Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Perfect Ponytail Paradox

(Guys without ponytails [I hope that's most of you that have a Y chromosome!], bear with me, keep reading... you'll get it.)

Ever notice how the perfect ponytail - one that's not too flat or lumpy up top, and has the right amount of body and curl or wave in the tail, with just enough oomph that shoots right out of the elastic - only happens by chance?  Over years and years of trying, I have come to find that it is physically impossible to create the perfect ponytail the moment you want it.  It's literally only when you're about to sweat it out at the gym, or you're home alone about to crash out, or spending all day at the office combing through boxes of evidence where no one who really matters (the cute guy you like) will see you, that the perfect ponytail will magically manifest.  Not only that, but it takes time for the right circumstances to naturally evolve into the perfect environment so that your dang hair will cooperate to create such a perfect hairdo.  If you want the perfect pony for a special occasion, it just ain't happening.  Dream on!  Maybe tomorrow, when you're not so eager for it to "be," it will in fact, "be."  The perfect ponytail is serendipitous! 

I've recently come to recognize that the same principle applies to many of the most important things in life and love.  Families don't come together in the ideal form, with the perfect nuclear family and white picket fence that we all dream of, but "families" - often chosen families, made up of good friends from far and wide - do come together all the same, and are there for you when it really counts.  Career mishaps leave near-disastrous black marks that we think we'll never get away from, but those same blunders eventually lead us to much more fulfilling situations, opportunities and places.  Races that are disasters of epic proportion turn into valuable lessons, teaching us the value of sticking to our training and doing what we know is right and giving us a level of pride we never otherwise would have had when we kick the race's ass.  A steep slope sucks one day from wind-blown crust, only to be covered in gloriously fluffy powdered sugar a day later after a decent snowfall, and conveniently after all the Bay Area road warriors have gone home.  Love doesn't last, but eventually your heart leads you to someone new who gives you an absolutely thrilling and yet absolutely terrifying feeling of "this just might be 'the one'..." (which just might be, if you can survive the inevitable hiccups and roadbumps common to all lasting relationships!).

I mean, let's face it: like they say, "We plan, and God laughs."  The best laid plans go awry, things get messed up (even worse if of our own doing), we fall from grace, we disappoint ourselves and others... But when we just let things be, we come to find something really freaking amazing is right under our noses, and we survive, most often for the better. 

Not many people have the intestinal fortitude and emotional resilience to dust themselves off and get back in the game, or to climb back on the very same horse that bucked them off.  I am proud to say I'm one of them.  For those of us who are blessed in that way, we fall seven times and stand up eight, never giving up.  What other option is there, really?

So tomorrow, it's my hope that on that eighth try, the perfect ponytail appears. But if not, I have a pretty good inkling that I'll still be rockin' a kick ass hairdo.  :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yoga is a liar, and I hate liars.

I think I hate yoga.  I think it's mostly because of all the privileged white people living in East Sac who are obsessed with the uber-trendy Zuda Yoga saying "namaste" in badly accented Hindi, to be honest.  (Or it could be that I’m just insanely envious that all of these aforementioned hard-bodied people are currently residing in the East Sac homes I want to live in but can't until they move out… but I digress.)
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE exercise. I have been a gym rat since I was 15 (until mid-August I had THREE different simultaneous gym memberships!).  I live to ski in the winter.  I also love torturing myself with CrossFit, and have come to learn that I really, really like running.  I dig kickboxing, and bootcamp-like classes.  I also get a kick out of weird classes were you jump up and down on bouncy ball shaped things and an instructor yells at you.  I even like exercise that's designed to increase your flexibility - dude, I love the torture device that is a Pilates reformer. I just don't want to confuse "exercise time" with "relaxation time," which is EXACTLY what yoga instructors seem to do, given that they always seem to be smiling and whispering "relaaaaaaxxxxxx" and "breeeeeaaaattthhhheeee" to the class.

Relax?  No.  No, because this is not relaxation time.  This is exercise time, and while I do spend considerable exercise time thinking and processing and clearing my mind, my idea of real exercise really isn't a relaxing event.  It shouldn't be!! Are you curious about why that's the case?

Here are some things I do to relax:

Take bubble baths, sans ducky

Get rubbed on by virtual strangers (aka, take advantage of Massage Envy membership)

Play Angry Birds (actually, sometimes that makes me angry, scratch that)

Play Words With Friends

Cook or bake something that doesn't involve any kind of chopping (chopping can equal stressful, "Am I going to mess up and cut my finger?" thoughts...) ("Yes! You are!")

Sit on the patio with a white wine spritzer (don't judge!)

Stalk G$ on Facebook (she likes it, trust me)

Look up pictures of long-coat chihuahuas online and contemplate whether or not I should get one (everyone (especially Lil' Keev) says yes!, but my schedule says nooooo, but then the little Gizmo gremlin face always says, "Let's go have some adventures together!")

Watch season after season of Mad Men on AMC

Here are some things I do not do to relax:

Hang around upside down trying to balance on my sweaty hands as they slide on my yoga mat with one leg pushed so far up in the air it hurts – seriously effing hurts.



(Yeah, that looks "relaxing.")

Pretending that exercise is anything other than "a somewhat painful ordeal we go through to look and feel better inside and out" strikes me as being suspiciously like… "lying."  And I have an aversion to lying these days, even if it's for my own good.

Given a choice, I would much rather deal with an irate drill instructor at McKinley Park screaming at me that I'm "a pathetic weakling" or that I'm "really crazy slow" than someone saying in some sort of pseudo-hippie voice "be at peace and fully yourself."  I know I'm a slow, pathetic weakling!  I mean, the "pathetic" part seems unnecessary and sort of mean, but "slow" and "weakling"?  Sure!  Yes, I am slow and weak-ish!  But I'll show you!  That is why I am here!  You are no liar, irrationally angry bouncy ball lady! And for that, I will work for you!

If I wanted to be fully myself I suppose *I personally* would go climb or ski a mountain or take a humongous Eagle Creek backback through the streets of Prague, but I imagine a yogi telling me that in order to be with myself I need to meditate or sit and… tear apart blades of grass? What do people do when they are being "real?"

I'll give you a clue: they don't mutter "be the change you want to see in the world" while people are pulling their hamstrings out of whack.  Because the change I want to see in the world is not everyone dropping $20 bucks on a single yoga class and $150 on an overpriced Lululemon outfit so they can sweat 10 pounds off in an overheated room that smells like feet, only to regain it all the moment they drink their $3 Smart Water. That might be the opposite of the change I wish to see in the world. I think that's roughly categorized as "nightmare world."

But mostly I hate all the soothing, meditative stuff because it makes me feel like I must be doing something wrong.  Because for me, yoga is anything but meditative (until the very end, when you're lying still).  Rather, most of yoga hurts.  About half an hour into a class, after the instructor asks me things like, "Doesn't it feel gooooood?" when I'm pushed deeper into a pose (ouch, no!) against my will, I will genuinely believe that there's something wrong with me because I don't find lying on my elbow with one leg stretched up relaxing. "My body must be made of bad… body stuff? Am I... defective?" I'll think to myself.  No one likes to think of themselves as having flaws, man!

Then I'll look up and realize that the instructor is not in some weird bendy pretzel position.  She is able to calmly intone "relax" to the class and ask them to "feel their breathing" because all she is doing is walking around the room laying the flat of her hand on people's backs!!  Yeah.  That IS relaxing.  If there was a recreational "walk around touching people's backs class" I would… probably not sign up for it. It sounds sort of invasive and uncomfortable.  But I would find it more physically, if not mentally, relaxing than yoga.

Because yoga is the worst - just completely made out of lies about how you are changing the world by raising your leg up like a urinating dog.  You aren't.  You might be temporarily losing ten pounds of water weight, but you are not changing the world, anymore than you are when you are doing any recreational activity - like WAKA kickball on superhero- or 80's prom-theme night.  C'mon.  Get real.

Though, you know, if I could find an exercise class without all the lies? One that actually says, "This isn't gonna be easy, in fact... it might even hurt, but it will hurt good, and you're gonna sweat, and sweat like crazy, but you're gonna make major personal progress and you’re gonna be proud!" I think I might actually enjoy it.  

Oh wait, I already did!  Tonight, it may have only been a measly five miles on my feet, but it was an honest five miles.  And whaddya know, an hour later, post-shower... now I'm relaxed and one with myself.

Take that, downward dog.


(The above was drafted in late 2011. The author would like to happily announce that she's since found the ability to enjoy yoga. However, she still doesn't believe it's "exercise.")

Monday, April 1, 2013

Up in the Air

Brad* was tall, dark, and handsome.  A gentleman who knew how to make me laugh and knew how to wield a solid kiss.  We were looking for the same thing, shared (the important) common interests and values, and I could tell he was a guy of real integrity.  I was really enjoying getting to know him, and excited to know more.  Eventually, we got to talking about what had been missing from our previous long-term relationships.  He shared some pretty personal stuff that I could totally relate to.  When it was my turn to share, one of the things I said was:

"I'm a pretty generous person when it comes to the sheer commitment and emotional energy I put into relationships and doing things for people I care about.  Despite all the travel I have done over the years, both for business and pleasure, I have never had "him" - whoever "he" is" - waiting for me at the airport upon my return.  Sure, I've had guys drop me off, or pick me up at the curb... but I've never had a guy actually park, enter the terminal, and wait for me at the bottom of the escalator.  During each relationship, every time I land, a part of me is secretly hoping that, just once, he'll surprise me and be there at the bottom of the escalator, welcoming me home with open arms.  But he never was, even though I told him every now and again how much I'd love it if he'd be there."

Essentially, I've always been the giver who pays attention to my guy's needs, and does what she can to meet them.  I hope to find someone who'd finally return the favor every now and again, if only by "showing up."  His response?

"When's your next flight?"

I beamed, and told him.  He said he'd be there, and that he'd drop me off as well.  As he heaved my huge ski bag out of the back of his truck and onto the curb at Terminal B and kissed me goodbye, I believed him.

However, in the mere four days I was gone skiing with friends, I sensed a change in him.  A woman's intuition is a powerful thing, and I began to wonder if he'd even remember to come get me at all, let alone the real point behind his promise.

Upon my return, when the plane landed and I turned my phone back on, up popped an iMessage:

Let me know when you land. I'm in the free waiting area. I'll drive up.

And that's when I knew that he wasn't going to be there, figuratively.  After he got me home, he explained why.  His reasons had nothing to do with me, but another woman, and I understood completely, and wished him well.  And ironically, I'm glad he didn't make fully make good on his word, only to bail a short time later.  He allowed me to keep this little secret wish safe, for someone else to make come true.  Gotta thank him for that one.

Brad won't be there, but some day, when I find Mr. Right, there will come a time when I'm boarding my flight home, that I'll be certain that Mr. Right will be there when I hit the ground, whether it's a crash landing, or greased on.  Until then, I'll happily remain up in the air.

*C'mon, you know I don't give real guy names.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Lego Houses and High Fives

Usually when there's someone at the front of a room giving a speech, all eyes are on the person holding the microphone, including mine.  Tonight, however, I focused my eyes on a fellow observer sitting off to the side: the husband of 15+ years to the woman who was speaking from her heart.  Although her story is incredibly touching, I was moved not by the words coming out of her mouth, but the look of complete and total adoration and inspiration on his face... and by the double high-five they gave each other when she finished.  Like most couples who make it the distance, they have definitely faced their struggles, but they've remained strong and built something amazing for themselves (and for others) by focusing on what they have together, rather than what they don't or what's gone wrong, and never expecting perfection from each other or anyone else.  Through their unwavering commitment to each other, they've built a life-long, never ending love.  Theirs is an awesomely inspiring kind of love that I hope to find with someone someday.  

Whoever said relationships are easy probably has never been in one - at least not one that lasted a significant amount of time.  When you find someone special who "rises to the top" and with whom you *want* it to work, you're willing to put in a little necessary elbow grease - that is, if they are too.  It's like you're this vulnerable little kid, sitting there with some pretty nifty Lego pieces.  Sure, you could probably build something by yourself, and it would probably turn out just fine.  But you also think that if you joined forces with the cutie next to you, who has their own assortment of Legos at their disposal, you could probably build something even better, and pretty awesome together.  Problem is, your respective piles of Legos are entirely different.  You check each other out and scratch your head, wondering if their pretty little petite 1x1 blue bricks and 2x2 yellow squares will fit with your hunky 3x2 red bricks and 5x1 black beams, and what to do with all the extra random pieces that at first glance really don't look that helpful at all.  You question whether you'll be able to make the pieces fit into something that actually functions well, especially when they keep grabbing and putting together parts that you'd never dream of putting together that way - "No, not like that! Like this! Gah!"  

Some might grumble and become frustrated, assuming that if the two of you can't build the perfect house immediately, the project is doomed.  Those folks, the ones who give up at the first sign of trouble, just aren't capable of committing.  Others are always looking for bigger and better pieces, and so when their project isn't coming to fruition perfectly, might look over to another cutie and their pile of bricks, thinking that their pile looks a lot...greener, and maybe easier to piece together, so they scoot on over to the new cutie's pile, leaving you holding a random assortment of bricks with no match.  

But if you're smart, and your partner's smart, you know that you're working with your chosen person for a reason, and that everyone has their random, awkward Lego pieces, and that like Legos, humans don't come with instruction manuals.  Nope, you have to actually show your partner or talk to them about how to best use your pieces with theirs to lay a foundation that will last.  

When you do this, sometimes, you get really lucky and manage to build a mini-mansion with a little Lego heli-pad and speedboat on your first shot.  More often than not though, your Lego house turns out a little lopsided at first, forcing you to tear down a wall or two to rebuild it into something that fits together better, kinda like trial and error.  Nothing worth having ever comes easy.  Building something together, and keeping it together, takes commitment and joint effort and compromise.  But once your foundation is laid, and the basic framework of your house put together, you might find yourself looking at what's left in the piles to find that you will have enough extra pieces to build a garage, a huge yard, maybe even a pool with a gazebo and orange trees!  That's usually when you find yourself taking a step back to take in the view, and exchange high-fives with your co-builder, maybe even a right-then-left hip bump.  Hells yes!  Look what we can build, when we work together!

If we could all be so lucky... :)

I'm gonna pick up the pieces,
And build a Lego house
If things go wrong we can knock it down...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Where the Magic Happens

WOOSH!  Hockey stop.  "Ahhh, sh*t!"  I wasn't just looking ahead anymore, I was looking *down* a steep pitch.  My heart started beating fast, I could feel my hands start to sweat in my gloves.  I looked around.  I reasoned that I could scoot back about 20 feet, and keep going down the easier slope I'd gone down before, or I could just... go down this one - this crazy steep looking (to me!) monster in front of me.  I thought back to about 20 minutes prior to the complete yard sale I had managed to pull out smack dab in the middle of a run, conveniently under a chair loaded with snowboarders.  Skis and poles scattered fast, I punched myself in the boob, and I skid for quite a distance.  When I finally stopped moving, I heard laughter, and it wasn't from the folks hanging overhead - it was coming out of my own mouth.  I had survived that (and actually managed to enjoy it?), so this should be okay... Right?  Still, I was scared.

WOOSH!  Hockey stop next to me from some random dude.  "You okay?" he asked.  
"Yeahhhh, I'm just nervous.  This one isn't like all the other steeper stuff I've been doing today."  (I mean, seriously - this pitch was nothing like the others! Just when I was starting to feel like I was getting better, this jumps in the way. What kind of cruel trick was Breck pulling on me?!)
"I guess they don't call it 'Shocker' for nothing."  
"Uggggh.  But this is the fastest way to get where I need to go; I don't want to have to go back that way," I said as I looked back over my shoulder to the continuation of the 'easy' run that I'd veered away from.
"Well, I'm gonna take it slow. I can go down ahead of you a little bit if you want, and make sure you're okay," he offered while pointing with his pole.
"Nah, I'm good. Thanks though!"

Off I went.  It felt like forever standing up on that edge, but in reality it probably only took about 20 seconds to make that decision.  I got to the bottom and turned around to look at what I'd managed to come down, and I gotta say: I was impressed with myself given my self-perceived limitations.  I'd just shattered them all by myself.  I thought back to my days literally c.r.a.w.l.i.n.g. down the Shirley runs, and thought, "I'd make those old Squaw runs my b*tch! Ah ha!"  My frozen chubby cheeks hurt from smiling so hard for the rest of the day, and I think I may have even puffed my chest a little bit.  I accepted a pole tap from Mr. Random Dude when he got down, and then took off to take another lift and run to meet my friends for a midday celebratory cocktail. 

Later, I went after a part of the mountain that someone told me was "scary," suggesting I couldn't do it.  And then I went back and did Shocker a few more times, just to prove to myself that it wasn't a fluke.  I'm still faaaarrrr from being an expert, and still slow compared to nearly all my buddies... but damn, it felt good.

Stepping out of my comfort zone just that one time, on that one edge, carried over for the rest of the trip.  The next day at Vail, our group made its way to the back bowls in blizzard conditions.  I'm a self-proclaimed princess, fair-weather skier who doesn't enjoy white-outs; I'm a blue bird kind of girl... or so I thought.  I blindly followed (literally, I couldn't see), and next thing I knew, I found myself in knee-deep powder (I thought I hated powder, turns out I don't!), freezing my toes and cheeks off, taking face shots and narrowly avoiding hitting trees through "glades" (at very slow speeds, don't you worry).  I ended the day completely spent and yet giddy and high on life.  

The next day at Keystone, I was one of three lone rangers who were hell bent on getting as much time on the mountains as possible (and a variety at that).  I looked at the map solely for purposes of figuring out which lifts would get me to the Outback, but paid no mind as to what was blue (love) versus black (still scary), groomed (love) versus moguled out (hate), etc., like I normally would have.  I just... went with it.  I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to encounter, and I had THE BEST TIME EVER.  Admittedly, I am pretty sure I have the Colorado snow to thank for my stellar time, but I still expect (hope?) I'll keep this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants skiing up next time I hit up a Tahoe resort.

Why is this blog-worthy, you ask?  Well, skiing is just one (albeit huge) example of who I am now compared to who I used to be.  See, once upon a time, I was a girl who played it safe - in every way.  I resisted change and the unknown; I lived inside the box; I preferred the tried and true.  I preferred someone else lead so I could simply follow, and I wouldn't go after something unless it was a certainty.  As such, I never had to buy any risk.  Because I always knew what to expect, it was safe, it was comfortable.  Life was easy.  I was never challenged, scared, uncertain, vulnerable.  And you know what?  I was BORED (oh, God... so bored!) out of my ever-loving mind and, in retrospect, leading a pretty unfulfilling life.  I will *never* let myself get back to that place.    

Slowly over time, I grew up and evolved into who I am now: the gal with gumption who seeks adventures of all sorts.  Like Rome, I wasn't built in a day.  It was a slow process - baby steps of trying new things, challenging my personal status quo and letting go of former rules, and truly enjoying every minute of it.  I can't quite pinpoint when it all came to fruition, but when a friend challenged me to be the kayaker in her Eppie's Great Race team 10 days before the race when I'd never even kayaked before (I wasn't even sure I knew what they looked like - a canoe?), and the idea of "going through rapids" in a kayak, by myself, surrounded by people determined to beat me to the finish (they might poke me out of the way with a paddle and make me drown!), scared the sh*t out of me... and instead of laughing in her face, I accepted her challenge and did it, and despite getting stuck in a whirlpool had one of the best times of my life (at that point)... that's when I knew I'd truly changed.  That was the first time that it all just... clicked. 

Since then, I've stepped out of my comfort zone time and time again - from obvious physical feats, mental challenges, and professional endeavors, to being open and honest with my heart (that is, wearing it on my sleeve), spontaneous trips without a map or knowing if I have a place to stay, or something as simple as trying some crazy new food, and everything in between.  Some of those things I'm fairly certain you'd roll your eyes at, as they're really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.  But to me, each instance has produced great results simply because it's made me a little bit more excited about living this awesome life and what other awesomeness lies ahead... and it's each time I ski that I'm reminded of just that. That's why I love it so much! 

I guess the whole point I'm trying to make though is this:  Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises - whether that be facing a steep ski pitch, a potential promotion, a fledgling relationship, getting a dog or having a baby, buying a home, you get the idea - because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won't feel comfortable at first.  Discomfort is necessary.  An otherwise strong and confident person actually needs moments of uncertainty and vulnerability to feel alive, to lead a fulfilling life, and to be truly happy.  It's where the magic happens.  Why not go out on a limb?  That's where the best fruit is.  I think, anyway (and Mark Twain agrees).

"You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.  
Just literally, 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, 
something great will come of it." 

In short, I've been doing my best to live by this philosophy as of late - and not just with skiing. Not even close. I've been living with insane courage. Potentially embarrassing bravery. I've really just... pushed the envelope. Put it out there. Shot from the hip. Dropped in. I hope I have the opportunity to do it again, and again, and again, because damn, it feels good.

The results aren't available for every risk I've taken, and until they are, I'll have to savor delicious uncertainty.  But if this past weekend is any indication, yard sales are often followed by some pretty sweet stoke.

Get after it, folks!


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Claudie Waudie

Many people are blessed with fortunate career paths that lead them directly where they want to go, without any detours. Unfortunately or fortunately, I'm not one of those people. When I was a young, fresh-faced and naive attorney pretty much straight off the bar-passage list and working in Century City, I did something some would (and did) deem "unprofessional." That cost me, and yet, even knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have done anything different. I was true to my personality and spirit, and most importantly, my heart, and if they didn't like it, then it just wasn't the right fit. But still, it sucked, largely in part because my mentor and boss didn't stick up for me; the end result would likely have been the same if he had, but the fact that he didn't sucked. Straight up, I was embarrassed and felt betrayed.

A few years later, I found myself back in Sacramento at another firm, hanging up on my next boss when he called me at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, knowing full-well that I was in the emergency room at Sutter Roseville, pacing the hallways, biting my fingernails and crying, waiting to see if my beloved Grammy would survive her second heart-attack, demanding to know why I hadn't taken care of something that easily could have waited until the middle of the following week and wouldn't have been the end of the world even if I waited longer than that. "I am not having this conversation right now." CLICK. Hanging up on him was a proverbial EFF YOU! to him, so that eventually cost me, too (whops?), and yet, I'm immensely proud that I stood by my priorities and stood up for myself. There was no way in hell that I was going to put my boss' wants and needs ahead of my family, and I never will. My family, my both by blood and by choice, will always come first. Period. Attorneys and judges are human too, with families of their own; I hoped that someone down the line would understand where my priorities lied.

The next boss was a bazillion times more understanding about my focus on my Grammy's health and was incredibly kind and supportive when she passed, but my evenings and weekends belonged to him such that I sat on the couch at a Squaw Valley cabin on winter Saturday nights with my head buried in my laptop, working on motions and responding to client and boss emails rather than focusing on the pleasant company I was with. He held my vacations over my head ("You're not leaving for Kauai if opposing counsel does [anything remotely predictable that he or another associate could handle]"), and when he'd find an errant comma in a motion or brief I'd written, he'd repeatedly tell me (and everyone else who worked for him) that I was lucky to have a job working for him and his tyrannical ways. I was in constant fear, stressed out of my gord, and every aspect of my life suffered as a result. I had lost my balance and my independence. Remaining in that working relationship was a lot like being in an abusive relationship; I wanted to leave, but he had me questioning whether or not the type of relationship I wanted even existed.

In fact, the cumulative affect of three really bad work situations left me exhausted and wondering what the point of it all was, questioning whether or not I was even in the right profession. I questioned if the practice of law was really the right fit for me. According to these guys, I sucked at it. I Googled things like "what to do with a law degree" in considering whether to leave the field entirely, and later contemplated staying in but hanging my own shingle to be my own boss. I spent a lot of time searching for professional purpose. I thought long and hard about why I went into law to begin with...

See, my first love was painting. I even won a blue medal for my favorite painting. I had started college as an art studio major; but eventually, I realized that it was highly unlikely that I could support myself as an artist, and I wasn't going to college to get an MRS degree like many of the girls I knew. I wanted to make something of myself, I wanted to contribute to not only society, but my future family. So, I thought about my other passions - things like advocacy, debate, communication, rhetoric, persuasion, and helping people and rooting for the underdog... and law just seemed like the natural path to follow. I graduated with a degree in rhetoric and public communication, and started law school envisioning myself on the steps of the Supreme Court, shaking my fist!, arguing for some important cause, and just generally working "for the people." You know, public service, helping those who can't help themselves, doing something to make the lives of others better in some way.

Only problem was, I had no idea how to get to where I wanted to go, and straight out of law school, the public sector jobs I thought might eventually get me there, I couldn't survive on (Thank You, Sallie Mae </sarcasm>). I found my first boss while still in law school and working behind a bar to make ends meet (literally studying a torts textbook and studying criminal procedure flash cards at the bar in between fetching Amstel lights and glasses of Ferrari Carano), wound up in private practice working in a Century City high rise overlooking the Los Angeles Country Club, living and breathing the billable hour to earn bonuses to survive loving on the border of Beverly Hills, trying to "fit in" amongst dudes in lame Hugo Boss suits and black Benzes (which I felt compelled to get myself), working my arse off, and making my self-important career my priority and focus, even after I moved back to Sacramento... and it remained that way for the next 7-ish years. Then the 7 year-itch happened.

During one of those snowy weekends at Squaw, perched on a chair I was running laps on, I repeatedly watched a husband and wife working together as a team to teach their two little ducklings how to ski. I ran into them later in the day at lunch, and struck up a conversation with them over Philly cheesesteaks (their boys were just too cute for words!). It turned out that they'd moved to Tahoe City the summer prior, leaving behind their fancy jobs back in San Francisco – his in finance, hers as a consultant of some sort – and their high-end living, in exchange for a peaceful, balanced, happy life full of mindfulness and outdoorsy stuff. I remember the husband asked me, “How long have you been an attorney now?” After I answered, he and his wife exchanged a look and a smirk that suggested they knew something about me that I didn’t, and then she said, “That’s about when we started thinking about it – the move, the lifestyle change, all of it. A few years later, we made it happen, and now, here we are.” They're now living the ideal Tahoe lifestyle, both still working in their generalized fields, just a modified version that accommodates the lifestyle they've made for themselves.

The next few days of skiing, I had a slow revelation: THAT is the life that I want! One that is intellectually stimulating and allows me to have a career for myself, and yet laid back and yet active and full of recreation, playful yet peaceful, and above all else balanced, not one that has me stuck in an office every day like every single one of my colleagues at that very moment (I felt like I was playing hooky on a Saturday when this epiphany hit me, for crying out loud!). In that moment, I decided that I'd rather earn (a lot) less money and live minimally and have more free time and life balance to do the things I love with the people I love. I thought of the law school friends I had who had that fulfilling, balanced life, and thought about where they worked: for the people, for a pittance, but for pure joy. I mean, let’s face it: government employees just flat out work less than their 80-hour a week private sector counterparts, but they earn a heck of a lot less in return. I thought of all the worldly possessions I’d accumulated as a result of my private sector gigs, and realized that while I wanted to be successful for sure, what I wanted more than anything was a life full of experiences and time with loved ones, not stuff and toys.

When I got back to the cabin, rather than hop on my laptop to defensively respond to my then-boss' pointless ranting angry emails, I ignored his inquiries and sat down to revamp my resume and sent it off to my dream public agency for consideration. A short while later, I found myself at an interview, sitting at a long table with four older men in suits on the other side, one of them a white-haired man named Claude, each looking over the top of their glasses, darting their eyes back and forth between themselves, my resume and my face, looking confused about why I was there - I certainly didn't look like the others waiting out in the lobby for their turn to sell themselves. I imagined them thinking, "Who is this smart, witty, genuine, feisty, confident, young-looking pretty creature in front of us?"

Anyway, they say a good interview, like a good relationship, really is a two-way street - that I shouldn't just be try to sell myself, but they should try to sell themselves too. But either way, I wasn't fond of the idea of "selling myself." I knew what I brought to the table. I knew they'd be lucky to have me. I wasn't going to try to convince them to want me, as I had done with the employers before. So, I chose to not affirmatively "sell myself" with anything that smacked of "pick me!", but rather to let my resume and qualifications speak for themselves. If they had questions or inquiries about whether or not I was the right fit, they asked, I answered, and their concerns were dispelled. But my background and experience isn't all that makes me awesome; it's who I am, what I value, how I relate to people, where my energies are placed, how I find balance. And I sure as shit wasn't going to make another commitment without having them really buy in to all of that too. (Thankfully for them, there's a "probationary period" anyway, ha!)

So, I decided to be totally open and honest with what I was looking for: an opportunity to grow as a litigator, which required a certain level of autonomy and independence in case handling and decision making; I couldn't handle someone questioning my every move, looking over my shoulder, not trusting my judgment. I also needed balance; I needed to know that accrued vacation time was actually useable, that the hours would generally be reasonable, that I’d have both the time and energy to carry on a life completely independent of what went down in the office. I took a deep breath and straight up told them that my family would always come first, and I wanted to be able to ski in the winter without guilt or reprimand, whether that be random days off work during the week or long weekends. At the time, I really thought it was a pipe dream. Here I was, rattling off a wish list of everything I could want in a daily work-life… There was no way they were going to buy-in to that!

How wrong I was! Eventually, along with a firm handshake, I heard the best three words I thought I'd ever hear in a professional context: "Welcome to Justice."

That is when I began working for the best boss any employee could ever dream of, Claude. Claude is a handsome 67 year old gentleman with a full head of gorgeous white hair and rimless glasses. His daily uniform of sorts involves dress shirts, navy or dark green sweaters over them, matching ties poking out from underneath, Dockers, and loafers. He does a sort of languid lumbered walk down the hallway between our offices with his hands in is pockets, likely much like the surfer-bum walk he made in his 20's when he was living out of the back of his station wagon in Laguna Beach and his now-long time wife was running down from the restaurant on the cliff to bring him sandwiches.

In the nearly three years that I have worked for Claude, he has become a mentor and dear friend, who I quickly and affectionately dubbed "Claudie Waudie." (I have pet names for everyone, so this isn't really out of the norm.) Not only does he allow me to have the work-life balance that I'd always longed for and dreamed of, he is someone who I can talk to about absolutely anything, from worrying about the development of a case, a perceived conflict with an agent, my ski weekends, my love life, my mother's health, the "meaning of life," who got kicked off the Bachelor last night - literally anything. As someone who likes to think and talk and share thoughts and ideas and hear the same from someone I trust and admire, his openness has meant the world to me.

Every Monday morning, he visits my office with a big bright smile to ask me how my weekend was. During the winter months, he's like a giddy school kid when we talk about skiing ("Where'd ya go? Which lines did you ski?! Oh yeah, yeah, that's a good hill!"), and he encourages me to take all the time I want to do so (making sure my cases don't suffer, of course), and acts the same way in the warmer months when we talk about golf or wine tasting. Without judgment (but a lot of laughter, so much that he cried), he once gently and privately corrected me when I made an unintentional, potentially catastrophically embarrassing mistake related to a word that I had no idea was a racial slur. He's been successful in his efforts to help me understand and develop gentler and more effective ways of handling and engaging with difficult people, and to cut through red tape. He has selected me to attend things in his place that he could not appear for, thrown my name in the ring for great opportunities, and gone to bat for me when I needed someone to have my back. I value efficiency and often found (still find) myself frustrated when it's lacking; he has taught me the benefit of working with people's "faults", instead of against them. He's reminded me over and over again to see the forest for the trees, and to consider long-term affects of every decision I make, both professionally and personally. In many ways, this man has helped me "grow up" a lot in the past few years.

On a personal level, he was patient and understanding with me when my focus in the office was anywhere but with work - when I was dealing with my mother's life-threatening surgery, every time I had to excuse myself from a meeting to accept a call from Afghanistan, and later when I was punched in the heart. Once sidelined with a pretty serious illness in his 30's, Claude knows that life is just too short. As such, he encourages me to focus more on living a fulfilling life outside the office, to climb mountains and enter races and travel near and far, and do anything and everything I can do while I am young and able. I feel I'm a better person just for having known him. He's made my place of employment feel like a home. Most importantly, he's made me feel trusted and valued, not only as an attorney but as a friend and as a human being. I could go on and on and on... He's just an amazing man, one who feels like family to me. I know I am not alone in these feelings. I love him. Very recently during a very teary moment, Claude sat me down and told me how much he sees himself in me, calling me his "work daughter." I cannot think of a better compliment.

Machhiavelli once questioned whether it's better for a leader to be loved or feared, and concluded that if you can't be both (and few people can), being feared is more effective. Machhiavelli must be wrong, because those who've been led by Claude and follow Claude do so solely out of love. We want to make him happy, we want to make him proud, we want to make him look good, we simply don't want to let him down. We love him...

Which is why at the end of January during a routine administrative meeting, when he ever-so-casually dropped the bomb that he was retiring, over half of the people sitting around the conference room table instantly started crying. I was stunned, and terrified. I ran to the bathroom to unsuccessfully wave off and bat away tears. "Why didn't he tell me?! And what am I gonna do now?" I thought. Lateral and upward movement within our agency is very common, but it's no secret that several members of my team, myself included, have stayed in our current positions within Justice because of Claude. We are deeply loyal to him. I thought we had at least another 2 years before he'd leave us. So long as he was my boss, I vowed to myself that I would never leave. Ever. I mean, there's no way I'd ever find another boss as awesome as Claude, and experience tells me I'd get stuck with a boss like the jerks before him, so why would I? But now that he's moving on to greener pastures (literally, golf courses for life!), we're all... free.

Freedom can be scary sometimes. I feel like those of us he's raised and now leaving behind are little baby birds who are ready to fly for the first time, only we won't have our Papa Bird waiting on the branch to swoop down and catch us if we fall. Rather, he's flown off, knowing full well that he's raised us well, and that we'll fly higher than we ever thought possible. We're left looking at each other with worried little bird faces, chirping hysterically, some looking down at the ground, others of us looking outward at the horizon we think we could fly to if we'd only take the leap. It's liberating and yet so scary at the same time.  Where am I gonna fly?  Will I be a blue bird?  An eagle?  A mockingjay?

This week has been incredibly tough for me; I can't stop crying. Sharon, Aviva, and Molly are starting to think I'm legitimately crazy, because I literally walk in the door and start crying at the thought of Claude leaving. Today, my favorite Special Agent (who I share just as much with as Claude) saw me crying during Claude's farewell speech, and said, "Who knew you were so tenderhearted!" (Apparently, I either control my emotions too well, or I need to work on my "hard as nails" image in the office and get a little more warm and fuzzy - I'll have to talk to Claude about that... oh, wait...) The truth is, I'm not ready to say goodbye to Claude, and thankfully, I really won't have to bid adieu entirely. We have legit plans to golf and ski and grab beers together (after he gets back from his epic summer long trip to South Africa), and I know where he lives - he can't escape me. Muhahaha! ;)

But what do I do now with this freedom? Stick around and see who replaces him and if my lifestyle remains the same? Go after his job and try to model his leadership style? Look for a more interesting subject matter to work in in another unit, under another management command? Follow Claude's urging to do as much as I can while I'm young, even if that means a bigger move than I'd envisioned a couple years ago when he first sat me down like an Uncle and talked about it with wistful eyes? Certain daydreams used to feel like fantasies, but now they seem obtainable. Maybe I'll follow in the Tahoe City couple's footsteps next year or the year after that, and buy a little ski chalet somewhere fabulous, and live in the winter and work in the summer. Or maybe I'll move to the wine country and open up "Paws Ranch."  Or maybe I'll end up in SF under the AG, or hanging my own shingle.  Who knows...

...but what I do know, is how to fly.  Thank you, Claudie Waudie.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"I'm better, thanks!"

Imagine yourself, a classy, elegant lady, sitting in the front of a classic convertible with a bench seat, being driven by a handsome companion through the Santa Cruz mountains under blankets of trees towards the coast. You've got a cute little sundress on, and are being kept warm by a fitted little jacket, and your hair is being kept neatly in place by a scarf from a distant land, a precious souvenir brought home by a loved one.

You roll the window down to get some fresh air, but find that's not enough. You push the button to put the top down just as your companion turns onto Hwy 1, the Pacific ahead in full view. Off comes your jacket. You climb onto the back of the bench seat and sit, delicately perched by graceful balance and strength. As the car winds along the coast, you take in the awesome transparency of the huge crashing waves, and the smell of the salty air. You take off the scarf from your head, shake out your hair, throw your head back and open your arms to feel the warmth of the sun and the ocean air curse over your entire body. You wave the scarf and its dainty sequined edge in the air like a flag of freedom, its kaleidoscope of colors and sparkles shining in the sun, shadowing your view of the sun's rays for just a moment... and then your fingertips purposefully separate, and you let it go...

Instead of giving you that description, if you were to ask me how I feel today, I'd probably just say, "A lot better, thanks!" There's always more under the surface in those pleasant responses... :)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

God and the SuperBaugh

While sitting in L.A. traffic this morning, I tuned in to Kevin and Bean on KROQ (one of the few things I miss about LA).  In light of the upcoming SuperBaugh hype (that is, the Harbaugh brothers facing off as coaches in SuperBowl XLVII), my favorite radio dudes were talking about a survey about people's views of football.  The survey asked a random sample of 1,033 adults a bunch of questions about the NFL.  Most of the responses aren't all that surprising or even remotely interesting (Lots of people watch football! Even more people watch the Super Bowl! Wow! Breaking news! Where's Brian Williams when you need him?!), but two specific questions and results are worth highlighting.

Perhaps the most shocking is that 27 percent of those polled - more than a quarter - believe that "God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event." This means that if you're watching a game with three of your buddies, odds are that one of you wholeheartedly believes that God has a vested interest in the outcome of the game, and will influence it to get His way. This could really throw off Vegas's lines, and next year's fantasy football leagues, don'tchathink?

There's more.  You know how athletes, in postgame interviews, often thank God?  They believe God is specifically looking out for them and their health and made them win the game over the other team, and a majority of Americans agree.  According to the survey, 53 percent of respondents believe that "God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success." 

As they pontificated the significance of the survey's results, some lady called in to the show.  She said that God has already chosen who the victor will be, and that He may change his mind, but that the players' destinies are already predetermined based on who has the most faith, and that it is the most righteous men who will be successful on the field - every time.  When Kevin asked her, "What about BYU? They suck at football, and they're like the most God-like guys around?", she answered: "They must not be. They must be truly evil inside, and just pretending to be good on the outside."  I'm sorry, but - WHAT?

Really?  How does any of this make any sense?  Do these people really think that God created a game of two teams, and then, what, picked sides? And made it so? You know, I could rationally and analytically tear apart the theory that whoever wins the SuperBowl (or the outcome of any event, really, especially where there is a "loser" or someone harmed) was decided by God. As an incredibly brief glimpse into that narrative, I offer you this:  If we are all equal in the eyes of God, if we are all children of God, if God loves us all the same, *and* if our destinies on- and off- the field are in fact predetermined by God, then why are our actions here on Earth determinative of whether we go to heaven or hell?  Does this mean God decides before or at birth where you're going in the after life, if there is one?  Wouldn't that make us versions of pre-programmed robots, or chess pieces, at best?  

Or do we control our own destinies through our thoughts and actions?

Now, I was born and raised to be a good little Catholic girl, and I grew up with the fear of God strongly instilled in me (does he look like Zeus in your mind, too?), but I refuse to believe that anyone has control over the path I follow, even God. The higher power that I call "God" (or my Grammy watching over me) might advise or nudge or spiritually inspire me in a particular direction, but at the end of the day, I am a human borne of free will.  I am capable of virtue or sin or a combination of the two, by my choice.  I just typed that sentence of my own accord.  In fact, the fact that I'm typing this at all proves as much, because God, if as powerful as that 27% believe, controls all, well then He wouldn't let anyone besmirch His prowess this way.  Right?

No.  If God created football, then in my mind's eye he created the game and threw his hands in the air and said, "I'm out! Y'all figure it out, I'm fixin' to see how y'all handle this fiasco I've created."  Then he'd sit back with his Bud Light and boneless hot wings (my God drinks, that's why there's the sweet nectar called “sparkling wine”) and enjoy the game.  He wouldn't root for one team (his children) over another (also his children) - who would his home team be, anyway?? - or control the Refs.  While it does seem miraculous that the victor of these athletic final feats have their team-specific "CHAMPIONS!" hats and jerseys and other paraphernalia on their persons within seconds of the clock reaching 0:00 and long before the confetti has even settled on the field or Erin Andrews has shoved a mic in their face, God doesn't control who wins.  The guys on the field do.  I think, anyway.

Let me take this further.  I think believing that your future is completely predestined by God, that is, that it's all the result of fate, makes you lazy.  What's the point of living if it's already laid out for you?  If there's nothing to be learned?  If there's no growth to be had? 

While it's true that energy is never lost, and that for every action there is a reaction, "everything happens for a reason" is simply a lame excuse to not have to deal with the tougher questions and realities of life and the interconnectedness of every action, of every person to every other person, of every bit of energy out there.  So when things don't go our way, some immediately use this excuse instead of taking ownership of their mistakes, tweaking their actions or thoughts, or simply trying harder.  Instead, they immediately quit, thinking it "wasn't meant to be," instead of thinking they had some semblance of control over the outcome.  How… sad.

I recently found myself in a professional situation that didn't appear as though it would go my way, and at first I was tempted to say to myself, "Oh well, everything happens for a reason."  But then I stopped myself and said, "NO. Screw this! I want this, and I'm going harder after it, if it's going to happen it's going to happen because I make it happen, not because I just believed that it would eventually miraculously happen," and guess what? It worked!  Obviously, I won't always get the outcome I desire, no matter how much I desire it to, but I think it's a lot more productive to believe that we have some modicum of control over how our lives evolve.  And it's only if we have that control are we able to take pride in how we’ve grown, what we’ve overcome, what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve made of ourselves.  If our fate it out of our hands, what’s the point?  Where does happiness come from?  It really does come from within, right?  Right.

I think that as long as people try to make the best of their life at a particular moment (by looking for and learning from the lessons each situation does in fact present), it will lead them to the right path for them, and to a happier life. We are all going to do what we do. While I do believe in a higher power, and I do believe in a special type of "magic," and that it would be "nice" if I could just sit back and wait for all the good stuff to happen to me without putting any effort in (that is, let fate take its course), I just really don't think that's the way the world works. I can easily change my mind and make a right turn instead of a left turn without being chased by bad guys in fedoras like Matt Damon encountered in The Adjustment Bureau.  I believe relying on "God's plan" or fate is a lazy excuse.  It's also a really messed up thing to believe when really messed up things happen to good people.  You can't control what other people do, they control what they do, and you can come up with excuses all day for what they do.  But do you really want to make YOUR life just another excuse?

Or do you want your life to mean more than that?

Now, I realize that in The Perfect Ponytail Paradox, I recently talked about how sometimes things don't go as planned, but actually work out for the better in the long run.  Some of you may throw the whole, "See, everything DOES happen for a reason!" line at me with that one, claiming that how things have turned out was fate working its magic.  But the two really aren't inconsistent: PPP involves acceptance of things that happen, whereas this involves acknowledgment that you have some control over those things, or at least how you respond to them.  I really do believe that in the end, things do work out the way they should.  But at the same time, “a river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” ~ Jim Watkins.

Anyway, it's getting late.  I suspect I might edit this later, once the NyQuil wears off.  Just keep in mind that on Sunday, more than one-in-four of your fellow Americans will go to bed convinced that whichever team raised the Lombardi Trophy only won because God willed it.  I, on the other hand, am going to choose to believe that the better team (that day) won.

Go Niners!


Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Time to Begin, Isn't It?

I can really love the shit out of music when I'm in the mood.  But see, I tend to get lost in my head and think too much, which is why when it comes to music choices, I tend to go for the over-simplified, no-hidden-meaning country, pop and R&B music.  I mean, there just isn't a bad day that can't be cured by a little Luke Bryan ("Girl, you make my speakers go boom boom!" makes me beam every time), or an awesome day that can't be made even better by Zac Brown Band ("So we live out of our old van, travel all across this land, me and you"), you know?  But it's actually the more complex stuff, that can and will be interpreted and "seen" differently depending on the listener, that really gets me good.
On my way home last night I heard "Crash" - the popular song that we all know and love by DMB.  I remember the the circumstances under which I first heard Crash song as though it were yesterday: it was during my first date with my first college boyfriend - the Abercrombie employee, house-party-throwin'  soccer player who loved to take me dancing (and as as side note could dance better than anyone I have ever seen to this day).  Thereafter, DMB quickly became "our music," if you know what I mean, and especially this song.
Anyway, breakups are never fun, and this one with Abercrombie boy was no exception.  For a while afterward, I couldn't really listen to DMB without feeling slightly sick to my stomach - it hurt too much.  Over time, I returned to DMB concerts and regained the ability to thoroughly enjoy the music, but for a long time it still brought back a slight twinge of angst and regret.
I had a similar experience with the first Dido and Nelly Furtado albums, circa 2000-2001 (aka First Time Living in LA as an "Adult"). Don't ask me why - there were far too many reasons - but during that very tough year, these two albums were on HEAVY rotation.  Once I removed myself from the situation I was in, I couldn't bring myself to listen to either of these artists without feeling ill, panicky, and full of anxiety, all horrible feelings, so I avoided hearing their music at all costs. 
The Bravery also had an eery way of bringing on strong emotions.  Driving up to Skiman's family's home up at Squaw, once we hit Donnor Lake, we'd start to blare The Bravery's "The Sun and the Moon" album and blare it all the way until the turn onto Winding Creek Road, and after waking up the next morning to avi bombs, hopping in the Tahoe for the 3.75 minute drive to the Red Dog chair, they would continue on repeat.  The Bravery had a Pavlov's dog effect on me.  See, I was a pretty new skier back then, pretty terrified actually, so the act of careening down a mountain for the first time at 30 years old (that is, at an age when I recognize danger!) was both terrifying and exhilarating, and the feeling in my stomach demonstrated it.  To this day, every time I hear "Time Won't Let Me Go," I can literally feel myself sitting in the seat with the view of the Face and village and the sensation of booting up and navigating that expansive parking lot in boots without landing on my arse... in short, it makes me nervous and super excited all at the same time.  It reminds me of purposefully scaring the shit out of myself, and loving every minute of it.
This may sound really cheesy, but music really is like the soundtrack to our lives, ya know?  I'm not talking about, "Oh yeah, remember when Color Me Badd was THE SHIT!!??"  I'm talking about music that has in some way shaped how our personal "movie trailer" has played out.  I don't know about you, but in many respects, music is what keeps me sane.  I put my soul into not just hearing its sound and feeling its vibrations, but really, truly LISTENING and LIVING it.  I can form a story in my mind with every single song, real or imagined.  Sometimes it just floats along beside me, serving as a backdrop for long lost memories (such as DMB), and other times I find myself figuratively giving the music my emotions so that I don't have to feel them or remember any longer (ala Dido and Nelly Furtado), and even still at other times it takes me to a place where I felt totally ALIVE (Bravery).  Hey, it's better than relying on booze or liquor, right?  Either way, there is certain music and certain periods of my life that are inextricably linked, such that if there was ever a movie made about my life (how do we feel about Reese Witherspoon as the lead, by the way?), those songs would have to be included in the soundtrack.
Years ago, I used to think I'd always have a bit of an "ouch" feeling when listening to DMB, but really now I'm just ALL smiles.  I remember the good times spent with Abercrombie boy, and man oh man, there were plenty of them - sometimes I think all we did was laugh!  Thinking of memories like that is like living a flashback, or a snippet of a was all sweetness and sunshine and laughter, not one ounce of negativity (despite the fact there was plenty of that as well).  I remember the day we met, the first time he took me out onto a Sigma Chi dance floor (to Cake's "Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps"), making batches and batches of Jungle Juice, soccer games and kissing in the pouring rain - all good times... and that all comes to mind from a simple song.
I'm also now able to listen to Dido and old school Nelly Furtado and think, "that's the year I survived."  Even better, when I hear anything by The Bravery, I only think, "Hells yes! I'm gonna tear it up, Blue Square Style!" Ha.
So, what's on the playlist right now, you ask?  Well, of course there's some Luke (because I LOVE HIM), and there'll always be some ZBB and Mumford for good measure.  But I've got a couple on repeat for a long time that are clearly meant to be in a scene in my movie, or maybe the trailer, or the end credits.
The big one is Coldplay's "Life in Technicolor" (the instrumental, NO WORDS).  It speaks to how I try to live each day, and my life on the whole, and I how I secretly hope people see me, because it's how I see myself.  Just listen to it, and let it soak in.  It starts softly, with a little old-school synthesizer action, and builds slowly, and lingers, making you curious about what you're hearing and what sound might add on next.  Musical voices slowly join, one after another, making the sound more complex and vibrant, adding layer after layer at the right moment (not too soon, not too late) to make it even more interesting.  What you think you hear changes.  It wakes up like a morning flower turning to face the sun, opening petal by petal until it's fully exposed, and just continues to get prettier and prettier and the sun heats it.  It never bores you, you feel anticipation of what's coming next, even though you already know what the expect.  It builds and builds until you feel the urge to start bouncing your head, tapping on the steering wheel, dancing in your chair, maybe some full body action, "Oooohhh ooohhhhh!"... and then BAM! it's done and gone.  And you hit repeat, because you want to hear it again.  And again.  And again.  And each time, you hear it a little differently; it's never quite the same.  Doesn't it just make you feel like... "Hot damn, my life is awesome!" ??  Yeah, that one's definitely the trailer version of my movie.

Next up, Imagine Dragon's "It's Time."  This one starts off with the most awesome clapping and tinkering, that reminds me of being a giddy child excited for new adventures. That's the hook, y'all. But then the complexity of the lyrics hit you and it takes a deep turn, making you have a little existential conversation with yourself... but then, what's that?, there's the giddy clapping and tinkering again. I feel like I'm on the cusp of something big, like something life altering (in a good way) is right around the corner, so this one has a special place for me.  I could write five more pages about why, but I think I'll keep that to myself for now.

And finally, Daughtry's (don't judge!) "Start of Something Good."  I actually heard this very recently for the first time, and found it quite fitting.  I had an interesting week.  It started off amazingly well, then there was a major let down, and then a very pleasant random surprise reincarnation occurred.  Who knows what it all means, or what will happen - it's all up in the air.  But oddly enough, this "needs to know!" girl is choosing to let go, and just think positively and know that "it" will work out as it should, whatever this beginning actually is. And, well, Daughtry just just looks so damn good...

What's playing on your soundtrack?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Running: I've got you, babe.

His shoulders caved in while he nervously rubbed his hands together under the table in between his knees.  “Yeaaaahhhh, I really don’t 'get' running, I mean, it's just...running, what's the point, really?” he said in a hesitant yet monotone voice that belied his fear of upsetting me with this unacceptable confession in response to my visible excitement about having run the farthest I’d ever run a few hours prior.  And he continued: “People who run are… weird.”

I felt my eyes narrow as I examined him.  I knew in that moment that our blossoming romance would go nowhere fast.  Not only did he take me to a bleh sushi restaurant for our third date, but now he was insulting one of the most important (new) relationships in my life: the relationship I have with running.  He doesn't have to love it, but he shouldn't insult it!  I didn't insult his love of TELEMARK SKIING for crying out loud!  Yup, another one bites the dust.

t’s only been like few months, and I may still be embarrassingly slow, but I’ve become one of “those people.” A “runner.”  I live to get off work and go for a run.  I love logging hours on discovering new running routes.  I am obsessed with logging miles and tracking the improvements of my pace with my Garmin.  I am seriously addicted to bananas and chocolate milk.  I procrastinate at work by rolling out my calves on my office floor and searching online for races near and far to train for and attend.  I find myself spending nearly all of my free time with other runners, and not necessarily running (albeit talking about it a whole damn lot).  And each time I step into Fleet Feet, I think: “Wait just one stinkin’ second! I thought running was supposed to be cheap?” But I gladly whip out my card for the goods!

I mean, when you know, you just know.  And I know: it’s love.  So here it is:  

Running, I know we haven’t known each other that long, but I am totally into you, and I’m ready to take out relationship to the next level.  Will you occupy my mind and time and heart, and stand in the place of my would-be boyfriend?

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. :)

See, upon returning home tonight from “rehydrating” with mimosas and Blue Moons after today’s long run and tugging off my dusty running shoes, thinking about the day and the people I spent it with, I had a sort of epiphany about relationships.  You know that phrase, “You get back what you put into it”? Well, unfortunately, that hasn’t really been true with many of my inter-personal relationships.  Whether it be my boyfriend, one of my best friends, or my boss, I’ve experienced a lot of let downs and heart break from relationships I’ve put my heart and soul into.  Those harrowing experiences make me hesitant to seriously invest in any new relationships (but I still do - I can’t help it, I’m a people person).

But running? My relationship with running is one of the few things that I can really trust and rely upon, each and every day – even on rest days.  I know that I WILL get back what I put into it, and then some.  I know that it will never let me down or betray me (my body might, but not the act itself).  And the beauty of it all is that (I think) if I apply the lessons I have learned from my failed unsuccessful romantic relationships, I can make sure my relationship with running goes the distance! Yay! Specifically:

1.  If you go for too much too soon before you’re ready, you’ll burn out, and get hurt (or hurt someone else).  This is true not only of the risk of heartbreak from whirlwind romance, but risk of physical injury as well.  Thinking, “Oh, well my training program says to only do 4 today, but I feel so good I’ll just go run 13!” is just as bad as saying, “Hi Jen, it’s me” on my voicemail or assuming you're about to meet the parents after just a couple dates.  We’re just not there yet buddy, and you aren’t either.  Take your time.  Running isn’t going anywhere, and for the most part, neither am I.  The shoes and the trail will be there tomorrow.  Let the relationship evolve naturally, and build upon itself.

2.  On the other hand, if you don’t put enough energy into it, or go too slow, or keep your finger on the trigger, you’ll likely bore yourself and the process and never progress.  And you certainly can’t half-ass training any more than you can half-ass a real relationship or commitment to a partner.  You can’t run while sitting on a fence, ya know?  You really gotta have two feet on the ground, and use energy to move forward.

3.  The foundation of any relationship – romantic, platonic, business – is trust.  If you don’t trust in the process, trust that your training will get you there (whatever distance that might be), AND trust your partner (yourself, your legs, your feet, your shoes, your lungs…your coach), you’ve really got nothing.  Same goes for your better half.  (And at the same time, I see nothing wrong with the concept of “Trust, but verify.” Go ‘head. Try it. It’ll surprise you, in a good way.)

4.  You must allow for down/rest time.  You can’t spend 365/24/7 with a partner anymore than you can running without killing yourself (or the relationship), and the time and energy spent away from running will not only make you appreciate it all the more, but will make you a better, stronger, faster runner.  Just don't take too long of a break, because that can cause just as much damage.

5.  You HAVE to have a sense of humor to get you through the hard times… because there WILL be hard times.  The only way to handle falling flat on your face a mile into a marathon is to laugh at yourself (and whoever tripped you, of course).

6.  Surround yourself with people who value their own relationship with running, the way you do yours.  It will help you maintain your commitment and keep your spirits up when you're feeling weak.  In the same vain, avoid spending time with folks who don't share your values.

7.  Know that if you find just the right balance, you’ll feel a high like nothing else.  I hope this speaks for itself.  *wink, wink*

It all makes sense, right?

So far, running simply makes me consistently happy.  I know we'll have our moments, and there will be times when I'll consider breaking up, but for now, all is well in the Jen-Running relationship world.  Best of all, I’m never left confused.  If at the end of a bad run, unlike a bad day with a boyfriend, if something feels “off” and I find myself wondering, “Did I do something wrong?”, there’s always a legitimate answer based on biomechanics, training, nutrition, fuel - something other than, well, miscommunication. I mean it just… works, and it’s been one of the most fulfilling relationships I’ve had in a long, long time. So with that said: 

Dear Running,
Whether it's at dawn or at dusk, I look forward to our dates (for the most part), especially when you take me to places I've never seen before and make me feel so damn good. You're the first thing I think about it in the morning and the last thing I think about at night, and I think about you all damn day. And I love that you love that I love carbs. I hope you're just as ready as I am to make this big commitment. (Should we make it Facebook official?) I have a feeling we're in this for the long haul, Running.  I love you.