August, 2012

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My one wild and precious life

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

On Friday morning, I went skydiving – and I smiled the entire time.  Do you need proof?  Oh, I have proof.

Here I am with my dad beforehand.  Smiling.

Here I am about to climb onto the plane with my instructor/partner/my-entire-life-is-in-your-hands guy, Matt.  Smiling.

Here I am in mid-air.  SMILING LIKE IT’S THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED.

(Come on, is that not the HAPPIEST you have ever seen me?)

And here I am, windblown but safe and sound on the ground with Matt.  Smiling.  Smiling.  Smiling.

As one with a historic fear of heights and smashing and death, skydiving might seem the wrong activity – but I can honestly say that my fears never came into play that morning.  I showed up calm, put on a jumpsuit, pulled my hair back into a ponytail – and then, jumped out of an airplane.

In a culture full of suspicion and defense, it’s a magnificent thing to trust a perfect stranger with your life.  I had no idea what I was doing – didn’t even read the release form as I signed it (which is probably for the best) – but I never questioned the instructions I got from Matt.  I took him at his word.  And as vulnerable as that may have made me, I never felt afraid.

I did, however, scream involuntarily for long stretches of time.  I couldn’t help that part.

Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  I hope that my answer always includes an amount of risk, the extension of trust, and falling face-forward into whatever may come… wearing a gigantic smile.

My life: a Tim McGraw song*

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I cannot believe what I’m about to do tomorrow.

Hint: it involves throwing my body out of a plane and barreling back toward the earth at 125 mph.

*And yes, the next day I will be going Rocky Mountain climbing.

To rest is to waste, and other lies

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Sophomore year of high school, my algebra class was the last period of the day.  Every Friday, in the last two minutes before the bell would ring, the teacher would stand up in front of his squirrelly students and give the same speech: “I know you’re anxious for the weekend.  You’re thinking about all of the fun you’re going to have, all of the time with your friends, how you don’t have to come to school for two whole days.  But listen: the minute you walk out that door, the clock starts.  The instant that the bell rings, time starts ticking away, getting smaller and smaller and smaller.  Right now – this moment – is the very best part of your weekend, because it’s all still ahead of you.  But,” he would famously finish, “IT’S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE.”

Cue the bell ringing, and me sprinting out into the weekend, hell-bent on not losing a single second.

Who knows how formative my high school math teacher’s speech was in my current life.  All I know is that I put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve, to succeed, to do more and do it well.  I find it next to impossible to sit still, and it’s hard for me to separate “time rested” from “time wasted.”  Add it to the list of reasons why “Annie needs therapy”: in my mind, nothing-doing is synonymous with failure.

This belief system keeps me moving at a frantic pace.  My busy, busy job takes up the vast majority of my brain space, and whatever is left is instantly snatched up by family, friends, exercise, and commitments.  If I have a free day, I fill it up – if I have a free HOUR, I fill it up.  If “vacation” is defined as “a scheduled period in which activity is suspended,” then I have never taken a vacation.  Ever.

Years of a rapid, anxiety-driven lifestyle are catching up with me.  These days, I am so tired.  I find it hard to breathe, and even harder to think.  Stress has reached an astronomical level.  My shoulders are tight and knotted.  I’m starting to believe that the biblical concept of a Sabbath isn’t such a dumb idea after all.

So it’s after 9 on Sunday morning, and I’m still in bed.  I skipped my original plan of getting up at 3:30am to climb two more mountains in favor of a day of nothing-doing.  I can’t remember a day in which I had zero plans – and even though I’m tempted, I’m choosing to not feel guilty about allowing my heart and my brain and my body to rest today.

It’s all downhill from here.  But maybe that means I can sit back, close my eyes, and just coast – if only for a day.

Let’s all quit our jobs and move to a commune with our favorite people

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Last week, I took several days off of work to be with these guys:

This week, I’m back in the office.

And I’m having a really hard time with it.

Bangin’

Monday, August 13th, 2012

A few weeks ago, I made an ill-advised decision: I was going to get bangs.

Never mind that my hair grows straight back, not forward, and naturally parts down the middle – very Alanis Morissette. I’ve spent years training it to part on the side, blow-drying the hell out of my cowlicks – but if I don’t deal with it immediately after taking a shower, my hair falls back into its natural “Jagged Little Pill” state. With this knowledge, I’m not sure why I thought that a high-maintenance cut was something I wanted –

Oh wait, yes I do. And it’s called CARLY RAE JEPSEN.

Come on.  That is the best hair I’ve ever seen. Oh, sure, as my co-workers reminded me – she is wearing PLENTY of extensions and volumizers in this picture, not to mention her hair was styled by a PROFESSIONAL. No matter – I was convinced that I, too, could be coifed like this every day.

I marched myself into the salon, and told the stylist that I wanted bangs. She hesitated – was I sure? Yes, I was sure. She inspected my hair – did I realize how much work it would take every morning to make it lay the way I wanted it to? Yes, I understood (but come on, it’s not going to take THAT much work).

The stylist told me that she wouldn’t give me bangs like Carly Rae Jepsen – but that she recommended a more “in between” style – TRAINING WHEEL BANGS, if you will. She would cut them short enough that I could start working them forward, but they’d still be long enough that I could pin them back if I wanted.

It wasn’t what I had in mind.  But then again, I hate conflict – and SHE was the one holding the shears. Half-heartedly, I agreed to it.

BAD. Bad, Annie. BAD BAD BAD.

Here is what I’ve learned about bangs: you’re either in or you’re out. Go big or go home. It’s all or nothing. Because when your bangs are too long to be bangs and too short to be tucked behind your ear, here is what happens:

Annie, meet your new strand.

This is three weeks after the initial cut, so we’ve obviously come a long way. But initially, my hair was in my eyes all of the live-long day, and resulted in me pinning them back for my 30th birthday party, which made me have UGLY HAIR for my 30th birthday party – one of the sadder things that has ever happened to me. Drama.

It still hangs in my eyes, and it’s still not long enough to tuck behind my ear completely – but a month from now, it will all be over. My “in between” bangs will be back to a reasonable, blessed length, and I’ll move on with my life, and never ask for bangs again.

Anyway, there you have it: the backstory for #14.

A beautiful maybe

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

“Is it okay for me to jump?” he yelled.

I watched him pump his legs back and forth, swinging higher and higher until he was holding steady at a significant height. He and his brother had formed their own sort of Olympic game, gaining momentum and then jumping from their swings to see who could fly the furthest and “stick the landing.” Up until now, he’d been playing it safe, never risking too much, choosing to jump only from a reasonable altitude.

But now, I could see him wanting to push the boundaries, to go even higher, to let go even when it might feel crazy – and he wanted me to tell him if it was okay.

I watched him, wild eyed and wild haired, 7-years old and still so innocent. School has brought some exposure to the real world, with all of its ugliness and injustice – but mostly, he is unmarked. The thought of anything bad happening to him wrings my heart down the middle like a dishrag.

“I don’t know, buddy. How do you feel about it?”

He kept pumping his legs; he hadn’t lost any height. He looked at his brother swinging next to him, and then back at me. “Is this too high?”

I thought back to that feeling, swinging high, waiting for the perfect moment to leap. How do you ever know when the time is right? And how do you explain that feeling to someone else – all of the little confirmations that lead to the confident risk? I realized that I couldn’t answer the question for him.

“If you feel like you can jump from that high, then you probably can.”

His face flashed fear, courage, and a beautiful maybe. And with one more pump, he let go of the chains and sailed through the air, landing solidly on both feet, fists in the air.

I’ve never seen a smile so big.

30. Thirty. 30!!

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

“Time and tide wait for no man, but time always stands still for a woman of 30.”  -Robert Frost

I may be less than a day in, but I can say with confidence that I love my 30s. Today has been the best ever – breakfast with a full house of guests and sisters and friends, flower deliveries, coffee deliveries, furniture deliveries, good words, party prep, and messages from friends all over the world… including this:

Can you handle it? I can’t. I can’t handle it. I am the luckiest girl in the world, and don’t deserve the friends that I have – but will shamelessly and gratefully take every minute that they give me.

I wish I could tell you how loved I feel today, but I just can’t.  It’s the best day.  My heart is bursting.  I am overwhelmed and thankful and happy, and I just want time to stand still.

Thank you, dear readers – near and far, known and unknown – for being a part of my life.

Shavano & Tabeguache

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

As some of you may know, I’ve spent the past few summers climbing as many 14ers (mountains over 14,000’ high) as I can.  There are 54 in Colorado, and while I’m not sure that I have a goal of climbing every single one of them, I love the challenge and adventure that each one brings.

As of Friday night, I had climbed 26 14ers – just one away from having bagged half of the total 54.  I really wanted to make it past the halfway point, so I planned to climb two mountains on Saturday, Shavano and Tabeguache.  These mountains are just outside of Salida, which is a good distance from Denver, so I was driving by 4:30am in order to hit the trailhead by 7:30 or so – which already felt like a late start, but the best that I could do.

The 3-hour drive was uneventful, and I psyched myself up for a long day of hiking.  But when I finally pulled up at the trailhead, I was met with a gigantic sign: “NO TRESPASSING. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED.”

I was crushed.  Ever a rule-follower, I didn’t dare take that trail – because it would be just my luck to be met by a man with a shotgun, or worse, a man with a banjo.

Defeated, I thought, “I should just drive back to Denver.”

But then I thought of how much money I had spent on gas, and how I’d eaten a gigantic piece of banana bread and needed to burn it off, and how much I wanted to check another mountain off of my list – and I decided not to give up just yet.  I pulled out my 14ers book and searched for another path up the peaks, and when I found one that looked promising, I drove 30 minutes around the mountain to a different trailhead.

By this time, it was after 8am, and the sun was high and bright.  As one with a healthy fear of afternoon storms above tree-line, I had some reservations about starting so late.  “What if I get struck by lightning?” I thought.  “Who would take care of Toad?  Who would water my basil?  I should just go home.”

But again, that slice of banana bread taunted me.  As is the case with so many of my decisions, if nothing else, I needed to burn some calories.  So I decided to start hiking and just see how far I could go before it got too late in the day.  Maybe I would make it to the top of the first peak – maybe – but I tossed aside any illusions of being able to climb both.

I wound up making great time (fine: I tore up the trail, passing every grown man in my path, and felt a little bit smug about it), and was at the top of Shavano in less than 3 hours.  That alone felt like a victory – I had climbed my 27th 14er, and was halfway to 54.  I could go back to the car and feel decent about my efforts.  I texted my dad and told him that I was at the top of Shavano, and was done for the day.  I strapped on my pack, and turned back the way that I came.

But then I looked over at Tabeguache.

It was so close – only a mile away – and yet so, so far.  To reach the summit, I would have to climb all the way down Shavano, and then all the way up Tabeguache – and then I would have to turn around and re-climb Shavano in order to get back to the car.  That would make for three summits in a day.  I didn’t know if I had it in me, but…

“I could do it,” I thought.  “I could do it.”

And you know what?  I did it.  Before I could talk myself out of it, I booked it off of Shavano, scrambling over boulders and scampering down the trail like a – I was going to say a “mountain goat,” but probably a more accurate description would be a “really gigantic, loping mountain troll” – only to reach the base of Tabeguache and have to go straight back up, only to reach the top of Tabeguache and go straight back down, only to reach the base of Shavano and go straight back up, only to reach the top of Shavano and go straight back down.  The thunder and lightning started as soon as I reached tree-line, and it poured for the last hour of my hike.  By the time I arrived back at my Subaru, I was sopping wet and shivering – but so happy.  I was happy to be finished and happy to be alive and happy to have climbed 27 AND 28 – meaning that I’m over halfway to 54.

Even when you’re positive you know how something is going to turn out, maybe you should try it anyway.  Maybe instead of turning around, you should keep going.  Maybe you should risk a little rain just to see how far you can make it, just to see if you can outrun the lightning, just to see what it feels like to surprise yourself.