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Last year, I ran the Mardi Gras Half Marathon, my second half-marathon. A few weeks later, BWB and I were visiting his mother and discussing this event. I had been trying to convince him to come run with me, and his mother got involved. The short version of this story is that BWB agreed — nay, promised — to run the Mardi Gras Half Marathon 2011 alongside me. In front of his mother. Oh yes, he was definitely doomed at that point.

Fast forward to last December. We had been gradually increasing our running, but the time had come to commit to the marathon training program. To say BWB was uncertain would be putting it mildly. In retrospect, he says that his “I could do it if I want, I just don’t know if I want to” attitude was probably a cover for something more along the lines of, “I don’t think I can do this.” Early on, we had a couple of training runs which ended, quite frankly, in tears and yelling. After the second or third of these calamitous endings, we sat down and talked. Well, mostly, I talked. I told him that I didn’t want him to do anything I wanted to do, or to feel forced into something, but that the idea of crossing the finish line together was incredible to me. Nobody I love runs, so nobody understands exactly why I do these things. I wanted to share that feeling of accomplishment and joy with him. For his part, he told me he was scared that he wouldn’t be fast enough, that he’d slow me down, that he would disappoint me in some way. I said that wasn’t possible, and I promised to be patient.

A few days later, I registered both of us, and it was a done deal.

Training began in earnest, and except for a few missed runs while we were in very cold places, we stuck to the schedule. In evaluating our pace, we figured out that we were probably going to shoot for a 15 minute mile, with our goal to finish at around 3:15:00. BWB asked me what time I finished at the last time I ran it, and I mumbled something faster than that. He looked crestfallen, “I’m slowing you down.” No, no, honey, it’s not about that. This is exactly what I want to be doing.

Race Day. Out the door by 6am, parking at the finish line, and a shuttle to the start line. It was cold, but we had planned for this, and the next thing I knew we were standing with our start wave, bouncing up and down to keep warm (and from the excitement), then crossing the start line, then running down Tchoupitoulas. Together, every step of the way.

In the middle of the race, we were doing really well, sticking with the plan and pounding through. At some point about mile 8, I realized that if we managed to maintain that pace, we would finish at under three hours. I started to push us towards that goal, run a little harder, move a little faster. BWB figured this out in the middle of a scheduled walk break and gave me a hurt look, “Why are you pushing so hard? I thought this was about finishing with me.”

I paused. The drive to finish faster was mine, not his. When I had been pushing him, I thought it was because he would be even more proud of himself if we managed to finish so much faster than expected. I thought he would be delighted by that finish time, that the race would be even better for him. All of that was me, though — I was pushing my feelings, my goals, my interpretation of success and achievement, projecting them onto my husband. His goal was to finish, to finish around 3:15:00, and to finish together. Those were the goals I shared at the start of the race, and it wasn’t fair to decide on his behalf that he would be happier if I changed them for him mid-stream.

So I said, “You’re right, honey, I’m sorry.”

He looked at me suspiciously and asked me what the catch was.

I explained, apologized again, he forgave me, and we went on to finish the race.

Together.

Crossing the finish line with him was even more amazing than I expected it to be. If I hadn’t been slightly dehydrated at that point, I think I would have cried. We finished in 3:03:00, twelve minutes faster than expected may I point out. It was amazing and wonderful and beyond worth all of the effort and struggle.

BWB says he wants to do another half, and then start looking at a full marathon. I’ve never done a full, although I’ve wanted to. It seems big and scary and long, and I’m a little intimidated by the distance. That’s not going to stop us, though. We’re going to do our first marathon, and cross the finish line holding hands.

Together.

Right after BWB and I started dating, I went away on a trip.

Six months or so before I met BWB, my friends and I had decided we would go on a cruise for Thanksgiving. It happened in the most backwards way, with all of us sitting around bemoaning the horrifically bad spring we’d had that year, and someone said we all deserved a vacation. Yeah, someone else said, we should all go on a cruise or something. And then someone else said, hey, we SHOULD go on a cruise! And we all looked at each other and realized we were brilliant, and it was done.

A few months later, I was in the middle of falling madly in love with this crazy boy I just met, and the idea of spending an entire week without seeing him was bothering me more than I liked to admit. I tried to play it off, I really did, but at dinner one night the 6 other people on the boat with me all groaned and threw me out of dinner to go call him already! For pity’s sake, call him, put us all out of our misery! Apparently, I was not doing as well at covering up the missing-my-new-boyfriend as I thought I was.

In any case, while I was missing him on this cruise, I was looking for just the right present to bring him back. Something unique, more than a t-shirt or a keyring, but not so expensive as to be awkward for our 2-month-old relationship. Finally, on our last port day, I found it. There amidst a pile of knick-knacks in a junk shop in the Bahamas was a tiny little ship inside a tiny glass globe. It was nothing big, but it was perfect, and I wrapped it in socks and underpants and stuffed it inside a shoe (because that’s what everyone does with tiny glass globes containing ships, right?) and brought it home to him.

He loved it. I glowed. A month later, we said “I love you” for the first time, and about 6 months after that, we were engaged. I’m pretty sure the ship had something to do with it.

Last year when we were moving, the tiny glass globe got caught in a cord and was thrown off the counter while I tried to unpack. I cried and cried, and BWB came to find out why. He looked at the broken glass, and at me, and smiled. Picking up the still-intact sailing ship, he held it out for me to see.

“You didn’t break it. You set it free!”

This, my friends, is love.

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I’ve wanted to do. — Georgia O’Keeffe

I am afraid, always, all the time. There is always something I am worried about, something that scares me, something that terrifies me. I am afraid of being attacked when I walk the dog, of missing our plane when we go on trips, of not matching, of matching badly, of not being allowed to graduate. I’m afraid of public speaking, of large groups of people, of meeting new people, of sounding like an idiot on the phone. There is always something about every day that makes me fearful.

Don’t get me wrong, I have developed all kinds of self-talk and management techniques which keep this constant anxiety from overwhelming my existence, but that doesn’t mean the underlying monologue of fear is any less present. It’s just less in control. BWB tells me sometimes that he is amazed at how difficult it must be to be me, and that he wonders if I realize how strong it makes me that I don’t let it break me. I don’t know about that — this is just the way my life is — but I do know that it can be exhausting and frustrating to constantly fight with my instincts.

As a result of all this, the O’Keeffe quote I started this post with has become something of a mantra for me. My mother gave me a matted, decorative version of it ages ago, probably because she knew how applicable it was to my frame of reference. I am always scared. I am always anxious. I don’t expect either of those things to really ever go away. I do expect to live my life in spite of them.

The sermon this week at church was about choosing love over fear, and one of the points the guest preacher brought up was that one of the most often repeated phrases in the Bible is some variation on, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid, we are told, because God is with you. And He is, I am certain of it, but sometimes in the darker, scarier moments of life it can be hard to remember. Many of the hardest choices that I have had to make in my life were ones which revolved around taking a step off the precipice into the very murky darkness of the unknown when it would have been much, much easier to stay where I was and be assuredly safe. I don’t think that when we are told to not be afraid, the intention is that we should not do the scary things. Quite the contrary, the point is that the scary things need not be quite so big and scary in the first place, because we are not as weak and alone as we might feel in that moment.

I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life, but I do my best to make sure it never keeps me from doing a single thing I’ve wanted to do. God is with me; I can trust in Him and not be afraid.

While poking around WordPress, I stumbled over the Post a Day/Week challenge. I had kicked around the idea of trying to do a post a week this year, which would be a vast improvement over my rough one per month over last year, but here it is an entire month into the year and no dice.

The part you don’t see is that on my list of posts, I have a handful of drafts just sitting there, waiting for me to finish them. Then there are the posts I had half-written in December, but not finished, which are now out of season. All in all, I have enough content to post a great deal more often than I do, I just… don’t.

So here it is. I will make my commitment official, tags and all, and do my best to post once a week. Better late than never, right? This next year is going to be a crazy one, but that makes me all the more determined to dig in and document it.

Which reminds me, I’ve been meaning to post about documentation… Pardon me, I need to go start writing.

This is a new one to me, and I was struck by it on Wednesday night when we went over it in choir practice. It spoke to me, and I wanted to share it, and remember.

Eternal Spirit of the living Christ,
I know not how to ask or what to say;
I only know my need, as deep as life,
and only you can teach me how to pray.

Come, pray in me the prayer I need this day;
help me to see your purpose and your will
where I have failed, what I have done amiss;
held in forgiving love, let me be still.

Come with the vision and the strength I need
to serve my God, and all humanity;
fulfillment of my life in love outpoured —
my life in you, O Christ; your love in me.

Hymn #698, 1982 Hymnal

It’s Friday evening, and Christmas is all over the table. Yes, as of the first week of February, Christmas has migrated into bins on the dining room table, slowly being sorted into ornaments (breakable and not), garlands and soft things, and breakable non-ornaments. Hanukkah is there too, in slightly larger proportion than when they came out of the boxes as we made a concerted effort to find more Hanukkah-related decorations this year. The jury is still out as to whether there will be interfaith storage, or if the blue bins will sit beside the red ones in the closet. All of this is progress from the last week of January, when it still looked approximately the same as the last week of December, only with slightly more wilted and brittle greenery.

With Christmas and Hanukkah holding court on our dinner table, there is no room to put out candles, wine, and bread. The smell of challah hangs in the air, filling the house with the essence I am coming to associate inextricably with Shabbat, but I fret over how this will work without a clear space to put our food or sit. How are we going to do this?

My iPhone plugs into the television, and soon Shalom Rav is quietly playing in the background. My husband and I stand in the middle of our kitchen and say prayers over the candles, wine, and bread which are waiting on the countertops. We have dinner on TV trays from the couch, listening to my very short Shabbat playlist and talking about inane secular topics like what the dog has found and whether he’s supposed to be chewing on it.

Even without the dinner table, without elevated discourse, without the good china or cloth napkins, standing in the middle of the kitchen with doughy dishes soaking in the sink, even with Christmas and Hanukkah haunting us and the stresses of school driving us both insane, even with all of that, we still eked out our little holy space tonight.

Blessed are you, oh God, who blesses Your people with Peace.

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