Sunday, December 23, 2012

Running in tutus and other epiphanies

I have hated to run since I learned how. I know a lot of people say they hate running, but I hate it so much that I’d rather do insane boot camp workouts and 90 minutes of Bikram yoga than attempt to jog a mile.

I was the least likely person to sign up for a 5K ever. But when my friend posted something on her Facebook page about The Color Run, I was intrigued. It was in Portland, where I have “people.” Running in a tutu getting sprayed by colors alongside my friends seemed a hell of a lot more fun than my current routine of running listlessly around the same block time after time on a freezing cold morning, gasping for air.

So, despite my many hesitations, I decided to do it. While it wasn’t as impressive as winning an Olympic medal or even running Spokane’s Bloomsday Race in your 50’s like my Grandma B. did, deciding at 30 to literally go from couch to 5K seemed like an admirable goal. I vowed to get into good enough shape to run the entire 3.1 miles. To a normal person that’s not very far. To a non-runner, it’s a marathon.

I signed up in April. The race was in September, leaving plenty of time for a normal person to get into shape. I took my usual Jessica approach: I found an eight week training program on The Color Run’s Facebook page. I diligently completed week one (running for one minute, walking for two), pounding the pavement to Eye of the Tiger. I moved onto weeks two and three, slowly dragging them out. I lost interest, thinking I had plenty of time. When I did try to run, I’d run for two or three minutes before needing to stop to catch my breath. I got mad at myself. Then it got cold. Then the damn 5K was in a week and I was more out of shape than I’d been in months.

Though our trip to Portland was going to consist of three days of awesome adventures with our friends, I was anxious as we made the drive. I was about to perform a physical activity with my two most active friends, one of which has been a runner for years and one who does absurd things like Cross Fit and the Tough Mudder. What in the hell was I thinking? I prepared for embarrassment and the likelihood of vomiting.

To make matters worse, Mr. W hit the wine a little too hard the night before the race when we were celebrating our friend V’s birthday. Having dubbed him the responsible one in the relationship years ago, I panicked and stayed up most of the night, terrified we’d sleep through our alarms and miss the run. I think I got a total of four hours of sleep, thus becoming a prime example of how not to train for an athletic event.

But when I woke up in the morning, I was excited and strangely energized. And when we located our friends last-minute and started our run together, I felt as if I’d had four Red Bulls chased by coffee (and just as dehydrated thanks to my own share of wine). I’d spent months telling Mr. W and the girls that I wasn’t a runner and they’d have to be patient with me. But as we passed the race milestones together, I realized I had no problems keeping up with them.

I ran the entire thing. It wasn’t a fast run… ok, it was more of a medium-paced jog. But I ran it. That’s something I never thought I would do. And not only did I do it, I loved it.

I have hated every single second I have been forced to run throughout my entire existence. And somehow between the friends, the colors, the tutus and the energy, I became a convert. Hating running had become such a part of who I was, I almost experienced an identity crisis.

I hadn’t forgotten that feeling months later when a local friend asked me to run The Jingle Bell Run with him and a few of our friends. I agreed right away. As the date got closer, though, I panicked again. What if that ability had been a one-time thing? What if I embarrassed myself in front of my friends? What if it really was the tutu that made it possible, as I’d suspected?

It wasn’t. Apparently, running with a crowd of people including good friends, and for a good cause, is what it takes for me to enjoy it. And I really do enjoy it. I can’t wait until the next one, which will probably be this amazing event that is pretty much made for me:

To say this was unlikely to happen to me is an understatement. I don’t think words can ever convey how much I hated running. Once my mind wrapped around the fact that I can change my mind about something so intense, it started to carry over into other areas in my life. I’ve started trying foods I always thought I’d hate and I end up loving them (for example, fresh oysters are effing delicious. Seriously).  I’ve started striving for goals I’d always told myself I’d never reach.

Change is hard. Trying new things is hard. But what is harder is staying the same because of your limited thinking. And once you realize that, you’ll be surprised at what you’re willing to change... like bad habits you’ve been carrying around that no longer serve you, or anything keeping you from being your best self.

My great epiphany came wrapped in a tutu and a rainbow of colors. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Still Thankful

I’m sure by now, over a week after the holiday and long after the last of the turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pies have been eaten, people are pretty much over the whole thankful thing. And that’s too bad, because I’ve been really busy over the last week, and now it’s my turn.

Morale has been a little low in certain parts of my life lately. Between that and all the divisive anger of election season, I’ve been feeling the negativity something fierce. I don’t know if it was the stress pile-up or Mercury in Retrograde or if all my serotonin was washed away in the insane amount of rain Seattle has had lately, but it got to the point where I just wanted to stay in my apartment and hide with my dog, who’s never negative as long as I’m around.

But as I woke up on Thanksgiving morning and went to turn my alarm off on my phone, I accidentally opened up my Facebook app. I was flooded with post after post of my friends expressing their gratitude. And instead of being cynical, I was touched.  Instead of rolling my eyes, I read every last one of them with a smile. And as I went about my day, packing up and heading to Yakima to see our family, I stayed happy.
And I started to feel pretty thankful myself… not just for family, that goes without saying, but for the eclectic group of friends I have spent the last decade compiling. The older I get, the more I realize that having good friends in your corner is just as important as having a good family. I am blessed beyond measure to have the family I do, but I am unbelievably thankful for my friends.

I’m thankful for my San Francisco sweetheart, a fairly new friend, who I’m convinced I knew in a past life because of our instant connection and the warm, welcome familiarity I feel when I’m around her. I’m thankful (as hell) that she missed me so badly after her move from Seattle that she flew me down to visit her and spent three days spoiling me. I was introduced to new scenery, new foods and amazing new experiences. San Francisco is wonderful and I can’t wait to go back. That trip awakened me out of a funk I didn’t even know I was in. I’m continually amazed that someone years younger than me can teach me so much.

I’m thankful for old friends that I ended up missing more than I ever realized I would. After Mr. W and I stuffed our faces with my aunt’s Thanksgiving delicacies that would make Martha Stewart jealous, we headed back to Spokane and Coeur d’alene to spend the weekend with old friends. Our trip began with visiting one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in real life, holding her gorgeous, happy, healthy baby girl. It doesn’t get better than that.

After having a delicious dinner at a place that opened after we moved (and finding the one progressive, liberal, well-traveled bartender in town), we resumed our tradition of going on the Holiday Light Cruise with our sexy friends M & M. Our little love G, who moved to Portland seven years ago, was in town visiting family and was able to come with us. The resort was decorated for Christmas, catapulting us into the holiday spirit. We had a nostalgic, hilarious, intoxicating evening. I will never regret my time in Idaho simply because of the people I met there, people I am incredibly lucky to know.

We were nearly asked to leave the Coeur d'alene Resort.

It was totally worth it.

I’m thankful that I got to be in town for my best friend Yennifer’s birthday celebration, and even more thankful that it turned out to be one of her best yet. We were treated to an open bar at her boyfriend’s nightclub, which could have been a truly tragic mistake on his part. Fortunately, our group has matured slightly over the years, and everyone cut themselves off before disaster ensued. I’m so thankful for Yennifer, who I have gotten to grow up with and intend to grow old (but never wrinkly) with. I miss our monthly Wine Wednesdays and living 40 minutes away from her, but it makes our time together that much more special.

Bring it on, 31.

And, most of all, my trip made me thankful for every day I have in this world. During my visit “home”, I was heartbroken to learn someone I used to know died over the summer of a rare cancer. She was 24. A year ago this girl went to the doctor and had all her dreams of the future crushed, just like that. I am so thankful that I knew her. And while I’m heartbroken that I didn’t find out in time to reach out to her, I’m thankful that she clearly had an enormous support system… a family, a serious boyfriend and numerous friends who loved her. She was able to take one final trip to Hawaii before she passed, and I’m thankful for every last person who made that possible.

Of course, as I’ve said thousands of times, I’m also thankful that we call Seattle home. As we headed back to Capitol Hill last Sunday, I remarked to Mr. W that not only can I not imagine not knowing all the friends we’d left behind, I now can’t imagine not knowing the people we’ve met here. They’ve become such an integral part of my every day I can’t fathom not having them around.

And now I find myself in a strange but good place. I need to make some changes, again, and they’re going to take a lot of hard work, again. But thanks to the things I have learned and my own wonderful support system of friends, old and new, I know they’re possible. I don’t know where I’d be without them, but I wouldn’t be me. The further I get on my journey through life, the more I realize that it’s not all about the experiences you make, but the people you meet while you’re making them.
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