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13.1

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The sea of runners crushed around me as we were all herded towards the starting line. I thought of my friends Bertie and T, who had already begun and would surely be waiting a long time for me at the finish. Trying to calm my racing heart, I prepped my Nike+ app to record my mileage and started my 13.1 playlist. As “Thrift Shop” began pumping through my noggin’, the starting line loomed. I had to pee. Kind of. Shit, too late now. I hit start on my Polar monitor and off I went.

I was running my first half marathon.

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After jockeying my way to a clear path for what felt like an eternity, the masses finally thinned out a bit. The first two miles flew by, and so did the second two. Still comfortable territory, but I’d been warned that the hills on this course were a doozy.  My plan was to manage them cautiously – quick steps and lean forward on the way up. Long strides and breathe deeply on the way down to recover.

Instead of worrying, I focused on the people watching. I smiled and waved at the pregnant lady cheering us on, wearing a tshirt that said “FUTURE RUNNER” with a down arrow. I ran past people offering me Krispy Kreme donuts!! and stations set up with M&Ms and jelly beans. Tailgaters offered beers, which I breathlessly declined. Later, though… yes. GOD YES.

My mind was kept occupied with the lyrics playing through my earbuds, the scenery of the city around me, and with what people wore or didn’t wear. There were lots of St. Patty’s Day festive outfits with garland, Irish shirts, leprechauns, green sequined tutus. Me, I was set with my bang buster and my turtle socks.

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The skyline didn’t draw my eye when the view appeared. I was drawn to the coral-strewn sunrise on the other side of the road. Typical me. And I kept on running.

Somewhere in Piedmont park I saw someone waving a sign that said, “We don’t know you, but we’re proud of you!!”. My heart lifted and I thought about how sweet they were. And at that moment, I felt proud of me too.

The miles kept rolling on and I feel like I hit my groove. My body knew what I wanted it to do and it did it without complaint. I kept my (turtle) pace and my breathing under control and laughed inwardly at the signs that said “We’re not wearing any underwear!” or “We tailgate for ANYTHING”. The race photographers loved me – I was the cheeseballing one who pointed directly at the camera and open-mouth laughed. I might have also been the one flexing her bicep. One guy lowered his camera and laughed at/with me. Nice, Peach. 🙂

When I hit mile 10, my face lit with pride. I’d just run the farthest I ever had in my life. And I wasn’t done yet, but I was okay.

Then, it was on that next hill that I felt the first twinge in my right calf muscle. The kind that threatened a vicious cramp if I didn’t back off. So I power-walked that up hill. And the next. Dammit, why do the steepest hills have to be at the end??? Sadistic course planners, I tell you.

Miles 11-12 wound up being significantly slower than my previous pace from all the walking of the hills. I nearly got upset about it. Instead, I thought, Dammit… be proud. You’re doing this race the best that you can, and it’s okay if you walk the hills after you’ve just RUN for TEN MILES. Just keep going. You’ve got this.

And just then I saw a mom-type lady waving a sign that said “RUN, [MY NAME], RUN!!!” And I thought of my own mom’s Facebook comment that had said the exact same thing the day before. I kept running for my mom and dad. Because they can’t.

The next hill nearly did me in, but as I was cursing inwardly, “**** THIS ****ING HILL ALL TO ****ING HELL.”, I thought of my big brother. He completed his first half this fall and I felt him cheering me on in spirit, too. I kept running for him.

I cheered when the race sign appeared that said “1/2 mile left!!” and I kept running. For me. Because I could do this.

And… it sucked. That last stretch felt so long. I was tired. I wanted to be done.

Then I looked over to my right and thought, hey, who’s the really skinny guy running over there on the other side of the barriers?  And then it hit me. OH. THAT’S THE MARATHONERS. WHO ARE FINISHING A course TWICE as long as yours and IN THE SAME TIME AS YOU. Oh the humility!!! 🙂

But as the spectator crowds got bigger and I could hear the race announcer’s peppy voice, my gloom lifted. I’m no Kenyan. Never will be. I’m just Peach. Running her first half and doing a damn fine job of it.

The finish line finally appeared and I kicked it up a notch. My legs felt like they weren’t going to agree with what my brain wanted, but they did.  I crossed the line with a victorious overhead fist pump and a huge grin. I bowed my head for my medal and posed for pictures, then went off to find Bertie and T. AND FOOD. Holy crap I was hungry.

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The post-race rewards were worth every drop of sweat. I did it, y’all!

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Come What May

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brene1

To write down your intentions is one thing. To begin to live with intent is quite another.

Starting The Mighty Peach List pushed me to attend Camp Mighty. It was there that I met the most incredible people and told the world my dreams. Suddenly, the dreams-turned-words-on-paper became tangible actions and realities. I had professional portraits taken, traveled to Portland, tasted foie gras for the first time, saw the Christmas tree at Rock Center and had a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity. I ran a 5K, 10K and a half marathon. I’ve planned to visit London and to hug a gigantic Redwood at Yosemite. I declared my desire to buy a house and start my book.

All this has been heady and empowering. But these are things. Stuff.

The real work appears when you realize that you’ve been living your life and dreams at the will of others, or at least in consideration of their judgment. The real work comes when you finally choose to stop letting THEM decide YOU.

At first, the change happens in small ways. Someone makes an assumption about your feelings, casually dismissing a hurtful remark. Calmly and honestly, you correct them and state your hurt aloud.  And the moment you receive acknowledgement – the moment you’ve shown up to be seen and heard – the moment you get a heartfelt apology and an admission of wrongdoing? That’s when you promptly crumple into an ugly-crying mess.

Because WOW you just put yourself out there, utterly naked emotionally, fully expecting to get your heart stomped on. And instead you were given validation.

The actions snowball. Other difficulties are confronted. Each instance is more awkward and difficult and scary, but you’ve grown to understand that you matter enough to be heard and seen. No more will you sit quietly and let assumptions be made about your heart or your life. Careless people that once would have been silently resented for their thoughtless actions are now admonished aloud for their behavior. Relationships are ended because you realize that if someone cannot make room for you in their lives, then they are not worthy of having your heart.

You learn to stand alone in your skin. To take pride in the person you’ve become and the person you’re still growing to be. You’re able to reflect on the thorny path you took to get here and you’re grateful for each tumble over twisted roots. You start to live with your whole being. You’re able to use this new-found strength to reach out to the one person who never left your heart.

And blessedly, luckily, find love in return.

The possibilities are staggering.

Because in the end, stuff is just stuff. Go seek out the scariest work. Face your biggest fears and don’t be afraid to eat some concrete. Once you set your intention to live for your own happiness and no one else’s, the rewards are significantly greater.  Do the work and be ready for what comes your way. You’ll be amazed.

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This piece is being submitted to the amazing Yeah Write Weekly Challenge grid. If you don’t know Yeah Write, you should. Git you some.

Jugular Exposed

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hands

He missed her. He still cared. He needed the truth.

“I have things I need to say to you. Things that it’s taken me over a year to process and come to terms with. I hope you’ll listen?”

His eyes softened. “Of course I’ll listen.”

She gathered courage she’d never possessed and told him that the person he’d loved was a broken, twisted version of herself. The depression had its claws deep and wouldn’t let go.

She knew she would cause pain, but explained where their relationship turned dark. She held back nothing, spilling the many hurts that had caused her countless hours of lost sleep and miles of self-doubt. Her words held no heat. Only honesty. She was strong enough now to give him that.

The bottom line was that she’d needed him to help navigate the darkness. But instead he’d caused her more pain, deepened the sad. Because she wasn’t good enough at her worst. Not for him. Not for anyone. So she had to leave him, and leave that place. It was the only way to survive.

Pausing there, her heart thumped heavily.  She felt the fear spidering as she waited for an indication that he understood why he’d lost her. What if he said she was dead wrong? What if he didn’t take any ownership of the destruction? She sat there, jugular exposed, swimming in a level of vulnerability she’d never experienced before. Underneath her calm expression she was a frightened child, ready to haul the steel curtain up around her heart.

Finally, he spoke.  “I have no excuses. I wasn’t there for you. All I can say is that I was so blinded by how much I love you that I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what you needed. I let you down. And for that, I’m so fucking sorry. I’m sorry I made it worse, when all I’ve ever wanted to do was make you happy.”

His hand came across the table to grip hers tightly. She looked down at the joining, feeling the familiarity of his skin and the shape of this union.

I finally got through to him.

Fighting the knot in her throat, she replied softly, “And I didn’t have the capacity at that time to tell you what I needed. I was too far gone. I could only manage one of two extremes: sad and mad. I hated the person I was, but I could barely even hold on at that point. I couldn’t live that life any more, trying so fucking hard to make you happy when I was alone in the dark. It wasn’t fair to either of us.”

Neither heard the bachata song blaring through the speakers. The unspoken was far more deafening.

They searched each other’s faces, wondering what in the world to do now.

Her heart calmed, knowing that no matter what happened between them, she’d finally been brave enough to tell him the truth. She’d broken through to the light.

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This piece is being submitted to the amazing and 100th!!! Yeah Write Weekly Challenge grid. If you don’t know Yeah Write, you should. The crew at YW are not only amazingly talented bloggers who write and writers who blog, they’ve become my friends.  Not friends with benefits, you perv. Just friends. ;)

Sharp Edges

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unfinished

Leaning against the hotel sink to touch up her makeup, she remembered her own sharp inhalation at the sound of his voice when he’d answered her call.  Thank god he couldn’t hear her inwardly curse at her heart for daring to do a slow flip flop after all this time.  After all the work she’d put into getting over him. And now just a few hours after making contact again she had a belly of butterflies wondering how this dinner with him would go.

He picked her up from the hotel, surprising her with his new car but not with his choice of cologne. He wordlessly strode around the car’s rear and grabbed her into a bone-crushing hug. As his scent invaded her thoughts, her legs went a little wobbly. The flood of olfactory memories bowled her over for a brief moment.

Steady…steady, now. God, he smells good. But still. Just keep your shit together, girl.

She recovered from the sensory jolt on the ride to dinner and was relaxed again by the time they’d settled into their wine. It was easy, actually. They’d always been friends as equally as lovers. She told him all that she’d overcome since leaving the North a year and a half ago. All that she’d achieved and accomplished – physically, mentally and emotionally. Sincere pride shone in his eyes as he congratulated her. She returned the same pride as he shared his own growth and experiences.

Wow, I’m impressed. He’s changed so much. 

They caught up on each others’ families and the gossip in their old circle of friends as babies, weddings and all the expected drama were laughed over.

“Love the hair, by the way.”

She looked down at the bold strands draping over her shoulder and smiled. “Really, you do?”

“Yes, I really do. For years you’ve said you wanted to go red. I’m glad you finally did it. It suits you and GOD that dimple still kills me when you smile… but I didn’t just say that… Um. What else? Tell me more.”

She delighted in the flattery, but decided to address the first of the elephants in the room.

“So, were you surprised to hear from me?”

“Stunned, actually. Why now? It’s been over a year.”

“I honestly don’t know. I’d told myself all week leading up to this trip that I wouldn’t reach out to you. But the moment the plane touched down, something told me that I had to. It was such a strong feeling… I can’t really explain it.”

Looking at her intently he said, “Well, I’m glad you listened to that feeling. I’ve missed you.”

Their server arrived to refill their wine glasses then, which gave her a moment to ponder over that single statement.

He had missed her.

Once the Pinot was poured she held her glass up to his and toasted. “To reunions.” They clinked and sipped, gazes locked on one another.

Lowering the glass she asked directly, “If you missed me, then why didn’t you reach out to me at all since our last text? Not a single word. Nothing.”

He cast his eyes downward and said softly, “I thought I’d scared you off. I thought I’d hurt you, so I decided to give you space. To be. To let you heal.” Looking up, he locked eyes with her. “I figured when you were ready, you’d let me know.”

The old her would’ve accepted that without pause. The new her could not.

Screw diplomacy.

She leaned forward and blurted the raw feelings. “Didn’t you stop to think that maybe your silence would have made me feel like you didn’t care? That you were done with me, got what you wanted from me, and tossed me aside?”

His voice heated with passion as he fired back,  “I would never. You know how I feel about you. How I’ve always felt about you. That never changed. It still hasn’t.”

Shocked into silence, she sat there feeling the sharp-edged emotions crackling in the space between them.

So many fucking feelings. Shit.

She didn’t have a choice. She needed to tell him the truth.

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This piece is being submitted to the amazing Yeah Write Weekly Challenge grid. If you don’t know Yeah Write, you should. The crew at YW are not only amazingly talented bloggers who write and writers who blog, they’ve become my friends.  Not friends with benefits, you perv. Just friends. ;)

The Unfinished

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back

Sitting in the lush back seat of the chauffeured car, she stared down at the iPhone in her lap. His name and number stared back at her.

She was there on business for only a few short days and could have easily slid in and out of town without him knowing the difference. After all, it had been over a year since she’d pulled him up on her screen. Over a year since they’d exchanged a final painful goodbye. Yet something indescribable was screaming at her to make contact. It was a pull like the love she’d always had for him – undeniable and annoyingly persistent.

They were together for nearly three years. Everything fell apart. She moved away. And she moved on.

Except she didn’t.

Since the two of them had shattered she had dealt with blind dates, suffered the torment of speed dating, endured the crazies of online dating and had an embarrassingly horrific one night stand. She’d made poor decisions while drinking and tried to force feelings when there were none. She smirked, remembering the tribal-tattooed musclehead. That one had almost resulted in an intervention by her friends. She remembered the men who claimed to love her but left coldly and without explanation. Men that weren’t looking for the same things.  Men who were devilishly handsome but devoid of emotional connection.  Men who amused her but never managed to make her belly-laugh.  Men who could certainly turn her on, but never gave her butterflies. Shorter men, taller men, military men, musicians, men far away and men right around the corner… hell, her friends teased that they needed to create a flowchart to keep her love disasters straight.

All she knew was that she had things to say to this man. There was risk, for sure. Reaching out to him meant facing the possibility that he may be seeing someone else, or be married with kids. She didn’t think he would be, but he could also be completely cold or cruel towards her. Yet even though she was opening myself up to a world of potential hurt, she didn’t care. There was no way she could ever completely be whole again if she didn’t take the opportunity to voice her side.

She wouldn’t live her life as a fraud, having never faced the full extent of love and pain and letting go. She knew it was the unfinished holding her back, preventing her from fully opening her heart to anyone else. Yes. She needed to charge headfirst into this, acknowledging fully the element of danger.

The deep inhale and long exhale had a finality in its weight.

Still glaring at her phone, she thought to herself, “He needs to know how much he hurt me. He needs to know what I’ve gone through since the day I packed my car and drove away in tears. How I’ve changed. How the person he dated for three years was a broken, unhappy version of myself. And he needs to see the strong, vivacious woman that I’ve become since him.” Her heart didn’t leave her any choice.  It was time.

Her finger hovered over his number on the screen. And then it made contact.

The screen filled with his name.

rrriiiiiiingggggg….

rrriiiiiinggggggg…

*click*

“Ohmygod. …….  Hi.”

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This piece is being submitted to the amazing Yeah Write Weekly Challenge grid. If you don’t know Yeah Write, you should. The crew at YW are not only amazingly talented bloggers who write and writers who blog, they’ve become my friends.  Not friends with benefits, you perv. Just friends. 😉

Enough.

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These words hover on my office wall at eye level.   Individually, the words are simple and stark.  Together, the three entities become strength.

EnoughWM

You are enough, all on your own. The emotional abuse toward you is not your fault, nor is it your undoing. You are stronger than this and you are not alone.

You are enough, in your career.  The backhanded, no-grounds firing you endured will not derail your ethics or your integrity. Good things and calmer waters lie ahead.

You are enough, in your skin. We all feel ugly and heavy and unwanted at times. But you are beautiful to so many more than you know.

You are enough, despite your mistakes. We all make them. We should forgive, but also remember to forgive ourselves.

You are enough, as a parent. Though it may feel as if the inane and the routine have beaten you down, your Self is still in there. Let it shine.

You are enough, in every way. Your flaws are not flaws. The person you will find one day will not see them as imperfections, but as what makes you… You.

You are enough, even in your darkest moments. It is not a sickness. The Truth is that without this part of you, you would not be the friend that I adore.

You are enough, in your own choices. Not everyone will agree with the decisions you make. But the decisions are yours to own. Not theirs.

Though a few of these statements are written selfishly, most I wish I could verbalize to people in my life. Some of those people are reading at this very moment. I hope you hear me. If you can’t, may you find at least one way in which you are enough and that you are able to take from these words a little bit of my strength. I am right here with you, feeling ‘less than’ at times, but stubbornly refusing to succumb.

We are enough.
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Linking up with Yeah Write and the lovely community over there. These people are amazing. I am humbled to be a part of such awesomeness.

Where She Belonged

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WingWM

The turbulence made the plane’s wings seesaw drunkenly upon landing in Newark. Even the weather knew something different was blowing into town.

She was so very frightened to return to this place that hadn’t been kind to her. It was a good thing she’d left before the damage was irreparable. Otherwise, it may have been impossible for the South to heal those broken emotional bones.

Now that she was returned and seated in the car they’d hired to bring her to the office, she took in the familiar vibe. Urban sprawl. Frigid winds that viciously stole her breath. Aggressive traffic. She remembered this unsettling feeling that she was conspicuous – a shock of red amidst endless grey.

Would anyone see a difference in her? Did they even remember her after a year away? Would they think she’d lost her edge?

Suddenly very unsure, she took evaluation of the ensemble she’d carefully chosen. The vivid turquoise wrap dress, sheer tights and nude patent pumps were purposefully a far cry from her typical grey shirt/black pants work ensemble. The severe blond bun had been replaced with long, loosely flowing strands of red. Where her tall frame was previously starved for nourishment it was now vital, strong and feminine. At least there was that.

dressyWM

Entering the office, conversations halted when she walked past. Whispers followed her strides as if they’d seen a ghost. In truth, they had. And that morning, her smile grew exponentially with each joyful exclamation of recognition, each hug received and each stunned remark about her appearance. Most couldn’t quite put their finger on it. Those who knew her best used the words, “bright”, “alive”, “glowing” and “radiant”.

They got it. They saw it.

It wasn’t the clothes or the hair color. She was different.

The job was executed with her usual style of fiery panache, making easy the complicated and making organized the complex. Confidence and self-assurance leapt from her every action and statement. She didn’t just complete the assignment. She soared.

When the big meeting ended, she needed a respite from the emotions stomping over one other in her mind. She waved to the still-familiar doormen on the way out of the building, then made her way to the railing at the water. And standing there, cursing the freezing wind, she finally let her mind relax and inhaled a breath of cold that made her lungs tingle in protest.

Freedom2WM

Everything was so different, but yet so much was still the same here. Most of all, she was so relieved to discover that her fears had been unfounded. Her coworkers had certainly missed her, based on the office buzz and number of baby pictures her male coworkers proudly offered for oohing and ahhhing.  She definitely didn’t miss these bitter temps or this frantic pace of life, but at least no one could possibly question her professional achievements after today. If anything, they’d say she’s better than she used to be. And the reason was simple: She left this place. This brave new woman that everyone wanted to see, talk to, and be around? She wouldn’t be this person if she still lived here. That same woman lifted her face, gazed at the Freedom Tower and told herself that it’s okay to miss the people and not miss the place. After all, she’d found her self, her happy, her dreams and her future in a place that had nothing to do with subways and snowstorms.

Her lips curved into a secretive smile. She’d do what she needed to do while she was here, and she’d do it more than well. But she couldn’t wait to go home.

And with that last thought, any lingering doubts of where she belonged sailed off with that icy wind over the Hudson. With one last glance at that magnificent view, she turned on one of those pretty heels and headed towards the building entrance.

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Linking up with the fantastic crew over at Yeah Write.

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