Sunday, July 10, 2016

Ode to long-distance running

I did a 10.75 mile run this weekend--was only ("only") planning to run 10 miles, but ended up running farther to finish up the Prospect Park loop--because, you know, I couldn't not finish the loop. So much of long-distance running is a mental game (although, of course, training helps)!

My run started off sluggish, but after a few miles I was feeling really great--the weather on Saturday was unusually cool and Fall-like in New York, and I was getting that runner's high feeling that I could run faster, and run forever. And, I started feeling really happy and grateful that I brought long-distance running back into my life. I talk about marathon training and running sometimes when I speak at writer's conferences. About how one of the things that's most satisfying about running is that it's perfectly measurable. I ran 10.75 miles this weekend. I ran it with an average of a 10 minute, 20 second mile. Those are accomplishments that can't be taken away. Writing a book, even if it's never published, is also that kind of accomplishment.

Long-distance running--really, any kind of running--helps me think and get my head sorted. I generally like listening to podcasts when I run, but I often just let myself think. Sometimes I do work while running--draft emails in my head, think through problems. But, usually I just think about my life.

I prefer running outside with nature. Try to take in my surroundings. I love the solid feel of the ground under my feet. Sometimes I people watch while I run. There's always a lot going on in Prospect Park. Plus, I love looking at the sky.
A scene from an evening run in Prospect Park
When I ran the marathon ten years ago, I was actually in the process of going through a break-up. Running after (and during!) break-ups have always helped me put things in perspective (and, let's be honest, get back into dating shape!). And, believe me, I had a lot of time to think about things and the relationship while running the marathon. It gave me the peace and clarity to know that even though it would be painful, I would get through it. And, I did. There's nothing like running 26.2 miles to help you believe that you can accomplish anything, survive anything.

Training for the marathon this year has helped give me that same peace and clarity after Greg's death. Once again, I know I can get through it. I can do anything. It also gives me time to be alone without feeling lonely. I'm so glad I decided to run the marathon again this year, both to help raise money for cancer research, and for my physical and mental health.

I had a good weekend. Didn't do any work (although I could/should have), but had nice dinners with friends Friday and Saturday evenings, binge-watched some Mr. Robot, and spent a marvelous day today at the beach. Beautiful, peaceful, lovely. I swam in the ocean twice, and it felt exquisite--I honestly don't recall the last time I swam in the ocean, but I should really do it more often.

I hope you all had nice weekends, too.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Six months, random email drafts

Since I've started writing on this blog again, it felt odd to not acknowledge that it's now been over six months since Greg died. I was at ALA for the actual day (June 25), which was a suitable distraction (and a great time overall). It helped that Grace Lin was there with me, for sure! And, Grace surprised me at our Middle Grade luncheon by telling everyone the story of our friendship, talking about how we had both lost our husbands to sarcoma, and announcing that she had dedicated When the Sea Turned to Silver to me, and had gotten the help of Little, Brown to keep it a secret from me, until then! Tears! And, Grace had solicited the help of Colby Sharp to record it all for the Yarn podcast, so stay tuned:

Six months. After Greg died, getting to six months was my goal. If I could make it to six months, I would feel myself again, start really living again. Of course, I know that's not how grief works. No doubt I'll have ups and downs and setbacks forever. But, for the record, I do feel like me again, and I've been living life this whole year.

On occasion (okay, more than I'd care to admit), I look back at old emails from Greg. Which reminds me of this article a friend shared with me on Facebook after my last blog post.

Here's a silly email Greg had sent me around the time Kobe Bryant had announced his retirement from basketball with a poem. Of course Greg had to write a poem, too.

I wrote a poem for you.  It is titled "Love."

L.  Without this letter, I could not spell the word "love." Or the word "Alina."
O. Like a circle, this letter makes a complete circle. 
V. Add this letter to "Alina" and you get "Alvina."  Or "Valina."  Or a range of things. 
E.  "Love" spelled backwards is "Evol," which begins with the letter "E." 
*Inspired by Kobe Bryant
Gosh, this made me laugh.

The other day, I was also looking at my old email drafts. Sometimes I use email drafts as a type of journal, but I don't often go back and look. Here are a few I discovered that felt worth sharing:
Date: 8/29/13
Subject: No subject
What I'm terrified of is that I'll never get the healthy Greg back, I'll never see the man I married again, the man I went on that first date with. I love him so much, and although for the most part I can remain optimistic, that it's hard for me to fathom him dying any time soon, in the back of my mind I know that it might happen, and part of me is preparing myself for that, too. How will I cope by myself, where will I live, what will I do. Who will I hang out with. Will I have a child by myself? Will I ever find someone new?
But no...I will have a long, beautiful life with Greg. He will get stronger and stronger, and the cancer will stay away. Maybe it will come back 10 years from now, maybe something else will happen years from now, but for now, we'll get back to our normal life. We will start trying to have a baby. We will live.
I don't know where I was when I wrote this. Possibly while Greg was getting his last round of chemo, when his body was still recovering from surgery, when he was very ill and very weak. Or maybe while I was waiting for him to get scanned. It does reflect my general philosophy of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. And, well, now I know where I will live, what I will do, who I will hang out with. Still to be determined: whether I will have a child by myself, or if I'll ever find someone new (although I have hope!).

Date: 9/12/13
Subject: No subject
Waiting with Greg in the room, waiting for Dr. Maki to come in after he reviewed the scans. I was imagining how he would break the news to us. Would he tell us immediately? Of course he would, this wasn't a competition reality show like I've been watching so many of--American Idol where they draw everything out excruciatingly. "I have bad news...I'm really sorry to have to tell you this...but you're not going to have to see me again for another four months...because the scan is clear!" 
This was on the day we found out Greg's scans were clean after he completed chemo. And, Dr, Maki told us the good news right away, of course. 

I'm remembering that this was also the day I found out that my friend James had died.

Date: 1/20/14 
Subject: Greg's obituary 
The cause of death was death. He died, unfortunately, after a long battle with death.

I don't remember why I wrote it. This was about ten days after we discovered that the cancer had recurred, so death was on my mind. Or, it could have been because Greg told me to write it down, that that's all he wanted his obituary to much for that. I have to stop feeling that I've somehow let Greg down in how I've handled things after his death, how I'm living now. I know he wouldn't want me to feel that way--he even told me that before he died. But, of course, part of me can't stop overthinking things. 

It's a long weekend, and I'm sticking close to home, trying to recuperate from my crazy few months. I've been feeling a little more pensive and melancholy lately, but I'll be okay. Life is full of ups and downs. The mortgage to my condo is still chugging along--the condo has some paperwork to file still, but I'm hoping to be able to close this month (how is it July already?) or next month. I'm excited (and nervous) to move and start a new chapter of my life.