pushing past scared

Every night for two years I have tried to take pause to consider the people and things I care most about. I have taken action by writing them down so that I do not forget. The Grateful Project started as a one year endeavor to pinpoint what is going right in my world and has become the diary of my life. Or at least, an abbreviated version. 

The first entry was posted August 1, 2009 and the arc of change has been unexpected and emotional. That is life I guess. In 2009, my grandmother’s emphysema took a bad turn that never recovered. I spent the year bouncing between two cities on two opposite coasts, learning to appreciate the strength of my family and understanding a bit more clearly what love really looks like—perhaps so that I could spend 2010 trying to not lose it.

I believe revisiting the past enables us to appreciate the small moments and decisions that make up who we are. Moreover, I do not believe we can grow until we reconcile what has happened to us, what we did wrong, what we learned from those experiences, and what we still need to address in the future.  This is a snapshot of my year, catalogued from July 31, 2010 and ending July 31, 2011.

On the first day of The Grateful Project I was biking across the Golden Gate on my pink Schwinn, following Dayton to Sausalito where we explored the houseboats and lay on our backs in the sunshine. It marked his last day in the city I first came to know him.  That night I wrote, “Who knows where I will be and what I will see one year from now. Maybe in Utah …” I am pretty sure I knew I would be, but then again, I also knew that a lot can change overnight.


I am grateful for …

08.03.10 – Someone to miss like crazy. It means we are doing something right.

Where I was:  Two days earlier I watched Dayton pack up his things as he headed for grad school in Utah. I did not watch him drive away. I knew I would be too upset and that it would seem too much like goodbye.

08.21.10 – Runs where I find myself tackling climbs that seem to last forever. And reaching the top. Finding my weakness. And learning that it’s letting go on the downhill. Trusting my feet to fall faster because they can. Not leaning back because I am afraid.

Where I was: Training for my first ultramarathon in the Marin Headlands. I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler for a new type of challenge. It was my first team practice in six years, and the longest race of my life. So far.

08.29.10 – I am grateful for … Goodbyes that aren’t goodbyes. Just a boy kissing the girl he likes at the airport until he kisses her again at the airport. 

Where I was: Making the first of several visits to Utah, testing out the state, and the endurance of my relationship.


I am grateful for …

09.06.10 – Early morning starts where you find yourself almost alone in the airport cafe. Save for a man and his infant son. The three of you ready to greet the rest of the world at 4:30. They are on their way home – and you, far from it. You smile at the baby. The man smiles at you. And then they leave. And then you board a plane for Italy.

Where I was: At SFO waiting for my first trip out of the country.

09.10.10 – Waking to the sound of Lake Como rolling up onto the shores below. Zucchini pizza. And a bottle of Proseco.

Where I was: Eating my way through northern Italy. I thought the tightening in my chest was due to all the cheese and bubbly. It wasn’t. The next day I would be driven to the local hospital by Italian paramedics. The doctor spoke English the way I speak Italian. He told me it was “pneumonitis.” I worried about my ultramarathon and whether I would complete it. Pictures of the saints decorated the walls. Even though I am not Catholic, or really that religious, I knew I was in good hands.

09.20.10 – A best friend you park illegally for in Russian Hill. Because you will take your chances just to talk to her. So you turn on your flashers and go inside to eat homemade cornbread together and talk about boys. And how you miss them. Then you talk about other things. And you laugh. Then you hug goodbye and remember that your car is parked illegally. And blinking. But it is fine. And so are you.

Where I was: Catching up with Emily post-Italy for some much needed best friend time. I miss those.


I am grateful for …

10.23.10 – Sleepovers with girlfriends. Good beer. Corn on the cob. Rotisserie chicken. And baseball. Getting to watch a World Series where the good guys on both sides finally made it. And I don’t really have to care who wins.

Where I was: Watching the Giants (on TV) begin their ascent to the top.

10.29.10 – Someone to fold laundry with over Skype as he builds his Halloween costume out of beer cans and duct tape.

Where I was: Living out my relationship online. Dayton and I got used to communicating over the internets during his first semester at school. It was nice to be able to see him smile. Even if it sometimes froze in weird places.


I am grateful for …

11.06.10 – Solo runs in the Marin Headlands when my only company is coyotes and bobcats, hawks, and the occasional mountain biker to exchange nods with as we tackle the climbs. Looking down at my watch, calculating the mileage, and knowing that it was my day.

Where I was: I ran a marathon on the trails that day in preparation for my ultra. My time would have qualified me for the Boston Marathon. I knew then that I was ready. I was still just scared.

11.23.10 – One good meeting.

Where I was: In Utah visiting Dayton for Thanksgiving and interviewing for a job at his school. The next day I received a phone call offering me a position.


I am grateful for …

12.03.10 – Team Munson. Who called and texted and flew in from Boston and Los Angeles and rallied from San Francisco to make sure I was never alone on the trail when things got hard. Who strategized race logistics and rented cars and bought plane tickets to be my side when things got really hard. And who I absolutely cannot imagine my life without.

Where I was: The eve before my big race Emily and Andy, my glorious pacers, and my mother and sister, my amazing cheerleaders, met for a pre-race dinner to go over what to expect when I fell apart on the trail. They were the loudest cheering section at the race and were there for me every step of those 50 miles. I am forever grateful for their help getting me through it.

12.16.10 – Pamm. A person who has changed the course of my life more than once.

Where I was: Having my goodbye dinner with Pamm. The person who hired me at Stanford and kept me in California long enough to meet a boy who could make me leave it.

12.24.10 – Christmas Eve dinners where you run out of chairs, the lobsters are too big, the desserts are too many, and your grampa keeps repeating, ‘I think everyone is having a good time,’ with a smile on his face.

Where I was: At home in Boston introducing Dayton to the family. And having them accept him.


I am grateful for …

01.05.11 – Taking the time to enjoy the afternoon sunlight in my room today. Under the covers and just watching the walls glow. Dinner comprised of Turkish ravioli and baklava. And a pint (fine, two) with an old friend. Who tells you that love is about believing in the same person every day. In their approach to life. In the way they screw up. Argue with their mother. And try to be better just the same.

Where I was: Waking up in my house for my last full day in California and saying my goodbyes to the people who made it all wonderful.

01.14.11 – A united front.

Where I was: Learning that my dad has cancer, preparing for the fight he would wage, and coming to terms with having to be far away while he prepared for it. I later strapped snow chains onto my running shoes – a gift from my dad – that helped me climb in the snow and slush. Up snow covered mountains to where I would yell at the someone who was supposed to be up there listening.

01.18.11 – Days when it is possible to summon the universe. And it tells you, “There isn’t a lot of fruit in the cake.” And finding this to be so.

Where I was: That morning I woke up with a very vivid dream of my nana telling me she bought a cake. It was in the freezer, but there was hardly any fruit in it. It was the first time I had dreamt of my nana since she died. Somehow I knew she was talking about the cancer the doctors would not find in my dad’s test that day. She was right.


I am grateful for …

02.04.11 – Being able to say, I really like my job, at the end of the day.

Where I was: I moved to Utah for a boy, but I also moved for me. For nearly six years in California it felt like I was always pushing against a brick wall professionally. Sometimes you do have to move 900 miles to get anywhere.

02.03.11 – Sunset runs. Where my only company is deer feeding along the roadside. My arches don’t hurt. My fingers aren’t cold. And someone far away did not have any cancer markers in his spinal fluid.

Where I was: No longer feeling pain in my arches after my ultra and hoping the good news would keep coming from back East.

02.22.11 – That whole 30 thing happening. And being okay with it. More than okay really.

Where I was: In Jackson, Wyoming. Cross-country skiing and realizing I am happy to be where I am at this point in my life. Turning 30 can be scary for people. But I love being 30. I feel like it is ammunition against having  to take crap from anybody – including yourself.


I am grateful for …

03.07.11 – No fever days.

Where I was: Cancer does what it wants. It does not respect your recovery schedule. And it certainly isn’t going to make eliminating it easy. Recovery is a process. There are ups. There are downs. This was a high after several days of lows.

03.10.11 – Snowmelt.

Where I was:  I had forgotten how long winter can stretch, how old it can feel, and how wonderful it is to see green patches on your lawn again.

03.19.11 – A dad who reminds you to look up at the moon. Because it is the brightest it has been in 20 years. And you should.

Where I was: A supermoon occurred that night. Some believe that these coincide with natural disasters. I disagree. I just think we notice the world and the people in our lives more when something happens that tries to take them away.


I am grateful for …

04.08.11 -The start of a great comeback.

Where I was: The Red Sox finally won their first game after six straight attempts. It was painful to watch. But it will be worth it when we win the World Series this year.

04.18.11 – A first meal in our a new house.

Where I was: Dayton and I signed on a two year lease with a house in the historic district of town. I have never had anyone sign on a dotted line that they will live with me for that long.

04.28.11 – Picking up the phone and hearing: “I am in remission.”

Where I was: I was in my office at work when the phone rang and my dad told me. I have never been more thankful for having an office with a door in my life.


I am grateful for …

05.22.11 – Being awake for the sunrise in Utah. And the sunset over the Atlantic on our way to Germany. Where I will meet D’s family for the first time.

Where I was: Going overseas for Dayton’s little sister’s wedding. I met the family, fell in love with the country, and got to see him play the part of the older brother, the good son, and the charming boyfriend. We also sort of saw the Alps. After the wedding we spent several days hiking through the fog and wishing we had our own beer gardens along the mountain trails at home.


I am grateful for …

06.19.11 – Not having to ask ‘how are you’ before hanging up the phone with my dad. Because I can already tell from the laughter in his voice that he is just fine indeed.

Where I was: After hanging up the phone I realized I did not ask my dad how he was. It was at that moment that I realized I didn’t have to. 

06.25.11 – Building a trellis for the peas to climb. Myself.

Where I was: This year I took up gardening. I had three raised beds in the back in no excuse. I am learning from trial and error and old gardening books that don’t tell you things like, you will need to stake the peas; and, don’t dump a whole bunch of seeds in one hole. Still. I made fresh pasta with peas several times this season. And it was delicious.

06.27.11 – Falling off my bike. Repeatedly. Into bushes. Into dirt walls. Into tall grass. Scaring myself. Crying. And for getting back on.

Where I was: I bought a light new mountain bike for myself. Hopefully it will teach me to fly. If I can conquer my fear of falling.


I am grateful for …

07.02.11 – Driving up the canyon to find dry trails and new runs. Pushing past scared. And finding no mountain lions at the top. Just a view. And wildflowers.

Where I was: Since moving to Utah I have had to come to the understanding that I am on my own here. I have no one to run with, no one to push me up climbs, no one to hold myself accountable for the days I don’t feel like running. I am having to call myself out on my own bullshit like when I say it is too hot, the mountains are too high, and I am too scared. And then just go anyway.

07.15.11 – Signing off on the first proofs for a publication I created. Totally scary. And completely satisfying.

Where I was: I have more freedom and responsibility at work than I ever have before. I love that.

07.28.11 – Good news. Even if it ends in tears.

Where I was: The latest tests came back saying no trace of cancer could be found in my dad. Sometimes there is nothing else you should have to say.

4 thoughts on “pushing past scared

  1. this is beautiful, and I feel I can always be close to you, even far away. Your honesty and appreciation of the small things in life is spectacular xo

  2. This part hit home:

    “I am having to call myself out on my own bullshit like when I say it is too hot, the mountains are too high, and I am too scared. And then just go anyway.”

    You are my new role model. Not kidding.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Yeah, calling yourself out on your own crap is hard. I am very good at making excuses and then convincing myself that they are worthy. I guess accountability kind of starts with yourself? Good luck in your own improvement efforts. 🙂

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