September 22, 2014
so, in the span of a week, I:
• traded in the claptrap little red car for a working car (with airbags! and FOUR doors! and cupholders!)
• got paid from my annoying side gig (more on that later) and got to finally pay my cell phone bill and my board bill and now I actually have more than $50 in savings and feel sort of a little bit more like a grownup
• spent a day sunning myself in astoria, acting as cheerleader for my race buddy. I couldn't run it myself because I injured my foot to the point where I could hardly walk, feared I was staring down the barrel at the end of the streak, babied it like crazy, grit my teeth and ran verrrrrry gently on it, took ibuprofen, spent an entire day not walking, and made it get better enough that I
• competed in a crazy race over the weekend: 1 mile run, 26 mile bike ride, 3 mile kayak, 3 mile run. and won my division. it was the first time I've ever raced on the bike (and, um, the third time I've ridden my bike all summer? oops?). I had just been telling my race buddy about how I was terrified of biking down hills, only to face about 3 straight miles of climbing in the beginning of the course followed by two long curvy descents. I don't know if it was the race element or the stickiness of the asphalt/macadam or the fact that I had one earbud in and was listening to a race-specific playlist, but I bombed the shit out of those descents and suddenly understood why people like them.
(this is about twenty steps into the race and the only time my race buddy, joy, was ever behind me)
• I joined the race team of my favorite running company, oiselle. they have an elite team, but recently created another tier of their team -- the flock, a membership-style model similar to many other teams/companies. you pay a membership fee and get a number of perks; in oiselle's case there were a very limited number of spots, and I had set five alarms on the day the team opened to make sure I got one. they hit their limit in 28 minutes. I have a race singlet and several races already scheduled with the local birds. I've been surprised by my own excitement about it; I hadn't realized how much I missed being a part of a race team.
my side gig: working as a contractor, music librarian, and surtitlist for an independently-produced chamber opera that had its premiere here in town at the beginning of september. it was ... challenging. it ended up, for many reasons, taking up every moment of my free time for most of august. but it was also unbelievably satisfying, in no small part because of how much of a headache it was. it was my first time being fully in charge of the orchestra: as contractor I hired everyone, set up payroll, dealt with the union, negotiated musicians' pay, negotiated (at the last minute) a recording contract, made sure the conductor stayed within his time limits in rehearsals, and managed all the other small details, like how when we got to the theater the pit had been rigged up so that the orchestra basically had to crawl into it.
I had always believed I preferred being second-in-command; you have some responsibility but can pass on the more difficult things to the person in charge. but I was wrong. I loved being the boss. it was truly a surprise. suddenly there were decisions to be made and nobody to second-guess me. I was in charge of making sure the orchestra got treated right -- the only person in charge of that. I took it very seriously. our flutist, whom I've known for years, remarked during one rehearsal, "you know, I never knew you had this side." (that is, the side of me that at one point, said to someone in charge, "I am not remotely interested in bullshit tonight. if I see anyone even begin to bully the orchestra, I am going to get ugly." for the record, it had already happened to other artists and was a very real concern.) the musicians couldn't have been kinder or more supportive, cheerful, flexible. it was, in many ways, the culmination of nine years' worth of tending relationships.
suddenly and inexplicably, I have come to terms with fall (mostly; ask me again after it starts raining tomorrow). I have more or less come to terms with everything, actually. who can say why this happens? I wish I knew, actually, so that I could draw upon it in the darker times. but I'm grateful for it just the same.
also can I just say: a good number of my people urged me to end my running streak when I was hobbling around on my bad foot. in my experience, people either get it or they don't, and no amount of explaining the streak's importance to me really clarifies things for those who don't. I was afraid I was being stupid for continuing to run on it, but I was also unwilling to end it until I knew for sure that my foot would not get better without rest. I feared ending the streak only to have my foot heal four days later. so I ran 13-minute miles, as late in the day as I could. I foam rolled and did foot exercises and wore sneakers to work and iced and heated and massaged. and I am really, really proud of having the grit to get through it.
September 14, 2014
someone once told me that animals are people under spells, and if you fall in love with them the spell will be lifted. I recently fell in love with a black trumpeter swan. I watched her ruffle her neck feathers for hours, watched her peck bugs from her breast. I was sure she would make a beautiful bride, but she was always a black trumpeter swan. I once brushed a horse’s hair for 3 straight years until it crumpled into death. the truth is there is no such thing as spells. the world is always as it is, and always as it seems. and love is just our own kind voice that we whisper into our own blood.
August 24, 2014
or maybe in that alternate life I am in a far away state surrounded by people who don't want me to have birth control and I've gained a lot of weight from eating too much barbecue. who can say.
there's no other story except the one where I am so low that I struggle even to recognize the smallest of victories (the work successes, the 235 straight days of running, the rekindled friendship, the still being alive). at one point my car didn't run and my debit card number had been stolen so I was without transportation and without money: a momentary taste of what life is like in a completely different social class. I leave the headlights on one day and kill the battery. I go out with friends and it is so good to see them, but they are both pregnant and I feel as though I might as well be visiting from mars. at the company picnic I'm one of a tiny minority of people without a spouse, without toddlers.
I get catcalled on my runs and without hesitation I give those men the finger, angry at being an object, angry at being less-than, angry that we live in a time when this bullshit is all still here and we are still fighting to be seen as legitimate despite having vaginas. angry that after 235 days I'm still not running much at all, because I'm constantly battling one pain or another, pre-injuries that move from muscle to muscle without mercy. the alternative -- not running -- is not thinkable. some days the streak feels as much like a real, tangible friend as my real, tangible friends. one of the few constant, dependable things in my life.
I am lonely, and afraid of dying, afraid that every day I have to keep struggling to carry this monster in my muddled brain is another day of my life I didn't really get to live. it occurs to me to get a therapist but I don't know where the money would come from. I know by now that this is not how most people feel every day, but the knowledge doesn't throw me a ladder with which to climb out.
I'd like to tell you a story about a summer spent driving around oregon, camping on the weekends, or hiking, or swimming in a river. or even just of eating ice cream in cute shorts with a girlfriend, riding my bike, running long trails. I'd like to say I was tan and sometimes sandy and sometimes dirty, that I'd seen the asphalt of so many roads, that I was that good, satisfied kind of tired and ready for soup and rain. that I figured out a way to make this sweetest of romances work. maybe next year.
July 5, 2014
I have done a lot of walking back and forth through my apartment in the last two days, picking things up and putting them down again, or wiping a counter, or sitting down to do something and then forgetting what the something is. we are still in love. we have made this choice together. we still say good morning and goodnight. alabama/oregon. financial security/love. known/unknown. I do not know which way is up.
sometimes I look around at people at the lake with their kids, or drinking beers out on a patio, or doing work, and I really wonder if everyone else is having a hard time, too, or if there's something particular to my wiring. because I can look outside and see that the sky is beautiful, but I still feel lost.
I have a mental list of things that seem like they would make me much happier, even when I know that "if only I had X, I'd be happy" is a sure path to disappointment. the list:
• a backyard
• ...with a hammock, or at least lawn furniture
• a reliable car (my new one isn't quite there yet)
• a porch
• a family, or at least the trajectory towards one
• an occasional camping trip
• maybe a dog
• about half the debt I have
I live in fear that life is passing me by, but still get stuck, as I did today, by some unseen and unknowable force. indecision, or laziness, or inertia, or fear, or something else entirely. instead of leaving the house, I stand at the bathroom mirror and pluck the gray out of my hair.
I get up and pack my lunch and go to work and appear competent and crack jokes with coworkers and go for runs and drink with friends and lie in bed watching cartoons and through it all I still live in holy terror that I am missing something. fear of missing out.
at work I go to lunch with some colleagues and they all sit around talking about their kids, and I feel like I've been accidentally invited to a meeting for which I do not have the skill set.
I don't have the answers to anything. does anyone? that is a real question.
a curious thing about me: sitting heavy in my sadness, I tried to think up things I could do now that I'm single. I couldn't come up with much; mike is sweet and supportive and fun. but what I did think was, 'well, I guess now I can go back to turning myself into a ninja.' which is to say, now I can become a different thing: learn spanish or rock climbing or poker. I looked straight at that and thought, well, there's your problem. because the only thing stopping me from doing those things as a girlfriend is some strange wall in my own mind. what is that wall? why do I do that? if you know something and I want to learn it, I'd still rather teach myself in secret and at great expense than ask you to teach me. because then I wouldn't be an impenetrable force.
mike and I went rock climbing when I was last in birmingham. he frequents the climbing gym but I had never been before. I was absolutely closed to the idea of having anyone see me fall off the wall. far better climbers than me -- that is to say, climbers, in any capacity -- were falling off the wall at regular intervals. it is how you learn. I know this in my thought brain. but my other dumb brain was like, 'nope.' I had told mike going in that being seen while not knowing something is one of my biggest irrational fears. he couldn't have been more patient with me. I did climb the wall a few times. I never would have gone alone.
I don't know anything about anything.
lately I often find myself reading something and thinking, "I write better than this," which is a thing you are not allowed to say if you don't really do much writing anymore.
June 24, 2014
- if you run in minimalist shoes long enough, 'regular' shoes feel so flipping heavy
- you can subsist on two sports bras as long as you have a washer/dryer in your apartment
- it takes about 150 days to see any sort of significant improvement in speed, or at least it does when you've more or less spent the last two years not running
- you can only run the same loops around your neighborhood so many times before they are so ungodly boring
- trail running > road running by a factor of like, nine million, which is inconvenient given my distance from most trails
- running in new neighborhoods is at least better than running in your own dumb neighborhood
- there are never enough shoes
things that will happen to you in 175 days:
- everything will take turns hurting
- things will also mysteriously stop hurting, which is nice but also kind of unhelpful, since ... where did it come from and why is it gone?
- you will end up dropping out of some races (recently: the bowerman 5K, the pine hollow triathlon) because you value the streak over the racing and because maybe you have a stress fracture? but you don't actually know because you're in health insurance limbo for a few weeks?
- you will wrap your maybe-stress-fractured leg and run on it anyway, which you will find strangely aesthetically pleasing, much in the same way you found crutches appealing when you were in the third grade.
- you will accidentally run into some sort of stinging insect with your leg and get stung and it will itch right at your sock line for over two weeks
- the day after this occurs, you will have a bug fly into your eye and get stuck there
- somehow you will reach this point without having yet eaten a bug, which is some sort of record
June 22, 2014
there was also an elevator, and a pool, and so many bedrooms. all I remember is being in awe, and coming back to our own house chattering about the space. this was not so many years ago.
I will miss the beach this year, as last year, an effect of accepting a new job. it was a thing I thought I would be okay living without, until I am here, now, living without it. summer is once again late to portland, and I find myself chomping at the bit, looking at pinterest boards full of women in bikinis covered in sand. all I want in life is heat and humidity, my hair raggedy from salt water, my legs covered in sand.
I am proud of my three weeks away from this town. desert, road trip, beach town, home town, alabama. I didn't tell you about the rest of it -- it turned out to be easier to type on my phone's tiny screen than on a computer, I don't know either -- so I will tell you now that I ran my favorite trails in maryland, and ate snowballs, and had brunch with my high school girlfriends, and then I went to alabama, where I ate barbecue and went to a ball game but mostly kind of just sat around in my boyfriend's house reading magazines and watching cartoons.
the california part of the trip was my favorite part, largely because I was rarely in one place for more than a day or two, and also because it was foreign to me and therefore more interesting.
I returned to portland and started this new job, and am still acclimating to having a job where I get to come home every night forever. where I never have to work a weekend. I am still very much a guard dog of my personal time as a result of never having any. I hope this passes.
I also bought a car. which reminds me: I spent several months without a car. the front suspension in my car, my 12-year-old ford escort, bought for me by my parents my senior year of college, got wobbly and weird and I stopped driving it on april 3. after a great deal of hand-wringing and crying (I associated it very closely with my stepfather, who always did all of my car work and who, of course, passed away tragically too soon 8 years ago), I donated it to portland rescue mission. I didn't have the money to replace it so I walked or ran or biked or rode the bus everywhere for a couple of months. but with summer approaching and no plans and a larger paycheck I absolutely could not stand the thought of being even longer separated from my horse (or the rest of oregon) so I dropped $2K on a 23-year-old honda civic last weekend.
this summer I have all these goals, most of them serving to hypothetically fill the (quite un-fillable) gap of the ocean. I want to camp and hike and go to the coast and ride my bike and have picnics and fly kites and do yoga and get strong and sleep with the fan on and eat popsicles. sometimes I am quite certain, despite this very cushy new job, that I need desperately to live somewhere where it's mostly perpetually summer because oh god in heaven, all I want in life is ice cream that drips down my wrist, and sparklers and smores and bathing suits and swimming and sweating and heat and oh, oregon. help me out.
let's just say now, for the record, that I am intensely grateful that the barn owner talked me out of selling cookie. it was so good to ride; to be in the dirt, to run fast, to be covered in both my own sweat and hers; to stand in the sun for an hour hanging out while she grazed. all I want in my life is to be dirty and outside.
June 3, 2014
the woods in maryland smell totally different than the woods in portland: like honeysuckle and pepper, damp from the humidity. on my first day home I run down the back roads near my mom's house and by the time I come back I have sweat dripping from the end of my braid. the sun is beating down and the air seems to be trying to stuff a wet rag down my throat.
it's pretty great. welcome home.
the dog is stiffer with age, the fat cat is fatter. my mom has saved the front fields for me to mow. I've flown in on a red eye and therefore haven't slept at all (I already can't sleep on planes and this is made worse by being stuck in the middle seat), but we still stop on our way from the airport to have lunch with my two aunts. there are birthday cupcakes.
on my birthday it's cold -- 52 -- and rainy. plans to go paddleboating in the harbor downtown are scrapped in favor of a decadent brunch at miss shirley's, where we order, in addition to our own breakfasts, an extra plate of jalapeno bacon cinnamon rolls. my mom buys me shoes and then we pick my brother up from school and head to cold stone to get a cake. "do you want something written on it?" the girl asks, and we blurt out "...happy birthday, jessica?" since none of us has even thought about it. I immediately regret not having the cake read "DANG GIRL" but short of having the text scraped off and rewritten, it's too late.
at home I fall asleep on the couch because I'm 33 now so I guess my transition to grandma is complete. it's 3:30 in the afternoon.
we drop my sister at 4H and then go with my brother to boy scouts, where it is election night. we listen to a series of adorably awkward speeches. my brother's friends are all amazed to meet me, the mythical older sister. my brother is elected senior patrol leader -- top dog. as they close the meeting, he gets the entire troop to sing me happy birthday. it's my first birthday at home in 13 years.
I go home and sleep for 10 hours. jet lag is a bitch, y'all.
the next day my mom and I drive down to fells point and walk around. we eat sandwiches on the water, peruse galleries, stick our heads into touristy shops, trip on the cobblestones. I miss my mom and I wish we could do this all the time. being away is hard.
I run my favorite trails. my calves hurt all the time (I need a travel-size foam roller but keep electing not to buy them. I don't know why) but it doesn't really matter; I strap on my oldest shoes and bounce down the archery trail to the ridge trail. I lament the loss of the sign we used to kiss at the top of the ridge. it had a deer on it. I make the same wrong turn I always make, and realize it at the same place I always realize it. I cross the stream three times and dunk my right foot twice. running in these woods always feels like a benediction somehow. there is love in every step. I am thinking of the boys in cross country, who used to tear through the woods and fell small trees; I am thinking of my best running friend, lindsay, whose braid was always bobbing along near me, who was always faster and smarter and who was always, always my favorite; I am thinking of mr. mig, our coach, who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 gastric cancer. I have his address and need to write him a letter. he used to watch me run cross country meets -- I was awful at cross country and I more or less hated it because I never figured out how to pace myself -- and he would turn to my mother and say, 'your daughter has got so much heart.' it's been 18 years since my first xc season and I still think of him, and of his faith in me, every time I race.
on the quarry trail, my sister joins me and leads the way and we talk about our running goals, about times we got in trouble, about the differences between our high school experiences. hers is much more regimented and sterile than mine was; the school is bigger, the track team is highly competitive, and everything is so busy and structured. during my track years, we'd deviate from the trail to jump in the river; we'd swim and eat mulberries from the path and get covered in mud. she just runs.
we order crabs for dinner one night. I grill chicken one night. we go out for ice cream and snowballs.
we spend one afternoon working in the yard, dragging downed branches from all over the yard, debris from this winter's many snowstorms. the grass is knee high in places (because the branches make it impossible to mow). we break it all up and saw it into pieces and burn it in the fire pit until we are too tired to move. the branches still outnumber us. I once again wish I could stay for two weeks, tell no one except my immediate family I'm home, and help my mom clean up the yard. it is clear how much easier it is to have a second adult in the house -- a second driver, a second wallet, a second cook. my mother is overwhelmed and exhausted. it never gets easier to leave.