The Middle

May 18, 2017

(notes on a work in progress)

I am at work, juicing citrus, part of a new normal I could have hardly imagined one year ago. I am in the middle of prepping for a shift when it hit me –suddenly, I always feel like I am in the middle of something. Every once in a while, I get into a perfect grove. But today, a tiny paper cut on my middle finger is reminding me that citrus is not my friend. I try not to let the little springs of juice touch my finger. A sharp sting tells me I am not successful. There are always tiny scrapes on my mom hands. From attempting to put a hat on a Lego during their pleading screams, both of us fearful that it cannot be done. (Since it can’t) to pulling a special toy out of a nook and scraping my hands along the uneven ridges of cheaply made storage furniture. I suffer through this, my least favorite part of the job, squeezing limes and calculating how many margaritas this evening will bring. Once the bottle is filled with sour liquid, I pull out a piece of masking tape and mark the date. I think of my grandparent’s basement. The tools, the pens, paper, safety pins, thread: all of life’s potential clutter was always neatly organized and categorized by markers and masking tape – the weapon of the obsessive compulsive, the organized. After a memory-filtered tour of my grandparents’ house through childhood-coated glasses, I am jolted back to real life. Back to the citrus soaked bar fingers and back to this informal midway process of nearly everything in my life. I imagine sitting between two strangers on the bus, claustrophobically placed in the middle by no fault of my own. They sat next to me, boxing me in. And that is where I feel I am right now.

“You are half way.” My running timer tells me, but I already knew that. I circled the path once; then again as my body tells me I am halfway through the run. The first half is always harder, as I work to find my rhythm. My body starts a resistance like a whiny toddler that doesn’t want to go to bed. It is in my tight legs, and then my lungs trying to fill with the right amount of air, then my bladder chimes in. Did I remember to pee before I left? I contemplate if I could potential use nature’s restroom by coming down with a case of little shame and lot of penis envy. I can’t pee in a cemetery. The thought makes me laugh and pushes me past that midway point. My last important rule was “no running across graves”, both out of respect and a repressed childhood fear of horror movies and the thought of a decayed gray had grabbing my ankles and pulling me under. No peeing, no being taken. Fair enough. The air is hot and thick and my little musings about the cemetery around me are not quite enough to keep my focus strong. Everything is suddenly coming down, with no relief in sight. I can feel it again in my knees, my lungs, and my thoughts. But that is what life is like with teenagers, and toddlers and working behind the bar. The air was begging for rain, and I for relief. I need something good, positive, I plead with the sky and graves around me. I am in the middle of somewhere, the middle of my run and my journey.

There is a bridge along one path that leads to a small, rustic area of the cemetery. (The inspiration for my pictures) It is a small plot of graves along an unpaved path that leads into the woods. I should run in the woods. I always tell myself. My fear of getting lost (I am directionally challenged), or running into a predator (mainly of the human kind), or running into the unknown keeps me on the cement paved paths of the cemetery. The rain is so close that the paved area starts to smell of fresh rain, and I want to embrace the challenge for the last few minutes of my run. To the easement and back, I tell myself as I dart into the woods. The trees are stretching their old and creaky limbs and the remaining sunlight filters between them. I can hear the distant thunder rumble and welcome the tiny drops of rain on my sweaty shoulders. The sky darkens and I remove my sunglasses, my eyes, blurring the trail I am running along. It is time to turn back, I think as I have crossed over the easement and pushed on just a little bit more. That is what running (and life) is, continuing to push myself into the uncomfortable. A stranger intercepts my solitude and we smile the standard niceties then I veer to the path back to the cemetery. (Or so I think). My run, always deep in thought and lost in song, leads me to another neighborhood, wrong turn. I curse myself. I just took the extra long way as my run time comes to and end and I am still a mile from home.

The coming storm forces me to continue running, to get home. The thunder is still pretty far away, but I do not trust my limited meteorology skills on this call. So I run. I run as the rain starts to hit my back, and soak in how wonderful it feels. I run down the sidewalk of the main road with the comfort of the buildings I can duck into if the sky were to adhere to its promise to open up. I slow up as I near the top of my street and the feeling of home washes over me. The rain is getting stronger and a flash of lightning sends me in full sprint to my front door. My therapeutic run, and this drawn out metaphor for the middle, is now over and I sit in my living room and enjoy the ambience of the rain hitting the window almost (almost) toning out toddlers screaming for lunch.

Whether I am running, or trying to juice lemons, I am not sure what I am running from or where I am going, or what i am doing. But it doesn’t stop my forward progress. Wherever I am going, it suddenly feels like I am halfway there. Halfway through the year, the journey and maybe even my life: but who knows. This story really isn’t about the beginning or the end; it has always been about the middle. I hit a milestone; I started a new chapter this week. The journal I bought at the end of last summer is filled, and I started another. As I say good-bye to a trusted friend, and welcome another I am embracing what will happen once I pass this middle point.

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