Thursday, September 29, 2016

Half Out of My Mind

A couple of weeks ago I did something kind of stupid. It was one of those things where someone talks you into doing something you know deep down is a stupid thing to do, but the person makes it sound so fun that you buy into the enthusiasm of the moment and just go for it. No thought, no consequences, JUST DO IT like Nike.

A younger me got caught up in these situations often, like throwing fireworks into the church campgrounds in Kilmacolm or mooning the security cameras in Yocum Hall or rolling the Anschutz' house even though Mr Anschutz was rumored to be the dad who would run you off his lawn pointing his rifle at you. It all seemed like a really good idea at the time.

This time, however, it wasn't my rambunctious friends convincing me to make wild, spontaneous, devil-may-care decisions. No, this time it was my dad.

I blame it all on him. As a kid, I desperately wanted his approval. As a teenager - well, we'll skip those years. As a college student, I wanted him to be proud of me. As an adult, I still can't shake the childish need to impress him. Maybe that's why I let him peer pressure me into this.

In his defense, I did start the conversation. It's been on my bucket list to run a race before I turn 35. My dad's a runner and a cyclist and has been nudging me to do a race with him for a couple of years. I brought the subject up, suggesting I might register for a 10k at some point.  But when he converted that to a number I could understand, and I realized that was only 6.2 miles, that just wasn't really any kind of a challenge. It would be too easy. I figured I could just about manage that now with zero training. So I let him talk up how great the Little Rock Half Marathon is, how great the trail is, how it's a perfect time of year to run. His enthusiasm began to rub off on me, and I began to think, "I can do this!"

And that's how he convinced me to sign up for a half marathon.

Half. Marathon. 13.1 miles.

What was I thinking?! I signed up to run a half marathon. I am not a runner! I do not enjoy running. I do not like to run. Why would I agree to run a half marathon?!

But I did. I signed up to run the race with my dad. I paid the registration fee. I ordered one of those water bottle packs that go around your waist and an armband thingie for my phone. I'm ready to go! Let's do this! I thought.

Until the next morning, when it dawned on me. I just paid money to put myself through utter, intense misery. 

I decided to ignore the nagging feeling that I'd gotten conned into doing something very stupid. I managed to ignore what I'd done until my dad texted me earlier this week to ask how my training was going. My response: ellipses. Training? Ha! The very thought of going for a run made me want to eat a donut and take a long nap on the couch with episodes of Gilmore Girls running in the background.

But the shaming worked. (Well played, Dad.) Dad's text, along with a little additional motivational shaming from my husband, pushed me to take the next step towards checking this item off my bucket list: begin training.

I decided tonight's the night. Wednesdays and Thursdays and one day on the weekend will be my training days. Tonight, after a 9 hour day at work, I came home, made a shepherd's pie from scratch (and by "shepherd", I just mean "cowherd" because beef is cheaper than lamb), helped the kids get into bed, and then I took off to the gym with my water bottle and Hamilton the Musical on my phone. My goal was to do four miles - whether I ran or walked, it didn't matter. Four miles.

I admit I did try to change my goal last minute ("How about four miles OR an hour, whichever comes first?"), but Scott gave me that shaming look again. Okay, fine. Four miles.

I got to the gym and started the treadmill. I almost chose one of the "performance" settings but rationalized that this being my first return to the gym after about two months, I'd better take it easy. I set a decent, cool pace and a flat trail and started jogging along to the genius rhymes of Lin-Manuel's account of our country's first Treasury Secretary.

I did my first mile in 15 minutes and five seconds. My second mile was complete before the 15 minute mark. Hey, I can do this! Two miles in under 30 minutes!

My third mile came in just over 15 minutes. But I was exhausted. My legs were burning. My lungs were aching. My stomach was threatening to hand me back my cowherd's pie. I slowed down but kept going. Four miles! I can do this! Almost there!

The last mile was painful, but I pushed through. If I'm honest, my secret goal was really to finish four miles in one hour. But as the hour ticked down to five minutes remaining, I knew I was unlikely to meet that goal. I picked up my pace, hoping to outrun the clock, but it was too much. I pulled my fourth mile in at 2 minutes and 10 seconds over an hour. I have never been so grateful for the cool down function on the treadmill in my life.

However, as I leaned over the handlebars gasping for breath and trying not to pass out in front of the hot, muscly guy running next to me, I realized that I just run almost a quarter of a half marathon. On my first night of training for a race that is still five months away. I can do this. I can do this!

#GymSelfie! Start of run - End of run ...

So at the end of the day, I still think I'd have preferred Dad talking me into going cow-tipping over running a half marathon, but maybe, just maybe, this will be okay too.

You better be proud of me when I cross that finish line, old man!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bathos, Stolen Corpses and Rock n' Roll

One of the coolest, most interesting classes I took in college, the kind of class that colleges should offer more of, the kind of class that is quintessentially “college”, was Folk and Pop Music Traditions. It was in the English curriculum, since we studied the lyrics as much as the history and the music itself, and was taught by a really hipster older guy professor, Dr Bob Cochran.  

Dr Cochran introduced us to all kinds of music I'd never have listened to myself, from the Carter Family to Merle Haggard to Gram Parsons. It is Gram Parsons though who's music and story has stuck with me all these years. 

He introduced us to Parsons by playing "Love Hurts" for us in class. His intent was to differentiate for us the difference between pathos and bathos.  (Pathos is the quality of evoking sympathy and sadness in someone. Bathos is when the attempt at pathos goes overboard into ludicrousy or gross sentimentalism.)  The class silently took in this song, a duet between Parsons and Emmylou Harris, whose voices blend together more beautifully than any two voices I've ever heard. When the song was over, the class sat silently, reverently. Dr Cochran laughed.

"I see you guys were taken in by that song. I was trying to show you bathos, but you all bought right in to the sentiment."

He may have forgotten that while he had all the wisdom of his 50 plus years, we were all still children living and breathing the raw truth that love hurts. 

The story of Gram Parsons is just as enticing as his music. Or maybe just the story of his death. His life was that of a typical 1960s rock star - nudie suits, tours, drugs. But his death - what a story!

He was found dead in his hotel room during a tour; the official report was drug overdose. Not uncommon. But his step-father, who had very little to do with him, requested that his body be returned to Louisiana, allegedly due to a family estate issue, and arranged a small funeral for him, excluding all of Gram's actual friends in the music industry. Gram had recently expressed wishes to be cremated when he died and have his ashes spread in Joshua Tree National Park, his favorite place on earth. So what did his loyal friends do?

They stole his dead body from the airport, of course, borrowed a hearse and drove Gram's coffin to Joshua Tree.  Unsure of how to actually cremate a body, they just poured gallons of gasoline on the coffin and lit a match, while drinking beer and sharing stories of their deceased friend. It didn't result in the small, funereal fire they expected, however, and the raging fireball resulted in a police chase. Gram's friends couldn't be arrested though, because there was no law on the books against stealing a dead body. They were fined for stealing a coffin, and that's about as much the law could muster against them. Gram's wishes were - sort of - granted.

That's friendship. That's rock n' roll. That's - bathos?

Yesterday in a coffee shop, I heard "Brass Buttons" playing in the background, another Parsons' tune that tows the line between pathos and bathos. It reminded me it's been too long since I listened to Grievous Angel, my favorite Gram Parsons album. That would be due to my CD snapping a few years ago in our move from Scotland to Arkansas. But Amazon Prime Music came to the rescue, and I was able to download Grievous Angel and listen to it three times in a row back to back. Honestly, could Emmlylou and Gram's voices weave any better?

(Apparently, Emmylou hated touring with Gram. Apparently, he was a bit of an asshole.)

Anyway, thank you, Starbucks, for reminding me of the fantastic rock fairy tale that is Gram Parsons, of the most interesting college class I've ever taken, and that love doesn't really hurt so bad in the end, once you find the good kind.

Monday, September 05, 2016

A Little Less Wise

Kitty cat healing therapy
September has sure gotten off to an interesting start. 

A couple of weeks ago, one of my wisdom teeth, which has been impacted for a while but not causing me any pain, starting hurting. Within days, the pain grew exponentially, and I knew it was time to get it taken out.

I arranged a consultation with the oral surgeon for Wednesday, August 31st.  They had me booked in for the extraction of all three wisdom teeth (I only have three), all of which needed to come out, for Friday, September 2nd. Thus began my Labor Day weekend.

Despite being extremely nervous about the procedure, all went well. I was put under general anesthetic and sent home after I awoke. I spent all day Friday dozing in and out on the armchair downstairs, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, with an ice pack wrapped around my head and bottles of tablets for pain and nausea. It was fun.  Thankfully, my dear friend Eugenie took all three of our kids from Friday after school until Sunday morning, which was the biggest favor I could have ever asked for! I was way too out of it to even really notice if the kids were there or not. I was in a Percocet stupor for two whole days.

Face packs are so hot right now.
However, by Saturday night, even though I was still away with the fairies and still in a fair bit of pain, I got picked up by a friend to go to book club. I simply did not want to miss book club. I slept on the couch most of the night surrounded by friends, and again, even though I felt pretty crappy, I couldn't have felt crappier in a better place than surrounded by people I love!

The kids came home Sunday, and I spent most of the day in bed.  I watched more Gilmore Girls last night and went to bed around 11 pm, hoping my pain meds from 8 would last me through the night.

Instead I woke up at 2:30 (appropriate) to more pain and had to redose. I've been in and out of consciousness and pain all day today (Monday). I'm concerned about my lower right side extraction might have developed a dry socket. I plan on calling the dentist in the morning if the pain there still hasn't subsided, which it seems to have little chance of doing at this point. Owwww.

What a fun way to spend Labor Day weekend, huh?!

Besides that, it kind of messed with my September Shopping Challenge. On the first day of September, I had to go back out to the grocery store to stock up on soft foods to get me through the first few days. (I've been living on mashed potatoes, ice cream and Campbell's soup all weekend.) Not to mention the walloping copay I had to pay to get the procedure done in the first place. It's probably a good thing I'm doing the shopping challenge after having to dish out that huge chunk of change unexpectedly!

A healthy diet of soft foods
So here I am, three teeth lighter and a little less wise.  And still in somewhat of a pain med fairyland. I just put a banana loaf in the oven, and I can't guarantee all the ingredients were applied in the correct proportions.