Carry On, My Wayward Feet

“THUNDERSTRUCK! YES!”

I felt like a bad ass in a movie montage this morning at circa 5:45 a.m. as my training class headed out into the parking lot on our first group run on the street. Nine of us assembled and I was pumping my fist like John Bender at the end of “The Breakfast Club.”

AC/DC came over my Pandora into my my earbuds and we were warmed up. I was ready.  I had also jogged 1.5 miles to training this morning since my car is in the shop till about 8 a.m. and who am I going to ask for a ride at 5:30 a.m. anyway? I realized my predicament last night after a friend dropped me off, but decided then it didn’t matter. I was GOING!

My alarm went off at 4:15 this morning, I was up by 4:45, and out the door by 5:00 a.m. I gave myself 30 minutes to make it on foot and was still eight minutes early! Which is hilarious because otherwise I’m usually a couple minutes late.

Today was my favorite day in this training. We ran a full three miles and I kept my pace under 15 minutes!! I’ve been feeling anxious about the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle this Sunday, since it’s my first timed race and I need to finish in under 1:15 minutes to qualify as a finisher. I normally need 1:30 to complete five miles.

Now I’m believing I can accomplish this. My first mile was 13 minutes even! I was a straggler, but our trainer Gloria kept an eye on me and made sure I didn’t get left behind. She gave me some pointers– such as committing to using a set run/walk interval time. She said certain apps can help, and to ask my classmates for recommendations.

We ran at a 2 min run/1 mile walk interval. Usually I would think that I had no time for that– just trying not to get left behind would be the priority. But there was no pressure to do that– she would call out to me, “Walk!” I learned that even if you’re slow, the run/walk method is still a benefit. And I can feel a difference– my pace improved substantially today. My overall average was 14:42 miles, which would have me finishing the race with time to spare on Sunday!

And the coolest thing happened on the run– I saw some flashing light packs and sure enough, it was four members of the local running club I just joined. I waved and smiled at them– they run at 5 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. When class is over I plan to transition to running with them to keep fit.

To recognize friends on the route was such an incredible feeling!

On the home stretch back, “Carry On My Wayward Son,” played by Kansas. Hell yeah.

When we ended the run, all of us stretched by the wire fence. I’m learning great dynamic stretches, too.

Best of all, I made a new friend today! I mentioned to someone I had jogged here and another short woman like myself who I had talked to before offered to give me a ride home. Since I’d already gotten in 4.5 miles in, I was happy to accept. Turns out, she’s Catholic, too! I saw the Rosary in her car and asked. She gave me her number for a ride to class anytime. 🙂

Life is extraordinary, if you’re willing to change up your routine a bit.

 

 

Lenten Promises 2017

I’m giving up envy and sleeping in this year. Got my ashes tonight at Mass!

I struggle often with envy and while sometimes it can be motivating it’s mostly a purely sulfuric emotion that causes me to distance myself from people who I envy, sometimes when they are celebrating a milestone that deserves my support.

So hopefully this will make me a better friend and a more selfless woman.

Sleeping in is probably my #1 vice! I want to regulate my schedule into a better routine.

This should do the trick. Hopefully I’ll also run more.

Here we go!

Making the Hard Choices

I spent most of last year juggling too many social commitments, and this fall I’m making needed adjustments.

I loved being in gospel choir at my parish, but told my choir director this week that I need to drop out. Today I went to Mass for the first time in two months, when our parish priest left. I’ve delayed meeting the new pastor. Today, people were so happy to see me and I was surprised that they all asked if I was singing again with choir. They seemed disappointed. I didn’t have time to explain in these quick conversations, but felt touched just the same.

Our rehearsals are fun, but I need to focus on establishing a sleep routine for myself. I’ve been struggling in the mornings and need to go to bed and wake up earlier.

Our energy encompasses all that we do and feel. I’ve made sacrifices in order to be of service and help others, but I was putting my own needs last.

I’ve made some wonderful strides this year, but still tried too hard to please others.

In just over two months, I’ll be 36! This year is about my future, my happiness.

Already, I feel a change.

My first allegiance needs to be my own health before I commit to anything else.

I need to run more. I’ve planned on four 5k’s between September and October and already signed up for one. I’m so excited!!

On my last run I set my goal higher and I achieved it! I am ready to push myself.

I went to a wedding Friday and ended up sitting next to the mother of a friend, who asked why I haven’t been blogging– she’s on a my subscriber list! Again, I was touched that she noticed. She told me something incredible– that she had attended an Ani DiFranco concert this year and had printed out a few blogs I’d written about her daughter, who had taken her own life. Ani had been one of her heroes, and my friend’s mother included my blogs, in which I’d also mentioned Ani since my friend was such a fan and it was impossible to write about her without mentioning her heroine. She delivered it to someone selling merchandise, and Ani replied to her! She showed me a picture on her phone of the letter. The letter didn’t mention my blogs, but she must have read them.

When I started this little blog I never imagined someone famous would read my words. Let alone an artist as amazing as Ani!

And one of the things Ani said was that it helped her to know that through her music, she had been able to be there for my friend in some tough moments.

You never know how your words or even just a small thing you do can impact someone’s life in a positive way. Just because it doesn’t feel significant to you at the time does not mean your actions aren’t important to someone else.

And thus, I’m blogging today.

 

No Apologies: Week Six of Self-Defense

Tonight we had a very small class, and we did the most work. It was excellent.

I’m working through my fear. And each week, with each move and scenario, I’m overcoming it.

I worked with a woman I’ve been hoping to work with the whole time. She’s taken the class multiple times and really has it down. She’s also a very shrewd critic of how I’m making mistakes so that I can do the move correctly. For which I’m very thankful.

She is patient but also generous. She told me to slow down and make sure I’m doing all the steps. I was hung up on doing them fast, trying to prove something. I was also doing things wrong with my footwork.

She made me break it down step by step and really slow it down, so I understood WHY I needed to do it that way.

I’m seeing physics in this class. Bases, fulcrums. Ways to leverage my weight against my opponent.

I’m starting to really understand the value of plain ol’ repetition. I’ve been out of school so long, I miss it. I miss the routine, the structured classes, the opportunity to compete with my classmates. Right now, I have all that. I’m lucky to have wonderful classmates who are not mean or spiteful. We all help each other.

THAT is the point of Feminism. Our instructor is a male, but he’s on our side. No one is add odds with anyone.

We’re all a team.

I’m learning that I was freezing up sometimes, afraid of the pain. But in a real situation, I’m not going to have time to stop because it hurts. I’m going to have to fight THROUGH the pain.

And I will. I’m already doing it.

After repeating the moves several times and breaking them down, I’m understanding where I’m faltering, how I can correct it, and why it’s useful to do it the way I was taught.

Also, again I answered the question our instructor asked us. The answer was simple.

He asked, “What does it take to survive?”

Your will to live needs to be stronger than your attacker. That’s it.

When attacked, you take control and defend yourself. That’s what you do.

I’m not a victim waiting to happen. I am a defender. A defender of myself and others.

No one did any of the moves lightly tonight. The woman I worked with used real force– I was startled. I DID panic. But then I overrode it, with her help.

I also worked with another woman who is much taller than me. But she wasn’t self-conscious about it at all, which I loved. All the women in this class have healthy self-esteem and body images. I love that.

After I tried a move on her when I was the attacker, she did it correctly. Then she apologized to me.

“No apologies,” I told her. “We PAID to do this!” Anytime I get hurt a little, it toughens me up.

And I learn something. And I keep going.

This is a safe environment where we can make mistakes and LEARN from them.

And it continues to change my personality for the better. I’m not putting up with people taking shots at me.

I’m putting people in their place when they are being totally inappropriate, both women and men.

A co-worker asked what I weigh last week. She wouldn’t drop it, and was trying to guess my jean size. She told me hers. I told her it’s none of her business. She doesn’t need to know. I was just a broken record, saying I’m not telling her. She got annoyed and quit.

That’s what happens when your self-esteem is higher. A few months ago I would have told her out of habit, thought I didn’t want to. I know what she’s trying to do: call attention to how small I am. So what? I used to work as a weight loss counselor and a lot of the women did that to me. They didn’t think I could help them because I wasn’t overweight. But I did help them. I knew the program and I believed in them. I helped one woman lose 40 pounds! It was their loss for assuming that I was less skilled at my job than other co-workers.

I get asked that a lot by other women, who think they have right to comment on my weight or my size.

They don’t. No one does. It’s my body, my business, not theirs. I know they’re only doing it comparatively, anyway. What does that prove? Nothing. I never criticize other women’s bodies or weight. In fact, I always encourage them and tell them they’re beautiful the way they are.

Ladies, STOP comparing yourself to other women. I’m not judging you. If someone is judging you, that is THEIR problem, not yours! And if you’re assuming they’re judging you, you are being crippled by your own insecurity.

Don’t let anyone take your power from you, and don’t give it away.

Falling in Love (Again) with Books

It’s been months since I gave in.

My obsession has always been a harmless one– books.

I made a conscious choice to go out more, interact more with people– to not hole up so much with books. And I’ve done that, and it’s been healing and needed. To stop recording everything compulsively in my journal, to not write so many poems. To forget about fiction.

At a certain point, life is easier if you forget about dreams. I’ve got a steady job, I’m happily rooted in my hometown. I work for a great company, which I’m proud to represent. My boss tells me often I’m doing great, and I can bond easily with my clients and they thank me often for helping them find exactly what they need.

But in other aspects, my life has become so routine that it just hurts. That’s a by-product of becoming a Thirtysomething, I know it’s not a unique predicament. Most of my friends feel that way as well, especially if they’re married with children. Of course, they feel privileged to have the opportunities and stability they’ve achieved– but everyone needs a creative outlet.

Everyone needs to save a little piece of themselves, untouched by obligation or family.

I substituted books for movies. And I’ll always love them! But I can feel myself losing my intelligence– my brain is stagnating. My vocabulary is diminishing. I’ve got to keep myself growing, especially since right now taking classes is not an option and I don’t know if it ever will be again. Most likely, no. I was fortunate to get an undergrad but my schedule and finances have not allowed for me to pursue grad school.

But recently, I dated a man from Chicago, Jonathan. And one of the main things that drew us together was a shared love of literature. However, it turned out we didn’t actually have that much in common. He loved critical essays and philosophy, I dig fiction. He was very sincere, and a writer himself. But he was intellectual, not emotional. It’s rare that I feel insecure when talking about literature or reading in general– that’s always been my getaway. My undergrad is in journalism. But I could tell he was struggling to connect with me and I got tired of missing his references. When he came to my apartment, he noticed a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories and his eyes glowed. Looking up at me, he said, “This might be the best collection of short stories, EVER!” But I just felt like a fraud, because my friend’s mother loaned it to me since she’s a Catholic author. I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I smiled awkwardly, and thought he tried not to show it, there was clear disappointment.

Everyone’s got books they haven’t read– but it sucks when that’s the one your date zeroes in on with such excitement. Not one other book I had elicited a comment??

On our first date, he drove to Joliet and I took him to a local bookstore– which he loved. And I thought it was sweet that he bought me not one, but TWO books: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I hadn’t read it and he wanted to get something. It didn’t look like my kind of novel but it was such a surprising and promising gesture, I accepted. And then I had wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” for myself– a novel I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile, and he surprised me at the check-out counter by getting it for me.

But I tried getting into “Middlesex,” and I just can’t. I may try it again, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” WAY late– because I just wanted something simple and emotional. Something that’s not complicated or literary– just a love story, because I liked the movie. And although I’m ambivalent about Augustus Waters, the more I read the more I’m loving Hazel Grace. Reading a book is a lot like a relationship. Everyone has a different reaction to each novel and its characters– but as more is revealed, you fall deeper into the lives of these characters. And it’s their flaws that makes you grateful they exist.

Next, I have something totally different lined up– “Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.,” by Catherine Millet. Because who doesn’t love smut once in a while?

Right now, I’m not a monogamous reader. I’m flirting with several books- and they’re never jealous of the others. Only happy I return.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book for the first time in months, it seems!

What an indulgence. I loved it so much, I’m doing it again tonight.

John Green and I have a thing, for sure.

But I’ll certainly have a date with Virginia Woolf.

And something curious is happening. My brain is cracking awake.

I’m daring to imagine. I’m beginning to Write again.

I love my friends, and my family is amazing.

But books make me happy. I’m a nerd, but not a snob. They’re legal and cheap.

And the more I read, the more ideas I get to Write.

A Funeral and a Reservation: a Day of Affirmation and Family

Today, I went to a family funeral for my Uncle Ken.

It was a day of affirmation.

Uncle Ken lived to be 80, and was a devoted family man– married for 56 years to his wife, Patricia. He was a Navy veteran  of the Korean War and also retired from Nicor after 30 years of service.

I drank three cups of coffee in his honor today. He is the reason I became a black coffee-drinker overnight! One Thanksgiving we were at their home, and the usual creamer I preferred was not on the table. Only nondescript powdered creamer was available, so I sucked it up and braved a cup of black coffee.

Uncle Ken was seated across from me, and for some reason was very attentive to my cup. Each time it emptied, he kept refilling it! And I’m not sure why I felt the need to drain each one, but I did. So I drank all SIX cups he poured me. I needed them to keep up with all the family chatter! The next day, I tried to return to my usual cup with Irish creme added in– and couldn’t.

I was both shocked and impressed with myself. I felt more like an adult! I was in my early 20’s then. I laughed, and reported it the next time I saw him. He was quite impressed with his feat as well!

I wish I could have done six cups today, but three was all I could manage.

But I digress.

Today our family was linked together as beads in a Rosary– encircling Uncle Ken in prayer, connected by our Catholic faith and the solidarity of grief. Being together was a healing salve that allowed us to celebrate his life and strengthen our bonds with each other.

His abundant white hair was not styled the usual way– he had incredible hair. But it was still there, and we had the privilege of being able to say goodbye to him with an open casket before the public arrived. When it was my turn I knelt down, whispered a prayer to him, and lightly touched his shoulder to say goodbye.

As the priest announced the wake would be ending, he asked us to join him in prayer. We said the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and it wasn’t as strong as you would hear in Mass– it sounded as if maybe not quite half of us were saying it. But it was comforting nonetheless.

I realized for the first time why faith is something I’m so glad to have especially when confronted with funerals. Regardless of whether you’re there to honor a close family member or support a friend, the structure of our faith provides some familiarity in a situation defined by the unknown. We don’t  know how life will change without the person, we wrestle with guilt and sadness for the failed connections and the times we didn’t reach out enough. But at least in following the simplicity of a funeral service, there is some comfort in routine.

Many of us know the prayers being recited, even if we don’t know each other. Even if we have no idea how to speak to each other about the deceased or make small talk about something neutral, we have an opportunity to bond in prayer. We can give each other a hug, or a quick smile. We can pass a box of tissues.

Today I was astonished by how much warmth I felt from everyone there. Especially since I’m only family by marriage. Uncle Ken was my step-mother’s brother-in-law. But Diane’s family has never treated me like a step-cousin, or a step-anything. They never use that prefix. They welcome me, tease me and hug me as one of their own.

After the funeral Mass, we went to lunch together at a local steakhouse.

On my way there, my Dad called me.

“We’re in the back room honey,” he said. “We saved you a seat.”

I smiled at his kindness.

And I wondered if that’s what it’s like when we pass on and go to Heaven.

If when we wake into eternal rest — with any luck– we arrive at the pearly gates and St. Peter tells us that yes, we have a reservation. Our name is right there in his book. And then someone that we loved comes to escort us, saying,

“We saved you a seat! We’re so glad you’re here.”

Happy 2nd Blog Day to Me!!

St. Patrick’s Day marked the SECOND Bloggiversary (now it’s a word– I’ve decided)– of my heart,

Unrelenting Amee.

Pardon my tardiness in celebrating– I’ve been tired the past few weeks.

In two years, this blog has been viewed 11, 557 times and received 432 comments. It has been viewed in a flabbergasting mix of 86 countries! Thank you, Word Press, for the fantastic stats. That makes me feel stellar.

I’ve got to list some search terms here. They range from sweet to hilariously random to cryptic. It reminds me of the variety of topics I’ve blogged about. I’m proud. Some of these refer to specific posts I’ve written, which makes me happy because I know people are searching for those specifically even if they don’t comment. Just to know someone wants to read particular posts I’ve written multiple times makes me happy. Others elude me entirely but are quite amusing.

Verbatim, enjoy:

“Jason Biggs” – 212 times — I mention him in ONE post, and look at the traffic! Thanks to you and your adorable schnoz, Jason.

“unrelentingamee” 195 times– YES!

“noseman”

“billy idol accent”

“schmendrick the magician”

“cocktail dresses for tomboys”

“poolish deaf”– is that supposed to be Polish?

“saganaki has closed?”

“my friend called me a chihuahua”

“Bella Swan is a horrible character”

“but now im hotter”– got that right!

“not drinking as a lifestyle choice”

“coffin car”

“i wear hearing aids” — cool!

“atheist 3 wise men story”

“Shawn michaels amee pants”– I can’t make this shit up!

“jack kerouac adhd”

“inside car hanging stylish permanent air freshener” — Hmmm… okay.

“jessica rabbit sharon stone”

“bombastic stupidity”

“what’s the shame in the word vagina” — NONE! HA HA!

“I visited her grave a year ago”

and probably the most puzzling:

“i miss my amee” — that was last winter. Who misses me? Do they still?

I initially planned to end this blog on the two-year anniversary– I liked the symmetry. But a blog is a lot like a relationship. It’s a commitment. You invest a lot in it, and become deeply attached. You go through phases– infatuation, ambivalence, irritation, apathy, and trust. Just deleting my blog itself is one thing– but it’s the attachment I have to my readers that makes me not want to let go.

My subscriber list has fluctuated a bit, but the bulk of you have subscribed and stayed– whether I didn’t blog for a month or wrote three posts in one day. Some of you never commented, but told me how much you enjoyed my posts in conversations on facebook, by e-mail, or in person. Some of you comment prolifically, and it’s all I can do to keep up! But your willingness to hang in there did so much for my self-esteem as a writer. I knew that even if I didn’t feel inspired right then, you expected that I would in the future. And some of you never subscribed, but checked this blog every day on your own, and would call or text me about my posts. In a way, that meant even more.

Some of my friends never got into this blog. And that’s sad, because they missed out on a fundamental part of knowing me.

I know I won’t keep this blog forever. But right now just doesn’t seem like the time to say goodbye. Because truthfully, there’s a wonderful support system here, via the interwebs. And although I may be ambivalent about my blog at times, I’m not ready to give up ya’ll. And when my phone dings that there’s a new comment or a new subscriber? That’s a digital warm fuzzy.

Two years ago, I started this blog single. And I’m single now.  I won’t say I’m happy about being single… because honestly, it is lonely. I’m strong enough to admit now that yeah, it’s not so fun anymore. Right now, I’m in a place of recovery. Before I invest in a new relationship again, I’m working on just me. I’m balancing my life in the way that I need first. I always talked about it in this blog– but I never did it. I’m doing that now. And emotionally and physically, those changes are exhausting— but necessary and ultimately, hopeful.

Thank you for your your devotion, comments and for being my motivation to continue writing. There’s more to come.

You’re not gettin’ rid of me yet!