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I have quite a few friends that have separated and then divorced and opted to live super close to one another so that their children can move freely between the two homes. It’s probably really excellent for their emotional development and surely can make shared custody easier.
My parents split up more than twenty years ago. For the most part, I can say that I am used to it by now. But you see, they lived almost 800 miles apart. It made seeing them both around holidays pretty challenging. My dad was more than 500 miles away from me and my mom was a little shy of 300.
This morning I drove the 1.2 miles from my house to my dad’s so that I could say hello. And then I ran from my dad’s house to my mom’s (almost finished) house via mostly the road and through downtown.
I ran back to my dad’s house via the River Walk (the scenic route, I suppose, although I would argue that downtown is pretty scenic, too.)
It’s not walking distance. But I plan to run.
I am 43 years old, almost 44, and my mom and dad are going to live right down the street. Both of them. I can’t even begin to explain how happy this makes me. It should make their shared custody of me much easier.
Losing Fisher the day after Emily’s 11th birthday was a blow to our family. For thirteen years I’d looked into his sweet face and asked him, “are you Mama’s best boy?” He never had to answer. He knew it. I knew it. Everyone knew it. He was my best boy.
I didn’t make it until Thanksgiving even until I was looking for a new pup. I couldn’t do it, the no dog life. My heart broke every time I opened the door. The quiet, the empty space at the foot of my bed. (Who am I kidding? Up near the pillows…) I am a dog person. And a dog person without a dog is just a mess.
A listing for a “black lab mix” named Adidas led me to meeting a ridiculous little pup with sharp teeth and no tail. I wasn’t sure he was the one, but how do you know? Puppies are adorable, all of them. How do you say no to a puppy?
I asked the vet tech how old she thought he was and she flipped open a folder. “It says here that he was born on September 19th.”
Fisher left us on the very same day that this little black dog came into the world. Put him in the car, we are taking him home!!
He was a baby. So we spoiled him. My human baby was getting bigger by the minute, my big kid was a precocious pre-teen. I needed something to love and he was perfect. He was a menace, don’t get me wrong. But he was a puppy.
And then he got bigger and he was kind of still a pain in the ass. He ran away when we opened the doors; he was just a pest in a way that I didn’t remember from the last dog, the best boy.
And then we got some answers in the form of those dog DNA tests. He was a beagle!
Turns out that he is an American Staffordshire Terrier and Chow Chow mix on one side. So, he is strong, stubborn, perhaps a little bit of a challenge to train. But the lineage on one entire side as far back as they can see? Beagle, pure pain in the ass.
So, we got down to the business of training him. Cue the laughter. We took a puppy class, we stopped yelling at him when he followed his nose right out the door. We accepted that he is food motivated and I had dog treats in my pockets for about a year.
And here we are.
Today he is three. He whines at night if he is outside of the covers and will not simply burrow down on his own. You must lift the blankets and invite him to come back to bed.
He stares at me whenever I am in the house.
He steals food, paper, pens and television remote controls.
When I was pregnant with Lucy I worried that if I had another daughter I wouldn’t know how to love her as much as I loved Emily. It would be simpler to have a son, right? Then I would always have my favorite daughter and my favorite son. Experienced parents, including my own mother, had long told me that the heart expands. And sure enough, that has been exactly how it all turned out. I love my girls, both of them, more than I could imagine, and each so differently.
But my dogs?
You’ve heard the old song “Michael Finnegan?” We sing it in our house about the dog.
“There was a black dog and his name was Finnegan,
He fell down and broke his shin again,
The doctor said he will never swim again,
Poor black dog named Finnegan, Begin again….”
With Finnegan we truly did “begin again.”
I worried that I would not settle on new nicknames, new patterns of behavior. That this sweet pup would steal my heart and with time I would lose Fisher more and more every day.
I tell him every day that he is the “worst dog ever.” I put his face in my hands and I get very close to him and breathe in his god forsaken breath and I whisper to him “You are a terrible dog. Do you know that? You are a bad, bad boy.”
He remains unfazed.
The girls asked me yesterday what he was getting for his birthday. I replied quickly, “He gets to live with us for another year.”
I used to write you letters so that you could look back someday and remember what you were like when you were little…. as I sit down now to write to you, I realize that perhaps you should write a letter to me. I wonder if years from now I could accurately describe the Emily June that is fourteen. Could you even describe yourself these days?
Baby, I look at that long body asleep on the couch on a Saturday afternoon and I wonder if I even know her. You breeze through the kitchen with sports bags and lunch boxes and backpacks, a whirlwind of mess and things and homework and hungry and I wish we could just stop and look at one another. I can see the little girl you once were. And sometimes I can see the fully grown Emily June you will someday be…. but that teenage girl that you are this very minute, sometimes I wonder if I know her at all.
Trust. That is what we are building right now. Sometimes I barely see you for days on end and I trust that you will holler if you need me. I am certain you will text me when you need cash or forgotten softball cleats. But I must trust that if you need me…. you will climb back into my bed. You will curl up under my arm and let me hold you once more. I must trust that my smart, savvy teenager will use her big, beautiful mind and “make good choices.”
Trust. I don’t get to hug you very often but when I do I bury my face against the top of your head and I inhale and I trust that you will still smell like you.
Trust. I give you boundaries and tools instead of hard and fast rules and I trust that you will find your own way. It may not always look like my way or the path that I’d have chosen but I must trust that you are finding your way, the only way you know how.
Trust. I must trust that in these short years that we have left together, in one house, we will solidify this family unit. We will be the safe place to which you return. Forever.
You will be fine. You are smart and kind and confident. You will not choose to eat Bojangles for every meal some day and you will eventually hang up a wet towel without being reminded. You are doing a pretty damn fine job of growing up.
Baby, I trust you. Know that. Remember it. My trust is not something I give freely. I love you with my whole heart and I trust that these next few years might be a little messy. And you know what? When I tell you “No” or dig around behind your back for more information, it is not that I do not trust you. I trust that you are turning out to be a perfectly imperfect teenager. You’re going to screw up, you’re going to get back up and try again. My wish for you is that you fail spectacularly from time to time. Why? It will mean that you set yourself some big, fat, audacious (look it up) goals and you tried.
Now is the time for you to trust me. I have your back. Look. And then leap, Baby Girl. We just get this one life. Get after it, Em. Your dad and I are here for you when you fall. Trust that.
As a side note, may I say that I am simply SHOCKED to hear that you did not wear this adorable birthday hat to school!! Last time your sister and I pick out a darling birthday hat clip on hair piece for you at Party City, harrruumph!!
I love you. Happy Birthday, baby.
Momma (I still do not know why you insist on calling me this or spelling it this way, but after fourteen years, I give up.)
And here are your birthday letters from the past….
You can pick your friends. And you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose.
You know that saying, right? It’s a handy parenting tool. It teaches your kids that they have control over their friendships, over their own bodies. And that they should keep their hands to themselves. All good stuff, no?
No. It took me 42 years to realize that you actually can’t pick your nose. Not as often as you might like to anyway.
On Monday I turned 42. Forty-two trips around the sun. More than a handful of close friends. And if I am painfully (and I do mean painfully) honest I have picked my own nose about forty-five thousand times. (It likely took me a couple of years to really have the dexterity but once I got the hang of it – I just really like the way my nose feels when it is squeaky clean! So forty-two years, three hundred and sixty-five days a year times three or four picks a day.) Forty-five thousand nose picks. And it’s fine, right? You can pick your friends. And you can pick your nose. But you can’t pick your friend’s nose.
Sometime last summer I had what I thought was a zit on the end of my nose. I did what I do. Home surgery and some peroxide and I should be good to go. It scabbed. I picked it. Wash and repeat.
I knew that it had been around a while. But when my birthday rolled around I remembered thinking last summer that the pool would probably clear up my zit. And here it is nearly Memorial Day again. My birthday. Same scab on the end of my nose.
So, I googled. Obviously, Dr. Google informed me that my death is imminent. But when I looked beyond that diagnosis of certain death it was pretty obvious what was going on. I had a cyst, not a zit. And you know what causes a cyst on the end of your nose? Picking it.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t commit to year-long lifestyle choices. But now and then I just quit something. I quit smoking a lifetime ago. It took more than a few tries. But I did it. I quit for good.
So, I am 42 years old and I am going to quit picking my nose. You heard it here first.
But it didn’t take me four days to wrap my mind around picking my nose.
I think it is time to stop picking the scabs. All of them. I’ve spent the better part of the last decade healing, healing and making peace. Healing from a broken heart, healing from childbirth, healing from a really outrageous view of my body and the damaging self-talk that I indulged in as a young woman. Making peace with the end of a marriage, making peace with the stability and comfort of being with MQD. Making peace with being a strong, fit, capable woman. Making peace with exactly who I am right now.
You can’t make peace when you pick the scabs. The healing that is happening in that scab is not just halted, it is set back when you pick open the wound. For just a moment there is no scab, there is just new pink skin and you can imagine what it felt like before there was any damage, it’s just smooth and like new. And then the skin gets red and maybe there is even blood. And so you begin again. New scab. Wash and repeat.
I am sure you’ve heard that old joke about mental health professionals being the craziest in the bunch? Maybe people are drawn towards helping others in the arenas in which they themselves need the most help. As a group fitness instructor and as a personal trainer I talk a lot about what holds us back. We identify the road blocks. We find solutions.
And I think I figured out what is holding me back. I pick. I pick and pick. I heal and then I pick.
But I am going to try to quit. I am certain that I won’t quit cold turkey. After all I have done it at least forty-five thousand times. But I have identified what’s holding me back and it’s not that I don’t know how to heal. I just can’t seem to stop picking.
So it turns out that you can pick your friends. And maybe that’s all you need to do. Thank you, thank you, friends that I have made in my 42 trips around the sun.
It is the eve of Lucky Number Seven. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was trying to figure out exactly how a person can be so certain that another person is “right.”
And yet today, seven years after we were married, I sat across a table from MQD and laughed. And I looked at him and I thought simply, “We’re gonna make it.”
We went to lunch today. We had a cocktail at the bar where we tend to end up. I wore my wedding dress because I like to get it out every year for our anniversary date. We did the things that we always do. Because we have at long last been together long enough to have things that we always do.
Good grief, I love this man. After seven years, that’s all I’ve got. I just do. No need to elaborate on it, really. Because he knows. And I have never felt so sure of anything.
It feels good to do the things you always do. I’ve got big plans to keep on loving this man. And maybe, just maybe I will write again soon. It was a thing I always did once.
Like many of you I have spent the last week wondering about the many, many people in this country that I do not understand. I have reached out privately to a handful of people to ask simply “Help me to understand.”
No matter which side of the aisle you call home it is quite likely that you have recently become painfully aware that there is a huge population of people that think, act, feel differently than you. We live in a world where we can carefully cultivate our social media feeds and our friendships. Through the simple act of sharing time with people with whom we have mutual interests we insulate ourselves from those that are different.
This morning I took the girls to see a bit of the Central Carolina Synchro Classic before church. I was sitting on the floor of the ice rink looking around before the skaters performed. Hundreds of families gathering to watch their kids perform feats of synchronized figure skating. The makeup, the hair, the costumes, the anticipation. Judges and banners and accessories that I had never seen before. It was like I was inside a scene that I didn’t even know existed before this morning.
And then the kids “took the ice.” (See? That’s a phrase, take the ice, that I didn’t even know until this morning.) It was amazing. I had no idea what I was watching. It was like watching football games when I was young. It was exciting. All of those people, the music, the uniforms, and the equipment and the cheering. I had not a clue what I was looking at. So they were spinning in a circle and holding hands and I started wondering “Is this good? Are these kids really great? Is this impressive? I have no idea.” The only figure skating I see regularly is the Olympic skating on television. The only skating I have seen in person is the Ice Capades. I really had no frame of reference.
This morning’s trip to see the skaters didn’t start out as a political statement. I was not crossing a great divide to mingle among the skaters. I was simply indulging my little one’s interests because she will be skating as a mouse in our local Nutcracker on Ice this year. Before I volunteer to help out I figured I had better get an idea of what this stuff is all about. But all of a sudden I realized I was sitting in a large room with hundreds of people that I didn’t understand. I had no idea what it takes to be doing what they’re doing. But I could admire it.
It was wonderful. And sparkly.
I am going to try so very hard in coming weeks to put myself into groups of people that I don’t understand, groups of which I am not a part. Because I don’t know what I might find. As I was leaving this morning I ran into an old friend from high school. Haven’t seen her since probably 1993ish? I wouldn’t have run into her if I just stayed in my box where I belong.
I triple dog dare you to go out into the world and seek out some people that are different than you. It doesn’t have to be a different political ideology or an ethnicity that is different than yours to start. Just open your eyes and see if there is something right in front of you that you don’t usually see. For me – there is a synchronized ice skating team that practices at the gym. And I have never really seen them until today. And it turns out that they’re wonderful. And sparkly.
This morning I woke with you in my arms. “What time is it?” you asked me. “Time for school, kiddo.”
You rolled over, all arms and legs, and groaned. Moments later you sat down at the kitchen counter in running shorts and a hoodie. “Casual day today, huh?” You smiled.
“So. Being eleven has pretty much sucked so far, huh?”
You laughed and your eyes filled with tears. I turned away and offered to make you some eggs for breakfast. I don’t usually cook in the morning but I wanted to be busy and I couldn’t look at you. I knew if you looked me in the eyes you would try to stay home with me today. I can’t ever fool you.
“It’s just that everything we do all day will make us miss him even more, Mom. It will really feel real when I get off the bus. Even though it’s different now, like he doesn’t run down the driveway anymore, he still comes out…”
You stood and I wrapped you in my arms. You have grown so tall. And you have grown into this warm, compassionate, funny girl. We held onto one another in the kitchen until Lucy barged in and broke up our sobfest.
Yesterday, after Fisher was gone, we were sitting in the living room, you and me and Dad. I mentioned that I should probably throw out his dog bed before one of us was curled up in it, breathing in his scent and sobbing. Dad broke the silence as he said “Yeah, Mom is really trying to help me save face here because I was just about to do that…” Your laughter was so perfectly right on time.
Not an hour before Fisher was gone you were eating an oatmeal raisin cookie and you broke off a little piece for him You stopped and pulled your hand back “But the raisin….” and we all laughed. You have my same horrible sense of humor. But you have a quiet confidence that didn’t come from me. I love it.
Em, I am sorry that this birthday will always be the day before Fisher died. But I will never forget the gracious, loving, incredible young woman you turned into when you were only eleven years and one day old. I asked you if you wanted to be in the room when Fish was put to sleep and you said that you did. And then I asked you for a difficult favor. “Baby, I am going to need to be there for Fish. And just kind of do everything I need to do for me to let him go, if you’re there, too, I am going to need you to just kind of take care of you for a minute and I feel awful even saying that…” You interrupted me to assure me that you knew that already and that you’d be fine.
The veterinary assistant was carrying Fisher to the front door when you sat down in my lap and put your head onto my chest. “Oh, Mommy….” Together, we wept.
This morning the bus pulled up at the bottom of the driveway and I kissed you quickly and said “Don’t worry about me today.” You smiled back at me. “Impossible.”
You’re incredible, Emily June. I love you and your big puppy feet.
I am almost always the first one out of bed. There is a light on the kitchen counter and I turn it on and head towards the coffee maker. Right about then there is usually a thump. Fisher is jumping out of bed. He heads into the kitchen and I say “Go back to bed, buddy. It’s early.”
For years he would head straight to his dog bowl but recently he would sometimes head back to the bedroom. I would return to the bedroom and help him back into bed. Sometimes when I left in the morning I would fill his bowl and he would still be snoozing.
This morning I went out into the kitchen and wept. He was gone.
Last week I took Fisher in for a check up. The days that he decided not to eat had been outnumbering the days that he was eating. Lab tests came back and indicated that something wasn’t quite right. Our vet asked if we wanted to come back in later in the week for x-rays. I explained that Emily would be turning eleven on Sunday and that I needed the weekend. We started him on some antibiotics and hoped for the best.
On Saturday I almost called the vet to say that I felt like I had my old dog back. On Sunday morning I fed him before I left for a run. I came home to discover that he had tricked Mike and the kids into feeding him again. Old man was up to his old tricks. Emily’s birthday was the kind of day where we were all together and everything was just right. I went to bed Sunday evening with my girls upstairs and Fisher curled up on my feet. If an ordinary day can be almost perfect than Sunday nearly was.
I struggle with Em’s birthdays. She is getting older every day it seems and her independence is startling. When I woke up just after midnight I was teary and struggled to go back to sleep. I ran up the stairs and peeked in on each of the girls. I let Fisher outside and sat on the couch to wait for him to come back and scratch at the door. He was out longer than normal so I opened the door and called for him. For a moment I thought “If that bastard went outside and died tonight I will never forgive him.” It was dark and I really didn’t want to be out on my knees in the dirt sobbing. Just then he came around the corner and he looked so tired. We came back in and he went straight to the bedroom. I tried to get him to come back out for some water but he didn’t want any.
I went back to the bedroom and patted his spot on the bed. For weeks now I have helped him get the back legs up. He would jump up into bed when nobody was home but if I was home he would whine until I helped him. “Come on, let’s go to bed.” He curled up on the floor and he wouldn’t look at me. I went back to bed and tossed and turned. Eventually I joined him on the floor and listened to him snore, pressing my face against his ears as I have done so many times before.
In the morning I told Mike that I was worried about him. He didn’t eat. We joked that he was likely still full from Sunday’s double breakfast. I admitted that I was possibly just being melodramatic what with Em’s birthday and Lucy sleeping in her own bed. I was running out of babies to baby and was just focusing all of my attention on my old man. We sat on the front porch and waited for the school bus. Lucy and Fisher were slow to come back up the front steps.
In the morning I called the vet to schedule a time to take him back in. They had an appointment in the late afternoon available. I hung up and put it on the calendar and the phone rang. “You can bring him in right now if you’d rather.”
When our vet came back in with the lab results she said that his hematocrit levels had dropped rapidly in the five days since they had seen him. She said his anemia was likely the cause of his lethargy and that x-rays could give us some answers. I said “I would rather be worried sick and here than worried sick and at home. We can stay all day if we need to…”
Lucy and Fish and I just lay on the floor and goofed off. Lucy is good company when I am worried. She has a pretty black and white world view. “We don’t even know what’s wrong yet, Mom!” So no tears from me!
When the vet came back in after his x-rays she said “Lucy do you want come up front and color a picture for a minute while we talk to your Mom?” I knew everything I needed to know right then. “We just took one picture and that was all we needed to see.”
I am not much of a hugger but as she said “It’s cancer and it’s in his lungs,” I clung to her in the hopes that I would not slide to the floor. “You don’t have to do anything right now. But you will need to make some decisions soon. He is one tough dog…”
I explained that I felt like I was crazy this morning but that I knew. You read those stories about how people live until their grandchild is born and then they pass in their sleep. Or a husband passes and days later the wife joins him. He had given me one more weekend. I had asked him for one more and he rallied. But he was holding on just barely and I had to let him go.
Lucy was coloring calmly in the lobby. “Come on, Lu, we are going to take Fish home.” In silence the three of us got back in the car. It had been pouring down rain all morning, a perfectly gloomy morning. I had seven hours. Seven more hours to make sure he knew that I loved him.
Mike came home quickly and picked up Em from school. She knew right away when she saw him that it was Fisher. “Baby girl, Fish is sick…. we have to say goodbye and let him go…”
We spent the day on the floor in the living room. Shortly before the vet came to the house we tried to take him for one last walk. He peed on some mailboxes. He was trotting along and making me doubt our choices and I was sobbing as I watched him. And then not a quarter of a mile from our house he just sat down. He was done. Mike went back to the house for the car and we sat in the middle of the street and laughed at our stubborn old man. One more car ride and we were all back assembled in the living room.
Fisher was my constant. In a life of heartbreak and new houses and divorce and new love and marriage and babies and change he was my one thing that was unwavering. I have been dreading this day since Emily was only a few months old. When the vet looked at me yesterday and said “Are you ready?” I lowered my face into his chest and sobbed.
Fish, I brought my babies home to you. I will take care of the babies… you, go. I got this….
To say that I did not have high hopes for this morning’s long run was an understatement. I am walking the fine line between being committed and over-trained. Triathlon training is awesome when you do it right. When you don’t and you just mishmash your training schedule together by marrying a bike race plan and a half marathon plan with your swimming program you wind up having a schedule with a shitload of double workouts. That works for me for the most part since I have the time. But the risk of injury increases as the volume increases. And injury is something I fear with every part of my being.
Injury would mean I would surely burn my house down and my kids would show up to school looking like feral children – unfed, unwashed and filthy. Training keeps me sane. So. The pressure is on to not get hurt.
I’ve been trying something new. The long, slow run. I used to run every run, bike every ride, swim every lap like it should be faster than the last. If my six-mile run today was slower than the one a few days ago than surely I was not showing improvement and I was doing something wrong. But the truth is I just get super tired. Because I don’t ever rest.
So. I am trying. This morning’s plan for a long, slow run should have been just fine. But my stomach was not stoked on this idea. Runners know. The stomach rules the mind. If you wake up and poop before you put your shoes on – you will surely have a super sweet run. Wake up and poop many times before you put your shoes on – danger ahead.
I decided to risk it. Routed my run past some of my favorite bathroom stops (to avoid this situation) and off I went. Running slowly is tough when I listen to tunes so I opted for podcasts. I am head over heels in love with Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Anonymous podcast. I hit play on my phone in iTunes. I hit go on my Garmin. I erupted into laughter as I looked at the title. Hot Scoop. 56 minutes and 12 seconds of poop stories.
I love a poop story. I do. As I wound around downtown in and out of the Hog Day 5K I was chuckling. Nothing makes you feel like a bigger fool than running in the middle of a 5K with four water bottles. Ever see one of those kids wearing a jacket and gloves and a scarf on the first day that it is less than 70 degrees outside? I felt like that kid. Anyway… the miles and the poop stories were ticking by and I was settling into the slowest run in history.
I always, always run roads that I know. I add up miles in my head and have a plan all of the time. I am not sure exactly what came over me but I turned up a street and found myself on a road that I’ve never run before. It just went up. And up. And up some more. All of a sudden I noticed a new feeling. I didn’t care that I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t care that it was all uphill. I couldn’t see the end but I was content to just keep trucking along because I knew that eventually I could turn around and come back down. The street name – Hill Avenue.
Just as I got to thinking that I really should probably look at the map and make sure I wasn’t going to dump myself out on a highway I saw a cemetery, Rosewood Cemetery.
In the spring of 1990 I got a teeny tiny rose tattoo. It is one of only a couple of tattoos that I have ever picked off of a flash sheet. This teeny little rose is quite possibly the most common tattoo in all of the world. I have seen it on ankles and shoulders and wrists in my travels over the last twenty-six years more often than I count. (Holy, shit I have a twenty-six year old tattoo!) The image on the Rosewood Cemetery sign – it was my red flower.
I ran past the cemetery for another few minutes before I bumped into a highway and opted to turn around and enjoy the downhill ride.
I struggled with the downhill. The data-driven psycho in me wanted to take advantage of the downhill to drop my average speed back down to something I would consider more respectable. But I tried to keep it slow. I focused on my breath. I focused on everything around me. And then like a gift from the universe I looked up and saw Occoneechee Mountain. I live less than half a mile from there but rarely have an opportunity to really see it.
I stopped and took a picture and just looked. I love where I live. That’s kind of a big deal, guys. Not everyone can say that. It’s hard to see it in the picture but in the background there…. that’s a mountain!
Just about here the poop stories were wrapping up and Chris Gethard moved on to chat with a young woman who was in what she described as “a cardboard boat.” She was sinking, in spite of her best efforts to cobble together a life that was well-designed. Was it just made of the wrong materials? Chris’ podcast is a beautiful opportunity to listen to people talk and an even more wonderful opportunity to hear Chris share the many tidbits of wisdom he has collected after a decade in therapy. Here I was running down a road I have never run when he says something to the effect of “My therapist told me to never walk the same way home from work twice. The easiest way to get a fresh perspective on things is to literally look at new shit. Every day.”
I have these new orange running shoes that I am not sure if I hate. They are so orange. Traffic cone orange. A woman asked me the other day “do those make you run faster?” I said “They damn sure better because they sure as shit don’t look good.”
Running along and thinking about looking at new things I saw three orange roses. I would never plant orange roses. But they were beautiful. And it made me kind of like my shoes a little better.
Sometimes I write a blogpost in my mind and try to get it all down before it’s gone. Today I just had a feeling… this perfectly unplanned feeling of being content. I just wanted to remember it. Slow down. Go a different way. Let go of expectations. Listen to the poop stories. Laugh. Keep going. You have no idea what you might see.
Being an extroverted introvert makes some things difficult. One of those things that is tricky is busting in on a group of people that are already established. They have a rhythm and a routine. I am kind of a big personality (shut up, I know that is an understatement.) And finding my place in a group of personalities that already have a vibe is delicate. I don’t really know how to take a back seat.
But the back seat is exactly where you sit when you are the new kid that joins a group of people that regularly share a swim lane. Treading water next to the lane line while you wait for your spot to grab the wall and try to think of something clever to say in the ten seconds you have before the next swim set starts is exhausting. Never mind the swimming part. I always feel like a 12-year-old kid in the back seat of a car. I can kind of hear the conversation but the windows are down and the infinitely cooler teenage driver and their counterpart in the front seat are smiling and laughing and I am nodding along and treading water and trying to not look clueless.
5:30 a.m. Master’s swim practice is a strange animal. It’s not the retired folks from mid-morning or the work from home people from lunchtime. Both of those groups are happy to chat it up poolside. These people are getting in and out and getting on with their lives. They’re busy people or so it seems. And nobody is particularly chatty when it is still practically the middle of the night. So how do you get to know them? How do you find a rapport?
You keep showing up. Therein lies the problem. I can think of a zillion reasons not to get up before five in the morning. Add in a little social anxiety and I can convince myself to bail on practice. Easy peasy.
But on Wednesday there was this lady that made me laugh. Hard. She said “I’m going to make an art film called Sounds From the Pool” as we were all gasping for breath in the cold water. Later in the practice as the gasping had to turned to heavy breathing I said “If you started the film just with sounds – snapping of the swim cap, gasping and then creepy, heavy breathing – it would totally sound like a dirty movie. Condoms and then hot and heavy humping…” She didn’t miss a beat, guys. She immediately grabbed onto my ridiculousness. She was my people.
This morning I considered sleeping through practice. But I kinda sorta wanted to see her again. She was funny. At 5:30 in the morning. She’s a rare breed.
I make friends the way drunk girls in bathrooms make friends. I like to go from “Hi, my name is…” to “OHMYGODYOUAREMYBESTFRIENDEVER” in about four minutes. It doesn’t always work out well. I am trying to play it cool. I am.
But when I saw her this morning and she made me laugh again before I even had my goggles on – well, I was smitten. While swimming this morning I was thinking about how stressful it must have been to have been a swimmer in high school. Imagine sharing a lane with someone you are crushing on. You’d spend the 200 yards you were swimming thinking of something clever to say in the ten seconds you might share at the wall. And then when you said it there would be a 50% chance that it went unheard. So if nobody laughs did they not hear you? Do you try and say it again? Or would you then become that weird girl that repeats herself and thinks she is funny? (Again, shut up. I know that is self-referential.)
This morning as we were climbing out of the pool and laughing I decided to just go out on a limb and ask “do you stay home with your kids?” There’s a certain camaraderie among people who might not talk to anyone else all day that is not biologically related to them. Maybe it is a momentary “holyshitwebettermakethiscount” kind of feeling but whatever it is – she had it, I knew it.
We joked about how it is hard to MomFriend someone at swim practice when you only have ten seconds at a time to get your funny on. I mentioned that I write stand up routines in my head while I swim/bike/run and sadly the only people who ever hear them are my peeps at the grocery store.
“Do you do stand up?” she asked.
And it took everything in my power to not crumble to the floor at her feet on the pool deck. Only moments earlier she said something to the effect of “that’s a sleeper that will make me laugh again and again all day” and I could feel myself stand up a little taller. We’ve only just met. She thinks I am funny. That’s my in, y’all. (Granted, my ten second schpiel on how sprinting breaststroke is like fast walking was pretty damn funny.) I know I get myself into trouble when I dive in prematurely – but I think I am making a new friend.
Maybe I will write some stand up, huh? Take this show on the road. And by on the road I mean to the Harris Teeter.
And it’s not like I need to find things to do. There’s new SnapChat filters on the daily, y’all.