I hosted Easter dinner on Sunday.

photo 1

I briefly considered doing a Tutorial From Hell on how to make the teensy Easter baskets, but then noticed that a) I did not snap any photos whilst making the craft so as to document how the baskets were constructed, and b) they really are just fancy cupcake wrappers with half a length of fuzzy pipe-cleaner attached with tape.

(I could probably write an entire book called: Half-Assed Crafts for Every Season)

I love Easter.  I love the prospect of renewal and possibility that comes with this time of year.

And I love candy.

Our Winesday Easter was one of those lovely, happy holiday dinners where people were in good form, and everything was funny, and there was a lot of wine but not too too much, and the food was glorious and there was Enough of Everything.

This winter was long, and cold, and nothing seemed to work out right.  But having our little family around the table again — surrounded by wine and cheer — reminded me that we made it.  It was just a moment; a season of darkness, and now we are stepping out into this wonderful new light.

Today, it is November.

Today, after wrestling with a hip injury for the past few months, I was finally cleared to run.

Today, the big picture was that there was a shooting at LAX. This shooting at LAX was (yet another) unspeakably horrible moment in our country’s struggle with gun violence. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation here that would help make sense of the senselessness of this tragedy.  My thoughts are with the families of the victims, and with anyone who had to endure the terror of the experience at LAX today.

The very small, personal, wallet-sized picture was that my brother was due to leave on a flight out of LAX to get to NYC for the Marathon.  That fight was cancelled.  Everything in the LA-area was swamped and booked, and shut-down, and the airline, who initially offered to be so helpful about the Marathon, refused to understand that offering to get him into town on Saturday night was useless, because he had to pick up his bib in person using his own photo ID, and the race expo closed at 5pm on Saturday.

I managed to find him another flight taking off from another airport — a red-eye — with a connection through Phoenix, which was on-time 100% of the time.  Perfect.  Until that flight was so delayed that the connections were not going to be able to be made.

He called me to deliver the news while I was out, and I rushed home, sat at the computer and…wondered: Why? Why now?  Do I not want this enough?  Am I not trusting enough in the process?  What am I not letting go of that is preventing this good from coming to our family?

The reality was: I wanted it more than anything.  And the further reality was that there was nothing I was doing that could control this process.  But for the past few months, I had been battling a serious hip injury, which had left me cranky and distracted, and particularly withdrawn.  And it wasn’t until this morning that I was even cleared to run the damned race in the first place. 

Because of this injury, I have joked — I am wrestling with the Angel; I am seeking a blessing.

If you don’t know what this refers to — it’s the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling the Angel; the tale of two brothers from the Book of Genesis. In simplest terms, it’s the story of Jacob, the second-born son, who takes his brother’s Esau’s birthright, and then many years later, apprehensive about an impending brotherly reunion, meets an angel by a river along the journey and wrestles him till dawn — demanding the Angel bless him. At dawn, the Angel concedes the fight, blesses Jacob, but touches him at the hip and lames him.

That’s an incredible oversimplification of the story.

But I’ve become particularly enamoured of it since I hurt my hip, as if I could find some greater meaning in a sports injury. So I asked my Armchair Theologian friends, in particular, the Yeshiva-dropout, and the Pastor’s Kid for advice.  Sad to say, I didn’t get a lot of answers to my medical problems.  I just came away with more questions.

What if these angels and demons and issues are just the worst of Jacob himself, and the blessing he’s seeking is just a reprieve from his own madness; his own doubt; his own insecurity and fear?

And what about the questions that I have been wrestling with?  For so long, and in so many ways, I have let doubt, and grief, and envy, and fear keep me from victory.  I have let these things become a thief in the night, stealing the joy that is rightfully mine, and distracting me from being a runner, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a girlfriend — preventing me from enjoying perfect moments and crippling me as I partake in the things I enjoy.

I have let doubt and fear turn me into someone who afraid to fight against this creeping ambivalence.

0(Pierre who didn’t care – Maurice Sendak)

It was time to fight.

Why?

I sat down at the computer, and by some small miracle, a single seat had opened up on a JetBlue flight out of Burbank, leaving at 9.30pm. That seat hadn’t been there all day. But suddenly, there was this one, mysterious, miracle seat that would get Matthew into New York on Saturday morning, and I sat down at my computer, pulled out my American Express card, and booked it.

Victory.

As he boarded the plane, Matt texted me: Things are looking up. They even gave me an aisle seat.

So.

Today is the First of November, and we are on the cusp of change, in the season of thankfulness. In the spirit of this glorious time, I have asked some friends to join me in writing about change, and gratitude; in fighting the fight for joy.  And I am thankful for my brother; for my friends and family. I am thankful for this fight; for this hip; for these blessings; for these victories to come.

I will admit that the last few weeks have been…overwhelming.  Overwhelming in that weird way that’s all real-life, and nothing that makes for a good, bloggable anecdote.  These phases in my life are…Capital-R-Rare, as I tend to think that everything makes for a good story.

But sometimes, things are confidential; sometimes, things are sad.

And sometimes the stories in which I am the protagonist are just plain boring.  They are tales of me cowering in the corner of a Mayfair hotel room, eating strawberries for dinner, sobbing during the premiere of the Great British Bake Off knowing I wouldn’t be able to consistently catch the remainder of the series, and realising Oh My Goodness, the Americans are going to copy it sooner than later, and WHY DO AMERICANS RUIN EVERYTHING?!

(For the record, while the American propensity to ruin shows by AmericaniZing them is A Thing, and while I do have a peculiar love for The Great British Bake Off, this was not a matter over which to shed tears.  I was just overwhelmed and incredibly jet-lagged.)

Obviously, I was unexpectedly in London last week.  And while I usually have a social life in London, last week was 12 hour days of appointments and meetings and phone calls, and bad sleep before rushing home for 36 hours and heading off to beautiful Buffalo, NY.

I am not being facetious about the Buffalo bit, by the way.  The weather was perfect, and crisp, and the very tippy tips of the leaves were turning Autumn hues.  We were there to marry off our dearest Woman of Winesday, Bethany, in Point Abino, Ontario.  And by “marry off,” I mean that in the literal sense, as I was officiating the ceremony.

She was the first of the WoWs to marry, or re-marry as the case may be.

Marriage is a journey.  Remarriage, I think, is a different beast, but perhaps an infinitely more hopeful one.  It is a triumph of the heart over the head.

So while Buffalo was lovely, the getting to Buffalo bit was not so lovely.  eee and I travelled upstate together, and between the two of us, our ordinarily smooth transitions between cities was a bit tangled.  She had arrived from Reykjavik on Monday; I’d gotten in from Heathrow near Midnight on Wednesday.  She thought you could take the E-Train to LaGuardia; I hadn’t been able to check in for the flight before we left for the airport.

Between the two of us, we fly thousands of miles each year.  We each have extra passport pages, and carry our yellow fever cards as a matter of course.  And yet, we could not get ourselves to LGA for a 45 minute flight.

Once on the plane and safely landed in Buffalo 45 mins later, we made it to downtown, and we were on our way to the Welcome Dinner at the Frank Lloyd Wright Fontana Boathouse.  We were treated to stunning views of Lake Erie.

rehearsal

(The “Winesmaids”)

What Bethany doesn’t know, and will soon know when she reads this, is that somewhere between the plane and the hotel, I had dropped several important pages of the ceremony, including my brief sermon.  I was obviously officiating, and had hand-written pieces of the service — as I have a tendency to hand-write things before I type.  The night before the wedding, I spent a few moments of sweaty horror staring at blank pages before I (wo)man’d up, put pen to page, and rewrote all of the transitional bits, and my entire speaking part.

So that happened.

The next morning, we ran a celebratory “Race to the Altar 5k” – which was less “Race” and more “Fun Run,” as everyone was a multiple marathoner, ultra-marathoner, or insane triathlete.

varsity x country

(The Varsity Cross Country Team – photo via the bride’s sister Lindsay)

After the run, we raced to ready ourselves – which meant eee and I ran to the salon for hair-do’s (and what a to-do it was!), then drove across the border into Canada for a day of preparing ourselves for the big event.

And it was a truly gorgeous day.  Sunshine, perfect weather, great company.

bridesmaids

(Photo via eee)

barbie skipper ken

(eee, Penguin, and I went to high school together. To be reunited at the wedding of a friend who didn’t go to school with us was wonderfully funny!)

on a boat

(me and eee with the beautiful bride)

bride and groom

All in all, a perfect day.

To be surrounded by such kindness, and beauty, and love was a rare treat.  My personality, and indeed, my profession, force me to err on the side of realism (some would say, cynicism), but those things notwithstanding, I will tell you that this weekend was a triumph of stamina over jetlag; sunshine over all other weather; love over all other things; and most importantly, the heart over the head.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
– Winston Churchill

New York City is filled with lies.

Men, women — everyone loves to lie.  Separate, together.  But there’s a difference, grammatically, between to lay, and to lie.  You see, when you bed someone, you say that you laid someone, or you got laid.  You do not say that you lied with someone, unless you were part of a conspiracy, or maybe you lied to lay someone.

I cannot say that I have not been a New York City liar myself.  To say so would be a lie.  And I cannot say that I have not been lied to in New York City, because this writing has sometimes been a travelogue through those (real and perceived) wrongs.

What I have learned in eight years here is that this is a mean city.  And the truth travels much slower than fiction.  If the truth is the 6 train leaving 77th Street, then falsehood is the express in the bowels of 86th street — both bound for Grand Central, but one is fated to travel father, faster (unless it’s raining, or the wind is blowing in a north-westerly direction, or someone spilled a coffee, or it’s the third Monday of the month, in which case, all bets are off.)

What I am saying, too, is that, after eight years, I have learned not to take it as personally, but I have also learned that my choices make me part of the problem.  And I have learned that some people simply don’t know better.  They come here, and this is a mean existence.  People come here and live six to a sardine tin, and they scrape by as best they can, and they try to catch the express train by shoving their way on.  So they can leave their railroad apartments just to be sardines again on the subway; guppies in the big office pond; maybe, if they’re lucky, they can be Jonah swallowed up by the whale.

What I am saying, mostly, is that I once lived three terrible New York City days, and those days have informed Everything Else — they have been the capstone of my experience here.  What I learned is that you can be a sardine, or a guppie, or whatever kind of big or small fish — a humanoid one, even — but in the end, the only way out of the whale is the slow and truthful one.  It is the way in which one begs for forgiveness and mercy; the one in which one looks for a sign; and the one in which one hangs the hell on.

New York City may be filled with lies, but one need not be consumed or defined by them.

(Throughout the month of June, I’ll be writing a series of New York-related posts, and/or inviting some friends to guest post about their New York experiences, to celebrate my eight years in New York City.)