after having been married for just over forty years when she passed, I think he just needs/wants someone around. I figure I at least owe it to him to make his own decisions as an adult and grieve in his own way, so I try not to ruffle feathers and hope in time he will come to his own senses.
    Good luck….

  • sherrylynn says:

    "So every time I found myself saying something negative to myself, I'd imagine saying it to a friend. And realize it sounded really mean." I think it was from LMDilly.

    This is an awesome observation – I think things about myself I would never even imagine about my friends, much les saying to them. So I hope that Sad Runner takes that to heart as well.

    Not just that it would sound mean to say that another person I care about is fat or stupid or lazy or … you get the picture. But I can truly cut everyone else some slack: life is hard and exercising after working a 10 hour day? that is crazy talk so not doing it is hardly a big deal. Brownies taste good so eating one every now and then when you want soemthing that tastes good? that is hardly a sin equivalent to leaving a baby in a hot car. And no one can have all the answers or be an expert at everything, so it is ok to screw up and need extra time or make a mistake sometimes. that's why pencils have erasers.

    So I am going to try this the next time I start beating myself up about not wanting to exercise and missign something at work. We really should treat ourselves as well as we would a friend. Exercise is good for me so I need to do it pretty regularly but I'd say that to my best friend without hesitation and without the judgment or condemnation I'd use on myself.

    Sad Runner – cut yourself some slack. A marathon is a huge achievement. Hec, running at all is a huge deal (says me of the 12 minute mile and proud of it). maybe your class/group isn't the best fit if you don't feel supported enough. (and maybe your mom is more pointing out that the fast runners are freaks of nature that look scary skinny, not that you should be faster or skinnier). good luck!

  • Ozzielou says:

    Dear Sad Little Runner,

    First and foremost, CONGRATS on finishing a marathon and other runs. Regardless of how fast or slow your time was, you finished, and that takes the will and mental fortitude of a champion.

    I have to agree with the folks who have chimed in here in the comments thread; I've completed three full marathons (best time 5:45 – if you're "verry" slow with three "r's" at 5:20, I deserve 7 or 8 at least), 6 or 7 half marathons, and countless 5Ks, 10Ks, 12Ks, and the like in my 4 years or running (I'm 30 now, so I was also a fairly late starter). After every major event finishes, after the endorphins stop kicking, there is a sadness that sets in. I prefer to use training plans from the Runner's World website, and I love the feeling of checking off the boxes day by day on my chart; however, once I reach the end of the plan and the finish line of the race, I find myself wondering, "well, I was TRAINING FOR A MARATHON (insert trumpets sounding here)…so, what am I doing now?"

    We all have bad days, both in training and in races. My most heartbreaking one recently was in February in the last 10 miles or so of a marathon I was trying to finish. The field was small, so I was on my own most of the time – completely alone, close to tears, utterly spent, and wondering why in the heck I should even finish the stupid thing. Although I wasn't dead last, I was darn close – at one point, the "shut down the water stations" truck was creeping behind me in the bike lane of the road, letting all the volunteers know that the end of the run was slooooowly coming. We all have moments like that – moments that make us want to stop running forever.

    However, runners also have awesome moments – the times we think back on when we hurt. One of mine is waking up early one Easter vacation and running the Las Vegas Strip. The air was cool, the Strip was deserted, and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. It all belonged to me – I ran around the Eiffel Tower, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and past the canals of Venice. Just me, flying along in the cool morning air. Gorgeous. Whenever I get down, I think of how much joy I experienced during that run – no watch, no GPS, no iPod – just me, running. If you have a moment like that (and you probably do, if you continue to run), use it as inspiration when things go south.

    I see that some commenters have suggested that running may not truly be your thing, and that may be true. What you may need more than anything, though, is just a break from it. One commenter suggested Zumba classes – I think that's a great idea – same thing with any classes or sports you find interesting – cycling on the road or in a spin class, tennis, swimming, roller skating – anything to get you away from running – not forever, but just until you actually want to run again. It may take a little while until that happens, but it'll come, and when it does, a run will feel like the very best thing in the world.

    Here are a few resources I've used in the past:
    - You may want to check out John "The Penguin" Bingham's articles, which you should be able to find online. He's an inspiration to a lot of us who are slower runners; he started running later in life as well, and he's a pretty good writer to boot.
    - The Runner's World magazine (and its accompanying website) launched a series of articles called "The Newbie Chronicles" awhile back, and they are fantastic – sometimes funny, sometimes touching, but all very relateable. The articles take me back to the time when I was that runner just starting out, and I think they might help you see how far you've come.

    I hope this all helps! Remember, running is not about how fast you are or how many medals you win or how you look doing it – it is about you, your shoes, and your enjoyment of the sport. If someone as slow as me can proudly call herself a runner, then you also deserve to claim the title. Go, runner girl, go!

  • Margaret in TX says:

    Sad Runner –
    Perhaps you could try focusing on some different perspectives of your experiences:

    I began running six years ago at the age of 26, and ran my first marathon the next year in 5:35 (slower than you!). I've since run four more, along with 10 half marathons and a bunch of 5K races.

    Some statistics for you to ponder (and maybe change your perspective on your own accomplishments):

    In 2009, the average US women's marathon finish time was about 4:53 and the median finish time was about 4:42. You are not ridiculously slow by any stretch of the imagination.

    About 190K women finished marathons in the US in 2009. Compare that to an adult female population of about 126 million. Only about 0.15% of women can say they accomplished what you did. And that's just accounting for the marathon.

    I think Clover has some good suggestions, and I agree – you are a runner!

  • attica says:

    Runner: I used to sing professionally, and as up and energized as I got before and during a performance, I'd crash nearly immediately thereafter. Like no joy on earth, ever. Once I noticed the pattern, it seemed clear to me that it had to be a physical response– the trough of my neurochemical wave pattern. Once I figured that out, it was easier to give myself the hour or two without other stimulus (like audience members telling me how much they loved me, which may seem like a compliment, but at that moment? I was always filled with 'WFT do you know?')or counterproductive self-medication (post-show cocktails, which always made it worse) and I'd even out again.

    Now there's no way a marathon isn't way more demanding physically and emotionally than an hour or two of public warbling, so it's reasonable to deduce the post-race crash to be bigger and longer lasting. If you can accept it's physical and not a signal that you have somehow failed, maybe you can try not to fix what's not broken.

    Not that Sars's advice isn't good on that score, it is. But sometimes a body needs what it needs regardless of how the mind recognizes it (or fails to).

  • Adrienne says:

    Sad Little Runner:
    1. Do you like beer?
    2. Do you have a healthy love of the absurd?

    If you answered yes to both of these (the third question being "will you run if forced to?" which I am assuming you are, given the marathoning) then you need to find your local chapter of the Hash House Harriers (http://www.gthhh.com/). We are a drinking club with a running problem and there are thousands of groups around the world.

    In all seriousness: this group changed my life. HHH is set up to be non-competitive and our group has everything from 60 year olds that walk the trails to my friend Russ who just completed the Western States 106 mile footrace in under 24 hours. Every group I've encountered is full of wonderful and helpful people, and you'd have been ballyhooed and congratulated for your tenacity after finishing your marathon and then gleefully punished with beer for "race-ist behavior." There is no snarky hierarchy of runners (at least in my group) and it's a very supportive environment that encourages healthy living at all ages. It's also an excellent way to see your town, as trails are different every time the group meets.

    Anyway, it's worth a look. I'm not a typical runner either and this is the group that made me love to run.

  • Amy says:

    @Why now – I second Sars' excellent advice to your old flatmate. I had to write a similar facebook email to an ex-boyfriend who upon finding out I was engaged wrote me a missive on how he "wished me all the best and wanted to be friends" and all that jazz after essentially calling me a cheating liar after breaking up with him. Ahem. Not bitter.
    Anyhow, cheery, short, two-sentences, along the lines of "doing well, super busy with the wedding, sure you understand". Although my own personal scathing sign-off of choice is "best"

  • Sarah says:

    @Sad Runner

    1 – Awesome first marathon time! My first marathon (and only) was Big Sur, with a time of like 5:55. The cut off is 6 hours, so they were taking down the mileage markers before I could get there.

    2 – Find a new group to train with, as has been mentioned before. I like Jeff Galloway's groups – they are usually a good mix of fast and slow, and you can always find people to chat with while you run. If you don't like the first group you try, keep looking.

    3 – Take it easy on yourself. Maybe you need to focus on different goals within running. Maybe its run faster, its run a trail race, whatever. After a marathon, its hard to figure out what's next. I know. I took up swimming, boot camp, anything to NOT run for a while. I wanted to LOVE running, and you know what? If I keep my runs to 3x a week, I do. Mix it up!

    I think someone mentioned depression a few posts up, and I can tell you that I am positive I was self-medicating my depression with running, and once I stopped running, it was very hard to get my depression under control without drugs. Even if I tried running again, I couldn't ever get the enthusiasm for it back, or the sense of accomplishment. The medicine literally changed my life within days. I can't run these days because of other health problems, but the antidepressants really helped me get out of a rut I was in. Not for everyone I know, but sometimes I think maybe they should put antidepressants in the water.

    This is sort of a long way of saying – step back for a few weeks after the (international?) marathon (which, BTW, AWESOME). Go to the marathon and have a great race – enjoy yourself. Seriously. Don't stress about time or anything. Walk a lot if you have to. Make sure you get a t-shirt at the Expo you actually like. And then, come home, get a massage and regroup. Decide if you want to keep running, and how. If you'd rather focus on your weight for a while, then maybe you run 2x or 3x a week, for fitness, and you do something else the other days. Maybe you don't run at all for a while, and you do Zumba/swimming/spinning. And maybe visit the doc for a chat about depression/self-esteem issues. You are awesome (those speedy people at the front admire slow people because they can be on their feet so much longer), and you've accomplished a lot.

    Have a great race!

  • Honesty requires anonymity says:

    Re: Runner –

    Piling on the idea of addressing the depression separately – there may have been a typical post-marathon crash thing that happened in August, and happens to everybody, but by September, it was just plain depression.

    Exercise may work as an antidepressant for some people, but I'm finding exactly the opposite, myself – my depression is worsening, and I'm having to force myself to go to aqua aerobics, the sport of frail 70-year-old ladies. (I'm 40.) There's no joy and no hope of any – just stupid asthma attacks and inopportune floating and too much impact for my wonky knee and the knowledge that I'm there because my cardio is so poor I can't even swim a length of the pool without resting and enraging the other people trying to swim laps, because even the 70-year-olds and one woman who seriously weighs at least 450 pounds can swim circles around me. Maybe some endorphins will kick in when I've built up my cardio and can do some actual work, but I'm not holding out for that.

    What I'm doing instead is just showing up and doing the work, because I can't live in this body anymore and I suspect that fixing the body will make the hard work of fixing everything else at least a little easier, if only by eliminating a source of misery, and with the problems I have, this is the only feasible path to get to the body I need. Build the cardio, strengthen the knee, and maybe in a year or so I'll be strong enough to do the kind of exercise that can help me lose weight. (Also, it's an hour and a half when I can't be eating anything, and it usually kills my appetite, which is big for me.) If I get upset and teary, I'm in the pool and no one can tell. I've lived with major depression for almost 20 years now, most of it unmedicated and uncounseled, and have gotten used to just muscling on through it in other arenas, and so I'm going to muscle on through in this one too.

    "Muscling through" is not a depression-treatment technique that can work for everyody all the time, but if you're used to yelling at yourself anyway, it can be a way to re-channel that into something constructive. "Go swim! Come on, get up, go swim! Yep, get your swim bag, put it in the car. Doesn't matter if you hate it, doesn't matter if you feel bad, just do it. You manage to go to your dead-end job every day, which is much harder on your psyche, right? This is easy. Go swim." You just have to cut out the part where you yell at yourself if you don't go one night, or if you don't perform at the level you want to. (I find it very helpful and darkly amusing to remember that my brain is mis-wired to kill me, basically, and I am in a very real sense outsmarting and outmaneuvering my brain when I fight back against its negative messages, or do anything positive or good for myself. Odd, I know, but I'm still alive and fighting.)

    Anyway, the joy will come when I can breathe better, and my legs are stronger, and my back and abs are in better shape and my posture improves, and my sleep gets back to normal, and my body begins to work again – which will only happen if I do the work, so the work is absolutely, fabulously, unquestionably good, even if it's not joyful in and of itself. I may never be the 150-pound sylph I want to be, but at least I can stop myself from hitting 400, and becoming disabled when my knee gives out permanently.

    Wow, I keep trying to make this more inspiring, and it keeps getting depressing. The point – keep going. Do what you need to do, both in training and in dealing with the depression. Prove to yourself that you can stick to it even when you feel cruddy or when you slip a little, and don't let anyone sabotage you – most especially yourself.

  • Clover says:

    What Adrienne said! Hashing is brilliant fun. I'm actually NOT a huge beer-drinker, being a (comparatively) skinny runner type who can't hold her alcohol, but I've loved the mad camaraderie of the couple of hash groups with whom I've associated over the years. Their brand of good-natured smack talk abuses the fast and slow alike in a fun, no-pressure environment. It's a place to just enjoy being a runner without thinking about fast, slow, races, events, training plans, etc. Prepare to regress at least ten years the first time you go. This is a GOOD thing. Runners tend to be serious, hard-on-ourselves types, and hashing is a great way for us to lighten the heck up and have a good time.

  • anotherkate says:

    @ runner
    I'm a new runner myself, still making the push to 2 miles without stopping, and doing my second 5k at the end of the month. My goal is to run the whole thing, no walking portions. I am in awe of anyone who has completed a marathon, running or walking it's still a long ass distance. Congratulations on all you've accomplished so far, and if your running group is being snooty remember that there are countless strangers on the internet who think you're cool.

  • Shay says:

    @ Runner

    I agree with much of what Sars and the others have already. I want to share my experience and perspective.

    I am an athlete, but I am not a runner. Due to my interests and body type (fast-twitch, muscular), my best sports tend to be team-oriented and/or power-based, rather than endurance oriented. Even as an adult, I'm pretty competitive about sports and my training. I always felt like "less" of an athlete, because I don't like to run and I'm slow for someone who is otherwise active and fit. I have an ex who is a high-level recreational runner, so for quite some time, I believed that I was even slower than I actually am (as compared to the population), because he was my sense of comparison.

    A few years ago, I ran a 5K for charity, and even though I told myself my goal was to finish and enjoy the experience, I had a hard time not caring about the time. I also took a while to admit to myself that I don't really like training to run, and I mostly cared about what it said about my identity as an athlete. Yes, there were other things I liked about it: I did like being outside when the weather was decent & I did like dropping a few pounds (which I did once I added running to all the OTHER work-outs I had going). But these reasons weren't exclusive to running. I liked being outside and walking or biking or inline skating, etc., BETTER than running. I could lose weight by tinkering with my food intake or lifting weights far faster than running could make a dent.

    The other thing I had to admit was that running was actually NOT better for my health and fitness as compared to any number of other activities I enjoy doing much more. This is often true for people who are overweight or who have joint problems from competing in other sports (knee, ankle, etc.) or other foot problems and so on. With few exceptions, distance running is really not a great choice of sport for someone who needs to lose more than a few lbs. Without trying to take away from your accomplishment, because I really do think you SHOULD be proud and it IS impressive, I think part of the issue is that you already know that in this era in which Oprah runs a marathon and so can any "Joe Schmoe" who follows a training regimen, running half and full distance marathons doesn't really make you more of an athlete or more fit. You're having trouble reconciling "I am this athletic, fit and healthy person" with "I'm a runner" because one doesn't necessarily follow from the other and you KNOW this. No amount of "Hey! That's awesome you finished" is going to change this fact. Being a runner means a lot of cool things. It means you can set goals and stick to it. It requires determination, hard work, etc. But it doesn't transform you into an otherwise fit person, even if you can slug out the races.

    Try to be honest with yourself about how much of your goals or plans are about: (1) weight loss; (2) identity (I am a marathon runner!); and (3) how you look to other people. On my list of "things I'd like to accomplish," for a long time, I had listed doing a sprint triathlon even though I don't enjoy swimming or running and I'm neutral on biking. The truth is: I'd like to have FINISHED a triathlon, so I can check it off my list of proofs that I'm an athlete (identity: I'm ALSO a triathlete!), and so other people will be impressed ("Oh, you're doing a brick training sesson! Wow, a triathlon!" When compared to the amount of time I'd be taking away from family and other activities I enjoy more (including other sports) and factoring in the risk of injury (I have prior shoulder and knee injuries that may not hold up well with distance running, swimming OR biking), it just doesn't make any sense to do it.

    Beyond that, distance running taxes your joints, your muscles, and your hormones a lot. If you're crashing horrifically afterwards – and if you are unable to resume training after the standard recommendation of rest and recovery runs – then maybe your body is telling you that this isn't the right activity for you. To me, this isn't self-sabotage. This is a healthy self-preservation mechanism. The trick is finding something ELSE that you can replace the running with that you will enjoy doing, can set goals & track your accomplishments, and still get some fitness benefits. What do you like about running? What else offers that?

  • Jamie says:

    Daughter:

    That sucks so much. Allowing other people to process grief their own way sounds good in theory, but it sometimes can make your own grief worse. My mother's chosen process is to complain about the long list of grievances she'd collected throughout her marriage. That may be helpful to her, but I can't listen to it. I politely ask her to stop every time she starts, and she does for a little while, but she'll start back up again in no time, snapping at me to remove my rose-colored glasses. I had to completely stop talking to her because every conversation was so painful. We're doing a little better now, mostly because we stick to shallow subjects, and I've learned which of my own traits remind her of the ones she likes to complain about. It's not a great relationship, but it's better than none.

    I understand all the points about how Girlfriend must feel, but I don't think how she feels matters. She's moving herself into a family that has just had the ground ripped out from underneath them, the burden of sensitivity is on her. Why can't the family home have photographs of actual family members? They weren't necessarily couple photos, they could have been mother-daughter photos or solo photos. And the cake is an asshole move, even if her intentions were good. There are some parts of the family that do not and should not involve her. That day? Is one of them. Mom's birthday and Mother's Day should be two more. Maybe he's moved on, but the family hasn't, and it seems that the new couple is expecting everyone else to keep their pace. I would be just as offended and enraged in your position.

    I don't have any helpful advice, except to just honestly tell them that you need time. If having them in your life is more hurtful than taking a break from them, tell them so. They're not obligated to slow down for you, and you're not obligated to speed up for them.

  • emilygrace says:

    Sad Runner, As someone who likes external encouragement, I'd like to pitch in that the President's Challenge is now open to everyone, not just elementary school students, and if you sign up and log your activity (different amounts of points are assigned for everything from gardening to mountain climbing), they will literally give you a gold medal when you reach a certain number of points.
    Ok, so you have to pay 7 dollars for the medal if you're over 18. But it's still pretty great, and I've taken 3 bike rides so far which apparently puts me 6% of the way to a bronze. You can also sign up as part of a group, although I don't know how you go about forming one.

  • Adrienne says:

    @Clover
    Yay! Hash High Five! If you'd told me five years ago I'd be in a club that revels in beer drinking and running at (roughly) the same time I'd have told you that you were CLEARLY high. I adore these people I've met through it.

    Seriously, Sad Runner, I would go into a history of the organization but it's so bizarre it reads like fiction. The wikipedia page is a good place to start.

  • Lizat's says:

    @sad little runner:

    Have you visited the Beginner's Forum at runnersworld.com? It's there you'll meet the runners you want and need to be around, people who are like you, me, fast, and slow, all supportive of one another. When I first started running, it was a sanctuary. You might consider posting your letter there. I guarantee you will get tons of wonderful responses.

    From me – I'm a slow marathoner, as well. People ask me if I will BQ and I laugh. It's a pipe dream. The thing is, I do believe that you do have to ask yourself WHY you run. I, too, struggle for approval. I want everyone to be proud of me, to admire me…but for some reason, running is something I do for myself. It's the one thing in my life that I DON'T need to have that approval for. It's the one thing that makes me feel the most ME, just my body working for itself, accomplishing things quietly and sweatily and beautifully.

    If it were anything else, it would turn into a chore. It would turn into heartache. I would beat myself up. I would become depressed. I would wonder why I wasn't getting skinnier sooner.

    Running has to be that for us. Yes, post-race depression is normal – but I mostly get depressed because I just miss running. As soon as I miss it enough, I start again. And it's wonderful.

    Otherwise, why run? Really?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    I understand all the points about how Girlfriend must feel, but I don't think how she feels matters.

    Apparently it does — to Dad. If the daughters want a relationship with him, they're going to have to deal with her, and if they want to stop hating and resenting her, figuring out how to relate to her is going to be a critical step.

    She's moving herself into a family that has just had the ground ripped out from underneath them, the burden of sensitivity is on her.

    Even Sad didn't imply that Girlfriend's attentions were one-sided; it's not like she just moved herself into the house one day uninvited (we can safely assume Sad would have said as much if she had). And not to put a timeline on anyone's grief, but Mom didn't die eight weeks ago. Dad isn't being held hostage here.

    There are some parts of the family that do not and should not involve her. That day? Is one of them. Mom's birthday and Mother's Day should be two more.

    And their anniversary, and their first date, and Christmas too, I assume. And Halloween. …Come on, dude. The woman has children of her own; that family isn't supposed to celebrate Mother's Day because Sad's mother can't be there?

    I mean, maybe this strategy has worked for you, but for people who want to maintain speaking relationships with their widowed parents, I wouldn't advise it. And the Girlfriends of the world get tired of feeling like having fallen in love with men whose wives died makes them war criminals. This particular woman sounds non-awesome for a number of reasons, but most of Sad's problems with the situation would exist no matter who it was.

  • Jen K says:

    @Sad Daughter

    Chiming in to second, third, nth everyone who says People Grieve Differently. My husband and I lost our baby boy at birth 2 years ago and I had to tell myself constantly, from the beginning, that he would grieve in a way that is separate from me. I was scared that losing a child would tear us apart like so many other couples so I had to make a conscious effort to remember that while we had our shared grief, there was a part of mine that was separate from him and vice versa. It really helped us to be able to talk on our own terms.

    And we were both his parents.

    Loss of a parent, I imagine, is different from loss of a spouse. And while you may not like how he had handled things, I think some benefit of the doubt is in order – I think if you look hard enough, you will be able to find the good intentions toward GF, yes, but also toward you and your sister. Why upset you unnecessarily over a new relationship that might not last? And so on.

    The other thing to remember is that your dad is his own person, and I don't think you see that. It's so easy to think of our parents as an extension of one another, or of ourselves, but that's not fair. The best thing about growing up is discovering the people your parents are, and while it's gleeful to realize that they're faking it like everyone else, you also have to take that with the bad, like realizing that there are parts of their lives that simply do not include you or require your influence.

    The cake thing was weird and gross, though. I'd have asked her straight out why she did that and let her know it seemed disrespectful. Maybe she just has some weird Deathday tradition in her family, who knows? Maybe she is just a gross troll. And if she comes to you on your dad's behalf again, politely let her know you will address it if he brings it to you, that's your policy with everyone, yadda yadda.

    One last thing – maybe ask for the pics of your mom. That way you and your sister have them, and know they are safe. Your dad doesn't need them to remember his life with your mother. He has those memories, and he has you and your sister as testament to those years.

  • sam says:

    Man. Sad Daughter's letter hit home a bit.

    My mom died (after a VERY long illness – 7 years) 11 years ago this summer (at the ripe old age of…49). My dad met the woman who is now my stepmom about 6-8 months after the fact.

    Was it hard at first? Yes.

    Were there adjustment periods/growing pains/regressing to behaving like a 12-year-old on my (then mid-20s) part? Yes (we can all still tell stories about a particularly…unpleasant…trip to london where I threw an actual temper tantrum. Again, I was 27).

    Was it the best thing that could have happened to my dad? Yes.

    My mom, being sick for a long time with terminal cancer, knew she was going to die. My dad spent the seven years of her illness faithfully taking care of her, sleeping in uncomfortable hospital chairs, putting every other aspect of his life on hold (including the business he started), and generally was regarded as a "saint" for taking care of her. When she died, he pretty much retreated to the country (we live in NYC with a house in the berkshires)

    So, when he met my stepmother, was I supposed to begrudge the fact that she dragged him out of the house to socialize with other people? The fact that she has (literally) gotten him to travel around the world with her? That she makes him obviously happy? Or that she makes sure that he drags his ass to the doctor for checkups on a regular basis?

    We all, in my family, spent a lot of time grieving for my mom even before she died. She, having a biting wit up until the end, joked that she expected us all to rend our garments and mourn her to the exclusion of everyone and everything else in our lives forever. Because she knew this was a ridiculous thing to expect of any of us.

    And…

    Pictures of my mom have been relegated to the bedrooms that my brother and I stay in while we're up in the country. I personally think it would be really weird to expect my stepmother to put pictures of my mother anywhere else in the house. But stepmom still bugs me to no end about making sure to go visit my mom at the cemetery. And I call/card stepmom on mother's day.

    At a certain point, after the initial grieving process, I had to take a step back from myself and recognize that my dad, who was all of 55 at the time, was entitled to have a life and be happy. And stepmom makes him ridiculously happy. So that makes me happy. It's just a bonus that I actually grew to really like her as an individual as well.

    Back to sad daughter…

    I think your dad didn't handle things that well, particularly vis-a-vis not telling you for 9 months, but that's on your dad, not girlfriend. He's the one that's supposed to know you, and he's the one who made the decision to withhold this information. Perhaps he was wrong, or perhaps he knew you would act this inappropriately at the news and was trying to delay the inevitable. But if you make him choose, you will lose either way. He will either choose the girlfriend, which will leave you out in the cold, or he will choose you, which will leave him potentially miserable and blaming you for ending a promising relationship.

  • Stephanie says:

    Sad Daughter,

    I'm sorry for the loss of your mother, and the pain you must be feeling at her absence. I hope that what I'm suggesting below isn't hurtful in anyway, I don't intend it to be.

    On top of what Sars and everyone else has said, this occurred to me out of the blue, and I have no idea if it has any bearing at all on the situation, but I'll throw it out there. (I didn't see this in the comments already, so I apologize if I'm repeating something.

    Is there any possibility that your feelings about Dad and Girlfriend stem from an unconscious suspicion that your Dad regretted not choosing Girlfriend the first time around, or that he was "waiting for your Mom to die" so that he could be with Girlfriend, or even a suspicion of an affair? These things don't have to be true in any way for your grieving mind to have created them as an explanation for your dad's behavior (which you see as wrong), and if some deep down part of you thinks this but isn't willing to face it, you may not even know you have this anger.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that your Dad felt that way or had an affair, by any means. Just that you, in your grief and anger, may have some unconscious, irrational thoughts like this to explain why, in your opinion, your dad moved on so quickly.

    You mentioned you are in therapy. If you aren't already, check out a support group for children who've lost parents, in person if possible, or online. Hearing from others going through a similar situation may help you sort out your feelings, and people who are on the same path as you, but farther along, will have insights to guide you. Good luck.

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>