Monday, October 06, 2014

By the Light of the Moon

The bright moon hung suspended in the lavender sky by an invisible wire, spotlighting the rolling farm tapestries of gold and green.  And as my body floated down the winding roads on happy legs, my heart swelled with the magic of this beautiful evening scene, and I released gasping, tearful sobs of joy in the third mile.

The rest was just a lovely dream, leaving no trace of the pain and agony of last week.

My body was wrecked - destroyed - by lack of sleep and trying to squeeze too much activity into each 24 hours.  Every cell revolted and stubbornly sat down and refused to carry on the nonsense, forcing me to bed and to my favorite chair for a whole weekend of mindless nothingness.  I felt my life draining away from me even as I tried to save it.  

But today, the Universe restored my soul and filled me with the Love I've come to depend upon for my health and happiness.

And this... this is how I choose to live.  I choose Love.  Every fucking time.

"Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy."  
~ Henri Frederic Amiel

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Mile

Gosh, I haven't written here in so long I feel like a complete stranger to my own blog.

I've been exhausted.

My weekly training mileage is getting extremely challenging; to find the time is maybe more difficult than finding the energy.  A 4:30 alarm is about the earliest I can stomach, and even that doesn't always leave me room to get to work on time.  It's dark.  It's getting chilly.  And 4:30 is fucking early no matter what time you go to bed.

But every two weeks I'm surprising myself with new records, and as trashed as my body feels at times, I've never felt stronger in my life.  It's a journey, full of adventure and lessons and doubts and exhilaration and... Love.  Race day will almost be a let-down at this point, because it will mark the end of my trip.  Well... this trip.

It's all relative, I remind myself constantly.  I have certain friends who run my weekly miles for breakfast.  But this isn't about them.  It's all about me.  My legs.  My lungs.  My pace.  My fears.  My stubborn determination.  My open heart.  My lessons.

All the parts of my life melt together into the run.  The can't-go-another-step part, the my-god-I'm-a-fucking-badass part, the finally-feel-loved part, and the what's-going-to-happen-in-the-next-mile part.  And I just keep going, with relentless forward motion, until it's time to stop.  And so it goes.  Mile after mile.  Life after life.  Love after fear.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Indiana 2014 - It's a Wrap

I can't imagine going back there unless one of them is gravely ill or dead.

I'm so done.  

It's not their fault, I guess.  It's not mine, either.  The Universe threw us together into this thing called a family, which somehow takes on this "till death do us part" kind of promise, which is completely unfair when we don't get to do the choosing.

So a lot of us suffer through these awful, dysfunctional, outgrown relationships for the sake of having a guest list for Thanksgiving dinner and people to buy useless Christmas gifts for, or because we feel some sense of social obligation to these strangers who share our blood line and our name.

Throw in a shitty childhood and tell me why I should ever have to return to the scene of those crimes?  Now that we're all adults I'm supposed to just forget the atrocities and play nice because my parents probably won't be around much longer?  And because they're family?

Fuck that shit.

But it's hard not to have a family in this society.  Better to be homeless or terminally ill than not have a family.  People are sensitive to the homeless and the sick.  No one seems to care if you don't have a family.

I have completed my obligatory visits for 2014.  And it may very well be my last trip, at least for a very long while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Indiana 2014 - Day 3 (Fathers and Feathers and Fish)

He did it again.

It seemed like the middle of the night when I thought I heard a knock at the door.  I wanted to ignore it, but my son was sleeping on the sofa bed and I went to check it out.

There he was - my son - receiving instructions in low tones from my father, who had decided to take him fishing.  My dad then turned to me and started babbling about my youngest sister closing on a house this week.  I glared at him and reminded him I was still half asleep and that this might be the only day in my 18-week training schedule when I didn't have to get up early to run or go to work.  So much for sleeping in.

And I hated him all morning for that.

I started thinking about all of the stupid-ass things he did to me when I was young - waking me up by pouring water in my face or tickling me with my feather pen until I was annoyed into opening my eyes, leading me to believe Santa left me that bundle of switches outside my bedroom door because I was such a bad kid.  It dawned on me that if he were born today, he might be diagnosed with some sort of social disorder like Aspbergers, because he really doesn't know how to deal with people sometimes.  Maybe he does have some issues.  I just always thought he was an asshole.

So the boys went fishing and the girls hung back and hot-tubbed, read, and watched the rain roll in.  Damn it.

The fishermen arrived around lunchtime with photographic evidence of their day's efforts.  My son looked happy and seems to tolerate my father in a way that I cannot.  Or maybe I used to, once upon a time.

He left to clean up, then returned to take us all to dinner.  He rattled on about this and that, not listening to a goddamn thing anyone else said.  I started to tell him about my job, but he just doesn't hear me.  He interrupts to tell me about my cousin's husband who finally got his citizenship and now has access to some classified something or other.  Seriously, I can't have a fucking conversation with this man.

I understand now why I never felt loved.  I understand why I hated him.  I understand why I felt like nothing I ever did impressed him or was good enough.  Because he never acted like he heard me.  Ever.  Still doesn't.  I think it's just the way he is.  He has his own agenda.  He doesn't give a shit about yours.

And all the while, I'm wondering if my kids will hate visiting me one day as much as I hate visiting my family.

I finished out the day with another round in the hot tub and a glass of cheap Chardonnay from the Tiki Hut convenience store up the road.  My head hurts from too much sugar and fat, and while I hope we get to boat again tomorrow, I'm really ready for my own bed and my regular routine.  There are many things I miss this week, not the least of which is my gym time.

Friday will be a colorful (I'm certain) visit with my great Uncle Dick, and an uncomfortable (I'm even more certain) evening with my sister and her family at my mother's before we escape head home on Saturday.

And that will be the end of this year's family torture.  I'm going to put a note on my calendar to remind me to read these posts if I am stupid enough to consider it again next summer.

Indiana 2014 - Day 2 (Boats and Bears)

The second day of the trip began the way most of my days begin - with the donning of the running gear and a glance at the schedule while the kids lay sleeping.  I had contacted the local high school before we left to see if I could make use of their running track for my interval training.  The answer was yes, and that's where I went.

It was a nice, quiet run - only one other person was in sight, painting the lines on the football field.  We left each other alone to our separate tasks and finished and left without incident.

I had worked up a ridiculous sweat, as I always do, but intervals get me going more so than usual.  Soaked and smelly, I hit the grocery store while I was there in town for some "not junk" food for our home away from home.  I got some really strange looks from people who looked pretty strange to me in their regular clothes.

The kids were up and awake and ready for adventure when I returned, so we headed for the boat dock to grab a pontoon boat and hit the lake.

My son was terrified - he always is in the beginning.  He feels more comfortable expressing himself now, which is terrific, but the rest of us know how the story ends, so we don't buy into it so much.  By  the time we were on the other side of the bridge outside the idle zone, he was kicking back and playing lookout for his sister who decided to go tubing, joking in his usual way.

Hallelujah.

Our tradition is to find a quiet cove, drop anchor, and swim for a bit.  So we did.  I was a little bit worried that the kids would be bored, but it's amazing what can entertain you when you unplug from the electronic world for awhile and immerse yourself in nature.

I made my way to the shore side of the cove;  I was hoping to relax in the sun on the "beach."  My little ducklings followed - all of them - and we sat on the gravelly ground with our toes in the water, skipping stones and watching tiny fish nip at our feet.  Never missing an opportunity to educate, I told my kids the stones below us were shale stones and showed them the lines of sediment that made beautiful patterns.  One of my daughters announced that shale was very soft (a tidbit of info deposited in her brain from her extensive 8th-grade earth science education), so we began breaking the rocks with no effort at all, showing each other our super powers when it came to the really big ones.

They were great for skipping, those flat smooth pieces of shale.  One of the kids got 7 skips, I think.

I had some trouble starting the boat again after that.  I tried to call the contact number I had, but our phone reception was poor and eventually I was able to get the thing going again.

We explored the rest of the gigantic lake and even saw a bald eagle take off from the side of a hill.  I'd never seen one and didn't understand the big deal about them, but seeing one take flight in person was amazing.  This graceful, majestic bird commanded my attention and gained my respect.

A little while later, I was zig-zagging around an open area to pull my daughter through the wake and jazz up her tubing experience, when I saw another pontoon boat nearby that was tracking in the same direction I was.  I didn't want to chance a collision, so I made a big circle, only to see that they were following.  I got a little nervous when I saw two men on the other boat.

It was the guys from the dock who had received my calls but couldn't hear me, so they had set out to make sure we were okay.  How Hoosierly of them!  I told them we were fine and thanked them; they went on their way.

More tubing and joke-cracking and family silliness.

Until...

My son anxiously yelled for me to stop the boat, having seen the hand signal from my daughter on the tube.  What happened?  She says something sank into the water, and the gas tank was now floating behind the motor, though still attached to the boat.

Hmm.

I took a good look and all of the wires and tubes appeared to be intact.  Gas wasn't leaking into the water.  I figured I could untangle the gas line and pull the tank onto the boat and we could proceed, but, not being a boat expert, I thought maybe I would cause further issue and decided to call the boat guys.  This time the reception was better in the middle of the lake.

They were on their way.  Again.

As we sat and waited, drifting in the water with the engine off, I watched my son handle the whole emergency like a champ, which amused me because this was exactly the kind of thing he was worried about.

The boat guys examined the situation and did exactly what I was planning to do - they pulled up the tank and secured it inside the boat, and had us start her up and get moving.  All was well as we headed for home to clean up for dinner.

Quick showers inside - huge storm outside.  Holy shit, am I glad it didn't cut loose like that while we were still on the lake.

We headed into the closest town to hunt down some wings to satisfy my middle child's cravings.  I had some ideas, but wanted us all to agree.  We settled on a place called Thirty-Six Saloon.  Seemed like a good candidate for wings, and I didn't see a bunch of cars there just yet, so hopefully it wasn't too drunk and disorderly.  We agreed to take a peek and head for the car if it wasn't family-friendly.

We marveled at the etched artwork in the big wooden door and opened it.

Inside, we found a very saloon-like atmosphere, with wood beams in the high ceilings and mounted trophies everywhere.  Where they didn't stuff 'em, they skinned 'em and mounted the fur on the wall.  Moose, deer, ducks, foxes, bears, fish... you name it - they killed it.  Peanut shells were scattered on the floor and we noticed barrels with big scoops and a "help yourself" attitude.

But it wasn't drunk and disorderly at this hour, so we took a seat and ordered a pretty good supper for these parts.

By the time we finished, the storm had passed, the sun was shining, and all was well.  We stopped at the Big Berry for a traditional scoop of outstanding ice cream and dragged our tired bones home.

Day 2 was a very good vacation day, and I had forgotten all about my dysfunctional family and my stress.  My kids may be the product of dysfunction, but today, they were happy kids.  Happy kids make happy moms.

I'm happy.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Indiana 2014 - Day 1 (Showers and Shit)

I stood in the bathtub in my mother's outdated bathroom under a trickle of water that was supposed to be a shower and wondered if I would ever get clean.  I looked up at the mint green walls with the mauve seashell wallpaper border along the ceiling line and thought, Mom doesn't even like the beach.  A jar of shells sits on the vanity, collected by my grandmother during her summers in Florida over the years.  The tub is a little grungy, either because of my mom's failing eyes or her depleted energy levels.

The house holds no meaning for me whatsoever.  It is not my childhood home, but the house my mother bought after her divorce from my father.  (She loved it then - it was brand new and all hers.  Now she only sees it as a money-guzzling hole and wishes she could get a free home makeover from Oprah or some other television show that assists the less fortunate.)  So I drove 12 hours to stand in a strange, tacky, seaside bathroom in Indiana with water pressure barely fit for a third-world country or an RV.

I stood there, trying to warm up, questioning why in the hell I even made this trip at all.  

Outside the bathroom was my mother, who had told me in a very condescending voice the night before that she was going to pray for me, since I happened to mention that I thought the Bible was just a book of stories.  Shame on me for speaking my mind in such a close-minded state that sports billboards announcing that Jesus is REAL.  (Just in case you didn't know.)

Religion makes my skin crawl.  Formerly my lifeline, I now believe practicing religion is like trying to learn how to drive a car in a classroom.  You can sit behind the wheel of a simulator and follow all the rules in the manual beside you, but you'll never feel the wind in your hair on the open road.  And you'll never really understand how it feels to completely lose control and slide across a patch of black ice.  Spirituality is the real deal.  Religion is for practice until you get there, but it's certainly not designed to be the end game.

Unless you're from Indiana and you don't believe in Jesus.  Then it's certainly the end for you, because you're headed straight for hell.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Face eternal damnation while your Christian friends look down from above and piously remind you that they're praying for you.  

I finally escaped my mother's house, with a stomach ache and gritting teeth, to head to the lake with my kids.  A whole new set of stresses consumed me as I prepared to greet my father.  

I knew he would be excited to see us and I really just needed a few minutes (or hours) to unwind and unpack the car before I had to face him.  I pulled up to the administrative building to check in, and I didn't even have the car door open yet before he pulled in behind me.  The man has no sense of personal space or boundaries.  Last time, we had gotten in very late the night before, and he showed up knocking at the door at something like 7 a.m. then sat on the couch and proceeded to have a "visit"   while I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and wondered if I were dreaming. 

Sometimes I can handle him - even appreciate him - but not when I'm stressed and exhausted.  All I really wanted was some dinner with the kids and then some time in the jacuzzi on the deck.  I had to suffer through some terribly boring conversation and then the dreaded dulcimer exhibition.  Finally, he was gone, and I slipped into a warm, pulsating tub that reeked of chlorine but provided a temporary outlet for my anxiety.

The next time he comes over, I will enjoy him, but today was not the day.

I'm completely wiped out.  Returning to the scene of so much childhood pain is tiresome and difficult.  


Monday, August 11, 2014

Trust Me


I trust you.  

Cross my fingers, hope to god you won't hurt me.  Until you do.

We hurt.  We get really, really mad.  And if we can't let go of the grudge it eventually kills us like a slow-spreading cancer.  But between perceptions, cultural differences, beliefs, and basic human nature, we're bound to feel hurt by someone we love now and again.  Sometimes I trust you is a cop out to avoid facing my own trust issues.

I trust me. 

That's the hard part.  When I hurt myself, I have no one else to blame but me.  

Can I accept the responsibility of making good decisions?  Have I learned to understand the difference between that tug in my gut versus a tug in my groin?  Can I ignore both of those things if something just "feels" right (or wrong) in my heart?

Trusting is a spirit-mind-body connection.  Getting it right takes practice and lots of experience.  

Trusting myself means knowing - knowing - that everything will be okay, even when there is hard evidence to the contrary.

There is no feeling more empowering and relieving and Loving than looking into another person's eyes and knowing.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not My Worst Part

We're two episodes into Season 2 of Masters of Sex, one of my favorite shows.  While there aren't too many quotable quotes from the story of Masters and Johnson and their clinical sex research at a time when no one talked about orgasms or vibrators, I heard a good one in this last show.

Dr. Masters told a young girl with a debilitating, uncontrollable sex drive, "I'll tell you what you're not - you're not your worst part."  

I love that. 

I'm not my worst part.  I'm not sure which part of me is the worst part, but thank god it doesn't define me.  My smart mouth... my intolerance of assholes... my judgmental nature... my continual fight with food...  I could go on, but one thing I don't consider a negative is my sex drive. 

I can't believe it was such a short time ago when we knew nothing about women's bodies and any health issue that couldn't be explained demanded a hysterectomy.  The story was, men chased women around for sex, and women did their best to avoid them but endured it when they had to.  How sad.  I wonder if my grandmother ever climbed on top of my grandfather and rode him hard until she howled at the moon.   

Good sex is so much more than genital humping.  If all I needed was a quick orgasm, I'd live happily ever after with a box full of vibrators and a never-ending supply of fresh batteries.  Great sex has elements that can't be measured in a clinical study.  

Women stereotypically prefer having sex with someone we have "feelings" for.  But I think we want our men to have feelings for us, too.  A penetrating gaze into my eyes that says more than "I want to fuck you" can do as much to charge me up as a touch in just the right place.  Trusting him implicitly lets me relax and opens me up to receive pleasure with Love, not Fear.  

My body is a vehicle designed to allow my soul to communicate with another.  And as much as I loathe it at times - as much as it fights against me and disappoints me - I love when it starts talking.  

I am not my worst part.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

States of Mind

I love the soothing rhythm of my front-porch rocking chair.  My winged friends are wound up this evening, but the mocking birds are strangely silent.  Usually it's all I hear - the incessant twitter of a dozen different calls from the show-offs of the neighborhood.  I wonder where they are.

The new boxwoods that line the front of the porch are showing light green growth, and the St. John's Wort bushes are joyously presenting hundreds of tiny yellow flowers.  My Pee Gee Hydrangea tree is filled with white blooms, and I am a happy gardener.

I have an upcoming trip to Indiana with my children that's making me feel a little apprehensive.  It's out of obligation and guilt that I chose to go; I had the fortune to skip last year since my parents both came here for my daughter's graduation, giving me a reasonable excuse.  But with every passing year, they grow older, as do I, and I feel like I've abandoned them to live out their last years with only my sister's company, and she has not been well for quite some time.

My family's dysfunction pushed me away as soon as I was old enough to go.  I suppose all families have their shit to shovel - I'm not so unique in that regard.  But going back is so fucking painful.  I appreciate the opportunity for my kids to know their grandparents, but as for me, I would be fine never to return again.

At this point in my life, I am grateful for the Midwestern values and kindheartedness with which I was raised.  The community was poor but loving and giving all the same.  It wasn't like it is here in New Jersey - or maybe I was just sheltered from all the assholes.  And I have come to learn that not everyone in New Jersey is an asshole (and most of them came from New York), but there is a high percentage of them, and it's enough to sour a person on the state completely.

Thankfully, I have found enough things to love about this state that I don't really give a fuck about the assholes anymore.

Anyway... it's always stressful to return to my origins.  My mother will talk about her inevitable death as she tries to send me home with junk so I won't have to sort it later.  She'll tiptoe around my sister and her issues and act like nothing is out of the ordinary while we all sit uncomfortably in a cramped room watching my niece recite commercials and bounce around like a pinball.  My father will talk about the weather and his home projects, which, these days is a welcome reprieve from the subject of my sister.  We might be able to talk him into making us fried pickles and going boating with us.  My son is looking forward to fishing with "the smartest man he's ever met."  Dad's the smartest man I've ever met, too.  At least in certain areas - like the woods and engineering and music and art.

But I will marvel at the kindness of complete strangers and the old-fashioned manners that have become a distant memory.  My language will revert to the sweet-sounding southern Indiana dialect of my relatives.  I will enjoy the musical talent of my father, I will love my mother, and some part of me will feel like I'm home.  At least until I can't wait to leave.

Thank god tomorrow is Chest Day.  There are some very lovely things about the state of New Jersey.



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Use Your Words

I'm so tired of feeling intimidated by a blank page.  Maybe if I take up smoking and move to New York City with three single girlfriends, I'll be able to write smoothly about Love and relationships, just like Carrie Bradshaw.  She always has something profound to tap out on her Macbook while gazing down at the city from her trendy apartment window.

Love is always on my mind.

But sometimes the joys of parenting and pet ownership and employment and marathon training and weight watching and bill paying and house cleaning and a million other things set my mind spinning or numb me out completely, and the words get lost before they come out.

And sometimes Love paralyzes me a little.

It's so much easier to just feel it.  How do you find new words to describe something that's been written about since the beginning of time?  None of the words I know are right.  

And now it's bedtime.  Again.  

I guess I'll try again tomorrow...