Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dead (wo)man's party

It's past peak leaf time around here, about two weeks beyond the loveliest time in autumn when gorgeous reds, oranges, and yellows pop, with some deep purples and still-greens and ever-greens mixed in, perched and ready to flutter to the ground and skitter across the pavement. Daylight Saving Time ended today and now is peak leaf-raking time, the bare trees reminding us that time flies too quickly. I ran another half-marathon three weeks ago, this time on my own, and the runners' heavy breaths floated visibly in the cold morning air. My banner year is coming to a close, and I fear that next year will be the opposite - full of challenges we'd rather not face. This year, I ran two big races, took many fun camping, backpacking, and long-weekend trips, learned to fish (and received my own fishing pole as a gift), met some of my special-someone's family, and brought that special someone to a Rosh Hashanah service. I checked a dream trip off the list, saw the Pacific Ocean, and stood below Mount Rainier. A gorgeous baby was born and a union was made official. I bought new tires for my car and finally found a way to take full control of my asthma. But among the milestones and the noteworthies have come family strife, a government shutdown, and the foreboding sense that the closing of some doors has opened others to worlds we hadn't expected and don't necessarily welcome. The party is winding down; time to deal with the real world again.

Seasonal Affective Disorder usually drags me down as the sun slinks farther south and the days grow shorter, but I'm determined to beat it this year. Down with the leftover Halloween candy, the heavy food, the sleeping on the couch all evening, the strange despair that sets in despite the opportunity for a full life. I bought one of those therapy lights, and after five days of huddling beneath it while eating breakfast each workday, I can already sense that something is different. Maybe it's coincidence. Maybe it's the placebo effect. Maybe it's a number of other reasons. But I've had more energy in the evenings, and though melancholy lurks, it hasn't yet taken hold; that's a great start. I started this post a few weeks ago, in the throes of the seasonal blues, and I'm finishing it tonight feeling lighter and fresher.

As I think I've mentioned before, the span of time that includes the Jewish New Year, the new year observed with the Western calendar (January 1), and my birthday (February 11) provides ample opportunities to reassess, to make promises for the next year, to vow yet again to do things differently. I think my aim will be to put aside some of my generalist tendencies, find some things I love despite the challenges they bring, and focus more of my energy on them. All my life, I have flitted from one hobby to another: ballet/jazz/tap dance, soccer, horseback riding, piano lessons, choir. There are some things I regularly do these days, like hiking/camping/backpacking, cooking, yoga, weight-training, occasionally crocheting, reading. These are recreational pursuits, though, activities I enjoy but don't obsess over, and if I improve my skills, it's only because I do them often. But the runner's high has taken hold of me, specifically the high from racing. I'm a slow runner, and between my asthma and my hourglass physique, I don't expect that I'll ever win a race or even place in the top 10 percent. I'm lucky to place in the top 50 percent for my age range. But there's something about communal running, pushing yourself to just finish, cheering on others as they cheer you on in return, traversing through time and space by the sheer will of your mind and body alone, that I just love the way I haven't loved an activity before. I cheered on my special someone and some friends at a half-marathon yesterday, and I so ached to be running with them that I ran hard on my own afterward. So, I may not win any races, but I want to get better. Faster. Without pain in my knees or my back or my lungs. I do many things because I can without too much work, but I want to run more despite the hard work. Or maybe because of it.

Yesterday was All Souls Day. Oingo Boingo famously sang in 1985,

"It's a dead man's party
Who could ask for more
Everybody's comin', leave your body at the door
Leave your body and soul at the door . . ."

I don't know what it means, really, but I'm taking it as a cue to use my body and soul now, while I still have them.