Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thanks for not making me look dumb

If you have come here looking for information about donating to the JDRF in support of my fund-raising campaign, please click here, and if you want to read my manifesto about why I'm running 12 half-marathons this year, click here. Thanks! 

Recently I had a privately awkward moment. I was trying to think of ways to shake a few thousand more dollars out of the tree. There had been a lull in donations, and I was facing the prospect of running one of my races without having received a single donation in over a month. It was a sucky prospect, because if I'm doing my races but no one is donating, I'm just a foolish person who's running all over the countryside for nothing. I am standing on a stage, performing a monologue in front of a completely empty theater. I am scrambling around in a restaurant kitchen, cooking and plating a feast that I am setting on tables where no one is sitting.

Hard not to feel a bit ridiculous.

It presented an interesting question, which I probably should have thought about sooner: Why exactly am I running? What is the connection between running 12 races (of any length) and raising $10,000 for diabetes research? Couldn't I just spend a year begging people to donate? Sell them on the merits of eradicating this disease, without spending all the time and money (and sweat) I'm spending on these races? Does anyone really care whether I run 12 races, or 3 races, or none at all? 

Perhaps not, but I couldn't do one without the other. Many friends and my husband can attest to the fact that while I was pregnant with my son, Oliver (born in May 2012), I became increasingly frustrated with all the complications I was having, most of which could be blamed on Betty (my totally-not-affectionate nickname for diabetes). I had had a miscarriage in June 2011, which I also held Betty accountable for, though as with most miscarriages it is impossible to precisely pinpoint the cause. All three of my pregnancies cost us a crapload of money, even with decent insurance, because diabetic pregnancy is so risky (to both the baby and the mother) you require an extraordinary amount of careful monitoring and testing and counseling and the birth itself is quite an ordeal (the risk of stillbirth is higher than in the general population). The anguish of miscarriage was compounded with insult on the day I received a large bill for the D&C procedure that followed the discovery of silence in my belly.

Anyway, I began to proclaim that after Baby No. 2 was born, I wanted to turn my attention to raising money for diabetes research. I wanted to fight in a way more broad-reaching than fiddling with my insulin pump and eating whole grains. And I was planning ahead: If my children, heaven forbid, eventually develop this disease, I want to feel like I did whatever I could to prevent it. I don't want to be saddled with the guilt of feeling like I spent years just sitting around, staring at them and hoping for the best.

So why the running, then? Along with having a second (sleepless, colicky, high-maintenance) baby and moving across the country, a major change in my life last year was that I stopped going into an office to work. I am at home, momming nonstop during daylight hours. (I do about 15 hours of freelance work in the evenings every week.) A noticeable side effect of this change -- all three changes, actually -- was that I lost my shit. I slid quietly and quickly down a suffocating hole of depression, and though a handful of people were peering worriedly at me down there, no one could do much to help. That's how it goes.

At one point I announced to my husband that I needed to find a job, any job, serving fries at a drive-thru would work just fine -- I needed to have something I could turn to that would let me decompress from feeling lonely and unrewarded and ineffective as a parent. Meanwhile, my casual morning runs were getting a bit longer. I was thinking of training for one half-marathon, though I had little confidence I could do it. A friend invited me to do a 10-mile race with her, and I did it -- and not only was it a do-able challenge, I loved it. I felt like I had accomplished something that day. It was like a little treat in my back pocket that I could take out and nibble on when I started to feel directionless. I wanted to do more, but I needed to make the reward a little more tangible. I don't quite know why, but I needed a theme, something that would give some kind of cohesion to the project of habitually running races.


If I were doing these races without doing the fund-raising, I would feel sort of silly and self-indulgent. And if I were trying to raise the money without "singing for my supper" (a term a dear friend recently used to describe my efforts), I'm not sure I'd have any way to actually get people's attention. The races are a challenge, but they are something I can do, and once I've done one it's done, and I can know I did a good job at it. You cannot objectively say any of those things about parenting. Raising money is a challenge, but it also is something I can do, and once I've raised each dollar I can't undo my success and un-raise it, and I doubt anyone would look at it and go, "Well you did a crappy job of raising it though, look how messed up it is." Similarly, not things you can be assured of in parenting.

Anyway. The solution I came up with for shaking the dollars out of the tree for my fifth half-marathon was to throw cookies at it. (I offered to send homemade cookies to the first and last donors ... and then just decided to send cookies to everyone who donated this round.) This proved to be a startlingly effective tactic, and once again I was shocked at, impressed by, and positively swollen with pleasure thanks to so many people's incredible generosity. The race itself was no fun; I am horribly sleep-deprived right now, and I feel like the picture I've posted here tells the story pretty well. I look determined and unthrilled, and like my attention is turned inward, which it was because I was having to draw on my very deepest reserves of determination and pain resistance to keep toodling along. But at least I did not, and do not, feel ridiculous.