Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough, Hug a Kitty

So.  It's been a while.  It's not that I've had nothing to write about; in fact, the problem is just the opposite: I've had so much to write about that every time I sit down to write a new post, an, "I'm back!" post, I become paralyzed as my fingers hover over the keys.  I've had a few false starts: I began a post about my vacation, started one about marriage and babies...then never finished either.

Then, today, as I was suffering through a tortuous run, it hit me: fuck it, I'll write about this.

But first, a summary.  In mid-July I quite my job in New York.  I spent one-and-a-half blissful weeks doing all the things I've ever wanted to do in NYC: visiting the Whitney, going surfing in the Rockaways, touring the Cloisters, etc.  Then there was half a week of harried, stressful packing.  I decided to leave NYC--and my job, and my lovely friends--to go to Pittsburgh, pursue a graduate degree, and write (and teach) full time.  However, I still had some time before school started.  So the BF and I began a wonderful, perhaps overly ambitious, summer vacation.  In the span of about three weeks, we visited Cincinnati, Nashville, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and a very northwestern tip of Michigan.

Eventually, we had to get back to reality.  I've been in Pittsburgh now for two weeks.  Classes have started, I like them, and I am mostly very happy to be here.  It's lonely though; I don't know anyone in Pittsburgh, and I'm a minimum four-and-a-half hour drive from anyone who loves me.  But, I try not to dwell on that fact.

So, back to that run.  For some reason, even though I have been running off and on for about 12 years of my life, running here has felt unnatural.  Today, for example, the very first steps I took, all I could think was: I'm uncomfortable.  Half a mile in, I had to stop and take off my top layer of clothing.  What on earth had possessed me to wear long sleeves?  Then my headphones kept flapping, and hitting me in a way that irked me like crazy.  I thought: how had I ever done this before?

The fact is, in running, as in life, it doesn't get easier.  It's just when you start to get comfortable that things tend to get tough all over again.

With the running, I know I am pushing it a little too hard.  I've been on the road, I'm going through huge changes--my body and mind are a mess.  But I signed up for the Chicago Marathon (10/10/10) ages ago, before I even knew I was coming to Pittsburgh, and committed to running with a group of serious runner friends.  So every day I keep thinking about where I should be physically, and getting frustrated by where I actually am.  In addition to my mental roadblocks, it's been difficult to adjust to the topography here.  Michigan and New York--both places I lived and ran before--were very similar in their low, flat terrain.  And though Pitt isn't Denver, the elevation is higher than what I'm used to, and it's hilly.  The other day I was convinced I had run uphill both ways to and from my house.

Just as my lack of preparedness has hurt my running, it's the things I didn't prepare for that have made this transition so difficult.  First, there was the flood that occurred in my new apartment while the BF and I were on vacation.  While I was anxious about starting school again, I hadn't anticipated spending hours a week on the phone with my new landlord, trying to get things fixed.  My first day of orientation, I found myself in a school bathroom in tears.  It was a lot to take on my first day in an unfamiliar place.

I also didn't fully foresee how hard it would be to live apart from the BF again.  We did the distance things once before, and remarkably well too.  I knew I was going to miss him, and I knew we were going to get through this like we had before.  I just didn't know how hard it would be to watch him pull away in his car, leaving me alone here, in the fullest sense of the word.  I didn't just cry; I sobbed.  For days, it felt like I'd lost an appendage, a piece of myself.

But for now, I think, the hardest part is over.  My apartment is fixed, I've started to meet people, and the BF and I have settled into a comfortable and frequent phone routine.  I can only hope the running will also fall into place in time, that I'll relearn my stride, and be able to take on the hills with confidence, perhaps even enthusiasm. All I can do is lace up my shoes again tomorrow, and try again.  At the very least, I can still go to Chicago to cheer on my friends.

Yes, the worst seems to be behind me--at least, until it gets tougher all over again.

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