Monday, April 22, 2013

Marathon Monday 4/15/2013

One week ago today was our first “Marathon Monday” as residents of Boston.  Not being much of an athlete, I didn’t think much of it.  Then, as I realized it was quite a big deal for the city, I began secretly googling “What does one do on Marathon Monday?”  to see if I indeed, got the day off, or should imbibe with some Sam Adams at an inappropriate hour.
After I gave a speech for Team Hole in the Wall:

 however, I was given an itinerary and an invitation to join them at the “cheer zone” near HeartBreak Hill.  I thought the most exciting part of the day would be taking the B line to the other end, and seeing a BC student peeing in a corner of the sidewalk (stay classy BC)….

What I did not anticipate, was this day becoming one that would become a part of history for our city… and our country.

The morning after my speech, at Maggiano’s, a block or so from the finish line of the race, I walked Owen to the T stop to see what the weather was like, treated myself to a sesame bagel and butter pecan coffee at Dunkin Donuts (far better than the Irish Crème, ps) I decided to make the trek and join the camp team in cheering on our runners.

After a series of events, and a broken elevator, Owen ended up leaving his venture to work and meeting me at the B.C. stop on the green line.  We trudged up Heartbreak Hill with Hooptie and Scootie until we found the Cheer Zone.  We quickly donned “Team Hole in the Wall” t-shirts, tattoos, grabbed noisemakers and the day had begun. 

As I sat watching the runners, of all ages, and all abilities, and the crowds that came out to support, whether it was a hoard of college students just looking for an excuse to drink at 9 a.m. or a family with emotional hand written signs of encouragement, this was truly a big event for the city.  I felt such a connection to people I didn’t even know, and felt fortunate that I got to share in this journey of theirs- the result of months, maybe even years of training.
At about 2:30 p.m. the runners began to thin out, and the sun had gone behind the clouds.  “Are you ready to venture back down our way?” I asked Owen.
Owen: “Yea sure.  Do you want to go to the finish line?”
Mal:  “Ummmm, I don’t know, it’s probably going to be a mad house down there, and I haven’t even taken anything out for dinner.  Let’s head home first and see if we want to go out again.”

So we headed back to the B line.  As we boarded the train I got a text from my mom.  “Are you ok!?!?”

Confused, I began texting her back, but my phone rang as I was typing.  “Where are you, are you ok???” she asked frantically. 

“Yea, we’re fine, just getting on the train to head home, why what’s going on?”
The news had just broken.  I hadn’t had my phone out much that day except for the occasional facebook update, but it never occurred to me to keep up with twitter to see if tragedy might strike.
“There were explosions at the finish line.  It’s bad. Where are you??”
I reassured my mother we were fine and hung up immediately to check on the camp volunteers we had planted at the other end of the race.  Everyone was fine, except for witnessing the horrible event, and moments later, we were evacuated from the train and the city’s entire transportation system was haulted.

I called a couple of our “go to people” in Boston just to tell them what was going on and where we were, having no idea how we were getting home or what might happen next, then we just began wandering.  We stopped for a few minutes next to a construction vehicle, and he turned up the news on his radio for others to hear.   They described the scene at the finish line, and I broke down in tears.  “We just have to get home,” I told Owen. 

I asked an officer (or somebody with a neon vest) when the shuttle bus that was supposed to be replacing the train, was arriving, to which he responded “I don’t know nothin’ about no shuttle bus.  All the roads are closed.”  And he spit on the ground.
Thanks sir, for your support in my time of need.
“Let’s start walking I guess.”

Not knowing what else to do, and being in pure fight or flight mode, we just took off down Comm Ave towards home.  The streets were eerie.  Everyone was on their cell phone, crying or trying to comfort their parents who knew they were somewhere at the race.  Drunk B.C. student sauntered back to campus.  One thing I’ll never forget, as we passed a “hydration station” on the course of the race, the entire volunteer team, about 20 people in neon yellow jackets and white hats, sitting in a row, on the ground, silently looking at their phones.  I wish now I had taken a picture, but it’s one of many images that is permanently engraved in my mind from that day.

We kept “walking” and the sidewalks got more broken, the hills got steeper and the wind got more brutal.  Finally, we saw a Best Western and we decided to just hang out there and see who could come get us before we ended up in the middle of nowhere with a dead scooter battery and no cell phones.   The Best Western university let us hang out as long as we needed to and I was able to plug in my phone as we watched the horrifying coverage on the news.

I called Bill, who lives in Cambridge and explained the situation.  Since then, I have mapquested the entire path we took from where we were at the Cheer Zone, to the hotel, and poor hooptie and scootie ventured about 4 miles before we surrendered.  Perhaps next year’s marathon is not so far off.
Bill texted me back that he would find a way to get to us, and they were buying the first round.  I hugged Owen and said, “This is why we’re here.”

After navigating the mess of Comm Ave, we were back in Allston and had a comforting dinner and a few drinks before Bill and Nancy brought us safely to our apartment (with 2 more bottles of wine)
“My god, with everything that has happened since you guys have been here, you’re gonna need them.”  Nancy said as she loaded up Owen’s backpack with a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
As the week went on… we did need them.

Now- just to back up a second- I am not going to go into the details of what happened, or link to media or news sources.  Google it.  It’s all out there, more than you probably want to know or see, and regretting some of the links I have clicked in the past week, I will let you view with your own judgment. This is simply my account of the events…

Tuesday, we didn’t go anywhere.  I told Owen as long as there was heightened security anywhere I just wanted to be together.  I needed him there.  I barely slept after the events of the day before and still jumped at the slightest noise.

Wednesday was a better day.  My parents were in Boston, and I was able to have lunch and an early beer with my dad. I have never been so relieved to see my father.  We had a coffee in my apartment (“Dad, it’s 10:00… we need to wait like an hour before we can go anywhere for brunch…”) and I got to show him a bit of our neighborhood before we settled in at Tavern in the Square by an open window.  It was a beautiful day in the city, and it reminded me that we were ok, and things would go back to normal.  Dad and I talked a lot, and he got that scrunched up face he gets when he’s trying not to cry, a couple of times.  I sort of just wanted to go home with them.  But I knew I couldn’t.  Then fear would win.

Thursday, Owen and I both resumed normal activity to the best of our ability.  I participated in a transportation training, which was actually really informative, and another reminder that there is so much good in our city, and people do want to make it possible for people with disabilities to be included, and successful here!  Then I went to the Next Step office, mostly to be around people, and immerse myself in something other than news and worry.  The day ended with some amazing craft beer at our favorite tavern near where Owen works, and a toast to the week being almost over.  Or so we thought.

That night, we went to sleep just after hearing about the shooting at MIT.  Refusing to jump on the mass hysteria wagon I assured my mother that once again we were ok, and passed out into a broken sleep.  My phone continued to vibrate all night and I knew I was getting emergency alerts from BU, but my heart couldn’t take it.  I opened one eye and thought “There is nothing I can do right now, and I just.  Can’t.  I’ll see them all tomorrow.”

Sure enough, what we awoke to Friday morning was NOT what I expected at all.  The entire city was in lockdown to find one individual who they believed to be the perpetrator of Monday’s finish line crime scene. So much for sleeping in.  I didn’t even want to take a shower, in case we needed to evacuate or an officer came to the door.

Let me say-  it is one thing to see all of this stuff on the news.  I am still recovering from 9/11 truthfully, but it is a complete other level of horror to know this happened WHERE YOU LIVE.  We didn’t open our shades that day.  I was reassured when the newscasters explained a lot of the lockdown was so that the law enforcement could focus on the “manhunt” and not have to worry about traffic or other behavior of people just being idiots in general.

But still.  Transition be damned.  Planning and preparation?  There is NO tip sheet for this shit.  We hugged a lot.  I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep.  I made us egg sandwiches but I didn’t want to eat.  We just waited.

After a whole day in the ghost town of Boston, the suspect was discovered, and the whole city breathed a sigh of relief.

We had a glass of wine.  But we didn’t celebrate.  We shared that sigh of relief, but it was also a sigh of sadness.  I have so many thoughts and emotions from this whole week, and it will take me months, maybe years to process everything.

Here is what I do know:
  • First and oh so foremost.  Thank god.  All the gods.  Thank whoever you know up there, and whoever continues to look out for us, that we were safe and that we were together.  That we were not at that finish line.
  • Social media is such a blessing and a curse in times like these.  I am so glad we were able to instantly update 600+ people that we were home and safe, and I could contact my sister even though she is in another country.  However, it also fuels the fire of ignorance and false security.  News channels, do we really need the general public to weigh in on what we think the motives of these individuals were?  Why are engaging in the mass hysteria?  Let the professionals handle this, and be adults about it.
  • Boston kicks some serious ass.  I had been waffling about whether we are meant to be here, and what it’s all about but watching the courage, and love, and sense of community at that race, even before the tragedy.  I dig it.  As horrific as the whole thing was, I am proud to be able to say, years down the road, “We lived in Boston.  We remember what it was like to be on lockdown and to hug and cry when it was over.”  Owen’s nieces might learn about this in history class some day.  These are our stories.
  • My heart is confused.  Yes, this man committed a horrible crime.  He and his brother inflicted terror, and damage on hundreds of people, that cannot be denied.  He also is the same age as my baby sister. My heart breaks about all of it.  This is a failed transition folks.  He had a promising future, he made some poor choices. REALLY poor choices, but he is a kid.  Picturing him in that boat just hiding from police, I can’t imagine what was going on in his head.  No, I am not defending him, but good god. I just don’t know…
  • As proud as I am of Boston, I am ASHAMED of our country.  When the young man was captured, the streets erupted with celebrations, cheering, and chants of USA.  What?  Do your homework folks… he was a US citizen.  He was a college student, with your sons and daughters and friends!  This was not some terrorist bombing from a country far away, this was a neighbor of yours.  I know that is probably scary to admit, but it’s true.  Just because you can’t pronounce their last name, does that make it different?  What if it were a white man named Mark Smith…. Or Timothy McVeigh.  Oh wait.  Terrorism is terrorism.  Why do we need to play the race card?  So much of what I have seen on the internet, and people’s reactions is full of ignorance and hate, and it is disgusting.  People are saying this young man should not receive health care because of what he did.  Hate to say it guys, but he was a student, there is a good chance he has insurance, and guess what- he is going to get billed like everyone else. How will they have a chance to question him, or him to learn from what he did, if we don’t care for him.  As Boston, the mecca of health care, that is the job of our medical professionals.  We are America. These are not the witch trials.  Remove heads from ass, then speak. Or don’t.

Do I have all the answers?  Hell no. I am simply grateful that all of my friends and and family are safe.  I am exhausted, I’m sad, I’m still a little bit scared, but it will get easier as the days go on. I am reminded ONCE AGAIN that time is short, and we can never miss a chance to say what we are feeling or take a chance.

The biggest thing I have taken away from this week, after the rollercoaster of emotion, fear, hope, strength, this is the journey. Our journey. The moments that make us who we are.  For better or worse.
As that finish line proved, maybe it really isn’t about the destination.


Sunday, April 07, 2013

Homesick at 10,000 Feet

I'm on an airplane.

I'm on my way to Alabama, to present at a transition conference.  In October, I am going to Arkansas.  It's kind of cool getting to check off some states I haven't been to yet.  After going to New Orleans, I realize I think I really like the south, so let's cover the bases, shall we?

Today, I set my alarm for 7, but I woke up at 6:30, and realized it was probably silly to try to go back to bed, so I made some coffee (southern pecan, to set the tone for the day) and went on the interwebz.
It never ceases to amaze me as to what small things can feel like a punch to the gut sometimes.

I won't lie. I wasn't sad when I moved.  I can count on one hand the times I actually got sad about coming to Boston.  Owen and I had the opportunity to present side by side at a pretty powerful meeting last week, and we were talking about emotional times of transitions, being alone, and depressed, and I explained how I really went through that when I was in college, but with this move, I haven't even had time to be sad.  I also feel myself settling back in this place of not being a crier (not that there is anything wrong with frequent crying).

Sure, I cried a few times when we first got here, but it was out of sheer exhaustion and just be overwhelmed with everything we had to do before I even began school.  Since then it's been like....when I saw Les Mis  (I can't. Even.)  and when I had the aforementioned corkscrew driven into my hip bone.
I also have had a shift in my Meyers Briggs type, so there is proof I tend to me more of a thinker.... But I digress.

Of all things, I was watching a Jenna Marbles video, and Maisy had told me it was not her typical work, and I started thinking about my life, and this place I've been in lately.  

My primary job, with Got Transition? Is ending in June, and for those of you who remember the last time a grant ended for me, it was sort of bleak, and a little scary.  This time, I am a lot more prepared, with a much better understanding of what that will mean for me, but it also means I have just been doing a lot of thinking of what I WANT to do, and where I want to be in this work.
Owen have talked a lot recently about our life together and what we want, and how there is a WE now that will shape the direction of what we do and where we potentially end up. I am not just me anymore, working and jet setting so I don't have to think about how alone I feel.

In addition to all of that, we have recently lost some young people that I knew (and some I didn't) through the Next Step program.
Also, in addition to Maisy being in London and feeling epically far away, things have just left me feeling sort of emotionally overwhelmed, and wanting to be eating Sam's on the deck in Maine.

But I started thinking, in this whirlwind of work, school, life, often unfairly sad, life.  What makes ME happy?  What do I like about being in Boston?  What do I miss about being home?
Are they the same things that made me happy 2 years ago?  

One thing I have learned along the way is that if you are not a (at least somewhat) fulfilled person, knowing what keeps you getting out of bed every day, you can not help others (whether that is even your goal or not) And it is ok to take time away from helping people and pretending you have all the answers to answer some questions for yourself.

I won't lie, there are totally days when I miss being home, but it usually is when I'm waiting for the B line in the freezing cold, or on a beautiful day when I just go "I really miss driving down a road in the middle of nowhere singing Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs."  And then something happens and I'm over it.   So I made a list.  Because I think lists are a nice way if sorting things out even for yourself.
Here is the list:
(I'm sorry if some Maineahs are offended by some, but these are just my honest thoughts, about MY life)

What I miss:
  • My family
  • Maisy (yes- she is family but she gets her own line)
  • Singing
  • Driving (and a combination of this and the above)
  • Muffy
  • The pool
  • Sam’s
  • Uncle Moe’s
  • A few select friends that I saw enough to keep me sane
  • Being a big fish in a small pond, what do you mean there’s no open table at this Starbucks, do you know who I am?
  • My closet
  • Being able to go out in sweats, knowing I will still look like I “got dressed.”

What I do not miss:
  • Wal*Mart (why is this first?  I know... )
  • Peacocks squawking and freaking out the poor dog
  • Shoveling out my car (not that I did....), or moving it for the plow
  • Having to talk to EVERYONE and hear their life story even if you’re just going up one floor in an elevator
  • Super behind the times health care (even though I’ve been going there for 20 years!!!)
  • Not having my own space, being able to do laundry etc.  (no offense mom and dad, but even you hate having the washer in the basement, this I know!)
  • Lack of awesome food places in the general vicinity.  Ditto for Foodler, Uber, PeaPod and all the things that have made my life far more convenient here.
  • Sitting in my room going on facebook, feeling my IQ drop day... by day.  (Now I can sit in my overpriced 500 sq feet, and when this starts to happens, read something for school and feel a teensy more intelligent again!)

Then, as soon as I finished this list, I opened another window in Twitter, and this was the first thing I saw: 
It's so clear, I'm where I'm meant to be, and at last I see the light”. –Rapunzel

For the moment, I am reminded, as one of my dear mentors always says, "I am where I am supposed to be." This summer will hold a lot of changes, but soon we will all be together, and it will be warm out, Maisy will be home, and we'll all just keep checking in to see how it's going and what WE want to happen next. 

 I think one of the cool things about being a "grown up" is being able to make those decisions, and I've already decided I don't want to be someone who just goes on autopilot in some job where I have grown cynical and burnt out, so I put my faith in the hands of the universe and those who have chosen me to carry the torch and am ready for the journey.  Onward.