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Archive for February, 2012

This Day

This day, this rainy cold day, lends itself to laziness.  It inspires me to do nothing much more than stay in my pajamas until well after noon, finding warmth under a blanket that travels with me from room to room.  It urges me to drain the coffee pot slowly but surely, looking for that buzz of caffeine.  It wants me to sit back and write nary a word, telling me that I have nothing to say.  This is an attempt to prove it wrong.

                This day, this 14th of February, lends itself to thoughts of grandeur.  It gives us images of hearts and flowers and expressions of love.  It asks us to think about the people that mean the most to us; it asks us to pull them close.  This day tells us to pick up the phone even when we don’t feel like talking.  It’s a holiday that gets us out of no obligations, one that refuses to be recognized by the post offices or schools, yet makes us feel obligations aplenty.  Tell them that you love them, make them feel desired…smile….gush…send a card wrapped in red or pink envelopes.

                This month is a hated one, the word spoken with despair.  February.  It’s even hard to spell…and even more difficult to make sense of.  It’s a month of cold, a short month that asserts itself to the barrier before spring.  If it’s a bad one, be rest assured that it’s only 28 days.  But this year, we don’t get a break.

                This day, this holiday, this month, are all part of the story.  When the Buddhists talk about living in the present, this is what they are talking about.  It’s about pushing aside this need to push this time aside.  It’s about recognizing the journey for what it is; it’s a path that winds down Februarys before it gets to Junes.

                Embrace the red, fuzzy blanket that follows you from room to room and turn up the thermostat a little bit more.  Pick up that phone.  Smile at the pink envelope that sits on your counter.  Take it from your dog, who has slept on the couch all day, that staying indoors is quite acceptable.  See your February, your rainy Tuesday, your Valentine’s Day for what it is instead of what it isn’t.

 

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It’s been over ten years since I’ve been in college (sigh).  However, this semester I am taking a Creative Non Fiction course at Marshall University.  It’s a trip to be back in school at this point in the game.  So here I present….Ten Signs that I am a “Non-Traditional” College Student.

1)      On the first day, the guy next to me asked if I was the teacher.  Ouch.

2)      I already had an e-mail relationship with my professor by the time I showed up for Day 1.

3)      It took me weeks to figure out how to register for the class—do you know it’s all done online now?!

4)      I couldn’t find the classroom on my first day.  Granted, it was tricky but I almost started crying in the hallway rather than taking it as a sign that I should leave and go drink beer with my friends instead.

5)      I do my homework the next day because I’m so excited.

6)      I dress up for class.

7)      I shower for class.

8)      Part of our grade comes from the fact that we must attend just one of the visiting writer’s series at the University.  I’ve already requested off work for all of them.

9)      I had to pay for the course myself…therefore, even though there’s no attendence policy, I wouldn’t dare miss a single class.

10)   I turned in my first assignment on paper.  Apparently, that’s “old school” and I should have uploaded it to the class database.  At least I didn’t bring in a floppy disk….

 

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Again, just a disclaimer.  All poetry I have been posting is at least ten years old.  So the angst is in the past as are the situations but I still have pride in it.  Here’s one I wrote called Dancers.

 

When the days were warm

I wrestled with your beauty

Danced with your mysteries

Content with no answers

Dizziness made me feel high

Getting golden by the sun

Twirling in your mysteries

Maddening little dancers

Now I’m here again with the sun

She says to say hello

She says she must come to remind me

Like I forgot a second

Twirling little mysteries

The days no longer warm

Maddening little mysteries

What was I supposed to learn?

Oh yeah-days are growing colder

Wrestling with my mysteries

Answers come with beauty

Dizzy with regret

Regret, she is a silly thing

I sent her over your way

To dance with your mysteries

Maddening little dancers

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I have friends that I have known since preschool.  Of course this means that one of them in particular will still talk about the time I peed my pants in kindergarten, leaving a trail down the hallway while trying to get to the bathroom.  He brings this up even now, as we sit in bars having a glass of wine.  But this sort of history also means that he has seen all of my other life moments, some of which I cringe at like the kindergarten incident, and others that I remain extremely proud of.  He has seen my achievements, my heartbreaks, my flips and turns in efforts to try to get it right.

                There’s just something about those relationships that ease the uncertainty of sharing stories.  You don’t have to explain the series of life events that led you to feeling like you do.  Because they already know.  They were there.

                It took me a while to make really good friends when I moved out to Colorado.  But now I have them.  They are a fabulous group of people that make my life better.  It was tough to leave them and I couldn’t have done it without knowing that I would be closer, for a while, to a different web of wonderful people.  And these people, the ones that have known me through the bad perms, and shoulder pads, and braces….well, it seemed that they would accept me with open arms no matter what (they were REALLY bad perms).

                I take comfort in the fact that one day this period of my life will be a piece of our shared history.  I hope that I look back and see myself as brave for taking this time out for myself.  I hope that I can look back and see that it was part of a solution.  I hope that I look back and see easy smiles and hard decisions made simpler by the comfort of old friends. 

And I never worry about what the old friends will look back and see.  Because they’ve seen it all—me at my best and me at my worst—and I know that we will weave this into the tapestry of our friendship that continues to grow with every passing year.

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Not Built for Speed

I went for a run this morning to clear the cobwebs.  Due to some construction on the sidewalk of my planned direction, I did a detour and found myself on a route that was familiar from years and years ago.  It was the avenue that we ran in middle school track practice—a fifteen block warm-up that took us from our school to a little used track behind a community center.

                Yes, I ran track in middle school for the Cammack Blue Streaks.  I was not very good.  I have since learned that I am just not built for speed.  What I do have, though, is determination.  It’s why I run marathons instead of 5ks.

  Because although I may trudge along, I get there eventually.

                As a side note (sort of off topic but too good of a story not to tell), another example of athletic endeavors was when I attended tennis camp at the University of Kentucky right before I started high school.  I won the Most Spirited Camper award.  My parents were sitting in the stands, probably hoping for Most Improved Player or even 4th Runner Up in Girls Tournament.  But I was thrilled!  My fellow campers loved me!

                But back to running.

 I read an article in a running magazine a few years ago that has stuck with me ever since.  The writer was saying how she tried to shift her thinking from things she HAS to do and focus on them as things that she GETS to do instead.  For example, instead of “I have to cook dinner for my family,” think of how you get to do that….because you have a family and because you have food to serve them.  Already that puts you ahead on the curve of happiness.

                I often think about how I have to go running.  But the truth is that I get to go running.   I have a body that is strong and able and can get me through the miles.  I am a healthy person.  I have the freedom to go for a run whenever I don’t have other obligations.

                And today, while running along that avenue for the first time in many years, I had another thought.  I’ve been feeling down lately because I look around and it seems like everyone else has it figured out and I feel like I’ve been running slowly behind, trying to catch up, feeling like I’m losing some kind of race.

                But perhaps some lives are just made up of more mile markers than others.  Perhaps some run a 5k, getting to the end, to the answers, in record time and then settle in to enjoy the post-race party.  And perhaps others are marathons, 26.2 miles of pushing to figure it out.  But the finish line still exists and what I do have is determination.

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I had a tough week last week.  I say this neither to inspire sympathy nor to excuse my lack of posts on my blog (though that is part of it I guess) but more as a prelude to what I’m about to say.

                Let me be clear:  I wallowed last week.  I drank copious amounts of wine.  I cried.  I sat on the couch, listening to sad music and stared at the wall.  Hell, I did all three things at once.  I left the house in sweatpants and no makeup, as if to show the world just how miserable I was.

                And then someone said to me, “You have to prove to yourself that you can still take care of yourself.”

                It hit home.  Then, I picked up an article from a Buddhist newsletter that had been sitting on my coffee table.  And it told me the same thing—but in more Zen-like terminology.  It talked about how, even though we know what is best for us and what makes us feel good, we often choose the opposite thing (i.e. not doing those activities).  And though we may make excuses for not doing those things, the truth is that it’s self-sabotage.  And that this part of us, the part that resists what we know will be healing is the part of us that most needs love.

                So what does this look like in my life?  It meant going for a run on a rainy Saturday with a friend instead of curling up on a warm couch.  It meant eating a good serving of vegetables and making a pot of rice instead of just using my microwave yet again.  It meant putting on a little bit of makeup and showing the world a smile even if I didn’t feel it.  It meant listening to Kelly Clarkson’s new song “Stronger” over and over (just being totally honest here…it’s a pretty awesome song).

                And it doesn’t mean I’m healed from that bad week.  But I’m proving to myself that I can still do these things that help me down that healing path.  I’m sure that there are many more hours of wallowing still to come.  But I think part of it, this taking care of myself, is forgiving myself the wine…and the whine…that it takes to get through it all.

 

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Maggie Goes to the Beach

I lived at the beach when I adopted my dog Maggie.  It was the first place I took her when she was an eight week old puppy that I could hold in one arm.  She grew to be an eighty pound dog and I grew to love her with all of my heart.  We have a connection, Maggie and I, and so it makes sense that she would grow to love the ocean just as much as I did.

                During the first three years of her life, I took her to the beach constantly.  She loved to chase the shorebirds in the sand, barking when they outsmarted her time and time again by flying into the ocean.  She went swimming with me and started imitating my bodysurfing—paddling out and then turning towards the shore when a wave came to let it push her in.

                Then, Maggie and I moved to Colorado.  And being that it was easier to fly back to North Carolina than it was to drive, Maggie was never able to join me for any of my trips back to the beach.  She’s almost eleven years old now, having been through two knee surgeries and a few other weird diseases.  I knew I had to take her back to see the ocean.  

                You see, I saved Maggie’s life by adopting her as a rescue.  And she, in turn, saved my life.  When I was in a really bad relationship and had lost all my sense of self-survival, it was my concern for her well being that finally urged me to leave.  She has been a firm presence by my side during some very hard times.  During the past eleven years, she has been my constant companion and though she might have many more years left, I didn’t want to wait to take her to the beach again.

                And so we made the drive back across the country, this time with the car pointed towards the Atlantic Ocean.  When we made it to the beach, I unhooked her leash and watched her run like a puppy towards the waves, chasing shorebirds and barking.  After a few minutes, she turned back to me, tongue hanging out and her white face smiling with joy.

                “You’re welcome,” I said.  “Thank YOU.”

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