Month: July 2017

Changing Gears

4782CC7D-1188-403E-BF36-8534E7567692.jpgGrowing up, I graduated from training wheels and took myself to swimming lessons on my light blue and white banana-seat bike. I cruised around Eastwood Park on my banana like a boss.

Then one summer when I was 12 or so, it was time to trade in my banana for my very first mountain bike: a hot pink Schwinn with 11 gears and hand brakes.

As I began my maiden ride, I knew I was supposed to keep pedaling as I changed the gears, but the chain would grind and click and make unfamiliar noises as the pedals shifted beneath my feet. Not only that, there were wayyyy too many things I was supposed to be doing with my hands. Left hand, front break. Right hand, rear. How am I supposed to be able to remember which is which, let alone brake and change gears and not constantly be staring down at the handle bars?

It was as if I traded in my confidence along with my banana back at the bike shop and it all felt….clunky.

I wanted my banana back. I wanted to ride again with no hands and I knew just how fast I had to be going on that bike in order to stand on the cross bar. So far, I had nothing less than a death grip on this new bike and I was desperate for comfort…or at least a little less clunkiness.

This past week, I started a new job, which also meant new commute, new people, new culture, new ideas, new clunks.

On Monday, I walked in circles outside the Madison Street Union Station Entrance three times completely confused about where I was supposed to buy a ticket later that day in the midst of the evening rush to get home. I eventually gave up and headed down the street, double and triple checking I was going the right direction, not wanting to be late on my first day.

By Tuesday, I’d figured out that, as with most things in life, there is an app for that, and I had access to all the Metra tickets my little heart desired right there on my phone. #progress.

I was finding my stride by mid-week. Wednesday, I had my new laptop, a badge that gave me access to everywhere I needed to go and enough confidence in the office dress code to wear a new jumpsuit with a blazer. Compliments do an amazing number on confidence, so I was feeling pretty good after the third or fourth one before 10am.

As I was headed to a meeting, I decided to make a quick stop at the bathroom along the way. I hung my blazer on the back of the stall door, wiggled my way out of my outfit and sat down. Jumpsuits make all bathroom activity a little more complicated.

When I stood up to wiggle my way back into my outfit and get on with my day, I was horrified to look down and see the back of my jumpsuit dangling in the toilet water. Yep, you read that right, my friend. Humility also does an amazing number on confidence.

A rookie at both this new job and jumpsuits, I had to think quick. I’ll spare you some of the details here, but safe to say those paper toilet seat covers have great absorbency and can do more than just protect your hiney from toilet seat germs. And yes, you better believe I washed my hands twice before heading to my meeting, now with a little less swagger in my step.

By Thursday, I had a whole week of comical clunkiness under my belt. I tried to swipe my badge in the wrong place, had gotten turned around on Dearborn Avenue, and second-guessed myself every time I boarded the train home, sure I was wrong the line.

It all felt very new and yet in some ways, not new at all. I’ve come to expect the clunks now. Because while I might not be able to anticipate the form they’ll take specifically, I can usually count on them make me laugh, drive me crazy, gross me out and cause me to doubt myself – somehow in the end, they leaving me knowing myself and all that I’m capable of, just a little bit more.

It took some time, but I came to love my new bike. I eventually learned when and how to use the higher and lower gears to my advantage. Just when I was sure the chain was going to fall off and the wheels were going to be next, everything would click into place if I just kept pedaling along.

In the clunkiness, I learned the ins and outs of that hot pink bike, and before I knew it, I was riding again with no hands.


Of Pavement and Paper


I woke up this morning fuming at my neighbors downstairs for some kind of stupid machine I presumed they were running with a motor that was revving and then fading loud enough to wake me up. Turns out, when I turned off the fan app on my phone, the noise went away. I knew I was hearing things besides the hum of the fan when I turned that damn thing on.

I’ve been awake for nearly two hours and the clock has just struck 4:57. Enough light is breaking through for me to make my way through the house to get my laptop without stepping on a misplaced toy.

I really should go for a run this morning. When my mind is going fast, the thought of going for a run makes me feel tired. I’d rather take a yoga class. But summer mornings don’t last long, so I’ll convince myself to hit the trail for just a mile or so, and then once I’m there, I’ll look around at the dew on the grass and the sun fighting its way through the trees and all the lovely little things that make summer mornings sacred, and then I will decide that I’ve got two or maybe three in me today.

My hips hurt. The left one more than the right, a dull ache in both today. They remind me I’m not as young as I once was, and that I have a lot on my mind. I hold things in my hips. Fear, anxiety, excitement. They also remind me to be kind to my body, and grateful for the way it allows me to exist in this world. Grateful for the way it holds me.

I hear my daughter tossing and turning. Don’t wake up now, little one. I’m not ready to find Band Aids for the boo boos and toast your bagel for breakfast quite yet. I have words that have been bouncing around in my head, ideas – as Elizabeth Gilbert says – that are looking for a human counterpart, and momma just needs a minute to let them all out.

I was in the line at the grocery store yesterday watching my little seven year old explain to the cashier that she’d found Midnight, the store’s mascot cow, which in turn earns her a sticker, and a sucker on lucky days. Finding Midnight is her only “job,” when we go to the store. Meanwhile, I’m there with the menu in mind (on a good week) while also considering the next week’s schedule, the budget, and if the veggies in the cart will be tolerated by the tiny human. She’ll never turn down a carrot, but she draws the line at brussel sprouts.

And yet, in the midst of the regular, keep all the things running for one more day routine, there is a writer in me and a runner in me that both keep fighting for a place in this world.

Truth be told, I’m not really sure I’d call myself a runner. In my head runners run, well, races. Most of the time, my 10-some-days-11-minute per mile pace feels more embarrassing than inspirational, and it’s just easier to keep it all to myself – or stay in bed – or both.

But something happens on the trail that keeps drawing me back. My thoughts clear a bit there. Perspective really is a marvelous thing, and the trail kicks my hiney most of the time. Usually just after the first mile where I feel like I can run like the wind and wonder why I don’t sign up for all the marathons, I hit the infamous wall, and remember exactly why a good 5k rhythm works nicely for me.

Me, a runner? Barely. Me, a writer. No flipping way.

Writers write, well, books. But yet the words keep coming and they bang on the walls of my brain like hostages desperate for fresh air and sunshine. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I can choose to not call myself a runner or not call myself a writer for as long as I want, but just like the trail, these little guys will have their way and I am better for it.

So today, or any day, I don’t have to decide if I’m a runner or a writer. I can still go ahead and put my feet to pavement and words to paper.