I still can’t tell if I love or hate running

I’ve started a habit of ending my run a few blocks from home to build in some cool down & gratitude time. I have a history of hating myself on the run and having a general self-deprecating outlook on myself as a runner (something I’ve been working on the past two years).

I think a lot of it is the result of having a running history plagued with injury. They started in minor ways in high school and got much worse overtime. In college, I had a coach that watched me limp around campus and still refused my requests to take time off or skip a race. (Mind you this is D3 athletics so … WHY!?!)

Post college, I have continued to have all kinds of fun running pains, but nothing that a week off or a little extra icing didn’t solve. Turns out those band aids won’t work forever. In May I went to stretch my leg and felt the most intense burning, sharp then radiating pain. It felt like lightning. It hurt so bad it made me wince and tear-up, when touched. It hurt when I ran, walked, laid down. It instantly killed my thoughts of running a fall marathon.

I was positive it was a break or stress fracture.
Corey was positive it wasn’t.

In my mind, myofascial pain can’t be that intense, but in Corey’s experience it absolutely can. He drew up a little regiment for me and I took nearly 4-6 weeks off running.

I have been doing a lot of icing, rolling, elevation, compression. Anything and everything to help the inflammation. I have a roller and two type of myofascial sticks I rotate between. I started with little runs a few days ago. 2 or 3 miles at a time, with a full day off in between. Rolling before, rolling after. Compression sleeves on the run (which I personally hate the look of but, wow, they are incredibly helpful).

I couldn’t tell you exactly what went wrong, but what I can tell you is that our current solution is working.

So … a fall marathon is back on the table. I’m confident that between now and November 1st I can be ready.

On Taking Risks

 

In 2020 I made several large changes to my life. As many of you have noticed (and pointed out) I “blew up” my life this past year and “somehow” landed on my feet. Personally, I don’t think it’s a “somehow” thing. This life wasn’t random, I chose it. I never felt like I was blowing up my life, I felt like I was making intentional, well-thought-out decisions that would hopefully push me in the direction I ultimately want to be (even if I didn’t have a clear picture of what that was).

I gain a lot of security and safety from planning overplanning aspects of my life. Planning itself is a coping mechanism for my anxiety. Knowing the next move makes me feel more in control and if I can plan out the next one, five, ten years then I can, theoretically, control those years/outcomes better and ultimately reduce my anxiety.

Complete transparency, it has never worked, but like a hamster on a wheel, I have kept running. It’s not that my plans haven’t worked it’s that having these plans has rarely resulted in lowering my anxiety in the now. So maybe it was the personal losses of 2019, maybe it changing career paths, coming to terms with something I had been hiding from for a long time, or maybe it was realizing I had already met the right person. Maybe it was the synergy of all of these things and more. I wasn’t looking for something or someone else, but what happened was that I had a moment where I realized that I wasn’t actually risking one thing for another, what I was doing was making two separate decisions, simultaneously.

I made the decision to leave a relationship and move cities because that’s what I wanted to do. I owed it to myself and that person to give us each the space to be in relationships where we were equally loved by the person we were in love with. I love New York City, but the need to be closer to family outweighed the desire to live in the city I love. Making the decision to leave the relationship and city was one move.

The second decision was where do I go from here.

Back to a city I knew and loved: DC. A place where not only would I be close to family, but where a close friend lived. A friend that was also newly unattached. For the first time in our four-year friendship, we had the space to look at each other in ways that as friends we previously didn’t allow ourselves to. Corey wasn’t my forever person, because technically he couldn’t be, but then in one moment, as that changed he just was for me.

It wasn’t a choice, it was simply loving. I don’t think love should be complicated. I think sustaining a loving relationship through thoughtful action, personal growth, compromise, and more is complicated. But when someone asks if you love your partner I don’t think that question should have a complex answer. The beauty of love lies in the simplicity of “yes, I do”.

⊹  ⊹  ⊹

Several months ago my writing took a back seat. Let’s talk about why, because the more I think about it the prouder I am of myself and I think that pride comes from having taken a risk. It was the first time in my life that I’ve come into a relationship as an adult. I came with my own beliefs & expectations, with the knowledge of how to articulate and trust my intuition. I didn’t enter it as a girl who was going to follow a partner. I entered it as a woman who was and is fully prepared to go it alone. The thing is, entering a relationship, engagement, and life with someone else comes with a learning curve, with compromise.  In my first month in DC I didn’t post on Instagram, I focused my energy & attention on my doula career + 2 (!!) jobs + very new relationship.  And so, unintentionally, the blog took a backseat. 

I took a risk in coming here.

A risk in starting a relationship with my best friend.

A risk in moving in within a week of a first date.

A risk in agreeing to marry someone I had known for years, but dated for only six weeks.

Every step was an unknown, every step was a risk.

I owe myself and those risks the energy, space, and time to work, to try. To not just accept, but embrace the failures along the way. When taking risks it’s important to know that while it doesn’t always work out there’s beauty in “blowing up” your life. So much beauty in a clean slate without knowing what’s to come.

This life is so special because of the risks that got me here.  I had safety in the previous iteration of my life, but that safety itself was a risk. Every day we take risks. We put off time-sensitive projects. We text them first. We make the first move. But few people recognize that sometimes taking the “safe” option is the biggest risk of all. Staying safe, playing inside the lines, is how you end up living a life of unmet potential.

Everything you could be is in the details of the risks you aren’t willing to take.

Make Believe: A Confident Day at the Polls

When we first learned about voting in school it seemed so easy, so straightforward. You vote for the person you want. The person with the most votes, wins.

But my earliest memory of an election, in 2000, didn’t look like that. I couldn’t understand why each candidate seemed neck and neck with the popular vote, but within the electoral college one was pulling ahead. And in fact, at the end of that election the candidate with the most votes did not win

I still don’t get this system. It’s not that I don’t understand it or know its origins, it’s because the electoral college is fucked up. Like seriously fucked up

But regardless of that, it’s important to greet your ability, opportunity, and privilege to participate in our democracy as just that: a privilege. And because you, like me, may need to set the stage to feel more prepared I’ve pulled together a little list of bits for you on November 3rd. All ethical, same as our president should be.

 

Here are a few things to make your day at the polls something to look forward to:

a snuggly pair to keep you warm against chilly morals.

to make the potential for long lines a little more comfortable.

something red, white, and blue.

for the little ones you’re setting an example for.

to care for yourself after a long day.

 

Wishing you warm thoughts and thank you for participating in our democracy.

Personal Note: Answering All Your Questions

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After 18 months in NYC, I’ve returned to DC for the rest of my life. I moved about a week ago and ever since have been fielding DMs of ‘why?’ and more specific questions. Walking the line between personal privacy and wanting to keep you all in the know, here’s what I’ll say: There were a lot of new things in my life that led to this decision. A new career, new people, new passions. Above all, I spent the first half of 2020 digesting all the lessons of 2019. Losing so many family members over the course of nine months, living so far from my family, feeling guilty, feeling helpless, changing careers, made for an eventful, albeit rather dark, 2019. Digging into all of these teachings I came to the same conclusion over and over: my heart is in DC. I made the decision, for me, to leave my relationship and start a new chapter in a new [old] city. I spent more than five years living in DC before the move to NYC and it will always feel like home. The words sound rather clichéd and disingenuous, but the truth of it is that in the past few months, and especially past week, I really feel that I’ve reconnected with myself. Out of respect and excitement for everything that’s to come I’ve decided to take a step back from the daily IG life (many of you’ve already noticed this). This isn’t goodbye, we’ll speak soon — especially on the blog. With love, Molly

A post shared by molly shephard (@mollyshephard) on

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On July 28th, I published the above IG post. At the time I had just moved 250 miles from New York City to Washington, DC, a city I had previously lived in for five years. Ending my engagement, moving cities, starting a new relationship, has all played out in seemingly rapid succession over Instagram and has led to many timeline-related and “Wait… what?” style questions in my DMs and (most recently) asked through Stories.

While I believe and have believed that you truly don’t owe an explanation of your life and choices to anyone, what I do believe is that many of you sincerely care and gaps in what I’ve shared has left you feeling confused. So here’s the full story:

  • I ended my engagement [and relationship] shortly after it began. It was the right move for me and the right move for him.
  • At that time I was already intending to move to DC for a short period of time (August-October) to attend to private doula clients. Ending that relationship made me intensely question why I was living in New York City and if it was making me happy. I ultimately determined that being so far from my family over the previous year had taken a deeper toll than I initially realized and by May was making long-term plans to permanently return to DC. As many of you may remember, I have been talking about moving to DC since Summer 2019.
  • I decided, with my ex-fiancé, that the cats would remain in New York City with him to avoid causing them emotional strife of a move (moving them to NYC was difficult for them).
  • In early July, I learned that my DC apartment had fallen through, two weeks before I was scheduled to move and physically needed to be in the city to support my doula clients. I was offered the opportunity to temporarily move in with someone I had known as a friend for years and been dating for a few weeks.
  • We both quickly found that what was intended to be “just for a week or so” felt a lot more like forever so I stopped looking for another apartment, rented a U-Haul, and before the end of July was officially moved in.

I did what I have been advising you all to do for years: I did what was best for me. Clichéd as it may seem, I followed my heart.

In March I stopped the most popular series on the blog, Dear Molly, purely because I slowly felt myself becoming the thing I loathe most of all: a hypocrite. How could I write each week, telling you all to be brave and honest and bold while I played it safe? At the time I was deeply struggling in my own relationship, with myself and then partner, and while I got pretty good at putting on a happy face I knew I couldn’t do it forever.

Leaving my relationship and New York City, and all the details that came with those choices, have made me feel more like myself than ever. Part of why I didn’t write on here for so long is the same reason that I took a hiatus from Instagram, I want to protect that feeling. I don’t personally feel that I’ve ever had a terribly filtered online persona, but I do think that the mindset I get into when I log on is one that I’ve cultivated to be positive. I want to continue to be the positive place you all love to come, but I don’t want to continue sacrificing the reality of my life along the way.

So what does that mean? Simply this: when I need “me” time, I’m taking it.

Quarantine: Day 65

Paragraph: Written.

Paragraph: Deleted.

Wash.

Rinse.

Repeat.

That’s been the feeling lately. I usually keep personal frustrations and struggles off of the blog until I feel like I have some clarity. Mostly because I don’t want this to become a space where I lament and you all listen, like some egalitarian therapist office. That’s not the purpose of this blog, it’s not a record of my personal growth (although, in many ways it’s similar).

I’ve spoken about my anxiety on here before and … truly I don’t know where that sentence was going. And that’s really frustrating for me. Quarantine has made me feel more and more like I’m in a box. Being literally confined to a small space has made my mind feel the same way. I wish I had a big revelation to share with you. I wish there was a magic number of sourdough loaves I could bake or miles I could run to make myself feel better. Maybe there is. Maybe that number is too large to be feasible. Maybe it’s this city. Maybe city-living has become too much for this country girl. Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s strained friendships.

Lately, I’ve found myself being the support person for everyone around me and it’s made me feel like I can’t actually be upset about quarantine or personal questions and struggles I’m having. I have friends going through break-ups that I want to be there for, so how can I go to them for my own support? Through my attempts to be positive, it feels like I’ve excluded myself from the ability to share a lot of the feelings I’ve been feeling, deeply.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a checklist that you could scroll through, answer yes or no to each item, and receive the perfect path to take? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could turn off questions or emotions that you don’t like coming up? But as a human and not a computer program we don’t have that ability. I almost wrote “we don’t have that luxury” but what a gross sentence. To view our struggles, free will, options, and opportunities as a burden?

It seems that every time I think I’ve hit the low of the quarantine, another low comes along. I’m not sure exactly what it was about today, but my mood just would not click. I worked out, I went on a long walk in the fresh air (breathed through a mask, of course), made coffee, made breakfast, made lunch, cleaned the apartment. And still, just felt like a dud. I felt frustrated and petulant, frenetic and exhausted, everything was off. Quarantine and so much time in a box have a weird way of making you feel safe and vulnerable all at once. Both suffocated and lonely.

This is one of the weird rides I have ever been on and it continues to get weirder and more difficult.

Temp Check

I take my temperature every day, literally and figuratively.  It’s how I cope, how I breathe in and out, and how I determine the way that I’m going to care for myself over the course of the new day. Sometimes self-care is staying in bed all day, sometimes it’s a bath, sometimes it’s a run. Yesterday’s self-care looked like organizing the blog’s press and finessing the coding (with significant assistance from my code-literate fiancé — first time I’ve used that word on here… 🥰).

So how are you doing? What’s your temperature?  Today mine is normal, although I have a slight cough that’s likely a result of the change of season I’m witnessing from my window. I’m worried about my family. My parents are both in high-risk groups and both essential personnel, meaning they haven’t stopped going to work. My mother, brother, and sister-in-law are in medicine and on the front-lines of Covid-19. My niece is less than four months old, I think about her every day.

I’ve prioritized pausing and allowing myself to feel everything that I am feeling. Despite being on day 45 of quarantine it is not ‘business as usual’. Nothing about this situation is usual. Letting myself feel concerned is part of how I am caring for myself.

A few things that are helping …

 

make believe: a quiet quarantine


I’m currently on day seven of social distancing. With COVID-19 raging across the United States and examples of the extreme circumstances in other countries, I’ve made the decision to distance myself from the New York City society. I have ventured out a handful of times over the past week for groceries, and one late night ice cream run, but otherwise are staying inside. I was laid off from my full time job earlier this week (a side-effect of the virus) so I’ve been spending lots of time with the cats in our petite 750 sq ft apartment.

While this week has been difficult, especially considering my new ‘unemployed’ status, it has developed into an opportunity for deep reflection, introspection, and connection. As I wrote on my IG, I’ve been doing a lot of journaling lately. My greatest self discovery is that while I am scared to be unemployed it doesn’t make me unhappy. In fact, the result has been quite the opposite. I struggled to sleep the first few nights, but as my new life began to unfold (a new interview, a potential nannying position, a positional virtual doula client) I found myself feeling more and more peaceful. Friends have even said that over the past few days I’ve seemed more ‘relaxed’ and ‘quiet’. I feel like I’ve lived the previous several years in a frenetic, fussy state and I’m finally resting.

My hope is that isolation during this virus (whether chosen by your or by your city/country) has granted you a few moments of peace. Time to be quiet with yourself or with your family.

 

Here are a few things to make your days inside feel a little more like a choice and less like an emergency mandate:

a boost to your cellular nutrition.

somewhere to donate if you have a little extra.

something cozy to slip into post-bath.

a gentle place to sit and reflect.

a little fuel for a fiery night in with your someone special.

this little light with a big scent.

a new place to feel productive.

 

 

make believe: a soft, spring welcome

 

While autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, lately I’m finding myself craving sping. I don’t know if this is because of the recent temperature drop or because winters in the northeast USA tend to last about five months, but I cannot get the thought of spring out of my mind. Just imagining the clear light creeping in on an early morning or the thought of warm wind instead of a cutting chill is giving me the stamina to continue through a few more weeks.

I’m filling my thoughts with woven totes, linen dresses, airy morning light, and menus planned around soon-to-be-in-season vegetables. Thoughts of long walks at sunset, cool blue-grey mornings, and coffee sipped on a balcony. Thoughts of peace, calm, and reawakening.

 

A few bits to help you shape a beautiful spring moment:

a sandal that’s perfect for long, sun drenched walks.

everything you could need for a weekend away packed into this eco-friendly duffle.

this recipe.

this blush to help you envision cheeks pinked with morning air.

a button-down for days that flucuate between chilly and warm.

this little light with a big scent.

2020 Reading List

 

I’d like to use this year for a little reading repertoire housekeeping. Over lunch with a friend a few weeks back I divulged a great secret of mine: I’ve never read Faulkner. I’ll admit, I pride myself on having a thorough knowledge of the classics. However, the expression on her face showed how much I was missing. A quick review of my previous reads and I was convinced, I’m missing too many of the greats.

So in 2020, to kick off a decade, I want to either read or reread* many of the classics that have shaped modern writers. Off to a good start, I began Crime and Punishment on January second and am a little over halfway through. One nearly down, many to go. So here is my tentative list of novels to read this year.

 

+ Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Considered the first great novel of his “mature” period of writing, it focuses on the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her money.

+ The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner Divided into four sections told from four different perspectives, the book is both a notoriously arduous and disturbing read, whose often disorienting narration requires patience and persistence, and whose subject matter confronts painful themes, among which reside incest and suicide. A true tale of endurance and human suffering which will stay with readers for a very long time indeed.

+ As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner The author’s strongest display of the stream-of-consciousness narrative and is ranked 35th in the Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century no less.

+ Play It As It Lays: A Novel by Joan Didion “Simple, restrained, intelligent, well-structured, witty, irresistibly relentless, forthright in diction, and untainted by the sensational, Play It As It Lays is a book of outstanding literary quality.” ―Library Journal

+ The White Album by Joan Didion A 1979 book of essays by Joan Didion. The subjects of the essays range widely and represent a mixture of memoir, criticism, and journalism, focusing on the history and politics of California in the late 1960s and early 70s.

+ The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger* Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States for its themes of angst and alienation, and as a critique on superficiality in society.

+ The Deer Park by Norman Mailer “A writer of the greatest and most reckless talent . . . [Mailer] drives us up and down The Deer Park at breakneck speed. It is a trip through unfamiliar country, for a time funny and then unnerving.” —The New Yorker

+ Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston* It is considered a classic of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, and it is likely Hurston’s best known work, following the life of Janie Crawford as she tries to discover herself through a series of marriages. The book is deeply moving as it confronts issues of female identity with the linguistic richness of 1930s Florida.

+ The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, it is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

+ Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut An American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.

+ Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Set in a dystopian future where literature (and all original thought) is on the brink of extinction.

+ The Jungle by Upton Sinclair* The book galvanized public opinion and led to a forced government investigation that eventually caused the passage of pure food laws. Today, it’s often referenced in response to poor working conditions and food safety laws.

+ The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway* 1926 novel portraying American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls and the bullfights.

+ Hiroshima by John Hersey 1946 piece exploring how six survivors experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, and its aftermath.

+ One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey Set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital, the narrative serves as a study of institutional processes and the human mind as well as a critique of behaviorism and a tribute to individualistic principles.

+ I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou A powerful American classic that tells of her struggles growing up during the Great Depression, and the abuse she suffered.

+ Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller* 1949 stage play, it won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

+ On the Road by Jack Kerouac A defining work of the postwar “Beat” culture and both a physical and spiritual journey of the narrator who tries to find meaning in his life through his friends, lovers, and adventures around the U.S.

+ The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper*At the time of Cooper’s writing, U.S. settlers believed in, and perpetrated the myth that, Native Americans were disappearing, believing they would ultimately be assimilated or killed off entirely due to the genocidal structure of settler colonialism. This allowed settlers to view themselves as the original people of the land and reinforced their belief in scientific racism and European ethnic and racial superiority. 

+ Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand* A fictional dystopian United States where all the world’s movers and shakers have abandoned society, leaving the world and the remaining people in a state of flux. 

+ Walden by Henry David Thoreau* One man’s autobiographical attempt to find simplicity, self-reliance, and peace through solitude and nature.