“We have to find find those things that make us feel most alive, and hold onto those.” Chris Fagan, Adventurer
The above quote is from a Mother’s Day episode of She Explores: Women in the Outdoors podcast with adventurer Chris Fagan who shares openly about the strategies she had for coping with her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Although the episode was recorded pre-pandemic, host Gale Straub encourages listening with a Covid-19 filter for resilience lessons.
What makes me feel most alive these days is staying active through treadmill walks on crummy weather days and hikes on good weather days. Today is Day 66 of social distancing and yesterday I took my 16th hike. Getting out on the trails and seeing nature springing to life reminds me that everything has a season, and this too shall pass. Right now, it seems endless…and hard.
I’ve always been a planner, so the ‘not knowing’ is what has been hardest for me: how we can safely resume working with others without fear of infection; when we’ll get an effective vacine; how and when we’ll have effective contact tracing; and when we’ll ever be able to heal the fissures of distrust and hate that have come to define our political discourse.
On my last hike, I listened to an On Being episode where host Krista Tippett and musician/artist Devendra Banhart read passages from When Things Fall Apart, by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön. The first passage Krista read from the book was “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Although the book was written more than 20 years ago, it’s never been more relevant given world events. As Chödrön says later after that passage, “Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.”
When I’m feeling anxious in the days to come, I’ll remember these take-aways…Give in to grief, because there is a lot to grieve now. Make room for every small relief you feel, the roof over your head and the food on your table, because so many are struggling. Move through your misery, because it too shall pass. And breathe in joy, that you are still alive in this moment.
It’s been a week since we started social distancing in our attempts to flatten the curve. Weirdly, I miss my commute to work where I listen to podcasts of shows I never have time to watch, Audible books, and music. I also miss the personal interaction with other humans. As an introvert, I’m surprised by that but I guess I shouldn’t be. When I was working from home in real estate a decade ago, I welcomed the chance to work with clients face to face. The difference now is that it’s not a choice. Michigan cases have gone from 60 to 560 over the past week and based on reports from other areas, it may continue to worsen for awhile.
I’m grateful to have a day job where I can work from home. I’m worried about the economic fallout, especially for those people whose lives depend on serving the public. As Stephanie Land, author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive, writes in the New York Times, “Social distancing is forcing us to make decisions that go against our capitalistic nature: to cut back. Remember who this affects the most — the hourly wage workers who have no option to work remotely, no safety nets and, still, families to feed.”
After a work week struggling with a new normal, I needed an escape last night to avoid going down a rabbit hole. Thankfully my Facebook buddy Gordy offered just the medicine I needed…listening to musicians via Facebook Live.
First up was from Stay In Your House Shows with five different Michigan musicians: Dan Rickabus, Steve Leaf, Loren Johnson, Justin Stover (Stovepipe), and Emilee Petersmark. Unfortunately, I was too late for performances by Dan and Steve, but I thoroughly enjoyed Loren’s soulful voice, Stovepipe’s quirky “Haunted Americana” songs, and Emilee’s crazy wicked talent on covers and originals. The heartfelt messages from the artists made me feel like I’m not alone in my anxiety. Stay In Your House Shows hasn’t announced when their next concert will be, but I’ll definitely be tuning in.
Then I saw that Bobby Jo Valentine, a musician I’ve followed since hearing him perform locally, was on Facebook Live. Bobby Jo’s soulful lyrics “…when life gets complicated, when life gets hard to understand, the simple things are sacred, like the touch of another hand…” brought me to tears. It was yet another reminder of the power of connection.
Earlier in the week I had read about Keith Urban, John Legend, and other musicians doing live streaming for their fans. After listening to the Stay In Your House Show artists and Bobby Jo talking about being musicians who earn their living doing live shows, I’ll be supporting them and their music making this time of social distancing tolerable.
This morning I started my day with a 1.7 mile hike around the lake across the street. I’m intentionally avoiding news, taking care of myself, and reaching out to friends and family. That’s what is important to me right now. How are you doing?
I became intrigued by Lena Riggi Basilone’s story when I read a post about her on the Women Marines Association blog. Sergeant Lena Riggi was the female Marine who fell in love with World War II Medal of Honor recipient Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone.
They married in July 1944 after a whirlwind romance. Sadly, he was killed in action on Iwo Jima just seven months later. After Basilone’s death, Lena lived a low profile life and never remarried.
When I considered what to write for National Novel Writing Month in November, the story of their love haunted me. I wanted to explore what it must have been like for them so I wove their story among two others exploring love, loss, and relationships.
To prepare for NaNoWriMo, I did some research. As a Marine Medal of Honor recipient, Basilone’s story has been well documented by multiple books, the Iwo Jima episode in The Pacific miniseries, and numerous articles and blogs. Lena, on the other hand, is just a footnote on Basilone’s Wikipedia page.
The story I wrote may never see the light of day, but I wanted to imagine their love story through Lena’s eyes, to give her a voice. So for this inaugural Sunday Salute to female veterans, I salute Lena Riggi Basilone, the inspiration for my story. She epitomized the Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis.
“Never limit where running can take you.”
Listening to Bart Yasso describe his running adventures during the Runner’s Brunch the day before the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon, I felt moved, inspired, and grateful to have made it that far. He described his most memorable Marine Corps Marathon when in 2001, a little more than a month after 9/11, runners solemnly ran past the gaping hole in the Pentagon . “All you could hear were the runners’ footfalls,” Bart reflected.
I’ve never forgotten that story nor his advice about never limiting where running can take you, which brings me to today. The story of that 2015 marathon journey is published in a book called “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Running For Good”.
I started writing a memoir last November and hadn’t considered submitting any other writing for publication until I read a Facebook post about Chicken Soup for the Soul accepting submissions. I knew both the stories of my half and full marathons fit the theme of “running for good”: I ran the 2012 Detroit Free Press Half Marathon with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and I ran the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon for the Semper Fi Fund. I submitted both stories in February and in March was notified that among the thousands of stories submitted, “Semper Fi, Sister” had been chosen for their new book.
My Marine Corps Marathon journey was deeply personal to me. I had started running again after my divorce in 2011 and after recovering from knee injury that set my training back, I finished the half marathon in 2012. I thought my running days were over until I met my Arctic Annie, who inspired me to reignite that marathon dream.
While my marathon day was a magical mix of serendipity, running is never just about the big events. It’s about enjoying and making the most of life along the training trail. It’s about the journey of life’s changes, and my life has been transformed since that day in 2011 when I took my first Team in Training run after decades of not running. I met my partner, I started an internship that that I’ve now completed in a career that I love…and now, I’m a published author.
I am so very grateful to all the coaches, friends, and family who have supported me in achieving both my dream to run the marathon and of being published.
To Arctic Annie, who was with me every step and mile of the way during this journey of life, I Love You and I could not have done any of this without you by my side.
The lilacs are blooming late in Michigan this year.
Once when I was in the 5th grade, I ran by the blooming lilac bushes in our back alley and immediately stopped. Catching a whiff of the sweet fragrant blooms, I was momentarily transported back in time. I have no sense of where and when, but felt startled by that vague yet seemingly familiar recollection.
Lilacs remind me of another place and time, and awaken me.
I haven’t felt that exact feeling again, but I do experience an odd sense of deja vu every Spring when the lilacs bloom.
Growing up I didn’t name inanimate objects and I’m not sure I knew people did that until my daughter named her first car. Turns out a lot of people name their possessions.
At one point over the past year and a half, I remember giving her a name. I was attracted to her curvy, voluptuous figure and she seduced me with her deep sexy voice. We began our journey slowly, my fingers unsure and my hands untrained. With practice and discipline, we began to make beautiful music together and my partner called me her Cello Bella.
I turned in my rental cello yesterday and was caught by surprise when tears came to my eyes. I hadn’t expected that. I had made peace with my decision to focus my limited time on writing. As I caressed her one last time and expressed my gratitude for being my musical companion for the past year and a half, I wracked my brain trying to remember what I named her.
“You took good care of it,” the technician said after the inspection.
“Thank you, she was my baby,” I replied.
After finishing up the paperwork, I drove away and was glad I couldn’t remember her name because leaving her would have been that much harder.