Does it get any easier?


Just after college, I lived with John Schmidt and his brother Dave in a one bedroom apartment. I did warn that I have lots of John stories.

We would go running most evenings, through the rolling hills of the streets of Monrovia. John would hold back and run my pace with me, I would try running faster so that he wouldn't be bored. He'd often run ahead when we were out of the "bad" parts of town, ones that really weren't so bad.

Most times, my times would improve. Not always, but most times. One evening, having run harder than I had before, I asked in exasperation, "Does this ever get any easier?!?" John laughed, and said, "It doesn't."

"It doesn't get any easier, because you're always pushing yourself. Running slower becomes easier, but running hard never does."

Playing in traffic

After I left college, I dated John Schmidt. John was my second boyfriend in college, having dumped me for a senior, Nicole (who has since married Gaylon Lovelace). John and I lived with his older brother Dave, who has only 3 of his 9 lives left, is one of the luckiest men alive and keeps his guardian angel quite busy. We all lived in a one bedroom apartment in Monrovia, and later moved into a 3 bedroom house in Arcadia. Although the end of the relationship was hard, the beginning and middle were pretty darn good.

I have a lot of John Schmidt stories.

Some of them good.

John had a friend who was in many motorcycle accidents. His main mode of transportation was his motorcycle, so he rode a lot. Since more time on a motorcycle means greater exposure in traffic, he was at a greater risk for accidents.

When John first started spending time with this friend, he thought he was just one of the unlucky people who balanced the great cosmic scales with his amazingly lucky brother. The guy was in three motorcycle accidents, each time having been hit by the other driver, and survived each one. Sure, he sued the insurance companies, won each time as the other driver was clearly at fault, and had his medical bills paid for. He was hit three times: that was three times he could have died.

Just an unlucky guy, right?

John and I each purchased motorcycles soon after we started dating. We took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation CC Rider Safety class, learned safe riding, rode defensively. John enjoyed the experience more than I, and would ride more than I. He would often go riding with this friend.

One evening, John came home in a fit. He threw down his helmet (not really), and talked in a huff about his friend and his riding style. Turns out, sure, the friend always rode the speed limit, but he didn't ride in a safe location. He would ride in other drivers' blind spots. Or he would approach a car from behind at high speeds, not giving a driver a chance to see him. He would assume the other drivers saw him, instead of assuming they didn't.

So, sure, the accidents were technically the fault of the other driver, but the friend could have driven in such a way to prevent his being in a dangerous position: he could have prevented the accidents if he drove differently.

Last night, Kris and I were walking the dogs along our normal route. As we approached an intersection, Kris stopped at the corner with the dogs. The girls aren't allowed to cross the street without being told it's okay, so Kris always stops at intersections with the dogs. I often continue walking, as the three of them will always catch back up.

I started crossing the street, noticing a car approaching the intersection from the right. The intersection is a four way stop sign, so I think little of the car. It was approaching the intersection fast (25, maybe 30 mph), but it started slowing as it approached.

Slowing, but not stopping.

The car went right through the intersection.

Straight through.

Towards me.

I was still crossing the street when I heard Kris cry, "Watch out!" I planted my left foot and spun around, pushing off as hard as I could.

The car missed my back foot by less than 8".

I turned back around and screamed some completely unintelligible curse words, raising my hand up in an angry gesture at the red Acura with a license plate with a 4ND in it. The car screeched to a stop a short distance down the street.

The driver didn't get out of the car. He did see the angry woman gesturing menacingly at him. No one was hurt, he drove away.

Kris hurried up to me, to see if I were okay. The adrenaline rush was fading, causing the sick, tired feeling in my whole body. I was fine, just a bit shaken up.

The incident started me thinking though. Is there something I'm doing, or not doing, when I walk that is causing drivers to just not see me? Do I need to walk more defensively? Could the problem be that I force my pedestrians-have-the-right-of-way right-of-way too much, or in situations where, sure, I have the right of way, but if I'm dead, it's small consolation.

Be careful what you wish for

Everyone over the age of 8 has heard the saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." When you want something badly enough, and your mind and your body decide to follow, mountains can be moved. Even when just your mind decides to help, you can get your wish.

A while ago, like last November, after Regionals were over and my toenails were all black and bloodied from ultimate abuse, I pondered having my toenails surgerically removed. I couldn't decide if I truly wanted to have them removed, might I regret it later? How long do I expect to play ultimate anyway? Things like that. Not two months later, I started to lose a different toenail than I was contemplating removing. Voila! Gross things, but soon I'll see a nail-less toe and can use that in my decision.

Or how about learning to scan the ultimate field better? Higher level atheletes are very good at scanning a field before deciding what to do. Cameras that watch the eyes of professional athletes show they are more aware of movements on the fields than amateur athletes. A series of migraines back in November caused a reduction of peripheral acuity, forcing me to scan the field in order to see what I would have normally seen 4 months ago. I know something's there, I just can't see it, so I scan my field of view far more than I used to. Out of necessity more than anything else. Rough way to get there, but I actually see more of the field than I used to.

Or how about fewer emotions? Now that's a battle I've had my entire life. Did you look at me funny? When I was younger, I'd probably bawl my head off. Or when I became frustrated, my nose would turn bright red and the sting of tears would start. Funny thing is that since that same said series of migraines I haven't cried once except in the case of extreme physical pain (and damn it hurt!). I keep thinking, huh, I feel like I should cry right now: I'm frustrated, I'm tired, blah, blah, blah. But I don't. Maybe because I'm getting older and my hormones are shifting. Maybe because I'm actually somewhat happy in life. Maybe because those migraines shifted something. Maybe because John Schmidt's saying, "Nothing to be done about it? Then don't worry about it." finally sunk in. Maybe I just realized what it was going to take to finally get to where I know I want to be.

And sitting on my ass just wishing isn't going to cut it.