Friday, January 4, 2008

Fits and starts. That's what's come of this year so far. Fortunately, I know that the whole year doesn't have to be like this. Sometimes you trip at the sound of the starter gun, but you get up and run a bit faster for a time, and pretty soon you're running alongside everyone else.

The Most Significant Thing was not supposed to be all the alcohol that was consumed at the New Year's party. Looking at the crate of aftermath, I spy a number of champagne bottles that went into the punch bowl potion, which ended up going down the drain the next morning. I also see a bottle of port in there that had been finished off weeks previous, as well as a couple of other familiar bottles, so we really didn't drink that much. (Of note: do you see my reflection in the bottle of Monticelli Brothers there in the foreground? Neat! -click to make bigger-) I wonder what the neighbors thought. I wonder what they thought of me taking a picture of it.

The rains were supposed to come last night. "Brace yourself for the powerful Pacific storm!" they said. Uh huh, I'm still bracing. I hadn't planned on running this morning and had scrapped a bunch of plans for yesterday and the weekend that involved me moving everything out of the garage, so this morning I awoke to discover that I could have achieved a lot more yesterday, which always bums me out. It runs alongside of "I could have achieved a lot more last year", and so I felt somewhat depressed. Yesterday it seemed the only thing I did right was lift up the Little Ditchman to see the fish tank, but this morning I'd had two cups of coffee, then I read this, and it wasn't raining. So I ran.

I had a couple glasses of wine last night. The past month or so, I've experimented with my habit of drinking half a carafe of coffee in the morning and three beers in the evening. Wonder of all wonders! When I don't drink alcohol the night before and then keep it to one cup of coffee in the morning, I feel better, run better, and end up less dehydrated after the workout! Imagine that! So I've taken to my new training method, more or less, with some optimism. I hadn't planned to run this morning on account of the rainy forecast, so I had a couple glasses of wine last night and a couple mugs of coffee this morning, and then found myself feeling some early January hopelessness. So I ran anyway.

To a second, I got the exact same time I did yesterday, running the exact same distance. The body is a wonder. If you take care of it, it can accomplish the unthinkable. If you fail to take care of it, it can bounce back pretty fast when you finally decide to.

The truth is I probably would have wound up running faster today if I had kept with the regimen, but I felt good today nonetheless. It was about the fifth mile where I started to feel really strong. A song came on that got me thinking about things, all the unfinishedness in my life that burdens me, and I started to get choked up. I could feel the chest tighten, my legs pushing a bit harder on the hill that I was on, and it was like mile 18 in just about every marathon I've ever run.

A few weeks ago I received an E-mail from someone I hadn't heard from in maybe ten years. It was just a friendly E-mail from a classmate in my 8th grade Algebra class. I think I last saw him at our ten year reunion, which was ten years from when I saw him the time before that. He's a great guy, married now with a kid, like me. He'd seen the blog and just wanted to say hi and good job at the Hawaii marathon. Wow.

And then the other day I received an E-mail from another guy whom I also hadn't seen in ten years or so. He had just left the military, and had been in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looked me up and found the blog. Wanted to say hi. What a surprise.

And then yesterday I heard that a family friend had died. There seems to have been a lot of death in our little circle of blogs lately, so I didn't want to expound on it. Joan was our real estate agent who found us the house, and I didn't know her very well. She'd been retired for a while, but kept a hand in the business and helped people out from time to time. This was not the house we wanted, and at the time I felt that Joan talked us into the place. She took one look at Mrs. Ditchman and I and had us figured out immediately. "This place is trashed," I said. "It's a joke." She waved her hand and dismissed it. "Oh, Sean you can fix all that." She was right, I did. Our lives changed. I don't think she made more than a few dimes off the sale. A year later she came to our baby shower and we proudly showed off to her what we'd done to the place. I swear she smiled knowingly.

The house at New Year's was filled with some of our closest friends and all their children and I took a look around at one point and thought my, my.

Well, what would you say? Life moves ever forward, grows and stretches, bends, breaks, and finishes. All the significance of it gets sidelined by unfinished projects, cluttered desktops, worldly distractions, and the ever-present minutiae of a seemingly endless line of mild disappointments which build on each other if we let them. Like walking into a cloud of gnats at the mountaintop, we get too busy swatting to see the view, but in our own small ways we lift each other above it.

And so, on the run this morning it all flooded in. Good. The running works.

May we rise and be lifted above it all this year.