Listen to the Ali on the Run Show!
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Last night, my BFF Michael came over to deliver some wonderful treats. She’s a great friend and an excellent neighbor. One of the magical treats was a huge bag of Starburst. She knows what I like.
This morning, Brian came back from his training ride as I was getting out of the shower.
With a big, goofy grin on his face, he looked at me and asks, “Did you eat Starburst for breakfast?!”
“No,” I told him. Because I hadn’t.
“What’s that smell then?” sweet Brian asked.
I just sort of gave him a little smile, and then he realized: “Is that mango soap?!”
You’re damn right you smell mango soap, buddy! (And good idea on the Starburst for breakfast…)
I’m celebrating today. I’m celebrating happiness and a slight semblance of health. I’m also celebrating a hat trick: three bathroom stop-free runs in three days.
I already told you about Sunday’s run.
Yesterday, I was able to get out for a lunchtime run along the West Side Highway — the route where I fell in love with running a few years ago. It was a beautiful day and I ended up covering 7.1 miles without making a single stop.
Then, this morning, I made my way to Central Park, and when I tell you it was a perfect morning to be out there, I really mean it was the most perfect day of all time. Everyone was out. Everyone was happy. Brian was in the park riding and I saw him three times, and that always adds a little pep to my otherwise husky step.
This morning, I ran 8.5 miles and I did not have to stop and use a bathroom even one time. I ran happy and dare I say I ran healthy? I even got to spend a few minutes at the end chatting with Bernie. But then someone sat on him, so I left.
So that’s my hat trick: Three runs, no stops. This feels downright monumental. I know not to get too excited about these things, but I’m also in a perpetual “you can’t bring me doooooown!” (name that musical) kind of mood these days.
While Brian and I were driving back from Massachusetts on Sunday evening, Kelly Clarkson’s song “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” came on the radio.
“Ugh, change it,” I told him right away. “I hate this song.”
And then I backtracked.
“I actually don’t hate the song,” I claimed. “I just hate the title of it and I hate that quote. I hate when people say that to me when I’m sick.”
It’s true: Whenever I’m in my darkest, lowest places, someone inevitably comes around to optimistically remind me that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
And, inevitably, I hate that person and refuse to give into this quote. Because when I’m so sick and so sad, I don’t believe that having Crohn’s and dealing with those flare-ups will make me stronger. I only feel like it’s killing me.
Crohn’s disease doesn’t make me stronger physically, no. It kicks my ass.
But I guess I’m somewhat on board with the quote now. Because mentally, I am a hell of a lot stronger than I have ever been. This disease — its big ups and those down down downs that come on without notice — has changed me so profoundly over these past few years.
I was in such a bad place last year at this time that I even scared myself, let alone scaring my loved ones. I was so unstable and just so incredibly unhappy. I was sick and exhausted and I cried to the point of dehydration.
So maybe this disease has made me stronger after all.
Or maybe the strength comes with age.
I turn 29 today.
I am not where I ever thought I would be at 29, I suppose.
Growing up, I assumed that at a fairly young age, I’d be married with children, a house, a car or two and a thing people refer to as a “401(k).” I didn’t ever have a “plan,” just loose expectations based on my own parents’ lives (married at 23, Ryan at 25, me at 27, happily ever after soon thereafter).
If nothing else, having a chronic and unpredictable illness has taught me that making plans — life plans, lofty plans, long-term plans, dinner plans — is actually kind of overrated. (And if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than a year or so, you know that this is a major shift in mindset; but a good one.)
I hate that I feel like I lost the past two years of my life — I don’t have an abundance of happy memories from age 28. My disease took over and I didn’t get to do so many things. I didn’t get to run all those races I registered for, I didn’t get to take that trip to Hawaii with Brian, and I didn’t get to plan or attend Tyler’s first birthday party. I missed out on so much.
This disease — and perhaps the wisdom I’ve gained in the past 29 years — has made me appreciate today. I appreciate every good day.
I may get sick again tomorrow and that may lead me down a spiral that sucks away another two years of my life.
But I just had a great weekend, and a few great weekends before that, and today started the best way I can imagine.
I am basking in every single one of these good days.
As I walked home through Central Park last night, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the gorgeous flowers in full bloom. At one point, I stuck my face right into a pink-flowered tree.
I realized at that moment that I was finally in a good, can’t-stop-smiling kind of mental place: I had literally stopped to smell the roses…or cherry blossoms.
Last year I made a whole bunch of birthday wishes for myself. Some never came true (Celine Dion hasn’t committed to a New York City residency and I didn’t get to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon), but so many of the important ones eventually did — it just took a really, really long time.
I ran a lap of the Reservoir…and then I ran many more laps, and even the New York City Marathon.
I’ve enjoyed a few days without pain.
I got to be at Tyler’s birthday party.
I’ve slept through the night, I got a new couch and I did eventually get my Pepperidge Farm cake (it wasn’t as delicious as I had remembered).
Best of all, I got to remember what it feels like to be healthy. Maybe not fully, but good enough really is good enough for now.
I’m embracing a new job, a change in environment and atmosphere, and a lot of really valuable, quality relationships. Sometimes it seems like a miracle that I have friends left after these past few years. I know I haven’t been the most fun, the most available or the most tolerable, but that makes me cherish the people in my life so much more.
Thank you for sticking with me through the past year. I imagine reading my nonstop complaining about being sick wasn’t entertaining at times, but the support I found through this blog has been life-changing. The Tweets, comments and emails I’ve received on my worst days are the ones that kept me going. You have kept me going. You helped me get to 29.
Now for real, when are we going to have our Cheese & Dairy Queen & Pitch Perfect Singalong & Baby-Sitter’s Club Movie Viewing & Lurlene McDaniel Book Club Party? I already said I’d host, I just need a headcount. And someone to bring the Dairy Queen.
So let’s do this, 29. Hit me with your best shot.