Seeing Chances

I broke up with Summer 2013 a few weeks back. No really, don’t be sad, we were never going to make it work Summer 2013 and me, even though I tried. For all my desire to laze about with attractive folks in the long days’ heat near a body of water, drink in my hand, smelling of Coppertone and coconut, mostly what happened was this:  I was somewhat homebound, with a hurt body, rigid bank account, and all those folks? Well they were on well-deserved vaycays while Summer 2013 showed up at my place excelling only at relentless if mild disappointment, not even a booty call to boot. I knew it would never work between us pretty early on, like about on July 4th weekend, when there was one nice day at the fair… followed by four in row of cable television and shitty baseball. Summer kept trying, wait, no, Summer kept saying, “well I dunno, whadda you wanna do?” which is SO not a turn on for any season, even fickle and high-maintenance Spring.

I did manage to break free from this unexpected inertia enough to get myself to the orthopedic surgeon on July 30, so I could finally get a diagnosis on the pain that has been plaguing my knees and stalling my running to a stop for these eight months. Shocking no one, I have the very common ailment called patellofemoral pain syndrome, or Runner’s Knee. No structural damage, no arthritis, no stress fractures, (NO, RUNNING IS NOT BAD FOR ME SO SPARE THAT COMMENTARY PLEASE), nope it’s caused by not stretching the quads properly and is fixed by stretching the quads properly. And taking some Aleve, which I love. To prove that Summer 2013 is really just a big fat loser, it also timed the arrival of a gnarly low-back muscle spasm soon after doing my third day of quad stretches, on the morning I was taking a day off to go spend the weekend with some attractive friend-folks. I was tons o’fun gimping around the party those two days!

I have taken most of this in stride, or in my case, sit, and I noticed I was just kind of numbing out, but because I am so boring when it comes to binges, I use chips, Papalote salsa and staying home as my drug of choice. There was a glimmer of hope when one day, FINALLY, I wept out some big fat tears, wrote a bunch (6 pages) of never-see-the-light-of-day/possible insanity in my journal, talked to a BFF and was happy to just FEEL SOME FEELINGS. And then… Summer 2013 tried to get back together with me that bastard. We went to Outside Lands and it was fantastic, and then… bleargh all over again with the BLAHHHHS.

Last Sunday, while doing a lengthy list of car-based errands, I decided it was over forever between me and Summer 2013. Like all good break-ups, it was the unexpected yet cosmically absolute timing of a song coming on the radio that gave me all the clarity and strength I ever needed to get on with my life and leave Summer 2013 behind me. I could not bring myself to post the video of this song, because its sheer weird-silliness will distract you from the brilliance at its soul, and you might not smile and cry like I did and then go home and book four days away next week in Tahoe.

Enjoy. And BRING IT, FALL 2013!!!

Cage Fight: Emotional Pain v. Physical Pain

Would you rather have emotional pain or physical pain?

Think on this for a moment.

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I have been thinking on a version of this question for the past couple of weeks, while I’ve been getting to the better side of a searing bout of emotional pain, only to then have been walloped with some of the worst, most debilitating physical pain I have endured in my adult life. (This statement is not an invitation to compare and contrast physical pain stories, it’s just a fact that from Saturday to Tuesday, I was in a place of 24/7 physical misery that I have not experienced pretty much ever. Ow does not begin to cover it.)

This unholy alliance of the emotional and physical really had me thinking, what is the one I would prefer to be forced to handle.

Even though it is relentless, give me emotional pain ANY DAY EVER.

Friends who know the roots of my brand of emotional pain may be shocked that I am picking this side, especially because it might worry them that I could sink under the weight of these types of hurts to the point of severe depression, where I bottomed out before and they do not want to see me back in that terrible place. I realized how scary it is for them a few weeks ago, when, looking for someone to just mind the fire of my flared up anger/sadness/shock/humiliation due to, shall we call it, an unfortunate situation with a man, I unintentionally hurt their feelings by rejecting the quick comfort and affirmations they were trying to offer. I had wanted and needed to freak the fuck out, to cry and yell out all that bile and self-doubt and have it be witnessed by trusted allies so that once I calmed down, I would have the space to accept the love and comfort and wisdom that they were ultimately trying to offer all along. The misunderstanding inherent in poor communication was quickly handled and forgiven – this is the blessing of old friendships that are treated with care and respect and grow mighty over the years – but I thought a lot about how the baring of raw emotional pain can be perceived as a confrontation, even for the closest in our tribes.

A pause for a moment to remind, that yes, I still pick emotional pain over physical pain. Deep breath. I’m getting there. Hang in with me.

We are all masochists a little bit. We are all masochists a little bit because so often on the other side of a smidge of misery is a reward. Physically, this is much easier to compute. As a runner, I know that if I don’t experience some muscle soreness, I am not training hard enough to go faster, or be stronger for the next event. So, I invite some pain into my body, knowing that it is temporary and that the reward is strength and speed. Emotionally, this is a bit tougher to explain, but the risk and reward scenario is similar. In order to have fulfilling relationships with friends, family, lovers and partners, we have to know we will feel some discomfort from time to time and we have to be willing to accept that it triggers at totally different times for all of us all the time. And here’s what thrills me about that entire cycle of emotional pain: we can absolutely make it safe for our people to bare their pain, to just get it out, to just hold it for them, and then when they are ready, ask what kind of comfort they need, wait patiently for their answer, and then help them get that comfort. We are the Vicodin for each other. And we’re non-narcotic.

I know, you think I am on Vicodin while writing this, but nope, totally sober! Re-read that paragraph. It makes total sense. Do it.

Physical pain is the student teacher to emotional pain’s professor. Physical pain is also a nuisance, which by its very definition means it’s minor. Do not get me wrong. I have friends and family who have endured car accidents, bike crashes, skiing wrecks, street fights, knee surgery, root canals, amputations, migraines, child birth, chemotherapy, fibromyalgia, MS, you name it, I have watched and offered comfort during the physical suffering of so many and it’s hard. It’s so very hard. But for the most part, physical pain is finite and its lessons are not as transformative as emotional pain. Yes, much physical and emotional pain gets intertwined, but when looked at separately, it’s the emotional pain that really has something to teach us.

It wants us to learn to be courageous and kind.

It wants us to learn to hold each other’s pain, not try to take it away immediately.

It wants us to ask each other, what do you need right now, and then to listen to the answer and abide by it.

It wants us to be courageous and kind.

Winner by a… yes, a knockout: emotional pain.

Dear Sports, I Love You

From NYTimes "Kathy Martin (9) competing in the 3,000 meters in January at the Armory in Manhattan."

I am a sports fan.  Sure there are games too complicated even for me to devote the time to understanding (cricket? huh?), but for the most part, I love the very simple metaphor of the heroic journey every athlete and team member takes every time they put on their uniform, cross it to the center, stick the landing, return the volley, get barreled, sack the QB, cross the finish first, throw a strike, slam the dunk, dive no splash, deliver the knockout, dig that spike, dig down deeper when defeated and practice, practice, practice, practice and most of all believe.  Sport at its most basic forces a situation where the rules are set, the clocks are ticking, skill counts and winning is at stake.  These are of course symbolic wins and losses; it is not meant to be a life or death situation, but instead mimic the intensity of one by competition with others and the self.  (I cannot get lost in the topic of business or celebrity of sports today.  Go read a story about the entire NBA if you want that.)

The most compelling sports stories are those in which the athlete or team has overcome the incredible odds against them to achieve a personal best or an outright win.  The current story I am inspired by is Kathy Martin, a 60 year old masters runner, competing in track and field events and holding world records for her age bracket that are completely astonishing.  For a convalescing runner like me, there could not be a more delightful true athlete story than Kathy Martin’s.

Read it.  Then tell me sports don’t have heart.

(PS, if you don’t have a subscription to the NYTimes and you have used up your free articles on this the 3rd day of the month, email me.  I might still have a discount coupon code for you.  Get the Times people.  It’s good for your brain.)

Fix It

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I have only really alluded to the knee injury that has had me laid up for the past three months in a few quips, a sort of passive aggressive comment here or there to somehow report that’s why I haven’t been writing and posting as much. Like most passive aggression, it’s at its worst cowardly and its best very annoying. I’ve been both afraid to acknowledge how much it’s negatively affected my psyche and totally irritated with myself that I can’t make it better with two weeks of rest.

I am happy to write these words: I have started to heal my knee. This weekend, I had my first treatment with my new acupuncturist, who worked me over in a 90 minute first session, so much so I was pretty well knocked out all day Sunday. And I have the awesome cupping welts to prove it.

This injury has sucked so many distasteful things, but mostly, not running has made me realize how much I love it and need it and want it back in my life. Injury and ill health happens to every single one of us, but it’s not until you realize the value of your good health, whatever that range is for you, that you make sure you do everything in your power to maintain it. So if that means I am going to have to suffer some more discomfort and expense on the way back to my running shoes, I’m all in. I want it back and I’m coming to get it.

That and bikini season. Never said I wasn’t vain.