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So what if it’s been six and a half months since I could run? So what if it’s been six and a half months since my favorite dresses and pants fit me properly? So fucking what, indeed.* It’s not like I’m a cripple, or a cow. I’m still mobile and beautiful. (Also smart, funny, helpful–and did I mention humble?)

Honestly, this tale of woe about my plantar fasciits and “inability” to exercise has gotten pretty [insert profanity of your choice here] boring. Whah whah whah? It’s more, “Blah blah blah.” STFU, TK. Get over your shit and do something.

It’s not like you can’t. Not knowing what or how is no reason to ignore the problem. Heck, you didn’t know how to get a divorce or change a destructive pattern of behavior but you figured those things out and are happier for it.

I get it, TK. I remember what you’re like. Nothing happens until you are completely and utterly done with whatever the bullshit is.

So finally you have given up on the stubborn insistence that you have no viable options over your pernicious case of plantar fasciitis. Good! It only took six and a half months, that’s nothing compared with how long you used to put up with asshead boyfriends, two-faced friends, and your numb reliance on all sorts of vices to escape from imperfection.

Since no one’s perfect, you’re off the hook TK. The days of all or nothing are far behind you, which means: a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

We like that lawn a whole lot better, now don’t we.

So: swim a little, PT a little, use the bike at the gym a little. Who cares if you’re not good at anything? At least you’re moving. Have a little less wine, and your little bit of dairy can come in the form of your homemade ice cream.

Now get after it, before I kick your ass.

*If I use “fucking,” do you think the “indeed” is redundant?

IT’S ALL NOW TO YOU/THERE AIN’T NO BEFORE. — Elliott Smith

 

Roots

Today is my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary.

Forty-five years, people! Four and a half decades–FIVE and a half decades of knowing each other, if you count from when they first started dating–and they are still IN LOVE. They sometimes even make goo-goo eyes at each other. For perspective, I was ready to jump off a bridge after being married for a tenth of that time.

My parents’ love is one of those gifts that everyone who spends time with them receives. I have been lucky enough to catch the reflection of their love, and to absorb the overflow, for 39 years.

In the darkest hours of my divorce, witnessing Dad flirting with Mom made me feel lifted up and reassured. There was no woe is me no one loves me like that, just, “Thank God for proof of love.”

Tonight over dinner (they were in the city and invited me to dinner), Mom and Dad were talking about how they grew up in the same town, about all the intersections of their extended families, dating back 60+ years. How my mom, as a little girl, would go with her father to the grocery store owned by my dad’s cousin. How there is a picture of them at the same brithday party of a mutual friend when they were in elementary school. How all these people–families, friends, neighbors, clients–lived within blocks of each other. I got all choked up.

How beautiful it must be to have such a network of people who know your roots. For the first time ever in my life I thought, I would like to have that.

True love is umistakable, you just have to open your heart to see it.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

[Photos from across the subway platforms.]

Green Mountain Relay 2012

In order to squeeze all the juice out of the Green Mountain Relay, you must suspend your disbelief in love at first sight.

I’m not talking romantic love here, people. I’m talking about how my teammates all put aside that normal, gradual progression towards friendship and instead assumed our friendship was pre-existing, we just had to take it out of the box and pop in the batteries. Instafriendship. Boom, I got your back.

Admittedly, was worried. I worried that personalities wouldn’t gel, or would clash. I worried people wouldn’t feel included, or wouldn’t open up. I wanted everyone to have a great time; I wanted them to love this relay as much as I do.

Why did I worry? Silly TK.

It worked, like it always does. Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves all fell in love. We encouraged, joked, supported, empathized…and tweeted. There was a lot of tweeting, which was excellent. We also rubbed, tickled and spooned, but that was mostly Van 2 and I can’t share the details.

As captain, I did my best to have everything run smoothly. I wanted all the details covered so all my dwarves had to do was run and laugh, not necessarily in that order.

Here I must mention how much it means to me that NI, TW, SS, and AC returned to run with me again. I’ve been in the foxhole with them. They are the through line–the strand upon which I string the beads–connecting 2008 to 2012.

For me, the Green Mountain Relay is a potent mixture of new fun and old memories. Even though I am always thrilled with the present team, every moment from the past three GMRs I’ve done rise up throughout the weekend to tweak my nose. I pined for the affable, snarky, and weird spirits of runners with whom I’d shared a van before. God, I love those runners.

It was hard not being out there on the road this year. 99% of the time I was totally fine, in the moment and having fun. But when the tee-shirts got handed out and there wasn’t one for me? And when our medals were disbursed and there wasn’t one for me? The reminders that I wasn’t a runner this year pinched a little. Just a little, because otherwise I loved that I was there to help out managing the timesheet, driving the van, etc. Also, I loved that I could jump from van to van to hang out with everyone, and sleep in a bed while my dwarves were running legs 19 to 30. The sleeping, yeah that was pretty sweet.

Everyone ran their hearts out. They ran through direct sun and humidity, through the darkest dark; up intimidating mountains, and down quad-trashing hills. Some even ran through congestion, fever, and nausea; some ran extra miles. These are not runners we take for granted.

To the teammates new to SWATED this year: MW, SC, BG, MK, LL, LR, JS, MW–you were what I expected, and you were so much more. It was an absolute delight to get to know you to begin with, or to get to know you better. You are now SWATED alums, which means you have a standing invitation to return to the team.

Another person I’d like to mention is Paul, the race director. Over the past 4 years he has become a friend, too. I owe him–for without him founding this relay, I might have never met the dozens of wonderful runners I now consider friends. Late Friday evening, he texted me. “Just checking you got a race medal and tee-shirt for being team captain?” That really meant a lot to me, I was really touched he thought to ask. Thank you, Paul. I love your race.

Ultimately, we placed first in our division, and fourth overall. That was pretty thrilling, because I am after all still a competitive woman. However, it’s also slightly besides the point, since the point is (as I have already explained) the people with whom you fall in love at first sight. Image

It’s my fourth.

Damn, I love this race. (And by race I indicate not just any relay, but the Green Mountain Relay. Just that one.) It’s a little torturous, like that emotionally unavailable lover who is your sexual ideal in bed? But that might be the appeal: the elusive hunt for the perfect team chemistry (everone’s fast, gorgeous and funny!), and the perfect race (no bonking, cement legs or nausea!).

It might be fair to say that, as a non-running captain of Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves, I’ve perhaps lost the hunt this year. I’m certainly not complaining, but it’s been hard to captain this team by myself. It’s been one of those labors of love. Love for myself–I want to participate in this relay again because of the ways I get to connect with other runners for 48 hours. Love for others–even though it would have been easy for me to bail when I knew there was no way I could run, I held up my end of the bargain for the rest of the team. And love for this race–it holds such sweet, sweet memories for me; and it needs teams to support it through participation. I guess I stuck with it to keep both my memories of and the future of the Green Mountain Relay alive.

Just saying, though: the ceaseless recruiting, endless emails and follow-up, the failed attempts to schedule a happy hour? They all reminded me of how crucial a good co-captain is to this experience.

But isn’t that true of most of life? Sure, I can take care of it myself. Sure, I can get it done flying solo. But the grind is a lot less wearing (and sometimes a lot of fun) when you’ve got a partner to share the drudgery. It leaves more time to share the laughs.

(Sometimes I worry that I take the metaphor too far in this blog. I take it so far that it stops being true. This metaphor could very well be headed in that direction. Pay attention; let me know what you think.)

This year, I captained well enough. Not as wonderfully and exhuberantly as I would have liked, but well enough that the rest can be filled in by my marvelous teammates. Teammates who, to a one, I am thrilled and honored to spend a weekend with. I kind of already love these people; I can’t wait to see how they handle being canned in a van. Canned in a van, with me.

So I might not have a co-captain, but I have a whole damn team. Lest we forget: Snow White would be dead in the woods, thwarted by an evil bitch, if it weren’t for her seven dwarves.

(Now that I think about it, that metaphor ended pretty well. Do you agree?)

Dear Dad,

On this, your thirty-ninth Father’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the ways you’ve been a father to me every day of my life. I love you, you love me: these are the plain facts that hold such more intricate truths and stories.

Some stories of our days together I only know because you’ve told me. Us watching Watergate together, the first summer of my life. You and me, hogging the baby pool in the back yard. Me, leaping into your arms for a dance whenever “Kodachrome” would play on your hi-fi. Other stories I remember myself. Waving good-bye to you from the kitchen window in my footie pajamas, as you zoomed off to work on your motorcycle with a beep. Telling me a wonderfully endless story about a girl trapped in a green world who discovers a red arrow and is forever changed. Taking me out for a hotdog and a cream soda (just you and me!), taking me to my first Mets game, my first concert, and to a pared-down overnight camping trip (everything had to fit on your motorcycle).

Remember what a moody, stubborn grudge-holder of a teenager I was? Well what I remember is how you’d face my scowl with jokes and laughter until I relented.

You’ve made me apologize when I treated others poorly, you have always been my greatest defender when others treated me poorly. You coached three sports and worked summers mowing  lawns so that Mom could go back to school, and we could still take a summer vacation as a family. You welcomed my friends into our family, you hazed my boyfriends just enough (then you would help them too).

I admire you. You were a champion soccer player and baseball player in college; you have always been a natural leader. You served your country in the Army, you make friends everywhere you go, you master the hobbies you take up. You loved Mom since the first moment you met her, and you still flirt with her, more than five decades after you first clapped eyes on her. You speak with pride, love and delight about your son, and your grandchildren. The example of the way you love us is one of your greatest gifts to me.

Most recently, though, I think back to the night nearly two years ago when you picked me up at the train station and drove me to see a lawyer. You waited in the car as I learned the steps I’d have to take to rend my life apart, and what awaited me on my journey away from what I’d thought was my future as an until-death-do-us-part wife. Afterwards, you took me to a pizzeria for dinner, and kept up a congenial, gentle and one-sided stream of conversation about the Mets, your woodturning, the rest of the family. You handed me your handkerchief and didn’t fuss further about my ceaseless crying. When the waiter showed up and I was still crying, you acted as natural as could be. There was no pity, no drama. You just sat with me, steady in your belief that I would be fine, that I was fine. You even told me so. When I am counting my blessings, when I am cowed in gratitude for all that God has given me, this moment is one of the standouts.

When I was a little girl, you were my hero. You hugged away the mean words of the kids who teased me, you assured me I was smart and beautiful. Now, as a grown woman, you are still my hero. I have learned a little bit about what it takes to be a grown-up, and a person of integrity. I’ve seen how hard it is to give yourself over to love (and all the attendant worry). You are my hero because you have shared your humanity with me, and have shown me that being a hero sometimes means showing support when you can’t actually save the day. You’ve shown me the value of saying yes when people ask for help, and the rewards that come when we let our guard down and ask for help in return. Thank you.

I love you, Dad.

Always,

Your daughter

Then.

Back then, you believed I could be faster.

You got me. I know, because of how you encouraged me.

You inspired me to write love letters, and post them publicly.

You not only ran with me, you stood next to me.

You pulled me forward.

Running. Running. I never thought you’d be the love of my life.

You are surprising.

But: what now, that I can’t have you?

National Running Day

On this, National Running Day, I have this to say: I am taking up swimming.

I use my training log solely as a place to track my weight.

My Garmin 405 has sat uncharged on my desk for months. Tonight I’ll finally hide its blank-faced shame in my dresser.

Running shoes are now my fashion faux pas. As in: worn with a skirt, all day long, at the office.

For half a year I’ve told myself I would heal up quickly. I refused to be resentful, complaining, impatient. I cheerfully went to PT; I swung on the elliptical and read manuscripts. I thought, time not spent running can be dedicated to other projects. I tried to see my forced benching as an opportunity to look elsewhere, not as a view from the sidelines.

In reality, I slept in, worked longer hours, and drank more red wine.

I can no loner push aside the pangs of longing I feel when friends tell me about races and training. When men and women ran by me during my two weeks in Italy, it was like a punch in the nose: it stung, and brought tears to my eyes. I was a foreigner, and the single most connecting thing I could have done in Italy was denied me. It was my only remorse while there.

I am done with eating salads and teetotaling and still being 10 pounds too big for most of my clothes.

God fucking dammit I want to fucking run. I want to run far, at a clip, without any pain. I want my heart to pound. I want to feel the wind in my face. I want to get up in the dark and run through dawn. I want to feel my lungs get bigger from use. I want my eyes to sting with sweat and sunblock. I want my pigtails to become whips from tangles and perspiration.

I certainly don’t want to be listed as “non-running captain” of my relay team–yet I am. I certainly don’t want to consider never running again–yet I am. I certainly don’t want to never again feel the buzzy, numb, wrung-out elation of the final mile of a distance race run at maximum–yet it’s been so long, I wonder if I didn’t imagine it.

On today, National Running Day, I tell you this: anyone who says they run to stay in shape is a fucking liar. Either that, or they’re not a runner.

End. Of. Story.

Outward Bound

Saturday evening, at 9:30 pm, I will be sitting on a plane that will take off for Rome.

Rome, ITALY.

Right now, this very second, I have 100 euros burning a hole in my wallet.

I’ve invested money in brushing up my Italian, and in fashionable clothes.

Tomorrow, I’m going to dig out my converter, and have my mail held for 2 weeks.

(TWO WEEKS!!)

I feel so jetsettery.

Q: How did you learn to speak Italian, TK?

A: In bed.

Earlier this evening, a cousin-in-law (who knows how some of these people are related! I just hug everyone at wakes) spoke to me in Italian because he knows my scholarly background. I responded, and in fact it turned out I had a lot to say. Boy did it feel good to push those words out, their singsongy rhythm making me feel like some sort of open-mike performer.

Also, did I tell you that I’ve rented a damn castle in Umbria with some friends for the first week of my vacation? Technically, we’ll be staying in Villa Pianesante on the Todi Castle estate. I just legitimately used the words “estate” and “castle.” Cool.

Also, did I tell you that I’ve rented a flat in the centro storico of Bologna for the second week of my trip? Bologna is in Emilia-Romagna, the region of the country considered to offer the finest examples of Italian cuisine.

Q: Did I pack stretchy pants?

A: NO.

Who’s more excited for me than I am? NO ONE.

Who thinks I’m going to meet a rich Italian bachelor and finally attain my dream of living in Italy and training for marathons on the hills of Le Marche? NO ONE.

It’s good we’re all on the same page.

Also: no work for TWO WHOLE ENTIRE WEEKS. I will be WITHOUT BLACKBERRY. I’m a little dizzy.

I know I’m having a cheese-tasting lunch at a cheese makery (farm? factory? um?) on Monday. Saturday I have to catch a train to Bologna from Orvieto. But beyond that? NO PLANS.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have plans. I plan to layabout. I plan to read. I plan to gaze at the hills and the cypress trees. I plan to somehow talk to strangers, so I can practice my Italian. I plan to not give into this fear that’s poking a bony finger into the timid part of my soul. I’ll write postcards, use Maria’s iPad, sit in the sun, wander along cobbblestone streets, and reabsorb Italy into my psyche.

Who wants a postcard?

I would like to write about running. But I haven’t run since mid-January, and have no expectation to run until August. So I have nothing to say to Running except for:

Running, I miss you! I miss you so much. I miss the way, when we’d spend time together. I’d feel so talented, smart, funny and beautiful.I miss the way you used to make me laugh, and how we’d get all sweaty together. I miss how, after a good workout, I’d feel all sassy and omnipotent, hopped up just by being around you. I loved spending time with you–you are so interesting, and you totally “got” me. But mostly, I miss the way you’d make me feel special, and like you loved me more than anyone else.

Wait.

I think I got my love letters confused.

Actually, no.

Fuck you, Running! You fickle bastard.

Here’s another thing. Turns out, love is infinite. So even though I might be ignoring Running now (well, it’s more like this: I’m not returning Running’s calls or texts because it’s just.too.painful to go there), but I can nevertheless feel Running’s love for me. I know Running loves me, the way Running loves her, and him, and you, and you and yes even you, you lazy slob. Running loves us ALL because love is infinite! Love just creates more love.

Running has room for everyone. Even the runners who are so injured and depressed that then can’t run at all. Even when all we can do is tweet stupid shit and drink lots of wine and work 12-hour days and make ice cream, Running still loves us. Because Running knows that as long as it keeps the love there, we will turn back towards it, one day.

I prefer to turn towards love. Even when injured! Even when blogging under the influence of 750 mililiters of prosecco. Even when shopping for size 8 clothes when I’m usually a 4. (That’s when I really need love.)

Being injured sucks, but it doesn’t mean we are abandoned. Running’s love still stands, waiting and ready.

Also: did I mention I’m going to be living in a castle in Italy in a week’s time?

Craving, and Waving

My days of gazing longingly at the grass on the other side of the fence are gone. (I can grow my own goddamn grass. That’s a metaphor; I’m actually a shitty gardener.) My old hobby of staring into the abyss named “Things I Do Not Have” has since been replaced with observing the absolutely crazy abundance in my life. (Do I even deserve half these material gifts, half these remarkable people who pull me into their lives? The answer is irrevelant; instead I say please and thank you.)

Sometimes though a craving will come upon me for things that I simply can’t get for myself, and there’s nothing to do but ride it out. For example, the soft safety of laying in the crook of a beloved’s arm, not needing to see his face because instead I can feel his heart beating. Or, running so hard and fast I feel like a piston, my heart, lungs and legs all working together to hurl me with such force I become the motion. Or, waking up with the calm mind and the blank slate of a woman who’s got it all taken care of.

This is where reality gently waves at me, and coos, “Patience.” Today, on my drive from the Poconos, I saw a sign for an amusement park called The Land of Make Believe. Indeed? I drove faster. When I got home, I went for a run. It was pretty brutal. My lungs were burning nearly every step of the 2.5 miles, and I couldn’t wait to stop. I was ungainly. I got through the “run” by imagining various scenarios in which my plantar fasciitis-riddled feet would no longer be a problem.

  • Scenario #1: I am the Wicked Witch of the East, and Dorthy Gale’s house falls on me. I am finally put out of my misery when my feet curl up on themselves and retract beneath the house, once and for all behaving with the appropriate shame of retreat.
  • Scenario #2: In a Terminator-meets-Bionic Woman operation, my feet are lopped off and replaced with feet of liquid metal that not only withstand repetitive impact but are indifferent to hot sand or cold ice. I become known as “The Molten Runner.”
  • Scenario #3: While in Umbria for my vacation this May I visit Assissi and by being in proximity to holy relics my pain and injury are spontaneously removed by a merciful, Catholic and Italian god. Miraculous, and convenient; I begin carbo loading immediately.

Despite these amusing fantasies, I’m waving at The Land of Make Believe as I pass on by. And to my craving, I say: you are legitimate, and I will come wake you up when your day has come.