Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A toast to failure

Success gets all the glory, but the truth is that if you want to succeed you have to become very intimate with failure. To get to the places most worth finding, you have to get lost. To learn the most important lessons, you have to make mistakes. To become the explosion of awesomeness you are, you have to take risks and dare mightily, remarkably, at times even recklessly.

When I look back at my life, I see a past checkered with failures. And that is what made all the difference. Failing to do the things everyone else was doing lead me to create the life I wanted for myself. Failing at races lead me to become a stronger, happier runner. Failing at previous relationships lead me to Pete.

Failure isn't the bad guy. It's an important, necessary part of a life well-lived. It's what you do in the face of failure that matters. Will you take enough chances to risk failure in the first place? Will you fail ridiculously, totally, fantastically? Will you laugh about it and learn from it and keep on keeping on with your awesome self? That, my friends, is success.

Lyric of the moment: "And when you least expect, everything connects. Even when the hope is gone, there is you. And you'll keep your name. And the things in your brain just might see you through. 'Cause you are light. And in darkest night you shine. And I guess we're doing fine. But there's no escaping our spectacular failure..."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 recap: All these things that I have done

Last year at this time, I made an agenda for awesomeness in 2014:

Do 20 new things and run 14 races. The more ridiculous, the better. Obviously. But there are no rules, other than to enjoy myself. Because the secret to awesomeness is not in being better, faster, stronger, happier (though those are often bonus side effects) but in finding the joy in every opportunity, in living with enthusiasm and love and hilarity.

I didn't plan anything out ahead of time, I just rode the wave of life where it took me. (That's one benefit of knowing lots of amazing people who invite you to join their adventures. All you have to do is say yes and awesomeness ensues). Because for me the whole point of the exercise was not to engineer happiness or joy or improvement, but instead to find it wherever I happened to be, to embrace each experience and to realize the potential for awesomeness in every moment.

Here's where 2014 lead me:

2014 Races:
1. January Resolution Virtual Run
2. Johnny's Runnin' of the Green
3. TrailsRoc Mess the Dress
4. Flower City Half Marathon
5. MedVed Madness
6. Sehgahunda Relay
7. MedVed 5K for ALS
8. Charlie's Old Goat
9. Irondequoit 4th of July 10K
10. TrailsRoc 0spf
11. TransRockies RUN3!!!!!!!!! (infinity of exclamation points!)
12. Mendon 50K
13. Veterun 5K
14. TrailsRoc 0 degree WTF

2014 New Things:
1. New Years in NYC
2. Cancun, Mexico
3. Gin (the game not the drink)
4. Ethiopian food
5. Sumo citrus
6. Flannel shirt
7. Pilates
8. Smart phone
9. Watkins Glen
10. Fit1
11. Tequila (the drink not the game)
12. SUP Yoga
13. Fivrr (I laugh so hard every time I see that logo with the bear. It's like we're running out of its mouth. Ah, good times.)
14. Floating
15. Backpacking in the Adirondacks
16. MedVed Harrier Games
17. Hygge
18. I made pie. And whipped cream
19. Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala
20. Aquafit

It was a year of positive changes, most excellent beginnings and epically fantastic adventures. Not all of which are listed here. Most of which were legal. May the party continue in 2015 and beyond! I hope you'll join me. Let's go all the places and do all the things!

Lyric of the moment: "Another year you made a promise, another chance to turn it all around. And do not save this for tomorrow. Embrace the past and you can live for now...Say everything you've always wanted. Be not afraid of who you really are. 'Cause in the end we have each other. And that's at least one thing worth living for..."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 New Things #20: Aquafit

If I've learned anything today, it's that there's nothing like a mistaken text message in the middle of the night that says "Hey this is Rutger. I'm one of Matt Studley's friends. He told me you could help me out" to make you feel like you've made the right choices in life (I considered responding "What do you need? A 3 hour trail run? A frozen yogurt eating adventure? Yes, I can help." Because I'm pretty sure there are only two things you could possibly need at that hour: a run or dessert.) And that there's nothing like aquafit to make you feel young. And not just because you'll be the youngest person there by a good 20 years. Bouncing around in the pool makes you feel like a kid again.

I have been wanting to try aquafit for a while, but I was a little intimidated to be the only non-AARP member there. So I was excited when Laura and Danielle agreed to be my partners in aqua adventures. This morning we went to the Interval Aquafit class at Penfield Sport & Fitness and it was so much fun. The class was mostly older women and a couple of older men. The instructor seemed surprised to see the three of us and one of the women in the class thought we were college students. I've been out of college for a decade and I have no desire to go back to those days, but I certainly wouldn't mind looking, and especially feeling, younger than I am. The class consisted of sets of 90, 60 and 30 second intervals of running in place, squats, mountain climbers, punches, kicks, etc. With the added resistance of the water, it was a decent workout. And it felt great on my legs. The pool was heated and I was nice and warm the whole time. Afterwards, we sat in the hot tub for a few minutes and chatted with some of the adorable old ladies. One woman was there with her 93 year old mother! Now that's my kind of retirement! I really, really hope I'm still doing this 60 years from now.

As I got ready this morning, I was thinking that putting on a bathing suit after eating my weight in holiday cookies wasn't the most confidence-boosting idea. But then in the locker room before class, two old ladies said to me "I just love your suit. It's so cute. And that body!" Then they started reminiscing about how much they weighed when they got married. It was a good reminder that this is the youngest I'll ever be again and, unless reincarnation is a real thing, this is the only body I'm going to get. Sure, it's got imperfections, but it's also capable of amazing things. It's done everything I've ever asked of it and then some. So I think I owe it more celebration and less criticism.

Lately, I've been reflecting on my life and how to maximize the short time I have here. I'm hoping that if I keep moving, I can trick my body into staying young for as long as possible. And that if I keep saving aggressively, I can retire while I'm still healthy enough to get up to all sorts of shenanigans.

Lyric of the moment: "I am young and I'm alive. I want to talk about things. I am young and I own my life. I need to talk about it, baby...I'm right on track...I wanna do it right this time..."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Why I'm not busy

I often hear people lament how busy they are, but there's a hint of braggadocio about it. It's like there's this contest and whoever works the most hours and juggles the most tasks simultaneously proves that their time is the most in demand and they are the most important person. And the prize is stress, exhaustion and unhappiness. I don't get it. But what do I know? I only enter contests where the prizes are money or free vacations.

I am failing terribly at being the busiest-most-important-person. I am not busy. I am not important. And it's quite fantastic. I spend my time doing the things I love to do. Which is primarily running, laughing, reading, adventuring, working (because it pays for the adventuring) and talking about future adventures I want to go on until people agree to accompany me. I can cram a lot of activities into one day and not feel busy if they are things I want to do and with people I want to see. But I like to leave some spare time for spontaneity too. Sometimes it's nice to just let life happen instead of overscheduling it all.

Granted, I am extremely fortunate to have the luxury of leisure time. Some of that is luck - I don't have to worry about my safety or where my next meal is coming from and I don't have to work two jobs to make ends meet. But some of that is choice - I don't have kids to chauffeur around to a bunch of activities every day.

The beauty of time is that everyone gets 24 hours of it every day and the choice of what to do with it. I don't know who invented the busiest person contest. It was probably someone trying to sell something. But I do know that participation is totally optional. If you like being busy, by all means have at it. You win. But if you don't, if it makes you tired and unhappy and grouchy, just know that you always have options. The only things you absolutely HAVE to do are breathe, sleep and eat/drink enough to keep yourself alive. So when you say you have to do something that is not on that list, what you really mean is that you want to do it or you feel obligated to do it or you don't want to deal with the consequences of not doing it. And yes, some of those things are important. But maybe stop and ask yourself how important. This is your one and only life. Make time for the things that are most important to you and realize you can opt out of the ones that aren't.

Lyric of the moment: "We are very busy people. But we've always got time for new friends..."

Friday, December 19, 2014

This whole being alive thing

The thing about life is that you don't know how much of it you're going to get. But you do get to choose what you do with it. I don't know how many years will be in my life, but I want to have as much life as possible in my years. So I don't want to be miserly with those years. I want to spend them all with reckless abandon, to live and love and use them up completely.

And I want to fully inhabit my life, to be present as much as possible. I am still figuring out how to do this. All those people shilling their "live in the moment" self help books are probably sitting on a beach somewhere eating ice cream. No wonder they're all "be here now." That's a pretty sweet moment to be in. I don't think a person who is, say, getting mauled by a bear, would be so into the moment. He's not sitting around thinking, I'm so in this moment right now, I mean this is living. The searing pain as that bear rips off my arm. The blood gushing everywhere. This is a totally unique experience I'm having right now.  

But somehow I have to embrace those mauled-by-bear moments too. Because if I want to live until I die, that means living everything. The deep, aching sorrows, the unadulterated joys, the spectacular failures and the glorious triumphs. All of it. The full monte of life experience.

Sometimes I forget how amazing it is to be alive, how miraculous it is that I even exist at all. That's how lucky I am. That's how much I've gotten used to this whole being alive thing. Even so, I don't take it for granted. I know my days are numbered. I hope that number is very, very big. But however many days I have left, I want to spend them with you.

Lyric of the moment: "Life without end wouldn't have any meaning. The journey to death is the point of our being. Well, the point of my life is to be with you babe. But there ain't enough time in the life that they gave me. I said we're all gonna die but I'll never believe it. I love this world and I don't wanna leave it. Said that death is a deal that you cannot refuse. But I love you and I don't wanna lose you..."

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Semi-maximal velocity

At Tuesday's trail trot, we ran part of the Mendon 10K loop. I grew rather fond of that loop this fall, until my fifth consecutive time around it on November first, when I got so very, very tired of it. But it was like just the right amount of time had passed between then and now and I was happy to see it again. I ran the hills this time, which I hadn't done during training (because I became an ultrarunner for the walking uphill breaks. And because the aid station snacks are infinitely superior). When we got to one of the longer downhills, I decided to run it. Really run it, not carefully jog down it, holding myself back for fear of slipping or falling. And it's such a fantastic feeling to just let go and let gravity do the work. I don't know why I don't do it more often. Okay, yes I do. It's because I like to keep my runs on the vertical, not the horizontal. And I especially like it when my bones are inside my skin, not poking out of it at odd angles.

Still, I kept thinking about the WTF race. I ran a good 12 miles of that course without any traction. I'm still not sure how I managed that. Beforehand I was all I don't think I can do this, all those slippery, steep hills. I'm going to fall. Down that ravine. Into the pond. I wouldn't have even considered trying to run without the spikes, but they turned out to be more annoying than helpful. I thought I needed them, but that day all they did was impede my progress. Once I let go of them, or more accurately, tossed them aside in annoyance, I was fine. A little relieved even.

The truth is that it's possible to fall at any pace, traction or not.  And falling is inevitable. It's going to happen at some point. On the trails and in life. The terrain is uncertain. Life is ultimately fatal. But I think the only way to see what I'm really capable of is to go all in, full-speed (well, maybe not full-speed. I don't want to be an idiot about it. Maybe like semi-maximal velocity), flying through it. And if I stumble, I'll figure out how to go all stunt double on that shit, doing some kind of fancy rolling fall. Yeah, I wish. I don't really think it matters how I fall, only that I always get back up again and keep going.

One thing I'm going to do in the new year is to work on my downhill running. Not because I want to be competitive. Actually, I'd like to do a race where everyone crosses the finish line hand in hand, like a giant game of Red Rover. I only want to be fast enough to keep up with friends and to be able to pace anyone who asked. And also I'm hoping that becoming more fearless on the trails will trickle over into the rest of my life as well.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm a boomerang. Doesn't matter how you throw me. I turn around and I'm back in the game. Even better than the old me. But I'm not even close without you..."

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 New Things #19: Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala Ball

So far the best part of my thirties has been making so many "Yes!" friends, the kind of friends who are up for any adventure, whether it's running 15 miles of snowy, hilly trails or going to a black tie party at some dead people's mansion, or both in the same day. Mansions are not really my thing. My house is only 1100 square feet and I think even that is way too big for what I need. But having occasions to buy new dresses and getting to snoop around other people's mansions are totally up my alley. Plus it's always fun to try something new. Even if it turns out to be weird or I don't really like it, at least I get a good story out of it. And any time I have good company, I'm pretty much guaranteed to have a good time, regardless of the activity.

After Saturday's WTF trail race, Alison, Bob, Chris, Steven, Pete and I headed to Canandaigua for the Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala Ball. The mansion was one of the summer homes of super rich banking dude Frederick Ferris Thompson and his wife, Mary Clark Thompson, who was a governor's daughter. Yes, summer home. You know, because why wouldn't you have a house for every season? Not that I visit many mansions, but those I have seen all kind of look the same. What is it with rich people and taxidermy? They sure do love their dead animal heads and bear skin rugs.

The mansion was all decorated for Christmas and it was neat to walk around looking in all the rooms. But we made the mistake of not getting in line right when they brought out the hors d'oeuvers because I swear we were only upstairs looking around for ten minutes, but when we got back downstairs all the food was already gone. Although for me it was no big loss since I don't think there were many vegetarian options, and I only go to parties for the dessert anyway. Sadly, the dessert was mediocre. Actually, the tiny blue sugar cookies were fantastic, but there were only like ten of those and they were gone quickly (I did snag two of them since I hadn't gotten any food). They had a lot more of these chocolate mousse tart-like things, but they weren't as good. Considering tickets to this shindig were $55 each, the food situation was a little disappointing. But we had a great night of laughing and dancing to the weird mix of music that switched from classical waltz type stuff to Call Me Maybe to All I Want For Christmas Is You to Pit Bull. At one point I even thought this party was going to turn into a game of Clue. Because when I went to the bathroom, there were definitely drops of blood on the floor. Okay, so it may have been drops of red wine. But the ladies who work at the mansion said it is haunted. So I think blood is a real possibility. And I'm going to guess it was either the ghost of Mary Clark Thompson or Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the candlestick.

Pete and I had gotten a room at the Inn on the Lake, as did Steven and Chris, so the six of us all went back there after the gala figuring we'd get some food at the hotel's restaurant. But apparently their kitchen closed at 9 and there was no room service either. So we headed across the street to MacGregors. Chris and I both ordered the Macho Nachos (but I got mine without meat or jalapenos) and it was basically a bottomless pit of nachos. Seriously, I think every time I ate one, two more nachos grew in its place.

I don't know if I'll ever figure out what I'm doing with my life. But if I'm spending my days running and smiling and my nights wearing an evening gown and eating a perpetual plate of carbs, and I get to share it all with fabulous friends and my favorite guy, I must be doing something right.

Here's to more occasions to get dirty, to wear dresses and to dance the night away.

Lyric of the moment: "But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece, jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash. We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair. And we'll never be royals. It don't run in our blood. That kind of luxe just ain't for us. We crave a different kind of buzz..."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Race #14: TrailsRoc WTF 15 mile

Thanks to I Am Lesher for the race photos!
When I ran this race last year, it was the farthest I'd ever run on trails. This year, it was barely even half as far as my longest trail run. But I don't think I'm ever going to get to the starting line of a race feeling completely prepared and confident, like no problem, I've got this. There are always questions, doubts. Can I do this? Do I have what it takes? And I think that is the whole point. Every race is a new chance to overcome fear and doubt, to find my limits and push past them, to expand my capacity for endurance and strength and awesomeness.

This course is definitely challenging and there are hills galore. All of which you get to run three times since it's a 5 mile loop course. I'm not fast or anything. I mean, the winner of the 15 mile race lapped me as I was finishing my second loop. But there was never a point where I felt any pain or even much fatigue (thank you pre-race Mountain Dew!) I don't know how Eric does it, but once again we had some perfect WTF conditions: a balmy 33 degrees Fahrenheit and slippery, snow covered trails. I had intended on wearing my microspikes again this year. But they fell off several times during my first loop and I got so annoyed I just ditched them at the aid station. Running without any sort of traction was definitely trickier and more tiring, but it also felt like a relief not to have to deal with them anymore (lately my love-hate relationship with microspikes is trending towards hate-hate). I felt a little unsure, a little unsteady on my feet at first, but then I let go and just went with it. I thought, whatever happens, happens, just keep going. I gave myself permission to fall, to fail. I trusted my feet to find their way over the uncertain terrain. And actually I only fell twice, both times kind of intentionally just sliding down on my butt on the steepest downhill. Though I ran mostly by myself at my own pace, I found plenty of company and comedic relief along the way. The first two times up Hell On Roots, I saw a gorilla at the top and I thought I really hope that is Dan in his gorilla suit because it's way too early for me to be hallucinating. On the trails, and in life, sometimes a gorilla calling your name is just the kind of insanity you need. By my third and final time up Hell On Roots, the gorilla was gone but I was thanking Yukon Cornelius for the rope, without which it would have taken me forever to get to the top. I think I was solely using my arms at that point, since my legs were all like what the hell did we do to deserve this? Annoyingly, my calves started cramping in the exact same place as they did last year, at mile 14, even though I made sure to take salt pills this year. Thankfully they were only tiny minor cramps this year and I knew I was almost done anyway, plus that cheesy Wilson Phillips song popped into my head: "I know that there is pain. But you hold on for one more day. And you break free from the chains." That made me laugh and I knew I was so close to finish line hugs, plus I really had to get to my hair appointment, so I kicked it in to the finish, where I got a high five and a "Go get your hair did" from Eric, a hug from Pete and then a double Pete-Eric hug. I wish I could have been fast enough to see other friends' finishes and that I could have stuck around to hang out more after the race, but I had to get all fancied up for our next adventure of the day, the Sonnenberg Gardens Christmas Gala. And any day I get to run around in the woods getting dirty and sweaty and then get a fancy updo and dance around in an evening gown, all with the best of friends, is a most excellent day in my book.
This was the perfect race to cap off my goal of running, and more importantly, enjoying 14 races in 2014, because it represents everything I love about running and everything I want to be as a runner and person. I feel like I can't say enough thanks to TrailsRoc, Eric, Sheila, Ron, the Stories, all the incredible volunteers (and especially to Chris for his high fives and encouragement and to Ryan (I think that's his name but we've never been formally introduced) for getting my spikes back to me), to all my runner friends (I absolutely adore you all) and to those runners I have yet to befriend (I feel it's only a matter of time). To be surrounded by so much strength, grace, persistence, resilience, happiness and encouragement on a daily basis is overwhelmingly amazing.

Lyric of the moment: "Oh this life is beautiful, if you can find it. I just want for you to know that the world is ours. And if I had you in my arms, what I would do with you..."

Friday, December 12, 2014

The best, luckiest, most epically awesome year

So I'm two for two at MedVed's Harrier Games. At the first one I went to, I won free socks and at this week's games I won a store gift certificate for free Sauconys. (This is pretty much the closest I'm ever going to come to being a sponsored runner. Hey, if I can't be fast, I'll be lucky.) And that was just the cherry on top of the 2014 sundae. It has been the best, luckiest, most epically awesome year of my life. I don't know how every new year turns out to be even better than the one before, but I hope this trend continues for as long as I do.

Especially because I could use all the luck I can get for the WTF 15 mile race tomorrow. I'm not sure how I managed to run (and enjoy) all 15 miles last year, when it was even colder and more stupidly winterous than it is now. Last Saturday I was tired after only 10 miles on this course. And I'm kinda bummed that I won't get to run this race with Pete, since he's doing the 10 mile option. I should probably have switched to the 10 mile race myself. This year I've run the most and the hardest miles of my entire life. And it was amazing. But also kinda tiring. It's just that every time I tell myself to relax and recuperate for a bit, I don't. Because I get too excited and go all insane: so many runs and adventures and let's go everywhere and do everything! All the time! Forever! And Saturday's date is 12/13/14 so of course I have to run 15 miles. And maybe eat 16 cookies? Because, sequentialism? Numerology? Or something? Yes, definitely that.

I'm trying to relax, not put any pressure on myself and just enjoy the race. But there is some pressure to finish as fast as I can because the race doesn't start until 10am, so I have to run approximately 3 bajillion hills, remain alive, shower, put on real clothes and make it to my hair appointment at 1:45pm. Because I am hopelessly inept at doing my hair and we're going to The Fancy Christmas Gala at Sonnenberg Gardens on Saturday night. Because apparently I am now the kind of person who goes to galas. Just kidding. Unlike Iggy Azalea, I'm not fancy. But any excuse to buy a fancy new dress is okay with me. Though if I have to wear heels (and by heels I mean wedges because the only thing more impossible than trying to get up Hell on Roots hill three times is taking one step in high heels), there better be some serious dessert up in this shindig.

Lyric of the moment: "Won't you let me match your stride. I can slow down if you want to. We can handle it side by side. What do you say? Don't you want to? And I can understand. All I need is your hand. Oh won't you take the fall. It is me after all. I'd be lying if I ran away. I'd be lying if I ran another way..."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Schrödinger's lasagna

For some reason my brain told me to make veggie lasagna on Sunday. I don't know where the idea came from. I don't care about cooking. I don't care about lasagna. But I made it. Because once an idea infiltrates my brain, it becomes inevitable. Resistance is futile. I'm not sure if the lasagna turned out alright. I didn't taste it. I thought maybe it looked a little off but I'm no lasagna connoisseur so what do I know. I didn't care if it was a great success (which considering my complete lack of kitchen skills would have been a miracle) or if it was a total failure. And I realized maybe that was the whole point. Sometimes I am too sensitive, I care about everything too much. But lasagna, that's something about which I can be totally indifferent, about which I can have absolutely no expectations. Maybe it was my brain's way of giving me a break, a brief respite from caring. Or a lesson once again in doing things for the sake of doing them, with no attachment to the outcome.

The lasagna is currently sitting in my fridge. I have no interest in eating it. It's probably terrible anyway. But I kind of like not knowing. Right now it's like Schrödinger's lasagna, simultaneously awesomely edible and epically inedible. I won't know which one it is until I take off the foil and taste test it. It's a physical reminder to embrace the uncertainty. These are the facts of my life: I am currently alive. One day I will no longer be so. The only one who is guaranteed to be with me every step of the way between those two points in time is me. Beyond those three certainties, everything else is up in the air. Might as well get used to it.

I thought about throwing the lasagna away, uneaten. Like a Mandala painting, only made of carbs instead of sand. But Mandalas are supposed to teach you about impermanence, and I already know that all too well. It's permanence that I have to learn. Perhaps the next thing I should try to make is an Everlasting Gobstopper?

Lyric of the moment: "Wherever you are, know that I adore you. No matter how far, I can go before you. And if ever you need someone. Well, not that you need helping. But if ever you want someone, I know that I am willing. Wherever you go, I can always follow. I can feed this real slow if it's a lot to swallow. And if you just want to be alone, I can wait without waiting. If you want me to let this go, well, I am more than willing..."

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to avoid taking shit personally

Most of the things people say and do are a reflection on them, not on you. The vast majority of the time, it's not about you. Unless you're being a jerk. Don't be a jerk. But it can be hard not to take other people's comments and actions personally. Rationally I know that most of the time it's not about me, but sometimes emotions crowd out logic and I could use a reminder. So I wrote this as a pep talk to myself. I even made a helpful infographic:

Here's the thing about us. We filter everything through the lens of our own experience. As Anais Nin said "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." It's true of you. It's true of everyone else. So when something happens that upsets you, when someone says or does something and your immediate emotional response is one of hurt or anger, take a moment and remember this. Refer to the helpful infographic. What you are experiencing is not reality, it is only your perception of reality. This other person is not experiencing reality either, only his or her perception of it. So always try to give others the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they are having a bad day. Maybe they are going through some seriously difficult shit you cannot possibly imagine. Assume they have the best intentions and their comments are innocuous. It is only your interpretation of them that is causing you hurt or pain. So change your interpretation. Realize it is not about you. Unless of course you were being a jerk and it is about you. Be honest here. If you were being a jerk, it's ok. It happens to all of us. Don't be hard on yourself, just make a sincere apology and try not to make the same jerky mistakes again. If you weren't being a jerk, relax. No one thinks you're a jerk. It's not about you. Go run through the woods with some pals under the moonlight, eat some cookies, give some hugs, do whatever it is that makes you happy. And let it go.

Lyric of the moment: "So light it up and let it go. Don't you see that you're not alone. Just light it up and watch it fly. 'Cause you could be anything you want tonight. It could be a beautiful morning..."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

All I want for Christmas is you

I find it hard to get excited about Christmas. I don't want to cut down a tree and bring it inside where it will die slowly, pine needle by pine needle falling to the floor. I don't want to clutter up my house with decorations and ornaments. I don't want to race around buying things no one needs. Some people get pleasure out of these traditions and I totally understand that, but I'm just not into it. I want Christmas to be magical and meaningful and instead it is commercialized and stressful. And then I am disappointed, sucker punched once again by my own impossibly high expectations. I don't want anything for Christmas. Thing being the operative word. What I want for Christmas is the same thing I want every day: connection, friendship, love, laughter. I don't want things, I want people.

Sometimes I convince myself that I don't need it, that I will be ok with whatever happens, that if I don't get lifelong friends and a life partner, I will still be fine. But pretending I don't want something just to save myself from possible disappointment and sadness is futile. Because the truth is that what I want most out of life is meaningful relationships, real connections, to feel less robot and more human. And if I don't get that, I guess technically I will still be fine. But I don't want to be just fine. I don't want to live a half life.

A little over a decade ago someone told me it would take 10 years before I would be able to connect with people. This person was basically a stranger and I should have forgotten the words as soon as they were spoken. But something about the specificity of the time frame - not just years, but exactly 10 years - made it seem almost like a curse. For some reason it resonated deeply with me, probably because I was afraid it might be true. And now that 10 years has passed, I thought...what, exactly? That someone else would come around to tell me that my sentence is up? Like the tarot card lady at Alison's birthday party? I know it's ridiculous to even entertain this notion and yet it speaks to the fundamental failing I have, the inability to fully connect with people.

Christmas only makes it clearer how out of touch I am. I don't understand why we have to run around going crazy buying lots of things to show people we love them. Can't we just tell them? Can't we just spend time with them and hug them and listen to them and go on adventures with them? I'm trying to opt out of Consumerism Christmas this year. My immediate family lives in different states now so I suggested that in lieu of presents we do something together in the new year. I don't know if everyone will go for that but at least I asked.

Last night it was cold and sleet/hail-ing. If I was sitting at home I'd look outside and think what a crappy night. But I wasn't at home. I was TrailsRoc-ing it up at Ellison Park. And we were getting pelted in the face with hail, climbing up big hills, getting stuck in prickers, getting lost outside the park boundaries, sliding down steep hills on our butts, talking about funny things and serious things and I was thinking what a great night. And why can't Christmas be like this? (And then I made myself some sweet potato fries and they were all salty and cinnamon-y and delicious. Because apparently the stove is the gateway drug to the oven. And I'm using pans now. I don't think I like where this is heading.)

I don't even like Ellison Park. And getting hail in my face isn't my favorite either. But it doesn't matter where I am or what I'm doing. The thing about Awesometown is that it's not a destination, it's the company you pick up along the way.

So all I want for Christmas is you. Especially if you know how to break curses.

Lyric of the moment: "The nights are getting shorter. I don’t know where they go. And I am getting older. And it's starting to show...I don’t want to wake up lonely. I don’t want to just be fine. I don't want to keep on hoping. Forget what I have in mind..."

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 New Things #18: That time I made pie. And whipped things

It's no secret that the stove and I are not friends. Because I want it to be a Replicator from Star Trek and it refuses to be a Replicator from Star Trek. But imposing my own expectations on others is kind of a dick move. So I decided to make friends with the stove in the best way I know how: over chocolate. In total honesty, I went to the microwave first but it just burned the shit out of the dark chocolate chips I was trying to melt. As my house filled up with the stench of burning chocolate, I turned to the stove as a last resort. The stove was surprisingly cool about the whole thing and melted the chocolate easily and without incident. And then I made a dark-chocolate-pumpkin pie and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. By myself. Like a real person. Technically I made 3 pies because over the weekend I had made a practice chocolate pumpkin pie. But to keep up my I will never be domesticated street cred, I cheated and used pre-made graham cracker crusts from the store. (And I used recipes with 7 or less ingredients. It's the express check out line equivalent of baking.) The pies were edible, or at least no one said otherwise. Out loud. And no one died. Which is the mark of a successful adventure. Plus, at Alison's house on Thanksgiving, Bob taught me how to make whipped cream using a hand mixer. Apparently if you keep whipping beyond the cream stage, you can make butter. And beyond that, who knows? Now I kind of want to whip other things and see what they turn into. But I still wish I had a Replicator. Or TARS from Interstellar, because he has a better sense of humor.

Lyric of the moment: "I'm not a simple machine. I have become something else..."