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.
- 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
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.
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.
- entering a 5k the morning of the race, uncertain of intent: racing or running? the answer being racing, of course, always and forever. running wildly dehydrated, on legs trashed from 11 hours of driving the day before. I placed 4th in my age group, running something like 23:37, two minutes off my PR but a good showing given the circumstances. afterwards there was brunch. I love you, brunch.
- paddleboarding on mission bay again. headstands on paddleboards again. because if you can balance on your head in the middle of open water, you should.
- trying on every pair of running shoes in my size in search of the holy grail of shoes: a pair as soft and cushiony and light and flexible as the pumas I bought three years ago right before the model was discontinued. one of the girls working in the store (where my sister knows everyone and is so comfortable that she pulled the shoes from the stock room herself) told me I was looking for an impossible shoe. but she was wrong:
skechers. who knew. I guess kara goucher and meb geflegzhi are onto something?
- lounging poolside with a book, because I am real good at that skill now. I am an olympic pool sitter.
- running. obviously.
- eating ice cream. obviously.
- borrowing my sister's boyfriend's truck and driving to the beach one morning (my sister was at work) and being hit on (politely) over the course of the morning by two separate dudes. thanks, dudes.
- with the exception of ice cream, all I ate was tacos. ALL THE TACOS
- dayna and I discovered that we both eat bananas in the same weird way: naked. we take them out of their peels first. both of us have been teased about this. neither of us knew the other did it too. banana twins, y'all.
it was so good to be in california. it felt like a summer kickoff, which I suppose it was. it was good to be on the road, to be in motion, to have something new happening every day. it was good to see my sister. I hadn't visited in a year and a half. the only challenge of this trip, really (other than the part where at the beginning I had no money; that's over now) is not having enough time anywhere. I would have liked more time to camp, more time to climb things in joshua tree, more time to eat pizza with my sister, time enough to drive to santa barbara and visit cristina (I could have driven there but it would have meant some long hours of driving and, like, two hours in SB). but you either keep moving and go lots of places or you sit still. you can't really have both. at least not in just three weeks' time.
and now: the other coast.