Archive for June, 2011

Know Your Limits

I went out for my usual run this morning, but I cut it a little short. Sure, I could have pushed myself past the tightness I was feeling in my hip and made the full loop, but I thought better of it. The older I get, the more I rationalize and make the more conservative choice when the opportunity presents itself. It was not so long ago that I would push every aspect of my life to the limits, just to test them. Oh, we all should live, but also learn the lessons of life whenever possible.

When I first came to Martha’s Vineyard in the spring of 1999, I was literally living in a tool shed. Sure, it has a phone line and electricity, but it was still a 9’ x12’ tool shed. I lived there for five full seasons, sometimes deep into late fall when there was snow on the ground. Yet, it was a space that served its purpose; a place to stash my stuff and rest my head. Five years was my limit, however. Outdoor showers after the first frost quickly lose their novelty and I needed the modern convenience of running water to feel civilized.

During those first five seasons I trained for marathons. The first year I had a training partner that showed up more often than not, but usually I was on my own, running ten miles in the morning, another ten at night. The bike paths on the island allow runners to train safely at nearly any hour of the day or night, a luxury found few other places. Still, I was able to train long and hard without injury, even while working the long demanding hours of the summer season. I only slept a few hours each night, but the summer weather was energizing; the cool sea air of morning and night, bookends to the blazing daytime sun.

Though I worked hard and trained hard, I knew the season would end and I would inevitably leave the island for the winter months, waiting for the next season to arrive. The island axiom of “pray for September” signaled the end of the tourists’ siege of the island. Like locust’s ravenous plunder of crops, the tourists and visitors of August would denude the workers of their patience and test their limits of sanity. I might work ten to twelve hours each day, every day of the season, but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel called September.

Well, I have been living onMartha’s Vineyardyear-round since 2003. One year I only left the island for twelve calendar days. I stopped running longer distances as soon as I owned the business I worked at. The number of hours spent in the office has dropped off significantly as well, for a number of reasons. I was here at the crest of the wave, when the economy was booming and people could not spend it fast enough. I have remained through the current “trough” of the economic downturn; occasionally commuting off island in order to make enough money to pay all that was owed.

While the economy might have a ways to go before everyone is able to sleep easy, the people of the island have always seemed to pull together as a community more than other places I have lived. Shop keepers give each other a knowing nod when they meet at the bank in August; they know that it won’t be long before they will have time to catch up on small talk. As the days get shorter and school starts once again, I know that I will be spending less time trying to accommodate clients’ busy social schedule in order for me to book a session. I know my limits, both physically and mentally, better now than all those years ago. We must all seek to reach that balance; if not for you, for those that you live and work with. “Pray for September.”

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Box ‘O Rain

I’m not a very sentimental person when it comes to “stuff”. You know, the remnants of projects started but never finished, the awards for achievements from back in high school and favorite clothes that are worn out or no longer fit, they all find their way to the circular file. A few years ago, fate lent a helping hand and I had a house fire that wiped my slate clean, taking everything that I had accumulated, without prejudice. The few things that I was able to salvage were personal cards and letters from family and friends collected over my life.

The fact that I ever saved such things would most likely surprise those people responsible for sending those cards and letters, as I am notorious for my fastidious elimination of all that I no longer consider useful to me in some way. So, after filtering through the remains of the fire, I managed to recover a few boxes I had labeled “memories”. The contents were transferred to a box that was not charred or reek of smoke and promptly placed on a storage shelf.

The box has moved many times, from my temporary home, to my re-built home and from one area of the house to another as I have continued to finish the construction of the house. Still, I have never gone through the box and re-read the contents. I already know what all of the contents have to say. I merely need to the box and the memories all flood back into a collage of words and pictures, people that have passed through my life, or rather I through theirs, whatever the case might have been. There are no secrets in their, at least not to me. Nor are their any regrets. There are however, lessons that I have learned.

The life I have led thus far have been one of an apparition, moving from one place to another every two years, until I landed at my current location. I had been changing careers and collecting degrees, licenses, certifications and life experiences. Every now and again I would meet someone that I could classify as a friend. Less often I would meet someone that would become more than a friend. Only once had I actually lived with someone that was not a member of my family, but that tale is for another time.

All of the letters, cards, and personal notes that this box contains I consider to be threads that have constructed the very fabric of my being. That is not to say that the pieces from the box could complete the puzzle that has been my life, but rather that they are only fragments that cannot be completed without the related correspondence from the other party. Only within my own mind can the picture be completed, and that is still a work in progress.

Today was a rainy, dreary day. I already had decided that I needed to straighten up the garage, where tools from spring projects had been co-mingled with items marked for storage. It was during that cleaning process that the aforementioned box once again stared down at me from its perch on a shelf. I needed to move it, but I also felt the urge just to peer inside for a moment, just to remind myself where I had been.

Her handwriting was unmistakable, an artist’s script that addressed the letters to the places I had lived over the years of our time of correspondence. I did not open the envelopes, as I only needed to see the dates of the postmarks. My secluded, minimalist life, wandering and confusing those that tried to engage me in conversation beyond the civil exchange, but especially her. I had ended a relationship that had become so dark, only to find one that was so blindingly bright and effusive that I sabotaged it. I can look back and say that now, but at that time I was just avoiding anything that would challenge my freedom. That is not to say that we would have ever had anything more than a few more years together, but I neglected to see what I was doing at the time. She saw it, however and sent me back all that I had written to her to show me what I had done; smart girl. She taught me something. Lesson learned.

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