The Cruise: Final Installment

I suppose I’ve dragged this out long enough. This declaration has nothing to do with me running out of story ideas. Nosirree. Well, maybe… So, let me start where we started – the part where I decided I wasn’t a cruise girl, and the why behind it, picking up after some Galveston gal named Ginger tried to do me in with her obnoxious love of Scentsy, and questionable food recommendations. (Next time, we’re going to Gaido’s. I want zero arguments on this front.)

Any of my friends will tell you I’ve always wanted to travel, and they’ll probably follow that statement up with the fact that I’m exceptionally great at coming up with excuses for not travelling. Refusing to travel because of these excuses, and therefore, having never traveled, I have learned to live rather vicariously through my friend’s adventures as they regale me with tales of the distant songs of African tribesmen approaching their lodges, of fellow German tourists incensing Chinese chefs to the point said chef felt compelled to throw a cleaver into the middle of their table, to sneaking into the Forbidden City, to their private tours of the Roman baths in Malta, to “that one time in Spain…” and to drooling over every single photo my ex-pat friend takes on her hikes around New Zealand. On separate occasions, two friends have come back from Edinburgh, and not realizing the other had said it, expressed with absolute certainty that I needed to go and would love it. Each had gone on a particular tour, they knew I would completely dig beyond reason, and they’re right. Instead, on my one trip out of the country, I went to Montreal, which was lovely but… (No offense Irina. If I’d only known you and Ben then… Well, we would have had to have received your parent’s permission to hang out with us. Is the couch still open for visits/living if I become an ex-pat myself?)

A few months before Jay passed away, I got a passport. We were going places, I was excited, we would explore the world together, and then one day in July we weren’t. And then I blew out my knee, and then Sam passed away, and all the excuses piled back up along with a firm understanding that I would always have these unrealized dreams. Forget that I have a place to stay in Japan. Forget I have a friend to hang out with in New Zealand. I wasn’t going, but I would do my best to enjoy the postcards I’d receive, and sing praises about the posted photos from friends’ trips.

So, there I was on a cruise heading to three separate ports: Cozumel, Belize City, and Roatan (off the cost of Honduras). We had excursions planned for the first two, and a relaxing day on the beach planned for the other.

In Cozumel we did a Tastes of Mexico tour where we sampled tequila, made chocolate, and enjoyed some tacos.  The tour was solid, and my take away was: I like tequila in many things, but sipping tequila, swishing it around my mouth, and holding it there doesn’t make it any better – it just kind of burns the whole inside of your mouth instead of the back of your throat, which is right and proper despite what our guide was saying. And while I appreciate that our guide’s grandmother did this daily and lived to be 200, she is tougher than I am, and she likely has no taste buds. (And also may have questionable taste – no offense.) Also, you can dress Jose Cuervo up, call it the 1800 series, and it’s still not that great (unless in a drink). I also learned I love pineapple margaritas, and have now learned how to make them. Swing by my house; I’m ready to serve! I even have the chili/salt mix to rim the glass – so much better than plain salt. We also learned that everyone at that location would like a tip, and by the time we reached the fourth tip jar, we were kind of done, which was right at the taco server’s station, and I’m pretty sure she wanted to throw tacos at our heads.

Jose Cuervo 1800 Series – “Sipping” Tequila

In Belize we drove to Xuantunich, which I mentioned is on the border with Guatemala. Here we had an amazing guide who told us about the culture, history, politics (they just recently held an election in March), and natural features of Belize. In fact, if we pointed out an animal, he’d reach down, grab a laminated info sheet, and have us pass it around. If we pointed out a butterfly, out came the laminated butterfly info sheet. I suspect, he had a laminated sheet for everything. He was kind of the Belizean Mary Poppins with a magical bag of laminated info sheets.  We learned there were two major political parties, that a disproportionate amount of critters in Belize are deadly and murderous, and the country produces a million (exact figure) varieties of mangos – along with having no zoning laws, $10/gallon gas (approximately $5 US, but still), and howler monkeys! (Also, some rather amorous lizards who perform a happy little hoppy dance at the conclusion of their good times. High claw, iguana dude! Sorry about the voyeuristic gals taking photos. Humans. Am I right?)

In Roatan, we just looked at shops, went on a nature trail, and spent the day on the beach and in the water.

And when I first started talking about the trip, all I could say was it felt as if I never left the US thanks to the commercialization, and how everything is bent around capturing dollars from tourists – all the duty free shops, the “Made in China” goods, etc. My first trip out of the country seemed like a let down – like I hadn’t gone anywhere, and I was disappointed. And it wasn’t that I didn’t have a fine time, it just felt like I’d hit the Mercado in San Antonio and slept on a boat.

While on the ship, we’d spend the nights looking for things to do, and found ourselves at places like the piano bar with a Rod Stewart wanna be who went by the name “Roddy,” and who didn’t quite get the songs he was playing – he wins for oddest version of Bohemian Rhapsody I’ve heard to date, but let’s say that by the end of the trip I was prepared to punch anyone who started singing “Sweet Caroline.” Then there was a couple of nights listening to bad karaoke, some trivia contests, a 70’s club, and a night of 80’s Rock & Glow dancing where there was a dance-off, and I was unfazed… until I stepped away from it all, so let me recap this paragraph after having time to really think about it.

While on the ship, I danced! I had forgotten how much I missed dancing. It started in the lobby one night, then there was the night at the 70’s club while I clung to my disco ball glass that I love, and ended with all of us dancing until they closed the party down for the 80’s Rock & Glow night – where we were completely decked out in every glow stick piece of jewelry one could imagine. This was the night my beautiful cousin Kim WON the ladies dance competition, and was completely robbed when she went head-to-head against the male champion. I’m sure he cheated. 🙂 The crowd, who’d formed a circle around them, knew it was “on” when Kim kicked off her sandals.  It got real in that moment, y’all. Kim wasn’t playing! At the end of it Kim said, “if I can do that, I can do anything!” Yes, she can! She was AWESOME! and AMAZING, and BEAUTIFUL!! I may have hurt my own ears scream cheering her on. Kim had been selected from the crowd after showing us all how it was done in the Thriller dance – best ladies zombie dancer out there! I also learned I need some work on the electric slide, but I’m up for the challenge!

Dancing reinforced that my knee could take it (within reason, of course) when I really thought I would never be able to dance again.

We won not one but TWO trivia contests. The last one was 80’s music trivia where we all received medals and a golden ship. Also, I need to say here I’m embarrassed for the other participants who couldn’t identify Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” from the first two notes. Come on!! I had a good showing in the Game of Thrones trivia, but really needed someone who’d read the books on my team. Pike, are you kidding me? By the way, I kind of love it that a friend of mine found me by looking at the schedule of activities and realizing, “yep, that’s where Beth is going to be.” Also, without having ever watched GoT, she helped me answer the first question. This is the same person who knew I’d be in the gym early in the morning. My friends get me.

I swam in the ocean! I haven’t donned a bathing suit in years, and there I was bobbing away and happy as I could be. I could have stayed out there all day. The ocean was the best! I love the water!

I went to Belize! I had a two hour trip to and from the Guatemalan border learning all of these things I’d never known about Belize, and I want to go back and spend time, and eat at least a ton of the millions (actual number, as mentioned before) of mangoes. Apparently, there’s a non-stop flight from Austin to Belize City, and it turns out that I have a passport. I also climbed Mayan ruins with a banged up knee, and I didn’t get winded, AND I didn’t go tumbling down, AND I didn’t have to be part of some emergency med evac as I’d anticipated.

I did abs with Gaybor, and was happy when I could keep up, including the plank part. (We will not mention here that my planks at home always get adjusted, and I may have figured out a way to easier planking. Go me! Shifting forward makes it so much harder.)

Gaybor – Exceptionally Inspirational Ab Coach (Hey, I’m old, not dead. Plus, Heather took the photo, so… well, I know my inner 16 year old cheered when she did it. 🙂 He’s a solid volleyball player, too. Just sayin’.)

During the entire trip, I had my phone off, which was absolutely liberating. I slept better than I had in months, thus ending months of insomnia. I’ll also admit, that until the super choppy day on sea, I didn’t really feel the ship move. I could tune it in or out, so I was showing off this newly found skill whenever I could. I brought Dramamine, and I never had cause to use it.

I watched the sun rise and set over the ocean.

In sum – I laughed a lot, I danced a lot, I relaxed, and I spent a solid week with my family and my friends – uninterrupted time I never get with them. I had the absolute best time I’ve had in a long time with people I love. I couldn’t ask for a better experience.  And while I still want to travel properly – wander the hidden paths, escape the commercialism and the demands that I “consume” things, I would do this all again with the same people. (Though, I’d take on an additional friend or two who couldn’t make it.)

Sunset with the Girls

So, who wants to sail with me from Miami to Havana?

Now go read the Game of Thrones series, and memorize this opening (I need you to be prepared):

A Year Ago: A Cruise Story

On March 4th, 2017, sometime after noon, I completely ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and my medial collateral ligament (MCL) after slipping in some mud on the Warrior Dash. For my efforts, I was rewarded with an annoying physical therapist who called me “Miss Beth” constantly, a metal cane, and a disabled parking permit. I got to chant things like “heaven up, hell down” to remember which leg to use when approaching a step, and I got to wince and practice not crying out whenever my leg bent beyond 90 degrees. I also got to practice not crying out over the injustices of the world, or crying out when a relative decided to tear into me, because I was clearly too stupid to have figured out I shouldn’t have been at the Warrior Dash to begin with. Super helpful! Great conversation!

When you can’t use your legs at the gym, you’re left with doing a lot of things with your arms, but forget about how much I despise the hand bike – you’ve all heard about that. Let’s talk about the fresh humiliation that came when I fell off the weight bench  into a pile on the floor… when I couldn’t bend my knee, and I had to figure out how to roll onto my stomach and use my hands to walk towards my body so I could stand again, and try  to get back on the weight bench again. You all know the rest. I cried when I was first able to row, and then I successfully rowed my little half marathon on Christmas Eve. Basically, I got stronger, and my knee became more stable until I now where I’m up to 260 lb. on the leg press. Granted, that’s not huge, but considering where I was last year, it’s huge for me, and another small win – I can dead lift again.

I met with my orthopedic guy a few weeks prior to discuss where I was at, and what I could do. We determined I should brace my knee up whenever I was in a crowd, and on uneven ground – things I’d definitely encounter on the cruise, which meant I approached this trip with a great deal of trepidation. Only 3% of the participants on the Warrior Dash are ever injured, and I had been among the 3%. I wondered what small percent I’d manage to cover while cruising. I smiled on the outside, but I kept stuffing down the feeling that I was going to get hurt, and I was going to get hurt badly. I bought my traveler’s medical insurance, and talked myself through what would happen when they had to fly me back to the States, reminding myself it would be ok. To say I was traumatized by the ACL/MCL tear would be a huge understatement. Keep in mind the day before the cruise, I had already had a bad reaction to something – either the overwhelming Scentsy smell or the food (or both), and I saw it as an omen. (The ravens and banshees really tipped the scales. I mean, given those, who wouldn’t pause and say, “hrmm… that can’t be good, right?” Did I not mention those? Never mind. Nothing to see here.)

For all of day one, I kept my brace on, and was mindful of how I felt walking around the ship, being around people, judging how the stable the ship felt, etc. By day two, the brace was off, and it remained off while I was on the ship.

On Day 2 called “A Fun Day at Sea” I rowed 12,000 meters while watching the sun come up over the bow of the boat. (An advantage to always getting up early). Nothing centers me more, nor clears my head better than going to the gym, and there Heather took one of my favorite pictures of me on this trip. (While there are better photos of me, this makes me happy – me heading to my zone.)

Rowing the Ship to Cozumel

On Day 4 we went to a Mayan ruin called Xuantunich, 70 miles to the west of Belize City near the border of Guatemala. There I climbed the structure known as El Castillo (along with climbing a few shorter structures that don’t count for the purposes of this blog, but do count to their mother and father structures, because though they’re smaller in stature, those little guys are equally loved).

At first I was struck by how people who, at their tallest would have easily been about 7″ shorter (or more) than I, were able to scramble up the gigantic stairs.

Stairs MUCH bigger in person! The camera takes off 10″. Fact.

And then I took another moment to marvel at how, nearly a year after my injury, I was standing on this amazing structure – knee stable – looking out on the beauty that was this archaeological site, that was Belize, and how lucky I was to experience this with these people I absolutely love and adore. (Also, equally super glad to get back on the ground safely without having the helicopter evac for which I had mentally prepared.)

Xuantunich, Belize (El Castillo in Background – Where I climbed to the top, and stood between those five prongs.)

 

PS – This brought to you by Indiana Johnny who, by dropping today’s ball, guaranteed you’d get a gym-esque story instead of a “funny story from the cruise”. Proceed to cast blame.

Next Up: That time on the ship I got to talk to the cruise police. (Ok, I’m kidding. Oh, not about talking to the cruise police. I totally got a talking to. I’m just not sharing that story on my blog. I think someone should buy me a drink to celebrate my silence. Just sayin’.)

Spa Day: A Fancy Cruise Story

I’m not really a fancy lady. I’d never gone to a proper spa nor had I ever had a professional massage until this cruise.  You see, spas and professional massages seemed like things fancy ladies did with their fancy disposable income. Whereas my disposable income tends to go towards things that appeal to say goofy men with Peter Pan syndrome. You know, the absolute antithesis (or arch nemesis, perhaps) of a proper “fancy lady,” but definitely someone Mary Martin could sing about.  And here I was on this fancy cruise, with my fancy friends and my fancy family, thinking maybe my fancy little back might deserve a fancy little rub on one of these “fun days at sea”. It turns out that for me, my fancy little traps, thanks to fancy leisurely rowing, are a little (lot) tight. In fact, they sense I’m typing about them now, and they’re tensing up just to get some attention (or it could be that I’m sitting at a desk and have been all day – or it could be that I threw a lot of axes last night (I’m not kidding, I totally did that) Anyway, I can anthropomorphize my trapezius muscle if I want to – you worry about yourself).

(For Heather :))

So, on Day 2 of the cruise I made my way to the ship’s spa and signed up. Now the original idea was to get a deep tissue massage, but that turned into The Manager’s Special with its promises of bamboo, hot oil, a facial, something with my feet, and the clear promise I’d emerge relaxed and fancy. Dream massage was sooo… dreamy.

My friend Heather prepped me on what to expect. See, one reason I dislike a lot of fancy things is that sometimes I fear there are certain unspoken rules, or rituals one must follow that everyone else is in the know about except for me. I mean, what if I did something wrong? I could be spa-shamed! Then that information would likely travel through the back channels of the masseuse/masseur world, and the next thing you know I’d be eyed warily every time I passed a spa, massage parlor, or sidewalk carnivorous foot nibbling fish bucket purveyor. I wouldn’t live it down! EVER!!! Breathe Beth, BREATHE! I can do this.

When I enter the room it’s pleasantly dim, smells delightful, the music is peaceful if a bit new age-y, and the masseuse speaks in a soothing calm voice. Whew. I can do this! She begins my brushing my arms and legs with a cactus bristle brush. She explains it’s used on autistic children to calm them down. I ummm… wait. What? What are you saying? Am I being odd? I don’t know. Quick check. Ok, well other than the talking in your head thing. People do that, you know. Don’t be a freak. Breathe. Make polite conversation. “Interesting.” Good one. Nice save. I can do this?

I’ll fast forward a bit, because pretty much it could be boiled down to: hot things on my body feel great, and all of my muscles being rubbed also feel great (save maybe some knots that couldn’t be worked out in my shoulders).  And being called “dahhh’ling” excessively is vaguely annoying, but tolerable because of the aforementioned hot things and massage. Then we hit part of the appointment that was the hard sell, and the hard sell went a bit like this:

Dahhhling, your back muscles are a complete MESS (in the most disappointed/horrified/silky voice ever). There are crystals forming in your back, and the muscles are LEECHING calcium from your bones, Dahhhling.  For $170 you can buy this amino acid that you just apply a few drops to your shoulders, and that will break up the crystals.

What? I’m not sure that’s even real science. (Inner voice)

Dahhhling, you may need a back massage once or twice a week, and it will never be right. It’s just a temporary fix, Dahhhling. Are you sure you don’t want the drops? No? Let me put those away then.

Dahhhling, your skin is so dry. You look old! You must moisturize. Here are (insert a host of products being lined up one by one starting as low as $45 and scaling up to about $80) that will make you look much younger. Even I use them, and I am 27, can you believe it?

No. I would have gone younger. (Inner voice)

Dahhhling, now here’s the final bill. You’ll see the 18% tip has been applied; however, you may tip more if you wish.

Bless your sweet little heart, darlin’, I do not wish, but thanks for the opportunity. (Inner voice)

By the time Heather got to me in the spa lobby, having had a wonderful massage, I was in a fetal position (on the inside) and feeling vaguely sticky, withered, like an un-moisturized husk who clearly looks every bit of 80. We won’t even talk about these parasitic muscles.

And that’s how I spent a part of the second day while trying to be fancy on the cruise, and six days later, when people asked for my opinion about the cruise, it added to what annoyed me. And yes, this always had to be the second story. It continues to set-up my initial knee-jerk reaction, but as I mentioned before, there’s always more to a story, and there’s still more to this one.

Welcome to installment part deux!

Finally, the Cruise (Part 1)

When I walked off the ship, and headed towards the car, my first thought about my first cruise was, “never again.” In fact, for a good week afterwards, I told people, “yeah, I had a nice time, but cruising isn’t my thing.”  Now before my friends and family (aka travel companions) start a flurry of calls that sound a lot like, “wait, I thought she said she enjoyed the cruise. Did something happen?” let me explain by starting at the very beginning. As Julie Andrews taught us, “it’s a very good place to start.”

The trip started with an overnight stay in Galveston, Texas. We arrived the day before to avoid the stress of trying to drive there the day of the trip, and we’d booked a room at Ginger’s. I’m not sure who Ginger is other than a lovely hostess on Airbnb who had a lovely home that she loved to fumigate with the lovely smell of multiple scentsys.  This is important later.

That first night we piled into cars and headed out on the town to enjoy some lovely downtown Galveston seafood fare at a restaurant recommended by Ginger, whom it turns out is clearly a lot more patient when it comes to navigating torn up/destroyed streets and detours, and who also, unbeknownst to any of us, had some vendetta against me. This is important later.  The food was decent – not amazing, and in hindsight likely added to the next part of the story, but we had a great time. Everyone was excited. We were setting sail the next day!

We headed back to Ginger’s, which still looked rather unassuming at this point. I opened the door, walked in, and fell into Ginger’s scentsy pungent aromatic punji trap house of horrors, which immediately began assaulting my head. My frontal sinuses seized up, and the whole front of my head was on fire. Not to be outdone, my heart began racing uncontrollably. I couldn’t be in the house, and I dramatically exited hoping fresh air would help. I was now “that girl” and I hated being “that girl.” I wanted to be the girl that drank wine while sitting around on the couch laughing and telling stories. She seemed way more fun to be around.

I could feel my pulse as if each beat of my heart wanted to explode through my skin, and I could hear it – that whooshing sounds you hear on an ultrasound.  I started taking deep breaths, releasing each one slowly, which had exactly zero affect on my heart rate.

Now, I’m lucky to have a lot of people with medical experience in my life. Smart people. People who are just a tiny phone call away, and I thought “why don’t you call…” and I didn’t. Here’s why: When I got back from the cruise, mentioned what had happened,  said I nearly called, their response was, “I would have told you to go to a hospital. Your heart rate shouldn’t have been that high for that length of time” (over an hour). Well, I knew you guys would say that, and so I played a very risky game with my health to not be “that girl” who ruined everyone’s cruise by landing in the hospital the night before. Easily not the smartest thing I’ve done, but there it is. I didn’t want to be “the story.” And nearly a year after I destroyed my ACL and MCL, I couldn’t take what I saw as another hit. Nearly a year and a half after Jay died, I just couldn’t have another major thing blow-up and disappear. I just wanted to go on a flipping cruise like a normal human being. I mean sure, I wouldn’t have flipped the coffee table if I hadn’t been able to go. I would have started flipping cars (or making a really good go at it while my friends stood around watching silently with a, “what is she… is she trying to flip the car? Are you just going to let her? I’m not going to say anything. Ok. Well, let’s just stand here until she runs out of steam? How long do you think…? Be cool. She’s glaring at us. You go, girl! You got this! WHOOO! Beth!!! Psst, dude this is really awkward.”)

While I was outside, my fellow travelers (aka friends and family) went around and disarmed Ginger’s little olfactory booby traps that had ambushed my entire face. Then about two to three hours later I owed everyone in the house an apology as my body rejected every single toxin it had encountered. Sorry part a thousand, guys!

That’s how I started the cruise, and seven days later it still bothered me deeply. When asked along the trip which stories I would tell, this always had to be the first. It sets up my initial knee-jerk reaction, but there’s always more to a story, and there’s more to this one.

Welcome to cruise installments! (That’s right fellow cruisers, I’m dragging this bad boy out after making you wait and wade through gym stories! You’re welcome!)

 

Stronger Than You Think

I know, I know, this still isn’t about the cruise. I promise I’ll get right on it. Right now I need to prep the photos I want to share, and figure out what I want to write about. Cruise – check, but what’s the story angle? Basically, I need a weekend to get it all together. Excuses! Now those are clearly well-prepped.

You’re probably wondering why I’m posting, since really what’s the point? No cruise story? Do I think I can really string you all along? Force you to sit through another, “this one time at the gym” story? Yes. Yes, I do.  But I blame Jenn, you know Jenn, who on Tuesday said something akin to, “I’m surprised you never put that story in your blog” followed by some possibly hurtful words about how I may not have let some particular gym incident go. Pfft. I’m totally forgiving if by “forgiving” you mean “great at holding grudges.” Then by definition I’d easily be the most forgiving person you may personally know. Oh, that’s not what that means? Weird. Blame Texas public schools. This conversation just got a bit awkward.

In my defense, let me start with some mitigating circumstances. First, when I go to the gym, I’m there by around 5am-ish (an actual time). Second, I’m not a morning person. I’m a person who gets up early in the morning. There’s a difference – namely, my sunny disposition doesn’t start shining until about 9am. At 5am, there’s still four hours where my ability to ratchet up a crank-fest is on a hair trigger unless I’m left alone in my quiet bubble. That means I get to claim exactly 1/4 of the gym based on where I’m standing, and you can find something else to do somewhere else – like the elliptical or maybe the stair master or go do an early spin class. I’m magnanimous like that. File this under early morning generosity. You’re welcome. Jenn would point out here that I’m mostly cranky in my head, and that I do not and will not speak the horrible things that dance across my thought bubble. In fact, if you saw me at the gym you would likely say, “oh, that nice lady with the fluff layer seems to have a crush on the rower.” (I love you rower. If I ever win at the Oscars, I’m thanking you first.)

But here’s the thing about me – I’m stronger than I look. This is to not say I’m strong, I’m just stronger than people think I am, and that can lead to trouble especially at 5am-ish when I’m vaguely cranky. So, here’s the story – for Jenn:

Before the infamous tank with its gears (are you kidding me? gears? it’s not bad enough you have not one but TWO spots to add weights to, but gears? What kind of Machiavellian torture device… c’mon!!!) joined us at the gym there was our beloved sled with its wonky messed up carpet. On sled days, I’d add 90 lbs to the thing, then shove it up and down the basketball court (careful to not scratch the floor lest Andrew lose his mind – we once had a chat about it that basically went, “if you’re saying I can’t push the sled, I’m happy to not do that, but YOU tell Jenn you told me that.” Unfortunately, Jenn scared him way more than me scarring the floor, which never happened. Right! I digress again!) So sled, push push. That day some impossibly cute girl, the kind that doesn’t sweat, who has matching everything, came bouncing into the basketball court, and grabbed the sled from from me. Rude. Plus, I think she broke some kind of “can I work-in” etiquette/code before attempting to run the sled down the court. I watched as the wonkiness and the weight wore her down, and by mid court she was in rough shape. She clearly thought it was going to be an easy task. “I mean, the fluffy girl can do it, and I’m way stronger. Easy pease. Plus, my clothes-matching game is strong, y’all!” By the time she got it back, she was barely able to push it to the wall. I smiled on the inside. I’m stronger than you think I am. Also, I nearly high-fived the sled like some how we were in it together. Who’s my sleddy? You are. Yes, you are!

This story bubbled back up again, because yesterday I was pushing the tank (must try out spike strip idea), and discovering that there were gears. Again, gears? Are you kidding me? And another gal came over to move it (though, this one actually asked). I had been having to really dig-in in order to shove it around, and she reached out with one little hand clearly thinking she could just gently move it away. I mean it has wheels. I’m not sure if she thought I was struggling pushing the equivalent of an empty grocery cart or what, but she quickly had to give up on her initial one-handed-half-hearted maneuver, and she was forced to actually grab it with both hands and engage her legs.

I’m stronger than you think I am.

And it all reminds me of one time where I was picking up a package and having to walk it to another building. I’d asked the delivery people how heavy it was, and it was something I knew I could manage. I was fine. I mean, it wasn’t great, but completely doable. A chivalrous colleague asked if he could help. Sure! I passed it over. He made an audible “oof” sound as he accepted the weight, and then for the next half block I got to hear about how heavy it was. I had carried it further and up a slight incline, and you’re the one carrying on? Again I’m not saying I’m strong – just stronger than you think. I don’t want to get into a thumb wrestling match with most people at my gym, much less try to out bench, curl, pull, press, stare or really anything against them. But that said, it does please me when the light goes off and a person realizes “oh… that’s kind of heavy – the fluffy girl wasn’t messing around.”

I can row two hours without stopping. I climbed Mayan ruins without getting winded. I can get on a stair master and nearly stand upright for whole minutes.

See, I’m stronger than you thought I was, too.

Navigating a Mine Field

A few words before I start. This post is for my nearest and dearest. Those who continuously put up with my insanity, and yet some how still hang around. It’s also a quick note to say that this was the post I meant to write at the beginning of the year. I also meant to send out Christmas cards, and well you all see how that went. Actually, you didn’t, because… well… I just blew it. Love you!

The Mine Field

I want to acknowledge that over the past year and a half navigating my emotions can be a bit like tip-toeing through a mercurial mine field. Without warning I can go from sunshine (and lollipops, of course :)) to wanting to crush all the things… with a sledge hammer… across someone’s head as Carmina Burana: O Fortuna plays loudly in the background. (Wait, you don’t have a soundtrack to your life, too? Oh, I’m the weird one. Mm hmm.) So, I thought I’d help you negotiate the path, by asking for your help in return especially as we edge closer to Jay’s birthday, our anniversary, and of course the anniversary.

One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes I need to be direct about expressing my needs. Apparently, wishing people understood doesn’t go as far as one would hope, so here they are:

I need your unconditional support. Before you agree to it, hear me out as I break it down. Cue the sweet-sweet beat-box sounds.

The Gym

Support my goals. Whether you think I’m working too hard, or that I’m not working hard enough. Whether you believe I go too often, or merely wonder why I can’t go seven days a week if I’m going six. I need you to support me. “Why must you get up at 4?” That’s ok to wonder, but what I need from you is to merely say, “way to go!” It’s simple. I’ll worry about the other stuff. That’s my job.

My Weight/My Dietary Stuff

You may not agree with it or understand it, and that’s ok, too. Trust that I can also read, that I also have used the internet once, and that I’m quite capable of researching information. My choices are not up for debate. I’m actually an adult human being, so you’re going to have to trust me. Don’t call me out. Don’t suggest, “one glass of wine won’t hurt.” It’s great that you can eat baskets of chips and buckets of yeast rolls. You do you. Know that only three people are truly invested in my health. One of them is me, and the other two aren’t you, and that’s ok, too. Those guys will worry about that stuff.

Boys

I love you guys. I love that you think I’m great, and you want to circle the wagons when it comes to dating especially if it involves rejection. You guys are awesome! A couple of things: I will always do my best to be safe. Please don’t send me a photograph of my car while I’m on a date to show you’re lurking nearby. It’s a little weird, and by “a little” I mean “a lot.” Thank you for giving me a story, but it’s a strange little story, right? Thank you for caring enough to stalk me. When I get security cameras installed, it might be partially to keep an eye out for you.

When I get rejected, and that’s just going to happen, guys – probably a lot – brace yourselves – that’s ok. It’s not because the guy in question is a bad person. We just weren’t the right people for each other. It’s also ok if I’m a little heartbroken, and I mourn a bit. You have to understand I’m mourning more than this person, I’m also mourning the loss of Jay, and how much I wish I wasn’t finding myself in a dating situation at all. It’s not as big or as overwhelming as it once was, but it’s always under the surface.

And here’s some of what I don’t need. I don’t need you to deride the person out of a sense of loyalty to me. I don’t need you to quantify that person’s place in my life or try to divine its meaning. Only I can do that. Unless you’re a renowned clairvoyant with a 99% accuracy rate, I don’t need you to tell me, “there’s someone out there, you just haven’t met them yet.” Many things could happen – I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. I could win the lottery tonight if I find the right store. I could take up tight rope walking or even or be discovered by a Romanian ballet troupe. There are an infinite number possibilities of things that happen to people all the time – things that could happen to me tomorrow. Unless you’ve got someone very specific in mind, you don’t know. That’s just something you say when you don’t know what to say – in an attempt to lift someone’s spirits. In an attempt to life my spirits. That’s incredibly nice. I don’t need my spirits lifted. I need you to listen.

A good friend of mine and I were talking about this, and she expressed that it’s oftentimes hard to know what to say in those situations. Here’s my best advice. You don’t have to say anything more than to acknowledge the person’s feelings. “I know that must hurt.” “I know you were hopeful.” And maybe then you can offer advice or offer help. Sometimes what I need is a sounding board, a movie to watch, and a girl date to go clothes shopping. Or maybe I need a pedicure and a final decision on that phoenix tattoo. Or maybe I just need to mourn the loss of a boy, a dollhouse, and staying up late laughing in a garage without anyone telling me that the experience didn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things.

In return, I’ll try to be more present. Though it’s still often more challenging than not. I’ll try to be a better friend who remembers there are other people in the world with their own significant struggles. I’ll try to tread a little more gently.

And still you’ll need to sweep the field for mines, and understand that sometimes you’re just not going to see them before you hear that sickening “click” sound (just stand very still). Know the field is less littered, and each day the path gets clearer. Thank you for continuing to walk it with me.

The Day I Turned Off the Phone

Back in the day, when the only season was Spring, rains were always gentle, puddles demanded splashing, hills were always “down,” and my friends were all impossibly attractive and incredibly intelligent (oh wait, that still holds true), I had my very first network account. This was a time long before the internet as we know it now, but still younger than ARPANET. Mosaic was someone’s pipe dream, there was no Netscape, and the world had yet to discover the joys of creating art from the million and a half AOL installation discs we’d eventually receive weekly. Meg Ryan wasn’t trained to wrinkle her nose adorably at the sound “you’ve got mail” and neither were we for that matter. I was a beth@ then, because there were no other Beth’s out there, and I tunneled around using “telnet” occasionally FTPing a bit so I could “get” and “put” things. I sent notes using something called “Elm” although “Pine” worked, too. And I knew the very basics of Unix – well, enough to occasionally (and sometimes accidentally) open the vi editor, and would promptly get stuck for long moments of irritating, swear-fest fun. My MMO’s were on things called MUDs  (LP, not Diku, of course) or MUshes. It was new, wholly consuming, and exciting.

I was addicted to what would become my personal slippery network slope.

My roommates would roll their eyes as I’d make weekly runs to Taylor Hall just to check-in with this new and strange emerging world. I’d peek into my mailbox and immediately thrilled if, on the off chance, I received one of these virtual mail gems. It was fantastic! The world was quickly becoming smaller, more accessible, and I was able to chat up my fellow nerds (all around my age) who sat somewhere around the globe – likely on their own campuses. It was new, exciting, and quite honestly one I’ve been indulging in for all of these long decades since.

It took awhile, years in fact, but eventually friends and family members discovered it, too and the world became even smaller.

Then came cell phones, and we were even more connected than before. I should mention here that I gave up talking on the phone years ago. While I had my own line in high school, and would talk for hours (10 was my high school record) telemarketing for several years broke me of that need to speak to people on the cursed thing. (FYI, if you speak for 10 hours then try to convince your parents you’re “too sick” to go to your summer job, you “may” get a lesson both responsibility and accountability, and a ride to work.)  I remember that first cell phone. It was chunky with a ridiculous looking antennae, and I’d practically hold it away from me with two fingers as if it was offensive. Really, the only good thing about it is it allowed me to talk to Jay. Then there was the Nokia lollipop in hot pink, and the electric Motorola Razr (also hot pink), and the best thing I could say about them were “they’re hot pink” or “hey, I’ve made the Pink Panther my ring tone.”  I used those early phones as tools – things only in my life to contact emergency vehicles should my car break down. Even texting back then was a special nightmare as I mashed keys multiple times hoping I could eventually work out “hello” or something close enough that I could just stop typing on it. You know the infinite monkey theorem was probably blown apart here, because there’s no way any works by Shakespeare would ever be produced. I just couldn’t think of a good reason to have one (save the emergency vehicle thing).

And then I received my first smartphone. On that day the heavens opened up and the angels sang (true story). I had a mini-tablet with me all the time – one with a keyboard – one with unlimited texts. GLORY BE!!! I finally understood the micraculousness of this electronic wizardry! I know the weather ALL THE TIME!!! Why go outside? What does outside know anyway? All of my music! (err… I went too far – just put in “a lot” there) is right there! (Not ABBA though; I’m not sure what happened there.)  All of my contacts! My calendar! It’s electronic magic! Notifications tell me of people’s birthdays, so in theory I can’t forget. Who knew they were even born? I do now! And having it gave me that old familiar thrill as if I were typing > /telnet > open bessel.umd.edu 2000 for the first time. You see that, right? You had that same experience?

Screw being present any more. I had access to the most useless information (and some useful, sure) 24/7. What happened last season on the Expanse? I have no clue, but if you need information on Jason Statham’s latest movie projects, I got that! I have a babysitter to hold my hand through awkward situations. Why worry about not knowing anyone at a gathering, when I can ensure it by starting a text exchange with a known friend? And I finally get all of those friends who have made me insane over the years as they’ve checked out while we were doing things. No longer do I try to announce myself by being right there – in person saying, “Hello! Oh no? Ok, I’ll wait until you’re done.” We can now spend time together without all that bothersome spending time together.

The thing I’ve tried not to be. Well, here I am!

Thursday I realized I’d become more than a little obsessive about my phone, and particularly about waiting for texts, so I stopped. I turned it off.  I chunked it into my purse, and decided not to worry about it (which I’ve been fairly successful at). And you know what? Its been ok. I’ve somehow managed. I went to a meeting and remained attentive the entire time – on a Saturday, no less. I navigated to a new location by looking at a map. I actually wrote out a list for the grocery store, and I’ve talked on my land line. People actually called here to just check-in, which was awesome. Now granted, I have been informed that I’m quite old fashioned and a bit quaint for having a land line, but hey I’ll take that.

Tomorrow I’ll flip the thing back on, and we’ll see if I missed anything. I strongly suspect I haven’t. I also strongly suspect, I’ll dive back into my co-dependent relationship (see that, I’ve kind of anthropomorphized the phone to make it share a small bit of the blame – authors can do that – it’s the magic of words), but I do see more days like this in my future – days when I may just shut the thing off and re-engage with the world a little more – and it will be ok then, too.