Upon my return from a relatively slow and only mildly painful 14.2, I found my kids playing on the back porch in the warm sunshine and fresh air. It felt more like Spring yesterday, the last day of 2011, rather than a late December Winter day. Perfect conditions for running and for kids in need of time outside of the house.
After a quick shower, where I washed off the salt and loudly exhaled the tension that had gathered in my body, the girls and I settled on my King sized bed with the flowered sheet covering us up. Grace sat on my left with pink eye and a cough; Sophie on my right with her ducky mask fully flowing, Albuterol and Pulmacort on high. Another pediatric virus has come for a visit. I flipped open my laptop in an effort to write, but my brain cells like my energy were running low. The girls watched t.v. and I soon dozed off between their two warm bodies.
My biggest fear about my first fourteen miler was the boredom that seemed to be creeping in as my running time got longer. In an effort to thwart such boredom, I requested book suggestions in my last post, but hemmed and hawed about which to choose.
In the end, I picked a book called The Lovers by my childhood friend Vendela Vida.
When I was in the sixth grade my family and I moved from Miami to San Francisco where I started at a new school. Burke’s was (and still is) private and all girls, with uniforms of navy pleated skirts and white middy’s appliqued with navy blue stripes.
Vendela was one of three girls with whom I walked to school. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since the eighth grade.
Aimee lived near the entrance to Baker Beach, the furthest walk from my house which sat a few in from 30th Avenue and California Street. She was the one I related to most and the one I’ve happily reconnected with on facebook. We were partners in crime and by the time we were in high school our names were synonymous; Aimee and Martha, Martha and Aimee.
Aimee would walk to Vendela’a house, which sat a top a hill overlooking the opposite end of Baker. I actually can’t remember if she walked to Vendela’s first or if she walked to Samantha’s and Vendela met her there (since I wasn’t along for the trek) but for the purpose of this post I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
What I clearly remember is Vendela’s mother and their kitchen. Once, when sucking on a piece of hard candy in that kitchen, I inhaled it into the back of my throat and started to choke. Vendela’s mother sprang into action, performing the Heimlich Maneuvre. It all happened so quickly; my desperation for air, that frightening moment of gasping breath to the freedom of deep inhalation. One never forgets their first Heimlich.
Samantha’s house was two block’s down from mine and the last pickup before they got to me. Samantha is an attorney now, but what I recall so clearly was her drawer full of alligator shirts and her brand new baby brother.
The three would meet me at my door and we’d walk the last couple of blocks together. The one time I recall a different arrangement was when we decided to cut through the Lonergan’s yard, only to wind up being flashed by some weirdo. Like the first Heimlich, one also never forgets their first penis.
When I found out about a year ago that Vendela was a successful novelist, whose screenplay with her husband was made into the movie Up and Away with Maya Rudolph, I had a rush of emotions over the news. I was thrilled to hear about her success. It seemed that all my friends from that time had experienced great successes. Like Samantha and Vendela, from what I googled, Aimee graduated Berkeley and has had a remarkable career herself.
There was something about the fact that Vendela made her way in the area of writing, though, that excited me, but also sent pangs of sadness through my own soul.
I remember listening to her work from the desks inside our classrooms. I remember thinking she was talented and always enjoyed what she wrote.
The sadness came from my own disappointment at the fact that even though I had always been praised for my own writing, I had done nothing with it. It was the one thing that consistently brought me joy, yet I ignored it in search of something else, something more. My life after my time at Burke’s (and my first two year’s of high school) had spiraled out of control, beginning with the death of my father.
When learning about Vendela’s success, I couldn’t help but face my own inadequacies; my own flailing through life, uncertain as to who I was, uncertain as to what I should do, disheartened by my incapability to finish many of the things that I started. I wondered for decades if my father had not died, would my life have been more predictable and easy? For too long it was a hard pill to swallow that I was not dealt those cards. Thankfully with age, a lot of yoga, and some mellowing, I’ve been able to better understand that life happens exactly as it should.
And also, maybe I wouldn’t have anything to write about today if things had continued as they had when I was fourteen; sheltered, a little spoiled, unaware that my own path has its own value despite the sadness and confusion that shaded the good stuff.
Fourteen. Interesting age and mileage.
As I stood in the middle of my street yesterday waiting for the Garmin to detect a signal, I paused to look at the book title The Lovers on my iPhone. There was her name below it. My pulse, detected by my watch, was elevated before I’d run a step.
I pressed play.
For the next three hours I listened to the story of Yvonne. I kept thinking how Vendela wrote the way a painter paints; her words like brush strokes of the most beautiful colors. It was amazing.
My legs turned over at a comfortable speed and I hardly noticed my miles; eight, nine, ten.
It’s usually about ten that I start to feel the pain of the run, but as I listened to the story I was more excited to see what would happen next than worry about my tired body.
Eleven, twelve, thirteen floated by. With one mile left I wanted the run to be over, but wished I could keep listening until the end of the book.
All day yesterday and into this first day of the new year I continue to feel like Yvonne is waiting for me. My plan was to save the final three-hour read for next Saturday’s fifteen miler, but like a kid who knows the Christmas presents are hiding in mom’s locked closet, I might have to peek.
As 2012 begins, I am still unsure about a lot.
I don’t know how many more viruses my girls will encounter this year or how many more mustard containers might be tossed through the air in a fit of rage. I can’t predict the future, though I’m not sure I really want to know all that it holds.
Despite life’s uncertainty, I feel clear about my own path and the decision to continue to write. There is something energizing and grounding about the knowing; about the certainty that what I am choosing for myself is what I am meant to do. It’s taken me longer than most to get to this place and it doesn’t even matter if I’m any good at it.
The action and acknowledgement that I am following my own dream is what makes it right.
Here’s to you finding and following your own dreams!
Happy New Year to you all!