Tough, Mud, and Trust

I’ve been walking through the hills of the rural Pennsylvania for several hours. I am not so much covered in mud as I am carrying it in my clothes, on my skin, in my hair, and tucked away in places it should not be. There are suds sticking all over me, so I can’t wipe my face. My knee is telling me that this is not a good idea, and it joins forces with my calf, shins, glutes. This could all be over quickly if I just cross my arms above my head at the wrists and wait for the golf cart to take me out.

In a few minutes, I’m running up a tarp that’s at an incline. I grab a rope and refuse to let go, but the rest of my body won’t do anything else. There are people I don’t know screaming my name, telling me not to stop. They are grabbing me, pulling me. I stare at one of their bloody knees and I can’t believe that I am trusting so much in these strangers. I’ve never felt so much a part of something. I had thought that around the second mile or so, they would move on, but this group of women said, “We’re going to finish this together” and we do.

A charlie horse starts screaming throughout my leg. “I can’t even walk,” I say. And it’s okay. I’ve come so far. But then I’m standing, waiting for the ride back to the starting point, I feel this insidious sneer from the dark figure, my weakness manifested. It says, “I knew you’d quit. I knew it. Even at the very end, you’re quitting.” So I wave them on, and keep walking. Not just walking. I climb up a rope ladder. I stop and growl halfway, because the devils in the gravity are trying to pull me down. I keep putting one foot and one hand through at a time and then…

I am kissed by running water. Someone helps swing my leg over, and I accept their assistance without apology, without whimper. I’m sitting, staring over the rolling hills to the farms and rainclouds beyond. I let go and plummet down a water slide into deep, cool water. I’m washed clean. When my head comes up, I am whooping, over and over.

I wanted to do Mudderella because it looked like a fun way to test what my body could do. It turned out to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever put myself through. It also made me put my trust and faith in people in a way that I never had before. I never felt shamed, or put down, or given up on. I couldn’t believe the spirit I saw out there on Saturday. It was beautiful and amazing. I challenge everyone to do it.

Force yourself out of your comfort zone. I dare you.

40 Days: Smokescreen

I’m not sure if I should say this because I don’t have 40 of these, but I feel like I’m setting up this theme of “Katie’s uncomfortable secrets.”

Every now and then, if I have a particularly bad day or if the mood strikes, I smoke a cigarette.

I still remember the first time I smoked. I was in my friend’s car, and he had bought a pack of these black clove cigarettes. At the time, I had no conception of the social stigma against Goth kids who smoked these cigarettes. I also had no conception of the assault on my senses that one smoke would be: the utter delight in the smell, the sweetness on my lips, the tingle in my skin.

I remember that first smoke with more detail than I remember my first time having sex.

Some people know I smoke occasionally. Many don’t. I’m not certain why I’ve always felt like this was some kind scandalous deceit. But it was. Sometimes, I feel like it is.

And sometimes, I am just embarassed by the fact that it’s a signifier that I am having a bad day at work.

It’s hard to actually be okay with my Day Job (except when I’m not) for the first time since before I graduated from college. I have a brilliant mind, and I am damn good at most things I am exposed to for any amount of time. See? Uncomfortable secrets!

It used to be that if I wasn’t working towards my goal of full-time, hippy-dress-wearing writing, everything was just a waste of my time.

Now? I feel supported in my workplace. I accept and enjoy that I can comfortably pay my bills and yet also persue my writing once I’m clocked out.

That said, what I am even more okay with now is the realization that my Day Job does not define who I am. “What do you do?” is no longer a question that makes me scramble for qualifiers. I say, firmly, steadily, “I am a writer.”

As a part of that, I started reading “The Artist’s Way” today. I am very excited for the promise it holds.

I am always anticipating a few less bad days.

Gratitude of the day: I thank God that I am lucky enough to have a Day Job, and the occasional bad day to keep my appreciating all the good ones.

40 Days: Making It Happen

Lent was a big deal for me, growing up in a Catholic household. I’m sure all you Catholics out there are nodding your heads and going, “Uh, yeah, duh. Christmas and Easter. It’s like breakfast and dinner. Macaroni and cheese. Pork and beans. Get on with it.”

Well, these days, I’m not really…actually…um, that is, I’m not really Catholic anymore. I have this niggling case of apostasy that just won’t clear up. Stop looking at me like that. Let’s clear this up: I’m not an atheist. I just don’t really jive with what goes into being a Catholic. Please, please, please don’t think I’m trying to be glib here (Mom); I haven’t actually put that out in a public place to the world. Really, I’ve just ended up having awkward conversations that go like this:

Person A: So, are there good churches in Pittsburgh?

Me: Um. Why, yes. There are several.

Person A: Which one do you go to?

Me: Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t really have one.

Person A: (laughs good-naturedly, head back, hand on shoulder) It’s hard to settle with just one. I know how that is.

Me: (laughs in a way that she hopes sounds genuine but is probably off-putting with a face like this emoticon: O_O)

The point I’m coming all the way around back to making, though, is this: I miss Lent. It’s like marathon-training for Catholics. There’s this period of heavy spiritual cleansing to prepare for the big race (which, to me, was always Thursday – Saturday of Holy Week) and then crossing the finishing line Easter Sunday. There was always this sense of great camaraderie between everyone who was giving something up or praying for ten hours or attending the Stations of the Cross. Everybody was coming together and saying, “Man, this is rough, but we’re all in it together.”

I feel like right now I could use that company-in-misery.

Recently, I’ve been going through a bit of a personal crisis. From about second grade onward, I had a big problem with anxiety and, after puberty, depression. In November, it finally got to the point that I needed to seek help in order to change what was happening in my life.

Imagine having a roommate. You live with this person, and she is insane. Like, bug-nuts crazy. She wakes you up in the middle of the night, screaming about a nuclear holocaust. She helps you with breakfast until she bursts into tears. She constantly talks to you, follows you into the bathroom, invites herself out to gatherings with your friends and bothers you all night. She eats your chocolate and then yells at you about having it in the apartment. It’s your fault she ate the chocolate.

She never leaves.

Then, one day, your roommate just…stops being crazy. She calmly lives her life in the apartment. She’s around, and you know it, but sometimes…she goes out for a while. She respects your closed door. She smiles at you. It’s quiet. You realize you have no relationship with this person because your relationship was based off the crazy. With that gone…now what?

That is what it’s been like with my brain before and after I started taking Zoloft.

I’m not really complaining. It has been so peaceful not being plagued by a constant cacophony of paranoid, obsessive voices nagging me about every blemish of my past and present self. But by accepting this newfound uncrazy, I am redeveloping not only my dynamic with others but with myself.

So, I’ve decided to observe Lent this year. Kind of. It won’t really be the whole Catholic song-and-dread, but I’m going to take the next 40 days to do some soul-searching, re-establish my place in the world and hopefully get to be buddies with my new self. I’ll be writing about it, too, as a way to make sense of what I learn each day. Aren’t you all lucky?! Yay, right?

Gratitude of the Day: I am grateful that God gave me a family that kept loving me even when I stopped being a member of the church. I am grateful for the chance to start again with a new outlook about myself, what my faith means to me and where I’m going on this crazy adventure that is life.