I had a sense of preparation for a love to come. Like the extension of canopies, the unrolling of ceremonial carpets, as if I must first create a marvelous world in which to house it, in which to receive adequately this guest of honor.
A new relationship that isn’t really new at this point, but that continues to fill me with wonder and joy and peace.
A battery of tests proving that I’m in excellent health.
Horoscopes that tell me to follow my heart:
CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Despite everything I wrote to you last week about weighing self-gratification against fairness-to-others (which probably still requires some consideration), I can’t help but encourage you to veer slightly more in the direction of pursuing whatever the hell makes you happy. While it’s useful to reflect enough on your privilege relative to your friends or colleagues so you’re not blind to their potential responses, you can’t live a satisfying life by concentrating too much on assuaging others’ discontent. In fact, with multiple 5th-house planets now moving into a supportive trine to Pluto in your 1st, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty emboldened to make the personal most of any situation… and why the fuck not? These energies sure seem to be formally inviting you to intentionally put yourself at the unapologetic center of this week’s decision-making—and not just out of some future-minded commitment to ‘becoming your best self’, but in order to choose whatever will bring you immediate joy, creative fulfillment, and/or positive flirtatious attention. In closing, yes, I suppose I should reiterate the possibility that certain social allegiances could suffer tension, as envious or disapproving others react to seeing you so unapologetically serve your own pleasure. Maybe it’s because they’ve become too accustomed to you taking care of their needs first?
I went running tonight. I didn’t know what else to do.
I’m not a marathoner. I doubt that I ever will be. I’m not disciplined enough, and I don’t want it badly enough. So I can’t tell you exactly what Boston means to those who run it, but I have a pretty good idea. If you’re a marathoner, that’s it – Boston. There are loads of other races, but Boston is The Big One. The oldest. The most prestigious. The race for which you other races in hopes of qualifying.
And I can tell you what the finish line is like because I’ve crossed the finish line of lots of other races, including last year’s Chicago Marathon, which I bandited in support of a dear friend. The energy at the finish line is tremendous, and runners count on it. It’s like a nitrous ‘go’ button on a souped up car. You come around the corner and you see that finish line and you hear the roar of strangers and friends and you’re just swept away. If you’re on the other side, waiting in the crowd, the finish line is electric with anticipation. Everyone is waiting to catch a glimpse of that special person who has labored for 3 miles or 3 hours, waiting to scream that person’s name with excitement and pride as they take the last few steps of this race they’ve trained so long to run.
Last week, a friend of a friend said something derisive about the distance I’m running in a race next week – the half marathon. His comment really got under my skin, and today as I ran around Humboldt Park in the rain, grieving for the injuries and losses suffered by complete strangers, I understood why.
Running – becoming a runner – changed my life. I’m not a fast runner, and I’m probably not a good runner, and I struggle to do it, and I struggle to stay motivated, but for the last five years, it has been an unambiguously positive part of my life. I have met the best people, and had the most amazing experiences because of running. I have pushed myself – my body, my heart, my mind – past the point of exhaustion, and, more importantly, past what I believed I was capable of doing.
99.9% of us enter races knowing we’re only competing against ourselves. There’s no prize money. There might be a medal, but everyone gets a medal. But that’s not the point. The point is that we did it. I feel as proud of the half marathon PR that I logged last April as I do of the first 5K I finished five years ago. I am as proud of my friend who is struggling to run a 12 minute mile as I am of my friends who ran the Chicago marathon last fall. And I will cheer as whole-heartedly at the finish line for the friend pushing for a PR as I will for the stranger whose name I can call out because it’s printed on their race tag.
These things are why Boston matters to me. These are the reasons I cried at my desk when I read the news, why I cried in the car, why I’ve been glued to the news coverage, why I couldn’t do anything except lace up and run in the rain. Because each of us run for our own reasons, but we’re out there together – in the rain, in the snow, in the heat, on the Lakefront path, sick, injured, overdressed, out of shape, on bad days and good. Because we exchange smiles or head nods. Because we stand on the sidelines and cheer for every runner whose name we can read. Because our friends and family do the same. Because we say ‘thank you’ to each and every volunteer who stands with rubber-gloved hand outstretched, offering a cup of water or Gatorade at mile 1 or 10 or 22.
Random and terrible acts of violence happen every day. More people were killed in Chicago last weekend than died at the marathon today. But while Chicago is closer to home, Boston is closer to my heart. Because those people at the finish line were there because they loved someone in the race. Or because they got up early on a Monday to help. Or because they’re passionate about running in general or this race in particular. Or because they finished the race and decided to watch while they stretched out overworked muscles. Or because they had just made that final push across the finish line four hours after starting. Because those people could be my loved ones, and those runners could be my friends or me.
So I laced up my shoes, and I strapped on my watch, and I went running in the rain – the park, two laps, then home. I smiled at every runner that I passed, and every single runner smiled back.
I have a confession, you guys, and that is that running is really hard right now.
Most of what I’ve had to say about running over the last few years has been beyond enthusiastic. Over the last five years, running has helped me lose weight, get in shape, and make friends. I have run in the snow, in the pouring rain, in the 90 degree heat, in single digits, and into winds from every direction. I have run with my arm in an enormous cast, with a debilitating cough, with a painful stitch in my side, with my heart breaking. Running has challenged me emotionally and physically, and in doing so, sustained and improved my mental health far beyond anything that drugs have ever done.
And for the last three months, it has just felt hard. Hard to get started. Hard to face distances that should be a piece of cake given how I trained for most of last year. Hard to breathe. Hard on my knees. Hard to stay focused.
I know some of this is just the lingering malaise of winter in the Midwest. This year has been much colder than last year. I’ve had trouble shaking what my friend Karina calls her “fat squirrel” period, wherein the only things that seem appealing are the couch, snacks, and a pile of blankets. I’ve been sick, and then out of town, and then cleansing, and then out of town, and then sick again.
But I’m sticking with it, and holding on to the hope that as the days get longer and the temperatures warmer and the sidewalks clearer, I’ll find what I need to fall in love with running again.
A prelude from the Lakefront on a cold Wednesday in February. I had errands to run, and good company, so I played hooky, signed a new lease, and walked by the lake in the falling snow.
24 hours later:
On Friday, we borrowed bikes from the resort and rode all over the central island
- from the resort to Port Lucaya
then to the International Bazaar
then to downtown Freeport, where we visited the post office and the only vegetarian-focused store on the island, then back to our resort, 20 miles in total.
This was my first time traveling with Karen – my first time traveling with anyone except a partner since the road trips to Bonnaroo – and it worked splendidly. We complained in equal measure, shared a mutual disinterest in being social with other resort guests, and savored naps and free girlie cocktails. We avoided the resort staff like the plague, called in a noise complaint at midnight, and were unduly interested in Cool Dad’s mealtime choices. On our last day, we didn’t do a damned thing.
Tea and a pile of blankets and an unwatched movie.
The longest, hottest shower.
My back against the window in the sunshine at Star.
So much avocado.
A slow walk around the block.
She goes on: “What I’d see later is something you never dared teach me, because life means we each are left to our own fate: that heartaches are solitary and, like us, live out their lives to the end.” – small fires – in all the liminal spaces
1. Running faster in at least two half marathons plus the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.
Done. I PR’d in the Illinois half in April, taking 6:40 off my Detroit time. I missed a PR in the Monster Dash by 4 seconds. I also took 4:59 off my Cherry Blossom time.
2. Learn more about [my] DSLR.
Done. I took a DSLR workshop in May and feel like I have a somewhat better grasp on how my camera works – and then I broke my arm and couldn’t hold it properly for a few weeks, and then it started taking spirit photographs and spent 3 months in the shop. Whoops.
4. Write at least one [letter] per week.
Done. I wrote 169 letters and postcards in 2012.
5. Find a job in Chicago.
Done! I’ve been at my job nine months, and while it isn’t my dream job, that has less to do with the job and more to do with my dreams.
6. [Bake] one pie per month.
I baked zero pies in 2012.
7. Master at least one new cocktail at home per month.
I mastered two cocktails: the manhattan, and the French gimlet.
8. More travel.
I didn’t leave the country despite my best attempts to walk to Mexico. I did leave the state more than a few times, though.
January: Carlsbad/San Diego, CA plus lots of back and forth to Chicago
February: back and forth to Chicago
March: Champaign for LEEP weekend, DC for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
April: southern Illinois with the GSLIS ladies, Champaign for the Illinois I-Challenge
May: Overnight to Indiana
June: weekend in A2, Anaheim/Imperial Beach, CA
July: nowhere because I had a goddamned broken arm
August: weekend in A2
October: two weekends in Champaign, Charlottesville, VA for a conference
November: DC, Champaign
December: San Francisco, CA, weekend in A2
9. Read at least two books per month.
Nope. I read 17 books, quit one book club, and started another.
10. Learn to do alterations.
Nope. Maybe this year.
11. More feats of strength! More push-ups. More miles on Orange. And maybe, just maybe, a pull-up.
Done, sort of. Angie and Soy and I started the 100 pushups training program, and I was happy as long as I stayed ahead of the husbands. We had a push-up competition on our girls’ weekend (I won). And then I broke my arm. My strength is coming back, but a pull-up is still a long ways off.
I did, however, put a lot of dang miles on Orange, though I didn’t hit my arbitrary and late-established goal of 1,000 miles.
12. More time connecting with the important people in my life.
Done, though this looks dramatically different than it did last year.
According to last.fm, this year doesn’t look all that different from last year in music. I finally jumped on the Spotify bandwagon sometime around February, and that has allowed me to binge on an assortment of New Wave playlists without having to identify, locate, and download whole albums in order to listen to that one track I really liked at Neo (or wherever) (but mostly Neo). I’ve also really liked using Shazam to identify tracks on the radio or at the grocery store or on the dance floor at Exit or in the middle of an Essential Mix.
Speaking of Essential Mixes, while he doesn’t appear anywhere on the below charts, honorable mention must be given to the Nicolas Jaar Essential Mix, which I listened to 29 times, or for a total of 58 hours, or 2.4 days. By comparison, I listened to my top track (New Order – Run) 89 times, or for a total of 6 hours and 40 minutes.
Top Artists of 2012
1. New Order
2. The Cars
3. Lana Del Ray
4. Talking Heads
5. LCD Soundsystem
8. The National
9. The Cure
10. Crooked Fingers
5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
No new countries or cities as far as I recall. I spent far too much time on the 405.
6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
A better budget, and the dedication to stick to it.
7. What date from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Shane and I decided to separate on February 25.
I left Ann Arbor on March 27.
I broke my arm on July 4.
Those are the defining features of this year.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Keeping my head above water and in doing so, finding a life for myself that is impossibly richer than I ever imagined possible.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Sobriety, weight loss, protecting my skin, protecting my heart, being financially responsible. My body also said FUCK NO to an IUD twice.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought a lot of fantastic vintage clothes this year.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
I am constantly amazed by the people on the lakefront path. Every time I run or bike there, I spend part of my workout composing a post about how motivating and inspirational they all are.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
A close friend is going though something appalling and inexcusable.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Food and drink and dresses.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Nicolas Jaar
16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
About the same, unfortunately.
iii. richer or poorer?
Financially poorer, but richer in nearly every way.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
More running. More time at the beach. More naps. More coffee dates. More reading. More sex. More live music. More miles on Orange. More travel.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my family in Rockford
21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
I fell balls deep in love with Chicago, and was pretty dang smitten as well.
22. How many one-night stands?
A lady never tells.
23. What was your favorite TV program?
I didn’t watch much TV this year, honestly. I’m rewatching Fringe.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
26. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery? Nicolas Jaar
27. What did you want and get?
A whole new life.
28. What did you want and not get?
29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I saw Skyfall in the theaters three times, but The Fall was the best new-to-me film of 2012.
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Drank way too much in Carlsbad the night before, slept it off in the car, waited an inordinate amount of time at Port Pizza with Pop, tried to walk to Mexico with Michael, fell in the Tijuana Estuary, watched The Fall, went to bed early.
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Nothing. I can think of lots of things that would have made this year easier, but nothing that would make it more satisfying.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
33. What kept you sane?
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The entire cast of Skyfall, please and thank you.
35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I’ll be honest and remorseful when I say that I didn’t have the energy for politics this year.
36. Who did you miss?
37. Who was the best new person you met?
Karen, and all the great people I’ve met through her.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012: As I wrote in July after breaking my arm, “love isn’t binary, that family isn’t defined by blood, that community isn’t bounded by physical space, and that what you put out into the world will be repaid tenfold if only you’re brave enough to let it.”