Reclaim Your Joy / Have a Time

I started a post in February and now it’s complete. Better late than never I guess … but also there wasn’t a deadline?

In Colorado, having a car is somewhat non-negotiable. Unless you live in Boulder or Denver, the public transportation is so poor that it can take you up to two hours to get somewhere that takes 15 minutes in Colorado Springs. The Springs is relatively bike-able (nowhere near the immaculately designed Boulder bike paths, but you can get from point A to B), but chances are, you’re not trying to hang out in Colo Spgs all the time.

Not only do you have to commit to driving in Colorado, you have to commit to driving far. You can cross 5 state lines in 5 hours on the East Coast. In Colorado, you’re still making your way to Grand Junction at that point. Your sense of driving time changes. Suddenly, you don’t bat an eyelash at a 2-hour or even 4-hour drive. Hey, that’s just going skiing for you. You’ll concede that the 6-7 hours driving to Moab will be a little long, but not that bad.

Still, with that many hours in the car, you’re bound to get bored. Even with the best tunes and podcasts. To entertain myself, I get a kick out of all the signs I see — the landmarks that have been burned into my brain from driving I-25 and I-70 approximately a million times.

On I-70: Restaurant names — “Sauce,” “Sage,” and “Suds Brewery.” I imagine that at Sauce, you can only order and eat sauces, similar to Oliver eating only dips in “Only Murders in the Building.” At Sage, I would probably be dismayed if any dish lacked the herb. And at Suds, I see myself downing a beer filled with soap.

On I-25: I will always see the law firm, “Six & Geving” as “Sex & Giving.” Every. Single. Time. I see the Jarrito Loco in Monument with the margarita logo, and think to myself, “Now there’s a place I really need to go.” Around exit 210, there’s a smell of burnt rubber, and I will panic every time that it’s my car about to go up in flames.

On Highway 24: I bite my fist every time I pass the Donut Mill, knowing that I shouldn’t and won’t stop. It used to be that I couldn’t resist it; now I go to the Donut Mill maybe every 10th time I pass it. Further on, we get to my favorite service stop, “Gas Food.” One day, passing through Fairplay, I will stop at the Asian Fusion restaurant boasting soft and hard ice cream.

Any Colorado highway: I will read a sign warning of “gusty winds” as “gutsy winds,” and I wonder if the wind has a sassy, perhaps cheeky personality in that area.

Throughout the vast majority of these drives, the scenery is also phenomenal. You don’t even need to rely on these humorous landmarks because it’s so freaking beautiful around you. But whatever keeps you awake.

As discussed with my dad, the hottest new Christmas gift you can give is a tire pressure gauge. Ever get absolutely distraught by your tire pressure sensor being on? Flashing? Even when you just refilled the air? No need to fret. With your own tire pressure gauge, you can verify the pressure yourself, saving yourself the agony of collecting quarters to refill those pesky tires AGAIN, or bothering your mechanic, Gary, for the umpteenth time.

(This was my favorite 2021 gift. I will not apologize.)

My roommate Megan loves trailers. LOVES them. It’s almost like she enjoys watching trailers more than watching the movies themselves. I have nothing against trailers, but I can’t say I have the same affinity for them.

This quirk of Megan’s is just one of the many things I love about her. Along with her inability to finish a cup of tea or a can of seltzer, and how she tears open literally everything — cereal boxes, letters — with an inexplicable wrath.

When I was in 8th grade, I was Flo, the Progressive lady, for Halloween. At the time, her commercials had only been on TV for one or two years. She hadn’t yet become irritating or worn out. I loved that costume. It was relatively easy to do, and I felt clever.

I’m now over a decade older and Progressive so happens to be my car insurer. I find that somewhat comical, when maybe it’s not at all. I mostly find it funny that Flo annoys me in new, adult ways. Like raising my rate — then when I make a huffy call to ask why, I am informed that since I no longer have renters’ insurance, I no longer have a bundling discount. My bad.

I visited my grandparents in Florida a few months ago — that was when I began this freaking post — and I was struck by how in some ways, aging is a charmed life.

Every day, my grandfather would make the same sandwich. Potato bread, mayo, mustard, turkey or ham, and Swiss cheese. He’d cut it in half and give the other half to my grandma. Wash it all down with a glass of milk. We had endless good leftovers from dinner in the fridge, but it didn’t matter. The man’s 88, and he’s going to have his sandwich routine as he likes it.

He’s not alone. My grandma asked several times throughout my visit what day of the week it was. I do not attribute the question to forgetfulness. I think it just truly didn’t matter what day of the week it was. Each day is the same, essentially. As long as you know what’s happening that day, who really cares if it’s Monday or Friday?

I’m in no rush to get old, but there is something to be said for eating your same damn sandwich every day, living in the present, and spending time collecting seashells on the beach each morning.

While grocery shopping with my grandfather in Florida, we determined we were sorely in need of cookies. My grandfather has been known to be a real sugar fiend — it’s where I get my own sweet tooth from. He quickly grabbed a pack of Oreos, then proceeded to grab a few bags of Pepperidge Farms cookies off the shelf.

Those cookies lasted about 5 minutes. I chuckled to myself seeing that within an hour of returning home, my grandfather had torn open the Oreos, and not using the re-sealable flap — just ripping the end of the package with abandon. He’d also delved into the Pepperidge Farm cookies.

The next day, I discovered he’d purchased several more bags of the latter. I don’t think I’d had more than one or two of said cookies, nor had my grandmother. My grandfather had simply been powering his way through packages.

After two days, the Oreos were gone. I can state for a fact that I’d had four of them. Just four. And my grandmother hadn’t had any. Move over Cookie Monster, Doc’s in town.

In the midst of an angsty / lonely cycle I was living early February, I got a call from my dear friend and career counselor, John Mann. He was wondering if I wanted to grab lunch with him? Heck yes, I did. It was a grey, cold-to-the-bones Friday, and the loneliness of the day had set in.

We met at the Marigold Cafe, which is a restaurant I would take my grandparents. The kind of place with classy American fare, bread and butter on the table, and endlessly streaming diet Coke. I felt comforted.

Things had been feeling terrible. Inflation soaring, the economy a wreck, the environment in peril, Ukraine and Russia on the verge of war. And you know what John said?

“We need to reclaim our joy.”

Being a consumer care agent sounds like a terrible job. Dealing with angry people all day — angry at you, oftentimes, despite really being angry at your product or organization. I try to be overly courteous to support agents, knowing this. But one day I really wasn’t.

I had asked for this fitness tracker called a Whoop for Christmas. Due to supply constraints, I did not receive it until February — no big deal. The Whoop is unique in that it has a battery that you clip to the tracker itself, so you don’t have to remove the tracker to recharge it. Well, one week into owning the Whoop, I needed to charge it. I attached the battery pack. The battery pack came off. I still have no idea where it is.

I was incredibly frustrated, searching the house high and low. I decided I’d have to suck it up and order a new battery pack. Problem, because the Whoop website reported that battery packs were out of stock. And you can’t order them from anywhere but Whoop’s website.

I wrote an aggressive email to customer support, explaining that it was unacceptable that I was using the battery pack as it was intended to be used, and now I was unable to use my Whoop at all. I felt that my anger was justified and I was gonna let it out via email abuse.

Customer Care almost immediately responded, saying that they could send me a new battery straightaway — could I provide a good address?

Yes, thanks.

Recently at the airport, I heard one of those recurring security announcements say, “If you wish to be reunited with your bags…”

Why wouldn’t I wish to reunite with my bag? And also, is it just me, or does the word “reunite” imply that my bag is a long-lost friend?

I have said it once and I will say it again: Renaissance Fairs terrify me. It is absolutely beyond me why anyone would want to pretend they’re living in the Dark / Middle Ages — those times were HELL. The Renaissance brought the bubonic plague! And yet people will gnaw on turkey legs while dressed in armor and kilts for fun. No thanks.

I feel this category of people also seem to like something else that I don’t quite abhor, but equally weirds me out: anime. Anime just has a style that will unsettle me. It’s why on my list of “People Not to Trust” (literally a note on my phone, regularly updated) there’s “People Who Love Anime.”

Everyone who likes cereal can attest that what’s better than cereal for breakfast is cereal for dinner. However, my friend pointed out that you never really have cereal at midday. And in fact, doesn’t it seem kind of suspicious? Like, why are you eating cereal around lunchtime? What’s going on? Are you OK?

It was about a month ago that I was on the phone with my sister. She was really in the thick of applying to post-grad jobs, receiving radio silence and rejections over and over. I knew exactly the position she was in, since I was in the same boat just a few years ago. She talked about how the effort had felt so fruitless, that applying to jobs became so tiring. “I can only really summon the energy to apply to one job a day. After that, I just feel drained. Like what I have done is enough.”

I couldn’t help but agree. Around that time, I similarly felt unmotivated past a certain point. I’m the type of person who puts everything on a list — everything. Even “shower,” so that I not only remember to shower, but also so I have something on my list to cross off at the end of the day. But at the time, I was creating lists with a dozen or so items, completing two of them, and calling it a day. I didn’t really feel inspired to complete any more.

I had somewhat attempted an “85% is enough” mentality (not that I was really completing 85% of these lists, but the sentiment was there). Back in February, I ran the best race of my life thus far — completing the Austin Marathon in 3 hours and 17 minutes, qualifying me for the Boston Marathon in 2023. I was overjoyed. Five days later, I decided to run a 5K on the beach and got either a stress fracture or severe tendonitis in my bottom right shin — benching me from running for a solid month.

Mentally and emotionally, having running stripped from me was torturous and upsetting. I use running for so many things — exercise, stress release, processing emotions, thinking through logistics and other plans, discovering new music, reveling in old music, and just coping. And without it, I was shell-shocked. With the support of my friends and the determination to find other ways to tackle my restlessness, I made it back to the point where I could run 1, 2, even 3 miles without pain. But as I pushed beyond a 5K, I would feel these little nagging aches and pains. It had been so long since I had regularly run, I couldn’t tell if these pains were a sign that I was exacerbating my injury, that I was out of running shape, or if they were a normal experience when running.

Running was anxiety-inducing now, since I couldn’t say I was 100% pain-free. But I was 85% — and I decided that 85% had to be good enough. I was going to drive myself insane otherwise. So I continued running at 85%, and I can safely say that it did not cause harm. I’m running as I used to, and you know what? I never feel 100% anyway.

A brief, hilarious story. Last month, I was on a little road trip with my friend Alana to visit our friend Marta. On the drive home, I was playing Weezer’s “Beverly Hills,” and Alana proceeded to tell me the following:

“You know Grant [her boyfriend] tried to convince me that Weezer is a cover band?”

Me: “HA! They just have the one cover album, the Teal Album. That’s so funny.”

Alana: “Yeah, but it turned into like, a legitimate fight — and we never fight. He just refused to accept that Weezer isn’t a cover band. He totally doubled down on it.”

Knowing that Grant is not the sort of person who gets worked up easily or often, I found this so amusing. If Weezer is what gets you fired up, I think you’re probably doing OK.

In the few jobs I’ve had in my adult life, the common denominator I have found is a ceaseless list of acronyms. Every job comes with its acronym list for some niche terminology solely relevant to that job. If you used these acronyms in daily vernacular, people would not only be confused, but sort of want to punch you.

Since transitioning to work for Clif Bar from the Olympic Committee, I’ve had some funny discoveries in this acronym realm. The first — and best — happened in my first couple weeks, when I came across the acronym IOC. I pinged my co-worker Adrienne, “Hey, what does IOC stand for? For me, it’s the International Olympic Committee.”

“Oh, that’s the most popular Clif Kid flavor — iced oatmeal cookie!”

The “flavor codes” are so abundant, and I actually have a lot memorized now that I’ve had to work on some projects involving them. I came across one similar to IOC — NOC. At the Olympic Committee, NOC stands for National Olympic Committee — e.g. the US Olympic Committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, etc. At Clif, it’s a Luna Bar flavor — Nutz Over Chocolate.

As a cereal aficionado, CTC has always stood for Cinnamon Toast Crunch for me. At Clif Bar, it stands for Carrot Cake — a now discontinued Clif Bar flavor. Talk about nutz.

In the beginning of December 2021, I received two black hoodies. One was the “swag” from a half marathon, the other a gift. I will say that since receiving these black hoodies, I have worn essentially no other top. I have lived in these hoodies. If one gets dirty, I throw it in the wash and I’ve got one ready to go. Summer is going to be a hard adjustment.

As I get older, I find myself pushing back on people a lot more — asking more questions of my waiters and waitresses, cashiers, customer service providers. I suppose I was always cut out to be an ornery old woman. This latest question really got me, though.

I was at a bagel shop with friends, starving for a bagel sandwich of some kind. Deciding on the sandwich is hard enough, let alone selecting your bagel type. And naturally, I had questions.

Me: “What’s the ‘Italiano’ bagel?”

The cashier: “Oh it’s nothing. It’s really just an everything bagel, honestly. It’s got all the same stuff.”

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re serious? There is nothing differentiating the Italiano from an everything?”


“So why label it differently?”

The cashier shrugged and shook her head in a gesture that seemed to say, “I don’t know. Why do you care?”

The past few weekends, I’ve had the opportunity to go “out” (in the mildest of ways), and something that never ceases to bewilder me are women’s restrooms. I swear to god, entering one of those things is like entering a portal to another dimension. The conversations you hear; the outfits you witness; the general chaotic atmosphere — it is not based in reality. I don’t know where exactly I go when I enter, but I do know that when I leave, I’m usually slightly out of breath and confused. And it feels like there’s also usually a mirror outside, too, that spooks the hell out of me. It is a relief to be reunited with my friends afterward, but I feel fundamentally changed.

A lot of the things I want to write about arise in emotional, vulnerable moments. I’m out running and listening to music that gets me in my feels, I’m attending a live show, I’m driving somewhere with immaculate views out my window, etc. The trouble is, if I don’t write down what I want to write about, I largely forget it. And in some cases, even if I write it down, if I didn’t make it very specific, the poetry is completely lost. I’m scratching my head, wondering what on earth was my meaning. (Which reminds me of Paul McCartney musing about his song “The World Tonight,” and the lyric, “I saw you sitting at the center of a circle. Everybody, everybody wanted something from you.” On Oobu Joobu Part 3, he says, “I still haven’t really worked out who I mean.” This diversion is case in point why I have trouble remembering things — my mind flits in all sorts of directions like this.)

As an example, I had written down, “what do you deserve v want” on my phone. I truly don’t know where I wanted to go with this. I know where it came from, I think. I texted a friend with some complaint / need, and they responded, “you can’t have it all Sarah.”

“I know I know,” I replied.

Friend: “But you deserve it.”

I suppose I wondered in that moment if I really deserved to have it all. I’ll think on it.

As much as I can find him jerk-y, Alex Honnold does have a pretty solid podcast called “Climbing Gold.” For a climber of 16 years, it’s no surprise that the topics engage me a lot, particularly the ones related to Olympic climbing, which I was actually involved with. My friend recently alerted me to an episode that I had missed called, “Risk, Intensity, and Complexity,” and it was all about route setting–how route setting is a mix of creating risk (forcing the climber to take a chance), intensity (sheer strength, athleticism), and complexity (being able to sort out the problem, work with what you’re given). This episode was really good. At the beginning, Alex and his co-host Fitz speak to the head route setter from the Tokyo Olympics, and there’s an audio clip of him reacting to Jakob Schubert topping the final sport route, the last climber in the finals to climb it, too. The joy in his voice is evident, and Fitz says something to the effect of, “That’s someone reacting to doing their job really well — perhaps the best it could be done.”

I recalled in “The Last Dance” series on Netflix about Michael Jordan, one interviewee saying something similar. The actual quote was, “You could argue that Michael Jordan was as good at his job as anyone has ever been at their job, ever, in anything.” (That quote will always kill me. It is just incredible.) As dumb as this sounds, it felt so cool to find an equivalent in climbing: to set a route with the perfect balance of risk, intensity, and complexity, that each climber reached a different point up the wall, but only one topped it.

The podcast went on to interview a regular route setter for the World Cups, and he explained that to him, successful setting is getting an emotional response from the climber. Did the climber feel joy, frustration, confusion while climbing the route or problem? I can safely say that as a climber myself, this is a really good measure. Because I’ve come off the wall plenty of times feeling like whatever I just climbed was “meh.” But when I come off the wall after completing a really good route or problem — my eyes are lit up, my blood is pumping, I’m out of breath, and I want to tell someone to get on it, ASAP.

I geeked out on a lot of other points of the pod but I’ll leave it at that.

Lately, the world has really gone to absolute sh*t. I’m not going to elaborate further. I will say that though I don’t have a lot of hope anymore, I’m not feeling too down, either. In an almost Matthew McConaughey “Livin'” style, I’ve decided that my new tactic is just to have a time. Wherever I go, I’m having a time. I’m going to try to enjoy myself as much as I can, dammit. Surround myself with the people and places and activities I love. The rest will follow.

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A Certain Softness

January 19, 2022

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