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Running Through Grief

The night before my mother died, I was in a Pilates class lying on my back when a sharp pain shot through my chest.

Breathing shallow, lying still, waiting for the pain to pass, I thought curiously about what could have brought this own. After all, I am a healthy 35-year old woman, an athlete who runs miles weekly. Eventually the pain passed and I finished the class and went home. The next day when my sister called to tell me that my mother was gone, the pain returned and settled into a caul like presence over my chest. I could feel it for weeks, as I prepared for her memorial service, greeted family members, sorted through her documents, and traveled between Philly and New York attempting to handle my own affairs as I made sense of her final days.

Two weeks would pass and the pressure on my chest evolved into intermittent bouts of shortened breath, and random pains that I was certain were more than muscle aches. I feared something just as final as the kidney disease that turned my mother’s life upside down 25 years ago. It seemed quite probable given that my mother became ill at 39 and her mother died at 45. Maybe there was just something in our genetic make-up that made us prone to chronic illness. Maybe I would be the third generation of women in our family to spend middle age and beyond chronically ill. A few weeks later, I went into my doctor’s appointment ready to face a near fatal diagnosis. As the nurse took my blood pressure she administered a random health screening and asked, “have you experienced depression in the last six months?” I felt an immediate jolt up through my spine into my throat and laughed sarcastically. “Yes, actually! My mom just died.” She immediately apologized and looking aggrieved, turned back to the monitor and saw that my blood pressure was above normal, which wasn’t normal for me but did confirm my fears.

My doctor dismissed the blood pressure reading immediately as soon as she learned about my mother’s death. Still, a little unsure I told her about the other symptoms. The sharp pains in the general area of my kidneys, the heavy weight on my chest, the shortness of breath. She listened and then said; “Nothing will feel normal for a while.” Grief takes its toll on the body. After a full battery of test, I was finally assured that I was not sick. My body was adjusting to loss.

So I put back on my running shoes.

My mother was a runner and like her I run long distances. This year in particular, I’ve competed in more races than I have since high school. I set a goal at the start of 2015 to complete the New York Road Runners “9 + 1”. By running nine races and volunteering for one I could secure entry into the NYC Marathon in 2016. Three weeks after my mother passed, I was standing at the starting line in Central Park for the ‘Boomer Cystic Fibrosis 4 mile Run to Breathe’. How fitting that the race was called “Run to Breathe”. The heavy caul over my chest hadn’t quite passed but at least I now understood what it was and knowing makes all the difference. I dedicated the race to my mom, thinking of her as I rounded the first mile, and noticeably the weight drifted away. With a fuller breath to fuel my muscles, I picked up my pace.

I often tell people I was born running because my mother competed in half marathon races well into her third trimester of pregnancy. After maternity leave when it was time to get back on the track she would bring me with her in my wind-up swing and run her miles while I rocked. By three years old I was ready to join her on the granite track and ran my first mile. I never stopped.

Three weeks after she passed, as I hit mile three in Central Park, the sky opened up and began to pour. Laughter from the runners around me brought a smile to my face. We cheered each other on as we raced through the rainfall toward the finish line. I couldn’t help but feel like she was there with me.

When I was 10 years old I joined my first track team, a track club called the Mallery Challengers. I loved wearing my gold and blue uniform. I ran relay races, 100m, 200m, but very quickly it became clear that I had the combination of endurance and speed that made for a great 800-meter runner. In running I discovered my passion. I discovered that thing that would teach me self-discipline, determination, the will to push through physical limitations, to get better and better every time I got on to the track. I discovered what it meant to do something that you loved. In discovering this I began to understand my mom a little more. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to understanding my mother but running made me feel a little closer to her.

Just as I was discovering my passion, my mother would begin one of her greatest battles. Her life would forever be changed when she was diagnosed with kidney disease at 39. One kidney and then the other failed quickly due to her hypertension, a disease that ran in our family. She looked healthy, vibrant, was always busy at work, or entertaining friends and family. She had long given up running but she never really understood how to manage stress. She just kept working non-stop, day after day. In her job as a caseworker with some of the most vulnerable people in the community – mentally ill, drug addicted, and homeless adults, she supported them through a revolving cycle of crisis. She didn’t take care of herself. She took care of my sister, my dad, and me. She took care of her clients, on call for them 24-hours a day. She took in extended family in need, she made sure her large number of nieces and nephews knew that they could depend on her. She did not stop to figure how to take care of her health.

Yet, here I was at 35, still running, learning to care for myself, to avoid a third generation of women sick and dying before reaching retirement. So with a quarter of a mile left, the sun broke through those dark clouds, and I breathed deep, pumped my arms hard, gaining momentum into an all out sprint in the last 100 meters, feeling strong as I raced toward the finish line.

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Final 2014 Reflections on Love

At the start of 2014, I made a commitment to begin a year long exploration of love. I had no idea where it would lead me. No expectations of how it would turn out. I was guided by a commitment to understanding my relationship to love in all its forms. It’s been quite a productive adventure.

I’m carrying forth a number of gifts into 2015. I wrote a new performance work, “Who Taught You How to Love?”, the first show I’ve written in eight years. I’m preparing to launch a few new creative ventures. I made new friends and collaborators to write and dream up ways of questioning, thinking, creating love. I’ve spent lots of time reflecting, processing, and shedding many layers that are decidedly not love. I let go, well actually….I’m still learning how to let go of what I think I want so that I can receive what is divinely right for me. Thankfully this journey never ends.


A few final reflections on Love as we close out 2014:

  1. Love doesn’t always look, sound, or act the way I want it to.Vivisection-Performance
  2. Love demands that I clear away all that I have hidden from myself; all the parts of me that I wish would just disappear.
  3.  No matter how much I want that other person to love me it will not make the difference. My ability to walk away reflects the level to which I actually love myself.
  4.  Love is making mistakes, admitting those mistakes but it’s not giving up.
  5.  That cracking open of the heart is painful but necessary.
  6.  Sometimes people come into my life not to hold on to, not because they are “The One” but just to show me what’s possible in love.
  7.  Tears are necessary and cleansing.
  8.  Getting back up again and again after what feels like failure is necessary.
  9.  Holding expectations that have not been agreed upon or communicated do more damage in relationships than anything else.
  10.  Letting go of those expectations leaves space for peace and real connection.
  11.  Love has a powerful vibration. The more you open to it the more lovers join your party.
  12.  In love there is always enough space for my needs to be met. In ego, I will always find myself waiting for my turn.
  13.  When I’m completely engaged in the work of loving myself it no longer matters who will show up to love me.


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Media & Communications Internship Opportunity

Unpaid Media & Communications Internship


Create Forward and The Precedential Group

Who We Are:

Create Forward and The Precedential Group are two emerging leaders in social innovation committed to designing transformative strategies for social justice. Their work employs fresh collaborative approaches to organizational and community development to refocus the lens through which the public views some of the most critical issues of our times: mass criminalization and state violence, the school to prison pipeline, and gender justice.


Interning (Innovating) With Us:


Interning with us is the ideal opportunity for a self-starter with substance who wants to learn just at much they want to teach.  From serving as a thought partner on projects to being a part of executive decisions, this internship will be an amazing experiential opportunity. You will work closely with Piper Anderson, the Chief Creative Strategist of Create Forward, and Marlon Peterson, founder of The Precedential Group.  Both Marlon and Piper are national social justice leaders, writers, artists, and thought-implementers.  Working with two start-up social enterprises with these two innovators will provide a unique opportunity build the logistical, creative, and experiential knowledge necessary to progress as social entrepreneurs.


Media / Communications Internship:


The Precedential Group and Create Forward are dedicated to developing programs and convenings that engage targeted audiences in creative ways. Nothing is business as usual, and the ideal candidate for this internship would be responsible for co-creating materials for distribution, and participating in meetings with potential clients and business partners. Our intern would receive training from Create Forward and The Precedential Group in the program conception to implementation and will be expected to translate learned experience to real-world action. In this internship your voice will be valued and expected.


Cornerstone Project: MASS Love

The cornerstone project for this 4-month internship is MASS Love; a multimedia campaign to transform the dehumanizing and destructive impact of mass incarceration on communities of color by generating community dialogue and reflection on the questions, how do we reconcile love in the era of MASS criminalization of Black lives (dead or live)? How do we demonstrate this radical act amid the vivid images that tell us black lives DON’T matter? The media/communications intern will be responsible for managing MASS Love’s editorial calendar, distributing content across our social media channels throughout the month of February and managing media and partnership requests.  


What We Expect From You:

  • Experience with basic website development (HTML proficiency not necessary)
  • Appreciation and desire to use maximize social media as a communication tool, and a    kick-ass energy to trend set using, but not limited to: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, LinkedIn, and latest communication apps
  • Exceptional written and communication skills;
  • Flexible work hours and ability to travel
  • Comfortable reaching out to new organizational partners, clients, etc.
  • Not afraid of being glued to cell phone email and social media
  • Able to manage several projects at once
  • Ability to work independently with reliability
  • A minimum of 10-15 hours per week
  • Desire to lead and follow

What You Gain:

  • Build a professional portfolio of successfully realized communications initiatives
  • Professional coaching and mentorship extending well beyond the length of the internship
  • Opportunity to learn and contribute to the launch of two innovative social enterprises generating creative strategies for social change.
  • Professional networking opportunities

This is an unpaid professional learning opportunity. Students and emerging professionals are encouraged to apply. Please email cover letter and resume to Deadline: January 16, 2015.

Minimum of four month commitment – January-May required

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