Have you ever run a road race? Now that I have fully embraced the notion that somebody has to be last and it’s not the end of the world if it’s me, I really really enjoy them. The best part is seeing the finish line up ahead. Except seeing it doesn’t always mean that’s the end.
One summer when my Uncle Paul and cousin Kirsten were in town and I was home from school, we decided, as a family, to go out and run the Dexter-Ann Arbor 5K. It was a blast. Ab and I putzed along somewhere near the back, but my Uncle Paul is a pretty devoted runner and he was lined up near the front of the pack. My brother Tom lined up with him, but was pretty disgusted when they got going and Paul seemed to him to just be putzing along at a pace hardly better than the one Ab and I had set. Tom could do better, go faster. And he did. As he came around the bend toward the finish line he was thrilled and started sprinting– piece of cake! Except that what he was completing was only the first, and smaller, of two loops. And he was TOAST. Paul passed him up shortly after that and poor Tom had to drag himself another two miles only to cross that same finish line again.
That was a fun day. I couldn’t stop laughing. I laughed so hard my cheeks and my abs hurt.
Oh how I love that story!
Fast forward a few years to a St. Patrick’s day while living in the metro DC area and I decided to run a little St. Patrick’s Day 8K through downtown. A super fun run, as any downtown DC run tends to be (for a nerd like me), that ended right at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave. I was rocking it that day. And as I came down the final straightaway, I could hear music and see the balloons arched over the finish line and I was keeping up with a big pack and feeling great and… turning left? away from the finish line? what the?!
Just like Tom, except not quite so bad. There was just a little out and back down a side street to account for the distance we hadn’t quite made. I was fine, I still finished, and still in good time (for me… good time is relative in running, remember), but not quite when I expected or how I expected.
Did you ever have to read The Ox-Bow Incident in school? I did. I only remember it very vaguely. Pretty sure there was a lynching and it was awful, but what really stuck with me was what an oxbow actually was. In the context of a meandering river, anyway. And maybe that’s what 2014 was. An oxbow. A bend in the path. An extra two mile loop or out and back down a side-street that I didn’t see coming.
I expected a positive pregnancy test in 2014. I expected to be a mother. I could see the balloons over the finish line and hear the music. But there was a bend in the road and here I am on December 31st, out of sight of that finish line once again.
I don’t know what the finish line is going to look like when I do get there. I don’t know if the balloons will still be inflated or the music will still be playing. I don’t know how long it’s going to take or how difficult the journey is going to be to get there. Maybe it’ll be a quick out-and-back… maybe it’ll be a two mile slog on tired legs… maybe something else entirely. Maybe the oxbow will cut itself off and form a free-standing lake. It’s impossible to tell at this point.
What I do know, though, is that the course I’m on is not as limiting as I’ve made it out to be. My single minded focus on “I want to have a baby” has really limited the life I’ve allowed myself to live for far too long (flare for the melodramatic, once again). I’ve made small steps outside the lines in the last few months, but I could, and should, go further.
For example, my therapist recently asked me what I hoped to have accomplished one year from now, assuming I still wasn’t pregnant. I had no response, but immediately burst into tears. That was pretty telling. (He keeps kleenexes in his office for moments like those. It’s all good.)
So in 2015, we’re taking a bit of a break. I’m going to give my body and my mind a rest. I’m doing other things… I’m running, meditating, and reading. I just got a new full color, hardcover book full of photographs and amazing text about women healers of the world– so excited. So much learning! And being. And learning to just be.
When I announced my non-pregnancy the other day (oh snap, it would have been darkly hilarious to do a photo shoot with the negative test… I can see that now. maybe next time), my Aunt Susan said to me, “I can tell you for sure: life is an interesting line, but rarely a straight one.”
And in that comment, she summed up my 2014 perfectly.
Incidentally, I’ve always had something of an affinity for straight lines. Maybe that’s why this whole meandering business is so difficult for me. Once upon a time, I even got intervented on for it. (Intervented is not a word, but I don’t think to say “intervened” really sums up what it’s like to have an intervention in your honor.) My friends Danielle and Stephine teamed up with my mom to ban me from purchasing any more horizontally striped shirts. (In all the colors. From Old Navy.) In retrospect, it was a good call. Still a good call. It was kind of all I wore for most of high school. I had to switch to solid colored polos after that. (Confession: I’m wearing horizontal stripes right now. Not kidding. Relapse.)
Man, I’m cool.
Anyway… here’s to accepting 2015, however it may come! Happy New Year!!
3 thoughts on “2014: The Ox-Bow Incident (sans rustlers)”
Rachel, Dear, I say that with certainty because I had some really big plans and then life got in the way. I’m quite happy about that, because in retrospect, it’s been a lot more interesting than the line I’d planned. I’m looking forward to our city-meetup! Tons of love to you and Seth –
I love this and am so excited to hang out with you-even if only virtually, mostly?- in 2015;)
What’s the book?!?!! Really interested to know!
When a bend in a river like an ox bow or a horse shoe will over many, many years, erode the banks, it will form a very large pond where the bend is now abridged. In Australia, the pond is called a billabong. This body of water is a source of fresh water and meeting place of lots of beautiful Australian flora & fauna. It’s like the human life cycle, really.