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Run, honestly.

ImageI think I am most honestly myself when I’m running.

When I’m with Kate, I’m an exaggerated version, smiling big, loving loud, with animated facial expressions and (sometimes) feigned excitement about My Little Pony and shirts with ruffles.

When I’m around other people I tend to tailor myself to the moment — afraid to make a fool of myself or say something inappropriate. I want those I interact with to think I’m slightly less silly than I like to be, and slightly more grown up. I want them to think I am composed, elegant, fun, spontaneous, and all the good things — all the things people like about other people. 

But when I’m running — on the treadmill or on the sidewalk or down the bike lanes of busy streets — I am most honestly myself. Not an animated, or toned-down version. I sing out loud and I pant and sweat. My eyes water and my heart races. I smile when I’m happy, when I find the perfectly-paced song to strike my feet to, and I wince when my knees ache and my muscles sting up steep hills or through cold weather.

My face reflects how I’m feeling physically, because I’m always happy when I’m running. It shows raw and instantaneous reaction. When I’m running — on the treadmill or on the sidewalk or down the bike lanes of busy streets — is the only time I love, laugh, feel, sing and dance like no one’s watching. They are the only moments I create for myself, rather than fitting into someone else’s.

That’s why I have to run, and why I have to run every day. It’s my moment.

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What have I done?

It’s no secret that Dave is trying to keep Kate from leaving the state with me to the job and home that I’ve found there. It could be the stress of three days of driving I spent last week to move into a house I immediately had to leave; Or it could be the toll taking a red-eye flight in an aisle seat takes when immediately followed by a four hour drive to a city I thought I’d never have to come back to; Or it could be the uncertainty that consumes the next indeterminate amount of time in my life. But I’m having a hard time.

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I made a decision, largely for myself. To move. And now Kate’s sleeping on a pullout couch in a blackened hotel room. And I’m sitting in the other room of that same hotel room,  one I can’t afford, waiting for tomorrow to come where it will be decided what new place Kate’s going to be spending the next few months. 

I know I thought my decision to move completely through. I know it’s what’s best and necessary. But I can’t help but think that I’ve made a mistake. Doubt is petrifying.

I hate myself for putting Kate through this, even though I doubt she has any idea what’s going on. I hate myself for getting myself into a situation like this to begin with, where someone else has seeming control over my decision making and what I think is right for my child. And I hate her father for putting my in this position — having to prove my worth as a parent where at the same time he makes me doubt my most basic ability to be one.

How dare I put my selfish desire for happiness above the goodwill of my child, and how dare someone else make me feel as though that’s what I’m doing?

I need this nightmare to be over. I need tomorrow to be the beginning of the end. I need to wash the mascara off my pillowcases and have it be for the last time.

I want to smile when I sneak into my baby’s room at night to hold her, not drip tears on her forehead. I want to know she’s happy, not just desperately hope. I want to make her a home, not just give her a place to stay for a while, until the next place to stay (that her father will agree with) comes along. 

I want to know what I’m doing is good. Because if it’s not, what the hell am I doing at all?

 

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How I ruined my body

I have a tattoo.

A few of them actually; the running total is eight. Some of them my parents didn’t know about until they read that last sentence. I have permanently marked my skin with stamps of the societal underworld. Many of them are visible should I wear a tshirt. Some you can see unless I wear full-coverage footwear or keep my hair loose. My forearm, in fact, has not only one small tattoo, but an even larger one covering up the original piece of art. 

How will I ever get a job? Will I have to wear long sleeves through the summer? What about when I’m 40 years old and my skin sags and they’re not trendy anymore? What if I don’t like the design five years down the road? You know those are permanent, right? But there’s more. 

When I was a teenager I had very bad skin.

I picked at it and now I have a small scar on my cheek from a particularly aggressive session in front of the mirror involving a pair of tweezers and severe case of teenage angst. You can see it, if you look closely. You can also see the scar through my eyebrow; a permanent reminder of childhood curiosity and animal unpredictability. 

Sitting in front of that mirror in middle school I knew not to pick at my skin; I’d seen pictures of acne scars and my mother nagged me incessantly to stop. Why didn’t I listen? I’ll never be able to leave the house without makeup. Do I have any idea how expensive a good foundation can be? Lets go on.

When I was 22 I got pregnant.

My stomach grew and stretched, along with the rest of my body. I put on 60 pounds in nine months. I have small, silver lines streaking across my hips and legs. Every inch of my body inflated, and has now deflated, some parts beyond recognition. Unless I wear a one-piece bathing suit or a pushup bra, people will see those scars. Some are lighter and smaller, while some run deeper and glaringly obvious.

Growing up I knew about birth control and the stress that came with starting a family. Children can bring people together but just as easily drive them apart. What was I thinking, getting pregnant? Didn’t I know it would ruin my body? How will I ever fit into my high school clothes again? Don’t I know how hard it is to raise a child and have a career? How will I ever go back to work?

I have ruined my body.

But I also remember every single thing about the circumstance surrounding each tattoo. I may not like the design in five years, and they may not look quite the same in 40, when my skin sags and wrinkles distort the original image. But I WILL have a living timeline of the most emotionally impactful moments of my life. The star on my foot: I was a senior in high school and qualified for the state swim meet. The music note behind my ear: I will always hear the music I learned to play as a child and struggled to maintain through adulthood. The Tibetan symbol for Tiger on my hip: I may not care to remember that I have the animal representing the year I was born under the Chinese calendar on my hip, but I will never forget Dayton2Daytona — all four trips.

I wear short sleeves, even in the winter, exposing the clock on my arm that not only keeps the time for me, but reminds me to let some times go. I wear sandals and shoes with heels too high, exposing my proudest moment in high school for all to see and judge. I wear two-piece bathing suits, showing the ink on my ribs reminding myself, and others, to “write the book that wants to be written,” joined by the thin silver scars on my hips reminding me no matter how thin I get, I have a beautiful child and once weighed more than 200 pounds. Sometimes, I go out without makeup. I am happy with my face, childhood scars and all. 

I have jobs. The only person that has ever mentioned any of my visible tattoos, the assistant dean of the college of arts and sciences (one of my bosses), complimented them and rolled his sleeves up to show me his own collection. 

“My wife hates them,” he chuckled. “She doesn’t understand them.”

That’s something I’m willing to deal with: misunderstanding. But I have not ruined my body. My body has changed. It is marked with memories in the form of scars, wrinkles and ink. I did all of these things to myself and aging will continue to change it, but by no means am I ruining it. I’m using my skin as a canvas for makeup, motherhood and, yes, tattoos.

I’m a good student, a hard worker, and a doting mother. And I have not ruined my body.

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surprise people

Get to the point:

In one of my undergrad English classes we still had show and tell. One of the girls brought in a memory box type of thing, but instead of keepsakes, she clipped inspirational quotes and advice for her future daugher to look through. No, she was not pregnant yet or even considering it, but she knew one day she’d have a daughter and didn’t want to forget all the lessons she felt were important.

I was thinking about that box today and while I don’t remember a single thing that was in it, I thought it might be nice for Kate to have something to look at (or even notes for myself when I give her the Follow Your Dreams speech) when she’s older and feeling defeated, happy, anxious, lost, whatever.

So here’s my advice for you, Kate, in hoping you’ll never need it.

But just in case…

1. Be confident in your intelligence. Eloquence is attractive and will take you far more places than perfect skin and expensive haircuts.

2. There is such thing as “too perfect.” It’s condescending and unlikeable.

3. Your mother was an actual person with a real personality all to her own even before you were born. Help me remember that because I’ve probably lost it along the way to help you find yours.

4. Your grandma said this to me when I was a teenager and I’ll say it to you now: You may get in trouble and I may get mad, but all I’ll do is yell. Don’t be scared. I still and always will love you. No matter what. You don’t have to hide in the bathroom.

5. The world will not leave you behind if you don’t go to every social function that comes along. Study when you need to. Sleep when you want to. Have fun with what’s left. The world WILL leave you behind if you don’t get an education.

6. Your grandma also used to say this to me when I was a kid: Find something you love to do. Make that your job. I decided then I wanted to be a marine biologist because I liked to go swimming. Obviously goals change, but determination doesn’t have to. I’ve found what I love to do and am still trying to figure out how to make it work for me. One day I will, and you will too.

7. Don’t be afraid to correct the teacher. Sometimes, they’re wrong.

8. Please, I beg you, don’t push people around. Don’t be entitled, don’t be a snob, don’t be a bully. Open arms open hearts. You don’t need friends who use cruelty towards other children to solidify their social position, no matter how much you think you want them. Nobody likes to get picked on. Put yourself in their shoes and do what’s right. Words hurt, don’t use them as a weapon.

9. Use your manners. I’ll do my best to teach you good ones. Please and thank you go a long way. Mr and Miss even further. Adults will respect you if you demonstrate these courtesies that so often fall to the wayside. Unfortunately, good manners seem to be less and less common. Surprise people.

10. You don’t need a large group of friends. One or two close ones is much more satisfying. Find someone you can tell your secrets to, not someone who will tell all your secrets.

11. Travel. The world is a fascinating place and seeing it makes you a fascinating person.

12. Try weird food. Even if it’s just once. Unless it’s oysters… I won’t do that either.

13. Be passionate about everything you do. It makes failures hurt but successes can then be deeply personalized and fulfilling. If you aren’t passionate about something, don’t do it. Or change your perspective.

14. Take any and all measures to be happy.

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Uncomfortably numb.

Have you ever made a decision that should qualify as a major lifer, but felt largely uneffected by it? I’ve done it. It’s happening. Rather, nothing’s happening.

I’ve made a decision that has completely changed the entire course of my life and where I thought it was going and it’s making me feel… nothing. I’ve fone into autopilot. My days are a series of motions and for the momoent I’m just going through them. Is it shock? I hope not because that insinuates an impending moment of realization  that I really would prefer not to deal with. Maybe the decision I’ve made isn’t as monumental as I’d imagined it should be.

I was looking for this major change to happen — a massive, earthshaking effect to come out of this entire situation — and it’s not. So, when will I feel different? When will I feel like my choices mean something? Will it be the first night I lay down to sleep in a home that isn’t the one my child was born into? Or is there something about this town that makes everything feel like nothing? I’ve become so numb to my potential that any change I make in this environment is insignificant because I’m just still here.

I never planned to stay here, and I’m to the point now that any plan I make while still here just doesn’t matter. I can’t move forward. I just need to go somewhere.

I need to feel alive.

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Making changes

I would consider myself pretty adventerous as far as my willingness to travel and be outside (especially on beaches with umbrella drinks) or to do something out of the ordinary (like going to Trader Joe’s isntead of Kroger). I like to push limits and buttons. I like to overdress and underprepare. I do not, however, like coffee.

I don’t want to try it. I won’t like it. It makes my parents breath smell like bitter beans and unless you drink it through a straw like a nancy then it stains your teeth brown like chewing tobacco. I don’t like coffee ice cream, I don’t like mocha-anything. I just don’t. I do, however, like to stay awake during the day. It is one of my job requirements.

So, as of January 3, 2012, I have become a coffee drinker. I’ve heard it’s an acquired taste and boy did I acquire it quickly. It’s a miracle what four measly sugar packets and a chocolate creamer can do for 10 ounces of rancid roast. I drink two cups in the morning, rapid fire style, and pile one more on top of lunch after my 12:30 break.

I am sophisticated, I wear high heels, I work in an office and I drink coffee. Gone are the days of chugging canned energy drinks at $5 a pop in the back of a restaurant kitchen. I now save $40 a week by forgoing the proverbial wings and sipping instead a styrofoam cup-o-class in my cubicle. And is it just me or is hot caffine an appetite suppressant? Who needs morning snacks when they have morning joe? I’ve had the same q.p. of marzipan chocolate in my purse for a week now — my “just in case” stash — and I’d like to keep it there, missing only 6 bites instead of 60. A desk covered in cookie crumbs reads “slob.” A desk covered in coffee rings reads “busy as a bee and ain’t nobody getting in my damn way.”

So watch out world. My name is Emma. I will answer your phone calls, I will file your papers and I will drink your coffee.

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sympathy sucks

Want to hear something sad?

Probably not but I have to tell you because since I heard it at 5:00 this morning, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.

A couple of days ago two teenage kids were killed when they were hit by a drunk driver going 100 miles an hour down a road where that in itself is highly illegal (three times illegal actually). The man was arrested and goes to court today at 1:15. But that’s not the sad part. I forgot about that almost as soon as I heard it.

I didn’t think of it again until Dave said “I used to coach that kid in basketball, I can’t believe he’s 18 already.”

Well, was 18.

And that was sad, too, but still, just news about someone Dave used to know when he was more of a kid.

Like when you hear about someone you knew as a child dying at the age of 55. It’s not as sad because you didn’t know that 55-year-old person. You knew the 10-year-old they’ll forever be… that one didn’t die.

Dave always comes to bed late. Around 5:30 a.m. when he works and around 3 or 4 when he doesn’t. He didn’t work last night but came shuffling down the hall at 5:30 anyways. Instead of the usual grunt goodnight and mild tossing and turning before drifting into oblivion, he lay still for a few moments before opening his mouth.

“I went to Corey’s crash site tonight to pay my respects.”

Sad

“His mom was there all by herself. She recognized me. She said, ‘Hey didn’t you used to coach Corey in basketball?'”

Corey’s mom was at his crash site shrine at 3:00 in the morning last night, all by herself in the freezing cold and the pouring rain, “because I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “I wanted to make sure the candles stayed lit,” as she bent to relight the votives and tealights her dead son’s friends and loved ones had placed in his honor on the street corner where he died.

I can’t get that image out of my head. THAT, I can’t stop thinking about. The image of a mourning mother in the middle of the night remembering her son  while so many, like me, went to sleep and forgot, brings me to tears.

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November 22, 2011 · 1:33 pm