Sunday, 16 November 2014

Unstructured Month



I am making my New Year's resolutions early. Early means now. Honestly, I am making life resolutions, because I am sometimes not very good at life. Here they are, in no specific order.

1. Do not end up involuntarily in Lucy's spare bedroom for the THIRD time due to my lack of judgement in relationships.
2. Do not break my foot again for the THIRD time due to my lack of judgement in running and overall recklessness.

So what I am saying is, offseason (or, maybe, I should just call it "life") is going well.


That time we did a run and didn't start on schedule
On the Labour Day weekend, I made plans to run up and down Mountain Highway with my fellow West End-ers. I was the driver. In order to be slightly less ridiculous than normal, I planned to pick my friends at 9am. Somehow, what started as an orderly plan ended up with a couple extra people being invited, leaving downtown 45minutes late, and believing that Anthony and April somehow got lost at the top of Grouse Mountain.

All on a technically easy, impossible-to-miss route that Matt and I used to do at 5:30am on a weekday before work.

So, at the end of the run, soaked by the rain (of course in rains in Vancouver in what is technically still summer), as I am having what some may call a Type-A meltdown at the propsect of us one hour behind schedule and my two friends potentially lost on the mountain somewhere (and what I call "a reflection on my preferences for starting and finishing a run on time with all people present and accounted for"), the concept of "Unstructured Day" was born.

Unstructured Day would be a day that is unplanned, go-with-the-flow, do what we feel like. Apparently, this day starts you wake up and call your friends, and we decide what we want to do. This concept was both traumatic and stressful to me. My friends and I spoke about having this day, but it never happened: since the weather co-operated I instead opted to plan my runs a week in advance and leave at 6am (I have other running partners who believe in early mornings and very strong coffee). 

No-run November
 My foot is getting better - it would be getting better slightly faster if, on a beauty morning two weekends ago, I didn't decide to do the Grouse Grind. In regular, non-supportive shoes. And then, due to being rested, to look at my pace and see I was on-track for a sub-40min Grouse Grind. It turns out that trying to win the Grouse Grind is never, ever worth it, and will end me up in the St. Paul's emergency to get X-ray-ed (and also reverted to ultra-hobbling and being unable to leave my apartment for another two days).

So due to lack of other options, I started treating my own life like a vacation. After months of resistance, I now have Unstructured Days, or, as it turns out, what other people call "weekends".

My apartment is old
I am trying to embrace unstructured life. However, I worry that I am getting soft in regards to time and scheduling and life.


This became apparent when I offered to host the VFAC club meetingthis past Saturday. I needed to have a clean apartment and food and drink for 10-20 people (our club members sometimes have moral objections to RSVP-ing).

I planned ahead of time - a bit. However, Barry became nervous about my lack of communication and "volunteered" to come early to help me prepare. The meeting was at 12:30pm. Three hours before saw me still in my gym clothes, with a messy apartment, semi-started chili, and nowhere near enough food. Oh, and I decided this was a good time to do laundry.

Barry finished the workout "early", and at 11am we got to work. Somehow, by 11:45, the food was more or less ready, the place wasn't too dishevelled, my laundry was in the dryer in the basement, and Barry had left and returned with beer (I had not purchased this ahead of time). Then we decided to plug in my wine fridge to use for beer. And that is when sparks came out of the electrical socket and none of the lights in my apartment would turn on.

Luckily, Barry has life skills. Also luckily is that my landlord "assigned" me to one of the building tenants, Jeff, who also performs handyman work.

I texted Jeff, that my apt had no lights, and that I wanted it to have lights.
Jeff: "Go outside - it's sunny."

Barry found the fuse box, which, as it likely pre-dated colour TV, was difficult to figure out. 

I called Jeff while Barry fiddled around with old electrical-type things.

Me: So 15 people are coming by in half an hour. Not to be high-maintenance, but I would like there to be light.
Jeff: You need to flip the circuits.
Me: There is nothing there to flip.
Jeff: By "flip" I mean screw and unscrew. By the way, what the hell were you doing that caused the breaker to flip? You know you can't just all the appliances at once.
Me: Yes, obviously I shouldn't have been so rash as to actually want to use electricity.
Jeff: You know, I came by your apartment last week to fix your electric fireplace because you said it was "your move" to invite a guy over to watch the fire. And now you want light. I don't even want to know what your next request will be.

(During this time, I have located the extra fuse-screws that I somehow put in the top drawer of my bedside table. Barry is trying to put them in and is somewhat stressed about the no-light situation. It is now noon.)

Jeff: So I will leave extra fuses outside your door in case this happens again.
Me: Like the electrical Easter Bunny?
Jeff: So if this happens again, you know that there are two fuses - one for the appliances, one for the lights. If the one for the lights blows out again, you can always switch in the appliance one.
Me: So you are telling me that I will need to choose between lights or having a working stove and fridge? I don't want Sophie's Choice about what in my apartment is going to work.
Jeff: Your fridge will keep things cold for a couple hours if it's off, so that's the obvious decision.

So my apartment has light again, and it's 12:05, and Barry realizes I have no coffee making facilities, and goes off to Starbucks to get coffee. I retrieve my laundry, and it is now 12:27. Barry returns, and about 1 minute later the first person arrives (early).

The meeting went well, and Barry and I are still totally friends (I think? Barry?). But it does mean that there is a line between "being relaxed at life" and "being good at life", and I might have crossed over a bit too far.


otherwise
These days, I wake up without an alarm, drink coffee, read in bed, go to the gym. I go shopping on Main Street for used books and vintage cardigans. Now I can finally walk, I make my way down to English Bay and watch as people stream past, laughing in the wintry sunlight. I drink tea and read a newspaper and listen in on first dates at Delaneys. My life felt very big, out in the mountains. Here, it is smaller, contained to a neighbourhood - but it gives me time to slow down and realize just how much beauty can be in the day-to-day, how much more I notice when I walk through life instead of running past.

My favourite poem has a line: "I believe in the beauty of broken things." So I believe. All the last month - the frustration, the early mornings on the rowing machine, that bittersweet ache in my stomach when I see fresh snow on the North Shore, the hard blue of English Bay and the last leaves on the sidewalks - it's all beautiful. And I have slowed down enough to see, really see.

A few years ago, I had the same ache to run a marathon - really run it - and four months later I did a 3:05. My body knows what it wants, and I know what it's like to feel a race inside me, like I feel the mountains inside me now - uneasy, restless, keeping me awake and hungry. It's not always a comfortable feeling, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.