Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Step One: Owning it.

I'm coaching one of our medical students for our upcoming Medical Student Teaching Competition. My assigned student, Kate P., is awesome. We've been meeting up and our energies line up perfectly. She's got spunk and great ideas. She's already a winner in my book.


This is from our pow wow last week. What was going on here was our lesson on "Owning it." (A sultry "smize" and a minimum of a 3-inch heels are required for this exercise if you're under 5'6".) Because when you speak or teach, of course, you have to OWN the stage.


And okay, okay. Maybe I exaggerate about the heel-height requirement but Kate was a good sport about it either way. And y'all already know how I feel about the whole "look good-feel good" thing.

Yes, ma'am and yes, sir.

And no, this wasn't something misogynistic or anything. I have similar conversations with my male mentees about ways to turn up swag when given the floor to speak. So, of course, it doesn't mean heels and a dress for every woman. But for me, it does. And since the point I make is that when you LOOK good, you FEEL good--and when you FEEL good, you DO good.

Or well. Hell, you get the picture.

And that Kate? She looks good, man.

Maaaaaan. Micky and Rocky Balboa don't have NOTHIN' on us.


Prime Time Deion Sanders said it best:

Thats some real talk, man.

You can learn more about our Emory Medical Student Teaching Competition here.


Here's the AMAZING highlight video from last year's Emory MSTC put together by the extremely talented Chris S. (one of our students.) Shout out to our exceptional committee of student leaders who are organizing this event and to all of the students who have participated in any way. I'm SO in awe of these guys.  (This year it's on August 5 for those at Emory!)

Happy Tuesday, y'all. #bestjobever #teamkatethegreat #emorymstc

Saturday Night.

The other day I went to see one of my patients in the evening. The nursing staff had paged and said this patient was feeling anxious and upset and had asked for me. Me specifically. I had some things to do at Grady and was in the vicinity anyway so decided to just come on in.


A lot has been going on with my patient. A lot. There was fear involved. A lot of fear. And frustration, too. And the thing about fear and frustration is that they can make us behave in ways that aren't always in our character. And since I get that usually I don't take such things personally. I recite the mantra that I tell my students: "This isn't about you." Because it almost never is.

But still.

At, like, 8-something PM on a Saturday night, I went to see my patient. I tapped on that door and creaked open the hinge expecting to be met with relief. Or at least some raw emotion and readiness to talk which I could have easily worked with, you know?

Instead, fear flipped an ugly switch on and I walked into a barrage of really unkind words and behaviors. Passive-aggressive. Or rather just sort of nasty-aggressive. Not dangerous or threatening. Just mean, you know? And I've truly grown to care for this patient so not only did those words catch me by surprise--they hurt. My feelings were genuinely hurt.


When the nurses called me, I was sure that the combination of the rapport we'd built so far and the fact that I was up there after visiting hours when the lights get turned down would allay whatever had been going on. I was wrong.

I removed myself from that room and headed out to elevator. I snapped this photo of myself in the vestibule because I wanted to look at it and reflect on how I was feeling. Because my feelings were complicated.


The hospital was so empty at that hour that I stepped onto an empty lift and leaned my head against the wall on the way down. I could feel my pulse quickening and my face getting hot. Next thing I knew, my eyes welled up with tears and, before I could even stop them, I started to cry.

Kind of hard, actually.

I can't fully explain what I was feeling. Some of it was that my feelings were hurt. But that was only part of it. Mostly, I was just sad. Sad for my patient and this fear and this ugly behavior that came with it. Because that kind of thing almost always impedes excellent patient care by robbing even the most well meaning providers of their empathy. And empathy is a necessary element in quality patient care if you ask me. This patient didn't need anything else to work against all that was already happening.

Not at all.

So right now I'm feeling so sad. Like, every time I even think about the gigantic mountains that so many of my patients like this one are up against I want to steal away over and over again into the quietest elevators to weep into the crook of my white coat--just like I did on Saturday night. With no one looking or hearing or judging. Then, just maybe, even crying out into a vacuous airspace to my God or the Grady gods or any being with powers willing to take this on. Something, anything to defy the suffocating pragmatism and wrestle down the hopelessness I feel in such moments.

Maybe that would make me feel better, you know?

Then, when the doors pop back open, I can shadow box before re-emerging. Pop out of that elevator like a rejuvenated ninja with a new fight and a thicker skin. Believing in the little rays of light that sometimes seep through the darkness faced by so many of my patients, this one included. Or maybe even embracing some lofty idea that I could be that ray of light.


I am realizing that our patients aren't the only vulnerable people in the hospital. We are vulnerable, too. We so very are. Our universal precautions don't protect us from one of the most infectious exposures we face in caring for patients. . . .love.

On Saturday night, my patient was mean to me. Really mean. And yes, it was about fear but still. I have nothing in my little bag of Internal Medicine tricks to eradicate the effects of all that. I don't.

You know? Sometimes? Sometimes, this job is hard, man.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It don't stop.

"Hey Dr. M! You've been sitting in the same place for a while now. What are you doing?"

"Reading," I replied.

"Reading what?"

"Reading up," I said.

"Reading up on what?"

"On my patients." I didn't even look away from the computer screen when I said that.

"Like a paper or doing a literature search or what?"

"No. Just background stuff. And literature searches. And more. I don't know what's wrong with a lot of my patients. So I'm reading."

"Wait, what?"

"You heard me."

"You don't know what's wrong?"

"Nope. I like, don't. So I'm reading. So I can."

"But you're an attending. You're supposed to know what's wrong with everyone!"


"Dr. Manning? Dr. Manning!"

"SSSSHHHHHH!!!!  Can't you see I'm reading!"

"Oh, okay. Sorry."

Hey students and residents! Newsflash: We DON'T know everything. And guess what? When we get home we grab some dinner, wash the dishes and then read up, too. Just like you. The only difference is that the exam is somebody's mama, somebody's daddy or somebody's child.

Higher stakes, yo.

Alright. Let me get back to reading, okay? I have a test tomorrow.

Happy Humpday.


"It's complicated," you said with a shake of your head. "You know? I mean, you know. Stuff is just so complicated with us."

I knew exactly what you meant by "us." You were referring to our shared culture and how tricky it is to navigate through it sometimes. And sure, it isn't that way with every black family. But still. I understood what you were saying.

"I'm sorry this is making it harder for you," I responded. I was leaning on my knee with my hand wrapped around my chin. I couldn't really think of much else to say.

"When somebody says they had sex with dude and they're a dude, tell the truth--deep down what do you feel inside?"

Your question caught me off guard. "Me?"

"Yeah. You."

"Well. I guess I don't think much of anything. I think it's your business, you know? But if you're asking do I feel bothered by it, no. I just don't. I know some people do. But I don't."

"A lot of people feel disgusted. I see it in their face when somebody is all obviously a gay dude, you know? I have friends like that. And they just don't care what nobody thinks about them. And see, me? That's what I don't want. I don't want that."


"Does that sound crazy?"

"What--not wanting to be looked at with disgust? No. Not to me."

"What would you do?"

Your questions were making my head hurt. I had never been asked these things so directly. But it was good. Good to be put in a position to challenge empathy.

"What would I do if what? Like if . . . I guess I want to understand what you're asking."

"If you loved a woman. Like the way you love your husband." You pointed at my wedding ring when you said that.

My first instinct was to answer immediately, impulsively. But then I decided to respect your question and actually pause to think about it.

What would I do if I loved a woman the way I love Harry? What exactly would I do?

Well. The truth is that I can't be fully sure. But I can guess. And that postulation would be based upon more than just me being "true to myself" and all that sort of thing. It would be grounded in how my family has always treated me and how sure I am that my parents would love me no matter what. And, as a result, they'd love who I love, too. I'm pretty sure my true friends would stick around and that I'd likely have just as everyday-boring-what's-for-dinner-wash-the-dishes-boring as I do now.

Just with a woman.

"Probably most of the same things I do now. Just with a woman."

"You'd still go to church?"

Lord. These questions.

"I think I would."

My head began to throb right after that because I started sifting through what it would look like to go to my church with a wife instead of a husband. And though I can't say it would be a no-go, I can say it would complicate things. That's for sure.

"So you'd be all out in the open? Like, you wouldn't be scared?"

"Ummm. It all sounds scary because that's not my reality. But hiding sounds much scarier to me. It sounds scarier than anything we've talked about so far." I bit my lip an let myself continue pondering your queries.

"Yeah. I can see that." You turned and faced the window. Not in a rude way, though. I think you just wanted to feel the sun on your face. I could still see the side of your cheek and your eyes. They looked like brown pools of water when you gazed into the sunlight. It was beautiful, actually.

"I . . .you know. . .I have a super supportive family," I added on. I needed you to know that. I didn't want to trivialize your feelings. "A lot of people loving and accepting you for who you are can make you brave, you know? So I think with that, it wouldn't be as hard for me."

You shifted back toward me and turned one side of your mouth upward. "I could see that when you walked in. Somebody told you that you were important when you were a little girl. And you believed it."


"I . . .I don't even know how to respond to that."

"It's true, though, isn't it?"

I nodded slowly while still holding your searing eye contact.

"Stuff would be easier for me if that was my story. But it's not."

Since I didn't know what to say to that, I just stayed quiet.  After a few moments I spoke. "I feel a little scared that the hiding is standing in the way of you getting better."

You just stared at me without speaking when I said that, lost in your own thoughts. I waited to see what you'd say, the pause uncomfortable and prolonged. Finally, I couldn't take it any more.

"Tell me what you're thinking," I said.

"You know what I'm thinking, Dr. Manning? I'm thinking shit is complicated. That's what I'm thinking."

"But it doesn't have to be." As soon as I said that I immediately wished I hadn't. I hoped you didn't take it the wrong way. Easy for me to simplify the biggest hurdle of your young life. "I'm sorry I said that," I whispered.

You chuckled. "That's okay, baby." I immediately felt relieved. You raised one eyebrow and then added, "You want to know the real secret about complicated shit?" I widened my eyes in response to that, nudging you to go on. "The real secret about all complicated shit is just that--it's complicated for no reason. It never has to be complicated at all. But for whatever reason, it just is."

And that? That was some real talk right there.

And this? This is Grady. The place where I am challenged and pushed to search my heart. And think long and hard about what hides in the shadows of my mind.


Happy Tuesday.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Randomida, Part 2.

"Yes, we done come a long way like them slim ass cigarettes--
from Virginia--and we don't stop so we just gon' continue."

~ Andre 3000 from Outkast

Good morning, y'all. First this:

I was in clinic the other week with these three women. We were all the physicians leading the sessions that day in the Primary Care, Liver, and Women's Clinics. As a matter of fact, the four of us were the only attending physicians on the schedule that day.


If it is lost on you, let me make it more transparent. These four women couldn't have received privileges at Grady 50 years ago. Moreover, 1972 marks the year that any woman who looks like these four even graduated from the medical school that employs them as physician leaders.

Man. If I wasn't a doctor who isn't a big fan of cigarettes, I would've lit a Virginia Slim up in that sucker and shook the ashes into the hand of anyone who doubted us.

(If you're too young to get the Virginia Slims reference, then you need to Google image it.)


What else?

Yesterday morning I scooted in early to round before church. I have this patient that I'm super worried about and I've been seeing him first in the mornings and last before I go.

"You worried about me, ain't you?" he asked.

"Is it that obvious?"

"Kinda." He chuckled. "It feel good to have somebody feeling pressed about you."

I smiled when he said that. Pressed. Press-ure suggests some oppressive obligation to care. But pressed? That was decidedly less so. "You know? I am pressed. I want you to get better."

"Me, too."

After that, I just sat there and held his hand for a little bit. I asked him what I could do for him before I left and that was his request. So I obliged him.

It made me feel less worried, holding his hand. But I'm still pressed.


Oh yes. This:

I was in L.A. last week visiting my family and caught up with an old friend.


Here's the thing---we used to be very, very, very close. And life and states sort of happened and we lost touch. Then one day I ran into someone who gave me this idea that my old friend had changed and that she wouldn't be interested in reconnecting with any people from way back when. I'm not sure why, but I allowed myself to believe that.

Nothing could have been more inaccurate. I found her a few months back on social media. And a few days ago I saw her for the first time in probably about 17 years or so.

You know what? It was as if not a single day had passed. We were completely lock step and she was exactly the same person.  Well, not exactly the same since it had been 17 years but actually, like a lot of us, even better. She was just as funny and cool and silly and great. We laughed out loud and never missed a beat.


Jocelyn P. used to be my roommate during my first year of medical school. She was in Jack and Jill with me as a kid and was one of my very best friends growing up. I am not so much ashamed of us drifting but I am ashamed that I let someone hold me from trying to reach out based on a random report from someone I never talk to.

I learned something that day. Just another reminder to go with my gut, you know? I have a lot of friends like Jocelyn. Not who so much got away but who I don't always see but whom fall right into our old natural whenever we do.

It was just awesome, man. I'm so happy that we're back in stride again.


Did I tell y'all that this sweet girl is getting married? I was in L.A. for her wedding shower. It was exquisitely sweet, too. And doesn't she look beautiful and happy? And don't you just want to reach out and touch that fro of hers?


More on that soon. Nauseatingly more, actually.


Three random snapshots from Los Angeles. Why? Why not?

The first is from a perfect weather day that had me feeling oh-so-Cali-girl. The last one is from a hellacious hike JoLai and I did at Scenic Overlook mountain in Baldwin Hills. How insane is that view of the city?

And duh. Obvi I had to get the $20 "busy toe" pedicure. The lady asked what I wanted and I told her, "The most obnoxious thing you can come up with." She looked puzzled at first but seems to have gotten the idea.


I'm so in love with my husband. Good Lord that man is just meant for me. I spend half of my days swooning and the other half terrified because of the vulnerability I feel in loving him so much.

Maybe not 50/50. More like 80/20. That's more accurate.

Hey. We went to the drive in movie theater recently with the kids. It was so freaking awesome. Does anyone else still do this? Our kids loved it. And it was like $20 bucks for all of us.

Same price as the "busy toe."

Mmmmm hmmmm. What else?

Just a random photo with me and Iris W. She's one of my favorite residents. I adore her. She got asked to be a chief resident shortly after this photo was taken. Which is super awesome.

Ha. I read this thing about how taking selfies is really some sign of pathology and severe insecurity. I should have felt insecure after reading that but instead was just sort of weirdly intrigued.

I do think I love to capture how I'm feeling in a moment. Which means I take selfies.  This one above is one of my all time favorites. I had just been teaching my team and spending time with patients and nurses. I was feeling like I was in the zone and was just so, so glad to be where I was in the moment. So that expression is just that. 

In fact, I was hearing this song on my mental iPod that says: "I'm in my zone, I'm feeling it. . . ."

I sent this to my resident a few weeks ago. Why? Why not.


Do selfies mean pathology? Well. I think everybody is pathologic, me included. I'm not so sure what pathology this represents in me but--as Ms. Moon says---ah lah.

I don't have a selfie stick though.



And lastly, this.

That's all I got.

Oh, and this.


Happy Monday.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Mistaken identity.

Today after walking into a patient room, a gentleman sees me and immediately pulls back his covers to his lap the moment I enter:

Him:  "Hey there. Did you want to see my pe--"
Me:   "WHOOOOAAA. . WHOOOAAAA. . nooo, uh, n-n-nooo sir."
Him: "Oh, Lord. I thought you was Urology."


Happy Friday.

Randomida, Part 1.

First, this really cool photo taken by one of my former students turned former residents who is now engaged to be married to another one of my former students turned former residents. She was on her patio during a going away gathering and snapped this shot of Grady. Which I promptly stole from Facebook and then altered with this cool app that makes photos look like paintings.

Isn't this picture RAD? I think so.


I have a summer cold. My head feels like it was pumped up with a bicycle pump and my nostrils stay somewhere between completely swollen shut or annoyingly leaky. My skin has that clammy-ish feeling like you sort of have a fever but the kind that never seems to be one when you check.


So mostly, I'm sick enough to feel crappy but too well to call off of work. Which really stinks because everyone knows that the treatment of choice for this kind of illness is curling up on your couch under your favorite comforter. But that wasn't an option since I have so much to do.

I truly do.

I've missed you for the last few weeks. And no, I'm not about to launch into a bunch of sappy excuses about blogger hiatuses. Instead, I'll just say that I miss you. Because I do.

I just started wards today. Beyond my swimmy-headed yuck it was a good day. I doused myself in hand sanitizer and used a droplet mask when I could. My team so far is awesome so that's really good.

I loved all the patients I saw today. They were all so dear and they made it hard for me to choose an F.P. I did settle on one though. This amazing chap that I fell in love with the moment he laughed. So very perfect, that laugh.


Oh, yes. I meant to tell you about this:

This sweet girl hung out with me Tuesday as a "medical student for the day." It was a part of a cool auction prize that I'd offered up last spring for a fundraiser. Who'd of thunk it that someone would actually bite?


We had a wonderful time. Lauren, my trusty medical student, was fantastic. She asked excellent questions, was super engaged, and truly took the experience seriously. It was so much fun.

We talked all about the physical examination and why we do what we do. I explained blood pressure measurements and otoscopes and ophthalmoscopes, too. She sat in on small groups and got a feel for the lecture hall, too. We even met with Dr. Schwartz, the Dean of Admissions. She handled it all with aplomb and it was good.

Yeah. So that was cool. You can't even tell how headcold-yucky I was feeling from this photo, can you? (I bet my mom will squint at it and suggest that I look "puny.")


More tomorrow. I think. Either way, I need to go to bed. I do have stuff to talk about though. So come back, okay? See you then.

Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015



Friend:  "What on earth is this photo that you just texted me?"

Me: "That's my new whip!"

Friend: "What I saw in that picture was not a whip. Please tell me you didn't."

Me:  "I got a minivan."

Friend:  *yelps* "Wow.You have got to be shitting me."

Me:  "Nope."

Friend:  "No way. Dude. Seriously. You really went and got a minivan?"

Me:  "Yup."

Friend:  "OMG."

Me:  "It's so tricked out, too."

Friend: "Lord Jesus. You know I love you, right? But you lose like 375 million cool points for this move. No. That's 375 trillion."

Me:  "That's quite a cool point deficit."

Friend:  "Uhhhh, yeah."

Me:  "But see . .  here's the thing:  The woman behind the wheel defines what cool is. Not what wheel she's behind. You feel me?"

Friend:  0_0 *silence*


Me: "You're a hater."

Friend: "I'm never meeting you out anywhere again. Especially if they have a valet."

Me:  "Alright now. Don't ask me to pick up your kids. Or you. I mean it."

Friend:  "Uhhhh. . . . Don't worry."


I need new friends, man.


Yeah, so I got my swagger wagon today. Sure did. Yahoooooo! I told the BHE what I had in mind and he and the kids went to go pick one out.

Have I ever told you how car dealership negotiations give me the willies? Oh. Well, they do. So God love that man for doing that and those sweet boys for being all excited about listening to pitches and spiels and reviewing bells and whistles and all that. I didn't even want to be test driving anything. I just wanted to show up, try it once and roll out.

Which is exactly what happened.

Well. As I dreamed about way back in 2011 with this post (and also this post), it is as awesome as I imagined. Automatic doors, rear entertainment system and even a real, legit AC plug outlet in back--I kid you not. Super, duper rad, man.

Let the record show:  I will never get out of my car to open the door for a child again. Like, ever.

Oh, and man or lady at Publix who asks if I'd like help with my groceries? That's a yes. Because I'm gonna post up in my captain's chair talking to my husband on the bluetooth phone while my non oppressive amount of groceries gets loaded into the surprisingly vast amount of cargo space available with just the push of a button.

And don't even get my started with the keyless entry, y'all. Chile please.

What can I say? I am a marcher to my own trial subscription of Siri XM Radio. Hate if you wish. But don't be jealous when you see me rolling past you in the carpool lane looking all zen. With my grey hair, my minivan and my laptop charging in the back through a bona fide plug.

I'm just saying.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Fitness Self Esteem.

Us at Ryan's Run 2015

A few weeks ago, I took the kids with me to do a 5K organized by a group of friends from Zachary's school. The race--called "Ryan's Run"-- was put together in memory of my friend Katie's son whose untimely death came after a painful struggle with mental illness. The proceeds all went to the Central Night Shelter for Men where Katie serves as the director. Walking distance from Grady, Central Night Shelter has helped countless numbers of my patients. Thanks to Katie, not only do I have an inside track to helping my patients but also a wonderful place for my family to go and volunteer.

Yeah, so Ryan's Run would raise a substantial amount for a place that has looked out for some of my most vulnerable patients but especially it would shed light on the often silent pain endured by those who fight with mental health issues. My point in saying all this is simple: It was important that we were there.

Very important.

So when I got the kids up that morning, even though they were grumbling about being sleepy and it being earrrrrrly--I wasn't taking no for an answer. No, ma'am. No, sir.

With Katie and the guests at CNS. 

Anyways. So the race was awesome and super well attended. The sky was extra blue and the laughs extra light. I got to run right beside Katie and reflect on her boy and even wave at a few of the guys from the shelter who'd come to cheer her on from the street. And truly, it was special and amazing and as beautiful as it all sounds.

Yes, it was.

And although I loved that day and that race, that actually isn't the point of this post. That said, the point is related to it since it comes from  something that I noticed that day. It's  been lingering in my head ever since.


So, check it: The kids and I get down to the race which started up at the Georgia State Capitol just a few blocks away from Grady. We parked at the hospital to keep things easy and trucked it on over for the 8 o'clock gun. Like I said, the sky was a technicolor blue and there was even this nice and unseasonably cool breeze to boot. So yeah, everything was cool--literally and figuratively.

As we walked over, the kids began to make some small talk.

"Mom? How far is the race again?" Zachary asked.

"It's a 5K. Which is 3.1 miles."

"THREE MILES?!" Isaiah exclaimed. "How far is the fun run?"

"I think that's only a mile."

"Well. I'm only doing the fun run." Isaiah folded his arms and started shuffling his feet.

"I think you guys can totally make it 3 miles. You don't have to run fast, son. And besides, you ran cross country, Isaiah. This will be easy for you."

"Okay, I'll try. But 3 grown up miles seems really far for a kid to run."

"Not my kids." I looked over my shoulder and smiled at him. Which didn't exactly make him feel any different but that was okay, too.

Zachary was mostly tuned out during this exchange but finally chimed in."Hey Mom? Who else will be there?"I named a few people from his school including some of his mates from his grade level. And that seemed to be enough to make him content. Or, at least, cool enough for him to not have anything more to say.


So anyways,  we get to the race and say all of our hellos to friends and other parents. We aask the predictable questions about summer plans, camps, and the like. And while we were standing there, Zack sees a couple of his buddies from 2nd grade and notifies me that he's going to go and run with them. I nod and watched him scurry off. And again, this was cool, too, since Ryan's Run was totally a family affair and everyone in that crowd was like an auntie or an uncle to my kids.


So the "ready, set, go!" gets yelled and we all take off. And by "take off" I mean that some of us started running at our regular pace while others lit out as soon as they had the green light to do so. And you know what? Zachary Manning was in that latter group.


You know what else? That dude ran next to a few kids and adults that run fast on a regular basis. And let me tell you--that boy jumped right in there and ran all 3.1 of those miles in under 26 minutes. He sure as hell did.


I admit that I trotted pretty slowly. Time wasn't really something I was thinking about for this race but I also knew in my head that I hadn't been doing much training either. That said, Zachary had never run a full 5K or much of anything close to that in his life. Does he run and exercise a lot? Sure. But had he run a 5K before June 15? Nope. That didn't stop him from knocking out those three sub-8 1/2 minute miles like it wasn't nothing, though.

No, it did not.

Interestingly, Isaiah--the one who actually has run distance before--found the big race daunting. The whole adults-running-next-to-him thing made him question his ability. That and the fact that it was an official 5K.


This. This is exactly what I'm reflecting on today--this whole idea of what I like to refer to as "fitness self esteem."

Yes. That.

Now. Let me explain. See, fitness self esteem is separate from regular self esteem although the two can and often do intertwine. Just because you have a  high regular self esteem doesn't mean that it's that way across the board. You could think super highly of yourself in most settings but still have an abysmal fitness self esteem.

Confused yet? Please. Stay with me, I'm going somewhere and am trying to unpack this.

Okay. So check it. My son Zachary? That kid has a super high fitness self esteem. That is, he has every belief in what his mind and body can come together to achieve. He doesn't waste much time factoring in the reasons why he couldn't or shouldn't be able to do things. And because of that, he goes extra hard at most things with the idea that success is attainable. Which translates to--you guessed it--success.


Me? Admittedly, I don't have a naturally high fitness self esteem. Nope. I think I decided a long time ago that my body wasn't really that athletic and that most things that I can do are simply because I've pushed myself. But the truth is, I probably don't nudge my body even close to what it is really capable of doing. Mostly because I've convinced myself of some false limit.


Now see. . .that Zack? When he showed up at Ryan's Run, it never even occurred to him that he couldn't run those 3 miles. All he knows is that he's--to quote him--"an active kid." That's enough to keep him believing that he's in the running to actually win whatever contest he enters.


What that means is that he attacks physical things with a different zeal. He pushes himself and doesn't hit the pressure release valve when the going gets tough. You know why? Because he gets it that his real limit lies somewhere beyond the point where most people choose to give up. Yup.

Still with me? Cool.

Man. When I first started running, I was super intimidated by it. Hearing someone even utter the words 5K or any K for that matter gave me butterflies. But even now that I've done 7 half marathons, three ten milers and a bunch more "Ks" since then, I recognize that I am still plagued with a sometimes shaky fitness self esteem when it comes to running. Which totally holds me back from some probably achievable goals as a runner.


I get that someone reading this is like, "So what? Why not just get out there and have fun! You're doing plenty, woman!" I get that. But I see all of this as a life metaphor, you know? I do.

But more on that in a moment.

Okay, so one of my running partners is a Tuskegee sorority sister of mine named Valen M. When I run with Valen, I try not to be intimidated but I so am. It's like she finds a way to get inside of my head to kick my low fitness self esteem straight in the butt. She tells me exactly what my body can do, demands more of me and then holds me to her standard. And no. She's not like a trainer or anything like that. Instead, she's just a friend who happens to have this really high fitness self esteem. Even though I always feel a little scared to run with Valen,  I always leave feeling totally badass.


With my  super strong sissy, Valen

There was this one day that Valen and I were running through Candler Park and we turned the corner going toward the big hill in front of Mary Lin Elementary School. And she looked at me and said, "No walking. At all." Yeah. She did and that was that. And when I almost, almost, almost got to the last few feet toward the top of that hill, I threw my hands up and started to walk.

"I have to catch my breath!" I huffed.

"You could have caught your breath in 60 more seconds, Kim! Trust your body! Come on!"

And you know? She was right. I wasn't dying. I was just tired. And. . I don't know. . . .just accepting of this idea that at my very, very, very best all I can run is a 10 minute and twenty second mile over a long distance. I also told myself that hills like that one can get almost tackled but not totally. And if they do even get quasi-tackled? It's still not to my full physical capacity. But my Zachary? Chile please. He would have gone balls to the wall and taken that hill, chopped it up, melted it down and put it around his neck as a finisher's medal.


I have this other very good friend and fellow running mate named Frieda J. (aka Free-Free.)  We've run a bunch of things together. And that Free-Free? Man. She's another person with a high fitness self esteem.


Case in point:

Like, tomorrow a bunch of us are signed up to run the Peachtree Road Race--this huge 10K that goes up Peachtree Road in Atlanta on the 4th of July each year. This year, Free-Free keeps saying that she wants us to run a sub-60 minute 10K. And seriously, like every other text message she sends me says that (followed by a bunch of emoticons.) But every time she does, I respond by telling her "no way" or coming back with some sort of snappy reply that lets her know that sub-60 isn't in the cards for me.

My super speedy Boston marathoner friend, Julie E.

And yes, if you are one of those speedy-racer runners who is snickering at this as a goal, then all I can say is good for you. But for me, that just isn't something that I can see right now. It just isn't.


And okay, part of it is that I have not really been training so well. But mostly, I think it's something else. My body is strong and able to do so much. The more I think about this concept of fitness self esteem and Zachary's sub-26 minute 5K, the more  I take pause.


I mean seriously . . .  COULD my body run 6.2 nine-minute-and-some-change miles tomorrow? You know? Probably. I mean. . . if my mind allowed me to push through some discomfort. . . .sure. I know I could. But I guess someway somehow it has gotten into my head that doing that just isn't in me. And now I've guzzled down my own Kool-Aid on the subject.


So. Here is the REAL question: If it isn't your fitness self esteem that could use a boost, what then is it? And in what areas are you the equivalent of a Boston Marathoner? See, for me? When it comes to writing or teaching or public speaking? Shoooot. I'm like Meb Keflezighi, man. Fast, furious and expecting to be the one to bust through the ribbon every time. And even when I don't? I still see myself as a Boston qualifier the whole way.

That Isaiah? He thinks that no one has a more analytical mind than he does. If something is broken, he holds out his hand, sure that just placing the non-working item there will surely lead to it getting fixed. By him. And guess what? It almost always does. Is it because all of our broken items just didn't really require much? Or is it really because Isaiah goes into problem-solving with a tenacity that exceeds that of most others?

So what are you a total boss at where you feel like you're in the zone? And more importantly, where have you thrown down speed breakers because you've convinced yourself that you just have to catch your breath?


Sure. There are the obvious physical differences between some us. Of course. But really. . . are people who run 8 minute and lower per-mile speeds or who do crazy Cross Fit routines or who run first place in the Boston like Meb K. just wired differently than me? My vote is mostly no. I see plus-sized men and women flying by me in half marathons all the time.  Folks who, like the bumble bee and his wings that shouldn't aerodynamically work, believe that they can fly. And so they do.

There is a huge mind portion to fitness self esteem--and esteem in many other things--that has to be dealt with head on if you want to achieve full potential.

Pun intended. Ah hem.

So me? As for the sub-60 minute 10K tomorrow, well. . .let's just say I'm still a work in progress. Both mentally and physically. But I will let this idea marinate in my head some more and start doing the work to tackle my fitness self esteem. Because there is a such thing. At least I think there is.

Which again, is nothing more than a parallel to all the complexities of self image, right?

Yeah, man. That's all I got.

Happy day-before-the-Peachtree-Road-Race.  What's your fitness self esteem stopping you from doing? And what other areas are you being held back in because of limits you've mentally set?

Post Peachtree Road Race follow up:

So. . . did Free-Free run a sub-60 10K on July 4? Didn't you see that text from her? Damn right she did.