Detroit Blood

I’ve gone soft.

The change happened over a span of 8 years while adjusting to and then permanently residing in West Michigan. The adaptations have been gradual, of course, but the reality hit me today like a rush hour traffic jam on 696. Fast.

When I left the Detroit area, I left in my black ’99 Ford Taurus, seat tilted back, rap turned up, one hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, pushing 90mph and weaving in and out of traffic. Fast forward a few years and I’m returning in my white 2011 Mazda3, driving 74mph, white knuckled at 10 and 2 with straight seat back and Carrie Underwood streaming through my Bluetooth radio.

You could say things have changed a bit.

When I first sped into West Michigan 8 years ago, I cursed the slow drivers and the laid back attitudes. I stained my walk and talk with Detroit blood like a badge of honor and I’d bad mouth anyone who dissed the D.

But over the years, I grew softer. My speech calmed, my speedometer slowed, and my pace slagged. I started to look at Detroit as a concrete jungle full of aggressive type As. I hated it and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to move back. There’s no opportunity there. The housing market hasn’t recovered. It’s dangerous!

And in many ways I have loved that I’ve softened. I don’t need to feed off aggression or memorize speed traps. I can relax. And it is nice to be relaxed…

But I realized today that becoming soft also robs you of some things. Pride, for starters. I have pride in West Michigan but as an Eastsider I had pride in myself. I knew that if you wanted something, you had to get aggressive. No one is letting you in their lane because you used your turn signal. They’re letting you in because you shot the gap into the one car length ahead of them that they didn’t mean to give you. And if you managed to switch lanes without immediately slamming on your brakes, you earned the right to be there.

Becoming soft also robs you of growth. When have you ever faced a new challenge resting on your heels and come out on top? I didn’t think so.

And, in an unexpected twist, being soft limits your happiness. The happiest people are those who constantly try new things, push their limits, conquer new goals.

As I drove 696 tonight, I realized the beauty of the Eastside. I tilted my seat back just a little. I opened my sun roof and switched my radio to Nappy Roots, for old time’s sake. In a stroke of luck, I caught the echo of classic V8 engines roaring through the cement jungle after a night ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise. I breathed in the hot pavement, rubber and exhaust of the city and thought to myself, “My children will never know the lure of this place like I did.”

My Detroit blood has thinned over the years but it still courses throughout my veins with every beat of my heart and every rev of a V8 engine. It’s still inside of me. And it always will be.

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The Happiest 5k on the Planet

My alarm went off at 5:50am this morning, reminding me that I was about to run in The Color Run – Grand Rapids with one day’s worth of training under my belt and some pre-existing knee pain.

5:50am. Yuck.

My parents were up for the weekend to take care of some GR chores, so I guilted my mom into coming as my support. She was already in the shower when my alarm went off and I shuddered to think of how tired she must be.

Geared up, I headed downtown with my mom to sign-in. I was meeting up with some girlfriends for the run and found them with relative ease.

This is what we looked like before the run:

TheColorRunBefore

Clean, fresh-faced, and ready to go!

And after:

TheColorRunAfter

Success! Running with girlfriends is so much better than running alone!

The race isn’t timed so we finished when we finished and threw that competitive awkwardness out the window. I may not have been in shape but I had a great time today with my friends. When I needed to walk, we walked. But they definitely pushed me to run!

Here’s my advice: If you have little running experience, I highly recommend signing up as a 5k team leader when you’re feeling ambitious. I know that doesn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense but thinking about it: If you lose motivation? Too bad. You’re the leader! You’re committed to running it because people are counting on you!

5ks are kind of my new thing. They’re long enough to make you feel accomplished when you’re out of shape but short enough to be within reach. And it might have something to do with something my mom said to me today about happy people too:

She told me that the happiest people actually engage in more activities that sit outside their comfort zone. Out of curiosity or a desire to tackle something new on their list, they sign up for those things they’ve never done before and, once they complete them, they’re happier for it.

Don’t go thinking that’s made a runner out of me (yet!) – but I continue to see 5ks in my future. And someday soon, I’ll take on something new!

TheColorRunColorPacks

www.thecolorrun.com

A special thanks to my mom for cheering us on and documenting our day! It means a lot to me!

Mourning Utilities with a Happy Heart.

Here’s the countdown, if you can believe it: I am 10 days away from marrying my best friend. At this point, I’ve surpassed the wedding jitters and just want to get on with the show, okay?! Next Saturday feels like miles away and we cannot wait to be married to each other!

It’s great, preparing to marry your companion. It’s exciting and fun and joyful. It doesn’t feel strange either. Looking up marriage license information doesn’t seem strange to me at all. Nor does calling to confirm appointments or putting on my wedding dress at the fitting. It’s not strange to pick up our keys to our new place. These things just aren’t strange to me!

But for whatever reason, today when I put a stop notice on my gas utility service for October 24, it flipped my stomach.

No more favorite little apartment.

No more coming home to my own space.

I will never go home to something that is just mine ever again.

Don’t get me wrong! Every night I come home to my little apartment now, I wish Freddy would come too. That’s why it is strange that I feel this ping that I’m leaving something behind. A heart tug over utilities?!?!?

I went to a church service once about change. (Well, to be fair, I’ve heard many sermons about change…but this one sticks out in my head.) I’m certain I’ve mentioned it before, but the idea behind it was that change is difficult for us. End of story. Be it bad, good, or great change – we must go through a season of mourning for whatever we leave behind in change.

So here I am, mourning my little apartment while at the same time decorating our new apartment in my mind, filling it with pictures and laughter and Freddy’s guitar playing and piano.

The whole thing is just an unexpected reminder that we, as people, struggle with change even when we yearn for it.

It’s a good lesson to come across with such a happy heart. Remind me of this later in life. I’m certain that I will need it!

Aging: A Series

I’ve decided that I might like to write a series on aging.

Yes, I realize that statement might leave you wondering exactly what qualifies me for such a series at 24 years-old. However, if you are sitting at your desk wondering that same thought, I have already considered your doubt and would, therefore, like to state my credentials for you now:

This very year, I found my first gray white hair.

It’s true.

Well, to be completely honest, I never really did find it. Rather it was brought to my attention amid cheers, clapping and glee as my fiance’s eyes grew very large (a particular feat, as they are already quite large). He let out an excited gasp, which was followed immediately by a sharp tug felt on the top of my head.

“Look!” he exclaimed as he brought down a single strand of colorless hair.

Oh, how I wished it would slip from his fingers as he moved his arm downward, but his grasp seemed strengthened with maddening joy.

I took it between my fingers to examine the foreign strand and I admit, I felt a sickening twinge of betrayal deep within my gut. My own body had already begun to turn against me after only 24 years of living. How awful. It wasn’t just the hair either. Those fine lines that I had earlier blamed on an overabundance of makeup began to morph into a permanent fixture in my eyes.

And perhaps it was that day that I finally raised a flag to aging: White…the color of surrender.

A Jubilant Valentine’s Day to You

Today is Saint Valentine’s Day, a day historically known for the recognition of Christian martyrs by the name “Valentine” but which has since become an iconic day of love and romance, colored with roses, chocolates and champagne. It’s a day that young couples wait for, married couples pray not forget, and single people altogether curse. But Valentine’s Day is something a little different for me. It’s a reminder – of love, yes – but not a romantic or Hallmark love. It is a reminder that I am surrounded by love, real love, all of the other 364 days of the year, just as I am today.

One year ago today, I was in the midst of heartache and heartbreak. I had just told my aunt and uncle a week or so before that I was unexpectedly singled at the tail end of January (it had taken me that long to muster up the strength to even talk about it). Don’t get too caught up with that part of the story though; my Valentine’s Day story isn’t about heartache, that’s just a precursor to one of the best Valentine’s Day presents I’ve ever received:

Plainly put, my aunt and uncle, they spent the day with me. They found a way to wrap me up entirely in their Valentine’s Day plans. They did so in such a way that leads me to believe they felt no burden nor obligation to cheer me. They did not regret sharing their day with me. They just loved in an inclusive, welcoming way. We took every step with one another. My aunt and uncle took me cross-country skiing, waiting patiently as I learned and lagged. They took me to the market to pick out lobster with them. We shared our feast for three amidst glasses of red wine and popping butter for dipping, and laughter and love. And I was a part.

Do you know what it feels like to completely share in a couple’s day? I have a few friends and family who are so giving of their time that they have allowed me to share completely with them in their plans. When you are with a couple like that, you are not singled and they are not coupled. You are not a guest and they are no longer hosts. When you find a couple that opens up their lives so that you may share yours with them and theirs with you, you cannot help but linger in the delight of their effortlessness. Though I have experienced it more than this once, I believe it is very rare.

Valentine’s Day is that reminder to me of love, real love – the kind of love that opens doors and invites you into a family, a sense of belonging when you feared that you did not belong.

I think that I will always love Valentine’s Day for that reason.

I am also happy to note that this year I do have a Valentine. Though I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not need one to celebrate the day, I am glad to have this one (and this one in particular). It is true that sometimes what we believe are curses are truly blessings working their way through. I am blessed through him. It is not merely a vase of roses and chocolates placed proudly in my kitchen while I am away at work on this love-inspired holiday, it is much, much more. It is in the other 364 days that he shares with me. I have a Valentine that takes me to church on Sundays, that encourages me when pride threatens to fold me, that lets me cry when emotions are rampant, that laughs with me and sings with me, and both demands and grants kisses if ever angry.

I do believe I’ve come to be appreciative of Saint Valentine’s Day, for reminding me of these things.

Reflection Questions for 2010

It’s that time of year again; it’s time to reflect on 2010 and begin planning for 2011, to think up what resolutions I will drop and which I will keep and to evaluate which have already been completed. The end of the year is always a time of reflection and this year, I have much to reflect upon.

I started this blog back in March of this year and I have to say, in it is captured the greatest growth that one short season has ever given me. If you have stuck with me since then, you have noted highs and some lows, challenges, questions, growth, setbacks, tears and fears, and countless mentions of love or laughter. 2010 has been quite the year. So in honor of my “Season of Growth,” I’m choosing to complete a simple questionnaire:

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

  • I chose to grow positively from my experiences and in doing so, I opened doors for me that I would not have expected to open. I learned to take risks. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone and into given situations which then became a new comfort zone once entered. I learned to forgive and to live refusing to hold certain grudges. I allowed myself to be broken down and rebuilt. I prayed. I focused on my present situation only. I laughed a ton. And I lived.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

  • I more-so-gracefully-than-ungracefully made it to the other side of unpredicted heartbreak. I spent every day in prayer for peace and for God’s plan to be shown to me. I stayed up all hours of the night because my dreams were the only things I couldn’t control and I worked far too many hours for distraction. I cried, mostly alone, every day and every night until I could not cry anymore. And I kept a smile on my face so that others would not allow me to despair in public or judge me for my burden.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

  • Travel and the adventure found therein. I flew to Jamaica with a friend and jumped from a (very small) cliff into the water below before getting stuck in a taxi cab ride with a prostitute. I bought a ticket to Denver, Colorado to see an old friend and embarked on my first solo plane flight; once there, we went white water rafting. I traveled to my first-ever weekend concert in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin with one of my best friends to trudge through mud and dance until my legs gave out. I returned to Colorado to see dear friends and we spent a night up camping in the mountains. Every trip taught me something new and all of them taught me a little more about adventure, peace, feeling “home” on the road, and about myself.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

  • Fear of succeeding. I allowed myself to tackle adventure after adventure but often found myself holding back from the practical adventures or obstacles in life. I can jump out of a plane but I have not figured out how to give more to my job or take care of car troubles or forego procrastination.

5. Pick three words to describe 2010.

  • Spontaneous
  • Present
  • Unknown

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2010 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).

I do not have a spouse, but if I were to choose three words they would be:

  • Maturing
  • Graceful
  • Surprising

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2010 (again, without asking).

I haven’t a spouse and there is not much I know about this particular 2010. But to guess:

  • Maturing
  • Happy
  • Trying

8. What were the best books you read this year?

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

  • My aunt and uncle
  • My parents
  • My sister
  • And my two dearest girlfriends who encouraged me throughout the year

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

  • I learned what it is to “Be Megan.”

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

  • I refused to nurse grudges.
  • I became the sole determinant of my attitude.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

  • I learned to seek God in every day and listen to his direction with a little more clarity.
  • I tried to live a life of grace and forgiveness as I was taught.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

  • A gained a considerable amount of weight and jumped up a pant-size. I’m still battling the effects of that. It’s been a stressful year!

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

  • I focused more on preserving or growing those relationships that mean so much to me. Some of them grew, some of them did not, but my focus shifted more from myself to the mutual nature of my relationships. I accepted the reality of one relationship and found peace; I am now finding forgiveness and truth and honesty.

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?

  • Everything, from choosing which cupboard to put the coffee mugs to water the Christmas tree. There is something absolutely joy-inspiring in having your own home.

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?

  • Bills, bills, bills. And giving up excuses about not calling maintenance or not being able to kill that spider.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

  • Facebook without a doubt. It has served as my addiction.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?

  • My most beneficial use of time was discovering the things I like and don’t like, the things I want to change and those I do not want to change. Figuring out me.

19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

  • I am stronger than my circumstances (though with the help of God and friends).

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2010 for you.

As if you couldn’t guess…

  • Enjoy living in the now; act spontaneously; embrace the unknown.