If you're lucky enough to be in the mountains, you are lucky enough.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Real friendships

I got caught some time ago by a question from a client of mine, who said something to the matter (not in exact words) that I seem to be avoiding building new friendship because I cherish my time on this planet these days. There was some other point I am sure I will be reminded of, but I remember my response was close to: as an introvert, I treat every relationship I do have with all my heart, and just can't be "seeking" new friendships for the sake of having more. If they happen - I am absolutely not avert to developing them. In fact, I hope to meet more wonderful people on my life's path I can call a "friend". But as I already discussed back almost a year ago that I am vert serious about being a friend to somebody (as a Russian? as an introvert? as a human being without name tag to it?), and it does require effort to keep it going (friendship that is), and if I feel I am the only one who puts said effort out there, without any personal hurt involved, it is time to figure out: is it worth it if the "other side" is only the "accepting" one? Like, readily responding to my texts, but never wondering what is going on in my life in the first place. I often think: if something serious does happen, and I get very ill/die, will anyone of those so-called "friends" even know about it? Will they expect to learn about it from a FB post? Twitter line? An Instagram of my casket? Time is getting more precious as the days tick away, and I look back on my life and find myself having been "spreading thin". While I would not want to take any of those experiences back and they provided a valuable lesson, I do wonder if I could have spent more quality time with people I loved and who loved me back for me, not just for being a "popular fish in a small pond". I never want to change time I shared volunteering at the races or lending an ear and help to people who were important to me at the time, and not only a circle of friends at that. But, alas, some friendships simply develop with time to either become deeper or fade away. As somebody said: there are people you meet for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime. If it was short, there was a reason, and  am richer for that. Now, I am a little less open. I don't accept excuse of "little less time and capacity" from myself or others - if you had a minute to check FB notifications, you could have written 2 words in a text: "What's up?". This is how much I often do - "Was thinking about you the other day", "Hope you'll doing ok", "Checking in with you", "Hugs and love your way"...How much does a person need? I am not asking for a deep conversation (though I would never, ever turn that one down!!), just a note somebody out there actually remembers my name. So, there we go...I can count probably on one hand folks I am certain will fit into that Russian "drop it all for you at a moment's notice". And on another hand - close to it. I feel sad that back in the heydays of ultrarunning I was absolutely sure friendships we gain through long runs together are forever because of how "true" we are, stripped from outside world's banter, telling deep thoughts as they are...and yet those are trickling away. Apparently, what we did have in common was mostly training, race discussions, gossips about other runners...I don't have any of those anymore. Life moves on. Nothing is forever if not worked at, and, like marriage, it takes two.

This past week was one of those great moments I knew, for certain, I am with my true friend. I met Eman in Austin when I moved here and joined UT lab. And in a weird way, the outspoken running dirty half-dressed middle-aged just-married second time with a couple of teens woman from former Soviet Union hit it off with a headscarf-wearing slightly hyper (slightly??) Arabic single mother from Egypt. It was a match made in heaven. I took her to the trails for her first time and got her hooked on trail running and community (like she didn't have enough communities to tend to - she never learned to pee in the woods though, but did finish her first 50k later), she "baby"set my teenager when both Larry and I traveled to races, I went to her home to drink lots of coffee and eat lots of dark chocolate when I was navigating the waters of second marriage, and she listened patiently and without judgement and told me to cherish what we've got, and keep working at it. She was crazy, busy, extroverted, always involved in a thousand of things, lonely deep inside, reaching out to help, but rarely asking for help for herself, smart, loving science and college students - we had not that much in common from the first gaze, but a lot from the past, our respective home countries and experiences, and core values. A year and half ago she moved to NC for a new position - and I tried hard to keep up. Any time we talked - it was like we're still on the couch. This past week, we set on the couch for real, again - because I made a trip and, wrapping myself as a gift, dropped for her birthday in Raleigh, NC.

From the moment we walked to each other at the airport, it was like time never passed: "Dude, what's up?" (she really does talk like that) - and we picked up a conversation without even a hint of hesitation.

Eman is a big shot now in her biotech something with a weird name Sigma Z (or close to it - I told you I am not into science and happily dropped any interest in it as soon as I walked out of UT over 2 years ago), with her own office and a team of subordinates (adult babysitting), she bought a house, but she is still the same non-stop talking and doing, as is her now-teenager son Hesham, whom I always treated as my extra one. The kid can out-talk and out-do his mom on more occasions than not! They are awesome, and I always feel like family.

We drove to a Morrow Mountain state park 2 hrs East next morning, to a highest point at that part of the state - after a stop at the best local coffee shop, of course, full blown discussion on methods of coffee extractions and types of coffee (we are both nerds on that). I managed to survive her insane swirling on highways and her being tested in patience on a 2-lane country road behind slow pokes. We made it, alive, and took a hike to the top - some 2.7 miles up and a different route with just over 3 miles down. And it was gorgeous, peaceful, normal East Coast Spring time with naked trees, birds chirping, no people in sight, and a straight-up climb on a final approach. It was all I remember about East Coast - and miss so much. What can I say, just about anything is better than Texas (well, Florida really sucks more).

We walked, we talked and we were quiet, then talked again - I always said a true friend is somebody you can do nothing with and it feels comfortable and not forced. The weather held on, with occasional sun rays peeking out a few time, mostly just nice 50's and no rain.

After dinner at home, she took me to Umstead park, which happened to be less than 2 miles away from her - and one where I ran (and won!!) my first 100 mile race! The memories sprung alive, and I am in owe of my own past self for the runner I used to be - and didn't appreciate it back then.

And just like that, the 36 hrs of NC were over. 4 am alarm clock (what is 3 am Central time for me!) took me to the airport, two flights, and straight to work, as always. Back to the grind.

This trip was an amazingly refreshing, and I didn't even know I needed it. I needed to be somewhere further past than my PNW living, further past my ultrarunning friends, like a time travel - and with somebody I can talk freely about stuff many get uncomfortable listening about, or even subjects we disagree on - and feel safe, feel understood, feel loved and accepted. I am so glad it happened.

On a back-to-the-grind note, I picked up my training some. I now do Mt. Bonnell and Hill of Life repeats once a week, and more legs/less upper body on all my 3 weight training mornings. My body finally adapting to eating changes I made, and I can see a little bit of results (slow, but hopefully here to stay). I am also now 3 weeks on new meds - for low thyroid function, and while my thyroid tests were all totally normal, I convinced my doctor to give it a shot. By now I can say I can at least get through my work day and not fall flat on my face of exhaustion once at home (did I mention my fatigue finally spread out from running related exertion to other exercises to my physically demanding job and working too many hours for a massage therapist?). As far as running, for a week prior beginning this new treatment and 2 first week on it I haven't run a step, giving me a clean break, and now started to throw a jogging fits inside my walks. My Monday River place trail 4 mile loop was awesome with I say at least 2/3 of it being ran (shuffled?), and today I probably made 1/2 of 5 mile road path as a jog. But so far I still haven't strung a continuous mile of running, nor can I justify calling it "running" quite yet. It still feels good to hope.
My best friend

"I wouldn't trade the present for the past, at any moment. I prefer everything that's happened since" Jill Homer, 3/24/17

I am who I am because what happened to me when it did - and because of the people who I met on my way and who influenced me. And I like who I am today.
But I am going to deliberately try and not reach out a few folks I check on regularly - I still do care though I often wonder if they care back. Who knows, they might be happy about my silence 😆


Thomas Bussiere said...

We care, don't be silent, keep hope close.

Steve Pero said...

Deb and I have always considered you and Larry as friends....or even better, Hardrock family!
On another note, you'll be moving to CO., we're moving to Texas to be closer to grandkids. Might happen this year is the house here sells. We're thinking Tyler area where it's wetter and greener than NH ;-)

Olga said...

Thank you, Thomas and Steve (and Deb). I think we have a different word for a friend depending on the closeness. I have many friends, and I am truly blessed. At the same time, this post wasn't a whining one, just contemplating. As one of my friends (see, how else do you call people you know versus people who are as close as sister?) said in response to reading it: "I also think that the older we get, the more we pair down and simplify our life, we end up with less people around, but with more affection and companionship." Quality over quantity. And that is a great thing. And wow, Steve, moving to TX! What about homestead? Tyler is nice, I ran a race there once, it has pine trees and other tall trees!

Steve Pero said...

As it is with all things in Texas, the homestead will be bigger and better. A 7 acre property in NH will become a 20-30 acre property in Texas. Animals, all kinds. We'll be bringing our goats and geese (and dogs) and will get some horses and maybe even a family cow. ;-)

Olga said...

This sounds fantastic! We didn't get to visit your homestead in NH, but hopefully in TX👍😆. I am guessing that you will be retiring now?

Steve Ansell said...

I always enjoy reading your posts Olga even though we don't get to see each other in person now that we are both sort of "outside" the ultrarunning community. You have a great perspective on life and friendship. Thanks for sharing.

Olga said...

Brother, how was Alaska? Will I hear about that in any shape or form? Glad to see you back. Hugs.

Steve Pero said...

That's the plan...sell the house and retire in Nov. I'll be 66. :-)

Of course you'll come and visit! We'll almost be neighbors!

Dale Jamieson said...

good to see you're as strong as ever Olga, a real life inspiration.