There Is No Finish Line

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Few things liberate the soul quite like a good run. For myself, four miles is the “Zen zone” – the magical point at which surroundings fade and stress melts. And this is how I was enticed to run my first half-marathon. Only 9 more miles, right?

I prepared myself as any athlete might. Morning and evening stretches. Ice after long runs. And caffeinated GU – the chocolate variety.

But, come race day, the obstacles weren’t at all what I expected. Amazingly, I paced one minute faster than my training (8:13) for the entire race. When the finish line finally entered my sights, less than half of a mile stood between my sneakers and victory.

In the last few miles, a strange thought struck me. I hadn’t seen another female runner in a while. But this was a public race, and it was 2011.

And, just like that, I hit my second wind and felt the release to sprint.

Only I didn’t expect what came next. I was tripped. I was pushed. I was cursed. It seemed that every man I attempted to pass in that final stretch demanded I take the path of increased resistance.

Was it jealousy? Perhaps.

Was it anger? In some instances.

Was it sexism? This one still lingers.

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The Ugly Years

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Just before I graduated high school, I got this amazing idea: chop off all of your hair (think Mandy Moore c. 2003). Ashamedly, I did not have Locks of Love in mind. No, I was entirely selfish.

I wanted a new start.

You see, hair has always been my calling card. I have never dyed or treated my hair and somehow – by the blessing of God – I maintained golden locks for the first three decades of my life.

My mother’s experience, however, would foreshadow my own: blonde until babies. And, right on time, I gradually lost my sun-kissed signature hair in the years following childbirth.

But it was impossible for me to predict the other changes that were simultaneously emerging – the widening hips, the spider veins, and the wrinkles.

The ugly years, without my consent, had arrived.

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Give Me Your Tired

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I was running late, which isn’t new, but I had never been so tardy to yoga. Twelve minutes had been forfeited, and I almost heard my body cry out in defeat when I settled into the mat.

Over the next 45 minutes, I really questioned my entire existence. My arms and legs were feeble, my concentration was muddled, and the outfit I had selected most certainly flashed the nearby maintenance worker during an inspired downward dog. Oops.

The truth is, I was unprepared for the consequences of being late. I’ve been doing yoga for years, but every session is unique, as is every teacher.

After I attempted my fourth new-to-me position, I felt my forehead hit the mat.

I’m tired of being an adult.

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Things Fall Apart

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I don’t remember the trip home.

My first late night at the office this semester proved nearly disastrous. When my senses entered shutdown mode, I faced two choices: drive home sleepy or pass out beneath my desk.

But, in the middle of deep contemplation (i.e. the edge of hallucination), I heard an echo of laughter…and perhaps reason. It was a woman’s voice.

Immediately, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. It was 11:45 p.m. and a lady – just outside my door – would soon retrieve my trash. What a life.

My very presence soon startled her. But, with one hand on her chest, her earnest eyes challenged my entire existence.

What are you doing here?

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In Sickness

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I hold this fear that I will die before I see 35. I worry I won’t know my son and daughter as teenagers. The very thought of never meeting my grandchildren, indeed, takes my breath away.

But I am overall healthy. I run 3-4 days a week. I don’t drink. And my days are fueled by oatmeal, nuts, and vegetables.

Recently, however, I was quite ill. Six hours of vomiting – to be exact. The virus was so powerful that I found myself gasping for air between commode encounters. On a makeshift bed of well-used towels – given to us at our wedding – I laid myself down. At 2 a.m. the Earth is silent.

Until, that is, I heard a door creak.

“I think I’m dying!”

“No, you’re not.”

And, with that, a hand I know so well rubbed my back.

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