This is the fourth in a brief series of posts. Here are the firstsecond, and third.

It is April – a week after my appointment with the geneticist, and I am meeting with the surgeon and his entourage again. I am once again standing in a pair of paper shorts and I find myself chattily filling in yet another doctor about my medical odyssey. The surgeon listens, seemingly wide-eyed, because this story is nothing if not interesting.

You’re not the typical EDS patient, the physician’s assistant, Jonathan, interrupts, With our other EDS patients, the surgeries fail. Your right hip is still intact. You had a great outcome! Anyway, I thought you had Rheumatoid Arthritis.

They think I was misdiagnosed, I say, aloud. In my head I say, Shut up, Jonathan. This is my story.

That’s the other thing about All This: I have spent ten years being told that I have RA; injecting myself with Chinese hamster ovary derivatives; taking chemotherapy drugs; doing all the weird and horrible shit RA patients are supposed to do. In the beginning, I did it with a sort of maniacal devotion to my ex husband, who told me he couldn’t love a woman with “claws.” He was so concerned about my appearance that we did everything it took to prevent my joints from ever becoming deformed. Then it just became habit – if you’ve ever sunk a syringe into your thigh, it becomes easier over time until eventually, you don’t even notice how freaked out people are by the sharps container on your kitchen counter.

Apparently, I didn’t need to do any of it. I am not suggesting I ever wanted to have RA, nor am I suggesting that I miss it, but it suddenly feels very weird to Be One Thing for a decade, and then suddenly Not Be That Thing. To have to live your life with a set of clear and somewhat onerous limitations, then poof, one day that all disappears.

The PA nods when I say I was misdiagnosed, because as he speaks, I am bending my thumb all the way back to my wrist in order to make a point.

The surgeon and I schedule a reconstruction of my left hip for Monday, May 9th, and I decide to run a 5k two weeks before surgery because I do not know if I will ever run again.

Before my first hip reconstruction, I ran the Big Sur Marathon – a bucket-list race – because the Pacific Coast was where I lived out the last days of my first marriage, and the first days of something else, and it was where I trained for the 2009 NYC Marathon. It was an incredibly stupid idea, but I figured, if I never ran another marathon, running a slow, painful race in the place where my Whole Heart resided was the way I wanted go out. My bestie eee was there, and so was Smplefy, though I barely saw either. I wanted to have Highway 1 as my Triumphant Finish, even if it meant crawling across the line (which I did).

I have no special affinity for the Jersey Shore, but it is a friend’s birthday weekend, and we are running together as a group  and having a fun dinner after. If I never run another race, I want to remember that my running career ended with my toes in the sand, on the shores of both the Pacific and the Atlantic, with the people I love all around me.  We are all confident that if it were just the hip I would be back up and running by the Autumn. But since we do not know exactly which gene is the faulty one yet, I do not want to expect to be running by September and then find that I have the type of EDS where my vascular system might rupture at any moment.

As a matter of course, I do not tell anyone I am about to have another joint surgery, except for a handful of close friends. While I know exactly what to expect with a hip repair, I do not know what I am getting myself into with The Rest of This; I barely know what EDS is. I do not have a lot of answers for myself, let alone to give other people, and I hate the idea of being challenged or grilled by well-meaning or pushy friends and family. I am dreading any/all of the following:

-This could have been prevented if you’d just stopped running!
-You shouldn’t worry about this, and you and Paul should just be focused on having a family now!
-So how did you do this to yourself?
-Why did your doctor misdiagnose you?
-Tell me more about [This Thing That I Know Little to Nothing About].

I play out each comment in my head, trying it on for size – trying to separate curiosity from blame. I am afraid of answering wrong; I am afraid of looking like a fool because for a decade, I so confidently managed the RA I thought I had, and told people how they should manage their RA. I thought I knew what I was doing.

I want to be healthy; I do not want to get hurt again.

I want you to be happy.

I want that too.

So I run the race on the Jersey Shore, and I take my shoes off in the sand, and if it is my Last Race Ever, I may not be fully satisfied, but I will be happy.

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This is the first in a brief series of posts.

It is May, 2013, and I am standing in a hipster bar in the middle of Amsterdam in the middle of a long afternoon-into-evening.

I have just come to The Netherlands to receive terrible news. To soften the blow of having to tell me how bad this particular situation is, a group of lawyers is taking me out for drinks. But I am jetlagged and angry about How We Got Here in the First Place, so I have become rather tipsy, rather quickly. But instead of paying attention to the Dutch happy hour and the attorneys who have graciously arranged it, I am frantically texting with a man I have loved for a long time, trying to focus his attention on me. In my head, I feel I am the embodiment of a Joni Mitchell song – winsome, wistful, lonely, pining for a man who is not ever going to be mine alone.

By now dangerously tipsy, I message the man a loaded question – a question that is meant for winesoaked lovers’ lips next to each other in bed, or the shadows of a bar, and not from halfway ’round the world via electronic pings. I ask him: Don’t you love me and want me to be happy?

He replies: I want you to be happy.

It is clear that I have made A Terrible Mistake. I gather up my things and leave the bar. I meet my colleague for dinner like Nothing Ever Happened. By the door of the restaurant there is a large, ostentatiously displayed wheel of stilton. My colleague fusses over it like it is a puppy or a baby. We English love stilton, he explains, as if that excuses his behaviour over a wheel of cheese. We finish an unmemorable meal by ordering a cheese plate – the stilton is standout. They cut it freshly from the giant wheel.

It is after Midnight when I arrive back at the hotel and I put myself to bed.

The next morning, I am up early to catch a plane to Edinburgh to run the 2013 Edinburgh Half Marathon. On the flight, I sit and observe the bracelet I am wearing, which I inherited from my grandmother – my mother’s mother.  I am flying on what would have been her 100th birthday, and the bracelet is stamped with scenes from Don Quixote.

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My grandmother was a tiny, peculiar woman, and had been the mother of four children – two boys and two girls. She had lost one of her daughters at the age of six weeks. Years earlier, when my grandparents had still been living in their house in Florida, and I was a tweenager, my grandmother and I had gone through her jewellery and she had taken tiny enamelled pins out from a case.

Those were Margaret’s, she said. Before that moment, I’d never even known such a person had existed, or that my mother had had a sister. Margaret had been born with an oesophageal condition and the surgery to correct it had failed. The absence of Margaret had left a hole in my grandmother’s heart that my mother could never fill. Perhaps any parent who has lost a child will confess to this; perhaps any after-born child will bemoan it. It did not occur to me until much, much later that maybe the Complex Grief was why my own mother and I were not particularly close: Those sorts of gaps; wounds couldn’t close so easily in just one generation.

The irony does not strike me at the time – that I have been chasing a non-existent love and fighting off imaginary giants. That my own Complex Grief has had a hand in tanking my first marriage and subsequent relationships. I just think that I am honouring the dead.

My friend Smplefy meets me in the Edinburgh Airport with a sign that says International Woman of Mystery, and I laugh for the first time in days. We go to pick up our race numbers and talk about running, and Scotland, and Things That Are Easy to Discuss.

I am grateful.

That night, we part ways early so we can each prepare for the next day’s race. I message my mother before bed, hinting at my romantic failures. You just need to put yourself out there, she advisesNobody is going to come into your office and sweep you off your feet. I roll my eyes from 6,000 miles away.

For once, I draw the blackout shades in a hotel room, because it is 10.30pm and the Scottish night is still purple and blue. It is beautiful – I could drink it in forever. But I have to go to sleep because I have to run the next day. I am filled with missing, and longing, but I am limbo because he wants me to be happy. I should be happy. Alone.

The next day, Smplefy and I meet at the Start, making it by the skin of our teeth, and running the course in the unusually pleasant Edinburgh morning. We run past the landmarks, through the city, along the North Sea. It is Perfect. My heart is breaking, but it is a Perfect Day.

I run a slow race, which is confusing. My body feels like it cannot work. I am in good physical shape, and at the finish, my hip seizes for the first time. I blame a twitchy IT band, and jetlag, but I am baffled.

That afternoon I shower at the hotel and cancel my reservation for the night; opting to head back to London then onward to New York. I have failed; I am failing. I am inordinately sore. My then-assistant manages to get me on the last flight out of Edinburgh that afternoon and by evening, I am safely back in London, my grandmother’s bracelet clanging on my wrist as I exit the Tube and make my way to dinner with my friend PG.

It is the end of May, 2013.

I do not know then that within days, someone will walk into my office and sweep me off my feet – and will later become my husband. I do not know that the pain in my hip is not my IT band – it is a serious cartilage injury that will sideline me for a more than a year. I do not know that the bracelet on my wrist and the story behind how I came to possess it will later hold the key to unlocking a serious family medical mystery; that I will be fighting a different kind of giant.

But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.
– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

March 5th was my birthday, and that morning, I landed from sunny Johannesburg into snowy Paris.

Everyone loves the idea of Paris – Hemingway’s Paris – the very old city where you were young and you arrived at Gare du Nord with little else but a pocketful of francs and your schoolgirl French. Where you survived for weeks on the contents of your bulging backpack, and Orangina, baguette, and endless boxes of Petit Ecolier biscuits.

(It has been almost twenty years and I still cannot so much as look as a box of Petit Ecolier.)

I am here to break it to you: That Paris does not exist except inside your unreliable memories – and maybe never existed at all.

I had come unprepared for this trip.

I rarely travel with more than a carry-on suitcase, and this trip was no exception despite the tall order of multiple climates, countries, cities, and circumstances. But I had unexpectedly left 90F temperatures in Johannesburg and walked off the plane into subfreezing snowfall in Paris. My best-laid plans of wearing nothing more than a light jacket had gone horribly wrong and I was already mad at Paris again.

Paris was nothing but bad memories for me: Ex-husbands; ex-boyfriends; food poisoning; Roma picking my pockets; Frederic prattling on and on about how much more classically beautiful than me his first wife had been. It had gotten to the point where I’d begun to dread every trip to France. This trip’s sudden snowfall didn’t improve my view of the place.

(First world problems at their finest.)

On the morning of my arrival, I was meant to pick up a race number for a half marathon, and then I was to meet some friends for a late lunch. So I grabbed an Uber, and made my way out to the race expo at Parc Floral. I spoke my broken French to the young man who picked me up in a fancy Jaguar; marvelled at how little race security was in place at the expo; grabbed my number, then raced to the Latin Quarter to meet friends.

It was me and a motley crew of men who had come in from the US and UK. I had been promised a birthday lunch and wine, so we ordered racks and stacks of oysters and escargots and bottles of Sancerre to start the day. The seafood and snails were divine, and we quickly became Those Loud Americans.

Have you ever been a Loud American Abroad? The kind whose voice carries through the cafe, and the locals look at you contemptuously as they try to have their quiet, dignified lunches, like you’re a crying baby on a plane, or a horny young couple in a cinema whose necking blocks the view? We were that group of wine-soaked minor irritants to a restaurant full of French people on a cold March afternoon.

After a few hours, someone suggested we move along to another cafe, so we packed it in and headed down the Left Bank towards another picturesque spot. We traipsed across the cobblestones and down the alleyways, chatting and laughing about how simple and lovely it all was. We talked about life, and literature, and How Things Were. I felt light in the chilly afternoon, as my silly, long, schoolgirl hair swirled around me in the wind. If this was Paris After Everything, then it wasn’t so bad.

At our second stop: More oysters; more wine. A chat with an older American fellow with what sounded like a looted art collection and a passion for marrying younger women.

Finally, as the afternoon got smaller, we decided on a final stop before dinner. We stumbled past the Louvre on our way towards Le Meurice for an aperitif. (NB: The idea of an aperitif before a low-key dinner after an all-day pub crawl was borderline ridiculous, but after pub crawling for the better part of day, we didn’t have the mental faculties left between us to know better).

We arrived at the hotel into the middle of Paris Fashion Week festivities. The bar was closed for a private event, and the back room was set up for fashion buyers. One of my friends, insistent on his drink despite the fact that we had been rejected several times, finally approached the host and swore up and down that we were with the fashion event, but that he had to “impress the buyer” who had “grown tired of the free drinks” and wanted a lovely cocktail. He got us a table.

Pretend you’re a fashion buyer, he hissed in my ear.

Dude, I said, No way they are buying this. I am not even wearing make-up.

But we sat, and around came a beautiful bottle of dry champagne, which we sipped with delight before we were due for dinner just down the road. At the end of the bottle, I herded our group out the door. We met more friends for pasta, and another bottle or two of wine.

Towards the end of the dinner, the lights in the restaurant dimmed, and everyone began to clap and shout. Not understanding what was happening, I joined in the fun, until I looked up and saw that a cake was coming directly for me.

I laughed, and hid my head in my hands, then blew out the candles, and I thought how funny it was that in this very old city, where nothing was simple, I had unexpectedly discovered something new.

#Reverb15 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2015.   Each month, KatSarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

School’s Out: Share what you’re doing when the sun doesn’t set until 9 PM!

Here’s what I did with my Summer:

I did not take any vacation of note.

I did not go swimming in the ocean.

I went to Los Angeles to help my parents clean out their house before they moved from my Childhood Home, only to have them accuse me of weighing them down; leaving behind “so much crap.” When pressed, I realised they were referring to the one (admittedly large) box of mementos I had packed up and asked them to ship to me.

My parents are weirdly dramatic.

Then again, my parents are also the proud owners of a “Snow Village,” consisting of hundreds of small, ceramic houses, people, and accessories, which is set up each year at the holidays for my mother to gaze upon, heave sighs, and say, “I just wish I lived there!” The boxes comprising the Snow Village at one point overtook every closet in my childhood bedroom; my parents’ old laundry room; and several other cupboards. They had to permanently rearrange their parlour to accommodate December’s Snow Village arrival.

So the fact that they complained about one box of my stuff, and yet found no issue with moving thousands of tiny pieces of useless ceramic should maybe tell you something about the particular brand of bonkers I am dealing with.

I went to Santa Barbara to run a half marathon, forgetting that I love to run on the East Coast because the sunrises are dramatic.

I miss the West Coast sunsets, and watching that heavy, fiery orb sink into the Pacific. But running at the break of dawn along the shore is nothing particularly special in California. The sky is just grey; pink; yellow; then suddenly…blue.

I went to Governor’s Island with my bestie for a race and wondered why I had never been; I went to Fire Island on a day trip with my friends and my dog, and wondered why I don’t go more often. On both of the aforementioned trips, we encountered the kind of freaky beach detritus that may or may not have contained human remains. In the style of true New Yorkers, we simply looked the other way and continued to enjoy the view.

I slipped and fell during a race in the beginning of August, and wound up having to fly back from Dublin and have emergency reconstructive knee surgery a few days later. I hesitated in making that public because I have had to deal with all types of smug, but well-meaning people leaving Facebook comments and sending messages with stuffed with annoyingly bold assertions like: Maybe this is God’s way of telling you to stop running!

(I am truly fascinated that I know so many people who are able to interpret God’s will; who have personal knowledge that God is a couch potato.)

In reality, this injury was a freak accident. It could’ve happened by walking down the street. But there is something about distance running that inspires…envy?…disgust?…in people who don’t do it and do not understand it.

I am on the mend now. The past few weeks have been a blur of crutches, rehabilitation, and more pain meds than is perhaps socially appropriate to mention in a public forum. When I woke up from hip surgery last summer, I felt like a million bucks – the injury itself had been so painful that the operation brought instant relief. No one bothered to tell me until after I had my knee surgery that operations like the one I had are typically more painful than the procedure I had on my hip.

So that was what happened. It was a far cry from what I wanted to do.

I wanted to run Summer Streets.

I wanted to train for more races.

I wanted to hike in the Adirondacks or the Berkshires.

I wanted to go camping.

I wanted to take my kayak out for the first time in years; hose out the boat; unstick the rudder pedals; paddle around the Sound.

There is a part of me that feels as if I have missed the small joys of summer the past few years; that I am Getting Through rather than really experiencing anything. There is a part of me that is angry that many of these things have been…missed…due to things well beyond my control.

But there will be other summers; there will be more races. There will be new memories to make. This is just my particular brand of bonkers I am dealing with in this sticky middle season of my life.

This is the 15th in a series of posts about New York – a re-post of an essay I wrote about four years ago. The original post is reprinted here with no editing.

When I used to live in Tribeca, non-New Yorkers would ask me “Oh, you run?  I bet you love running in Central Park!”  Back then it would irk me, even though their geographic ignorance was not their fault.

“No,” I’d say sweetly, “I prefer to run along the Hudson.”  Which was, and is still a fact, even now living only a few blocks off the Park and running it frequently; racing it most weekends.

New York, as you probably know or have surmised, is ferociously neighbourhoody, not merely in the borough-to-borough sense.  Each neighbourhood has a distinct personality, evolved and evolving over time.  Nothing is static: growth, rot, gentrification, construction — all constants.

One other thing that remains constant, and perhaps is a neighbourhood in and of itself is Central Park.

Central Park has not always existed.  It is, by historical standards, a relatively recent phenomenon.  New York traces its founding to 1624.  It wasn’t until 1844 that American poet William Cullen Bryant began to romanticise the need for a public park in New York City.  Perhaps Bryan’s words were not so much “publicity,” rather a reflection of public sentiment — by then New Yorkers had resorted to using cemeteries as public parks because there were so few green spaces left in the growing city.  In 1857, the City approved the development of a 700 acre public park, and in 1858, Frederic Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux were selected to design the space.

In 1873, Central Park (originally dubbed “the Greensward Project”) was completed.  For the first 60 years of the Park’s existence, largely due to the City’s demographics and politics, there was little interest in using the Park for its intended purpose.  But in 1934, newly-elected Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia tasked Robert Moses with cleaning up the park — an effort that was, all things considered, a success.

Throughout the 20th century, the Park was not immune from the upheaval that City experienced.  The Park was opened to events in the 1960s — drawing crowds; protests; concerts — but the City lacked the expertise, budget, and general wearwithall to manage the impact.  Despite being named an historical landmark in 1963, the Park fell into serious disrepair once again, which continued throughout the late 1970s.

In 1980, the Park informally came into the managerial hands of the Central Park Conservancy — a public-private partnership that formalised their management agreement over the park in 1998 and manages the Park to this day.  (And does a fantastic job!).  The Central Park Conservancy began restoring the Park in the early 1980s, and today, the Park is the most visited urban park in the country.

Perhaps I am not alone in saying my feelings on the Park change with the seasons.

In the Winter, the Park is a tundra — the Reservoir frozen over; the surface crackled and full of mystery like an ancient skin.  The horse-drawn carriages ferry blanketed passengers like it’s something romantic, and I suppose it is in a way.  But the dirt and grime and smell of horse-shit and other people who have used those blankets make the idea very unromantic to me.

Spring has rolled directly into Summer in Manhattan the last few years but during the few Spring days, one can practically see the cartoon steam lines rising out of moist lawns.  The Spring growth brings itchy eyes and pollenshowers from every tree.  Then comes Summer with its lazy picnics and sunsoaked Saturdays with sangria secreted in under cover of Gatorade jugs.  We play games of catch until we’re too dizzy from the wine.  But beware the young couples necking; petting; going through the rituals of love behind boulders, trees.  Every Summer seems a Summer of Love — sweet, gentle love — but only until Dusk.  Because everyone knows that after dark, the Park is still the Park.

In the Fall, the Park is magical: the trees are a canopy of fire!  I used to — don’t laugh — have my hair done at the salon at Bergdorf’s and sometimes I felt like asking the stylist for silence so I could drink in the view.  (That salon was another life; is another post.)  Walking in the Park under the Autumn trees may be life’s greatest pleasure — the heady, sneezy smell of maples, elms; the peaty smell of dying grass.

November brings my favourite day of the year — Marathon Sunday.  There is no more welcome or glorious sight than Central Park on that day.  The air is crisp; the leaves are fireworks of celebration; my fellow New Yorkers are screaming my name and carrying me to the finish.  Even in the late afternoon shade, as the sun sinks into the Hudson on the other side of town, the Park glows golden that day.

Central Park, like all of New York, is glamourous, dangerous, ever changing.  It is a place where the robber barons and beggars mingle with ease.  It is perhaps not where all New Yorkers feel at home — even the most seasoned City-dwellers among us — but it is a place that is uniquely our own.

Sources: Central Park Conservancy; NYC.gov; Wikipedia: Central Park

This is the fifth in a series of posts about New York.

I frequently wax poetic about marathoning. In particular, about running the NYC Marathon.

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But there are few things in this world more glorious; more amazing; more exhilarating and exhausting…

Than this:

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I wondered, after hip surgery and multiple injuries, if I would ever feel that way again.  If I would ever run through Central Park on the first Sunday in November again; if I’d ever cross another finish line with anything more than disappointment. I can run, sure, but will I ever improve?

And then…a few weeks ago…eee and I ran the Edinburgh Half Marathon. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but I finished in the fastest time I’ve run since I injured myself in 2013.

I sped up through the chute, and ran across the line, and for the first time in years, I burst into happy tears at the end of a race.

I am not sure that I will ever run on that first Sunday ever again. But at least I know, again, that I can run.

Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Energy | What gave you energy this year?  What took away your energy?

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Six weeks on crutches.

Four months in rehab.

Stitches; scars; setbacks.

I tried to be a trooper, because the injury was so much more painful than the surgery was. But this whole experience rattled me a whole heck of a lot. I was a Highly Motivated Patient. I was Energised For Recovery, but I was quickly…spent. If you’ve ever been through recovery from a bad sports injury, you know exactly what I mean.

I go out and run now, and I work out, but I still worry if I will ever be A Runner again.