The Balance.

If there’s anything I’ve been chasing lately, it’s balance, which isn’t really different from any other time in my life because I think that maybe my whole life is being lived in the pursuit of balance, like maybe it’s actually my life’s purpose and someday I’ll experience this magical moment of balance in all the different parts of my life and then blue birds and doves will come and swirl around me and sing and chirp and braid my hair and I’ll be lit by a perfect ray of sunshine and I’ll get all glowy and sparkly and a unicorn will come and and bow in front of me and then we’ll high five and I’ll ride off into the sunset, never to be seen again, on a the back of a giant white tiger, accompanied by a blue giraffe, a pack of wolves and a grizzly bear.

I suppose it’s more likely that I’ll just spend forever chasing after it.

I’m working on it.

I work on it, in a very literal sense, when I’m in yoga, and Mary, my yoga instructor, has us pop up our back foot into Warrior III and I stand there, one foot allegedly rooted into the ground, but mostly shaking like a amber field of grain in the midst of a buffalo stampede, arms outstretched, face smushed into a scowl, shoulders creeping closer to my ears, no matter how hard I try to slide them down my back. I spend the whole time, first wobbling about on my right leg, and then wobbling about on my left leg, thinking about how all the things that happen in yoga can all too easily be applied to the rest of my life, and my mind slips deep into the realm of THIS MEANS SOMETHING, and I wobble about and think about how my inability to balance in yoga is all too closely linked to my inability to find balance in other things and that maybe, if I just mastered Warrior III, all the other shit in my life will fall into a state of balance as well.

It’s not that easy, sure, and besides, I’m probably never going to master Warrior III, so it wouldn’t matter even if it was that easy.

I work on it with running, because the thing about being a runner is that you can’t just run, you have to commit yourself to a whole host of other physical endeavors to make your body strong in ways that running doesn’t really help with. If you don’t work the rest of your body, like I wasn’t for a while, with strength training and core conditioning, eventually things start to hurt which is precisely what happened to me. I got a sports massage, hit up a Body Pump class, foam rolled with far more seriousness than I’d been able to muster previously, and suddenly the knee pain that had me flustered run after run suddenly disappeared. Because balance, y’all. BALANCE.

The hardest for me though, is to find the balance in repairing the broken things. When it comes to things that are difficult, and that have been difficult for a handful of months, it’s really easy to wake up one day, say ENOUGH, and stuff all those feelings into The Pit, that lovely gorge into which I throw all the shit I just can’t handle today or tomorrow or right now. But the thing about The Pit is that it doesn’t keep the things you try to bury within it forever. It’s a volcano, an angry, totally uncontrollable volcano that will vomit hellfire over everything until I’m curled around a box of tissues, cringing at the judging looks the cats give me each time I cry.

But when things are broken you can’t just be broken forever. At some point you have to get up, carry the broken bits with you, get out the super glue and try like hell to put it all back together again, realizing that it won’t be the same, but that the road to being unbroken includes facing the hard parts, balancing the reality that things aren’t perfect, but moving forward toward a different sort of better.

That time I climbed all the mountains & didn’t die: Running Virginia’s Super Spartan

It was mud and obstacle racing that got me started with the running. An old friend invited me to run a Warrior Dash with her, and I did. And then we were hooked. We stayed up late researching other races we could conquer, watching video after video of races and reading through FAQs on various race sites, checking schedules as we went to see what was close, drivable or crazy enough we’d consider buying plane tickets so we could experience it, and so that’s when we found the Spartan Race series. There would be in the Virginia the next year, we noticed, a Super Spartan, the middle distance of their three race offerings, and we figured we could do it, given a year to prepare.

And since then, since that first mud run and since that first Spartan registration, I’ve been hooked, and just over a week ago I completed my third Spartan Race, a Super Spartan, held at Wintergreen, a ski resort in the Virginia mountains.

The Super Spartan is an 8-9 mile race, compared to the Sprint, which is 4-5 miles, and the Beast, which is 12 or more miles. This year’s Virginia Spartan was a brutal affair. It was like torture, only that I had paid good money to be racing up double black diamond ski slopes and slipping my way down steep and rocky creek beds nestled between mountains peaks. Which is to say that this shit was HARD. Last year, running with a friend with a wounded knee, we finished Virginia’s Super Spartan, held at a different location, in about 3.5 hours, which was just a bit off the average for female runners.

But this year was different. This year I spent FIVE HOURS on the course with two fellow Soldiers, both male (who, by the way, were amazing and I absolutely COULD NOT have done it without them and also, teamwork for these sorts of things is very, very important). And yet, FIVE HOURS. This year was HARD. I mean, sure, these races are meant to be easy and last year’s Super and the Sprint I did in March were hard, but this crazy shit? WAS HARD, in a special caps lock sort of way. It was uphill, but not like uphill, like MOTHER FUCKING UP THIS FUCKING MOUNTAIN, SO REALLY IT WAS UPMOUNTAIN. And then, you know, you’d have to come down and so it was then DOWNMOUNTAIN, which was equally hard and painful in different ways than all that going up business.

This is me before the race:
photo 1There’s still sleep in my eyes, I think. I was scared, excited and nervous. Ready, I thought. I’d been running and running and running and doing strength training when I could and I was by far in the best shape of my life, and then MOUNTAINS. ALL THE MOUNTAINS.
96206_f67d13f4819db61431fdc13b67ad70ea_SandZoneThere were obstacles too, of course. Ropes to climb and walls to get over and a log carry and a sand bag carry and monkey bars and cargo nets to climb and walls to traverse and fire to jump and pits to climb through, but mostly MOUNTAINS. Ski resorts have a lot of mountains, and I’m pretty sure we very nearly climbed all of them over those five long hours.



98759_351b816b6dde95080d60520651791733_FireZoneAs it turns out though, there’s nothing like five hours of climbing up and down the most challenging ski slopes in Virginia to teach you what you’re made off. Then there’s the trying and trying and trying again to conquer an obstacle and the sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing and the burpees that come from incomplete obstacle finishes, and then there’s the time after where you shake your head and say you’ll never run it again if it’s like that, because GOD DAMN, FIVE HOURS OF UP AND DOWN IS A LOT OF UP AND DOWN, but then, deep down, you think maybe you might because getting to the finish is great, maybe not right away, but eventually, because you did it. You finished the damn thing.


95922_7e8c9637cea0e31fcaa66f1053dac428_GladZoneIt took you a while, maybe, to get to the finish. You had to sit and rest, maybe. Things hurt, probably, but you do it. You keep going. You think you can’t do one more burpee. Maybe your quads seize, like mine did this year. Maybe you run through knee pain, maybe you break skin and bleed on the way up and down some of those mountains, but most of us still finish, even though it’s hard, even though the middle parts suck, because finishing is worth it. Doing something hard is worth it. Stepping out of your comfort zone is so, so worth it and even though I spent the remaining day post-race cussing about how I never want to walk up a hill EVER AGAIN, and how I probably wouldn’t come back to Wintergreen to race because hills are such assholes, it was still worth it and my fussing was mostly bullshit. Because the hard is what makes it worth doing.

photo 4

photo 3And that’s why I know I’ll be back. Because it’s hard enough to teach me something and because it’s challenging in a way that makes me learn things about myself, about my limits and abilities, about the things I can do, and because getting to the end, no matter how long it takes to get there, is always, always worth it.

Also – and this is where you come in – I’m a Spartan Street Team Member, which means it’s my job to convince people to run a Spartan Race. Use my link to sign up for a race of any length and save 15% off, because it’s true what they say: You’ll know at the finish.

I don’t know how to fix this.

There are so many things I want to say, so many thoughts that pop up throughout the day that I want to write down and elaborate on. I want to sit down with a notebook and write it all out. I want to sit across a dinner table with my favorite person and talk about today and yesterday and tomorrow, but it’s not that easy. It’s not easy to write, not easy to talk. It’s not easy to make sense of things right now, really, and I’ve already written enough vague and sad blog posts that hint at, but don’t explain, my situation and I don’t know what else to say, other than that love is a mother fucker.

So I haven’t been writing. Not letters, not journals, not anything, other than an occasional long-winded, emotionally fraught text message. They don’t help, though.

My problem is I’m a dreamer and a fixer. I fix things. I fix wobbly tables at brunch. I fix broken shelves. I fix lawn mowers and door locks and all sorts of practical and personal problems, unless they’re math problems because math, like love, is a mother fucker. And I dream. I expect. I concoct the perfect scenario, with flowers and apologies and a few graceful tears and hugs and forehead kisses and I dream up unexpected homecomings and all the ways this could get better, the different scenarios that could lead us back to the best parts.

But things like this – tricky love shit – can’t be fixed with nails and I can’t dream myself out of this reality, no matter how much time I spend trying.

So I’m trying to be here. I’m trying to understand, trying to be the best version of myself, trying to wrap my head around something that seems unimaginable. I’m trying so fucking hard and I’ve moved backward, not forward. Progress was made and then, on a Saturday afternoon, it collapsed. I haven’t fixed anything. I haven’t dreamed anything away, and no amount of effort on my part to be present has gotten me any bit of relief or progress and I don’t know what to do.

That’s the worst of it, that I don’t know what to do.

I guess, at this point, the only thing I can do is wait and hope, hope that this thing fixes itself in the ways that I can’t and wait for the much-hoped for moment, when the fuzzy parts become clear and we get to be us again.

The things I’ve learned.

I’ve been in the trenches of deep thought lately, swirling around my past and doing my best to figure out the parts I must have missed. There’s a lot I don’t know. I don’t know how to alleviate the pain I sometimes feel. I don’t know what next year will look like. I don’t even know what tomorrow will look like. I don’t know what comes next or how to fix the things that are broken and half the time I don’t even know how to explain myself. I don’t know how to do this, this crazy unnamed, undefined thing.

Every day is different, which I guess is the way it goes when things get twisted and messed up. I can be happy, despite the hard things that are happening, but then I can be so, so sad and most days it just feels like I’ve settled into a steady state of an aching sort of sadness that’s always in the background. I can laugh and smile, but it’s still there, the hurt. It’s lurking just below the surface, looking for any sort of excuse to roll open the floodgates.

I’ve learned some things though. Because the mountains – literal or figurative – they teach you.

1. There is only now. Yesterday is done. That’s it. Yesterday is gone. I can spend hours going over and over the things I could have done differently, the decisions I could have shifted right or left, the things I should have done and the words I should have said, but it won’t get me anywhere. It can’t be changed – not here, not now – because it’s done. This is it. This is the reality that all of my previous decisions have created.

2. I define me. I get to pick the words I use to tell my story. I can define me by the hard stuff, by the bullshit and the tears and the heartbreak, or not. I can let this be all that I am, or not. It’s up to me. It’s up to me to tell my own story, to define myself in good ways or bad. I’m not just one thing, not just one experience, and just one experience isn’t allowed to define who I am.

3. Happiness is a personal pursuit. I’m not going to say that happiness is a choice, because it’s not that simple, but I believe that happiness is something that comes from you. I don’t think it’s something we can get from others. We can’t rely on friends or lovers to create it for us, because it’s personal. Happiness comes from liking who and what we are. Friends, lovers and adventures can enhance it, but they can’t create it.

There’s more, too. I know that I’m ok, even when I don’t feel ok. I know that I will be ok, no matter what, because I endure. That’s what I do. I’m really good at getting knocked down and then finding the strength to get up and keep going.

I know what I want too, which I think is important. I’ve weighed the options, uncovered the truest of my true feelings and found out how I really feel, which is pretty much exactly how I thought I felt.

I believe in love. That’s it. That’s enough.

The Space Between.

I talk a lot. Maybe too much. I talk to myself. I talk to my friends, to Andrew, to the cats, to the dogs, to the wild cats, to the birds who visit the back yard and the chipmunks and the bunnies I pass when I run. I talk to Raccoon Cat and Possum Cat and the food I cook and sometimes my closet and anything I stub my toe on.

I have a lot to say.

I’ve got an opinion on everything and I’m a person who feels a lot of things. I have feelings about the weather, about politics, about what I’m going to cook for dinner, about the way Baby Cat treats Daddy Cat, about running, about the clothes in my closet, about the shows I watch, the music I listen to, the books I read. I have feelings and opinions on the choices I’ve made today, yesterday and last week and the year before that. I have feelings about most things people to say to me, about my marriage and friendships and about eggplant. I hate that shit.

Point is, I feel things. All the things. And I talk about things, all the things, especially feelings.

But not everyone is that way. And when things are really dark, or when I feel like my feelings might be a burden to someone I love, I don’t talk about it. And then shit gets crazy, cause if you keep that shit to yourself, you lose your shit. You might not know you’re losing your shit until after it’s been lost and you go forward with life (because that’s the thing about life, the mother fucker keeps moving, no matter what sort of shit hole you’ve fallen into), and then you look back and it’s like, HOLY SHIT. That was some shit. That I lost.

It’s just that some things are hard to say. It’s hard to say you’re angry when you’re trying to be supportive, when you’re trying to be a good person, and do what you know is the right thing. It’s hard to be honest sometimes too, to say, out loud, that shit is hard. Because it is. Life. It’s a mother fucker.

And sometimes it’s hard to say anything. Even the simple things.

There’s a space there, the space that grows between all the things that want to be said, that heavy burden that’s  carried around like an overstuffed ruck sack. And once you stop saying some of the things you want to say, it’s easier to add to the pile until you’re buried under a mountain of things that started small until they festered and mutated into a beast of bullshit and resentment. And then it’s all nearly unidentifiable. It’s a mess of little things that merged to create this big space, this big, ugly gap and it’s hard to identify any of the parts, so you look at it and name it I Don’t Know, because you don’t anymore.

I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know what my life will look like in a year, or even what it will feel like tomorrow. But I know that I love. And I hope that’s enough. I hope it’s enough to break apart the I Don’t Know and close the space between. Because I really, really love. More today than yesterday.