May 18, 2015

a year ago

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he’s about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back
really? I asked.
really, he said, and this job is just like that, none
of the others want anybody to get out of
here. that’s just the way it is
in the postal service!
I believe you, I said.

just then the supervisor walked up and said,
you fellows were talking.
there is no talking allowed on this

I had been there for eleven and one-half

I got up off my stool and climbed right up the
and then I reached up and pulled myself right
out of there.

it was so easy it was unbelievable.
but none of the others followed me.

and after that, whenever I had crab legs
I thought about that place.
I must have thought about that place
maybe 5 or 6 times

before I switched to lobster.

- charles bukowski, the great escape

March 23, 2015

days 400-446
have been kind of bleak? for a variety of reasons, some of them very difficult to articulate, I am quite suddenly finding it next to impossible most days to feel interested in running. it isn't burnout. it might be distraction. muscles hurt inexplicably. who can say. I just keep running and hoping for better days.

recently I was talking to someone dear to me about trying to introduce exercise into one's life, about how what makes it stick is finding something you enjoy, and I said, "if there's anything I've learned in 400+ days, it's that discipline is just love, really." sometimes I think I've learned more about long-term relationships from this daily solitary endeavor than anything else, ever. how you can on some days utterly hate it and still not want to quit.

small regrets rectified
I've been issued a new garden plot, in my old garden site but on the opposite side of the garden. I am so happy about this. I gave up my plot a year and a half ago when I thought I was moving to alabama. I gave away a lot of stuff during the time when I thought I'd move, but it's only the loss of the garden that I've bitterly regretted.

it will, however, be hard to see the raspberry canes in my old plot, which it used to take me an hour a day to harvest, and be unable to pick them. I'll admit to being a little small and jealous in hoping that someone tore them up.

the unexpected
there are two toothbrushes in my bathroom. a second tube of deodorant. a phone charger. an extra container of yogurt. at the precise moment I had conceded to the idea of staying single forever -- I preferred it, didn't I? I was too finicky, too solitary, too headstrong -- out came this most extraordinary of surprises. a chance encounter with a former colleague turned into a date, and then a weekend of dates, and then a few days in a cabin in the woods, and now a dedicated shelf in my bathroom. nobody -- and I really mean this -- is more astonished than we are. just when you think you know where you're headed. you'd think I'd have learned this by now.

March 14, 2015

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind of you Keats,
So single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

-- mary oliver, the fourth sign of the zodiac

February 10, 2015

on the phone with my kid sister, who happened to answer when I called the landline at home in maryland. seventeen seems, in abstract, such a dreamy age, no longer a kid but not yet an adult; seventeen makes me think of summer and ponytails and small, delicious secrets. the truth of seventeen is more straightforward and less romantic: kids with acne who find themselves expected to make large choices about their life path only months after they even learned to drive; kids who haven't figured out how to manage their hair or their emotions.

she tells me that she's considering pulling out of the disney trip she's supposed to be taking with the orchestra. I'd have to miss track practices for weeks, she says, and none of my friends are going, and I'll miss all of spring break. but I can't get the money back. how much? I ask. four hundred, she says. 

I can't make the decision for you, I say, but let me tell you: my senior year I auditioned, on a lark, for the small spring musical, a stupid ripoff of a chorus line that took place in high school instead of in a dance audition. I unexpectedly landed a role. I was dating a theater guy at the time. spring track season was about to start and I found myself having to choose. we were frustrated at our track coach and, god, I don't even know what the deciding factors were, really, but I chose the musical. I don't remember a single thing about the experience except that the character's name was Dawn and I sang two lines and they sat in a terrible place in my voice (the passagio, but I didn't know that then) so I more or less had to yell them rather than sing them. I missed my final season of running and I know now that it was the wrong decision, that I should have stuck with what I loved. I tell her that sure, she'll lose four hundred bucks, but is that really the deciding factor? or should it be?

we keep talking for awhile, until finally she walks back to find my mom. but before she passes the phone over, she says, with surprising sincerity: thank you for your opinion about spring break. nobody else will really tell me what they think I should do. 

it's a glimpse, I think, of a relationship to come. it feels like something close to real sisterhood. 

I injured an adductor muscle last monday (a groin muscle, for the layfolk among you) and in response my entire left hip structure has been tensed up and miserable for a week. it seems to have triggered that old physical response that I dealt with for years -- chronic hip pain -- and since I can't remember or don't know how that got better, I'm in an old familiar place. I had forgotten how intrusive it is, how frustrating to be unable to find any position that feels better. sitting makes it worse. standing makes it nominally better but is exhausting and untenable in the long term. so I just nurse it along. my relationship to running right now is manic: there are days where I run seven miles on a whim and other days where the thought of having to go run brings upon a massive sense of dread. I think maybe it's just february. everybody hates february.

edited to add: I just remembered. homeroom. the name of the stupid high school musical was homeroom. utterly forgettable in every way. I don't suggest looking it up.

February 8, 2015

day 404

"A friend of mine from Santa Fe went to visit Roshi when she was up in Minnesota.

She said to him, "I'd like to study Zen."

He said, "It's no big deal. Here's a book." He lifted a book off his desk. "You can either fling it down or place it down, like this." He demonstrated placing it down. My friend said the way he placed it, the book became a real being.

"That's all," he said, and smiled.

The tricky thing about Roshi was, the things that were extraordinary about him, you couldn't copy. They came from within him. What you wanted in him had to come from within you. You could get up at four-fifteen A.M. a few times to get to the zendo by five to sit with Roshi because you wanted to be noticed by him or to be with him, but you couldn't keep it up for those reasons, especially since it didn't impress him. Finally, you had to give up all that. You had to do it because it came from inside you, because you wanted to do it, whether he was there or not. And then it even became empty of that. You just did it because you did it."

-- natalie goldberg, long quiet highway

day 404: a big breakfast, a day spent curled up watching movies and napping, and then dragging yourself out the door for one easy mile that you are not remotely feeling. and then it's a mile in and it turns out you're feeling fine so you think you'll just keep running for awhile, and the air smells like wood smoke and then pizza and then bacon and then rain, and the stars are unexpectedly out, the clouds illuminated by an unseen moon. is there lightning? it seems like maybe there is a very occasional flash of far off lightning. you decide you might as well just do your long run today after all. you don't have music, which these days is unusual, so it's you and your wondrous, surprisingly content, quiet, grateful mind. the miles are easy until they are hard, and then hard until they're over, and all of this is completely the point. you run a little past where it hurts, because that's how muscles grow: by breaking down and then mending the weak places until they're strong.

instead of one mile, you run seven. life is unpredictable that way.

January 14, 2015

day 379, or day 14, depending on the math

some things I'd like to do this year: a belated list of things I'd prefer not to call 'resolutions'
but more like 'kickass shit for 2015'

- read 100 books
- do a lot of pushups so that I'm super good at pushups, for no real reason except that it seems kind of badass
- break my 5K PR
- write more
- embrace the imperfect and messy

the imperfect and messy
if you don't know me in person -- and even if you do, actually -- you probably don't know that my biggest struggle in terms of character flaws is that I avoid things when they feel scary. but by this I don't mean, like, biking out to the gorge or dangling off rock slivers

chillin' - alternate view

or any of that stuff. it's stuff like responding to emails or answering the phone or dealing with accidentally overdue bills. basically, it's things that make me feel like I messed up or like I don't totally have my crap together. and it doesn't matter that I totally know that avoiding things makes them worse. it's a classic anxiety loop.

I also -- and this is probably more well-known -- am really bad at publicly flailing at things. I always say that in general I prefer to show up, like athena, fully formed from the head of zeus. this is perfectionism at its ugliest and most crippling, and it stands as a barrier to joy.

so I'm going to try really hard this year to open myself up to looking dumb in public (a thing that certainly I am more aware of than the rest of the people in public), to owning stupid mistakes, to accepting that things are hard before they are easy and it doesn't mean you're dumb. it's okay to look dumb and ask questions. keep me honest, internet.

are super fun. I had one initial day of bangst (bang angst) when I showed up to work with my new hair and nobody said anything which I was afraid might be a tacit acknowledgement of bad hair, but I got over that and they are super cute and fun and make me feel way more different than expected, especially since I already had bangs, just longer, swoopy ones. so PSA: if you feel like chopping your hair off ill-advisedly over the bathroom sink one semi-glum sunday afternoon, go for it, bros.

this weekend is the debut of my hot dog racing costume. I don't know if I've mentioned it so: I jokingly, and then seriously, decided to race all of this year's xdog races in a hot dog costume, because it's hilarious. the first race of the year is a snowshoe race up on mt. hood. my race buddy and two other friends rented a fireplace suite in one of the resorts up there and are going up a day early to go swimming and sit in the hot tub and run and eat and jump on the bed probably. I am looking forward to it with intense relish. the hot dog costume is not ready (it needs ... tailoring, if one tailors a hot dog suit) but I've committed to it anyway.


January 3, 2015

might as well jump


happy new year.

day 368

I made it: a year-long running streak. how many times have I thought about what I would write in this moment? and yet I am mostly without words. in maryland I only ran the trails on one day, in part because I was frequently without a vehicle, and in part because my leg was consistently bothering me (and still is), and also in part because when I come home for christmas I'm lazy and sleepy and I really would rather just sit in my pajamas watching netflix with my sister than do nearly any other thing at all.

the one day on the trail was glorious. so there's that.



I arrived back in portland the night of 12/30: day 364. I had not yet run when I got home. it was 7 PM. I'd been up since 5 AM EST. I was exhausted and lonely. I ran one slow mile. the calf pain I have been carrying around for six months had localized to a point at the top of my achilles, rather unexpectedly, and had hurt for the entire day of travel.

on day 365 I ran 1.4 miles at lunch, more slowly than I wanted because of the leg. I listened to music and wore my hair in a braid and it was sunny and cold and I momentarily choked up, but mostly the run felt strangely uneventful. I had been imagining this ending for the last three weeks, sometimes playing it out in my head as I ran, so maybe I had already lived it. I came inside and one coworker high-fived me and that was that. I was jet-lagged and coming down with a mystery ailment. I left work an hour later and missed by ten minutes the flowers my mom had had delivered as a congratulatory gift. when I found out about that the next day I felt doubly blue; they would have made the day feel a little more ceremonious.

that night I fell asleep at 6 in front of the TV and was woken by jennifer, who had showed up with balloons (after repeatedly trying to text and call to no avail, since I had slept through all attempts). she hadn't known that I had been feeling bummed by the lack of pomp of the last day, so it was especially nice, and probably funny for her since I opened the door in a fleece leopard-print PJ set my sister gave me for christmas, my hair rumpled, half-asleep.

I have been surprised by how immediately the fervor of the streak has declined. which is not to say that I am throwing in the towel, but I wouldn't have guessed how much motivation I was drawing from the approach of the one-year milestone. on these post-365 days I mostly go out to check off the boxes. I am not into it. I'm also trying to stop this leg from hurting. and january generally kind of sucks.

the homestead

my family has an elf on the shelf, even though my siblings are 17. the sense of humor required for the elf is pretty solidly in our wheelhouse. normally it's my mom who plants him around the house, but when I got home my sister and I commandeered him.




(bonus: admire my world's geekiest senior photo, far left)


my mom got me a hot dog costume for christmas. I had requested it. it's a tale for another day.

my mom's cats are ridiculous.


on the whole the trip was kind of weird and a little bit of a bummer. I always forget how much of the difficulty I have with visiting people and getting out of the house has to do with not having a vehicle. some years I can borrow the '94 buick century station wagon (with wood paneling) but this year it had a radiator problem and was out of commission. my sister is driving now (and I discovered on this trip that driving with someone who's been licensed for a month is FUCKING TERRIFYING for me, as I nearly had a panic attack in the car and tried not to let my sister know; we all have to learn somehow), but her truck also is in need of work and I was hesitant to borrow it. so I was largely housebound, and then we nearly had to put down our 14-year-old black lab, who rather suddenly lost the use of his back legs and who had to be carried in and out of the house by two people for several days. it turned out to be a bad vestibular system problem -- doggie vertigo. he just was too damn dizzy to walk. it was exhausting and I definitely spent the entire afternoon of 12/23 intermittently crying because we felt sure we were going to have to say goodbye to him on christmas eve.

he got better but still required pretty intense care and also had to go out like every forty minutes because the drugs he was on made him have to pee every second.

otherwise I sat around in my pajamas. I saw almost no one. I did almost nothing.

adventures in the new year
I developed some miscellaneous ENT illness upon arrival in PDX. I still don't know what it is, but I do know that it made my tongue hurt and look really weird, which is how I can advise you to not spend too much time looking at your tongue. there's like some sort of semantic satiation that happens, like how if you repeat a word too much it loses meaning -- that's what happens when you keep investigating your tongue. don't do it.

strep? thrush? I seriously don't know. I took a picture but I'm not that big of an asshole. nobody needs to see that shit.

also, I cut new bangs today. living on the edge.


also those are my sweet-ass leopard print PJs. courtesy of my kid sister. my brother got me the new taylor swift album and I love it and I don't care who knows it.