The Adventure

The flight to Orlando goes off without a hitch.  That much we get.  At that point, the most annoying part of our journey is the fact that our connecting flight in Orlando — which will bring us to our first destination in Salt Lake City — was delayed by 45 minutes.  But we board without issue and I’m already looking forward to when we land — when we can pick up the rental car and drive to our hotel and rest our travel-weary heads before embarking on our mini-road trip across Idaho and into Montana.  I’m already looking forward to the dawning of the next day, when the sun will peak over the mountains of Utah and we start our adventure.   We’re two days out from our 6-year wedding anniversary and my head & heart are filled with what we will do.

As we’re preparing for takeoff — as we are literally preparing for takeoff, plane on the runway, engines firing — the captain comes on and tells us we have to turn back to the gate.  Something is wrong with the air conditioning system.

We return back to the gate.  We wait in the plane, all the while a very upbeat captain with a slight brogue tells us that it shouldn’t take long — and that he doesn’t want to deboard the plane over something as minor as making sure the cooling and heating systems are working.

Twenty minutes later, we have to deboard the plane.

We’re in the Orlando airport for an additional 5 hours.  I try to keep my complaining to a minimum.  I’m nervous about the rental car place still being open by the time we hit Utah.  I’m frustrated that we our arrival time for Salt Lake City comes and goes and we still haven’t even reboarded the plane.  But I try to keep it together.  What good would complaining do.  This is a minor setback.  Better delayed than canceled.  Keep it positive.

There is a gaggle of cranky, overtired toddlers.  I send them a mental note: “I feel you.”

Around 12:30 in the morning, we finally board.  I immediately try to get comfortable, counting the minutes until we’re in the air and the lights are off and I can finally get some rest.  It is easily 3+ hours past my bedtime.

As we are taxiing the runway, a woman in the back says that she smells burning.  She’s getting anyone’s attention, which includes the captain’s.  The captain attempts to figure out the smell, and when he can’t smell anything, he opts to return to the gate, just to get the go-ahead from maintenance (but that he doesn’t expect that will take long).

We return to the gate.  Twenty minutes later, the captain tells us the plane is now out of commission.

Flight is canceled.  No other planes available.  Next flight is tomorrow.  We’ll have to fly back to Boston, just to take a direct flight — a direct flight we had opted out of because we didn’t want to lose a day like that for our adventure.

At that moment, I burst into tears.

“This is an adventure-type of vacation,” my husband says as we wait for our luggage. “Things go wrong on adventures.”

I try to look on the bright side: they’re putting us in the Hilton, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum from our no-frills Best Western in Utah.  Perhaps a comfortable bed with high-thread-count sheets will offset the fact that I’m hysterical with exhaustion.  Offset the fact that I’m going to lose an entire day.  Offset the fact that it starves us a day in Montana.  Offset the fact that I’m going to bed at 2:30 and I’m naturally up by 5:30 no matter what.  I try to put all of that out of my mind, sink into the comfy bed, and fall asleep.

At 5:15, the fire alarm goes off, violently waking us from our delirious slumber.

I try to laugh — it has gotten comically bad at this point — but I burst into another set of tears instead.


The alarm doesn’t fully turn off until 6.  No real reason is given.  Not that I’d want to be sticking around to find out anyway.  I’m officially past my breaking point.

I crawl into bed still crying, and my husband rubs my back before wrapping his arms around me.

“I’m here,” he coos, and I immediately feel a little more at ease.

I drift in and out, getting in perhaps 45 minutes of semi-sleep before giving up and leaving the room, finding a common area so as not to deprive my husband of sleep as well.

There are not enough mantras and affirmations and meditation techniques in the world to counteract all the negativity I feel.  I’m frustrated at the stupid plane and its stupid AC system.  I’m pissed at the woman who said something about the smell and decide she did it just to feel important.  I’m devastated that we’re losing money and a day in Montana.  I’m heartbroken over my ruined plans.  I’m irritated and sleep-deprived and nauseous and nauseated by it all.

I’m on an adventure. I tell myself. Things go wrong on adventures.

19402216_10103615327177169_4309791431624353417_o.jpg

According to my husband, when my mother-in-law would find herself lost, she would tell her children that they were on an adventure.  Something that could be annoying at best and panic-inducing at worst was now something that added flavor to the day.  When asked if they were lost, she’d always chipperly respond, “No — we’re on an adventure!”

I envy that mindset — envy the fact that my husband can see this mess as exactly that, as part of an adventure — and I wish I could switch over to it.  But I know it’s not as simple as that; the human brain, as malleable as it is, doesn’t shift gears so abruptly.  Deciding you’ll just stop feeling so intensely about something and instead feel the opposite is akin to shoving your car into reverse as it’s going 90 MPH.  You can’t just force a mindset, not without longterm consequences.

But I still try to focus on that.  Adventures are thrilling because there’s an element of the unknown.  Adventures mean taking a bit of a risk.  Adventures mean don’t be too attached to specific plans because they could change in an instant.  Adventures are meant to have some element of danger, even if its a danger of having your vacation plans go awry.

Adventure means you can prepare all you want and still get the unexpected.  Adventure isn’t meant to be easy on the soul.  Adventure is meant to fill it in some way.

I can’t help but draw parallels to other aspects in my life.  Perhaps its because this vacation is part of our yearly tradition — a trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Perhaps its because it’s been an intensely introspective time and I pull parallels like bricks for a repaired foundation.  But I see them lay out before me, as if begging to be taken in.

My husband’s and my first dance was to Angel & Airwaves’s “The Adventure.”  We chose that song partly because no one else had done it, partly because we were fervent Angel & Airwaves fans back then, and partly because the song resonated so perfectly with what we were feeling.

Hello, here I am.  Here we go — life’s waiting to begin.

293361_10100203985842549_1521734162_n.jpg

I can’t live, I can’t breathe, unless you do this with me.

I once derided marriage.  Said it was what people did when they wanted to make each other miserable.  And it can.  I look around — look at what I grew up around and what I see in the present day — and see so many people in toxic, dysfunctional marriages, where their roles are almost addictively stuck on making the other miserable (while guarding themselves against the oncoming misery).

But, when done right — or, at least, as right as any of us can do it — marriage is that adventure.  It’s a step forward with an element of risk.  It’s a “don’t be too attached to specific plans because who knows what’s going to happen next.”  It’s a step into the unknown.  It’s knowing things will go awry and that there’s no such thing as prepared.

Just like any adventure, when done wrong, it is a draining, potentially life-ruining experience.  But, when done right, it can fill the soul.  It can tap into exactly what needed tapping into and restore a part of your humanity you didn’t realize was lacking.

I wanna have the same last dream again,
The one where I wake up and I’m alive.

I return back to the hotel room and can hear my husband’s alarm through the door.  I walk in and find the bathroom door closed.  Filled with emotions, I turn off the alarm on his phone, pull up Angels & Airwaves on my phone, and start playing “The Adventure” — and I immediately burst into another set of tears.

Halfway through the song, my husband emerges.

“Good morning!” he says. “How are you feeling?”

I look up with tear-filled eyes and laugh out an, “Emotional!”

“I can see that.”  And, with that, he pulls me in for a hug.  The hug turns into a reincarnation of our first dance, swaying back and forth to the music.  His shoulder is soon soaked with my tears and I am crying for a thousand different reasons.  He holds me a little closer and a little firmer as the song plays into its final refrain.  It’s not spoken this time, but is implied as loudly as the music itself.

“I’m here.”

Hello, here I am (do this with me),
And here we go, life’s waiting to begin (do this with me).
Here we go, life’s waiting to begin.

Life’s waiting to begin.

To Do With Myself

19238252_10103598084032569_3815817439534609641_o.jpg

On Sunday — on Father’s Day, no less — I finished my in-person exam/practicum, thus completing my 300-hour training in yoga therapy.

It capped off an amazingly busy May into June; a time where there seemed to be so much going on at once that I could focus only on the most immediate deadline.  From my maid of honor duties, to my best friend’s wedding; from leading workshops, to taking them; from hosting dinners & barbecues, to my in-laws coming in from Ohio.

It also capped off a gently transformative and evolutionary 10 months, a time where things fell into place — where light was shined where it needed to be shone — and everything tumbled into the exact spots they were always meant to be.  It was a 10 months that were never calm, never linear, never one-thing-at-a-time.

In September, when I just started the training, I was finishing up my young adult novel about the ballerina who quits the dance world and joins a boxing gym in secret.  From October to November, I was enrolled in a group fitness certification course, reading its textbook with the same blazing speed as I was reading my yoga anatomy one.

When I finally took my exam and passed, I sat back and went, “Well, what am I going to do with myself now?” — assuming with my trademark naiveté that this would be the crux of my multi-tasking.

17855570_10103429967195059_3222807524944336360_o.jpg

In January, I got an email from the same group fitness course, asking me to take their beta version of their newest course — and if I could take the course and the exam in a timely fashion, I’d essentially get a chance to take the personal training course I’ve always wanted to take, but for dirt cheap.  I then spent the next 3 weeks at a blistering pace, making sure I fulfilled my requirements in time for the deadline.

In February and into March, I found myself at another blistering pace, this time writing my newest novel — this one about a wife who learned just how much of a lie her life had been after her husband passes away from a sudden heart attack (and another women still desperate to reconcile her past, decades later).  In 5 weeks, I wrote that novel — the fastest I’ve ever written any manuscript, ever.  Within weeks of finishing, I signed up for the personal training course, diving in at the same blistering pace as I did with the second group fitness course, and taking my exam only a month after signing up.

I didn’t even get a chance to ask, “What am I going to do with myself?”  At that point, it was only a few months until my best friend’s wedding, and I had a bridal shower & a bachelorette party to clumsily put together from my spot in New England.  I was hightailing it to Chicago one weekend and having people over the next and going to New Jersey for the wedding the weekend after that and having my final yoga therapy seminar the weekend after that — everything happening at such a breakneck pace that I almost tumbled into my final exam, pushed by the sheer momentum of everything behind me.

“And now you’re done with all of your trainings,” said my husband, facetiously adding: “What are you going to do with yourself?”

The answer, in the manic swirl of my life, is quick in the short term: I’m making good on my plans to visit the northwest — returning to Utah before immediately driving through Idaho and into Montana and Wyoming.  I leave soon for the mountains of Glacier National Park.

What am I to do with myself?  Pack.

And maybe, in the longer term, it’s somewhat as quick as well.  There are two new manuscripts now to edit, to query, to edit again, to query some more, to submit to anyone who will give it a passing glance.  There’s an older manuscript that might be entering its newest phase in my efforts to get it published.  And there are other trainings on the horizon I want to take part in, ones that will help me with my niche of therapeutic exercise.

But, really — what am I to do with myself?  The true long term answer?

Just be.

18238498_10103492984847179_60088777457404645_o.jpg

I’m not in the same place I was a year or two back.  I’m no longer the teacher who had to fill her schedule with classes and workshops and subbing and training, because God help her if her mind went idle for even a moment in the midst of everything that was happening.  I’m not even in the same place I was in September, where a hysterical heart had morphed into a determined soul and I was checking off all the necessary things I wanted to do, what I wanted to bring with me, and what I needed to leave behind in order to take the next step forward.

I’m known for having an insane schedule, for going at a breakneck pace, for getting things done in ways that makes people go, “How did you have time for that?”  I know I’m industrious at my core.  I have a hard time with just hanging around.

But it’s time for that.  Exactly that.  It’s time for more afternoons in the hammock.  It’s time for more early morning hikes and late evening pleasure reads.  It’s time to do one thing at a time — lead my class, write my assignment — and not wonder how much I can multi-task, how much can get squeezed out of a minute.

I want to bask in the outcome of what I’ve been through and where I am now.  I want to spread out that hysterical heart and that determined soul before me.  I want to notice from afar everything that both of them have been through in the past three years and relish in how they’re — how I’m — on the other side of it.  I want take a moment and pause and realize I did not get lead astray when life said, “I’m going to make you happy.  But first, I’ll make you strong.”

I want to let the world slow down and settle in.  There have been enough upheavals, enough crises, enough demolitions.  I want to spend as much time as I can in that calm after the storm, when the sea smells like adventure and the air feels replenished.  I want to let myself feel light knowing that I did make it out all right — perhaps with a few scars, but with plenty more accomplishments to show for it.  And now I want to sit with the fruits of my labor and feast.

I want to simply be, and enjoy what it means to be.

But first: Montana.

poi_gallery_image-image-5d9ddf54-4442-47f8-aa05-789176299ab3

 

Thelma & Louise

My maid of honor speech — at least, the written draft:

Like any good maid of honor speech, I’m starting off with an anecdote.

(Bear with me on this one – at least this anecdote involves us jumping out of a plane.)

I should just jump ahead and say that it was a skydiving plane, for skydiving purposes. It wasn’t like we were on a commercial jet and decided, “YOLO.”

But that’s just what we did the summer after our freshman year of college.  And it all came about as we were driving around the shorelines in our hometown area south of Boston, reliving the days when we would do this practically every evening and weekend in high school.  I forget exactly who proposed the idea at first, but I do remember the conversation going a little something like this:

“Do you want to go skydiving?”

“Yeah, sure.  Let’s do that.”

And, with that, we turned the car around, drove back to her house, got online to find a skydiving (because this was before smartphones back in the dark ages when you had to find a computer to access the internet), found a skydiving place, and made a reservation that day.

Two weeks later, we jumped out of a plane.

1910307_525467042689_7232_n.jpg

In many ways, that embodies our friendship.  We have been the Thelma to each other’s Louise, only somehow we keep making it out okay every time our car goes off the proverbial cliff.  From when we were middle school kids who felt like such adults because we got Slurpees at the 7-11, to high school kids who felt like such adults because we drove cars and had part-time jobs, to college kids who felt like such adults because we were in control of what we did with our days, to present-day, thirtysomething adults, who look at the real world and go, “Oh damn.  THIS is what it feels like to be an adult.” – with the grim realization that being an adult is not as light as grabbing Slurpees and working on the weekends and waking up in time for 9 a.m. Survey of English Lit 1 class.

But that’s been the bedrock of our dynamic.  Even when our lives started going in completely opposite directions – as I moved north of Boston and she moved West – we were still the Thelma to the other’s Louise.  Facebook chat and weekday evening phone calls replaced our drives through Cohasset and Hull, but that didn’t stop us from being on the same wavelength, weirdly living lives that were simultaneously parallel and complete opposite.  That didn’t stop us turning to each other when live got amazing, stressful, difficult, wonderful, or just all around heavy.

That included turning to each other during the highs and lows of our romantic lives – and how, even when we were clearly living those two different lives, our situations would parallel each other in beautiful synchronistic ways.

The first thing I noticed when Jess told me about Brian was how differently she talked about him.  In the 22 years I had known her, I had never heard her talk about a guy like that before.  The energy was different, her tone was different.  It was the tone of someone who had found her person, her Capital P Person.  And flying out to Chicago and meeting him in person only solidified that this was different, this was special.

And when she told me that she knew this was the person she was going to marry – that he was indeed her Capital P Person – and how beautiful and wonderful and outright terrifying such a revelation was, all I could think was:

“Thelma, you got this.”

I once heard marriage likened to jumping out of a plane together, hand-in-hand and hoping for the best.  And all I have to say to that is — first — you already have experience doing exactly that, so you’re golden.  And secondly, I don’t think there is a more perfect partner to be jumping in tandem with.

To an amazing woman, to an absolutely beautiful couple, and to many, many happy years together.

18739066_10103560637964789_2162720343395848488_o.jpg

Wounds vs Scars & Desperate for Stories 

It started with a conversation about writing a memoir — particularly, my memoir (or, perhaps, technically, second memoir) and how I’ve hit the brakes a little bit.

“I don’t understand,” my husband said. “I feel like, when I was growing up, the only people who did memoirs were presidents and generals, and it was usually a look back on their lives.  Nowadays, it seems like there are all these women writing memoirs about one or two events that had happened to them.”

I had never given too much thought to that before — that we live in a post-Eat-Pray-Love-world, one where the nonfiction section is lined with memoirs written by women about somewhat recent events.  I thought of the fervent successes of books like Wild and Love Warrior and the response to my husband’s inquiry came flowing out, as if the answer had been hiding in my subconscious the entire time.

“We’re desperate for stories,” I said. “Women are.”

“Think about all the movies and TV shows and mainstream books that have been around,” I continued. “Think about what women’s roles usually are.  We play the manic pixie dream girl, or unattainable hot girl, or the sexy lady whose entire livelihood plays second fiddle to how sexy she is.  We play the supporting role while the guy has a coming of age experience, or overcomes his demons, or figures out the nuances of life.  It is only recently that the mainstream has even bothered to dive into any type of depth when it comes to a woman’s story. I think the uptick in women’s memoirs is just an indication of that desperate desire.”

Stories are how we make sense of the world.  This has been the truth since the dawn of civilization.  From tales around the fire to drawings on the cave’s walls.  From a blockbuster novel to hearing your friend reveal her darkest secret (and realizing how close it is to yours).  We need those stories to fill in the cracks and the holes in our soul, to organize this messy experience, to realize that we’re not alone in what we feel.  And we need more than being told we can be the quirky girlfriend to a man’s adventure, or the solemn-but-loving mother, or the supreme sex goddess, or any other two-dimensional female entity.

We need stories that dive into the complicated corners of life and shine light on the things typically kept in the dark.

And memoirs — true, nonfiction accounts — shine the brightest and truest light.  This isn’t just a concoction in someone’s mind.  Someone lived this and lived to tell the tale.  Someone was strong enough to turn around and write it out for others to read.

e-book_cover_1400x2100.jpg

My first memoir — if you can call it that — is lighthearted.  A handful of snarky, David Sedaris-esque essays about my time as a model, released through the book publishing branch of a website I write for.  It’s the literary equivalent of a jet-ski: fun and entertaining, skimming the surface at a breakneck pace and then it’s over before you know it.

I’ve been fiddling around with a second memoir, convinced in the most egotistical way that what happened over the last couple years — the good, the bad, the ugly, the fun and the shameful — would make a good story.  I’ve made notes and laid things out and even wrote a few scattered chapters.

Writing my story has been my theme for years, long before life blew up and then reassembled.  The first essay I ever wrote for that aforementioned website was about quitting the teaching field and the emotional fallout that came with it.  And of the hundreds of articles I’ve written since then, over half of them comes back to, in some way, me telling my story.

I’ve written candidly and rawly and in exceptionally public places. There are times when I’ll look at the things I’ve written and where they have been published and feel a stark nakedness.  And there are times when I look at those works and think, “Really, all I have to do is gather up these articles, add on a few chapters about things I haven’t had the guts the write publicly about yet, and voíla. Memoir done. Mission accomplished.”

Write from your scars, not from your wounds.  It’s a bit of advice I saw on a famous memoirist’s page (because, these days, it feels like all I do is stumble upon advice for writing memoirs).  Write when you’re back on dry land, not when you’re being tossed about at sea.  That’s the idea of memoirs, especially in their newest evolution: you live through it, you heal, and you turn around to tell people your tale.

Write from your scars, not from your wounds. I definitely don’t tend to follow that rule.  I think about what I wrote and published after my father died.  I wrote as I was bleeding out, hoping the words would serve as a bandage to something that cut way too deep for me to handle all at once.

I wrote in real time when I lost my cherished brother-in-law to cancer, when I nearly lost my beloved little brother to a motorcycle accident.  I wrote in real time when the woman who was the mother to my older siblings and in essence my step-mother passed.  I wrote from states of shock and numbness and despair and hopelessness and hysteria and good-old-fashioned-run-of-the-mill sadness.

I wrote from my wounds, and found such overwhelming solace in finding out how many other people were nursing the same injuries as me.  I wrote from my wounds and found that telling my story provided the same effect as reading other’s stories. It served as a reminder that these experiences are valid and universal and shared and real.


But I am learning the longer pieces can’t be written in the middle of the injury.  A story arc cannot be done while you’re still bleeding out.  You run a high risk of infection if you confuse your scars with your wounds.  You can’t turn around to tell others about the path when you’re still tripping over the trail’s roots and rocks.

As I started writing out actual chapters, I learned with a frustrating disheartening that things I had hoped were scars by now are still very much wounds, and trying to write about them in this format was risking tearing up what has already starting to heal.

A bit like life: be careful not to act as if the healing process is complete, lest you go right back to where you started.

So I put it on pause.  I remind myself of all the other things I need to do.  I still have a few more months left of my current yoga teacher training.  I have two manuscripts that need editing.  I have a third manuscript that might be entering its newest phase in my attempts to get it published.  My class schedule is joyously expanding, but also cutting into time once set aside for writing.

But I know those are all superficial reasons.  I’ve learned countless times over that I will always make time for the things I truly want to do.  The real reason is that I’m still dealing with the raw underbelly instead of scar tissue.  That I can’t fully forgive yet, and I can’t write with that type of anger still in my heart.

So, just like so many other things, I’m giving it time.  I let the moments of inspiration come on their own accord.  I write notes when the moment so calls for it, I indulge when the waters feel safe, but I go no further than that.

For now, at least.

Because, be it through a cosmic go ahead or a stumbling realization that, amidst the notes and the articles and the moments of inspiration, I had actually already wrote my memoir and healed along the way, this is a project that will see itself to completion.

Because, at the end of the day, I want this memoir out.  I want to be one more story that is shared, one more tale of a woman’s triumph over the demons and nuances of life.  One more story that was kept too long under covers.

You Are That

It hit me over the head while I was knee deep in what was essentially my yoga teacher homework.

Knee deep in ancient readings and modern-day people’s analysis on them, scanning through the Grand Pronouncements from the Upanishads, and stumbling upon a simple phrase:

Tat tvam asi.

You are that.

It hit me over the head like only one phrase had ever done so before.  It struck deep, leaving a loud and reverberating message:

“This is my next tattoo.”

I stopped everything — the homework, the reading, any type of productivity — and went to work researching this phrase.

The first time this happened, I was knee deep in Neruda poetry, attempting to better my Spanish by reading his work in the original language, when I stumbled across a phrase:  pura heredera del dia destruido — pure heir of the destroyed day.  I stopped everything and said to myself, “This will be a tattoo.”

I gave both time to marinate. I knew what a tornado my impulsive side can be.  I can dive headfirst into the pool without even checking to see if there’s water.  It needed time to settle, time for the fervor to go down, for the calmer side of my mind to take stock.  And then blind rush gave way and the resonating message stayed.

And that’s when I knew. I had long since learned just how powerful force it is when that impulsive fervor gives way to soul determination. Something in me becomes cemented, and it takes an outright sledgehammer to ever crack it back open again.

I got my Spanish line in September (alongside a long-planned Celtic knot) and my Sanskrit line the Saturday before Easter Sunday — nestled just underneath that Celtic knot, as if that had been its home all along.

Tat tvam asi. You are that. As part of the Grand Pronouncements, it means you are one with Brahman.  You are united with the supreme.  You are one with God, one with the universe, one with supreme consciousness. You are part of the infinitely complex cosmos and creation. You are one with the Force and the Force is with you.

A belief system that I slipped into like a pair of shoes I never realized I had.  One that came about in piecemeal after waking up one morning and finding that my beloved childhood faith had abandoned me in the night.  A New Age universalism before I even understood what New Age was.

God is the universe and made the universe.  You are a drop in the ocean and yet the entire ocean.  You are a creation and part of creation.  I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.  I am the eggman, he is the eggman, I am the walrus.

You are that.  Tat tvam asi.  Goo, goo, ga’joob.

The day after I get my newest tattoo, I head into Boston.  I’m first thrown off by how busy the area is, but within moments, I remember that Easter Sunday this year falls just before Marathon Monday.

The bleachers and finish line have been set up.  Gates neatly line the sidewalks up and down Boylston.  I’m surrounded by marathoners, their plastic check-in bags slung effortlessly across their backs.  I’m surrounded by fans and out-of-towners and townies and all walks of life, all anticipating the event tomorrow.

The energy is electric.  People are preparing for one of Boston’s gems — a gem that has only shone brighter in light of recent events.  An event that jarred every Bostonian and runner, but also shook us into unity — an event that reminded us that we’re in this together, and the love we have for our city and its inhabitants and for people at large is palpable and bigger than ourselves.

Our marathon was bombed and we responded with We Are Boston.  We are that.


Down in Cambridge, we stumble upon a marching band parading down the sidewalk.  We quickly go over to enjoy the music.  The group is eclectic and quirky and large.  They radiate positivity and beauty in waves.  My smile is beaming as they walk past, before they congregate around a cement park and play a few numbers.  I get closer to where they had congregated and listen.

Positivity and beauty. It’s all I can think about.  I stand there, taking it in, and, for a moment, I lose myself.  I am surrounded in the music and vibrating along with it.  The energy is overwhelming.  I’m on the verge of tears.  No — it’s more than that.  My lip is quivering and I’m ready to start sobbing.  It takes reigning it back in to avoid a scene — steeling myself, coming back into my own body — but I know if I had just rode with the feeling, I would’ve burst into beautiful and embarrassing and unstoppable tears. 

But, for as long as I could stand it, I felt boundless and boundary-less in the face of this simple and positive and beautiful energy.


You are that.  You are part of all of that.  You are one with your fellow man and one with all of creation.  We fight like mad for survival and we fight even madder for what we mistaken as survival.  We feel alone in this universe and yet we are part of this universe and the universe itself.  Even if the New Age ideas don’t strike the same chords, we lose something dear once the walls come up.  Something is lost when we decide we are separate from our neighbors, separate from the mountain ranges and the setting sun and the pain and beauty and love that this world is capable of.  And we gain something back when we remember.

You are that.  Tat tvam asi.

Goo goo, ga’joob.

Battle Scars

13529190_10102815286500099_8355021092927923004_n.jpg

I didn’t want to wear blue jeans when I went to pick up my car, for fear that the blue dye would tint the leather in the seats.

It was my first car in over 7 years — and it was my first brand new car, ever. The car I owned from ’04 to ’06 was a ’99 Chevy Cavalier, a former rental car with a subpar braking system. Nicknamed the Chevrolier, I drove that little green clunker as recklessly as any teenager would, blazing down the roads of my hometown, hugging corners like a NASCAR driver and deliberately speeding up over hills to make the car gain air.

How I survived those years without a single ding, dent, or speeding ticket, is beyond me.

But this wasn’t a 5-year-old former rental car. This was a brand new car with a brand new car smell.  No former owners — barely 20 miles on the odometer before it became mine — and a perfectly working braking system.

The car also had sentimental value: my brother-in-law sold me this car from the dealership he owned.  It was a value that grew heavily and exponentially after he sold the dealership — an act that signaled something frightening, that all the smiles and positive words were not reflecting what stage his cancer was actually in.

When he passed away a year later, the car become almost a relic of a beloved and beautiful soul.

As a brand new car, I was obsessed about keeping it pristine.  No food in the car.  Any travel mugs were securely closed and only sipped from at red lights.  Nothing was placed on top of the car, for fear it would scratch the roof.

Then, three months in, I got rear-ended.

Within three year’s time, my pristine car would become anything but.  The “no food” rule vanished and my passenger side seat became a graveyard of tupperware containers, wrappers, and crumbs.  The floors I tried not to drag dirt onto were perennially caked with sand and mud.  The cupholders have perpetual coffee stains, from all the times I was running late and took my open, at-home coffee mug to go.

Within three year’s time, I’d also watch the laundry list of damages and replacements pile up.  A tiny ding in the windshield would splinter into an unfixable crack before I could get it sealed.  I drifted into a snowbank during one blizzard, causing the rim around one of my foglights to break off.  A popped curb just before our road trip would result in a flat tire in New Orleans — as well as the discovery that almost all of my tires were on the verge of blowout, thanks to shoddy installation.

But nothing beats the last three months.  In December, a three-point turn on a narrow, dead-end street resulted in backing my car into the handle of an opened mailbox lid — with the metal handle puncturing my hatchback’s rear window, effectively shattering the entire thing.  Two months later, my car would roll into the hitch of a pickup truck, turning my front license plate into a shish kabob — and breaking off yet another foglight rim.

This past Sunday night, on our way home from the festivities of the day, we drove what we thought was out of the parking lot — but, in actuality, we were driving onto the sidewalk.

And then directly off of it, onto the ground.

The jolt of essentially popping down from the curb sent my rearview mirror flying off the windshield, hanging by the electric cord attached to the ceiling.  Upon inspection, we’d learn that the rearview mirror didn’t just come off: it took two layers of glass with it.  A completely unfixable situation, we’d later learn from the repair guys — my car would, yet again, need a windshield replacement.

I think of how I was when I had my first accident: my three-month-old car, getting rear-ended while I waited obediently at a red light.  How frustrated and upset I was, and how quick I was to get everything replaced.  How desperate I was to keep everything pristine.

There’s a dig just below the rear window, where handle of the mailbox first hit my car before shooting directly up — a dig that will probably be there until the car is retired.  The second foglight rim has yet to be replaced.  The car’s white exterior is striped with scratches, and the leather seats have become tinged with blue thanks to blue jean dye.

In many ways, I prefer this version of my car.  This is not the pristine, untouched, brand new car with its brand new car smell.  This is a car with over 100,000 miles on it.  This is a car that has seen half of the states in the continental US.  This is a car that I have driven at my lowest of lows, when my only respite was getting in my car and driving down the country roads of New Hampshire, blasting my music until it reverberated against my soul.

This car has been through a lot, and she’s got the battle scars to prove it.  And maybe I just like to see the metaphors in everything — but I cherish this car with its history and its dings and dents.

My Chevrolier was sold going into my second year of college — living in Boston proper, having zero use for a car, and no one in my family really wanting it for themselves.  I joke that my new car won’t last the length of its bank note — but I truly hope I can keep this car around for a while.  My relic, my metaphor, my means of release and reset.  A car with its components tinted from use.

A reminder to embrace what we carry away from the things we’ve experienced.  Battle scars and all.

11059936_10102236736728479_9188262650720233483_n.jpg

Return to Racing

Check-in this year is mercifully indoors.

The day’s weather hangs on a precipice.  All it takes is a slight breeze or the sun going behind some clouds and it tumbles into an arctic chill.  I’m dressed to be comfortably warm in the middle of running.  I’m certainly not dressed to be comfortable in the meanwhile.

It’s the city’s Shamrock Shuffle — a fun two-miler around the downtown area before the parade.  We check-in and get our bibs and find our group of friends.

“The cheapskate in me wouldn’t even sign up for the race,” says one of our friends, as we talk about getting our money’s worth. “I’d just run alongside everyone for free.”

“Grab some green construction paper and some safety pins and hope no one notices,” my husband adds in.

Last year, sign in was outside, when winter was mild and meek and spring had subtly slid in.  It takes a while, but eventually I realize that my last race was the race last year.

“It’s good to be back,” I think to myself, even as I shiver at the starting line.

10580953_10102101235114799_1309764424180540611_o.jpg

In some regard, I’ve been running since I was a kid — since I would barrel out of the elementary school building and to my mother’s car and my mother would call me her little track star.

Perhaps more technically, I’ve been running since I joined the track team as a JV sprinter my freshman year of high school. I’d venture away from it in college (potentially too busy walking the roads of Boston to ever run them) before returning again, using my runs as meditation, as a reset, as proof that the body I thought of as oafish and clumsy as an adolescent was actually capable of great things.

I’d return and up the mileage and find a home in the world of mid-distance running.  I’d eventually be forced take a second break from running — this time after tearing a tendon, after going too hard for that marathon glory and not properly paying attention to when I was past my limits.  It would be a year before I’d return back to any type of running, with most of my runs staying under 6 miles — my mid-distance days left behind on the trails.

I haven’t done many races in the last few years. Perhaps it was because I got too caught up in all that was happening around me, going too hard and not properly paying attention to when I was past my limits and resulting in tearing something other than just my gracilis tendon.

But I want back in it. That’s all I could think of when I was getting my bib, preparing for the race, lining up with my expected mile pace.  I want back in.

I want that bundle of nerves as you wait for the gun blast.  I want that rush of being in a group, hurdling towards something bigger than ourselves.  I want that maneuvering around the crowds in the beginning, feeling unstoppable as you find your place in the long line of runners.  I want that feeling of supreme connection followed by deep contemplative solitude, when the runners have spaced themselves out and it could be upwards of a mile before you see another person cheering on the sidelines.

I want that feeling of doubt halfway in, of wondering what in the world did you sign yourself up for.  I want that forced focus on the present moment — the reminder that it’s simply a series of moments between now and the finish line and staying purely within the moment you are in is key to making it through.  And I want that feeling of delirious gratitude when you see the finish line and all sense of time is lost.

The elements are there in any type of run — the crisp sharpness & clarity of the world after the run is done, the hypnotic rhythm of your breath and the sound of your feet against the ground, the feeling of accomplishment when you finally finish — but it’s a different feel on race day. It’s a different energy, one that can’t be replicated by just running alongside those who paid.

Why do we pay to run? We pay for this feeling. We pay to prove we can challenge ourselves and rise above. We pay to be reminded that we are a lot more alike than we think. We pay to operate as a group and move as a single unit but exist as blazingly individual souls. We pay for the moment of glory, when you cross the finish line and can do nothing more than walk forward in stupefied stupor.

And I want all of it.  I want back in.

1401654403.png

Five minutes into the race and I fatigue out quickly.  I’m already wondering if I’ll have to stop to walk.  In that forced and wavering focus on the present moment, I fill each second with doubt — why am I so tired, why am I fatiguing this early, why is a two-mile jaunt wreaking havoc on me, am I forever relegated to the jogs around the block, the jots down nature trails, the occasional toe into mid-distance running.

I think all of these things until I hit the first mile marker and my tracker informs me that I’ve completed it in 7:41.

I haven’t run a mile in under 8 minutes in years. The last time I did, it was on a treadmill — an endeavor completed without the uneven terrain and wind resistance of the outdoor word.

It’s enough to power me through the next mile — through the encroaching exhaustion and the deep desire to call it early and just start walking.

I finish with an official time of 15:41.

May this be a wonderful and fruitful return to racing in 2017, I tell social media. It’s one more thing to return back to. One more daisy popping up after a long and brutal winter. One more sign that, while there will be no such thing as returning to normal (as if I would even want to if I could), some things can still make their homecoming.

Yes, I want back in. With every fiber of my being, I want back in.

12496127_10102643958772239_4860602778404642587_o.jpg