Sunday, May 7, 2017

In which we pack joy and sorrow in the same box

It's a gift to be annoyed with a squirrel who imagines himself a machine, a chipper, 
decimating pine cone after pine cone on the deck you just swept. 

It's a gift to sweep, and who am I kidding, to even have a broom 
and a place where the broom belongs, 
or used to belong.

It is a gift to leave a place where memories were made, where people will be missed, 
where you found shelter during long dark winters 
and respite from the midnight sun of short blinding summers.

It is a gift to say goodbye, through tear stained cheeks, 
with quads somehow trashed only by walking around an empty house 
and sticking blue tape on the random things that will stay after you go.

It is a gift to go, 
a gift to stay, 
a gift to start over, 
a gift to keep going.

I have lost and won and lost and won a thousand times. 
It's a gift to play the game, a gift to have a team that actually acts like one, 
a gift to struggle, to come out of hiding, a gift to be known,
a gift to raise synchronized fists against the neighborhood squirrel.

The village (and I'm counting the squirrel) is the gift, 
and the leaving of the village is a grievous terrible thing. 
But the leaving is what makes you realize the village is actually there, 
and for all the cliche about it taking one, it's true.

We will soon fly away, 
float off in a cloud of non-hazardous, non-flammable fumes 
(because we had to leave all of the hazardous, flammable stuff at the old place), 
and we will well up with tears and gratitude that could fill the ocean, 
(okay maybe just a really big pond--but still--it's a lot for a family of four).

We will grieve and celebrate in the same sentence, 
pack joy and sorrow in the same box.
We'll also lose all knowledge of where anything is packed, 
as well as, quite possibly, our collective cool.
And we will say thank you, 
chant it, 
shout it from the top of the bald neighborhood mountain, 
for the gift, for this place and these years, 
for the highs and lows, the village,
and yes, 
even for the damn squirrel.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

All in, All out, On the Sidelines

I've been benched. No running for the better part of the summer. As usual, my timing is impeccable. And since I'm no longer running my angst and blues and words and time and ice cream away, it means I should probably start writing again. Quickly.

The onset of this particular stress fracture and running hiatus happens to coincide with my son's first major soccer tournament. Awesome.

I'd like to say I'm still totally zen on the sidelines, but at 9 am this morning my voice could be heard bellowing across the pitch at my son.

"When the goalie comes out of the box like that, RUN THROUGH HIM!"

Ummmmm. Sorry, opposing team goalie's mom. If it's any consolation, my son weighs all of 20 pounds soaking wet so he would mostly just waft across the keeper like a dandelion seed. But also, he'd score a goal. And that's really what I was going for in that little tidbit of advice I offered.

The boys lost that game. And you'd never know it from their faces. I love the half smile, tongue hanging out, crazy-eyed face my son makes when the ball is at his feet. I love watching him play.

But I miss having my own game to play. I miss the joy of running through a rain shower, the relief of nailing a final 800m rep, the satisfaction of sore legs, the high of a breakthrough race, even the low of a disappointing finish.

I don't want to live vicariously. I just want to live. To get out there and run things down and over and away. 

But I won't be benched forever. I'll be back in the game eventually. In the meantime, I'm determined to enjoy this season on the sidelines, cheering for the people I love. (I'm also determined to be a bit less obnoxious and refrain from promoting violence against innocent 10 year old goalies.)

I told my son tonight, as I tucked his tired little legs into bed, that losing teaches us so much more than winning ever could. And I'd say the same thing about struggle and injury and disappointment. Of course I want to skip right to the overcoming part, to the victorious part, to the happy clappy celebration part. Who doesn't? But as skipping is forbidden (literally) while I have this stress fracture, I'm going to have to settle for the long slow plod through this land of injury and frustration. It's a path that will make me stronger and the eventual victories sweeter.

(It might also turn me into a total head case on the soccer sidelines, but let's just focus on the "make us stronger" part right now, mmkay?)

Win, lose, draw, DNS or DNF, I know what matters. And it has nothing to do with the score or the time or the record. What matters is heart and grit, perseverance and optimism, grace and gratitude. And I can do and be and cultivate every one of those things from the bench. When it comes to pursuing what actually matters, I have no restrictions, no limitations, no excuses, and every reason to go all in and all out on the sidelines.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

To the me at mile 19

To the me at mile 19,

My guess is you're not going to be particularly happy and comfortable. Your bum hip is likely to hurt from from the start, and who knows, by mile 19, you might be hurting symmetrically. Maybe you'll have just barely swallowed the last gel, or maybe you'll be re-tasting the first two.

Either way, my speculation about you not being particularly happy and comfortable isn't really speculation at all. More like a foregone conclusion. No maybes involved.

But there are some things I want to say to you, things you'll need to remember, things you'll need to hear in your head as you crest heartbreak hill in mile 20.

So I'll say them now.

To get ready for this race, you ran for 2.5 hours in sub zero temps and 3 inches of snow.
You ran hills that stretched for a mile, plodded out countless mind-numbing miles on a treadmill, and ran nearly 80 laps (20 miles!) around a track.
You battled a hip injury, winced through many a workout, did your PT exercises until your glutes disowned you.
You ran whether you felt like it or not.
You endured pool running when your hip needed a break.
You struggled against age and injury and fatigue and you emerged.
Still injured,
still older,
still tired.
But ready.

You've got this.

You deserve to be here.
You fought to be here.
Now fight to the finish.
And I mean FIGHT.

You didn't get up at 5:30 am to run 80 laps around a track for grins and giggles.
You didn't don a dozen layers and brave an hour on the trail in -5 degree temps so you could fit into your skinny jeans.
You did all the hard stuff so you'd be ready for THESE minutes. All 210 (or more) of them.
So BE in each minute and STAY in each mile.
(Can you believe it? You're in mile 19 of BOSTON right now! How amazing is THAT? And ok, probably also painful. But mostly just amazing, right?)

I know you think you're a poser. (I have the distinct advantage of being in your head, so don't deny it.)
I know the sandbagging, crutch-wielding coward that lives within, the one you battle in every race, with every new goal. 
Yes, it's "just" a hobby.
Yes, you're "just" a mid-pack runner.
Yes, this is "just" a race, one you don't have to win to put food on the table.
But however silly you feel admitting it, I know how much it means to you.
You worked hard to get here, and now you're here.
It's okay if it feels like a big deal to you.
Because it IS a big deal.There's no "just"-ing the Boston Marathon. 

So finish this beast.

Open it up and unleash every last bit of what you have in that final 10k.
No saving, sandbagging, minimizing, hedging, or "just"-ing.
And definitely no stopping.

You've got this.
So go get it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In my not quite blank journal {Just Write}

I haven't stopped writing because I've run out of things to say. It's the opposite, really. There's too much, a million layers of crystal white words, an avalanche gathering. If I begin, the words could bury me.

And there's no time, either. If I could scribble while I run, type while I drive, you'd be turning the pages of my book by now. But since that sort of multi-tasking is frowned upon, every page in my journal is clean. Well, except for the page where my daughter wrote.

She told me, "I like to use my imagination wildly," and then she invited me to her secret society. She wrote the invitation in my otherwise clean journal. It turns out her imaginary name is Hermione, and the society is all about freeing the house elves. Ok then, it's possible her imagination likes to borrow just a bit of wildness from Rowling's. As it turns out, the only words in my otherwise clean journal may be slightly plagiarized.

I'm glad she's supportive of freeing the house elves, particularly since whenever we play Harry Potter, I'm usually playing the part of Dobby while washing dishes or doing laundry. (This is the sort of multi-tasking I can actually pull off.) Sometimes I make her laugh by pretending to smash myself on the head with a pot. While my pretend-Hermione snorts with laughter, I shoot a look at her older brother (who sometimes interjects as Professor Snape when he wants to annoy us). My look says to him: See! I'm pretty funny! Not nearly as uncool as you make me out to be. Then I remember that I am playing the part of a house elf--doing it quite well in fact--and realize that perhaps I am exactly as uncool as he makes me out to be.

I can live with that. I can live with being uncool if it makes my daughter laugh. And I can live with almost-blank journals and dormant blogs and unwritten books. I can do it quite well, in fact.

Friday, October 10, 2014

How's your pain today?

Most of the stories that spin my head--the conflicts, the twists, the what-might-happen-nexts--they aren't mine to live or to tell. I'm a supporting character, sure. But most of what I do these days is stand beside the protagonist and say "I'm here in the absence of answers, through every if and when."

We breathe in, then out, then in again. On some days, it's the best we can do.

I try to inhale hope and exhale fear, but I usually screw up the timing just like I do in yoga. Wait, what, we're supposed to be inhaling up, exhaling down? Damn. It's a wonder my lungs fill up at all.

I am fragile, raw and vulnerable. So are you. And yet we're all so quick to disguise ourselves as resilient, unshakable, as fine, everything's fine, and you?...

When I'm at the store, the hospital, the gym, I look for the other pairs of tired eyes. I don't know their stories, but I know a smile from a stranger never makes anything worse. (Unless it's a creepy stranger and a creepy smile, but I'm careful not to be creepy.)

Anyway, my point is that we're all somewhere on the spectrum of pain, and in those moments when we're only a 1 or a 2 and life feels okay, we can maybe hold the hands or smile at the eyes of the 8 out of 10s. And when it's our turn to be a a 7, 8 or 9, maybe we can answer honestly when asked "how's your pain today?"

Sunday, August 3, 2014

At the top

I keep thinking about last year, where we were in the day by day of moving from there to here. I remember eating sweet potato tots on a patio restaurant in South Dakota on the 3rd of July. I remember the sudden swoosh of a Montana road, the butterflies, the shock of color, cliffs and craned necks.

When we drove into Alaska for the very first time, I hadn't put a name to the face of the mountain that made me marvel, not even as we posed in front of it. Denali. McKinley.

I've seen it now a hundred times, maybe more. All it takes is a clear day, and there it is--white against blue--popping up in the second mile of my go-to running route.
Sometimes we take a day trip to get even closer, to skip rocks and peer across the river at 20,000 unfathomable feet.

When friends ask, I tell them we're happy here. We are. Though at times this Alaskan life feels like a caricature, like my husband bringing home salmon he pulled from a net in the Kenai is only playing to the stereotype. Now all that's left is to buy an RV and a husky named Nome. (I admit it--I do want a husky!)

But not interestingly enough, I still manage to be a cliched suburban soccer mom in the last frontier. My car is filthy from carpooling and cleats, and I am carting kids everywhere like my life depends on it. It doesn't. What would happen if I woke up and decided that we could skip soccer practice and medical release forms and gymnastics and school registration and all-women's road races and all the things that keep me driving and running to and fro?
Maybe we'd play a game of scrabble in the middle of the day or drink pink lemonade from the good china tea cups. Maybe we'd go camping, forget dinner and fill up on potato chips and s'mores. That wouldn't be the end of the world.
Maybe it'd be the start of it. 
(For the record, we did all that, and the only regret was not bringing more chips.)

My son loves to skateboard, and I think he's nuts. My daughter loves to play dolls and dress up in frills, and I don't get it, not even a little bit. I love to run so fast it hurts like bloody hell, and no one in the family--not even me--gets that either. But we're all here, doing our thing.

Sometimes, I drag them on a hike to the top of a mountain, and the whole way up is torture. She whines about her legs hurting. And he whines about slowing down for her. And I whine about how much they're whining. And then we get to the top.

And at the top, we get amnesia. We have no idea how our legs got so tired. There's no record of the bickering/whining/dragging of grumpy arses up an unrelenting switchback.
At the top, we use every one of our five senses to taste smell feel hear see the view.
At the top, the trees look so tiny, and is that the forest?
At the top, I shed my status as a stereotype and target demographic. I'm just a person, with my people. And we are all the best kind of alive, at the top.

{Just writing today with Heather.}