Last Weekend

A pretty good fortune after a really good lunch.

There are so many ways in which the life I have in Chicago is not the life that I imagined a year ago when a life in Chicago was still just the glimmer of an idea. There are lots of days that are hard, and lots of days that are lonely, and lots of days when I think about getting the hell out of here. But then there are weekends and weeks like this one, full of moments and events that were beyond the reach of my imagination a year ago – running a sub-2 hour half in my vinyl dress, riding my bike all over the city, drinks and dinner and brunch with so many new friends, impossibly happy late-night texts, dancing til 2 on a Thursday, crying like a baby at New Order – and then I stopped, realizing that I couldn’t possibly capture all of the ways and times I felt my heart swell over those few days.

If you’re reading this – if you’re a part of my life in any small way – thank you, thank you, thank you. For holding me through this last year. For loaning me your steam cleaner. For sending me real mail. For calling me out on my shit. For picking up the check, or letting me pick up the check. For longer walks than either of us expected. For the bourbon and the coffee. For over a thousand texts in under two months. For the yoga and the dancing and the bike maintenance and mentorship. For you, all of you, all of the time. My heart is so full, you guys.

“Gather all around the things that you love, I thought, and prepare to lose them.”

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.

Burn It Up (or: April at the races)

5K Pigtails

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.

Motivational Speech

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.

Medals and Swag

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.

5K PR!

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:

Half Marathon PR
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.

Thanksgiving Eve

In the years I lived in Champaign, Thanksgiving Eve was always the best night to go out.  The sorts of people who go out on Thanksgiving Eve can be generally broken into two camps: those who are home for the holiday and happy to be out seeing friends and loved ones, and those who are avoiding either the friends/loved ones or don’t have them to begin with.  In short, it’s an ideal night to go out if you want to have one drink with people, or if you want to sit at the end of the bar with your beer and read your book for a while.  I miss that.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve here in Alexandria, and our apartment is humming with laundry and dishes and puttering as we get ready for Jason and Sonya to arrive in the wee hours of tomorrow morning.  We’ve dispensed with tradition, so tonight we made no pies, prepped no mashed potatoes.  Instead, we hit Rustico’s happy hour, where we split a fantastic grilled cheese, then ran a few errands, visited Michigan and Iko (two of our four pet wards for the weekend), and made pumpkin ice cream for dinner #2 over the weekend.  Even though it’s been a 3 day work week, it feels like it’s been a loooong 3 days, and I’m delighted for 4 days off.

In the morning I’ll post my list of thanks, probably over my morning cup of coffee for which I’m ALWAYS thankful.  What are you thankful for this year?

11 November 2008

I had to work today, but that in no way decreases my thankfulness for the various veterans in my life – my friends Mark and Matt, my grandfather – as well as all others in current military service.  It’s a tremendous thing that you’ve done or are doing, and I’m thankful for you, even if I don’t agree with the decisions our government has often made with regard to military deployment.

A quiet chilly day.  Data collection marches on, and I had a research appointment with a student about parasites.  SB brought home dinner, which was incredibly sweet and much needed.  Now, time for bed.

good things

Thanksgiving has come and gone, though it has been much celebrated around these parts. My family’s most unique tradition is Turkey Notes, which are small rhyming poems written on each guest’s placecard. The poems are almost always eye-rollingly silly, but my family loves them, so we continue to do them, year after year. This year mine was about Sid, and Shane’s was about Herky. With my friends, however, we usually go around the table and list the things for which we’re thankful. I haven’t had a chance to share that list yet this year, so here, in no particular order, are a handful of things for which I’m thankful:

  • ShaneB and all the joy and good things he’s brought into my life this year
  • a great job that I love, even if some days are very hard
  • my family and an awesome crew of friends
  • the impending end of the semester
  • Project Runway and Tim Gunn
  • veggie breakfast sausage
  • Basil’s safe return, and the advent of Sid
  • We love Katamari
  • yellowbike (and maybe RAGBRAI in the new year??)
  • my healing arm
  • Bonnaroo

What are you thankful for?

Basil came home! We went to bed Friday night feeling sad and dejected and hopeless – our bed felt very empty without Basil trying to squeeze his way between the two of us. We left the screen door propped open, with a dish of food in the entry way and the cat door also open in hopes that Basil would miraculously come home. When I finally got to sleep, I dreamt that we found Basil’s broken collar. A number of our other friends also dreamt about looking for Basil.

At 5:30, we woke to Basil jumping into our bed. I have never seen Shane so excited or relieved. It was like the best Christmas ever multiplied by the best birthday ever for him. He hugged Basil so closely, and Basil was just like, what?. Basil’s a little dirty and smells like oil and leaves, but other than a little cut on his belly, he seems fine.

Even better, he’s interacting relatively nicely with Sid! We let the two of them meet yesterday, and Basil, while still hissy, has been very good with the baby. He’s mainly been acting like a grumpy babysitter, following her around and occasionally playing with her. We’re sooooo relieved and happy that they’re getting along.

In addition, and as Shane mentioned, many thanks to all of our friends who helped us search for Basil when he was lost – and to those who extended positive thoughts and prayers. Basil’s absence would have been much more worrying had we not had an awesome group of people helping out.

It is Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of things, I really should make a list of everything for which I’m thankful. There have been many blessings – and many challenges – this year, and I have many things to list here. Right now, though, I’m too tired to think, and so I will instead retire to my parents’ couch. I hope your holiday, if you celebrate it, was full of the things that really matter – peace and quiet, friends and family, memories of the past and memories for the future. Many blessings and great love to you, my friends.

I am just exhausted – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It has been an incredibly draining week, and I have so much on my mind. This week I am incredibly thankful for a wonderful boy (with two weeks’ worth of beard), an amazing family, great friends, and a team of coworkers that can’t be beat. I am very lucky.