Sunday, May 22, 2011

and i like you better than anything in the sky

i love you much (most beautiful darling)
more than anyone on the earth and i
like you better than everything in the sky

-sunlight and singing welcome your coming

although winter may be everywhere
with such a silence and such a darkness
noone can quite begin to guess

(except my life)the true time of year-

and if what calls itself a world should have
the luck to hear such a singing (or glimpse such
sunlight as will leap higher than high
through gayer than gayest someone's heart at
your each

nearness) everyone certainly would (my
most beautiful darling) believe in nothing but

ee cummings

When it comes to hugging and loving, I had the most wonderful teacher. While the stereotypical, story-book grandmothers pinch cheeks and squeeze and condone the playfulness of a child, my Gigi was a nose-rubbing, down on all fours kind of lady. She wanted to know me, to know all of us (all 13 grandchildren) as whatever we were, without judgment.

In my life, I fell in love with my Gigi first. I fell in love with her confidence and her tacky jewelry and sparkly shoes. I fell in love with her sweet, long southern drawl. I fell in love with her hands. I fell in love with the way she talked to me--the language for just me. I fell in love with her hugs; the kind that pour out every ounce of soul and love and courage. Gigi was my person, the one that was meant for me in life. She let me talk, and dance, and create without insecurity. And I knew all of this, the way that I loved her and the way that she loved me, before she got sick.

I can still hear exactly how she said my name. And her laugh.

Lately, I've been missing her in every action and thought. She's supposed to be here and be excitable with me and cry with me and rationalize with me. Every day, I think I should be able to sit on a bed with her and talk and laugh and cry. Because she would get it. There are so many parts of my heart that she, and only she, would get.

In college, I carried her picture with me every day. To give me confidence to stand up in class and speak, to walk onto the field and keep my head high when it should have been hanging, and to remind me to be myself--that myself is grand. And beautiful.

In the ten years since she's been gone, I have not had that person that I could talk to without thinking first. Every word and every action has a consequence, but not with her. The years and months and days have been scary and sad and exciting--I need her embrace. To hold her hand and study our identical hand wrinkles.

But my Gigi taught me how to love with my whole heart. And although sometimes I'm afraid of it, afraid of that loss again, Gigi was the best teacher. Sitting on her kitchen floor, I learned that we are going to love with everything we've got and we are going to hurt and it isn't fair.

When I was young, my little cousin left us one night in his sleep. For weeks and months after this, I was afraid to sleep--afraid I wouldn't wake up if I closed my eyes. My little mind couldn't understand. Gigi painted me an angel and hung it over my bed, wrote and illustrated a book about angels who watch over sleeping children, and lay with me until it was okay to close my eyes, to give in. The angels are always near to those who are grieving, to whisper to them that their loved ones are safe in the hands of God.

In the months that Gigi was sick, I spent ever free moment with her. Laying with her and talking to her and holding her hands. I would go to her house after school and lay in bed with her and rub vitamin E on her scars and talk to her about all of the things I wouldn't be able to after she was gone. Because I knew she was leaving.

For a long time after Gigi left, all I wanted to do was make sure she was still here. I had little life goals of being just like her. To love like her, to hug like her, to dress a little like her (but she was a bit more flashy than I have the guts to be).

So, I woke up this morning aching for a hug and a conversation with her. It's been a long time since I've felt that feeling so strongly. All of the overwhelming plans for the next steps in life have me yearning for her input and her comfort. While so much of her is in me, I need to be able to bury my head in her perfumed neck and cry until its all okay again.

There are little details that I'm beginning to forget. What were the songs that you sang to me? I need to go to Margaret's (her best friend) store again and sit and paint furniture for hours and talk, and I need to sit on the edge of a bed. I need 8 more hours in the car or even just one hug.

For me, I do feel lucky to know what I was losing before it was lost. It has all made me much more aware of all of the people I love and how to cherish them daily. And I think I'll still have a day when I'm 67 where I'll wake up crying for a hug and kiss from Gigi. The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected.

Lubba, dubba, dubba you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Sometimes I think if we could all remember how to fall like a child, we'd bounce right back up. A kid instinctively knows how to fall. They fall in a way that they don't get hurt. If you watch them playing, they'll fall twenty times and only cry if their feelings get hurt. Adults don't have this. We grow out of it. Every fall hurts. It hurts our bodies and it hurts our feelings.

If I said that life is about failure, I would feel redundant. I'm pretty sure I tell my kids (not mine, but the kids I work with) every day that they are going to fail. Over and over again, they will fail. And its about how they react to it. So, life is about failing and falling and finding a way to continue--to keep breathing, to learn from the disappointment, to run along.

Being an athlete, I should be accustomed to falling. It's never been my strong suite.

My senior year of college, I threw my shoulder out on a play that didn't mean anything. The team we were playing had essentially already won, but I tried to throw the ball from the center field fence to the plate. And boom! No shoulder. After we had congratulated the opposing team on their win, I broke down and told the trainer that something was wrong. So, I sat for weeks watching the final games of my senior season, of the game that I love most. And that still hurts. Falling hurts.

Last weekend I participated in the Country Music 1/2 Marathon with the Emily's Power for a Cure team. I say participated because I didn't complete this run. I got hurt at mile 6. Body fail. And after 4 more miles of denial, I decided that it wasn't worth it.

Before I go on, let me explain the "it wasn't worth it." It was. But somewhere between my pride and the reality of the situation, it didn't matter if I finished this race. Between the anger and the tears and the disappointment, it wasn't about me.

So, quitting sucked. I can honestly say that I have never quit anything in my entire life. I failed and it hurt my feelings and I was wounded. During the almost 2 hours that I sat on the course, I threw things, wouldn't speak to anyone, and I cried. The whole time. (Big shout out to Jill Higdon who has, for the past 7 years, been my cry-to person. Only you can take that call and make me feel better about sitting on a curb). And when I finally got on the shuttle to the finish line, I was angry at the other marathon failures who only wanted to get to the finish to get their medals.

I'm not sure what the medal meant to them, but as they were yelling at our driver to get them to that finish line, I started thinking a little more rationally about the situation. I didn't want that medal. I wasn't finishing. But I didn't need the medal or even to finish the race to feel like I had accomplished something.

The process of this experience was better for my soul than finishing the actual race. I was good to my body throughout the training--maybe for the first time in my athletic career. I was patient with myself and encouraging. Training was amazing and fun and enjoyable (something it is not supposed to be, historically). I am a part of a team--something that I've missed greatly for three years--and that team is a part of something much bigger than any of us singularly. And I have found another sister.

The people that were swirling all around me that weekend have more resilience than that little child on the playground that falls and gets back up and falls again. They have been broken and are still breathing.

So, it's taken me a full week to get over the fall. I use get over lightly because it still stings a little when people ask me how it went. It was supposed to go well, but it didn't, and that's okay. It really is. And I'm really grateful that I had my people to find me and hug me when I got off that awful shuttle of failures.

I quit because running means more to me than one race. I need these knees to last until my brain is incapable of letting me run. I feel guilty about craving something so desperately, but my need to run is stronger than my need for nearly any creature comfort. I'm a competitive person, and finishing a route a few seconds faster than the day before leaves me with a guaranteed high. Unlike drugs or booze, my running addiction makes my life better. I will never need Prozac as long as I have my daily fix of endorphins. No other exercise seems to provide it for me in quite the same way. All of my dearest friends have been or are my running partners.

When we fall, its discouraging and hard. Its time and devotion down the drain. But in the big picture, its a small blip in a larger mission.