Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grace Period

Shabbat #20 - Holy Cow!

Guests: Jen and Matt and daughters H. and G., Jodi and Trevor, son B. and daughter T. All preschool parents. Ben was smitten (again) with a fair-haired six-year old guest.

Menu: Blue Cheese-Encrusted Filets with Port Wine Sauce, Spicy Creamed Spinach, Herb Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Blueberry Cheesecake with Lemon Curd

What I Learned:

On Thursday I got a one-line email from an old law firm colleague.

Think about you and glad you are doing well.

My first thought?


That if I responded to this message every person I had ever emailed -- regardless of their "state of being" -- would automatically receive this odd congratulatory note of sorts.

After all, had she not read the paper? While I had moved from a complete mess to relatively high functioning, the adjective "well" struck me as a bit, um, premature.

Or was it.

I know I've written a lot about my running. Marathons in particular. And yes. I watch enough Oprah and, more recently, Dr. Oz to know that it's a bit of a control issue. But there are also upsides apart from the physical benefits. Like the post-marathon grace period.

I'll explain.

When a runner meets another runner one question nearly always ensues. Are you training for anything? In St. Louis terms it's equivalent to Where'd you go to highschool? Not meant to be a means of sizing up your new acquaintance, but rather a way to gain a quick perspective. Do they race? What distance? Are they doing a race you've done? But just like the high school question, it's also one that can invoke anxiety? What if there's nothing on the race calendar? Then more questions ensue. Did you just finish a race? Still recovering? Or the really loaded one ... what's next? A sign that what you've done is not nearly as significant as what you plan to do.

Also a sign that your grace period is up and it's time to set a new goal.

Which brings me to the benefit of running marathons. Some view the completion of a marathon as a formidable exertion worthy of a month or two of recovery. An obligatory grace period to the question Are you training for anything? Running a marathon every six months or so means that I am nearly always within this grace period. If I am feeling slow and sluggish, I can respond that I've just run "X Marathon" (which is also a handy cover to my slow(ing) pace). If I'm feeling spry (and speedier) I'll share my future race plan. Either way, my anxiety over the question is all but eliminated. I perpetually straddle the "what I've done" and the "what I'm planning to do" answering as my mood suits.

But life's not always that easy.

On Friday the chatter around the table turned to how we met our spouses. Steve recounted (for the umpteenth time) how we had met as I dropped (for the umpteenth time) clarification.

Him: I asked her to go see Phantom of the Opera - box seats.

Me (yelling from the kitchen): Box seats, SIX WEEKS, from the date he was asking.

Him: I knew she couldn't say no.

Me (still yelling): I had him confused with another guy. An Italian.

And so proceeded the 411 around the table.

Then the conversation turned. To occupations. In talking to Jodi earlier in the evening, I knew that she and her husband had not followed Steve's story. So I braced myself. For the practiced answer that Steve would give. Having watched the answer unfold in company without a background on our situation I knew what was next. The awkward silence. Sometimes followed by the "oh you're the guy" light bulb moment. And nearly always a few questions ranging from the perfunctory to the pointed.

But that's not what happened.

For the first time, finally, someone (other than me) said it.

So what are you doing next?

And just like that our life -- or at least to the extent that it existed around that table -- moved from what he did to what he would do.

His answer? While not nearly as practiced, it was the makings of a new goal.

And an end to the grace period.


As for that congratulatory email .... whether I was "well?" Maybe it wasn't so premature after all.

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