Adventures in Ikea-land

Let me start off by saying that I have come to despise Black Friday/Post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping about as much as I dislike everything else about the holiday season. Given that I’m probably the poorest person I know (OK, slight exaggeration, but I’m definitely bottom-five), the idea of semi-mandatory spending on gifts for people who already own seven times as much junk as me just breeds resentment. On the other hand, when my roommate tells me that he’s moving out immediately after the new year and I realized that I own exactly one piece of furniture in my living and dining rooms combined, hitting up the sales became mandatory.

This weekend, my father and I went to Ikea in Tempe to buy cheap, reasonably presentable stuff. I wanted to go to Ikea not only because they have everything, but because I’ve never left an Ikea feeling sad. I don’t know what it is about the place. Maybe it’s because they can help you to imagine a fabulous life…

…Or help you, um, open a beauty salon?

…Is it because they can find you a new friend….

…Or because any heart can be warmed by a set of plasticy-shiny Stråla…

…Or because any stomach can be warmed by a satisfying lunch at the Ikea cafe?

And this? I don’t know… Sure.

The magic of Ikea is hard to define; it just is. I can tell you my father was enthralled with everything. Even a retired technician, it seems, can appreciate good design, easy assembly, and volume. I left with several new items, which we spent most of the weekend assembling. I didn’t get all of the deals that I wanted, and I have yet to replace all the items I’m losing when roommate leaves, but it feels good to sit down at the end of the day in a room of things that are mine, that aren’t hand-me-downs, and that I acquired on a memorable, fun day with someone I love.







Thanksgiving Cross-Country Classic 5K

Yesterday turned out to be a decent Thanksgiving. I ran the Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K, organized by the Southern Arizona Roadrunners Club. The SAR puts on a lot of great events which I am rarely able to attend, but the registration fees were reasonable at under $20 and, at the time I registered, it seemed like a good way to force myself out of the house on Thanksgiving. It was also hard to resist the appeal of a cross-country race that boasted hay bales and water jumps.


I hope to have some pics from this race as soon as my father is able to download them from his camera. The end results:

  1. I got a time right around 28 minutes, which is not too shabby on a tough course like this. Loads of hills, obstacles, and uneven terrain.
  2. I had a great time and did something fun and interesting on Thanksgiving.
  3. I saw a handful of people I knew, and promptly tried to hide from them all.
  4. I fell in a ditch and twisted my ankle. Again. This brings me to the point that people with recurring ankle problems perhaps should probably not be running x-country races through ditches.

So… my ankle is several colors and all kinds of swollen today. Walkable, but no good for running and my hopes of getting any significant mileage this week are shot. A couple of days’ rest might not be a bad idea, given that I am still trying to catch up on work and to deal with entertaining my unexpected houseguest. Dad and I had a great Thanksgiving meal at Pastiche here in Tucson; he went with a traditional Thanksgiving meal and I got something more friendly to my dietary needs. However, the task of finding things to do with him, finding things to feed him, and getting my own work done is still sapping my energy a bit. My parents are so settled in to their lives in small-town NY that everything here is overwhelming to my Dad, and everything at home seems to overwhelm my Mom when she’s alone. More on that later, I’m sure. Some big doings are planned for tomorrow…

Be Careful What You Wish For (and, A Hike at Catalina State Park)

After repeated conversations with my parents last week about being depressed, afraid, and worried about being alone, my father decided I was genuinely too depressed to be alone and came out to see me. It is the first time in 4.5 years that any of my friends or family from New York have come to visit. I’m feeling a lot of things about it: happy not to be alone, frustrated to be ambushed and kind of babied (since no one actually asked if this was OK and I was only told about it when he was already on his way), annoyed at being distracted, but relieved to feel loved by someone (a human being) for the first time in months. The panic and depression is less this week… but only because I’m completely being distracted at every single moment.

Anyway, today’s distraction was visiting Catalina State Park in the north of Tucson. What’s great about this park is that it offers a range of trails for everyone from beginner to expert, and even for horseback riding! My father is not much of an athlete, so we just did two easy trails: The Birding Trail, which offers mountain views and a range of birds if you come early in the day, and the Romero Ruin Trail, which offers ruins of an ancient Hohokam village and early Spanish ranch. If you’re into more advanced hiking I recommend taking the trails to Romero Pools, but today this was enough. The entrance fee to Catalina State Park is $7 car, $15/night for camping, but my father’s verdict is that it was well worth the money for great photos. I only took a few, but here are a couple I like. Plus some chocolate dreidels from nearby Sabino Artisan Chocolates. Yum!

Cheesecake and Suicide

Well, despite skipping a long run this past weekend I still managed to get in just over 22 miles this week. That’s about the only good news I have to report.

This has been a rough week. Very rough. I hesitate to write about it because I think this will come across as a cry for help. The real problem is that I just want to say what’s on my mind, and I have nowhere else that’s a “safe” place to say it and no one to say it to. My roommate told me this week that he is moving out on me mid-lease after 3.5 years to get a place with his girlfriend who apparently “can’t do the long distance thing” for six more months until we both finish our Ph.Ds.

Seriously, aside from the completely asinine nature of his move, having him move out on me just reminds me of how alone I am and how little my life has really changed, for all of the work I’ve done this year. I lost nearly 50 pounds, I run faster than I ever did, I’m a vegetarian again, I’m a coach, I stopped drinking. And yet, almost exactly 11 month ago I was crying every day because someone I loved had run out on me, because I was spending the holidays alone, because I felt isolated and worthless. I have cried every day this week. I still feel isolated. I feel worthless. I have had this discussion already with my parents but, aside from them, there is not one single person in my real life that I feel comfortable picking up the phone and calling to say, “I’m having a crisis.”

I had suicidal thoughts. This week, I chose to eat cheesecake instead.

I am ashamed to write this on a blog. I am ashamed at who I am, and how far I still am–at age 32–from everything I wanted to be. I feel like a let-down to myself and others, and I feel like this will never change. How many therapists have I seen since I first went to therapy for depression as a pre-teen? How many combinations of anti-depressants, therapy, exercise, whatever, have I tried without success in an attempt to treat this? When I’m at or near bottom, as I’ve been this week, my therapist and my parents are fond of reminding me that these bad times are never permanent. But the in-between times are never permanent either. I never seem to reach any true, lasting happiness or security and life always, cruelly, has a way of reminding me that somewhere up the road is another cliff for me to plunge off of. If you are not depressed, just try to imagine how it feels. Try to imagine the anxiety, and imagine always doing it alone. Coming home at night to no human companionship, friends who don’t return calls and never want to hang out, family who doesn’t seem to care that you spend the holidays alone. You’d think I must be a horrible person to deserve this. I think I must be a horrible person sometimes, though I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. Sure, I used to drink a few too many beers. And for that I deserve this?

I’ve become so convinced that I’m of so little value to anyone that I don’t try to reach out much anymore. When I spoke with my parents last, I pointed out to them that if something were to happen to me I likely wouldn’t be missed for very long at all by anyone. The fact that I would say this to my parents just shows how detached I’ve become. Things that once seemed like reasons for living now seem like things that would go on without me. I’m not threatening suicide, but I feel like I’ve known for a very long time that this is how things will end for me. I am convinced of these truths:

  • There is no great, romantic love waiting for me.
  • The longer I live, the more of a burden I will become to those who are forced to deal with me.
  • Eventually, I will get tired of this life, I will run out of hope, I will feel I’ve done all the good I can possibly do, and I will realize that nothing but loneliness stretches out in front of me. That is when I will end it.

This isn’t a cry for help. It’s just me trying to make a clear statement on what my life with depression is like. Maybe these words will ring true for someone else with depression; maybe they will help someone else understand all the things that go on in my head when I’m saying nothing at all. I don’t think this will make any difference for me, though. A handful of people who know me in real life know of this blog. I am betting none of them will read it and care enough to say anything to me. That’s how convinced I’ve become of my own invisibility.

But I really wish I wasn’t spending another Thanksgiving alone.

“Fun” with Fives

I hate five-mile runs. I don’t know why. Maybe because:

  • They are just long enough to seem quite tedious on the treadmill
  • They push the limit of how far I can run and still be relatively speedy
  • There is no good loop in my neighborhood that I can run which is exactly five miles

So, in the name of forcing myself to do things I don’t like, I decided to make this a week of fives. Normally I try to do one five miler mid-week, and I go to great lengths to avoid it by running, say, two 4.5 mile runs instead of a 4 and a 5. Yes, it’s crazy. But so am I. This week, though, my walking 5K on Sunday put me behind on weekly miles and I got the idea to try doing four five milers back-to-back. Today was my third run, and it’s actually been going better than expected… aside from some slight malfunctioning with my Garmin. Again.

Slightly old picture of Old Main on the University campus

I did my first run South from my house to the University of Arizona campus and back, but I had to tack on an extra block at the end to bring it to 5 miles. My second run, yesterday, was North to the Rillito River Path, where I normally do my long runs. Today I went to campus again on a slightly longer loop and got to five miles just as I was reaching home. Tomorrow I am debating whether I want to run outside in the morning, go later on the treadmill, or drive myself to a park or somewhere exciting. The weather in Tucson on Monday and Tuesday was great; I was able to run mid-day on those days, but temperatures are creeping up again now. Overall, I can’t say that running fives will ever be my favorite thing, but for this week it’s been quite manageable and a useful distraction from chaos that’s swirling around. More on that later, I’m sure.

The Best Weekend Ever

It’s been about a week since I posted here, which mostly indicates how busy I’ve been! Last week and this coming week are the busiest time of the semester: Assignments due before Thanksgiving, people looking to wrap up projects before the end of the year, and tons of meetings. This weekend has been part work, part fun. Here’s a look at how things went.

Friday: On Friday, I presented some research at a homecoming weekend symposium. I was there all day but was rewarded with a prize for my efforts.

Saturday: Saturday I started off early by going to a homecoming party before the 11:30 football game, and then going to the game itself. This was my first time attending an Arizona football game in 4.5 years of living in Tucson. It was a lot of fun, mainly because we won by a big margin! Here are some pictures of the stadium, including the ongoing construction. It was a sunny day, but very cold temps for Tucson: highs only around 60.

By Saturday evening I was already tired, but I had promised a friend of mine that I’d go see a show she was helping out with on Saturday night, so I rallied. It turned out to be well worth it–not only did I have a great time, but I won a door prize!

Sunday: Today I got up early to do a 5K with the girls I’ve been coaching. It was dark and in the 40s when I got up–not an ideal day for running with 10- and 11-year-olds at all. But thanks to all the other volunteers and a lot of positive attitudes, we had a great time. I walked with the girls more often than running, but seeing them get their first running medals and watching them play together afterward made it all worthwhile. I’m sad that this marks the end of my coaching time with this group of girls, but I’m hopeful that the experience made a positive difference in their lives. I will definitely coach again in the spring, if my schedule permits. It turns out that not only do I love running, but I love sharing that experience with others.


Running, Racing, and Dealing with the Unexpected

From AP

Runners have been making a lot of headlines over the last few days, but not always in a good way. Sandy, the super storm that hit the northeast earlier this week, has caused a lot of damage to a lot of lives and has affected the weekend dreams of a lot of runners. I’m not going to compare the magnitude of these things, but I do think the initial backlash against runners when Mayor Bloomberg first said the race would go on was unfair. I got into a heated exchange after that announcement with a friend who runs, who openly declared online that she believed any runner who would show up and run an event under the circumstances was “selfish.” From my perspective, this statement is completely unfair. Keep in mind the following facts:

  • It’s the decision of city leadership, not of runners or NYRR, to hold or cancel the race. They were the ones responsible for saying the race was still on, and they also bear the responsibility for the 11-th hour decision to cancel. Consider this: If the race were held, and even if no one showed up at the starting line, the street closures and police deployments panned by many would still have occurred, because city government had ordered it.
  • According to the New York Times, by the time the race was cancelled on Friday night 40,000 of the 47,000 expected runners were already in the city. Even excepting native New Yorkers, that means thousands of visiting runners made it to the city on the expectation of a race, only to find out it was off. If part of the goal of canceling was to prevent the diversion of resources to visitors, on that count the city leadership certainly failed.
  • I would argue that canceling the race doesn’t really create any “winners,” per se. Now, in addition to all of the folks without homes and power, many runners lost non-refundable entry fees into the hundreds of dollars, plus the thousands that some have spent on travel, lodging, and meals. When panning these runners, it’s important to remember that some of them are also losing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. All of them (one hopes) had spent months training for the event, some waited years to gain an entry. Some will probably not be able to return to New York for the marathon in the future. I definitely see both sides of this story, but I also think the stories of massive amounts of “resources being diverted to runners” were exaggerated.
  • What strikes me most about this story, though, is how runners showed up in the end and debunked the selfish image that some people painted of them. Earlier today, it’s estimated that over 1,000 runners showed up in Staten Island to help distribute supplies. (See also this first-hand account from running legend Amby Burfoot. He estimated the crowd at 700, but the larger figure was reported by NBC News.) Others who ran in Central Park raised money for those affected by the storm. Let’s also not forget that many runners entered the race in the first place through charity programs, raising money for different causes or just seeking to improve their lives and inspire others. I hope these many individuals succeeded in reminding the media and ordinary people that runners–especially distance runners–tend to be a socially conscious bunch. You can’t spend hours on the road without thinking of the communities you run in, the causes that your races benefit, and the environment.

The NYC Marathon Web site offers info on ways you can help.

City leaders in New York showed some poor leadership in this instance, but it looks like runners did great things in New York today and I hope residents affected by the storm feel like this was ultimately worthwhile. (As we all know, sometimes the best-intentioned plans don’t work out as intended.) If any of you were affected by the storm or participated in the aid efforts today, please let me know! I’ve seen some blogs about this already and I’d like to read more about what people are doing. For my part, I donated to the Red Cross today and would encourage my readers to find a way to help as well.