Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!

(“Song at Sunset” by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass)

The anniversary slipped past without me thinking much of it, which is actually kind of nice. Three years (and a few days) ago, I was a patient, etherized upon a table, while a robot nabbed my uterus, thus relieving me of not only the cancer that had begun to sprout there but a slew of not-very-ladylike health problems that had plagued me more than I’d realized.

I didn’t panic until I was all alone, my mother and boyfriend ensconced in the waiting room while I took off my brave face, and donned the butt-baring robe, my feet mummified in weirdly binding socks. So this is it, kid, I thought, and what do you have to show for it? What would you do again if you had the chance?

Hey, you get a free pass for melodrama when they’re about to conk you out for major surgery and you’re not 100% sure — who is? — you’re going to come out on the other side.

The thing that rankled me most was my self-consciousness about swimming. When I was a kid, I loved to swim. Looking back, I see now that it was the only form of exercise at which I felt I was any good, and it was certainly the only physical thing I ever did to the point of exhaustion. It’s remarkable that I gave it up so quickly. My flabulousness made me an easy target during awkward middle-school swim classes, and so my swimming career ended in eighth grade, when I passed the “lifesaver” test, wherein I bobbed like a cork in the deep end of the school pool, a wet pair of size-14 jeans inflated and looped around my neck as a clammy makeshift life preserver. (Yes, really, that was the final element of our swim test.) As God as my witness, nobody would see my naked arms ever again! If I had to lie, steal, cheat or kill!

Life is too short for that. A cliché, yes! But deadly seriously true. I was furious with myself in those last few minutes of consciousness: You loved it! And you let it go! Because you didn’t want anyone to see your arms, your belly, your thighs? Because you didn’t want to be seen at all!

Obviously, I did wake up from surgery, and I really took my deathbed-but-not-really-but-it-seemed-like-it-at-the-time epiphany seriously, telling myself whenever I felt wiggly that what other people thought of me was none of my business. Going to the gym was a huge step. Working out with a trainer, a huge lunging step. Walking, jogging, all that stuff, literally huge steps.

The swimming thing I kept on a back burner until the right opportunity presented itself. One of the jewels in the crown of my gym’s massive new facility is a gorgeous aquatic center that opened a few weeks ago. I signed up for swim lessons, the first of which was last night. I don’t even know if there are words to describe how great it was to jump back in. After the lesson, I farted around in the therapy pool, in the whirlpool, in the steam room and sauna, not really wanting the evening to end.

When you step out of the water, gravity seeps back into your bones. I was so giddy that I didn’t really notice the effect. The endorphins of exertion were at work and play in my bloodstream here, of course, but more than that, there was a promise fulfilled, a wrong righted, a disconnected chunk of my soul has slipped back into place.

Baby, It’s Relatively Cold Outside

Nothing makes me feel more traitorous to my Minnesota upbringing than when I complain about Maryland cold. Oh, sure, there’s the whole “wet cold” vs. “dry cold” thing, and there is some truth to that, but when it’s hovering right around freezing and my lunchtime walk plans seem as insurmountable as a hike to Antarctica, well, sigh, there you are. It’s like, 0 degrees in Minnesota with a windchill of negative quizillion. And la de da, little miss wimpypants, putting on ladylike airs, has the vapours, can’t rouse herself to put on her shoes and get some natural vitamin D.

I did force myself to do it once last week, when it wasn’t even as cold as it has been the past couple days, and it was so grim. Marching along in my sweat-wicking layers, with tissues tucked into my pocket because my nose wouldn’t stop running. I couldn’t get lost in my book, grumpily marched home, and vowed to get back to the gym if I needed to. I pay for the gym, and it’s silly to not use it.

My old gym moved to a super-shmancy upgraded location across the street, so it’s like working out on a holodeck, all sleek and airy and shiny, with iPod-docked machines and a water fountain that senses your reusable bottle and fills it, just like that. I run out there at lunchtime and sweat my ass off for awhile, on a steep incline or on the “escalator to hell” stair climber. It’s not doing much for my 1000 Mile Goal but there’s plenty of time left in the year to catch up, right?

992 miles to go

In the couple of months preceding my birthday this past fall, I set a somewhat random goal of logging a hundred miles. It added just the push I needed to ramp up my walking and jogging, and I hit the magic number with a few days to spare. I’m not really one for new year’s resolutions — I think they’re made to be broken, they’re usually based in self-loathing, and really, if you’re going to do something differently with your life, you don’t need a magical reset number on the calendar to get on with it – but the 1st of January seemed as good a day as any to make a new goal for myself: 1,000 miles in a year. I’ve managed eight so far, bundled up in my layers, still trying to figure out what to do with my face during the brisker days. Since childhood I have had phobia about wearing balaclavas, and my GOD, what would my neighbors think if they saw a masked madwoman rambling through their woods?

I’m really hooked on listening to audiobooks while I’m wandering around on my trails and paths. At one point, during my Autumnal Century, I ended up sprinting a half-mile home in a sudden thunderous downpour while an extremely tense turn of events unfolded in The Woman in White. Lightning cracked too close for comfort and I nearly toppled over myself in alarm, and I ended bent over in my doorway, panting and heaving, soaked to the bone and terrified for the fate of dear Laura Fairlie. Thrilling!

My current audiobook is The Middlesteins, and I’m nearly through with it. I think The Magicians is next up!

Your mind plays tricks on you! You play tricks back!

A friend in Chicago mentions that Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is being screened in some sort of awesome outdoors event tonight and man, I am totally there in spirit. I can recite this film, I work lines into conversation daily, and it has become part of my DNA, I love it so much. A most remarkable bildungsroman, one for the ages.

It rained all day today, a nice cooling, refreshing sort of precipitation that beckoned me all day to go out in play in it. While I did pause for a moment and consider that today should have been a rest day from running, since that outing petered out so quickly I decided yesterday didn’t count and I went out after work anyway. I’m glad I did, since I did indeed do just fine, though my legs may disagree with me in the morning.

One thing I’ve done to shake things up a bit is to listen to audiobooks instead of music on my jogs. My mind just goes crazy with music. I can’t zone out and just enjoy the exertion… I start to count minutes, and run math problems in my head. Like: If EYE OF THE TIGER is four minutes long, and LET IT OUT is six minutes, I’ve already gone halfway around this block and I think that’s almost a mile and if the next song is three minutes blah blah maybe I should STOP because blah blah crazy talk. It’s mentally exhausting, and depressing and annoying. My only issue with Bossypants is that I start laughing, which causes me to lose precious, precious oxygen when I might need it most, and also makes me look like even more of a crazy person. Ah, whatever, like I’m any stranger to letting my freak-flag fly, right?

There’s another line of storms rolling in with a cold front, but I’m still lurking out on my balcony, even though it’s nearly 10:00 and I wonder — briefly, I don’t care overly much — if my neighbors think I’m some sort of creeper, lingering out here the way I do. It’s the first habitable balcony I’ve ever had, with a comfortable chair and citronella candles and a view of treetops and green lawn. It’s the best place for writing, though my goodness the cats do whine about wanting to come out here with me. Two out of the three are slender and sprightly enough to slip through or over the railing and to their doom (the whiners) and the one who isn’t despises the very idea of the outdoors as anything other than a feline soap opera starring birds and squirrels, viewed from a comfortable cushioned perch behind a well-glassed window. You can’t please all of them all the time, except for treat-time, which is actually Medicine-Time, but don’t tell them that, because, bless their hearts, they haven’t figured out the miracle that is pill pockets just yet.


I liked Couch to 5K so much that, after a few weeks of using Zombies, Run as my jog-accompaniment I decided to go for the gold and leap into a 10K trainer app, piggybacking onto the 5K one. Great idea, terribly executed, but after a rest day, I’ll pick it up again where I left off.

I’d meant to head out just before sunrise. It’s a stretch for me to be able to function that early but if I get enough sleep it’s my favorite time to exercise. Maybe because my brain hasn’t figured out what I’m doing and can’t scramble to find a way out of it. But I slept crappily last night, and morning came too soon… it was hot and humid so a lunchtime attempt seemed like a bad idea… so I went at 5:30 PM instead. Barf! I made it about halfway before I started to see keeling over as a distinct possibility, so I staggered home and tried not to be too hard on myself. After all, a few months ago, I could barely get through the 60-second run intervals. Going for ninety seconds seemed like some sort of voodoo magic, and, by the time I was up to the 20-minute intervals, I felt like goddamn Wonder Woman herself.

So: lessons learned. Next time it’ll be fine!

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