20 February 2014

things I forgot today

It must've been the weather that threw me off so terrifically. Yes, let's blame how we experienced basically all forms of weather today: rain, sleet, thunder, lightning, wind, and overall gray cloudiness, the kind that makes the sky feel oppressive and makes the earth feel small and makes you feel trapped on this small earth.

I had a day of forgetfulness, perhaps because most of my brain power went to trying to keep up with the weather. In no particular order, here is what I forgot today:
  • My coffee: I poured some into my travel mug and then left it on the kitchen counter.
  • My socks: I went to the gym after work {this running every day in February thing is going well} and realized as I unpacked my gym bag that I had forgotten to pack socks. This was nowhere near as terrible as the time I forgot both my shirt and a sports bra.
  • My umbrella: At my office, we have to completely clean off our desks at the end of the day, and this includes the area under our desk. Pretty much they want it to look like no one works there, but today, I forgot my umbrella under my desk, and from the previously mentioned crazy weather thing, you'll know that I very much missed that on the way home. I'm also, fyi, living in fear that I'll get in trouble tomorrow for leaving my umbrella and making it look like my desk was used and like a real person sits there for 8 hours a day.
  • My credit card: Not really a terrible thing, since I didn't spend any money today, but I definitely left my credit card on my dining room table. What, you keep yours in your wallet all the time? I do, too, except for yesterday when I took it running so that I could stop at the store on the way home and buy half-and-half for the vanilla pudding I was making. I was trying to kill two birds with one stone, but it just led to me being birdless and stoneless today, by which I mean I didn't put it back in my wallet when I got home with my half-and-half and so I was credit card-less today. I think this might be a first world problem.
  • The combination to my gym locker: No, I didn't really forget that, but doesn't that make you feel all panicky, just to think about it? It makes you feel like you're back in middle school, doesn't it? You have 3 minutes to get to your next class, and you can't remember how many times to spin your lock while you're going for the second number. Time is ticking, and you are definitely going to get in trouble. In all honesty, I'm surprised this didn't happen to me today, given how this scenario is clearly a deep-seated fear of mine that I can conjure up at a moments' notice.

19 February 2014

when the world soaks up the winter

This morning, walking the little pug, I smelled spring. That smell of thaw and melt when the world is soaking up the winter.

Oh, I know it's just a passing promise for now.

More cold weather is coming over the weekend, and this smell of spring will disappear into that frozen smell of car exhaust. That is the smell the snow takes on after just a day on the ground. Turning gray, it is an ugly reminder of the price of transportation, just as the soot-covered cathedrals in Europe were a reminder of the price of industrialization.

When the snow turns gray and the air is so cold, all I can smell is exhaust(ion).

But no need to think of that now, on this day when breathing in the air feels life-giving {as I suppose it always should, but when it is -3 out, breathing in feels like a struggle}.

No need to think of the cold to come on a day when you can just start to see the grass emerging from under the snow—just at the edge of the sidewalks. It's matted down, probably experiencing the grass-equivalent of what happens to your hair when you wear a hat for too long, only in this case, the hat is the snow that has been crushing the snow for what must've been years.

It has been years since I breathed in warm air while walking the little pug, hasn't it? That's what my soul seems to remember, but smelling the spring this morning made my soul remember that there are warmer days to come. Soon.

10 February 2014

note to self: on conversation hearts

Note to Self: I realize that you thought you were being smart by eating only half the bag of conversation hearts in one sitting—as compared to the past when you've eaten a whole bag—but that is still 23 conversation hearts too many.

And I'm not sure why you thought this would be a good post-workout snack; sugar is not, contrary to what many breakfast cereals may want you to believe, the foundation of a champion.

It serves you right, in fact, that you are now craving all the fruits and vegetables in all the world. Eating so much healthy goodness just may cover over the multitude of your conversation heart sin.

So, please: You are {and I'm not saying this to make you feel bad} old enough to know better. I know conversation hearts come around just once a year, but please, next year, show that you're good at savoring pleasure and eat the hearts over the course of a week or so.

If that feels like too much, consider aiming for at least a day. You can space out the conversation hearts over the course of a day, and just think of the hours of pleasure you'd get from that! Hours and hours of tiny shots of sugary joy!

Mostly, though, think of how you won't feel sick afterwards.

{You know you've reached a certain kind of life low when your goal for Valentine's Day is: Don't feel sick.}

08 February 2014

the icy danger

For just a split second today, she thought she was going to fall. A slip of the foot on a sliver of ice: the winter is full of dangers.

No, more than that: the world is full of dangers.

In that moment when she almost fell and she caught herself thinking of the world's dangers, she did a very meta thing and thought about her thoughts. Why did her brain jump so quickly to the World's Dangers? In just one flash of a second, she went from admiring the flurries—and oddly enough, thinking about McFlurries from McDonald's, a place she never goes {or will never admit to going}—to wars, gang violence, starvation, disease, drive-by shootings, car accidents, and heart attacks.

Why didn't she think of ice skating, which was what she was essentially doing? Sans ice skates, of course, but the concept of gliding on the ice was there. The night before, she'd watched the opening ceremony for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games while eating popcorn for dinner, and beyond making her want to re-read Anna Karenina, it had made her want to ice skate again.

So here she was on a walk doing just that, skating on the ice, but it didn't feel like an adventure. It felt dangerously close to walking along the edge of the Grand Canyon, head up, looking straight ahead, and just sure that the next stop would send you careening. Exhilarating, yes, but precarious and fraught {what a word with an old English ring to it!} with danger.

To slide on the ice is to be out of control.

To stop yourself from falling is to know how to control that out-of-control feeling.

Is there a life lesson in here? She thought this as her arms flew out to her sides, re-balancing her body and steadying her once again.

Oh, it's probably something along the lines of how you never know when you're going to fall.

Or maybe it's how you can't always stop yourself from falling, and that even if you do fall, it's all right. You will be all right.

She knows this because she has fallen before, which is probably why she jumped so quickly to thoughts of danger when really, all that was happening was a little sliding.

For someone like her—someone used to being surefooted and steady—any reminder of unsteadiness feels like a fast slide {a luge race, continuing the Olympic theme} into danger.

She's aware as she keeps walking that she's thinking both metaphorically and literally: she is surefooted and rarely slips, but she's also steadfast and methodical and rarely out of control.

So much self-analysis! And on a morning walk through the snow—the kind of light, airy snow that skiers would call powder but that she calls kickable snow.

With a glance behind at the icy patch that almost made her fall, she moves ahead, scattering the snow with a few kicks—now always checking for that next icy danger.

01 February 2014

running through the woods on a snowy morning

As part of February Fun, I've set up a personal challenge: Run every day. Because what could be more fun than a physical challenge? And doesn't running during the coldest, snowiest winter I can remember just exude fun?

Of course I run a lot, but I don't run every day—and certainly not during February, when the gym has lost its luster and it's been so long since I've been able to consistently run outside that I'm starting to forget that I ever liked running in the first place.

To get through February, exercise-wise, I decided I needed to jump-start my love of running with a personal challenge {one of my most effective ways to motivate myself—that and any gold star-based award system}.

It doesn't hurt that this re-sets my definition of exercise success, just at the moment that I'm starting to beat up on myself for wimping out on going to the gym when it's -35 out with the wind chill and just when the idea of getting on the elliptical, treadmill, or bike makes me angry. I can't imagine being on that machine for a minute, let alone the 30 that I'm supposed to get 5 times a week, according to every doctor ever.

But run every day, even if it's just a mile? That re-sets the goal. That re-sets the joy.

I got this idea from Runner's World, which had a challenge in the November issue to run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's. It was inspired by a guy who ran every day for something like 42 years, which highlights the problem I have with Runner's World {or really, running in general}: No matter how great of a runner you are, there is always someone who is {often literally} steps ahead of you.

In truth, this is more a problem with my competitive nature, but I spend most of my time while reading Runner's World thinking: You people are crazy...no, wait, I think I could do that.

For a competitive perfectionist like me, the running community is the right place to be. It is more about just getting out there, no matter your ability or time, and that's why you often see race winners giving high fives to the joggers stumbling over the finish line of their first 5k.

"You can do it," we all say to each other, and if there's one thing that running teaches you, it's that your definition of success is the one that matters—and that that definition can change.

Right now, my definition of running success is making it through the winter one step at a time. This isn't the time to chastise myself for not running 5 miles every day, nor is it the time to compare myself to people who do run outside, come snow or come ice. This is the time to be happy I'm out there, no matter the distance or if it's on a treadmill or if it's an ugly run.

So, the run-every-day challenge began today, when I am at a retreat center in Plano, IL. This place is a log cabin lodge built in the 1930s; there is no exercise room with treadmills, exercise balls, and a full-wall mirror you want to avoid looking at. If I wanted to run, it would have to be outside.

There is a nature trail around a lake, a wooded path that goes past cornfields and gives the impression of being somewhere you could run into Jo March and her sisters. I was enthralled with this idea: We've had quite a bit of snow and just think of running through the woods on a snowy morning!

I remained enthralled by this idea when I opened the curtains this morning and saw it was snowing more, just as the weatherman had said it would.

I remained enthralled as I layered up and pulled on my gloves and headband, laughing a little when I realized I'd forgotten my neckwarmer and would need to wear the very pretty scarf my dad had knit me for Christmas.

In fact, I remained enthralled until about halfway around the lake, when I had yet to run into Jo March and I realized that running through fresh snow is akin to running on a beach {leg muscle tiredness-wise} without the benefit of being on a beach.

Here's the thing about running: If you get tired halfway through, that doesn't magically transport you back inside, curled up on the couch with coffee. Only your legs can get you home, and crabbiness is not a power source for going faster.

Running teaches you to make the most of where you are, so this morning, I stopped running for a just a minute and really looked at where I was.

I was so far out in the country that there was no traffic noise. The only sound was the falling snow; it's easy to forget that snow does have a sound, light as it may be, when you live in a place of train whistles, sirens, and the persistent hum of cars.

The snowflakes hitting my face—I could feel them melting as soon as they touched my skin, and I stood in marvelling solemnity for a moment that I live in a world that can be snow covered one day but sprouting new life just a few weeks later. This world really is full of surprises.

Looking to the lake, I imagined ice skating and suddenly remembered ice skating with my sister at our dad's hunting club, Crystal Lake. The ice was rough, but the caretaker had cleaned a patch, and we were zooming around in circles, laughing when we fell. One of us—I don't remember who—discovered a fish frozen in the ice, his eyes wide open as if the ice had descended on him all at once and caught him by surprise. How does that happen, we wondered aloud to each other as we skated away from that frozen life.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, I thought. Robert Frost easily slips into a moment like this morning, and I had another half-mile to go before I—well, not before I sleep, but before I finished my run.

Reinvigorated, steeped in the quiet joy of a morning run, I kept going. It was just a little run, but I did it. I was out there in the snow, and I ran today, on this first day of February.


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