Friday, April 28, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 25: Outside

"Go play outside!"  I can still hear my mom's voice in my ears.  My brother and I--and our daytime siblings--were lucky to have the lay of the land.  Growing up, we lived on a rural road where we had neighbors but we definitely did not live in a subdivision like most of our friends.  We had a huge yard, with a swimming pool, a playhouse (built by my grandpa at his house and transported on a trailer over to ours), and a basketball hoop off the shed.  Hours and hours and many sunny days, snowy afternoons, spent playing and exploring and imagining.

So, we'd go outside.  We would play in the yard, play on the swings, walk across the logs that made up the planter on the west side of the house like we were on a bridge, crossing a wide river.  We had a trampoline for a little while, which was always a fun and dangerous diversion as we would often practice flips and wrestling moves long into the evening. We would frequently take our bikes and ride around the block, with the expectation there were certain roads we weren't allowed go on.  For the most part though, we had free reign of the neighborhood.  This was before cell phones, before kids started staying inside all day playing video games or obsessing over their phones.  Summers frequently found me with freckles and blonde hair bleached green from the pool, and I though I was never very athletic I enjoyed watching my brother and his friends play ball.

We created worlds of make believe and adventure in our backyard and beyond.  We used to ride our bikes down to the dead end just past our neighbor's house; there was a large, fenced off pasture and a small grove of trees and we would ride down there and be in another world.  Now the dead end is no longer a dead end and the large, fenced off pasture is now home to a mansion.  Though it wasn't really all that long ago since we were kids, running around outside until dinner, and then afterwards, until it started getting dark, it has changed so much.

I know times have changed since I was a kid, and I also know that I live in a very different area now than I did then.  But I hope that my kids can enjoy the freedom of playing outside like I did, that un-tethered excitement and joy, filled with possibility and adventure.  I can't wait to tell my kids to go play outside... to watch them enter worlds of imagination and nature.

Jess Goes Running: Feeling Like a Runner

(More photos from my adventures can be found here.)

The last time I really wrote about running, besides 8 Minute Memoirs, was February.  After a late fall and winter of healing, I was slowly getting back into running again, slowly trying to reestablish routines and find my footing.  It wasn't an easy few months, really.  Over the course of winter and the transition into spring, I realized that I not only had work to do from a physical fitness perspective, but also in terms of my mental and emotional health.  For a while, I struggled with feeling like a runner.  I felt so disassociated from the identity I had created and built for myself.  It had been a long several months since my injury and diagnosis, since my deferment of the marathon.  Nothing had gone like I planned.

Somewhere over the course of the last month or so... I started feeling like a runner again.  I was out there getting miles, without pain.  (I also was not experiencing any pain at work, another milestone...  I still experience some tightness when I'm getting out of the car after driving home from work at the end of the day, but stretching it out generally does the trick.)  I had a few really good, really powerful, really empowering runs... watershed moments.  I was, and am, slowly starting to get faster, starting to feel stronger.  I participated in my first race of the year, the Shamrock Shuffle 8K (my 4th time running!) and also went to my first interval training session with the Evanston Running Club, something I am planning on making a regular part of marathon training.  I subscribed to Stridebox, a monthly running subscription box and ran my first 5K of the year last weekend weekend--posts about both are forthcoming!--and have recently realized over the last few days that I am more or less back to my baseline from this time last year.

Not a runner.  Not a runner?  That's the same voice that told me I couldn't do it in the first place, the whole reason I started running  5 years ago... because I was tired of telling myself I couldn't do it.  I can, and I will, because I'm a runner.  And I've never loved it more.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Matters of Population Density

This past weekend, I went home--or at least, home as I knew it for the first 18 years of my life. It occurred to me earlier in the day, when I was out running errands, that it’s been 11 years since I graduated from high school and moved away to college, 11 years since I really lived there… and even though it is and always will be “home” wherever I’m currently living, in a way, I’ve been slowly becoming more aware of the distance, the time that has passed, how different it all looks.

After all, I’ve been living in the city for over two years now and I’ve grown accustomed to this lifestyle of mine, the existence of an urban dweller commuting to work in the suburbs, of falling asleep to the sound of his breathing and the always awake, always living, city outside the walls of our one bedroom apartment. It’s like falling asleep to the television, the constant hum of the streets below, even at 3 in the morning.

Last night, falling asleep in the bedroom I inhabited when I was a teenager, the last space I kept as my own before I moved away to college, it was so quiet that I could hear my own heartbeat. The world outside my mom and dad’s house, the house where I grew up, was silent. It was so quiet that when I was young, I had to listen to the radio to fall asleep. My dad had set it to turn off after a certain period of time, which was usually after I had entered into dreamland, but I just could not sleep without it. Eventually, this was less of an issue (and I mean, let’s be honest, eventually, when I was 17, 18, the radio was just replaced with the sound of a boy’s voice, or any one of my friends, staying up late gossiping with me on the other end of a telephone) and I just embraced the silence. Until I moved to Edgewater, and now I welcome the low frequency vibrations of the city as my own white noise soundtrack.

Laying there in the total darkness in that room (the same place where I got ready on our wedding day) I dozed off and just listened to the sound of my own breathing. I was curled up in the middle of the queen sized bed, falling asleep, when the phone rang--my husband, saying goodnight. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or not but when I hung up the phone it was so quiet that it almost woke me up even more… and in that moment, I felt so small, so aware of the solitary plane I was existing in. The world was, is endless, and even in that moment I was merely along for the ride. (Practical matters of population density notwithstanding, it was probably the most alone I have been in months and it felt strangely exhilarating if not a little terrifying and exciting.)

All this to say… I am glad I will always have a place to come home to. That bedroom will always be mine, those walls will always be home; even if the nearby towns change beyond recognition, I’ll always know the way around by heart. Even if it looks less familiar than it used to. But… there’s something familiar about the Kennedy Expressway on a Friday night, an arrival back into the city, wrapped up in that familiar rhythm and melody. In the city it is as if I am wrapped up in a cocoon of energy--that which flows through the wide open spaces and the starry skies of my childhood home in miniature (but still no less kinetic).  Oh, I love them both equally.  But here, too, I am home.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 24: Retreat

Sitting here tonight in the living room, I feel pretty fortunate to have several places that I consider "retreats," my favorite places, most comfortable spaces.  I have such a fondness for where I was raised and where I'm living now and everywhere in between.  I feel sometimes like I have the ability to connect deeply to my environment and coexist with it, experiencing it all but not always being able to describe it or write it all down.  (That is in part what this 8 Minute Memoir adventure is about, getting back into the routing of "writing it all down" so to speak.  So far it's doing the trick!)

Anyway, our current apartment is my favorite of all the places we've inhabited together; on the 2nd of a 3rd floor walk-up, on a quiet block across the street from a Catholic church and school, not even half a mile from the Lake, a one bedroom with the best light in every room.  The kitchen is beyond tiny and the radiators sometimes sound more like jackhammers and there's barely enough storage space for the both of us, but it is charming despite all that--and it has a lovely back porch!

The building is 100 years old and the floors are kind of uneven... there's no laundry, no dishwasher... but it is comfortable, it is my place to land, it is home in every sense of the word.  Home is really just a state of mind more than anything else, anyway.  Still I feel beyond lucky to wake up in this city every day, lucky enough to enjoy this space: a retreat, our corner of the world.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 23: Suffering

The photo above is from my most recent run, on a Friday afternoon at Montrose Harbor.  I ran 4 miles right along Lake Michigan and I felt strong.  The best part?  My foot didn't really bother me at all, either during the run or after.  When I see myself in this photo, I see someone who is starting to find her identity as a runner again.  The word "suffering" immediately reminded me of my rather unceremonious end to marathon training and the chronic injury it left me with.

Really, I guess the first chapter started in July 2016.  But then at the very end of August of 2016, it got really bad.  And the diagnosis wasn't good, either, a chronic partial tear of my plantar fascia.  Just writing that out makes me physically shrink in discomfort.  It was a month (the start of a few months) of no running, of deferring my marathon entry, of trying to take it easy at work while I waited for the ultrasound that would seal my fate, which also lead to 3 weeks of physical therapy that, surprisingly, worked like magic.  

And in that, my physical suffering was, for the most part, almost totally reduced.  The emotional and mental aspects of dealing with chronic injury have been another thing entirely, and that has been a hard thing for me to deal with... the knowledge that while I can work 50 hours a week and run 4 miles (4 miles where I trended faster than I have since August) and live life without pain, my left foot will never be normal, really.  I'll be dealing with this for a long time.

I feel like that sounds rather despairing.  It's not that bad!  It's just not something I've dealt with until now.  I am optimistic about my running future.  Though the suffering and pain I dealt with was awful and challenging, and the adjustments I've had to make in my life over the last 6-8 months to sort through all of this have been a bit tough, I know that I am a stronger person because of all of it.  This weekend is my first race of the 2017 season, the Shamrock Shuffle 8K (my 4th time doing it!) and I'm feeling good.  I've learned a lot, and I'm looking forward to running that marathon in October.  

8 Minute Memoir, Day 22: Your Early Reading Life

I credit my early reading life with instilling a love of books in me as an adult, almost three decades into this wild ride.  I have loved reading for as long as I can remember.  Honestly I feel like I've always been reading.  There were the old standbys, Little Golden Books and Berenstain Bears and Love You Forever.  I remember loving reading in elementary school, and I always looked forward to the visit to the library!  Man, even thinking about it now I'm excited about it--going every week, getting to check out a book, getting to read for a little while in the auditorium/conversation pit area of my grade school library.

There was AR, Accelerated Reader, where even in 5th and 6th grade I was reading at an upperclassman high school reading level.  Everyone checked out Gone With The Wind in an attempt to take and pass that test, which was worth an absurd amount of points.  And who doesn't remember Book It?  Book It always provided a great return on its investment--a personal pan pizza, a sticker on my Book It pin (I had 2 or 3 of them; believe me, I really wish I knew where they were now!)  I was the kid who would sneak peeks at my books during classes where I probably should have been doing something else, staying up way too late on a school night to finish just one more chapter.

So as I said before, I still love reading now.  I live in a relatively small apartment so I don't have room for a ton of books but believe me, someday, when we have a condo or a house, I'l have something more closely resembling a library.  I have always loved the way that reading can transport you with complete ease to another world, another reality, another place in time.  A good book can change a life.  And I think somehow I've always known that.

Friday, March 10, 2017

8 Minute Memoir, Day 21: Friendship

"It is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships, that not only support a good life, but create one.  Through friendships, we spark and inspire one another's ambitions."  
--Wallace Stegner

Much like that 8MM prompt that invited me to write about one sibling (and instead I wrote about all of them), I read this prompt about friendship--and the quote that inspires it--and I can't write about just one friend.

I have been blessed in my nearly three decades by a multitude of friendships and relationships that have enriched my life in various different ways.  I feel lucky that I've already gotten to know so many wonderful and magical people!  People who "spark and inspire" my ambitions and dreams, who encourage me to be better by their actions and by the things they are doing with their lives.

Teachers, students, writers, artists, parents, career women and men, business starters, medical professionals, innovators.  They all work so hard to make a difference and forge a path for themselves.  It truly is inspiring to see my friends being successful, to see them receiving back the good energy they put into the world.

I am appreciative of the many friendships in my life.  I am grateful for the opportunity to interact on a more personal level with many different perspectives and I'm definitely glad to be the recipient of some of that previously mentioned good energy.  This is a celebration of friendship!

"Surround yourself with people who make you hungry for life, touch your heart, and nourish your soul."