Cleanse

The sun is out and I can barely stay inside.

Let’s go on a hike. Or a run. Or a walk. And a drive. Maybe just sit on porch and take in the breeze through the trees as the neighbor’s cat rubs up against my legs and hisses at my own cats indoors.

If I’m inside, every shade is up, every window opened. If I forget to close them, I wake up with the sun, regardless as to what time I got to sleep, as if my own circadian rhythm is going, “How dare you stay asleep when the world around you has awoke?”

The power of the sunlight drifts into the night, and the warm air and a bonfire are plenty substitute for a noonday sun. I still feel the energy, as if skin pinkened by the flames is the same as skin warming under the sun.

I try my best to mitigate how the winter’s weather affects me, but beautiful days remind me that it works in the opposite direction, too. I don’t realize how much energy I can have until the literal fog is lifted. The fog and the rain and the mist and the cold, dreary air.

On a Saturday that I’m wracked with the flu, the rainy spring gives way to a perfect day, and I’m so convinced the weather is enough to energize me that I go for a drive with the windows down. It wipes me out so terribly that I spend the rest of the day in bed, windows up, the gentle spring breeze passing over my fevered skin.

A Saturday later, and I’m driving back from a walk around the city, deliberately picking uptempo songs and tapping out the beat as I drive. It’s one of the kinder heirlooms from my father, the staccato drum solo against a steering wheel, an ability to get lost in the song while you’re driving. I’m not fully recovered but now the sunshine can supplement what my immune system hasn’t been able to provide.

And on a Monday holiday, I’m by a lakeside dock with my feet in the water. I didn’t want to fall asleep the night before and I didn’t want to stay asleep once the morning came. It’s me and the sun and the loons calling in the distance and they’ll be my only companions for a while. The house is asleep but the world is awake, and three hours of fitful rest feels like nothing against the ripples I make in the water.

It’s spring. It’s finally spring. And already toeing into summer. And I’m okay with that. Summer is my season. Summer is when I return to the mountains. Summer is when I travel. Summer is when something in my soul cracks open and the crisp lines of winter give way to the saturated colors of summer.

It’s going to be a lighter summer than it has been in a while. I know it. I’m making sure of it. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Marie Kondo’s show and “Thank U, Next,” came out and became such hits at the beginning of the year. This has been a year about clearing things out, removing what doesn’t bring you joy, creating space for the things that do. Of saying, “thank you, but next,” and letting go.

My pantry and closet have been cleared out. Maybe not in the Marie Kondo way, but it still got the job done. Now food spoils less often. I’m surprised with what I actually have available in my wardrobe.

Sometimes you don’t clear out just to make space for the new. You clear out to be reminded of what good things you already have, things that might’ve gotten lost under the clutter.

I have plans for this summer, as I always do. The sun energizes me. I’m solar powered like that. I’m finishing the 48 4,000-footer list. I’m releasing another collection of poetry. I’m going to keep trying to find representation for my two manuscripts — ones that are just waiting in the wings, brought out for dress rehearsals as I edit them yet another time. Im going to keep submitting my work even when it feels like I’m sending them into the void, a black emptiness that feels like a new moon on a cloudless night.

I have so many things I want to do. So many things I want to see flourish. And, by the same token, so many things I’m glad to let go of, glad to put behind me. Glad to admit they don’t bring me joy and release them. Anger, regret, resentment. The unkind and unwelcome heirlooms that might’ve made life a little difficult, now and then. The past. Anger and resentment over it. The vicious cycle it creates.

Letting them go. Making space. Both for what the future will bring, and for the appreciation of the present moment. There are too many things that bring joy in my life now to grant the clutter any more space or consideration.

In some ways, clearing it out all has been the southern swell that pushes the clouds out to sea and send a warm breeze into the night.

How dare I stay asleep, when the world around me is starting to wake up.

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Slog

It’s the slog runs that are the important runs.

That’s what I try to tell myself on a miserable Monday morning, lacing up my shoes, running around my neighborhood yet again because the trails are iced over, because I don’t have time to drive somewhere new.

The easy runs, the simple runs, they’re maintenance. It’s the slog runs that matter. The ones that are dreadful, the ones where all you can think about is the end. How you run when it’s a chore defines the kind of runner you are.

Slog runs are important runs. And every run these days has been feeling like a slog. Between injury and illness, I haven’t been able to train, and I feel like I’m starting from scratch over, and over, and over again.

It makes me wonder if there’ll ever be a time when I’m not returning to the start. If there will ever be a time when I can get past all this and really progress forward. Continue reading “Slog”

Connection

“I don’t think you’re an introvert,” says my husband. “I think you’re an extrovert who got the extroversion beaten out of her.”

I’ve learned to take these insights from him seriously, even when they run in stark contrast to what I actually assume about myself. The number of times I’ve heard him pose such an insight, and I’d swear that it’s not the case — only to have life gently (or, at times, not so gently) unfold to me the truth behind reality. I’ve learned to hold such assessments with both hands and with cared regard.

An extrovert who got the extroversion beaten out of her. “But, like, not literally beaten,” I’ve said when telling others about it, like the only way a spirit could get crushed is under the weight of swinging fists. Continue reading “Connection”

Shift

I have a nasty habit of falling into old habits.

I train up too hard and too fast when I run. I get stubborn about my mileage, my pace, my frequency. I get impatient when I feel I can do better. Taking it easy is akin to giving up, and I handle both concepts with equal grace (or lack thereof). It’s how I sprained a hamstring tendon five years ago, trying to train for the Chicago Marathon — and how I turned that sprain into a minor tear by attempting a yoga class the day after and forcing a stretch where the muscles had locked up.

The injury took me out of marathon training, and out of mid-distance running in general for years. But recently, I’ve been trying to get back into it. Run more than 5 miles, or 6, or 7. I sign up for a 200-mile relay. I research local half marathons. For the first time in over a year, I hit 10 miles. For the first time in who knows how long, I’m hitting sub-8-minute miles on pavement. Right in front of me was a new set of goals, expectations, including maybe, just maybe, finally keeping my promise of running in the Chicago Marathon.

And then — not even during the run itself, but during a very, very gentle stretch, after a run that was anything but gentle — I feel a ping in my left hamstring. Not enough to have fully re-injured myself, but enough to awaken an old monster. Enough to remind me that tendon injuries never fully heal. Continue reading “Shift”

Marked

Afternoon has settled long and heavy on my shoulders,” Sarah Bareilles sings about December, and I listen to it the same way one bites down into a lemon wedge.

December has a way of leaving things raw. It has a way of sharpening the lines and heightening everything on one side and the other.

December has a way of making you feel like you’re about to pick up a heavy weight — or perhaps more like you’ve just been reminded of the weight you’ve been carrying all along. And I still don’t know if all the White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock help push back against it or if it creates a glare with their tinsel and lights.

It’s a heightened time. It always is at this point in the year. The sun seems to shine brighter, more sharply. The overcast days bring more of a sense of gray. The darkness from the setting sun is saturating and dominating. The music pings a little more at the soul, the resonance lingering in the air just a little bit longer. The wind cuts a little harder than its January and February counterparts. Every sensation is just a little more alive, for better or worse.

May all be heightened and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Continue reading “Marked”

Roads

When I was a teenager — when I was the only one of my friends with a car, albeit a bedraggled former rental car with terrible brakes and not even a tape player — I would drive my friends through the South Shore, finding random roads and seeing where’d they go.

Depending on the night, we could get as far as the Cape, before eventually finding a route we knew would bring us home. We didn’t have so much as a road atlas in my car. Just blind faith that eventually we’d find 3, or 93 — or a gas station attendant that could get us to where we needed to go.

It felt like everyone around us was showing their rebellion by throwing parties that we were never invited to. We hit the road instead, wandering the roads, straying and getting lost, never doubting we’d find our way back. Continue reading “Roads”