issue #108 - the one on running
Leah Fink on personal marathons
As a life + business coach, I have the privilege of helping people discover what they want and help them get there. My professional resume in education and teaching leadership at an Ivy League university is helpful and sounds very fancy. But ultimately, it is the challenges where I fell down and repeatedly picked myself back up that has most prepared me -- and helps me help others -- get past the finish line.
In August of 2017, I had my second baby, a beautiful blue-eyed baby girl named Sydney Thelma. I knew she was my last baby, so I savored this time breastfeeding, sniffing in her newborn smell, and watching her sleep next to me. I loved spending so much time with my squishy baby, but I also really loved using my brain at work in the school system I’d been a passionate part of for nearly 15 years. I could see the three months of [unpaid] maternity leave coming to an end, so I planned a visit back to the place where I worked to show off the baby and get a lay of the land. I knew that it would not be an ideal situation going back, but I was my family’s sole source of health insurance. When I got to my office, I suddenly realized that I was not welcome back. My boss had given my office to someone else, and that person had made it their own. I put on a brave face and decided it wouldn’t be too bad. Then my boss looked directly into my eyes and said, “Prepare yourself that people have ill will against you.” I went back to work anyway, with a desk in a dark basement office and demotion, banished to pump breastmilk for my baby in a literal woodshop. I endured these indignities for the rest of the year before I finally resigned. An unsuccessful lawsuit followed, but that’s a story for another day.
I searched my soul about what I wanted to do next, and after what I had been through, I realized that my heart was in the work of helping new moms navigate life after baby. I started building my own business with new moms’ groups and moms’ nights out, and it felt like it was what I was supposed to be doing. Things are looking up, I thought.
These days people are always talking about how it takes a village to raise children and how American women don’t have those strong, close family connections. Growing up in suburban Michigan, I had the opposite experience. I had a literal village where I slept over my aunts and uncle’s houses every weekend. We went to each other’s soccer games, recitals and had all the holiday dinners around huge tables with way too much food. It was loud and chaotic, but it was also loving and fun. I wished all new moms had the support of family I had, cousins and aunts and uncles who were as close as siblings and second parents.
About a year into my new career, I got a phone call that stopped me in my tracks—One of these cousins who was like a brother died suddenly. I immediately flew home to Michigan and began the excruciating and surreal process of saying goodbye. I flew back to New York on the eve of a Jewish holiday where friends like family cooked our traditional meals. (I have always been very good at creating friends like family.) I hugged my babies tight and put one foot in front of the other. Horrifically, three months later, I got another call. One of those aunts with whom I was also very close with died suddenly. I repeated the process of flying home, sitting in the front row of the funeral, flying back to New York to begin to heal again.
In the middle of that dark winter, an idea popped into my head. I wanted to heal my heart by knocking an item off of my bucket list, a goal that I knew would make me feel strong. Without thinking about it too much, I signed up for the NYC marathon and figured I’d figure out how to run 26.2 miles later. I set a goal of raising money for the MS Society, a cause honoring a dear uncle who passed from the disease. I started off being able only to run 3 miles, went up to 5, and on and on. For the big runs, I recruited one of my best friends, who was running for her own good cause. At some points during the process, I felt powerful and inspired, taking selfies with arms in the air at the top of the Brooklyn Bridge. On other runs, I walked stretches, feeling like I would melt into the ground. My friend and I held each other accountable and cheered each other on. But, here’s the most critical part and the trick to doing anything, especially when it’s really hard: I kept going.
Marathon day was a crisp, sunny November Sunday. Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played over the loudspeakers at the start of the Verrazano bridge. I ran through dance parties in Fort Greene. I hugged my kids, my parents, and my mom friends with tears streaming down their faces in Williamsburg. I slugged up the slow incline of First Avenue slapping the hands of sloppy bar-goers. The friends and family cheering me on felt like a mini version of the village I grew up in, propelling me from one mile to the next. Finally, as the sun was going down, I rounded the corner into sparkling Central Park, where the end was in sight.
I am so lucky to have the extraordinary support of my friends and families, and my life has been transformed by my relationships with coaches of all kinds. I can help you discover what you want both in life and business and how to get there. I’ll be there with you when you feel powerful AND when you want to melt into the ground. I will help you keep going and finish your personal marathon, whatever you want it to be.
If you’d like to chat about working together, you can book a free session here. You can also follow all my adventures and see my growing babies on Instagram! You can email me directly at email@example.com.
What we read this week
The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali - This book follows Roya from her teenage years in Tehran to old age in Boston. Along the way, she never stops thinking about her teenage love, whom she met in a very special stationery shop. It's a heartbreaking and beautifully written story about fate, loss, and love. Bring tissues.
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante - If you want to squeeze in one last end-of-summer reading project, or are just looking for a new series to immerse yourself in, I highly recommend this one about two childhood friends growing up in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. I read all four books in the series over one summer a few years ago, and was completely entranced by the exquisite storytelling.
To Love And To Loathe: A Novel by Martha Waters - To Love and To Loathe is a Regency era romance by Martha Waters, her second in the Regency Vows series (you don't have to read the first one if you don't want to). Lady Diana Templeton is widowed, with no plans to remarry. However, her bickering flirtations with Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are legendary among English society. After an argument, they settle upon a wager - Jeremy will marry within a year, or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. A few weeks later, at Jeremy proposes another arrangement: they will embark on a brief affair where Diana will provide feedback on his bedroom skills (he has received unfavorable criticism from a recent mistress) and Diana will use the gossip to discreetly signal her own willingness to take a lover. If you're a fan of historical romance with good banter and simmering steam, this is the book you want to read.
The Immoralists by Chloe Benjamin - What would you do if someone told you with a high degree of certainty the exact date you were going to die? Would you believe them? Would you shape your life around their prediction, or try to defy it? Would you want to prove them wrong, or want to prove them right? Or would you try and pretend you never heard it at all and just go on living, without even a thought to it in the back of your head? This book explores the lives of four siblings who find themselves in just that situation. How they choose to live with the burden of that information, true or not, makes for a story that is both heartrending and heartwarming in all of the best ways.
If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar - Fatimah Asghar’s poetry collection, “If They Come for Us,” is stunning. Displacement, forced migration, partition - she speaks of her family’s experiences, intertwined with her own, all while highlighting patterns which colonizers return to time and time again. Overall, the collection is heartbreaking and wholly necessary reading; I’ve already returned to “Shadi” and “Land Where My Father Died” for repeated readings.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle - She had me at the you-are-a-goddamn cheetah story, but the rest of the book read like a girl power, you-can-do-anything manifesto. It came at an especially good time, and I could read it over and over, possibly tattooing We Can Do Hard Things on my forearm. I also love Glennon’s podcast, and just about anything she does, including her Together Rising foundation.
The Top 5
The Catch Up
Why We’re Switching To Fine Sea Salt In Voraciously Recipes (Washington Post)
We Can’t Quit The Ziploc (Taste)
How Black Foragers Find Freedom In The Natural World (New York Times)
Was Tolkien Really Racist? (The Conversation)
Is There A Right Way To Act Blind? (The New York Times Magazine)
Why Doesn’t The New Gossip Girl Feel Fun? (Vanity Fair)
Things we love this week
These shoes are the key to surviving NYC summer storms! I've been wearing them to the beach or to dinner when the forecast looks menacing. They're super comfy and can survive a downpour.
I’m super excited about this brand new podcast, True Crime in Color, hosted by my awesome friend and broadcast journalist, Brianna Collins. As much as I love true crime, I’ve noticed over the years how little it centers crime victims of color. This podcast does just that, with sharp reporting that not only focuses on the crimes themselves, but also the complex, multi-dimensional lives of the victims and their families.
At $30 this falls in the "little luxury treat" category, and I absolutely LOVE this Chanel lip balm that's hydrating (contains moringa butter) and also leaves a gorgeous tint on your lips that makes them look natural, but better. I have the Intense shade which is red-based, and since red is my typical signature lip, it has that subtle undertone but without the WOW red factor. It's available in a few different shades so you will find the tint that works best for you.
I was influenced to buy this by someone on Instagram (don't hate me but I can't remember who), and it honestly is DA BOMB. My three year old has a penchant for getting sauce on her shirts (something I never do, nope not me! :-)) and this works so much better than literally any other thing I've tried. It's like a miracle in a bottle. It actually kind of reminds me of this other fabulous and highly specific stain-remover that I can't recommend highly enough. Got kids? Get Miss Mouth's Messy Eater spray! Like and occasionally spill red wine? Get Wine Away! Trust me you will thank me later!
It may or may not have taken multiple recommendations from close friends to get me to binge the 1.5 seasons of Ted Lasso that are currently available. But with my free trial week of Apple TV+ currently drawing to a close, and as a born-and-raised Kansas City-ite (a city often referenced in the show), I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend the hell out of this series. Like Schitt’s Creek, its representation certainly has room for improvement. Still, the writing and character development - at once, incredibly realistic and incredibly unimaginable - are worth every moment you spend watching this. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it just might make me spring for a proper Apple TV+ subscription solely to watch the rest of season two once it’s been fully released.
I lived in the North Fork most of last year so that my kids could be in full-time school. When I moved back to the city, I needed something to make me feel like the cool city mom I am. These platform Birks do the trick while also making me feel like I’m walking on clouds. And, oh, walking everywhere: one of my favorite parts about being a city girl.
My husband was working on Wall Street in 2010 when he sat me down and said, “Hear me out before you say no to my side project. I want to open a pizzeria.” “But we’re supposed to have a baby this year,” I replied.
“We can do both,” he countered.
As a bonus, during the pandemic, we wrote Brooklyn Pizza Cat, a children’s book based on our pizzerias. There’s a cat stuck in a tree, pizza, and an ambulance -- what more could you ask for? Pizza Cat stuffed animal coming soon!
Take care of yourself, and please share #5SmartReads if you’re enjoying them!