The Unspoken Cutoff Date

Seventeen Days

In seventeen days it will be the second anniversary of Jay’s death. There have been two missed anniversaries, 24 missed monthiversaries, and four missed birthday celebrations (both mine and his). I count each one. And it’s been heavily implied that time is running out. I should stop mourning. I need to pack those emotions up, and stow them away. Surely, enough time has gone by. You can’t still be sad. Time heals all wounds, right? And your hour glass just ran out of sand, chica.

So many careless words spilled at my feet. Words that amount to, “Buck up little camper! It’s time to move on! You’ve had two delightfully self-indulgent, sad years, so let’s turn that frown upside down! Pssst, also we didn’t want to mention it, hun, so of course we are, we’re all impossibly bored now. I mean “boo hoo,” am I right? Whoopsy poo, someone just spoke that thought bubble out loud. AWKWARD! I should really lay off the wine!”

Little spoken reminders litter my days letting me know there’s a cutoff date on expressing my feelings. There’s a cutoff date on my mourning. There’s a cutoff date for sharing my loss.

“You can get away with saying that for now.”

“You don’t realize how much you talk about Jay.”

“Don’t worry about [what you just said], she can handle it now.”

“You’re strong.”

I get it. I do. It’s exhausting. You’re over it. You’ve moved on, but I’m still here. Me. Your friend. Moving through time, yet some how fixed. I’m still sad. Maybe not like I was, but it ripples beneath the surface sometimes bubbling forth at unexpected or inconvenient times. Sometimes erupting. Maybe not all of the days – some of the days – fewer days. And parts of me are permanently damaged – never to be fixed.

A broken teacup – pieced back together – whole in structure, but fractures ribbon through the beloved and familiar pattern. Made whole again, still beautiful – new, similar – not the same.

 

And while my sadness doesn’t define me, I do get sad. My heart aches. The tears spill.

I recently discovered the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, which has a number of great resources, and I truly wish I’d found them sooner. That lead me to the local chapter’s website where I found this beautiful manifesto from one of their members. I need you to read this, and keep me in mind – keep Jay in mind.

My Survivor’s Manifesto

Revised by Farren Smith with credit to Laura McCord

I will not get over this regardless of how much time has passed. There is a wound in my heart that will never heal.

I will speak my loved ones name whenever I wish. They existed – a beautiful person and I will not allow them to be forgotten.

I will cry for my loved one whenever I feel the need – be it in the grocery store, the middle of a restaurant or at home in bed and I will not feel embarrassed.

I believe I lost my loved one to an illness not unlike cancer, diabetes or heart disease. That illness might not have been visible, but it was no less real – or deadly.

I will not allow any stigma to fall on me because of my loved ones choices. Their decision was made from an unimaginable pain and a desperate attempt to end their suffering. No one – not even my loved one is to blame.

I will allow myself to feel no matter what emotion I experience whenever I feel it. Be it guilt, anger, resentment, rage or laughter at a fond memory. I will accept these feelings as a natural part of grieving and express them however I need.

I am entitled to the same respect and kindness, sympathy and dignity shown for the survivors of any other kind of death. No matter the cause I lost someone I loved dearly. My grief is justified and no less important than anyone else’s.

I will allow no one to slander or smear, belittle or demean the name or memory of my loved one. Their death is in no way a reflection of the person they were and I refuse to let one action define them.

Finally, I accept that I will never be the same person I was before this loss and I will not pretend otherwise for anyone’s comfort. In fact, I will demand that others in my life accept these truths and accept me.

And I say all of that as a reminder to everyone that I’m not over it. That there’s no time limit on my feelings. I’m not going to reach July 9th and shrug and say, “well, we had a good run sadness, but Jay isn’t going to be more alive if I cry one more time. AMIRITE?” You’re all right: I am still very strong and I am still funny and cheerful and goofy, and all of those other adjectives. But please don’t shut down my sadness, or ask me to move on, or ask that I not speak the name of my favorite person because you’ve heard it enough, you’ve moved on, or you’re quite simply bored with it. Because if you truly are, that’s fine, even understandable, and you can also move on out of my life. No hard feelings. Best of luck to you. May you never know sadness.

On November 10th I will participate in the Out of the Darkness 5k walk for Jay in Austin, TX. I would love it if you would join me or support my team. There will be a second walk in Dallas – a 16 mile Out of the Darkness next June. That one starts at dusk and ends at dawn. You truly are walking out of the darkness. As you walk across the finish line, the path is illuminated by luminaries, representing those who were lost. The ones who weren’t able to make it out of the darkness.

Let’s raise awareness. Help honor Jay, and do our best to help destigmatize mental health issues. Will you take a walk with me? Because I’m here to tell you that I will continue to honor him, to celebrate both him and his memory, and I will never stop.

And I will not recognize a deadline.

 

A Must Read from Wil Wheaton

View story at Medium.com

I rarely promote other blogs. It’s not that there isn’t some amazing content out there, I just reserve this space for me and my thoughts – my little island to practice my writing.  But here we are about three weeks from the anniversary of Jay’s death, a day or two after more celebrity suicides, and I made you all a promise to talk about some of the things that weigh heavy on my heart.  I’ll get into that some tomorrow, but in the meantime, please read this piece by Wil Wheaton, and I want you to think of Jay. It gives you a little window into some of Jay’s personal struggles, and I am so thankful to Wil for standing up, putting a face on chronic depression and anxiety, and for putting himself out there.

My name is Wil Wheaton. I Live With Chronic Depression and Generalized Anxiety. I Am Not Ashamed.

View story at Medium.com

Happy Anniversary

“Happy Anniversary” Jay’s whisper floated through the haze of my dreams every year on this day – spoken as he went to bed late in the night. “Happy Anniversary,” my groggy reply. “I love you.”

Today is the second year I woke up after midnight and whispered into the air that wish to an empty room. “Happy Anniversary,” spoken to the empty side of my bed – no longer our bed.

Someone told me I was strong today – for no particular reason, they just mentioned it. They had no idea that today was any different than any other day, and I suppose it’s not – not any more. It’s just a day whose lost its meaning.

I went to a quilt show once. Of all the random stories you get to hear about that now. At this quilt show hung a beautiful work of art that read, “My Son is Dead”. The card next to it explained that this is the invisible sign the artist wears every day. A sign no one sees, but that she now shouted out to the world with the creation of this quilt. And I get that.

I talk. I laugh. I tell stories. And all of that is part of who I am, but the invisible sign I wear every single day screams out, “My husband is dead” with the subtext “My favorite person is dead.” “His beautiful face.”  Some days it’s painted in bright angry colors, others are softer/more blurred, but it’s never not worn.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to talk about suicide and the aftermath. I haven’t chosen my direction, but I need you to be prepared. This may not be your topic. That’s ok. You don’t have to read or bear witness. I just have things to say, and they may not be beautiful or perfect or particularly meaningful, and that’s ok for me, too. But if you get to say I’m strong, then I get to show you all the cracks and imperfections that are also a huge part of who I am and my experience.

Schrödinger’s Shopping Trip

I actively dislike Edwin Schrödinger, maybe not in the same way that I dislike Thomas Edison. I mean, I don’t want to go back in time and remove Schrödinger from history. (Tommy, hope that time machines forever elude me. Where tons of people will be on the “let’s take Hitler out” case, there will just be you and me… and a whole lot of volts. Historic karma, baby.)

On any given day, I don’t think about Schrödinger nor his boxed up cat. In truth, my brain mostly goes through a pattern of: “Why all the days? Song stuck in head. I should sing it.  Jay Jay Jay. GRRRRR! Seriously? OOO SHINY!!! Stupid song. Jay Jay Jay. So many words from one face. SHOO, kk? Jay Jay Jay. Do I have that song on my phone? We do not “hug” us. No no. Hands to ourselves. Audible! Story time! KITTY! Come back, kitty!! Jay Jay Jay. Ok, night night.” No seriously, that’s my brain on any given day. This is why it would be a bad idea to read minds. You’d just get slammed with a gigantic wall of nonsense and images. Well… at least from me.  But now and again that man and his box re-enter my world, and when they do I get irked.

It’s not that I don’t get the paradox. For some strange reason when I kvetch about it there is always someone who decides that my problem is clearly based on a gross misunderstanding of it, and if they just tried using little words I’d have my “oh! Now I see! It IS both alive and dead,” I’d be convinced that this was a great mental exercise. Of course, when they do try to explain it in a sad attempt to sway my thoughts, and declare, “golly, that is a neat mental game – alive? dead? We don’t know!,”  they never bring up quantum superposition, quantum mechanics, or the Copenhagen interpretation theory, which actually is interesting.  And it’s not because they know I’d get glassy eyed, hop onto a yawn Ferris wheel that I’d never exit, and would end up demanding more coffee and a pony to pat in order to be bribed into listening. No, they just want to take shortcuts, and try to bludgeon me into understanding that the cat is both alive and dead until it is observed. See? Get it? Again, alive and dead! ALL AT ONCE! My personal take on it is this:  you put a cat in a box with no air holes, you introduce a radioactive substance and poison, and you have A DEAD CAT.  So, in my unwillingness to open my mind to this bit of mental gymnastics, I tend to use my adult vocabulary and declare the whole thing as being both “stupid” and “irritating”. That’s also not a paradox! I observed it!

So, of course the stupid cat and the death box recently came up, and I was without caffeine, and had just entered into the “why all the days?” part of my day, which makes me less tolerant of things and more likely to see words as “too many” or “word drool” when a friend of mine figured something out. “She has a problem with it being a cat.” Yes! “Beth, imagine it’s not a cat, but…” and then he came up with something that didn’t involve a helpless animal being trapped and murdered. A light flipped on. I can play this mental game if this game doesn’t involve fluffy creatures. (By the way, if it was Schrödinger’s Flying Water Bug, I could get behind it being stuffed in a box – no problem there whatsoever. Much like my issue with Edison, the heart of my problem comes down to the animals. If the man had just electrocuted anything but dogs and elephants, I’d be fine with him trying to demonstrate the dangers of AC (or his ego, I always get those mixed up). For example, say he made his point by sacrificing himself – applied those 6600 volts to his face, then we’d be ok. (I “may” have an issue with animal cruelty and animal testing. You probably caught onto that.)

This brings me to boxes in general, and the one I currently have sitting on my table. It’s a long running joke that I don’t open boxes. I have no natural curiosity when it comes to what they might hold. I genuinely don’t care about presents. I like them, I’m thankful for them, but I’m not going to go nuts trying to guess what’s inside. So, earlier today I was thinking about that package, and how I have to open it, then it dawned on me “it’s Schrödinger’s cat!” Hear me out. Currently, it’s in an unknown state where it is both amazing, and incredibly underwhelming and disappointing. Right now it’s “special,” a state that will disappear when observed. Once opened the contents become just things I own (or in this case determine whether to send back). So, the box sits on my table with the best things ever inside, and the worst things I’ve ever seen.

Schrödinger should have gone shopping more – appealed to those with a softer, non-murdery, pro-animal side. Just sayin’. Maybe once I’m done with Edison, I’ll swing by to pick Erwin up, take him down 1930’s 5th Avenue – we’ll talk clothes, wrapped gifts, and making our theories accessible to everyone while simultaneously enjoying the magic of alternating current… and how nice cats can be.

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):

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!

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.