faint gray lines

I’ve been meeting up with a close friend one or two nights a week to catch up. We talk about some side projects, what he’s doing now — the sort of thing that, once upon a time, didn’t require an appointment on the calendar. Tonight while I drank decaf he brought back his table number stand and set it down firmly, like a chess piece.

“I hope you’re not superstitious,” he said, tapping the card.

13.

I could think of a few reasons to be wary of the number, but what floated to mind at that moment was this year. It’s been a year of extremes for nearly everyone I know.

Maybe I should have made it a written goal as part of the 101 Things in 1000 Days to post here at least once a month. I’m sure I’d have written a glut of posts, and have just a few left out of the thirty-three to write.

As it stands, not so much.

It does not feel like it has been two months since the last time I wrote, and yet it feels so much longer. The theme of this year has been, “Well, I can’t talk about that,” so all conversations fall into a wobbly orbit around the things that can’t be said, the things my life spins around. I take a small measure of pride at the grace with which I turn a blow into a pirouette. The end result is that I’m still dizzy and I’ve made no progress.

Tonight I restocked an empty fridge. I went back through and updated my progress toward some goals. I sorted recycling and laundry. I took out trash. I put up the luggage we took with us on our anniversary trip. I took vitamins.

Tomorrow’s group-run route goes right by some friends’ houses, and I’ll shuffle past anyway.

I can’t control outcomes, but I can control what I do.

Two weekends in a row, I’ve imagined starting a blog post with this title. In it I would recall all the great things that happened that I didn’t share on Facebook or Twitter as it happened, all smug over not constantly broadcasting everything that happens to me and neatly tied up with the sentiment that a life untweeted is still a life lived.

Then I actually sat down to write the post, and I couldn’t remember anything that happened last weekend that wasn’t scheduled on my calendar. When I asked Stephen what we did that weekend, he started reading from my calendar too. Oops.

This has been a very full four months. I asked for and launched a big project at work. I trained for a 5K with a group and, even though I am a slacker and never once made it to a Saturday morning run (so, only going to 2 of 3 training runs a week), I shaved seven minutes off my best 5K time. I completed two professional certificates. Stephen grew a beard and grew tired of the beard. And even between those big rocks, there’s sand: the people I grew closer to, crises weathered, some new disappointments.

Most of what I hope I remember about this summer isn’t going to be on a calendar. Small moments, funny or sincere or serendipitous. A lot of sitting: under a tin roof during the rain at lunch with friends, on a couch at a friend’s house her first weekend living alone again, on a hillside with a college professor and a neighbor during a concert. Kindnesses. Unseasonably cool weather. Riding along on cruise control through gently-rolling, verdant hills. Looking forward.

I don’t want to think too deeply about what it meant that I struggled with the last two intervals tonight while out running, but I probably will. It’s my way.

Each night I have been starting at the front of my pace group, and maybe dropping behind one or two people by the end of the session. This evening, I took off ahead of my group and, when the whistle blew after the second interval, I realized the people right behind me were from a group two paces faster. I stepped aside, waited, and made myself stay with my group.

My heart rate monitor didn’t go off the first two intervals, but was beeping frantically the whole time I shuffled along behind my pace leader at the end.

I just deleted four drafts I never got around to posting.  I suppose I thought I’d revisit them the next day, make appropriate tweaks to the references of time passing, and hit Publish.

Alas.

Life is busy, fulfilling, irritating, and boring lately, all at the same time.  I feel like I’m fighting a lot of the same battles, over and over again.  I’m burnt out on big egos and secretly rotten people.  I’m not proud of myself for feeling frustrated that some feet haven’t found their ways to big mouths.

I went to yoga last night after a training run and, with a tennis ball under an acupressure point, I breathed through the pain with the mantra in my head: This is both the worst and the best idea ever.

Doing what needs to be done often hurts.  It is easier to go home and watch TV.  To keep quiet and suffer rather than set boundaries.  To resign myself to less.  But today I am not sore and I am so glad I did what I needed to do.

I wish I were better at asking for what I need.  That’s not a goal you can put on a list.

Two years from the deadline, here are the things completed or in progress from my 101 Things in 1001 Days project.

    Travel

  • Visit Jack Daniel’s Distillery.
  • Ride on an Amtrak train.
  • Visit DC.
  • Visit the National Mall.
  • Visit the Smithsonian.
  • Visit the MLK monument.
  • Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
  • Tour the Newseum.
  • Renew my passport.
  • Visit San Francisco.
  • See the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Ride on the Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Dip a toe into the Pacific Ocean.
  • Visit Portland, Oregon.
  • Visit Powell’s Books.
  • Health and Wellness

  • Receive an annual physical (1/3).
  • Run a 5K race every other month (3/16).
  • Attend a yoga class every other week (13/70).
  • Citizenship

  • Volunteer with Girls on the Run.
  • Participate in a Hands on Nashville project in a Metro school.
  • Vote for Barack Obama.
  • Bon Vivant

  • Get a massage.
  • Start a book club.
  • Watch 50 new-to-me movies (40/50).
  • Attend one live show per quarter (4/11).
  • Host a game night.
  • Take a sewing class.
  • Go on a monthly date night (12/33).
  • Make a meal of Stephen’s choice once a month (9/33).
  • Writing

  • Attend a reading.
  • Take a writing class.
  • Matters of Spirit

  • Read the lectionary each week for a year (18/52).
  • Select and complete a devotional for the Lenten season.
  • Arts and Crafts

  • Use up the box of tiles.
  • Design holiday postcards each year (1/3).
  • Photography

  • Have a business headshot taken.
  • Professional Development

  • Give a presentation (Skillery, BarCamp, etc.)
  • Complete the program management certificate from the Center for Nonprofit Management (4/6).
  • Complete the nonprofit leadership certificate from the Center for Nonprofit Management (4/6).
  • Attend one networking event each month. (24/33)
  • Finish one nonfiction book a month (19/33).
  • Take a negotiation class.
  • Join another professional organization.
  • Miscellaneous

  • [redacted x2]

I’ve felt, lately, how the bud must feel before the bloom. I’ve had lots of great, honest conversations with people and I’ve gone out of my comfort zone. But some things I want to accomplish take time to accomplish—more time than I’d like or, some days, feel like I can tolerate.

Today I took a class on presenting (it counts toward both of the certificates I’m working toward), taught by a PR consultant in town. A part of me always expects very old criticisms: stand up straighter, brush your hair, stop mumbling. But, much to my surprise, her initial feedback was to praise my wardrobe choice and her follow-up was to remark that she wouldn’t have thought most of my work was written or digital, that I am a “fantastic speaker” with a “great voice.”

That I am a better speaker when I stop worrying about following the script, because I know what I’m talking about.

Cue the cognitive dissonance.

Much of the dialogue about women lately has been about how we perceive ourselves and how that influences how we behave, determines whether we take risks. I’ve talked with women who appear confident but confess they’re just as anxious or insecure about this or that as I am, that they too have had x reaction to y stimuli.

Maybe that is really the trick: and rather than or. Feeling that way and doing.

Two Seconds

The fluctuating temperatures and early-spring pollen have wreaked havoc on my sinuses, so when I woke up Saturday for the first of the seven races I’ve paid for this spring and felt terrible, the goal was simply to complete the race.

Then, when I got out there and was actually able to run in longer bursts than I thought I’d be able to, the goal was just to finish under 50 minutes.

Despite pushing it so hard in the last stretch that I barely was able to yell “On your right!” to two teenage girls who ambled onto the race course like there wasn’t a giant banner that said FINISH thirty feet away and a bunch of sweaty people wearing numbers heading right for it, my time was 50:01.

That’s What He Meant

Our neighborhood had a beer festival this weekend, and Stephen bought tickets ages ago for both of us. Even though I don’t drink beer since going gluten-free a year ago. And even though I had a sewing class scheduled in the middle of the festival.

We gave my ticket to a college friend and, when I returned from my class to pick them up, I had my finished project in the back seat. While I navigated away from East Park and the hordes of people walking toward Five Points, my hands wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel that my knuckles were turning white, Stephen picked up my project and asked, “What did you buy a pillow for?”

I’ll take that as a compliment.

Fish Tale

Month two of the Remedial Book Club brought a change in venue to a non-smoking bar and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Some books—like last month’s selection, To Kill a Mockingbird—get better as you get older. Others? As Randal said, “This book was about as exciting as actual fishing.”

Meltdown

Our weekend ended with a trip to Target, as weekends often do. We stopped by the Easter section to see if there were any Peep-themed non-food merchandise we might wear at next week’s race (Rachael Anne named our team “This is For My Peeps”). That’s where we first crossed paths with a mother about ten years older than us and her two small children still dressed for church at suppertime. The kids were in high spirits, excited about Easter.

When I remembered I needed wipes for the car interior, we crossed paths with them again. The boy, about four, was whining that he’d found something he wanted to show her to buy for him.

We ran into them again at the checkout line. There were only three registers open and about twenty people with carts waiting. There were people of all colors and ages and three different types of religious headwear. I noticed this because we were all sort of looking at one another. Every last one of us was trying very hard to ignore the screaming blond boy who had taken off his tiny penny loafers, thrown them, and planted himself on the floor of the store and cried until his face turned pink. Someone else’s little girl carefully collected his shoes and placed them nearby, only for him to throw them again. His mother continued to purchase her cart, stopping only to chase after him when he made a break for it and started to run back into the store.

They were still inside, and he was still screaming, when we stepped into the crisp evening with our purchases.

“SNOOZE,” I said, my eyes wide with disbelief at the spectacle we’d just escaped.

“No joke,” Stephen said. “I hope you didn’t break the alarm clock chucking it at the wall.”

I know from others’ stories that my experience as “a woman in tech” has been a charmed one. I was the only woman in my freshman class who majored in computer science at the small, rural public university I attended, and I was frequently the only woman in my programming classes. My professors were supportive and I had amazing classmates who helped me with assignments when I struggled with concepts. I missed out on some LAN parties in the men’s dorm, but that was about it.

I know I am lucky. And I try to remember to check my privilege and listen to and support women who are still blazing trails, even after discovering rather late in my collegiate career that my interest in technology was more about using it as a tool for marketing and for communications, where my real passions lay.

But here’s the thing: I have a hard time taking your complaints seriously if you decry sexism and gendered language … then in the next breath talk about wanting to be respected for “act[ing] like a woman.”

The notion that women all have the same behaviors, experiences, interests, aesthetic, etc. that can be classified as “act[ing] like a woman” is part of the problem. It’s deciding that a certain set of behaviors is “like a woman” and another set is not.

You can do or have everything, just not at the same time. I’m trying to be mindful of this. The slow process of marking off items from the 101 things list is a living meditation on the subject.

We’re halfway through Lent. I’m finding my choice of devotional to be a good one. Today’s reading (Luke 11:29-53) offers a different take on the “light under a bushel” passage: what you focus on shapes you.

I’m forcing myself to turn my focus to solutions.

I’ve been displeased for too long about how many races I’ve run toward goal #30 (the answer: zero). I’m not even sure how that has happened! To remedy this, I’ve filled in my spring running schedule so there will be eight consecutive Saturdays of races. I’m too competitive to turn in eight terrible times, so I’m sure I will drag myself onto the treadmill, the elliptical and the greenway more often. This will mean I will be better about hydrating and better about eating small meals throughout the day, rather than having a giant cup of coffee in the morning and waiting until noon to eat lunch. It will also mean I am more likely to drag myself to yoga on Sunday afternoons for recovery.

I’ve also been unhappy for too long about how long it is taking to finish the novel I started writing in 2008. Ugh, yes: five years. I even realized a few nights ago that when I threw out the first rough draft and started writing fresh, it was at a December 2009 writing retreat. So I’ve been plowing through each evening for about an hour, making executive decisions, sending e-mails to friends in the morning asking if Character B’s behavior is appropriate given situation A, sharing word counts. So far, so good.

Speaking of writing more, Colby has been blogging more, and I really like yesterday’s post about conflict. If I learn anything from 2013 it’s going to be this: conflict is often scary, but usually necessary.