On Compassion

Friends, today I ask you to please practice compassion.

I had not planned on adding my voice to the public conversation about the recent deaths of two (and many more than two) truly remarkable and very admired people, but I now think it bears repeating. By me and to whomever is willing to examine their own opinions about the hows, whats, and whys of suicide.

Depression does not care about how much money you have.

Depression does not care about how famous you are.

It does not care how many awards you have won, accolades you have received, people you have influenced, or followers you have collected.

It cares only about your hopelessness. It cares only about the dark parts of yourself unseen by the public. It cares only about the most desperate and difficult places in your mind where it can make a home and convince you that you are unworthy.

Depression does not care about the health of your lungs or your heart or your skin or any other part of you. It cares only about your mind and how it can be ripped apart.

People who suffer from depression have an illness. It is a grueling, pervasive, exhausting, life-threatening illness.

This is an illness for which there is no cure, only treatment. Treatment some may not be strong enough to use. Treatment others may not know how to seek. Treatment in many forms, be they medication, therapy, the support of loved ones, exercise, meditation, behavioral practices, or any combination thereof and many far beyond.

To speak with derision and condescension about people who struggle to treat their illness is the height of cruelty. A person with cancer is not “selfish”. A person with heart disease is not a “coward”.

Depression infects and invades the minds and lives of thousands.

They are hurting. They are living with unimaginable pain.

Seek to ease that pain. Seek to support their treatment. A person can be crippled without crutches. A person can be paralyzed without a hospital bed.

Friends, please have compassion. You don’t have to understand. There is no requirement of you to make sense of it. You only have to make an effort.

Kate and Anthony, rest with the angels. I’m so sorry it hurt so much, and I’m sorry we didn’t know. You will both be so terribly missed.

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741
Featured photo courtesy of TIME

 

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The Hobby Collector

I have this small issue in which I like too many things.

Before you assume that this is yet another story of a girl who flits from passion to passion on an almost daily basis without ever sticking to anything, allow me to put your mind at ease (and send my own anxiety flying off the rails).

I don’t actually give up any of the things I decide I like.

This means that I have an endless burning love for watercolor painting, calligraphy, gardening, knitting, baking, needle point, running, yoga, reading, writing, wood burning, piano, and (a recent addition) pasta making.

So, on an average day, I have an awful lot to do.

On the plus side, I am almost never bored. If I’m not actively involved in one of the above creative pursuits, there is always something to clean and/or reorganize following the project previous.

Yet I am in a state of constant lamentation over the lack of hours in the average day. I don’t want to just make pasta until midnight (delicious and mesmerizing as it is). I want to paint. I want to figure out what went wrong with last week’s attempt at brioche. I want to practice my samba – my rhythm needs some work and my partner complains that I still can’t follow, but we’re getting there, okay?

For a time, I referred to myself as a “serial hobbyist”, but I quickly realized that was not quite accurate. “Serial” implies that I move on at some point, that I find something to replace a previously beloved pastime. That almost never happens. I simply add to my list.

When someone tells me that there is this cool new thing I should try, my immediate reaction is excitement. “Yes, please, tell me all about this new thing!” 

My secondary reaction is not unlike the response of someone on a diet or someone who is too often sucked into Netflix marathons. “I’ve already had three cheat day this week, I can’t!” or “I so do not have time for another one!”

I can’t give up one hobby in favor of another. I’ve invested too much time and energy in the perfection of my pie crust, in the perfect blend of watercolors, in the health of my potting soil! To give up would just be wrong.

I quickly cave and add another. Sleep does not come easily for me. Surely there is a dropped stitch in a scarf that needs fixing.

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I sometimes get the “jack of all trades, master of none” speech, but I have a fun fact for you all.

That’s not the entire original quote.

“A jack of all trades is a master of none, but is oftentimes better than a master of one.”

It was supposed to be a compliment to people who had variety rather than mastery. I may never reach my 10,000 hour expertise requirement for any one skill, but I will surely surpass 10,000 hours of active learning and curiosity and development.

My piano playing may never sell out any theater, but it brings me joy to play. My artwork may never hang in the Smithsonian, but I find calm in burning words into wood. I will definitely never drop my half marathon time under ninety minutes, but I’ve grown to love the run regardless of how fast I go.

My apartment is home to many various supplies, often scattered, but very well-loved. I hope to teach my daughter that it’s good to be curious and that she should feel encouraged to try new things, unafraid of failure or rejection.

I hope to teach her that there is too much to do to love only one thing. 

 

Featured image by Jorge Zapata on Unsplash
Knitting photo by rocknwool on Unsplash

Wow…

Hi there, happy people. It’s been a while.

I fell out of touch with my beloved blog over the past few months simply because life has been crazy.

Quick update:

Yes, I’m still running. (I had an 8:36 minute mile yesterday!!)

Yes, Hungry Harvest still rocks my fridge twice a month.

Yes, I successfully fulfilled my National Novel Writing Month word count. I’m so excited to make that thing a real book.

No, I’m not done editing it.

I went to New Orleans with my office job last month, and I really don’t understand how I was able to get on the plane to come home, because that city is magic – the culture is vibrant, the people are lovely, and the food is unreal.

More to come soon, I promise. There are plenty of short stories kicking around my noggin. 😉

“Come on, feet…” and Rain Running

I love Halloween. I love David Bowie. I love stories with strong messages about dedication, friendship, and personal endurance.

If all of these things do not add up to The Labyrinth in your mind, I’m so sorry, but we are going to have to work on our friendship. It’s not impossible – I’m friends with Sox fans, after all – but it will need some attention.

The Labyrinth, of course, is not reserved solely for Halloween, but as my small sidekick has taken a recent interest in spooky movies, I took it upon myself to introduce her to my favorite Goblin King. He scares her just a bit, but she still loves Ludo and the music (bless her, she is absolutely my offspring).

Rewatching this, one of my most beloved films, through the new eyes of my daughter made me hear a line I hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past. As Sarah is about to enter the labyrinth and musters her courage, she says “come on, feet.”

That, I naturally felt the need to analyze…

Since becoming a runner (and wow, I can actually say that now, sans irony…) this past April, I’ve noticed so much more about my body’s will versus my mind’s. Yes, I fully understand that such a statement will sound cheesy and ridiculous to many. Go with me for a moment, though.

If I put feet to pavement (or dirt or gravel or mulch) for long enough, my mind tunes out completely and my body just does its thing. I may be aware of the components of my body hating me, like my knee aching or my fingers swelling, but overall, my legs pretty much tell my head to shut up for long enough for them to get done what needs done.

There are also the days that my mind is totally into it and my body disagrees. It’s as though I am hyper cognizant of how much I’ve grown to love running, but my stomach or lungs or legs decide they’d all rather be doing other things.

I feel like today helped me come full circle with that concept.

About two weeks or so into running on a regular basis, it rained. It wasn’t bad at all, just sort of misting, but my body had me convinced that the couch was a better option than the trail. This is the part where my mind said, “Um, no, sweetie. You said you would, and now you have to. Get off your butt.”

Today it was raining, and definitely not in the refreshing misting way. My leggings clung to me in a way I’m unaccustomed to my clothes clinging, I had no fear whatsoever of dehydration, and my stride was amazing due to all of my very creative puddle hopping efforts. By the fourth mile, I truly couldn’t tell what was sweat and what was rain.

And today, in spite of the rain, was a rare day that found both my mind and body in perfect sync. My head was super into “okay, great, let’s rock” and my legs started getting into “yes, we get to move” (because, yes, I do sometimes think of them having their own personalities, it’s fine).

A bit of a rambling explanation that ends with this: there will still be days when my body is good to go while my brain is other places. There will still be days when the opposite is true, and I will have to force my hands to get my shoes on and say aloud “come on, feet”. As long as I land there eventually, and as long as, by the end of it all, I am still delightfully exhausted, I can say “come on, feet” all I need to.

Next half marathon is in three weeks, and I want to beat my time by ten minutes.

Let Me Tell You About This Hungry Harvest Thing…

Anyone who is Facebook friends with me or follows me on Instagram or runs into me on a regular basis will know that I can’t shut up about Hungry Harvest.

For those of you who don’t know, Hungry Harvest rescues fruits and veggies that would otherwise be discarded. Surplus apples, discolored asparagus, disfigured tomatoes, you name it. Hungry Harvest recovers unwanted or unneeded produce, packages it into subscription boxes, and delivers various fruit and veg to customers at a discount.

And it is the freaking BEST.

First of all, I am eating a MUCH broader range of produce than I used to. Generally speaking, my grocery list would include bananas, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppers, and the occasional bunch of grapes.

NOW, it has expanded to include mangoes, starfruit, eggplant, Korean pears, and “pluots”. Listen, if you’ve never eaten a “pluot” before (and I’d sure never heard of them before they arrived in my delivery box), it is a plum and apricot love child. Delightful.

Second of all, I’m not scrambling to make sure we eat healthy at home. We just ARE. There’s enough fruit and veg in our fridge that it’s truly never “out of sight, out of mind” – it’s the first thing we see on the shelves.

Third of all, holy crap, am I better about sticking to a monthly food budget. I get two HH boxes per month (one every two weeks) and they are the smallest ones available (Mini Harvest boxes at $15 each). Kid you not, world, these boxes are PACKED. We have plenty of goodies to tide us over and I’m not spending $8 on a box of strawberries that will last two days.

Finally, I’ve gotten SO much better about bringing my lunch to work with me. Because I am entirely too paranoid about wasting food and have a possibly unnatural fear of letting things go rotten, I take all kinds of things into work with me. I’m already incorporating more veggies into my bread (yes, I bake a ton of homemade bread – more on that later) and I’ve upped my fruit salad game significantly.

My kiddo doesn’t start public school until next year, but the more I see people sending their little ones off to school with packed lunches, the more I am inspired to craft fun lunches for the two of us. The bento box I brought with me to work this week had a grilled Portobello mushroom wrap waiting for me on Tuesday. The tin Hello Kitty lunchbox her highness treasures by filling with Legos may one day be full of zucchini bread.

If you’re interested in getting an amazeballs subscription box of deliciousness and helping reduce food waste in the process, check out this link: http://hgryhv.st/2hoYVUj – you can also use promo code HERO5 for $5 off your first box!

P.S. I am a Hungry Harvest Ambassador, which mostly means I REALLY love HH and wanted to work with them. 🙂 #hungryharvesthero

My First Half Marathon – After

I did it.

Truly, I have never felt that way before in my life.

First of all, I ran the first three miles. I slowed down a bit, but I didn’t walk at all until mile four. The second mile didn’t cripple me and the humidity didn’t drown me. Just with that alone, I was proud of myself for pushing through and running the first 5k without stopping.

Second of all, runners are warriors. I met so many people who are so supportive and gracious and giving. I ran with people who are living with lupus, who run to raise awareness. I ran with amputees who have embraced every part of themselves in order to run just like everyone else can. I ran with parents whose children are struggling, and they run to give their kids hope. I ran with people who are depressed, anxious, suicidal, sick, you name it, who run to feel better.

There were the pacers (the people running at set pace times for runners who want to complete at a certain point – 2:30 pacers, 2:15 pacers, etc.) who saw someone lagging behind and shouted “Let’s move it, come on!”

There was the girl who was running with her friend and saw me start to slow down. As she passed me, she smacked me on the back and said “You’ve got this.”

There was the woman in the Yankees cap who was on her phone almost the whole race because “Honey, if I’m listening to somebody else’s problems, I ain’t worried about my burning thighs.”

I nearly cried half a dozen times as I ran. Not because I was in pain (and after the eleventh mile, you bet I WAS) and not because I wanted to stop. My eyes welled up more than I care to admit because I was doing it. I used to hate running and now I am a runner. I kept feeling this rush of emotion that I’d never attached to exercise before. The runner’s high isn’t a one time surge or thrill. Through 13.1 miles, my high came and went in waves. I crested it then pushed through the following two miles. Then I did it again.

God, it was amazing.

I didn’t finish in the time that I’d hoped, but I’m still faster than I used to be. My legs burned and I was glazed in sweat. (My fingers swelled, too???) But I haven’t been so proud of myself in such a long time.

The Army Ten Miler is next month.

My First Half Marathon – BEFORE

I’m so scared.

In five days, I’m supposed to run 13.1 miles and NOT die.

The only question I have for myself right now is “Mary Grace, what in God’s name were you thinking?”

Granted, if I can so a 16 mile overnight walk through Philly, I can most certainly handle a 13 mile run that I’ve been training for since March, but holy cow, I didn’t think I’d be this nervous about it.

My hip is doing okay (and boy, do I feel like an old lady writing that), my knees are so much better (now that I’m not favoring the one and screwing up the other in the process anymore), my breathing has improved, my pace has evened out, and my stamina is… getting there.

And if you’d shown me that paragraph a year ago, I would have maybe gone cross-eyed.

But as anxious as I am that I’m going to fall on my face or torque my knee or land funny, I’m that much more proud of myself. I made myself run and now I’m a runner. I worked toward a goal for six month and it’s nearly here. I am so much happier and healthier since I’ve been running because it’s something that I do for myself on my own time that makes me feel good. That might sound silly and I know it’s not true for every single person who runs, but I’m just… better.

And in five days, I run farther than I ever have – only because I’m told you’re not supposed to run the full distance until race day, not because I was avoiding it…

At all…

No…

BUT! I will be surrounded by many other runners, and that always helps me keep a better pace. I will be running through a city I love and supporting a cause close to my heart.

I’m told that there’s nothing like running through the city and each time you start to falter, you have a new landmark to look forward to in the next mile. I’m told that that’s what gets you through the walls in your head that your body knows how to knock down.

And I’m told that the home stretch is when you can see the Art Museum toward the end of the course. That’s when you push and end strong.

And the part of me that’s NOT super nervous and isn’t AT ALL worried about eating pavement? That part can’t wait.

Wonder Woman and Global Running Day

Full disclosure: there are no SPOILERS, but there are certainly hints. If you are unfamiliar with the DC comic universe, this may not make much sense… 

I took a vacation day this past Friday so that I could give Wonder Woman as much of my money as possible.

It was 100% worth it.

Don’t get me wrong: I certainly have my (minor) criticisms and nit-picky things, but I truly don’t think that I will ever NOT cry during Diana’s first battle crossing No Man’s Land.

Ugly tears. Like an angst-riddled toddler.

After seeing this magnificent piece of cinema thrice in one day, I then spent the weekend working, cleaning my apartment, baking with Sophie, and making up for the fact that I was too sick and then too busy to run for the past two weeks.

Imagine my surprise when I beat my split by over a minute.

I thought for a moment that the app tracking my miles was being finicky. There was no way I was suddenly running a nine minute mile (I know I’m slow, okay??) after fifteen days of nada. My average even before then had been around the ten and a half point.

But I do have a theory.

My feet hit the pavement on Saturday morning when all I could think of was that scene from Wonder Woman. I imagined Diana taking the battlefield and deflecting bullets one by one. I imagined a shield on my back and a lasso of truth on my hip, and I swear those thoughts are what made me run faster.

And I think I now know what a runner’s high feels like.

I know it sounds pretty cheesy, and I know that I’m a grown woman who ought to be past  the time of pretending to be a superhero running down the street, but here’s the deal: I didn’t have that as a child. I remember the first time I saw Christopher Reeve fly and thinking how amazing it was, but never once did I think to myself “Oh, I could do that!”

I could never see myself as Superman.

And I didn’t have a truly heart-stopping moment of awe with any DC superhero until Dawn of Justice when the shield lowered and there was Diana (with, I might add, the greatest possible theme music).

I ran like the wind yesterday – or as close to the wind as I probably could have come – all the while, thinking of my beloved Princess of the Amazons. It hurt like hell, but the second I stopped, I felt amazing. I felt invincible.

And this morning I heard on the radio that today is Global Running Day.

I’m off to grab my running shoes and my imaginary lasso.

 

Ouch

My body hurts.

I ran over ten miles last week, and before I know it, I’ll be running ten miles in a day

Remind me why I thought becoming a runner was a swell plan…?

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Because my swollen, mud splattered ankles make for top notch blog copy. 

I have found, though, that I am already starting to reap the benefits of getting off my own butt and doing something active on a regular basis. At work yesterday, Nino looked over and said, “You’re skin looks really great – what have you been doing?” As this particular workplace happens to be a cosmetics shop, I’m sure he was expecting me to tell him I switched moisturizers or started sleeping on a silk pillowcase. When I told him I’d been running, he nodded anyway and just said, “Yep. That makes sense.”

Yes, my body still hurts, but not as much as it did that first day, and not nearly as much as I would have expected it to after two weeks of running four to five days a week. I still want to rip off my own feet at the end of mile two most days, but at least that distracts me from my knee, which honestly hans’t been bugging me as much as I would have thought. I’ve also got a pretty impressive bruise on my thigh from a spill I took the other day on my trail of choice, but I’m proud of myself for getting up from said spill and finishing that day’s mile goal.

I suppose what I’m learning is that running is hard, but worth it. I have to make myself do it and those initial few moments of “crap, I don’t want to” are probably harder to get through than a stitch in my side on mile two. There will always be reasons why I shouldn’t or can’t or won’t, but the reasons I should or can or will are more important.

Becoming a Runner

I ran twice last week, and no, I was not being chased by something scary.

That’s a perfectly reasonable assumption, though, since I kind of hate running.

My lovely friend Keebs and I are planning on doing a 5k together this June. If you are unfamiliar with the Color Run, I encourage you to educate yourself below…

In the interest of getting pelted by colorful dust, getting some sweet photos, and gaining quality bonding time with Keebs, I agreed.

Then I remembered I hated running.

I just need to establish that. I really do hate it.

All of that said, I don’t want to hate it. I am not the sort of person (or, at least, I prefer to think that I’m not) whose favored topic of conversation is my disdain for all things. I don’t count my worth by my ability to trash the stuff others enjoy. I do make honest attempts at understanding why people like the things that they do, even if thoroughly incomprehensible to me.

For example, jellyfish scare the shit out of me. I don’t think this is a totally unjustified fear. However, I can see how others find them fascinating. I can go to an aquarium and see them in a tank and see them as interesting and, in their own scyphozoan way, rather beautiful. That does not mean I want to encounter one without the shield of a very thick pane of plexiglass.

Mosquitoes, on the other hand… no. Get out of here with that. I’m within the sphere of reason to despise mosquitoes on a basic human level.

Running, though, I am intrigued by. I don’t like doing it, but I really admire the people who wake up at 5:00 in the morning to run ten miles. I admire what it takes to train for a marathon and commit to that kind of physical strain/pressure/exhaustion/elation. I do really want to know what a runner’s high feels like.

I also need to exercise more often. The week I turned twenty-six, I feel like my body got  a huge smack in the face, and I suddenly couldn’t stomach Taco Bell anymore.

Amidst all of this internal debate/existential crisis/potential quarter-life meltdown, this gem popped up on my recommendations as I perused YouTube one day.

If homegirl can run a flipping marathon with ten weeks of training, I can run five measly kilometers.

Or, at least, I should be able to…

Any advise on this matter is appreciated…

XO
Pepper