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.