Sunday, November 11, 2012

The 5 Stages of Runner's Grief

So, I started running again in July.

Whether you're a seasoned runner, or a kind of runner, you know one thing: it's a li'l different from any other sort of exercising; not necessarily harder or easier, just...different. I knew this. I used to run quite a bit. I ran cross country, ran track (well, jumped, technically). In the off-season, I would tend to disappear for long periods of time, not understanding my parents' dismay that a teenage girl was running in a valley by a creek alone, like ya do. My dad would come looking for me in his car, and ask casually if I wanted a ride as his tactic. NO, dad. I'm not GOING anywhere. This is the point, GOD! (I'll just run past this stretch of uninhabited land with trees that would effortlessly conceal my dead body and roll my eyes that you were, like, worried).

This tapered off in college, when I was bein' all exercise-y in classes. When I first moved to Chicago, I used to run around Wrigley Field. Oh, I'm SO CHICAGO!!! This means I live here now, my jogging around landmarks! Then, at some point I stopped. Just...didn't like it anymore. Like a shirt you've kept way too long, kinda still wear, then suddenly use to dust furniture.

But, ANYWAY, I tried every now and again, the emphasis on every now and again. Months, years apart, and it had been a year since the last attempt. I had been trying to exercise more. Well, exercise again, let's be honest. My recent history is spotty. When you walk around all day as part of your regular, city-dweller routine, I guess you fake yourself out into thinking that counts. Other than that, I'd probably been the least active I've ever been. Then one day this summer, for no particular reason, I got my ass into my running shorts and shoes and went for a jog. As anyone who has started running, either again or for the first time, as an adult, you will understand the following. For anyone thinking of doing this, it is my duty to prepare you for the process. Either way, you know you are not alone.

1. Denial

You walk to wherever the start point is, stretch a bit. Resolve to start slow and just see what happens. Hey, if it sucks, just stop, right? Just get into my groove, it's not a race!!!! Lalalalaaaa. Hey...this... ain't so bad! Pick it up a bit...oh, hello, squirrels! Just enjoying nature, like you! Hi, other joggers! We're all in this together!! Look at you and your game face! I can make that face, too! 

You begin to think you've got this in the bag. You imagine that your stride appears determined, yet graceful. You are a gazelle in New Balances.

I am a runner! This is great! I don't know WHY I put this off for so long? This AIR! AHH! You're the best. AROOOOUUUND. Nothinsgonnaeverkeepyadown...I only know the refrain... uuuhhhh... YOU'RE THE BEST! AROOOOUND.....

This lasts for roughly 90 seconds.

2. Anger

Not from you, from your body. Your legs start to burn a bit, gradually doubling in mass. Your lungs start to realize what's going on. Heeeeey, are we running or something...? Your face senses danger, and knows no other tactic than to play dead. The rest of your skin follows suit. Your ears begin to communicate the dismay of the others by punctuating every thud.

And then, it's sudden full-on panic from everywhere.

YOU SAID WE WERE GOING TO THE PARK!!! YOU LIED! WHERE ARE YOU TAKING US?! HELP! WE ARE BEING HELD AGAINST OUR WILL!!! It is pure fight or flight. Your quads try to escape through your skin; like they're trapped in a well with an aversion to Jergen's, and will not give up clawing their way out until they get your dog in the bucket.

Your heart realizes it's terrible in a crisis situation and freaks out.Your lungs are smart enough to know they can't escape, but they are vengeful. If they're going down, they're taking EVERYTHING down with them, like the fire demon in Lord of the Rings. They also really want to just throw out everything you ever gave them, so...they just do both. Because fuck you, that's why!

Your feet become useless. Limply protesting. They are two Wendys from The Shining. Your arms are mildly uncomfortable, struggling with survivor's guilt. Are we even really doing anything? She's not even moving us that much. Hands? Hey, hands? Just play dead like the face. Your eyelids hear this, and follow suit in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the south.

You realize your gazelle days are over. You look less like a leaping animal, and more like something that's trampling a small village, hut by hut, and all that is heard are screams and everything's on fire.

3. Bargaining

Your brain decides to play good cop/bad cop. Shut up, you weaklings! This is for your own good! We are not stopping! Hey, Chris? If we just stop and walk a minute, everyone will be a whole lot happier and maybe work more effectively. We are not stopping! This is ridiculous! We are making it to at least a full mile! Ok, if we make a mile, we'll walk, ok? Ok? A mile's not so ba-...ok, how about just run for 5 straight minutes. Let's just do that, and then we walk, ok? Everyone promises to be good, right guys?

In the meantime, every time it leaves the interrogation room, it's making side deals. If you can just tell me why, WHY, this is happening, I'll get you a plea bargain. I promise, I will handle everyone, and you can still walk away from this. Just tell me who's responsible.

Then eventually, it becomes desperate. I'll give you anything you want! ANYTHING! Please? I can't take this any more. The lambs are still screaming! 

4. Depression

You are in worse shape than you thought. You will never amount to anything. If the phrase "Life is a marathon, not a sprint" is accurate, then you doubly suck at life. You will die on this trail and be found next week under a tree by a kid retrieving his ultimate frisbee. He will be scarred for life, and never go near a tree again. He will be a broken man, walking out of his way one day to not see trees, and be run over by an H-3, and it will be all. Your. Fault. You are a murderer who can't even run a mile without stopping. I just hope you're happy with yourself.

5. Acceptance

You realize that it's just gonna suck the first time. You accept this level of suck.

You run as long as you can, and then you walk. And then you run again, and it sucks .1% less. Your body now has Stockholm Syndrome. Oh, it's okaaaaaaaay. You were just doing what you had to do. We understand. Let us help you. And then you walk. You make it home alive, having just gotten the first one out of the way, and it can only get less sucky from here. (You've forgotten that, actually, the third run, while not humiliating, is the worst. The second one is so much easier, that you think the third will be even better. But you forget that hamstrings believe that revenge is a dish best served cold. They lie in wait, like Michael Corleone, smiling to your face, just biding time...).

You realize it will take a few weeks, and then are genuinely surprised and pleased that that's true. You accept that, hey, sometimes you're just gonna swallow some bugs; who are you to deny extra protein?

And maybe you keep it up. Maybe because you like it again, or maybe out of resolve, or fear of losing your relationships with your lungs and quads permanently. I...I've never seen you guys that angry before. I felt like I didn't even know who you were. Maybe because you know that some things just take time, and now you have the patience. Which means you've grown as a person, so your brain was clearly full of shit with that guilt trip. But you forgive it, because you are not a heartless hamstring.

You still avoid clearings ideal for frisbee. Just in case.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Public Statement from The Department of Italian Moms

Hello, 'nice kids!'

This is the email and attached Word doc I got from my mom last night. (I love that she called it an 'article', so I had to include that in my 'bog.')

Take it away, Jayne:

Hi Honey,

Finally got time to write my thanks to your friends for their response to your article.
Hope it's ok. I could have written more but I think it says it all.
Love Mom

I want to thank all of you who answered my daughter Christine’s plea to help me get out of the “dumps” after my unexpected trauma.

The first day I received a package marked “Jayne Conley’s Book Club," I thought Oh no, I’m into something I did not order. When I realized what was going on and why, I was overwhelmed by the time, effort and expense that was put into this project by some pretty wonderful people. Some I knew and some I did not.

I received some pretty good “stuff” including cards and notes telling me why they picked a particular book along with get well wishes and prayers. I separated them all and kept the cards and notes attached to the 50 some books I received and the CD that was made by Liz of California.

I am happy to report I am all better and doing fine. I was released for work and am back to the real world. I have all your names in my heart and will never forget you generosity and kindness that made this situation a lot better.

Love to All
Jayne Conley

Friday, February 10, 2012

That One From That One Time

So.....I was reading comments, and noticed that I had a blogging I apparently wrote 2 years ago in the drafts folder thingy, and it was so good, I immediately forgot about it and never posted it. ANYWAY, I actually do remember this stupid day in history (just not, ya know....typing about it a whole lot) and it amused me *twist moustache*. So, what the hell. Here's some blog I found from a manic trip home for Christmas, written December 30, 2009. Enjoy.

I was flying out at the crack of dawn on Christmas Eve, so I figured it would be a good idea to go ahead and have 4 seconds of free time in the days preceding to, you know, buy all my Christmas presents and pack clothes to wear that matched. But, everything was packed. Coffee maker was set. I had my boarding pass. I'll just get up at 3:30am, it's only, what, 1 am now? Pssshaw. Grab a quick shower, zip the suitcase big enough to hold a body, and be on my way. La la la, right?

4:15am: wake up to light from phone with ringer off (d'oh!) as the cab company called. Twice. Merry clusterfuck to me!

I am not processing rational thought at this point. Chris, go outside immediately and tell the nice man you're coming. Put clothes on. Drink coffee- wait, no. But it's made, I have to- NONONO! Put it down. What are you doing?! PUT IT DOWN! I run outside and I'm off to the airport, as the cabbie regales me with the rivetting tale of how he was 20 min early because he passed up fares. I love when they do that. You're gonna get tipped, buddy. Christ. If you think you're the first guy to sit in front of my house for no reason, you're wrong. Let's get past this.

I get to the airport, and all is well. Except for my poor friend's flight being delayed. (I had serendipitously ended up in the seat next to my friend on his connecting flight to Pittsburgh from LA, and we were going to ride into town together. Not so much.) I'm heading to security for concourse C, aka: Siberia, and all is clear. Until I round the corner. No worries, iPod is engaged. Here's the thing, I tend to be unaware of the fact that I kinda start dancing when I zone out in line/on the train/on the street/etc. Amy Winehouse was a dark period of time for me in public. It's fairly harmless, but it's hard to explain when you're broken from your reverie by a security guard berrading you for not bringing plasic bags for your potentially dangerous lipgloss. What?! I'm sorry, I can't hear you over this sick ass beat?! I love when airport employees talk to you like you're 4. And for the record, O'Hare is the only airport in the universe that actually enforces the baggie thing, which makes me believe they're just assholes. "O-kaaaay, but next time you have to put everything in a plastic bag, or it'll be taken away." I just offer a sheepish apology and try to look like it's my first time at the rodeo, as I shuffle through security. But the hate burns bright in my chest. I don't think so, missy. Do you think I haven't mastered the art of passive carry-on success? You killed my mot- ok, you didn't. But the the pain of helplessly watching someone in ill-fitting pants absorb my schadenfreude as they throw away my brand new, discontinued Banana Republic body spray will forever be burned in my memory. It has taught me to master the savviness needed to skate by you. It has hardened me. You-1, Me-493. Revenge, it is sweet.

I shake my way to the tunnel to C. If you've never been to O'Hare, this is the techno tunnel. There are random, squiggly, multi-colored lights on the ceiling that mesmerize you as you gently glide through on the moving walkway. I usually underscore accordingly (Thome Yorke's Black Swan is an excellent choice). For a delirious kid like me at 5am, it was divine. Unce! Unce! Unce! Unce! At some point, I figure it's safe to call Pittsburgh and get someone to pick my ass up. I'm not confident in the fact that mother will remember this call ever took place, but I remain hopeful. I'm conscious for about 3 minutes on the plane, then it's curtains until I'm gently lulled awake by a screaming child. I drag myself through the breezeway and head to the tram, taking in the familiar sights with a familiar grain of salt-laden smile. I'm fairly certain the Pittsburgh Intl. Airport is the only place on earth where a statue of Franco Harris and George Washington are next to eachother, signifying equal importance. Immaculate Reception/First President of the United States. Tomato/tomahto, apparently. Directly below them is a skeleton of a Tyrannasauraus Rex. Where the hell am I? After a series of nonsensical attempts at communication, it is determined that my brother just woke up, and I was stuck with the dinosaur and General Washington and a guy that looked like Santa in a tan plaid shirt (again, could've been hallucinating) until he got his shit together. Brilliant. Guess I'll shop.

I thought I was having a bad day, until I saw the chick that has to run The Body Shop kiosk next to baggage claim at 8:30am. Burn. I took pity, and picked out some sympathy hand cream. Upon inquring about the price, I'm told, and I quote, "Well, everything is 50% off with a $5 donation to help stop Somalian sex trafficking!!!"

That is not what I expected to come out of the sincere face of a 90 lbs chick in an elf hat. I stared at her a minute, wondering if, in my delirium, I had possibly misheard her. I had not.

"Do you have to say that all day?"


"Oh. Ok, I'll take it."

I walk away just a bit stunned by the bizarreness of my recent exchange. For the price of a latte, you can save 45 illegal vaginas! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! So, mouth agape and head cocked, I do what comes naturally: relay it immediately to choice sick friends. I'd like to share some noteworthy responses:

"Nice. So what's for breakfast?"

"Tough choice- save half off or shut down your pet project..."

"But if they stop sex trafficking, what is Santa gonna bring me for Christmas?"

"Hey, underage prostitutes have to follow the rules of the road, too. I'm glad Somalia is taking its traffic problem seriously."

"What did you buy? And do Somalian sex slaves know it's Christmastime at all?"

"No more Somalian ho ho ho's..."

ANYWAY, after determining that I've just witnessed the worst job in the world, and assuring my cousin I'm bringing her a Somalian prostitute named Nya for Christmas, I'm finally retrieved from the airport. Franco and Washington and sex slaves, Oh my!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ode to Jack

I don't really have a clever way to start, so I'll just start. Friday, we found out that the biopsy my dad had last week came back positive. If I've learned anything from this, it's that people say really stupid things when they get bad news. I don't know what I said, but I remember thinking, 'just shut up.' I had been waiting for the call, and preparing for either answer. The biopsy had been scheduled for over a month, and was like a little black cloud. One thing I knew was that, 'I'm sorry' was not going to be the first thing I said. Not to my dad. My dad doesn't do pity. The bitch of it was that all that morning, I was envisioning good news. And I knew I'd cry, and that would be ok, because it would be relief. Chicks do that. He'd make fun of me, and all would be fine. So, when he called me back and said, 'Well, it wasn't what I wanted to hear...' I was stunned. He was not. And he already made up his mind: no exploring of options, just get it out. My dad's a fixer, it's black and white. Even when it comes to invasive surgery.

Apparently, if you have your choice at a cancer buffet, you want to pick prostate cancer. It's very slow moving, and highly curable if caught early. His is early, from what the doctors can tell. So, I guess the bad news is you have cancer, but the good news is that you have the best one! After discussing what can be discussed at this point, we talked about cars, because that's what dudes do when they're nervous. There's going to be a car show in Chicago in the fall, and somehow it came up that my dad used to take what is now the Metra to the city when he was stationed at Great Lakes for the Navy. It struck me that I didn't know that he had spent that much time here; that there was a lot I didn't know about the 32 years he was around before my brother and I crashed. And then I had to get off the phone. Because I know how my dad gets when I sad cry. And while I'm trying to get off the phone, he tells me that 'everything is going to be fine, ok? So I don't want you to worry.' And that broke my heart a little. Finally, I feel enough time has passed to say, 'I'm sorry that you have to go through this, dad.' The response was a token phrase: 'It's just like constipation, it'll work itself out.'- Deep Thoughts, by Jack Conley.

My family has been through a lot, and if there's one thing that can be said about them it's that, while they're loud, they are not melodramatic. I think when you've experienced what would be your biggest fears over and over, you realize that you can come out on the other side. Among other things, my mom's been in remission for 6 years. They've been down this road before. Life is life, and it's never the wrong time to joke. When the P.A. was on the phone, she told my dad that she could schedule his next appointment for Valentines Day, and he said, 'Well, I guess we'll get to the heart of the matter.' He was miffed that it went over her head. Maybe she's, oh, I don't know, not used to a patient cracking jokes minutes after being told they have cancer? Just an observation.

I know it may be self-indulgent to vent about feelings that millions of people have or have had, but that's how I work it out. (Well, that and holing myself up with Downton Abbey for two days. Don't judge me.) I hate that I'm not there with him now, but I can't really whine about it. I haven't been kidnapped, I moved. And that's that. My dad's had lots of surgeries in his life (he was thrown by his horse, Vegas, while on duty as a police officer in the woods alone and shattered his arm. He's had something like 14 surgeries because of it. He also walked around with a broken back for close to a year, and just had his second back surgery.). But the thought of him sick is a totally different animal. He's a man's man. The kind of guy that builds shit. The kind of guy that owns his own Sawzall. The kind of guy that has been known to punch doors because he's furious, but would never hurt anyone. The kind of guy that says he'll race you down Edmund street on the way to school, then totally smokes your nine year old self before you even start running. The kind of guy that will save a man's life on a golf course performing CPR until the paramedics come. He's also the kind of guy that always buys my mom multiple cards on holidays, so she gets a sappy one and a funny one; who you can call in the middle of the night to take his screaming toddler niece to the emergency room, and who will then not only not get mad, but leave in hysterical laughter when that child, miraculously recovered, looks at the doctor and says, 'I fawted.' The kind of guy that, after his accident, still takes his kids to the stable and explains that it wasn't the horse's fault as he pets his nose when his kids have put 2 and 2 together and are afraid of it. The kind of dad that will oblige his asshole daughter's request when he's lost his voice and say, 'I didn't know until today that it was Barzini all along' as she cracks up. And whenever I make a disgusting joke, and in the short pause wonder if I've finally gone too far, realize he was just taking in a breath to laugh his ass off. Chuck Norris ain't got shit on my dad.

I'm not saying we've always been on the same page. I was a teenager, after all. I was, and am, stubborn. Shit went down. It wasn't until I was an adult and had a fraction of the responsibilities that he had, that I started to understand how strong my dad has always been. But no matter what was going on, no matter how bad, I never doubted that my parents loved me and would be there for me. I am lucky, because when you have that, whether you realize it or not, it makes you brave, just knowing that you always have people who love you. Successful and unsuccessful, stupid and smart, I couldn't have had the balls to try half the things I have if I didn't always have their support. My whole family rules. And they're lots of fun.

The amazing thing to me is that I truly believe that my father, while aware that he's relied on, has no idea how much he means to people. Before my aunt passed away last year, she was in and out of the hospital that my dad works for. My cousin had told me several times that it was so nice that he would come and visit and make her laugh, so I told him once. 'Me? I didn't do anything.' 'Yes, you did. You showed up. You make her feel better.' Jeez. He's like George fucking Bailey. He just got back to work, and now he's about to go through something all over again. But he's about to see that it's our turn to be strong for him, and we want to be. Because when you're the kind of person who loves people no matter what, they love you back, whether you like it or not.