Monday, May 11, 2009


This weekend was transformative. The air shifted; the taste of bittersweet so tangible.

As most weekends do, it began on Friday, innocuously enough. And then, just past noon, it soured on a dime. My mother lost her job for the second time in a year. I offered her words of encouragement - the type that promise that these things happen as they do so that you're propelled forward in life. She and I both know that she'll move onward and upward, but that doesn't mean it doesn't sting.

Then an hour later - the souring day turned rancid. My aunt Karen, like my uncle Roger - her husband - not three years ago, suddenly collapsed at home and died. Found by one of my cousins each time. The shock hit my abdomen like a medicine ball. What happened? No one knows. But it's heartbreaking.

I've never felt compelled to divulge this kind of intimacy on a blog, over the internets, for all of you friends and strangers alike, but this weekend evolved into something profoundly affecting, and it seems right to write.

Later that evening, after I broke my eyeglasses and after my cat sailed out of my window like a flying squirrel by attaching himself to my screen with every claw and pushing outward on his magic carpet of freedom (I found him some time later), I went to bed puffy-eyed, tear-stained, and concerned that there was no way in holy hell I would be able to run a 5k - my FIRST 5k - in the morning.

But I got up, laced the shoes, and went.

I stood in line, waiting for the race to start, earphones in, conscious of the shirt I was wearing - a T-shirt made by a friend, of a friend - Lowry - who just endured a bilateral mastectomy and is in the process of kicking cancer's ass, preparing for an unanticipated and unexpected round of chemo to start in a few weeks. I was proud to run for her.

As Miley Cyrus cried out that the race was on (this is L.A., after all), I slowly churned through the throng, reading the backs of every T-shirt in my eyeline - "I run to support my mother," "I am a survivor," "I run in memory of my sister." Then there were the photos on the T-shirts. The words, the photos, the dates commemorating a loved one's death... "Running Mix" kicked off on my iPod and it was then that Lykke Li caught me off-guard:

"And don't you let me go, let me go tonight..."

And I started to cry. Big fat tears carving through the thin layer of sweat I was already accumulating. I cried for everything - for my aunt and my family, for my mother's job loss, for Lowry, for these people on this course, and the people who couldn't be on this course, and for myself, somewhat in awe that I was even attempting this race in the first place.

That moment forever redefined Lykke Li's "Tonight" for me.

It's an amazing thing when a song's meaning morphs so utterly and completely - and instantly. Just a week ago, that song propelled me around the reservoir, thighs and butt pumping in rhythm with its assumed metronome. Not an ass-kicking song, by any means, but it was a running anthem for me, nonetheless.

Now it sits in my iTunes, overtaken by the powerful moment at that Start Line, weighed heavy with emotion.

My tears soon dried, my mind refocused, and I continued running, more benign fare pumping through my earphones. I made it all 3.1 miles to the end of the race without stopping once, and I decided to turn off the music as I entered the Coliseum. I didn't want an artificial soundtrack for the homestretch. Then I saw my friend Bella waving me on, I saw the finish line, and I heard "Tonight" in my head, and I cried this time, totally overwhelmed and elated.

I cried once more this weekend, very quickly, silently, and unnoticed, while hiking up to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains, with my friend Rebecca. After several hours of mildly strenuous hiking, and a steep scramble to the top, we stood on the peak, looking out over miles of mountains, towering over the clouds. While Rebecca climbed over the monument at the top, I felt the familiar sting welling in the corner of each eye. But this time, it was not preempted by any sadness; it was sheer exhilaration. The sting retreated as quickly as it came.

If I - afraid of heights as they come - could climb to the top of this peak, one day after running my first 5k, and two days after receiving some emotionally draining news, I must be stronger than I think, both physically and emotionally.

I think I'll reclaim "Tonight," not as a song reflecting a moment of gut-wrenching emotion, but rather, a moment of mind-boggling triumph.

I will.

Lykke Li - "Tonight"

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