Days… and moments
Here in the far northwest corner of the USA we treasure days like today… clear, calm, and 70+ degrees. Driving downtown this morning I could feel the energy in the air, with people out walking, running, soaking in the sunshine and saying to one another, “Isn’t this a great day?” The forecast is for another week or more like this.
I met my friend Cathy for a late breakfast of toast, fromage blanc, fresh local fruit preserves and coffee at Renaissance, overlooking the downtown waterfront. We sat outside in the sun, binoculars in hand, scanning for interesting marine wildlife but not seeing anything other than lots of small boats filled with people out enjoying the sun just as we were.
After we pried ourselves out of our deck chairs I went and did some shopping, then on the way back I stopped to see a friend (a former co-worker of Kurt’s) whom I hadn’t seen for months. I stopped at her work place and she was busy with a customer, but we had a moment to share a hug and a few tears. I had been wanting to see her and thinking about her every time I drove by there, but couldn’t bring myself to stop until today. I’m very glad I did. It was a good moment, and I’m finding that when I have the strength to create such moments for myself, they help me connect with the world and with my future. Life does go on.
Much of the work that I do as a learning and development professional involves experimenting with new technologies, specifically the use of social media like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs in support of learning. Although I’m a very private person by nature, by blogging about Kurt’s cancer journey I’ve learned to be a bit more open, to “work out loud” as we say at work where we’re expected to collaborate online with colleagues on the other side of the world.
I’ve never liked Facebook, but I’m starting to come to terms with it as another one of those ways in which I might ground myself with other people on this planet. On the other hand, I really enjoy Twitter, which I use primarily as a filter to bring news of interest to me rather than having to go hunt for news online. I’ve learned a great deal about running from following runners and running coaches on Twitter. One thing that has really intrigued me is the idea of barefoot running. It works pretty well for Kenyan marathoners, but we in the so-called developed world have come to think that we all need heavily-cushioned, highly-structured, expensive running shoes.
Recently there has been a trend toward not literal barefoot running, but something called a minimalist running shoe — very light and flexible, with a thin sole. One particular style, the Vibram Five Fingers, has completely fascinated me. I go barefoot all the time around the house anyway, except when the floors get too cold in the winter, and then my feet hate having to wear shoes all day long. These VFFs are like gloves for your feet — they literally have five toes. I bought myself a pair about three weeks ago and I just love them. They take forever to put on because I have crooked toes, but once my toes are all in their little houses they feel very happy! With all the foot problems I’ve had over the years, I’m not yet ready to go running in them, even though the research strongly suggests that miminalist shoes, by forcing you to land mid-foot rather than heel-first, tend to reduce the knee and hip pain that has dogged me throughout my slow happy running career. But I’m wearing my VFFs around town now and feeling more and more comfortable in them. So comfortable that I decided today that I needed a second pair, because my first pair are bright blue and clash with most of my clothes.
I had some time and found someone who was willing to work with me to try on several styles, reconfirm my fit, and talk to me about the joys of barefoot running and hiking, including his long, strenuous treks in (and even across) Olympic National Park. As he was talking, it suddenly dawned on me that I knew this guy. Cautiously, I asked, “You wouldn’t be ‘Barefoot Jake’ by any chance?” He grinned hugely and said YES. It turns out I have been following him on Twitter, admiring and envying his wilderness adventures… and it was some of his stories that had finally given me the courage to seek out these shoes in the first place. This guy doesn’t even work in that store, but he spent 45 minutes with me, teaching and encouraging me.
The shoes I ended up buying are black, so now I can reach back into my closet and wear something that isn’t blue. Although tomorrow I’m going running… in my thick cushiony Asics 2150s. One step at a time.
Over my years with Kurt I’d periodically tried to envision what life after him might be like. It was a reasonable thing to consider, given our age difference. One thing I’d always worried about was turning into a hermit, never going anywhere and cutting myself off from other humans and the world. Today I had a series of unexpectedly wonderful encounters with other humans… moments when I could see the way ahead and know that I am going to be all right.