- Wash my hair with two hands. Apply product, put it in rollers, and then pin up the curls.
- Jump in the lake. Or any body of water where I can be submerged over my head. Repeat until my toes look like raisins.
- Go to yoga. My balance will be totally off. There’s no way I’ll be able to do the things I was starting to be able to do two months ago. But push back into down dog or pull back into bow and feel my whole body extend in ways that are simply impossible right now.
- Give lots of tight, strong, two-armed hugs.
- Take an effing beach vacation. Or a vacation near the beach. Or a vacation involving me jumping off a sailboat or a dock or a pier.
- Eat ph? or some other noodle/soup dish that requires two hands.
- Wear jewelry. And my new, amazing vintage stockings. And dresses that I can’t currently put on over the cast or that I’m too afraid to snag with the cast.
My horoscope for this week suggests that I take maximum advantage of the big opportunity that’s ahead for you, Capricorn: an enhancement of your senses. That’s right. For the foreseeable future, you not only have the potential to experience extra vivid and memorable perceptions. You could also wangle an upgrade in the acuity and profundity of your senses, so that your sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch will forevermore gather in richer data. For best results, set aside what you believe about the world, and just drink in the pure impressions. In other words, focus less on the thoughts rumbling around inside your mind and simply notice what’s going on around you.
And maybe that’s what this broken arm is for: finally getting me to slow down and notice, appreciate, invest, and give back in ways that I’ve been too busy and distracted and heartsore to do these last few months.
Last night a new friend came by after work – I’d stayed home after a painful casting appointment and a couple of nights of bad sleep – and we took a long walk around my neighborhood. We stopped to look at statues in a park I’d never noticed. We were roped into a game of tag by a bunch of kids playing on the sidewalk. We walked by a new bike repair place and peered through the windows of a soon-to-be coffee shop. We kept an eye out for “my” ice cream truck after hearing a snippet of its signature music. I wouldn’t have taken that walk had I been able to ride, and we wouldn’t have had that visit if I hadn’t had my accident.
On Friday, a friend cut through my stubbornness and kidnapped me for the day. She and her 5 year old made me a futon nest, plied me with margaritas and The Muppet Show, and generally forced me to be still and engaged and present. It was a great day, pain and cast notwithstanding, and it wouldn’t have happened without my accident.
This has been a physically and emotionally difficult week, and will likely be a physically and emotionally difficult summer. There have been and will likely continue to be nights where I’ve cried myself to sleep out of anxiety, frustration, pain, and loneliness. I also know that my physical and emotional pain are so minimal in the grand scheme of things.
But that doesn’t diminish what I’m feeling right now: profoundly grateful for everyone who has reached out, expressed their concern, offered a shoulder to cry on, sent flowers or funny mail, gotten me out of my house or back in it, and generally reminded me that 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.
(Let’s see if I can do this without hitting any weird key sequences. I’ll leave whatever random things I come up with as is.)
Yesterday started out as a really ideal city 4th, and ended up as a pretty miserable one. I had the day off, as did most of the city, so I headed to the beach with a friend, as did most of the city. I loaded my bag up with “margaritas”, snacks, sunscreen, and trashy historical fiction and biked up to Montrose Harbor, where Karen and her friends met me for a few hours of sand and sun and cold cold lake. We had a delicious cocktail, sought out emergency hydration, met up with other friends for dinner in Lakeview, and generally made the most of a lovely, if overly hot day, parting ways happy and sun-tired around 6:30.
I headed back to the Lakefront path for my 9-10 mile ride home. It was cooler by the lake, and even with all of the pedestrian traffic for the fireworks, I expected it to be an easier ride than the stop and start and potholes and radiant heat of the city streets. And it was exactly what I expected: †otally packed in some places, totally fine in others. Lots of people not paying attention.
I came up behind one of these groups of people, called out “ON YOUR LEFT”, and just as I went to pass, one of them swerved to her left. Her rear wheel must’ve clipped my front wheel, and we both went down. She got up, asked if I was OK, then rode off with her friends.
I was most definitely not OK. Blood from abrasions dripping from my hand, elbow, and ankle. A suspiciously tender wrist. Ripped grip tape and a wobbly front wheel. A couple of guys saw it all happen and took care of me, calming me down, encouraging me to take off my helmet and Garmin, letting me use their phone, helping me to water, then locking up my bike when I couldn’t manage the lock myself. Shane was going to come get me but I was by Navy Pier, so it would’ve been basically impossible to get to me so close to the beginning of the fireworks. I left my bike downtown and took a cab home – the driver didn’t charge me and offered to wait and take me to the ER as well.
And so I spent four hours in the ER at Rush, taking ridiculous photos on my phone to document the process. I had a tetanus shot and a pregnancy test and at least three rounds of xrays. They hung my arm from the ceiling †o make sure the ligaments were properly aligned before putting it in a splint. I cried when they compressed my wrist to start the splinting, but declined morphine when offered as I had to drive home. I figured that if my sister could give birth without drugs and I could have my cervix dilated without anesthetic, I could do this. I joked that I was red, white, and blue for the holiday. This is the third time I’ve broken my left radius, and the location of the break might require surgery to make sure the joint heals properly.
I left the ER sometime after 1, exhausted and in pain, wanting nothing more than ice cream and my bed, preferably in that order. I found the latter and a Vicodin. I took the rest of the week off. Today was spent calling the insurance company, calling the orthopedist, waiting 2.5 hours to get a referral, drowning my sorrows in a sundae at Margie’s, and napping in a drug-induced haze.
So now I’m scraped and bruised from shoulder to ankle, and I’m in this giant stupid splint until I can see the ortho on Tuesday and find out what happens next. I’m devastated that most of the things I’ve loved about summer in the city so far – biking, the lake, biking to the lake, yoga, taking photos – are no longer options, at least for the foreseeable future. I can’t pin up my hair or zip up some of my dresses. I can’t ride from Chicago to Milwaukee, and while I’ll still be able to go tubing on the river in Indiana, it’ll be with a plastic bag on my arm.
And I hate that I’m doing all of this on my own. The last time I broke my arm, I was in a new relationship, and the way he cared for me in the days and weeks following the accident cemented my feelings for him, as well as those of my family. This time I sat in the back of a cab alone. In the ER alone – though friends offered to come join me. In the interminable waiting room at the clinic alone. At home alone. I’ve played the role of caretaker in my relationships – and have taken the reciprocal care for granted – to the extent that I don’t know how to ask for care or to be cared for. The cab driver teased me that I was probably too proud to let him help me, take me to the hospital. He was right.
At least I have vicodin and AC and a long weekend.
Subtitled: a bunch of hilarious photos of me for your Friday enjoyment
Like many babies of Western European persuasion, I was born with brown hair and bluish eyes. I didn’t have a whole lot of hair, but I was clearly my dad’s daughter:
By the time I was a year old, my hair was blonde-ish and curly, which would mark the last time I had anything resembling natural texture in my hair:
It is also worth noting that if you tickle me now, 31 years later, I’ll likely still make that face, though I’ll also likely punch you.
My sister’s hair went through the same arc of blonde-curly-straight. Here we are circa 1986, all piled into Grandpa’s lap in his oversized naugahyde chair.
I was not immune to the appeal of the 80s perm, though I’m not sure this photo captures the majesty of it – bangs AND a perm AND a hopelessly “timeless” dress at my aunt and uncle’s wedding:
Apart from a brief Dorothy Hamill-esque cut, my hair remained long, thick, and straight until the late 90s. And I remained hopelessly unable to do anything with it, and so was subject to Mom’s best attempts at styling. Like this:
The sheer amount of hair also made those fancy up-dos that everyone else got for prom impractical on me. Mom set my hair in rollers, and this was all that remained of the curl within an hour, much less by the end of the night:
Man, I loved my prom dress. LOVED it. I’m still not sure why Dustin wore teal, though.
From 1997-2003, I was in a relationship with someone who insisted that my hair always be longer than his. It took 80 bobby pins to secure my hair for Mary’s wedding, and for Noelle’s, the sheer mass of my hair made me taller than the gentleman of the same height who escorted me down the aisle. When we broke up, I immediately chopped my hair short-short, then was too poor and inept to maintain it, which resulted in a year or two of experimenting with styles intended to keep my hair off the back of my neck, and that would occasionally result in lovely waves:
I was also swimming every day and riding my bike everywhere, resulting in lovely bleached-out streaks that I haven’t been able to replicate since. And then I chopped it off. Like, OFF. And kept it that way for four years:
I’ve been growing it out for a while now, and this time around, I’m determined to actually learn how to do something with my hair. I bought rollers, and dammit, I’m learning how to use them. What I haven’t quite figured out is how to make the curls stay.
Exhibit A: Foam rollers that I wore out to breakfast and then for the entire five hour drive to Chicago for Keem and Paul’s wedding. The curls lasted through a museum visit, a shitty bar, the ceremony, dinner, and a lot of dancing. Total time: 6-8 hours.
Exhibit B: Foam rollers that I wore out to the store while prepping for my birthday party. The curls lasted through dinner, dancing at Innjoy, and part of the night at Neo. Total time: 4-5 hours.
Exhibit C: Hot sticks. The curls lasted through dinner, occupying the loft, and a super shitty bar experience. I have no idea how to use the hot sticks.
Exhibit D: Late evening foam rollers for my friend’s DJ night at Neo. Pinned-up curls lasted (well, sort of) til 2am on a very sweaty dance floor. Total time: 4 hours.
Exhibit E: Hot rollers for Annette’s birthday. Note that my hair looked AMAZING when I left the house, but that the curl was almost completely gone by the time I got to the train. Total time: about 10 minutes.
Exhibit F: Hot rollers for the Panic! 6th anniversary. No photos, alas, so you’ll have to take my word that I set my hair for 20 minutes, then danced at Panic, slept on it, and still had texture and a little curl all the next (95 degree) day.
Exhibit G: Hot rollers for New Wave Prom at Neo. 10 minutes to heat the rollers, and 20 minutes in my hair between my house and Neo. Photos forthcoming, but curls lasted barely an hour on the sweaty dance floor.
So what have we learned here? I have no idea, but I was amused by pulling all of this together, and there are now naked photos of me on the internet.
“Dear Leonard. To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is. At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away. Leonard, always the years between us, always the years. Always the love. Always the hours. “
This morning: time and temp can’t decide whether it’s 80, 70, 75, or something in between. The sun is shining, and I have my windows rolled down on Lakeshore. I’m speeding a little, and my hair is blowing around, and I’m singing along with The Cars. The lake is an impossible blue, the surface wrinkled by wind.
Driving to my new job, the one where I get to do all the things that I’ve loved about my last three jobs, and none of the things I haven’t. Driving with my new city behind me, marveling every day at my good fortune at actually getting to live here. Thinking about last night – good food in the company of a newly dear friend and her close friends – and the night before – bourbon and The Smiths until far too late, just like in the old days. Thinking about the morning already behind me, waking too too early, a breeze ruffling the curtains, my sweet cat curled next to me on the quilt made by my great-grandmother.
Feeling thankful for the wall of love surrounding me, for so many amazing people in my life in so many different ways. Remembering how three months ago, I ran head-first into my own sadness – and how this morning, driving through my new city to my new job on a perfect day, I was struck by the intensity of my happiness in that moment.
“I remember one morning getting up at dawn. There was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling. And I…I remember thinking to myself: So this is the beginning of happiness, this is where it starts. And of course there will always be more…never occurred to me it wasn’t the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment, right then.”
Three months ago, I was afraid. Today I would say that I’m terrified, very deliberately using the word that a love and I once used to delineate our feelings about what we were coming to share: equal parts fear and delight. Terrified by the possibility that this just might be it, that this might actually be happiness, that I might have actually rounded that corner and found myself exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment in time. Honoring everything that I’m feeling for what it is, and not needing it to be more or less. I’m so overwhelmed. I’m so thankful.
My wide eyes tell you everything you need to know about how I was feeling before April’s races. Tired. Overwhelmed. Undertrained. In need of a hug, a pep talk, and a lucky charm.
I already told you about my race plan for the CB10. I stuck to it for the most part, though the sun didn’t cooperate with #14, and there were no space blankets (#18) on offer. Instead, I shaved five minutes off last year’s time, even with stopping for an Oreo and 2 oz of Yuengling, even with cold weather, even with the the wall I hit between 8.5 and 9, just like last year. Jeff brought us sweatshirts, and Tina’s friends provided a sun-drenched brunch. And I logged a new PR: 1:33:56. Two days later, I moved into my new apartment in Chicago.
A couple of weeks and a new job later, I drove down to Champaign for 24 hours of races – the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon weekend, with races ranging from a 1K fun run up to the full marathon. I was registered for the Half I-Challenge – a 5K Friday night, and the half marathon Saturday morning.
My feelings for Champaign are complicated, as I’ve explored here before. It felt like home from the time that I first moved there, and no place has quite replaced it in my heart. Between the race expo and the 5K, I went to Kopi and worked on my laptop at one of the small tables just like I did for years and years, with the same people ordering the same drinks as they have for years and years, and the same music on the stereo as has been playing for years and years.
When I moved to Champaign, it was on the heels of the end of my first marriage. I was alone for the first time in my adult life, making choices that would establish my new life independent of the person on whom I’d based my world. It was scary and overwhelming, but also so full of possibility. It got easier than in those first days, and what made it easier – and what made Champaign feel like home – were those anchors – like Kopi, like the regular customers, like the park at night, like the family of friends that surrounded me.
I mention this because when I queued up for the 5K in the cold and the wind, totally alone in the crowd of thousands south of campus, I looked to my right and saw one of my favorite regulars from the years I worked at Aroma. I don’t know his name or anything about him beyond his regular order – a small coffee and a brownie – but every time he came in, he made me smile and think of my dad. I have no idea if he remembered me – hell, I lost him in the crowd almost as soon as I spotted him – but it was a moment of grace, and gave me energy for the cold, rainy, windy race ahead.
We went down First past the Stadium, turned right on Green, and then up Sixth, where I blew a kiss in the direction of GSLIS. The rain started as we turned right to head past the art museum, but it hardly mattered at that point. Down into Memorial Stadium and onto the field, where Jill spotted me and yelled out a cheer that pushed me to the finish line with my last burst of energy. Another PR, this one by 20 seconds: 25:58.
Dinner with Erin and Jadon, one of the last of my GSLIS crew still left in town. We had pizza – maybe not the best race fuel, but damn, was it delicious – and I slept fitfully on their very comfortable couch, concerned about oversleeping, concerned about the race, concerned about the weather, concerned about everything.
Up at 5, and out the door by 5:30 because I was anxious about road closures for the race. I sat in my car and listened to music and blasted the heat and prayed for the rain to stop. I dug out a permanent marker and wrote Keem’s cheer on my hand: YOU’RE DOING IT. I stretched at Assembly Hall, then hopped in ahead of my designated wave, hoping to pace at 9:15 and beat my Detroit time.
I can’t really explain the race – I couldn’t then, and I can’t really now, a few weeks later. The course was easier but the run more demanding than in Detroit in October. It was cold and windy. It never seemed to end. We ran through campus, past Hendrick House, where Mark lived for years. Maybe I took too much water. Maybe I didn’t have enough water. My nose wouldn’t stop running, but my legs felt like a million bucks. We pushed on through Urbana, passing the street where Amy and Adam lived, past the turn to go to Sarah and Hannah’s house. We hit the edge of town, turned south, and ran through Meadowbrook Park. I hung with a couple of guys, laughed as others challenged each other and ran off the edge of the path to get around slower runners. I felt strong and steady. I had no problem hitting my pace.
We turned north to head back toward campus, and I hit a wall. 10.5 miles and I felt like I couldn’t possibly go any further – and then, on the sidewalk, just walking, not paying attention to the race, I saw Rick Powers. I used to see him occasionally when I was dating Shawn and going to English department events – and then once in a while around town – but hadn’t seen him in years. That little burst of happiness helped, though not enough to get me through the side cramp a mile later, or the complete and total exhaustion to come. The latter would come in the form of two marathoners who came up beside me near the Meat Science lab and stayed with me for a few blocks, encouraging me about my time, telling me that I was lucky that I was almost done.
A hairpin turn, and around the corner into the Stadium. I looked down at my watch, and poured everything I had into the last minutes. As in the Cherry Blossom race, I repeated over and over: All the pain. All the sadness. All the hurt. Burn it up. Use it as fuel.
I crossed the finish line, hit the stop button, and saw this:
Under two hours. 1:59:09. A PR by almost six minutes. I got my medals, sat down, and immediately lost it, crying hard enough that another runner came over to check on me. No, I didn’t need help – I was just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to finish, much less PR, much less break two hours. So very thankful for every person and emotion and thing that had carried me through the miles and through the last few months. So very much, all in those miles, in those medals, in my aching body and heart.
I fucking did it.
There’s this thing that’s been going around the internet for the last week. It started with one woman writing honestly about aspects of her life that were incongruent with the persona and lifestyle depicted on her blog, and spiraled out from there. These confessions have ranged from very superficial to very personal, and have left me thinking a lot about what I do and don’t share here (or in other, less public fora).
I’ve written here since 2001, though the URL has changed a few times, and much of what I wrote in the early years is no longer public. Since I started this blog, I have lived at 15 different addresses in 6 cities, worked at 13 different jobs, and had 4 serious relationships, much of which has been documented here. When I need to remember what I was thinking or feeling at a particular time, this is one of the places I turn. On this site, as in real life, there are few topics that are off limits – but on this site, as in real life, I’ve constructed an identity that incorporates the parts that I’m willing and able to share.
The last 6-9 months have been a rollercoaster for me. I’ve been trying hard to put my finger on a triggering event or events, but end up with more questions than answers. In doing so, I’ve been working on being very honest with myself about a lot of things. Along the way, I’ve realized a few things I’m afraid to tell you:
Over the last few years, I’ve used my tendency toward introversion to avoid investing in my relationships. It’s not that I’ve ever had a shortage of friends. It’s that I stopped trying to really connect. Since realizing this and starting to open myself up, I have experienced a depth of connection, communication, and honesty in friendships that I’d forgotten was possible.
I require fulfilling work to be happy. Of those 13 jobs, I can point to two that really made my heart sing: the year and a half of gyne instruction and the almost three years at GSLIS. I’ve had jobs where I worked with wonderful people, and I’ve had jobs where the work was challenging, and I’ve had jobs where both of those statements were true, but for the last few years, I’ve been stalled professionally. My current job holds a lot of promise in this area, but I’m trying not to swoon yet. I would like to be one of those people who can leave work at work, for whom a job is just a way to pay the bills, but when I’ve been in those jobs and when I’ve aspired to those things, I’ve felt myself steadily go numb. I would be such an excellent housewife if I could just turn all of this off.
I really don’t know how I feel about having kids, and that’s a pretty scary thing to me. Most days I’m resolutely in the anti-kids camp, in part because I can’t see a persuasive reason TO have kids. But my strong opinions on this subject are undermined by a nagging fear that I’ll change my mind after it’s already too late. I also worry that the fact that I’ve never had a serious pregnancy scare points to some underlying fertility problems.
I have a very hard time communicating my needs in relationships, intimate or otherwise. I’ve become inured to disappointment, and to a large extent, that’s my own fault, as I haven’t given my partners or friends the opportunity to be the people and things I’ve needed them to be at the time, and so of course I’ve been hurt and disappointed. This tendency grew out of a terribly low self-esteem that led me to believe that no one would ever love me as much as _______________ did, and so I’d better do whatever I could to be happy with whatever was given, rather than advocating for my needs – emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, etc. I have worked hard at this in the last few years, but I’m still so far from where I need to be.
I have never been able to establish the habit of flossing. I also keep nail clippers in my desk because I will destroy my cuticles otherwise.
I worry that I’m too selfish to be in a real, lasting relationship. Since starting this blog, I’ve had two relationships that lasted six years, a relationship that lasted three years on-and-off, and a relationship that lasted one very tumultuous year. I don’t (think I) have unrealistic expectations about relationships. I’ve been there. I’ve done the work. But then I’ve also not done the work in significant ways, and I’ve hurt partners, and I’ve failed partners, and I’m no closer at 32 to understanding any of it than I was at 21.
I’m afraid of failure. Like, really afraid. You’re saying to yourself “duh, everyone feels that way,” but I feel it acutely, and am often simultaneously too lazy to do anything about it. I’ve been a perfectionist and an overachiever since at least age 5, when I came home from kindergarten in tears because, as I told my mom, I felt like I had to turn my brain off when I went to school. I was moved up to first grade shortly after that, and haven’t stopped being my own hardest critic since. If there’s anything you might think is wrong or could be improved in me, you can rest assured that I’ve already dug into it and remind myself of it all the time. Like my failure in relationships or my stagnated career.
I’m trying to practice vulnerability. This post is part of that practice.