Sunday, August 29, 2010

On happiness.


This is part of my favorite trail. It smells like bay leaves... because those are bay trees. Love it.


So, it’s official: I’m living the life I’ve always wanted.

No, really, I am. It just hit me (while running per my usual) that wow, I’ve actually accomplished something far greater than a well-paying job or all the material wealth the world has to offer: I’ve lived the perfect day. And not only that, but the days leading up to it were-- while not perfect-- not so bad themselves.

So what is my perfect day, you ask? I’ll quit restraining myself and tell you (and live its sweetness all over again.) Sigh.

I woke at 5:45 am to make tea and re-read fellow graduate essays before lacing up my running shoes and heading out into the young dawn light. I chose a route called the King’s Canyon loop, adding two miles to the trek to make a total of 10 for the morning. The air was crisp and with the slight chill of autumn lurking in the shadows of over-hanging bay trees; the leaves on the maples are already changing from green to an oxidized rust color. Rabbits and squirrels stared as I ran by. And me, I felt free as they are since I was unburdened by my Garmin watch which ran out of juice six minutes into the run.

The reservoir was still and smooth as glass as I wound my way up and down the hillside, in and out of groves of scrub oak and bay trees. The tall grasses-- now colored gold-- looked like the Elysian fields have in my daydreams when I’m whimsical and imagine the hereafter as a gigantic field used for frolicking.

When I returned to the house, I typed responses to the essays I’d read that morning and then did some reading of my own (a novel by Norwegian writer Per Petterson that I’m quite enjoying). I stretched, did my hip flexor strengthening exercises and a series of core workouts while listening to the news.

Then I showered and readied myself for my FIRST DAY as a graduate student at Saint Mary’s College in their Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Nonfiction writing. As I sat in a room with not-so-many other writers from all over the United States of all ages and demographic backgrounds, I felt like-- oddly-- I belonged. Ideas for essays ricocheted from every angle inside my head. I was going to write about running, the outdoors, my life at Tahoe, my sister, Steve; I was going to write it all and I was going to be able to train. I nearly drowned in all the optimism that unexpectedly came dripping out of me.

We had a brief lunch and I met Vanessa, a mother of two from Brentwood (an hour and a half away) who’s also in the Nonfiction program. And Kelsay who drove with her father all the way from Michegan and who met another MFA’r while visiting his hometown of New York City. Mallory, a cute petite who’d befriended me on Facebook months before, turned out to be a first-year poetry student from Mississippi. There’s even another Tahoite, Sven, who came from somewhere out East and spent a year in Tahoe, just like I did. Torrey is a blonde guy who also runs and wants to run in the same marathon I do this upcoming December.
Hours passed. We chatted about craft, writing, and the unlikely paths that led us here. It seems like-- well, a lifetime ago-- since I’ve done that. (OK, not a lifetime, but the fall of 2009.) Gone are the days of me sitting alone at the end of the bar in tears while everyone at the other end talked about skiing, the depth of Lake Tahoe and the way to tweak boat engines so they run correctly at altitude. I’m leaving behind those lonely winter days when I truly thought I was the most boring and worthless person on the face of the earth.

Gone-- for now-- are those days I was trapped on the treadmill in the only gym in Tahoe City, looking out at the Lake while I did 16 mile runs without actually going anywhere. Or days when I stared out the window at the store where I once worked watching the large white flakes fall and accumulate, wondering if I would find myself still staring in that same spot in twenty years.

And then I came home from the MFA orientation, changed, and ran an easy 6 miles in the golden afternoon light. I’m a bit sore from my workout on Saturday: I did 2 mile repeats again.

I can’t help but jump up and down about them. Finally, my running legs are getting stronger. I ran my first one in 12:20. The second in 12:03. And the third: 11:49. When I saw my watch after running 8 laps on the track for that final interval, tears started streaming down my face. I never ever imagined I could ever run two miles faster than twelve minutes. I always told myself I was too fat, and that I was unworthy. But I did it. I actually did it; and maybe if I do that, then maybe other things that I thought were so impossible are not actually so out of reach.

Maybe--- oh, just maybe-- I have dreams and goals that could materialize and could actually happen. I was so afraid of taking a chance and attending Saint Mary’s, just like I was always so afraid of wanting to train for the Olympic Trials because I don’t “look” like a runner. But I have to say that I am so happy-- and so grateful-- that I’ve set my mind to doing both.

1 comment:

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

That does sound perfect! This gives me hope for my own perfect day, coming soon. I really do love your blog - it's so refreshing and good for my heart to read a blog from someone who also loves running and writing.