Saturday morning began with my running group the WannaBeasts (10.5 minutes per mile) and eight sweaty miles through the greenway around Shelly Lake, behind Crabtree Valley Mall. There was ninety-eight percent humidity and while it felt like running through soup, it was fast and easy (even downright pleasant) thanks to the conversation with my partner Nancy (whom I’d just met) and the energy of the team.
Afterward, instead of heading home to shower, I drove to Peachie’s for one last visit to her empty house and to drop off the baby clothes that the girls had gathered from their closet the day before (during their own packing session for Maine).
“It’s too small, it goes in the baby pile!”
I sat in Peachie’s back yard drenched in sweat and snot (my poor skirt had served as kleenex on the trail) and watched squirrels in pine trees pull branches from limbs and scurry away. I wondered if this is how they collected their nuts. I reminded myself that I loathe squirrels, especially after they had taken refuge in my attic a few years ago.
I called my sister and we talked.
I called my Peach and we talked even more.
When I couldn’t stand the dried sweat a second longer I left for home, driving and listening to the radio stations that are playing the same songs on rotation this Summer. I know all of the words.
I showered and threw on a typically scary post run outfit; a comfy bra, white and purple stretchy shorts that say, “I heart Saints,” a washed blue KBIA t-shirt that I intentionally cut down the front and unintentionally ripped under the arm, and bright pink CEP compression calf sleeves I’d received in the mail the day before.
I don’t like to match my clothes post run. The more mismatched I look the better I feel. I’m pretty sure that most runners feel the same way about their recovery outfits. It’s not mentioned much, but take a look at most running blogger’s post run photos and it becomes obvious. It might even be an unsaid qualification for calling oneself a runner.
As happens after a good medium to long run I was tired. I shuffled around the house until I couldn’t bring myself to shuffle anymore and by 3:00 curled up on the sofa with the girls for an episode of Sponge Bob.
I promptly fell asleep.
Grace soon nudged me and said that she was tired, too, and surprisingly both girls followed me upstairs where we crawled into their beds. Unexpected as neither girl has taken a nap since 2010. When I woke and realized that it was 7:00 p.m., I knew there’d be a long night ahead.
We came downstairs where Brian had made dinner and had it waiting on the kitchen bar; cheeseburgers, french fries and onion rings.
I cut up some lettuce and tomato and made plates of food that we took outside to eat by tiki lamps.
The girls were happy. Their dad and I were civil. We talked about a friend of a friend who at thirty-eight had just died from Frontal Lobe Dementia. There was a silent acceptance that this life is too short and that happiness is imperative. The girls laughed as their stuffed puppies “tried” to eat from the plates of food. The family unit was working as it should all the time.
With renewed energy I decided to tackle the packing that waited for me; my empty suitcases left for last.
I tucked my iPhone into my bra after pressing play on my audiobook version of Wild. As I gathered my running clothes and bathing suits I listened to the chapter about Cheryl’s mother’s horse named Lady and how she had become old. With her mother gone, she knew that she needed to tend to the horse.
The heartbreaking account of what came next made the placement of items into my luggage slow and deliberate. I listened while folding my piles and piles of must haves, acting out my work while my heart swelled and pounded from the depth of the pain I was hearing.
For two hours I continued; Cheryl’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail and my journey through my stuff.
I have much too much. As I looked around at the things I knew I’d need and then back to the closet for the things that I might need and into the extra closets for things I never wear but probably need, I felt overwhelmed and a little disgusted.
I listened to Cheryl talk about Monster, the name for the pack she carried on her back, and wished that I could lessen my reliance on consumerism, so that all I needed was a pack and my kids. If only that could be enough.
When it became too overwhelming I decided to leave the mess to which I will return to today.
I sat on the master bed and continued with the story while gazing at the mound of fabrics and colors, pants and tunics, hats and necklaces, bathing suits and skirts. Underpants will go in last.
I connected to Cheryl’s feelings about her writing. How she’d always written, but the unattained dream of writing her own novel had left her disappointed and embarrassed. She wrote about making the decision to make it happen.
Remembering how I felt when reading the Hunger Games, how I liked the author and appreciated her words seemingly written for me, I added Cheryl Strayed to my list of imaginary friends. I might not understand a lot of what she went through on the PCT, but I certainly relate to her life as a writer and a woman.
By 10:30 the house was dark and bedtime was near. The girls brushed their teeth and chose their bedtime books. I imagined that I’d get them to sleep and then sneak away for some alone time, to ponder my day and plan the next. But instead, I just lay between my daughters thinking.
In two days we’ll be back at the beach that has been home for thirty five years. I will see my friends who have known me my entire life. I’ll see the newest babies and write by the sound of the sea.
Instead of sneaking away I closed my eyes and listened to the breathing of my girls, while hoping for a future that looked a lot like this day.
A day of sweat and books. Of food and fun. Introspection and civility. A life with purpose, happiness, respect, restful naps, laughs, and possibly less in the way of stuff.
All things are possible.
With that I fell to sleep. The best sleep I’ve had in ages.