Ritual

I put on my running gear:  Victoria Secret expensive athletic bra, second hand store shorts, my first 5K t-shirt, cotton ankle socks, and then the expensive running shoes I had planned to wear out as I trained for the Free Press half marathon 2 years ago. They still look new. Too bad I never got to use them.

As usual, I forget to put on my Tommy Copper knee compression sleeves. The last time I didn’t take the time to put them on, I wasn’t able to walk down the stairs between floors at work without gripping the railing, wincing at each step. So I take the time now, knowing I’ll thank myself later. Finally, I slip the heart monitor around my ribs connect the ends, then push it over my sternum for optimum heart rate detection.

I put the wrist monitor. I reach under my shirt, wet the sensor with tap water. I grab my iPhone and head out the door, walking and tapping the screen while maintaining a vague awareness of my surroundings. Pandora, on. RunKeeper, set to start. Timer, 30 minutes. I walk briskly to my usual starting point, about three blocks from my house. My phone alerts everyone in listening range that my Miles Davis station is on, so dig it. I glance at my wrist: 96 beats per minute.

I start at a medium pace, making sure my form is good and my feet are hitting the ground flatly with each stride. Eventually, I see other runners. A man in the distance  is coming steadily towards me, eyes in front, focused like the rest of us and also moving at a moderate speed. As he gets closer I realize we know each other, and we raise our right hand in silent greeting as we pass. A gesture of respect, an acknowledgement to not break our Zen with small talk.

This has been quite a weekend. I’m not too tired yet, and so my thoughts wander. I admire some morning glories hanging over a wooden fence. What should I do? Is there anything I can do? She’s so alone in this world.

I address the other mind-blowing event that upset my universe. I’m still not sure how to feel about it. How did we never know this? What other secrets did they keep from us?  I still can’t put a name to this emotion. Do I ask more questions? Does he have a name? Does she even want to talk about it? I need to know!

Mile one, and I’m already struggling a little. It’s hot, and that means my heart is working harder. I glance at my wrist and read my BPM: 153. I better slow down.  The dark, precise shadows of leaves on the sidewalk catch my attention, bristling, threatening. The old nameless anxiety is stirred. Why do I still feel this two years after my brain surgery? Maybe I’ll ask my neurologist next week at my annual post MRI check-up, though she  probably won’t know why. Every case is different, she’ll say. Or worse, it’s all in my mind. Which it is, ironically.

I notice the morning glories again, looking like upside down blue umbrellas with white centers. Stunning! Must take a picture and post on Facebook. I ponder what I’ll say in the comments.

I finish my run and walk over the traffic island to get my picture. A little boy is in the driveway shoveling dirt and looks at me suspiciously. I wonder briefly if I should say hello and tell him I just want to take a picture of the flowers on the fence, but then the moment passes.  He goes back to shoveling.  I take my photo and walk back across the street.

 

 

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The First Time I Screamed

The snowflakes fall, fat and fluffy. With lazy abandon they cluttered a sky the color of a No. 2 pencil smudge. It’s January 28 and there is determination and healthy nervousness in my 13 year old mind.  I am embarking on what will most certainly be my path to instant junior high popularity.

My first successful volleyball try out was already behind me, and this second practice would further prove I deserved to join the team. Sure, I had to learn control and accuracy but my serves were strong and went to the general area intended. I can do this, I thought. I will do this.

I had felt accepted and confident at the first practice. I had heard “Nice one!” from the willowy, smart and strong Leslie Toeper after a particularly decent serve, which was a good sign. Adrenaline coursed through me as I fearlessly flowed through the exercises and drills, consistently being at the right place, my hands and arms in just the right position to return the ball without bruising my fore arms.

Perhaps these memories distracted me as I stood there in the chill early evening air, watching the crossing sign. It blinked, and I took a step onto the road that wasn’t quite a highway, but not really a regular street either. My right foot felt firm concrete. I sensed something on my left, something big and monstrous but unseen. I caught a microsecond glimpse of it then glanced back at the crossing sign, reading the neon white letters: WALK.

Events unfolded in slow motion. First, the briefest sensation of something hard hitting me just above my right knee. This coincided with a “thumpf” sound.  Then I floated silently, arcing like an angel in flight, breathless and dumbstruck. Two heartbeats later this beautiful moment was violently interrupted by my left shoulder hitting the gravel hard. I lay dazed for what seemed much too long, and when it finally dawned on me what had just happened I looked down where a maddening numbness was screaming for my attention. I feared that no one had seen anything, and that I was going to be left there, mangled and despairing, and help would never come. I was going to be ignored. Cars would continue to pass me and life would go on. This was too overwhelming. I had to make an effort to draw attention to the broken, helpless animal that was me. I had to do something. 

I screamed. Not once, but three times, each with everything in my being and lasting until the breath ran out of my lungs. After the last one people finally came. A few hesitant figures in my peripheral vision, whose movements became more urgent as they got closer. My body seemed to sink deeper into the gravel and I thought briefly as I went into shock, “Man, my parents are going to be so mad at me…”

 

Solution

I’ve started running again. It’s pretty glorious being this fit at my age but I figure I want to make a good looking corpse should I expire in the next few years, which I realize is super morbid thinking, but when you realize that at any time you can be put down in the prime of your life by a crazed person with an automatic weapon, you want to look your best for the funeral professionals patching up what’s left of you.

So I ran a 5K tonight, just for practice. I signed up for the Run of the Dead 5K which will occur on November 4 at Woodmere Cemetery, one of Detroit’s historical cemeteries. I wanted to make sure I could actually run three miles ahead of time, so now I just have to work on picking my speed up a little. Not too much, though – I want to enjoy the irony of running past gravestones and 120-year-old corpses without too much discomfort. Hopefully they’ll have dancers this year. More on this when it happens!

Actually, it’s one of the things I do to get myself out of a funk. Today started off  very poorly. I glanced through my Facebook like I normally do in the morning, and saw posts about sending love and prayers to the victims of the tragedy in Las Vegas. So against my natural inclination to avoid reading about the horrors that happen pretty regularly in our modern world, I went to my news app and sure enough, some wack job had shot into a country music festival crowd and the current count was 50 dead, 200 injured.

Something inside me sank into a mire of hopelessness and I fought this feeling for a good part of the day until about 3:30 pm.  Just when I was almost recovered, I found out that Tom Petty had died of a heart attack. What the eff? That finally broke me. You just react to things like that differently as you get older, and your mortality becomes a painful reality that not only terrifies you, but makes you wonder which pop icon from your personal history is next to fall under Death’s sweeping stroke.

And now I just read that they reported his death erroneously (Oops, silly LAPD!) Still though – if he pulls through, it will be a rock and roll miracle, but if he dies then it will be more of the same. But I’ve decided my solution works – extreme exercise gets the bad chemicals out of the system, and it’s better than curling up in a fetal position and wishing all the evil things in the world would just vanish and leave everyone alone. Because unfortunately, that’s not the way things work, and we can only gain painful wisdom in the aftermath of tragic events.

*This was mostly written within 30 minutes, my October 30 Day Challenge to set the timer for 30 minutes, and just start writing. Not bad. Not bad at all. Let’s see what I can do in 30 days!