15 stronger

I’ve been writing a story that involves a lavender thistle, and last week at a café on Broughton St., I sat at a table with numerous lavender thistle centerpieces.

Photo by A.I

I wrote a story that begins with a careful observation about cemeteries, and then two weeks later, a tour guide explained to me how Abercorn St. was built over hundreds of graves, that cemeteries, like Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, shrunk under concrete.

Photo by A.I.

I’ve listened to Maroon 5 to motivate most afternoon runs the past 7 weeks, and then last Sunday their latest hit was playing as I approached the finish line of the Hot Chocolate Run in Atlanta.

These didn’t happen for me. Like Emerson says, I recognize that what dresses as happiness today can be mournful tomorrow. But I thank their coincidence. How things interact can heighten a mood or bend a thought. I’m down for that.

What’s not a coincidence is my friend asking me to do 15k with her. I stammered out a yes, willing that I’d try. It would be my first race. In the last few years, my commitment to running has been intermittent. Knowing I was going to run at a distance I’d never run and knowing I’d do it alongside a fit, competitive woman motivated me to commit to training for 7 weeks thereafter.

Every single time I went for a practice run, I’d be at heel of how incapable I was, how I’d probably end up steering to the 5k route instead. For some reason, that talk also pushed me—not in the way you see in movies. This push was thick with sometimes lead feet and down-talking nerves. But it also got me into running stores to get the right shoes or talking to runners around me for advice on shins and cadence and such. In short time, I built a small wardrobe and toolkit for how to make this work. And since I hadn’t run 7.5 miles straight, the suggested mileage to practice before a 15k, I was super nervous about dropping shy of my goal. What I didn’t suspect was that it wasn’t my ability that would bring me to the finish line; it would be my determination not to fail.


The early morning of our race, runners in their race bibs and running gear gathered at Centennial Olympic Park. The quiet energy followed us in the morning dark. We walked to our corrals and waited. We moved forward as waves of runners were released to the run. As our hoard got closer to the start line, I squealed at my running partner and pulled her close for an excited hug.


In that 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 moment, I caught my breath and recognized that when you’re an adult, it’s less common to become sharply excited about something in that way. For instance, when it snowed earlier this month, my kids screamed and charged out the door to play, carried away on that lightning expectation of fun. I think adulating can suck that out of us. Instead of high-heartbeat excitement, we may instead choose to get carried away with the opposite energy—the calm, curled up and sedentary moments of quiet where we can decompress.

But when the MC yelled, “GO!” and our time started, I felt raw, uninhibited excitement even though I knew there was only work ahead. I think it’s because I was about to figure out something about myself.

There’s something to be said about getting to mile 2 when you know there’s so much left to go, and in that instant you’re aware that there is nothing else to do but to move forward, to push beyond what your body is used to doing. The race path yields such truth about life.

What is a coincidence is what happened the day after the race.

In Farsi, when there is irreparable, grimy damage between you and someone else, you may say that there is “shisheh khoordeh,” which means broken glass. Over two years ago I got hit with a really negative situation that I won’t go into too much to respect members in my family. In short I was misunderstood and mistreated, and it has taken me [is still taking me] too long to loosen its grip. I would think about the incidents in the shower, on drives, over too many personal moments. Its memory made my hands feel numb; it created these electric shocks in my stomach. This situation affected my marriage and took a lot of self-control and friendship to endure that first year.

I still have those uncontrollable aftershocks that run through my stomach, or “del” in Farsi. The beauty of it in Farsi is that “del” is, in matters of emotions, interchangeable with heart. Breaking your heart or your stomach carry a similar weight—“delamoh sheekoondy” (you broke my heart). The phrase both represents and captures the core.

Early in the evening after race day, I was forced to face a true catalyst of that time I try so hard to let go. I hated that the old and awful shit once again infected such a triumphant day, but I felt too strong to be passive yet again. I didn’t want to feel hurt; instead, I wanted to take charge of it. In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Manson talks about taking responsibility for anything that happens in your life—even if you’re a victim, you are responsible for the decisions you make afterward. In his own way, Manson encourages that something good can be done with those aftershocks.

The following day, with that feeling of shattered glass, I took steps to help control part of the dilemma that affects my family the most in the form of uncomfortable but open conversation. I’ve decided to move forward without the ghost of unworthy causes, without the loss of precious energy, but with, instead, the grab and plump of boundaries. And now I feel there is a chance for that.

And where we place our energy is the big life question.

My friend is gearing her year towards a specific word, one that will draw lines that will help her claim and enact her vision. To do the same task, I would say that my pinpoint word is Stronger. I feel a might inside that I want to protect. I think my biggest fear of the year, then, is anything that will make me disappointed in myself, that will diminish that strength, because I know now—for miles and miles—that it is determination matched with coincidence that helps me be more capable than I thought.

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Lilac

There is a light purple rose in half bloom near an entrance to my house. It caught my eye tonight.

I had just put pajamas on Zade and tapered the bedtime routine. I opened my laptop and set my mug of hot green tea next to it. I looked out the window and saw what we’ve been waiting for today: snow. I yelled “Snow!” like a sailor at sea who just spotted land, and the house went a blur. Kids put boots and coats on faster than I’ve ever seen. Socks became mittens; pajamas became snowsuits. And off they went.

They played with Kal outside while I took the warmer approach and made hot chocolate for them. When the kids came in, they were utterly exhilarated. Layla said it was one of the best endings to a night. Zade was so excited he knocked over his drink. Frost still in their hair–with the kitchen looking like a chocolate crime scene–the kids jumped about undeterred by anything less real than the magical effects of that first lain snow.

Just minutes before, it was Zade who called to me so I could see his makeshift shovel (red solo cup) filled with snow, and that solo bloom and I stared at each other for a minute. She was handling the snow like some of those dried Georgia leaves still swinging on their trees. Maybe she opened up when I was wearing flip-flops just 3 days ago. Maybe she’s part of those hybrid minis that is ever-blooming.

Last year brought us four new seasons with different windows to look out of. This month marks the end of that one year of new.  In fact, we were snowed in last year around this time. I was in another world of excitement then. But other natural things have happened here, too.  We’ve tenderly broken in this new place. The dishwasher broke and the kids cracked the new sink in their bathroom, for example. I think I wrote less in my favorite room with the view. But I wrote more in a leather journal I keep near me instead and started taking ideas in different rooms comfortably. The house became a home, the relationship changed. My year-long date has now changed its status.

I’m trying out new relationships as well, and this includes new books that feel so right, people who I’ve spent quality time with, this first-ever Mac I’m typing on now (total self-discovery adjustment coming from PC world; even scrolling up and down is somewhat painful right now), a newly-fitted pair of running shoes to which I’ve proposed marriage, and a deeper look at Georgia’s breadth (which includes a small town and a real and true train ride that my friend made happen).

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I want to be like that free-blooming flower who figures, what the heck. I’ll give this a try because, well, it feels right to do so right now. A little more present, a little less inhibited, and with the wisdom to let it roll. I tasted this last year, and now I want more.

All commitments in life should give us the freedom to make wider and wider snow angels like the ones I’d get lost in under the gray Chicago sky spread over my backyard. I’d raise my arms up and down, up and down. The feeling alone spun outside me for a minute. I’d look to the side and exhale. I’d hear silence and feel seen. It was a purposeful magic.

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