Me, My Boobs, and I

As I continue my foray into the running world, experimenting with gear is becoming a thing.  I’m on my second pair of shoes for blister reduction purposes, and yesterday, I sent the new sports bra from hell, back where it belongs.  Sorry Brooks–AKA Velcro Fruit Basket of Chafing Torment–but you’re outta here.  On a positive note, the chat I had with my boobs about this decision gleaned lots of useful information.  Ahhhh, running, not just for the teeny, blonde Jennifers of the world.

A Conversation With My Boobs:

Me: So I think it’s time ladies.

Boobs: NO.

Me:  C’mon, we ran seven or eight miles today and you have such bad road rash that your regular bra made you wince all night.  Righty, are you crying?

Righty:  No…yes, YES, oh gawd it hurts sooooo bad!

Lefty: Wuss.  We’ve told you once and we are telling you again, we will not wear old lady sports bras with underwire.

Me: Well, sadly, ‘we’re not gonna’, is not a reason.  Unless you can give me a reason, I am tasked with taking care of you.  You are changing, gravity is not our friend anymore.

Lefty:  Oh, OH, so you’re saying that because “the man” can’t handle us, thinks we’re abnormally large, that we have to adapt to his demands?!?  DOWN WITH THE PATRIARCHY!!!  Fuckin’ Righty, STOP CRYING!

Me: (Sigh) I’m not trying to make you into something you are not, I just–

Righty: (in between sobs) Th-th-then why all the r-r-r-unning?

Me:  I’m trying to help us get back to something we are.  Namely, strong.

Lefty: Okay, I’ll give you that, but no one is going to want to fuck us in an old lady sports bra.  You’ll never meet up with some dude bro runner on the trail and go trotting after his powerful glutes, you’ll never look all cute on the dance floor with a little strap showing.  As it is, the men who meet us now treat us like….

Me:  No! Gonna stop you there, because I don’t think it’s what you really want.  In fact, I know it’s not, because if it was, you could have it.  So this is not really about the bra, is it?

Righty:  (somewhat recovered)  Lefty just wants to be in her twenties again…she’s always talking about how you didn’t appreciate us then, and now we’re just pillows for the people you hug.

Lefty:  You were pretty repressed, we didn’t get out much.  No naked hot tub, no naked beach, no naked volleyball, just no naked for us (kicks the ground sulking, but since the ground is my bicep, it just looks like a really weird boob seizure).

Me:  I know, but I can’t do anything about it now.  We’re all just gonna have to deal with the fact that we are coming into our sexual prime with nowhere to put it.  You ladies aren’t the only ones who suffer now that the bounce is a swing, and the muffin top is the whole muffin.

Righty:  Don’t listen to her.  I think we both just need is to know you think we’re beautiful.  Do you still want to be with us, even though things don’t work the same anymore?

Lefty: Don’t tell her what I need, I, I….GODDAMNIT!!  How are you the gentle, soft porn tit one minute, and then right the next?

Me:  You’re right, I’m sorry.  There’s so much internal change going on these days, that it’s hard to also follow my body as it changes.  For the record, stuff may be in different places now, but I feel more powerful, more feminine in this body, than I have ever felt.  You two are part of that.  Lefty, you are still a firecracker, quick on the nipple, and Righty, you have the best freckles, super adorable.

Boobs:  Awwwww.

Me:  So whaddya say gals?  Can we agree to get us some support?  Who knows, maybe you don’t need it, but I do.  All this change is a little scary, but if I can make up for lost time in taking care of everyone, it will help.

Righty:  You’re not as far behind as you think–we LOVE dancing–and so you get serious points for that change up three years ago.  I’m still not sold on the running, but I hear good things from the rest of the body about it, except for right hip of course who’s way pissed at you–seriously, you two should talk.

Lefty:  God, you’re a blabbermouth.  Yes, yes you can buy the old lady sports bra.

Righty:  And who knows, the great part of getting older is now you’re actually “old enough” to date the older men you’ve always dated anyways.  And, probably not too many years from qualifying to be a cougar.

Lefty:  It’s not like the senior discount at the movies where you have to show ID, stupid! Cougar is a state of mind, and we will kick ass at it when we decide to, just like we kick ass at everything!

Righty:  The youngins are a much better match for your earnestness and playfulness anyways.  And, (lowers voice to a whisper) their butts are really nice… (Righty and Lefty exchange conspiratorial nods, you can tell they’ve had this conversation before)

Me:  Alright, alright, thank you, but I think that’s enough.  We’ve gotten a little off track here.  I appreciate us getting to the root of the issue, but I need to go research our new bra and stop talking about my sex life with you two.

Lefty:  Using ‘sex life’ rather broadly, aren’t we?

Me:  Hey!  I will order lace on this ugly ass bra if you don’t shut it.

Boobs:  (Silence)



Flopping through the Fear

Running.  I’ve been doing it for almost three months now.

I still feel awestruck that my body can be so direct, so deliberate.

I still feel terrified of unchecked motion.

Through it all, I’m continuing to learn when adjustments are actually necessary and when to say ‘fuck it’ and do the thing anyways.  What a gobsmacking life lesson this is for a recovering perfectionist, one who still tangos with terminal tunnel vision.

I took to Steven’s Creek Trail in brand new running shoes tonight.  Though my old, new shoes were blue-dolphin sleek, and these are chunky, men’s 10.5; my old new shoes had started giving me blisters as I reached 6 miles.  Not just any blisters–Catholically procreating blisters, blisters hidden behind blisters like a knock off MC Escher etching.  I was getting tired of digging safety pins into pools of blood, so this adjustment was totally worth it.  I strode on to the trail tonight, fierce and smooth in my new, ugly shoes.

Three quarters of a mile in, my sports bra strap popped, and my left boob promptly rolled out like a delighted sea lion, coming to nestle near the pocket of my hoodie.

“Motherfucker!!”  I stopped, no longer bewitched by the moonlight, or Katy Perry’s now gravitationally impossible assurance that, “I will still rise!”  I looked around.  While this was an easy fix at dance last night in a scoop necked tank top, it was less so in the 44 degree dark with the strap already dangling over my left butt cheek.

Options?  Get naked in public in order to attempt a fix.  Maybe in the spring to dance under the full moon, but not tonight, Steven’s Creek Trail.  Nothing to see here.  I could turn around and walk home.  But these new shoes felt so good, and the mermaid green, full moon light was drawing multiple colors out of every shadow.  Well, Chelsea, I think you have your answer: fuck it.  Let’s just keep running.  “Fine lefty, go ahead, you win.”

And I did.  I averted my moment of paralysis and rejoined the rawr! that had been circulating through my veins a few moments before, even though I was now a drunken boxer clumsily working the speed bag along the left side of my body.

I have been conducting an experiment in mindfulness for the last month, before and after each run.  On one side of the page, I write down what I am afraid of for no more than a minute, no matter what silly thing comes to mind.  When I get back, on the other side of the page, I write down where I am strong.  Tonight’s entry?

What are you afraid of: that my freedom is temporary.

Where are you strong: I can let go of details and enjoy where I am at.

Strictly speaking, everyone’s freedom is temporary.  Whether it lasts 70 years or 70 minutes, needs and dictates other than our own once again impose upon us.  For many years I dealt with this fact fearfully, trying to gain extra time by squeezing the time I had.  Now, as I’ve given myself room to step back a little, the details aren’t always as important as they once seemed.  More often than not these days, I just let my boob flop.

The surprise and grace of these moments…well, they stir hungers that take real living in order to feed.

Run, Chelsea, run!!!

I have been running for the past two weeks.  And for those of you who know me, the zombie apocalypse did not come to Mountain View and I am not being chased.

I have mocked running more than once in my life, not really impressed by the grunty seriousness of runners who woosh by me on my meandering walks.  Why are they going so fast?  I don’t trust it!! Not only that, but the clothes are significantly more boring than those I dance in, and the tininess of running shorts is just confusing–does no one make Bermuda length running shorts?  Do I really want someone to see that much of my ass as it jiggles past them?  Mostly, it just looks hard, and I have enough hard things on my plate at present.

So, no zombie apocalypse, no Bermuda length running shorts–then what’s going on?  It started a few weeks ago at a dance workshop entitled Both Sides Now: The Power of Paradox.  I was sitting at breakfast before class on Saturday morning, headphones in, fork in one hand, colored pencils in the other, working on my mandala coloring book.  All of a sudden I thought, I want you to start running.  My response?  “Let’s meditate on this thought and listen to what the Universe has to say.”  HAHAHAHAHA….NOT!!!!  My response, given here verbatim because I wrote it in my journal later: “I want you to shut your whore mouth.”  We left it at that, and I didn’t feel even a little bad ignoring this totally random idea.

During the last part of class on Saturday, we did an exercise called Voice Dialogues.  In it, through a process of partner interview, you are able to hear from different parts of your personality.  There’s no voodoo or schizophrenia involved, just acceptance of the fact that you play many roles for yourself every day, and they might have some wisdom to share on the evolution of your life.  As my partner interviewed the protector side of me, I heard myself say something stunning: “I didn’t originally show up for Chelsea, I showed up to take care of the other people in her life, and we just kind of adopted each other.”  I am still very much boggled by this revelation.

That night journaling, I popped back in with: You should run.  My response was a little less harsh, but it still fell along the lines of, “You should shut up.”

This continued through Sunday and Monday’s return to regular life.  It was by no means a constant chatter, but the moment my attention was on an unrelated topic, there it was again.  I need you to run.  My reply continued to be ‘no’, but it waned in enthusiasm each time.  I know when there’s a definite yes present and building, and this was it.

By the time I got to dance Monday night, my resistance was low enough to investigate.  “Okay you, maybe this is my protector looking to shift the terms of our relationship, maybe this is a mid-life crisis, but let me hear it.  Why the ever loving fuck do you think I am someone who needs to start running?  I may not be in great shape, but I am not house bound by any means.  I don’t get it.”  It was almost the end of the night, when I thought I was going to walk away with no answer, just a nagging sense of need:

You’re not as far into the unknown right now as you think.  

But, you’re about to go a whole lot further out and deeper in before you see land again.  I need you to run because I need to make sure you don’t get lost in what’s coming up.  You can calcify around chaos the same way you calcified around habit.  You have tools now to prevent this, but I need to bring even more on board.  Some of the things that have joined your life in the last few months are part of this.  I’m not concerned about making your body a different shape or fitting you into boxes you just recently left.  I just need you to have another way to grab movement again when you’re in deep.

I thought leaving teaching had been the outer reaches of my departure from the norm, but according to me, it isn’t.  Oy.  Who knows what ‘further and deeper’ will mean–big, visible changes, small but radical shifts?  Either way, my protector was showing up for me this time, this much was clear.  As the last few dances of the night slowed, my dance swelled and quickened.  It was a dance full of gratitude and of fear.  I walked away that night, happy to be clearer, but still not convinced that this was a good idea.

Thus, I was back to the equivalent of being poked on Facebook all of Tuesday and part of Wednesday.  I picked up the phone that afternoon to make my weekly Dad call.  Since he was diagnosed with lung cancer, I have been making a good faith effort to repair and build relationship with him, primarily through hearing the stories of his Forest Gump-like life.  Today was the day to hear about his time in jump school, training for the Paratroopers at age sixteen.  Though I expected to hear about boyish pranks and the adrenalin of jumping out of a plane, there was something else I did not expect, something that rippled through my chest like a gong:

We had to run all day.  We ran from the barracks to the practice area, practice area to mess, mess to practice area, and back to the barracks again.  And when you were in the training area?  Forget it.  There was absolutely no standing, sitting, or lying down.  You were running, either single or double time.  And it’s not like today when the guys get to wear sneakers.  We did it all in combat boots.  Easily fifteen to twenty miles a day.  It was incredibly hard. I had had rheumatic fever as a kid, and so I always thought of myself as somewhat of a weakling.  I was tall, skinny, awkward.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I was sent back to company twice, and I had to go what they call free back, which is basically starting over.  You do 8 hours of physical training a day for two weeks, and then you can go back to jump school if you haven’t quit by that time.  I don’t think they thought I could do it, but I did.  Always running.

I could feel his feet sweating and chafing inside heavy boots.  I could feel them hit the ground, both desperate and final.  I could feel the searing desire to remake a definition that was inherited, not chosen.  I looked at the cat after ending our call.  “I guess I’m going running,” I sighed.

What follows are excerpts from my week one journal (week two involves almost the same amount of pain, but a lot more confidence).  When spiritual journeys have physical outlets, we are healthier for it, and hopefully others get to giggle and relate and know they’re not alone.

Day 1:  Stupid tiny shorts!!!  I resent the money I spent on them at Target, and the semi-camel toe situation that had to be discreetly managed.  Set out after nightfall where no one could see me suffer/pick at wedgies.  Why oh why do I/did I have such anxiety about this?  My heart was jumping out of my chest before I even started running.  Was kicking my legs out in back of me while standing at the light on Moffett.  “What are you doing?”  I don’t know, runner stuff?  “Do you have any idea what that’s for?  No?  Then just stop, please stop.”  Don’t know if it is safe to leave my phone in the sweat pool that is my sports bra, but I need music.  Even through the music I sounded like a pregnant, constipated giraffe.  And WTF Pandora?!?!  What kind of crap songs are on your pre-selected workout playlist?  No, I don’t wanna “back that thing up,” thank you very much Busta Rhymes–in fact, currently trying quite hard to move that thing forward.  I was surprised at how good I felt….for the first three minutes…

Day 2:  Ow, ow, ow, I hurt, ow, ow.  I thought I was in better shape.  I feel like two days running is equivalent to two weeks of my ankles by my ears during sex.  Ran in the rain today, that’s how committed I am to not be caught experimenting with this bad idea.  I do like the fact that runner clothes seem to have slits in the sleeves where you can stick your thumbs, at least I think that’s what they are for.  I don’t understand the purpose of this, but I do quite like sticking my thumbs through my sleeves…will consider tailoring all clothes to this end.  Ran to my randomly chosen stopping point again.  Have decided to run the same route every time until I am faster.  The 30 seconds I allow myself at the drinking fountain is saving my life.  The wildness of running in the rain is not all bad…

Day 3:  Running in the daylight, no rain.  Good news, I am maintaining the same pace every day.  This means that if I have ruptured an internal organ, it hasn’t started to bleed into my abdominal cavity yet…internal bleeding does make you slower, right?  Catherine had her baby last night and early into this morning, and so I witnessed my first birth.  When I got home I couldn’t sleep, and the only thing that seemed right was to run–goddamnit I hate it sometimes when I am right!!  The bad news though is that even when I feel like I’m doing okay, people are flying around me on the trail like I am 100 years old.  Seriously, there were people running in pairs today and TALKING WHILE THEY RAN!!  I know I shouldn’t say this after seeing the miracle of birth, but fuck those people–I really doubt our species needs them.  Also, how is it possible I sweat so much in twenty five minutes?  Catherine did not sweat this much in five hours of labor.  I don’t know who I think I’m gonna win a prize from….

Day 4:  Break day.  Sat in hot water and saunas for two and a half hours at Lawrence Health Spa.  I’m personally not much of a fan of break day, but reading about shin splints yesterday, Men’s Health Magazine online hinted at the fact that I may need one.  They wanted me to take every other day off, but screw them, that’s no way to create a habit…

Day 5:  I felt good today–until of course I realized, I left my house key in the apartment, not in my shoe–burgling my own place was way easier when I could lift my legs unimpeded. Being a weekend, there were multiple people out, and some looked as pained as me!!  I even got a nod of hello from a dude bro runner.  I can’t be sure he was a dude bro, but he was wearing a bandana, and he looked like you might find him playing beach volleyball.  Since I have always been a non-entity to dude bros, this was fascinating.  Apparently I am at least a little successful in infiltrating this world.  Kudos to Men’s Health Magazine online–even though they want me to be a lazy habit builder, their advice on shortening my stride and concentrating on coming down mid-foot, did seem to help my shin pains.  I find it interesting that I spent most of my life on my toes, just in the last five years started finding my heels, and now here comes the mid-foot, ready to engage.  I will go get some insoles later today to see what that does.  Probably still need new shoes…

Day 6:  I was involved in a modern day parting of the Red Sea today.  A runner couple ran around me, him on one side, her on the other, strides then perfectly synchronizing again, strong backs pulling away in tandem like some kind of mythical cheetahs.  Does this make me all the Pharaoh’s men that then drowned in the receding sea?  I don’t know, but it was so artfully choreographed that I couldn’t even be mad at them.  I picture them not even talking about it as they strode up behind me, just the giving and receiving of head nods that all long term couples can do, and then, it was happening.  I wonder if I will ever be that magic again…

Day 7:  One minute faster today!!!!  And maybe even two since I over shot my usual stopping place by a dozen strides or so.  Good music really does make a mental difference, so I may have to create a playlist.  Is anyone else running to “How Far I’ll Go,” from Moana?  Seems unlikely.  Today I noticed a moment that has repeated more than once this week.  I picture myself stopping on the trail and just screaming my lungs out, absolutely rageful for no apparent reason.  Historically, I haven’t been able to get very close to my anger about anything.  It freaks me out a little to think that running may get me closer to this historical frozen spot.  But, I am reading a book right now where one of the main characters says, “Where there is fear, there is power.”  Hmmm.  Maybe I will do some more night running so I have some latitude for anger practice.  I wonder if screaming causes more or less sweat to pool, because really, it’s gross already…

Day 11: (couldn’t resist this one ladies)  Running with PMS.  What. The. Actual. Fuck!?!?!?!?!?!?!  Why is that so hard?  I felt like my new bouncy shoe insoles had melted, and my knees were on strike, refusing to do more than shuffle my feet forward, and only then by extreme measure of will.  “I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing, I’m alive…” sang Sia.  Oh really?  Am I?  Fuck you Sia, I can’t feel my neck.  How much can a uterine lining weigh?  I will tell you…27 million pounds!!!!  And now I have to fucking run again tomorrow, because I can’t go to my next break day on that note…

I am an almost 40 book nerd.  I am an impassioned dancer.  I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.  I am following something natural and silent as it grows.  My legs currently hate me.  I grabbed the horizon this morning and felt free.

Challenge accepted, me.  Your turn.