At the time of my last post I was still battling a bad stomach virus, my second prolonged illness in the past few months. I seem to get sick a lot more often now that I am no longer a marathoner. Let me rephrase that – I am still a marathoner, I just happen not to have run one in 9 months and not be in training for any future events, just as I still and will always consider myself a poet even if I haven’t written a new poem in a few years and have none in progress, and a photographer even if I just opened this post with an image taken months ago because I haven’t got any good new photos to share today. These things are who I am, even if I am not doing them at the moment. When I was doing marathons, I had a perfect record of not dropping out of a single one of my 21 races, even though there were many that reduced me to deep fatigue, various pains and stupid tears of frustration somewhere along the way. Whatever happened in those middle miles, by the last few, I was running strong and overtaking people who had passed me and asked if I needed help hours before. Call me the Comeback Kid.
I will never know what it is in me that can be so weak and pathetic one second, a quitter, a loser, and so strong and motivated and indomitable the next. The one thing I do know is that I need to write my way through such mysteries in order to try to understand them. Last week, while still quite ill, for example, I ventured out into the heaps of snow to run some errands that were necessary, but face it, the world would not have ended if they had waited another day. I wanted to take a walk. I needed to take a walk, after too many days housebound with no exercise. I knew I probably wasn’t capable of this walk, but I did it anyway. In my marathoning days, the only time I ever failed to finish a scheduled race was by not starting it at all if I was clearly too injured or untrained to complete it with any kind of satisfaction. But once I lined up at the starting line, there was no option but to finish, and so was the case with my walk.
I walked over a mile with rubber legs shaking the whole way, a spinning head, and a vigilant eye for a railing to lean on, and the most convenient and secluded snowbank in which to vomit if need be. It never occurred to me to turn back. I was committed and I was going to finish this silly test of my strength. I made it to my destination and back, maybe 2 or 3 miles total. And for the first time at the end of that day, I slept well and was able to get up the next morning rested enough to get through a short workout, after which I felt dizzy but invigorated and with a clearer head and more stable emotions than I’d felt in a week. As often happens when I’m pedaling my indoor bike or out on a long walk, ideas were popping up in my head here and there, themes to explore, things to create. It was as if the bad toxins were being pushed out and the good chemistry was coming back into balance.
Do I secretly enjoy fighting back from the brink? Or am I just at the brink so often I have learned how to fight back from it? Is it that I’ve never been “allowed” to be weak? And by whom? Those around me, or myself, trying to be as strong as I could for their sake? Or to live up to some standard too far removed now ever to figure out who exactly imposed it? Or is it that I’m never taken seriously when I’m weak because I rally and cover my weakness like a wounded animal and then wonder why no one thinks I’m as bad off as I am? Surely my protestations of being at the mercy of a virus lost their credibility as I walked a brisk 3 miles over snow-packed sidewalks. I suppose we all want to be strong on the one hand and respected as such, and weak on the other hand and taken care of as such. Is this conflict exclusive to women? I do wonder if men just always tough it out regardless, because overt weakness is not an alternative under any conditions. At any rate, in spite of being worried I had fallen hopelessly behind by taking a week off to be sick, this past week I managed to have some very productive days, including completing the scarf for my father who received it in the mail yesterday. He and my mother love this scarf so much, I may have to make one for my mother too, to make sure the one meant for my Dad doesn’t end up in her closet!
But back to the notion of late blooming. The tulip whose image you see above is called the Queen of Night and it is my favorite flower. It’s the blackest one I’ve ever seen, but has a deep purple hue that comes to life in the afternoon sun. It is a late blooming variety, in its full glory when all the others are on the decline. In so many ways, in terms of my accomplishments in life, I am a late bloomer, hitting all the major milestones later than one is supposed to or the people around me seem to be managing. And yet, when I look at what I’ve accomplished so far I think I still haven’t hit full bloom yet! But I am also a late bloomer in the natural cycles of my energies and enthusiasms. I struggle for a long time it seems, after a slow unremarakble start. Things can get very very bad for a long time and reach the point of collapse, like a flower sleeping underground. And down under that ground I can hear all the other flowers out in the sun enjoying life, being admired, while I push and push against the hard darkness. Then something gives way, just when I am at my weakest, and I find that last shred of inner strength to push through. And there I am – Queen of the Night whose blackness turns to purple in the full sun.
I end this post by revealing a mystery. The Woolblade has arrived at its final destination, the arm of Monica Croese, a marvelous painter whose work inspired the design, and whose blog you can find here. This post is dedicated to her, another lovely Dutch flower who knows how to break through the hard darkness into the light.