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It’s autumn.

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I really love autumn.

The trees change color, the air crisps up, everything smells sweet and dry and clean.

My boyfriend once said that October is when he can clear his head and really think about life. I feel the same. He’s moving in sometime in the next ten days, and I need to sit down and spend my weekend organizing and cleaning the house so that there’s somewhere for him to move in to. My brain could use the same treatment.  So I have plans for some escape into Mass Effect 2 — while Shepherd’s saving the galaxy, I’ll try to release some of my own concerns. I have plans to go for a walk down Pleasant Valley to check on the trees, see what’s turning orange, and maybe think about what’s next for me this fall. And I have plans for mastering the arm part of my current Tai Chi lesson, so that I don’t feel so foolish at Monday’s class, and while I’m at it maybe I can find my center.

Autumn. Change. Crisp. Clean. Progress.

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Yes, please.

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Last night I made cookies. It was fun and satisfying and oh, man, I love cookie dough. I eat it without remorse based on the theory that a) everything about cookie dough is joy and joy is good, and b) I use organic free-range eggs so I’m rolling the dice that the odds are okay they don’t have salmonella.

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And then today I got up and went to the gym. I did 100 crunches, and was planning to go do the leg machines to try to balance some of the muscles that I don’t build by walking. But then I thought, “No, to hell with that. Do it.” And I started with the C25K app again. I walked when instructed, ran when instructed, and sprinted the last minute of the run. And when I was done, I sat down at the arm bike and did five minutes forward and five minutes back, just like my physical therapist wants me to.

Here’s the thing. I was gonna do the weights because I’m trying to be smart and thoughtful and careful about building strength and balance and stability for my hyper-mobile joints (thus the Tai Chi, as well). But what I wanted to do was run. I was wearing my FiveFingers, and I wanted to run. Barefoot running, in short intervals: What better way to build stability and strength in underused muscles surrounding potentially compromised joints? Ditto the arm bike: I want my shoulders and arms to be strong and agile and able.

And it wasn’t hard.

None of it.

Well, okay, the crunches sucked because I had taken several weeks off, but I worked them until I hit muscle failure and then stopped, and they don’t (currently) hurt. But the rest of it did not suck. I can run one minute intervals at 5 mph, easy. I can do five minutes on the arm bike, easy.

That didn’t used to be true. I didn’t used to think that I could possibly run 5k, or that going back to the arm weights would be okay.

So even if I feel like I’m a slacker, like I’ve been not trying hard enough, like I should possibly regret the crab rangoon and sesame chicken from earlier this week… I’m wrong. I’m better than I was. I’m healthier, more fit, and thinner. I’m stronger. I have more endurance. And I’ve learned to find joy in things that I used to avoid like the plague.

That’s pretty damn cool.  Now, have a cookie.

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That’s my great-grandmother’s lovely Noritake. Isn’t it pretty? It makes me happy.

When Justin was here for 6 weeks this summer, he did the dishes. And the laundry. This morning I dug past the pile of my great-grandmother’s lovely Noritake that’s sitting, dirty, on the counter to find a cereal bowl to wash for my breakfast. Then I went and folded a load of laundry and put in a new one. I stripped the bed, too, so that when I come home tonight I won’t be tempted to not change the sheets AGAIN.

Because I have this problem with lazy after work. It’s not really lazy, if I’m kind to myself — yesterday I worked an 11 1/2 hour day, came home, and sat down to pay bills, sort the mail, and do my filing. Then I read for an hour, and went to sleep. Nowhere in there is there much room for being lazy. But I feel lazy — there’s still shit in my car from the weekend, the trash needs to go out, the catbox needs changing, the floors need vacuuming, and I need to make a run to BJs for things like plastic baggies and frozen meatballs. (Those meatballs. CRUCIAL.) And the dishes. And the laundry. But all I really want to do after work is lie down and stare at something. Like Warcraft. Or a book. Or the wall.

Instead, I’m going to tai chi two days a week after work, I have work obligations one evening a week from here to eternity, and I’m determined to stay on track with losing weight, so that means at least two other days where I carve out an hour for activity.

Somewhere.

But this morning I weighed in at 172.6 pounds. That’s the lowest I’ve been since I started this project a year ago. It’s about 15-20 pounds down from a year ago. This morning as I walked across the parking lot with 10 pounds of computer, lunch, and purse on one shoulder and 10 pounds of books and magazines for our popular reading shelf in the other arm, I thought about how hard it is to walk with a spring in your step when you’re carrying an extra 20 pounds.

Yeah.

So. I’ll keep eating as well as I can manage, I’m going to go exercise, and somehow, someway, I’ll figure out equilibrium where the clothes get clean, the dishes get washed, the floors aren’t gross, and I’m not exhausted and frustrated because I don’t ever do anything fun. It may take an act of will and a bloody miracle, but I’ll figure it out.

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I went to bed about 2 hours too late last night for no good reason, but I dutifully set my alarm for 6. I had a long list of small tasks I wanted to do in the morning, and “Be at work by 7:30” was one of them.

I woke up at 6, and shut off the iPad alarm. And the iPhone alarm. And then I, apparently, promptly fell back asleep. Because I woke up at 7:14, listening to NPR on the radio alarm, and wondering why it wasn’t darker in my bedroom. Guh.

So. Shower, breakfast, pack lunch, get dressed, and go to work. That’s about half of what I wanted to get done. Unfortunately, one of the things that slipped off the list due to oversleeping was yoga/tai chi/meditation. Which is too bad, because I currently have this weird spasm under my left shoulder blade. It hurts worse when I sit up straight, which seems oddly counter-productive. I brought a good lunch today, but it’s heavy on raw veggies and light on … everything else. And what I really want right now is, like, a grilled cheese. Or mac and cheese. If only it were Friday. They have mac and cheese on Fridays.

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But it’s not Friday. Instead, it’s a Tuesday that’s a Monday. I have a 48-item to-do list, a faculty member making a challenging request that could set precedent if I accede, a personnel issue that’s like nothing so much as a bizarre communication rectangle that needs to have all the corners meet in the middle, an affirmation from my boss that A Potential Big Problem that I identified a few weeks ago appears to be A Potential Big Problem to her, as well, and a sexual harrassment complaint amongst several student workers brought to their rookie supervisor (nothing like learning about fire by sticking your hand in the flames).

So. To sum up: Cucumbers and hummus are not grilled cheese, my musculoskeletal system can bite me, I need a fourth alarm clock, and I’m management. Welcome to September.

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…to be a grownup today. Keep false starting on projects, getting distracted by stories about Irene or stuff on Facebook or dear god anything but this annual report.

Gotta get to work.

Reminiscing about this instead.

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Now I’m hoping Justin wants to do some sort of leather project this fall.

AND I REALLY MUST GET TO WORK. Ugh.

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I just stood in the kitchen, making myself a late-night snack of chopped apples and walnuts with a drizzle of caramel sauce, and thought, “I should prep breakfast, too.” So I chopped the rest of the apple into a bowl of oats, added the brown sugar and walnuts, and popped it in the fridge to wait for morning when I’ll add water and, voila, oatmeal.

And I realized that the brilliant idea of oatmeal-ready-to-microwave, however unwittingly, came from Tamara.

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Good friends. They’re always with you, especially at the odd moments.

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Once or twice a week I stop at either Dunkin Donuts for a large iced coffee, or I grab one of the various pre-packaged Starbucks caffeine vehicles in the cafe on my way across campus. I don’t think about it much — I’m sort of a black hole with money, particularly what I think of as “incidentals”. I’m pretty sure if I stopped and looked, I’d discover that my incidentals budget is the size of a small country. I’m vowing that this is the month I start to look.

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Because, today, my phone’s ringing. It’s a number I don’t recognize, one that’s rung through a few times this week, and my phone tells me it’s in LA. I don’t know anyone in LA. So it’s … something automated. In any case, today I answered it instead of ignoring it.

It was MSF. If there’s anyone who can call me and ask for money and not irritate me, it’s Doctors Without Borders. Those people are heroes. I give them a couple hundred dollars a year, in monthly installments, and have for years. And every now and again they call and ask for a one-time donation for a project, or for an increase in my monthly gift.  And I always, always, always say yes.

Because… well. They have the sucker punch of telling me about “refugees from Somalia… children facing malnutrition… outbreak of cholera…” and then asking, “can you give an additional $5 a month?” as I look at 3 dollars in snacks on my desk this afternoon… Yes. Here. $5 more a month is fine. I have to stop myself from babbling. “Also, take my car. Would a cat help? How about some cute shoes? I have a lot of those.”

And she closed the call with “bless you, dear. Thank you.” Jesus. DON’T THANK ME I’M A TERRIBLE FIRST WORLD AMERICAN DRINKING STUPID COFFEE DRINKS AND PEOPLE ARE DYING GAH.

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Bright blue ones. Blue suede ones.

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He bought them for me as a gift while he was in Rome, and they were part of an emotional turning point for me.

They really are that bright; that’s an unedited iPhone photo.

Whenever I wear them, people notice them. And compliment them. Six today — two men and four women — one of them a student who audibly said, “Oh my gosh, those are awesome shoes” as I walked past her.

They ask for attention. They demand notice. They are not subtle shoes.

I am not often a subtle woman. I demand notice. I ask for attention.

He knows that.

I love them.

Today, sadly, they’re killing my bunion like they never have before. I think my foot’s getting worse. Reality is intruding into my symbol-laden fun, and I disapprove.

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I woke up this morning around 8 with a screaming headache, my personal hell kind of trigger migraine. They’re caused by muscle tension and exacerbated by sinus problems, and I spent all of yesterday with my laptop in bad postural positions that cramped up my back and neck, then a storm system blew in last night and the pressure change wreaked havoc on my sinuses. So I stumbled out of bed, blindly swallowed some Sudafed and Excedrin, and crawled back into bed. Justin was up, and suggested Claritin, brought me water and a pill, and helped me make a nest of pillows to lie on.

When I woke up three hours later my headache was gone. I still have that feeling like it’s following me around — like there’s a headache lurking three inches behind my head, and if I turn too fast it’ll pounce on me — but mostly, I’m okay now.

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And I have this small mental smile about the non-judgemental, cheerful way that Justin reacts to Jenica-in-pain. I’m not pleasant when the world feels too bright and too loud and every movement stabs me somewhere, and I know it. As I listen to myself whine and grumble in those moments there’s a part of my brain that can see it and thinks “stop that!”, but I’m not in full control. The pain is. And he just glides right by the cranky, and helps me. 

There’s a true give and take to that which feels like a gift. Yesterday he made waffles. Today I’ll make enchiladas. Today he helped with my headache. Later I’ll help with his job stuff. We’re sitting the other way, this afternoon — my feet are in his lap, not my head. But regardless, I’m feeling like this comfortable partnership is something to cherish, and be grateful for. It has the same clean, relaxing feeling as waking up after a migraine. A kind of “Oh, yes, that’s how I’m supposed to feel”, and it brings me just as much comfort.

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There’s a filter on my camera that makes things look like dramatic old hand-tinted postcards. Like a place that was never real, like somewhere you dream of but never see, no matter how hard you look.

It made my mountain look like a dream.

Today, that mountain on that lake… they feel like a dream. I had a vacation… I was there… just last week? 10 days ago? An eternity ago.

Like vacations, my lake is a fleeting part of my life, one that runs when I try to grab it and slips away if I’m not paying close enough attention. But when I’m there, when I’m in it…

Yes.

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