Monday, 9 September 2013

I am almost 29 and a huge pansy when I get sick

25 year old Alex - photo thanks to the amazing Ariane K!

I'm one day away from turning 29. A month ago I was worried about running in the Rockies for 6 days straight. A day ago (after not leaving my apartment on foot for over three days) I was worried about my ability to make it the 500m round trip to the grocery store.

I hate my body and my crap immune system
There is nothing like getting sick - real, balls-out, can't move, in pain, on hardcore antibiotics that preclude drinking until approximately November, pajamas as viable clothing sick - to appreciate my non-sick life.

I hate being sick. I treat getting sick with pretty much the same melodrama that being injured gets. Except, in this case, I have no family doctor (anyone have a referral) so I can't text the dude at the walk in clinic at 11pm at night when my symptoms flare up and I am convinced I will not get better, ever, and will have to lurch around the house and wear Donovan's pajama bottoms until pretty much forever.

I normally have a pretty 30-min walk to work each day through the west end. I had to call to ask for a ride home on Thursday. I almost DNF-ed my shower on Friday morning. And then, weirdly, my weekdays and weekend have all this extra floating time without the usual run and recovery.

Even more than being sick, I hate calling in sick to work. It's a couple things. I like the hell out of my job, and I like being at the office doing it. After 7 years of public practice, I also have The Guilt about sick days.

At E&Y, the guilt came from pretty much not taking sick days. Taking a sick day meant not getting your 50 minimum chargeable hours a week. Taking a sick day meant a bad review. It was, seemingly, much preferable to drag myself and my ability to infect numerous others to the office.

Birthdays in my 20s have hit me at such high and low ebbs. Looking back does nothing to smooth out the highs and lows that come with climbing through each year.

20 and 21 were still lightweight rowing tryouts, with one too-sweet drink (I didn't really "get" alcohol until my mid-20s, much after I left university) and a hurried sleep before getting up at 5am to pull oars on our swampy lake.

22 was me brand new to Vancouver and translucent with loneliness.My close friend's girlfriend very generously threw a party for me. We had food then went to UBC to watch a movie on the grass in the warm disappearing sun. It was a wonderful gesture. Surrounded by people, from UBC, who all knew each other and had friends and lives to create made me feel even lonelier.

23 was that giddy unstable joy of drinks in a cheap Yaletown apartment and then Bar None. Earlier that day I had run 36km (by myself!) as training for my first marathon. I drank too much, danced to much with guys who weren't exactly the one I was dating. The next morning I went out to brunch with Lucy and realized, in true Alex fashion, I had locked my keys inside my apartment.

24 was the week before writing the UFE, a 3-day exam to become a Chartered Accountant. My old boyfriend was on a deadline. He came over, brought me an amazing lululemon jacket, took me to dinner, kissed me goodnight, then went back to work. It was lovely and a bit of a relief, as I wanted to do more studying. I was simmering with anxiety the whole day, an anxiety that I thought would end when I wrote the exam, then when I passed the exam, when I left E&Y, when one deadline was over, and another. It proved to be a bit more stubborn than than.

25 was a BBQ on the huge patio of my tiny west end studio. I was surrounded by more friends than the apartment could hold - so many that they sat on my bed, on the floor. IT was a soft late summer night and people stayed long and drank maybe more than they should. In a little over a month, me and my then-bf would leave for my first real trip - 3 weeks in Nicaragua. I remember feeling slightly tired, slightly drunk, and so lucky to be surrounded by the life I had built in Vancouver.

26 was spent working on a Saturday, strung out on audit. I got home around 6. I had made no plans for my actual birthday. I was so lucky to have my friend Emily Solsberyg invite herself over for dinner. Four months later, Emily and James left for New Zealand. She is back visiting now, and hopefully re-joining us soon, with a beautiful baby.

27 was a day spent with Raena, Rob and Karine out in Maple Ridge. We played in the river in Rob and Raena's property, visited Raena's parent's mini-horses, and drank blackberry sangria in the sunshine. The shadows lengthened, and we inflated a mattress on the lawn and all napped. The day before I had done a "long run" of 26km, training for the Victoria half-marathon. I ran a 1:36.

28 I ran the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim. That might trump all birthdays for a while. (I also did Victoria, again, in just under 1:26).

29 I have no idea how the actual day will be. Making it home today the whole walk home from work in the warm early autumn light, the first leaves fallen brilliant on the edges of the sidewalk is the best birthday present. Even sick, I spent hours on Saturday afternoon with Lucy, printing wedding invitations in the blind-slatted light on her kitchen table and having her 17-year-old stepdaughter help plan my wedding. Even sick, I wake up to the views of mountains and ocean. On my walk home, I look down Georgia Street to see the fountain spray from Lost Lagoon, backlit by a setting sun. I have old friends like Lucy and Craig who have been part of that second growing up, figuring out Vancouver in my 20s. I wake up to the person I love in the mornings.

Even in the harder days, there has been so much good. So now, sick, I tell myself the same thing I do during long races, long runs, when I'm tired, or sore, or want to quit, or everything seems unimaginably long:

I tell myself that maybe lie - everything works out. Everything is good, in the end. I tell myself - look for something beautiful. I tell myself - think of the people you love, all these amazing people who you got to know a little better every year. And I tell myself - remember this pain, this feeling, all of it, because next time, when things hurt again, you will get through it a little easier, a little faster. I tell myself - this is what being alive feels like, and remember how you can fall a little deeper in love with life each day.

I think it's going to be a good year.