2.5 years

Today was 2.5 years since my last drink, a decidedly unfestive lukewarm garage beer.

Here is my day in pictures.

Today I drank this.

photo 1

Not pictured are the popcorn and milk duds I ate while watching this with my girls.




That’s the part where Ralphie says to the witch, “Don’t bother me. I’m thinking.” Amen, Ralphie.

I bought a Saint Bernard today.

photo 5

He is only four inches tall, a tiny treat that made me disproportionately happy. Though I have to share him with her.

photo 4

2.5 years sober feels good. I feel lucky, blessed.

photo 3

Happy holidays!

This second life

Throughout high school and for an embarrassing number of years afterwards, I was a voracious reader of horoscopes and believer in dark-sided fluff. Yesterday I noticed an old book on my bedside table on how to read tarot cards that my husband found when he cleaned underneath our bed last month. He’s the tidy, efficient clutter buster of our family and I’m the self-trained retired fortune teller.

The reason I bring this up is because Paul wrote this line about being in recovery in this excellent post:

We get to live two lives in one lifetime…how great is that?

When I read this line, I suddenly found myself on the rain soaked boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, circa 1988. My best friend and I were killing what the movie theaters down there call a Bad Beach Day and spending every last soaking wet, crumpled dollar in our pockets. This would have been after I discovered alcohol but before I could get into bars, so we had to get our kicks in arcades and shirt shops. I saw the fluorescent-lit sign of an outlined palm in a storefront window and the sign for $10 Readings and convinced my friend to duck inside with me.

I was expecting someone more exotic than the sleepy eyed, olive-skinned girl who didn’t look much older than me. She asked for my $10 up front and invited me to sit across from her at a smudged-glass table while a toddler played quietly with toy cars on the floor by her feet.

the only picture I have from that day…

Her reading took less than 10 minutes and this is what I remember: She told me I would have two children. (She was correct.) She told me I have a strong heart line. (I am not sure what this means but I tear up at christmas commercials, so this also sounds correct.) She also told me she saw a distinct split in my life line, which meant I would undergo a major life change around midlife. 

I puzzled over that one for a long time. Would I get divorced? Would something terrible happen to someone I love? Would I get sick or lose my fortune in the stock market and have to start all over? Interesting to note I never imagined it would be something positive, like landing a dream job or, uh, getting sober.

If I was going to get into the business of selling fortunes to high school girls at the beach, I would stick to similarly safe predictions. One husband, 2.0 kids, a long life with strong health and, oh, a big change around midlife to give you something to look forward to, or – for those with silent, low-grade anxiety – a lifelong fear of the other shoe dropping.

I am 40 years old and I am sober with roughly/possibly the second half of my life ahead of me. Even if it’s the half that includes not being able to get around and relying on others to feed and care for me (oh wait), I still have some good years ahead. I know this because my parents sent a birthday card and my dad’s note said  “I know turning 40 can be depressing, but you still have some good years ahead.” And my brother sent an email welcoming me over the hill like it was some kind of club for cool/sad people. Neither one will be recruited by Hallmark, but they are mine and I love them.

As another blogger said in a comment (and I paraphrase), our forties can be a good time to accomplish shit. And I totally love this concept. Basically, I have a whole decade before me as a blank slate. I am not drinking, so I have my full faculties about me (this could be argued, but…) and a mild case of delusion that I could accomplish anything I put full effort into. Maybe I will do more writing, which is what I really want to do when I grow up, or maybe I will study up to become a beach fortune teller. Possibilities are sky high when it comes to career and giving back and self-growth and more things I haven’t thought of yet. So lovely to feel free and full of hope instead of just old, though I feel that too. Everything all at once, this life thing.

It’s not a race

The title is a nod to Paul at Message in a Bottle for his brilliant description in the opening paragraph of a scene that happens about daily at our house. Usually it happens when the kids are racing to do something and one smells defeat and realizes the only way to save face is by calling off the race. She shouts “It’s not a race”, as in “I don’t know why you care so much about getting there first because I always hurl down the stairs at breakneck speed.”

The whole calling off races thing also happens regularly in my own head, and is why I heard my dear husband say “It’s not a race” every time I warned him to look for me towards the back of the pack in a race I ran last weekend. Because really, it wasn’t a race I had any chance of winning.

You know who won? A 22 year-old Kenyan with a 4:50 pace. You know who came in second place? A 30 year-old Kenyan with the same pace, but a two-second later finish time. Two seconds.

I did not win this race, nor did I break any personal records. I thought I might, but my pace on this 5-mile race was almost identical to when I ran a 4-mile race last June, which is in the 10 minute-and-some-change range. The Kenyans could have doubled around and run the course twice and still would have beat me.

Running is humbling stuff.

I do not feel a part of the whole running scene. I’ve tried. Last spring I joined a running group that meets at a local track and started out the slowest runner and remained that way until it got light enough in the mornings to return to solo running. Once the group hit the streets when the track was iced up, and I found myself running alone in the dark with no idea which street the rest of the gang had turned down until they doubled back around.

As a friend pointed out, someone has to be slowest. I will probably go back to running group in late winter to find motivation and work on speed. As the same friend pointed out, think how good I make the second-slowest runner feel. I am just doing my job as Top Caboose.

Plus, I love to run! I love the surge of warm energy that flows through my body for hours afterwards. I love the freedom I feel when I only need to worry about myself. I love listening to music and skipping through songs without running it past a committee first. I even love the burn in my legs and lungs when I’m chugging uphill because I know I get to run down one next. It is greedy, selfish alone time and I love it so fucking hard I want to stop typing and go put on my pink sneakers.

I could just stop running races. I could just run on my own and go from finishing in the bottom 25% to the top 100%. I’m not doing this for the free soft pretzels or t-shirts, though those are nice perks and the races always benefit good causes. The most compelling reason I sign up for races is they motivate me to keep running.

And even finishing in the bottom 25%, this last race felt comfortable, if not easy. The course was a winding mix of flat and hills through local streets I’d never been down before. I enjoyed the scenery of old houses and smiling neighbors and kids ringing cow bells on front porches and generally feeling alive and part of something bigger. I can honestly say I enjoyed myself.

I’ll take a break from races until next spring at the earliest. I already signed up for a big bridge run next fall, but that has special significance and it’s a chance for me to run with my younger (faster) sister. I’ve thought about trying a 10-mile run in the city, but I honestly don’t have time to train for that with my work and family schedule. Not this year, and again, it’s not a race. I will continue taking my sweet old time because that’s kind of my thing.

I wish I didn’t realize how slow I run compared to most people, but I also believe there’s a lesson about perseverance and acceptance and humility that I haven’t quite learned yet.

I want to share this picture my husband took as I neared the finish line this weekend. The course ended with a lap on the same high school track where the running group meets. Something about hitting the soft, familiar surface with crowds of cheering people and the end so close in sight gave a dizzying high. I saw my husband and two girls in the stands and felt like I was running home.


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