Monthly Archives: November 2009

I’m not paranoid if the universe really is out to get me

Proof…

1.    The week before last I ran significantly more than 50 miles and my legs were fine. I haven’t run a step this week and my right knee is killing me and I’m waking up in the middle of the night with leg cramps so severe I think being water-boarded would have to be preferable.

2.    I can work in MODFLOW and MATLAB, but still can’t figure out how to insert a link in WordPress.

3.    Of the three amazing women who keep me sane (or at least sane enough to pass) only on is local and one lives all the way in Chi-town.  Pretty darn hard to hug someone 1,000 miles away.

4.    Just found out Our Community Place is hosting what sounds like a fascinating seminar on media and body image. On November 22. While I’m supposed to be en route from Winston-Salem to the beach.

5.    I stop running and am suddenly ravenously hungry. All. The. Time. This makes sense how?

6.    Went grocery shopping yesterday and at the check-out was given a coupon good for a free Thanksgiving turkey.  While I may still not know exactly what I’m doing for T-day (see #3) I do know that it will not entail eating flesh. And even if I wasn’t a vegetarian, did I really need one more reminder that I don’t have a family with which to share a turkey? Not so much.

7.    The marriage is over six months ago and I move to Harrisonburg. Since that very day my cycles have been regular enough to set my watch by them with no artificial hormonal assistance of any kind. After five years of my period being MIA, once I firmly decided that, unless I meet the perfect man who feels his life would be incomplete with kids, I really don’t want children… all of a sudden this?

8.    The best doctoral program for me maybe in West Lafayette, Indiana. West-freaking-Lafayette. Indiana. (This does have the benefit of being closer to Chicago – see #2 – but still. Indiana?)

9.    The best, by far: learning that it is indeed possible to go through a phase of life where I will simultaneously battle grey hair and breakouts. Cute. Very cute.

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What I see

as I sit on my front porch and and study molecular bio. You can feel bad for me. I’m really slumming it.  (Sorry for the terrible quality, took the pic with my phone. I think you get the point, though.)

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The party of…. can’t get our act together

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Who I am

“I’m a yoga practicing, mid-distance running, MCAT prepping, Volvo driving vegetarian.”  At least that is what my FB profile says.

But who am I if I’m not those things? From what or where would I derive my worth as a person?  This is no longer a philosophical question relegated to the periphery of my mind; the recent changes in my life have forced it front and center and made it a dilemma I face every day. I no longer have the luxury of telling myself, “I’ll think about it later” or “I’ll figure it out when I’m grown up.” It is later. I am grown up.

This morning I was given professional medical advice to stop running. Completely. Forever. I’d like to be able to report that I handled the situation with maturity and grace, but what actually happened was I sat there and bawled like a baby. All I could think of was, “What else do I have left? One more thing that I love and need taken from me. Who am I if I’m not a runner? What will I do with myself?”

On one level it is about the running. Running provides an escape and the best natural high I can get (by myself anyway). It gives me a sense of accomplishment; not everyone can go out and run 10k for the heck of it, but I can. But ultimately though, it is about so much more than that. It is about learning to define myself based on who I am, and not what I do. Allowing myself to be a human being rather than a human doing.

Likewise, my reaction to being told to stop running was about so much more than the act of putting on my Sauconys, losing myself in my ipod, and moving my body for 45 minutes or so. It was me reacting to losing one more thing. I can’t define myself as someone’s wife anymore. I can’t define myself as the 4.0 student anymore. I can’t define myself as a West Virginian anymore. And now you’re telling me I can’t be a runner, either? Well fuck you.*

Never mind that losing all those things – the relationship of 10 years, the compulsive need for perfection, the living in West Virginia – was actually exactly what I needed. Exquisitely painful, but ultimately necessary. Given a choice, I would have held on to all of those things for the rest of my life. And yet none of them was healthy for me. I’m just not sure if I’m willing to consider that running may fit into the same category.

So my angst is about running and the running is about me learning to be ok with myself as me-the- person, and not me-what- I-do or me- in-relationship- to- someone-else. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been faced with having to make a more radical paradigm shift than this. And just in case you’re wondering, it hurts like hell.

*You will be glad to know that I did not actually tell Medical Professional One to fuck herself even though I really wanted to. And, after lengthy discussion regarding the issue, Medical Professional One agreed to defer the final decision about running to Medical Professional Two whom I will see on Monday.

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Just do it

Read it – Buddhism Plain & Simple: The Practice of Being Aware, Right Now, Every Day by Steve Hagen. Be reminded that bondage is failure to accept reality.

See it – Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (keeping in mind that, among other things, it’s about infidelity examined through a Jungian perspective). Best line: “No, I will not step on your head just to make you feel better.”

Que it – Grey Gardens (the original documentary, not Berrymore’s recent production). Perfect  example of why your life should not be a democracy and what could happen if it is – you may end up running around half-naked as a crazy cat lady in a condemned house in the Hamptons performing the VMI school song in your foyer to the music in your head.

Hear it – Taller Children by Elizabeth and the Catapult. Best line: “If you don’t slow down what’s the point of winning?”

Visit it – Community Sabbath service, 7:30pm Friday November 20th at Temple Beth El in the ‘burg. Everyone warmly welcomed and invited.

Avoid it – the new Starbucks in Carrier. It is a zoo no matter the time of day or how many people are behind the counter.

Hold it, burp it, change it, feed it – Baby Jack!  Congratulations, John and Michelle!

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… Accept the things I cannot change…

Two months ago I found myself in a van stuck in a ditch in an empty field on the outskirts of Charlottesville. Actually, it was more of a chasm than a ditch; thank goodness we were in a minivan and not a minicooper or we would have been swallowed alive and never heard from again. Of course when we got stuck it was beginning to get dark, it was pouring rain, and the temperature was moving from comfortable to chilly. Due to a comedy of errors neither of us had a working cell phone, even though one of the two main objectives of the trip to Charlottesville had been to purchase a new phone (yes, there was enough irony that evening to make even Alanis proud).

Once my brain managed to comprehend the fact that the back half of the minivan was three feet below the front half, my first thought was, “Thank goodness it wasn’t me driving!” My second thought was, “Chick, this is going to be a long, cold night and you are going to get very very wet. Since there is absolutely nothing you can do to change that reality, you may as well have fun and enjoy yourself.”

And I was so right on all counts. Our “quick” trip to Charlottesville became an all night event. I got drenched down to my skivvies and had mud half-way up my knees by the time we got home. But I was in good company, met fun new people, was not eaten by a bear or assaulted by a 400lb tow truck driver from Chicago. Once we were extricated and safely on our way we laughed the whole trip home.

I’m sure my ability to enjoy myself was predicated on my utter acceptance that we were, in fact, stuck, and no amount of wailing or teeth gnashing would be helpful.

Some things are just true and failure to accept them as such only creates suffering.  A wise Yiddish saying remind me that “most suffering is self chosen.” I chose to suffer each and every time I confront a reality in my life and decide, for whatever resons, to deny it. Denying an ultimate reality doesn’t make it false just because I want it to be, it only makes me miserable. Perhaps the sooner I can accept this, the sooner I will be able to find deep and abiding peace in my life.

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There’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking*

Last month I went to DC to see Chris Rock’s Good Hair.  The first thing I need to say is that it is eternally unfair that as guys age and get grey hair they get hotter. I mean, really, when was the last time you saw a woman with grey hair and thought, “Damn, she looks better than ever?”  But I digress.

So I’m sitting on one end of a group of friends. The house is sold out and we are the only white people in the theater.  A black woman sits on my other side and skeptically but politely asks me, “why did you decide to come see this documentary?” At first I was shocked that a stranger would acknowledge my presence (this is DC remember, where ignoring people is a cultivated art). I manage to get over my surprise and am able to put together what I hope was a least a semi-intelligent response about my academic interest in the definition of beauty and what women are willing to do to themselves and their bodies to achieve something that is ultimately an artificial and subjective construct.

The film itself is a feat that only Rock could have pulled off. It explores the cultural, emotional, financial, and sexual issues surrounding black hair with raw honesty and humor (Al Sharpton pontificates about what it means that black woman are willing to “wear their oppression on their heads” and we learn from Nia Long that the logistics of weave-care can actually make sharing a shower more intimate than intercourse).

What killed me, though, was the constant refrain of woman justifying what they are doing to their hair – the time, the money, the energy – because having good hair (read: relaxed hair) is, in their words, “more natural.” I kept finding myself wanting to stand up and scream, “how freaking natural can something be if it takes a 10 molar sodium hydroxide paste, thousands of dollars, and countless hours of your life  to achieve?!”

But I stayed in my seat and kept my mouth shut. I told myself the reason I didn’t run shrieking from the theater was because even though I may be a country bumpkin, I do know how to behave in public when I need to.  Really though, it was because even then I was beginning to be haunted by the nagging suspicion I had no business calling anyone else to account about how they treat their bodies.

* with apologies to Ben Stiller

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