Endurance

woman runningI ran like the wind with a long blonde ponytail bouncing against protruding shoulder blades. My tan body tight and small—clad only in tiny spandex and a good pair of running shoes—nothing jiggled and nothing moved that wasn’t supposed to. Strong, muscular legs carried me wherever I wished to go without protest. My mind was clear and my vision clearer.

Life was far from perfect, wrought with problems some might say… but every piece of pavement passed and punished ‘neath the weight of my thundering footsteps brought me closer to their solutions. They also brought me closer to you. I wouldn’t know for quite a while. Much was still to be uncovered, discovered, experienced and endured. But you were out there. And WE were out there… sitting together on a horizon I could not yet see.

Sifting through the battered box in the basement marked “closet,” I saw the shoes again. Despite the wear and tear, they remain in good condition. I wish the same could be said of me. Today the tiny spandex would barely cover one thigh, the tan has faded and things now jiggle that I never even knew were a part of my anatomy.

Life is good, but far from perfect. It is wrought with different problems than before — of aging and becoming. Yes, you are here now, that much is true. You were a question to be answered… our life together a destination to be reached. For that I am forever grateful. But still, my vision could be clearer. My will stronger… my resolve more muscular. Perhaps I should throw on garments more forgiving, dust off the shoes, slip these older feet inside and lace them up.

After all, much is still to be uncovered, discovered, experienced and endured… out there on a horizon we cannot yet see.

5 Reasons NOT to Watch the “Criminal Minds” Marathon While Completely Alone

Recently, while home alone for the night, I had the brilliant idea of watching a four-hour Criminal Minds marathon. Now, I know what you are thinking… the mind reels that one may actually be capable of sitting on one’s own @$$ for that long a period, however, I can assure you that I DID get up from time to time.

I managed to climb out of the comfort of my recliner for several reasons. I got up for pizza, to use the bathroom, to lock ALL of the doors, to feed the cat, to close ALL of the blinds and windows, to get a diet pop, to check EVERY square inch of the basement and ummmm… to get more pizza.

I should mention here that I am quite familiar with this program about the FBI’s BAU a.k.a. the Behavioral Analysis Unit. (By the way, don’t you just adore using acronyms? I do. It makes me feel so much more intelligent and worldly) Anyhoo… I absolutely LOVE the show (about as much as I like using acronyms). And it doesn’t usually matter whether or not I am alone when I watch it because I know it is purely fiction.

Well, fiction that is based on fact that is. Yes it is fact-based fiction about the psychological profiling of real-live nut-bags who like to stalk, maim, torture or kill otherwise normal citizens like you and me. Which is why, perhaps, that it may NOT have been in my best interest to watch four whole episodes whilst being alone in a big, empty house that is still relatively new to me.

Here are just a FEW of the reasons why watching four hours of this particular program (all by oneself) is probably not the brightest of ideas:

  1. You’re convinced that a stranger has indeed been stalking you for 6 months (even if you’ve only lived at your current address for 4).
  2. You’re certain that the friendly neighbors who love to chat you up everytime you pull into the driveway or push your garbage can to the curb are indeed serial killers who are hiding a secret torture chamber beneath the unassuming, non-descript-yet-mysterious-anyway grey tarp in their back yard.
  3. When the Fedex man arrives on your doorstep the following morning carrying an unexpected package — you refuse to answer the door no matter how interesting or impressive said parcel may look.
  4. You believe it IS entirely possible that while you were away one weekend some creeper or creepers managed to break into your home and hide tiny cameras in every room… leaving absolutely ZERO trace of their ever having been there. And they are watching you at this very moment. And laughing.
  5. You are 100% sure that the single dude on the corner with the perfectly-manicured lawn and glass animal collection in his front window is a sociopath currently working on an entirely different type of “collection” in the garage that he never seems to use.

The Backseat of the Bus

Being a self-sufficient, single woman with no children for the majority of my thirties, I have been allowed to be—shall we say—selfish. There is no mistaking the fact that it has been “all about me” for quite some time now and honestly I have, admittedly, had no problem with that.

Life is pretty simple and things tend to go “my way” when I am the only one making the decisions and calling all the shots… for myself. For example, I have thus far used some form of the words “I” or “me” NINE times in this entry. See what I mean? (OK, make that 10).

So if being in the driver’s seat has been my status quo for so long — you can only imagine the adjustment that might be required if or when the time comes that said seat should be forfeited for any reason.

With the recent loss of my fiance’s mother, I have found myself in a brand new seat. As I struggled, after the first two weeks, at the advent of my new seating assignment, my mother said to me: “Joanna, it is time now for you to take a backseat on the bus.”

Of course she was referring to being the support person for someone whose needs are far greater than my own. Her words have been such a perfect reminder of precisely what my role is right now. And her wisdom and way of thinking has inspired me to fully embrace the responsibilities that accompany the view from the back.

It has been from the vantage point of this new place that I have begun to “see” many new things for the very first time.

I have seen that…

  • It is much easier to push than to pull, therefore helping someone from behind rather than in front.
  • I am capable of caring more for another person than I ever dreamed possible.
  • Suddenly I have all the strength I need to do what is necessary for the other.
  • The world exists largely in that which lies beyond my own reflection and it is a whole lot bigger than I ever thought it was.
  • I can be much more useful offering a hand in someone else’s journey when I am not so focused on the drama, flaws or calamities of my own.
  • The obstacles I thought were mountains usually are mere molehills.

So as it turns out — the view from the “back of the bus” really is the one that offers the best perspective of all.

Slightly Preoccupied

With the turkey fully digested and the official “decking of the halls” close at hand, I encountered what you might call a slight distraction during this busy holiday time.

Down on one knee, velvet box open in his hand… my best friend popped the question last Friday. It happened so fast that seconds after I cried and shouted “yes, Yes, YES I’ll marry you!” I slipped the ring off my finger, stuffed it back in the box, shoved it into his hand and yelled at him: “OK… Now… DO THAT AGAIN!!”

He of course looked at me like I was completely insane and I’m certain wondered to himself: I don’t think this is the way it is supposed to go down, but whatever. And he indulged me. Yes, there have been times when my sanity MAY have been called into question, but on this occasion… I just wanted to make sure I’d remember the moment forever.

Well… there’s that… and the fact that I knew I’d have to be able to recount the story on command in the coming days and weeks to friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and probably the town crier.

So I hope that you’ll indulge me as well, dear readers, while I think of just the right way to craft this very special story that began 26 years ago… all the way back in the 5th grade. You see, it’s not your garden-variety boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl live happily-ever-after kind of story. It’s more like… Boy meets girl and a lifetime of detours later… Life gives them a second chance.

So I promise that just as soon as I get done returning phone calls, answering texts, Facebook messages and emails… and pull my head out of the clouds… and my eyes away from this lovely, hypnotic, sparkly thing on my left hand… I will find just the right way to tell you the story.

To be continued…

Roll Patrol

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition everywhere. Everyone in the family coming together to share in a great feast featuring such culinary delights as turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. And of course there are the additional items that make the meal complete like the salads, buttered rolls and other sweet treats.

In many families, such as my own, the responsibility of providing all of the food is a shared one. Someone (usually the hostess) provides the bird and stuffing and others do their individual share to contribute to the cause with their “specialty.” My sister’s, for example, is green bean casserole. Hers is hands-down the best so she provides that dish year after year, among other things. My mother brings the candied yams and usually a seven-layer salad… sometimes a dessert as well.

I’m not certain where all of the other food comes from… like the mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, garnishes and pumpkin pie. I only know that it doesn’t come from me. I am—99% of the time—relegated to roll patrol. When I inquire as to the item or items I might contribute to said smorgasbord, I am always told by my sister, mother or cousins in a very soothing tone: “Oh… That’s OK Joanna. I think we’ve got it all covered. But, I’ll tell ya what… You can bring the rolls! and their voices slide up an octave as they deliver this news… probably relieved to have thought of something I can actually provide that poses little risk to the continued gastric integrity of themselves or others.

Ah the rolls. Now that’s a prominent role one longs to fill in the grand scheme of things (my apologies for the bad bun… I mean pun). For everyone knows that the roll bearer is usually some sorry sap that is either A. Poor as a church mouse. Or B. Good for nothing when it comes to the kitchen… Or C. Has been totally overlooked in the planning of the event for any number of reasons… Or D. Is still considered a “child” by their family because they are unmarried with no children.

In my case it is neither A or C. It is firmly BOTH B and D. I am not ashamed to admit that I am… shall we say… culinarily challenged. Neither am I ashamed of the fact that I have borne zero offspring. I just find it interesting from a sociological standpoint. Like marriage and children is equal to having wicked-good skills when it comes to cooking. I can tell you with great confidence that I DO know how to cook things (beyond boiling water). Though most of the time, I choose not to. What do I need to cook for?

Truth be told, I did imagine myself at this age, with a husband and a couple of rug rats in tow, carrying a warm, covered dish to the gathering complete with seasonal oven mitts on both hands. And although I definitely never thought I’d still be the roll bearer at age 36… It sure makes for one hell of a quick and easy shopping trip.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! Watch for tumbling turkeys on those tootsies at 5 a.m. when you arise to turn on the oven. And don’t forget to take the bag of “stuff” out of the bird before you slide it in to cook it. Even a roll bearer like me knows that.

Falls the Shadow

“Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.” — T.S. Eliot.

This is not what I had in mind. At some point in time everyone utters those words. No exceptions. Most of you have already said it. And if you haven’t yet… I promise you will.

Maybe it was the vacation you had planned or the house you always imagined you’d buy. Maybe it was the career you thought would last forever or the spouse who promised to love and cherish you “till death do us part.” Perhaps it is in the visions you had for your children, or even the vision that one day you would have children. It might be the health and well-being you expected from your own body.

Whatever it is for you… there is probably something that didn’t turn out the way you planned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes amazing blessings and miraculous surprises come our way. And that’s what keeps life interesting.

In T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” there is a line that reads: “Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow.” There is much debate over what the entire poem means. And it means lots of different things to different people. But in that particular line I find it interesting to consider “the shadow” to be that grey area that exists between what we pictured in our minds and what we actually have.

If you’re anything like me, you might struggle with reconciling your dreams with your realities. And we may ask ourselves: How do I learn to be content living inside “the shadow”? I think the best we can do is to look around for the surprises… the tiny gems we never even considered to be of such great value: A neighbor who seems to come through just when you need it most. A co-worker who notices whenever you’re having a rough day and encourages you. A friend who knows everything there possibly is to know about you and loves you anyway. Family members who are your biggest fans and cheer you on even when you fall down.

These are the riches found in secret and unexpected places. We may need to write them down. Put them on the fridge or the bathroom mirror… somewhere we’ll always be reminded of them. This way, perhaps we will never forget that even if life doesn’t turn out to be the treasure chest we were expecting… we need to look closer. We will find that it is still a treasure bursting with sparkling jewels… just lying there… in the shadow.

Secret Single Behavior

While not everyone is a Sex in the City fan, I would venture to guess that everyone has some secret practices or behaviors that they would just assume keep that way. I have been a fan of the show for years and have seen every episode at least 3 times. But one of my favorites is the one where Carrie is adjusting to a new life living with Aidan, her boyfriend who has just moved in…

“Carrie lamented to the girls about the loss of her “secret single behavior,” which for her includes eating a stack of saltines with grape jelly while standing up in the kitchen reading fashion magazines. Miranda admitted, “I like to put Vaseline on my hands and stick them in those Borghese conditioning gloves while watching infomercials.”

I have lived alone for 6 years now and am currently in a long-distance relationship. Therefore, much of my weekly interaction with “the man” is via phone or Skype. The other night while on the phone with him we began talking about the things we do all by ourselves when no one is around. In other words … our secret, single behavior (SSB).

I realize that by sharing this with all of you, it will no longer remain “secret,” but that’s OK. I’ll still keep the really odd or creepy ones to myself. I feel like sharing mainly because I am fascinated by human behavior and this inquiring mind wants to know what your SSB is. You know… the old I’ll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours kind of thing.

Here are a few of mine:

When no one is around, I like to…

  • mindlessly watch reruns of Seinfeld and Friends (that I have seen a thousand times already) while reciting the dialogue in tandem with the actors. Verbatim.
  • bake fresh cinnamon rolls and drink mugs of warm coffee while watching indy films and staying in my pajamas for as long as possible on Saturdays. Even if it is mid-June and 75 degrees and sunny.
  • eat microwave caramel corn for dinner.
  • literally lie on the floor playing cat and mouse with Stan, my cat. Obviously, I am the mouse.
  • curl up with a heating pad when I don’t have cramps. Even if it is mid-June and 75 degrees and sunny.
  • read 3-months worth of horoscopes from my Glamour magazines while studying the calendar.
Now that I’ve shown you mine, will you please show me yours? Add to this list in the Comments section and either make me feel like I’m more normal than I suspect or share with all of us just how weird you are.