Arden came with me on our weekly grocery shop this morning, and we ran into my very favorite early morning Y attender. I’ll call her Josephine. We seem to run into each other all over town, which both cracks me up and makes me feel like I have old lady habits. I’m fine with it.

Way back when I started going to the gym at the crack of dawn, maybe in 2006 (I actually can’t remember), I naturally noticed that there was a group of regulars. But, it was early, so I sort of kept to myself, did my treadmill jog or weight machines, gathered my belongings and went home. Well, Josephine would have none of that. She was impossible not to notice because she knew everyone who came in. She’d greet them with a big wave, ask about their husband, wife, children, grandchildren, and chit chat about her family. She’d yell at the television when Bush did something stupid, or cheer when the Democrats actually stood behind what they say they believe (rare. I know. Also, this isn’t a political blog, but I’m just reporting what she did! Really!). She complained when new cardio machines replaced the ones she loved. And, dang if she didn’t do it all while lifting weights with amazing form, or ellipticalling on the elliptical at a quick and steady pace.

Anyway, after I’d joined the pre 6 am group and become a regular myself, I could just tell that it bugged her that she didn’t know who I was. One morning, she said, “You are here all the time! I’m Josephine, who are you?” After that, every time I entered the cardio room, the row of styrofoam cup coffee sipping, high incline walking and quick elliptical using, MSNBC watching seniors would raise a hand and chorus, “Good morning, Jill!” I fell in love with them. After I sprained my ankle in the fall of 2009, they needed the story of my ankle brace and my move from the treadmill to the elliptical. And, after my long long cancer/new baby break, they all wondered where I’d been upon my return.

Josephine’s response was, of course, the best. While the others were sweetly concerned about my health and happy to hear about Trudy, Josephine approached me as I was jogging on the treadmill. “Where have you been? I thought you’d moved!!” I explained that I was diagnosed with cancer and was recovering, and also that we had a new baby at home, so I hadn’t been able to get there this early on a regular basis. She stepped back, and seemed to analyze my running. “Well, clearly, you’re fine. Let me tell you about my feet and all the problems I’ve been having.”

I love it. Cancer makes you so naval gazing, in lots of ways because you have to be. You have to notice any little difference in digestive issues, or way that typical things are making you feel because, if you don’t, you might miss something that could be harming you, or a way that your medication is or isn’t working. Josephine was such a great reminder that other people are in the world with their issues. I needed to think about them. (She’s so funny. I ran into her at a store a few weeks ago, and she said, “Jill, I’ve been waiting to tell you! Both of my children are expecting babies! I’m finally going to be a grandmother!” I loved that A) she’d been waiting to tell me! and B) she shared her happy happy news with me. She’s such a fabulous figure in my life.)

I had a more random encounter on Friday when I went for a quick 3.5 mile run in my neighborhood. There was an older lady (much older, it seems, than Jospehine) out walking her dog around one of the two loops on this particular route. We said hello to each other when we first saw each other going opposite directions, and as we each finished the loop the second time we encountered each other, she waved again and said, “I wish I could do that.”

I am not a person who uses the word “blessing” all that often, but as I felt the weight of what she said in the current context of my life (being about 3 months out of regular chemotherapy, and less than 10 monts out from major abdominal surgery), I smiled and said, “It is really a blessing.”

It is. I’m really really lucky that my body allows me to run and lift weights and challenge it physically. And, it makes me feel amazing.

I don’t know that I’ll get a long run in this week. It’s cooled down again. But, the gym is always there. Yesterday, I did speed work. My regular speed workout is a challenge, but it has been feeling easier and easier. I decided that I’d add 10 minutes to it. At the end of the regular time period, it didn’t seem like I could up my mph by .5, so I went down for another 5 minutes of intervals at 8 mph. It felt way way easier. I then did another 5 minutes intervals at 8.5, and this felt much easier than the first bit at that speed. I wonder if your legs and your heartrate have felt that challenge once in a workout, it becomes easier the second time around? It made me think that next time, I’ll go down to 8.3 mph, and then up to 8.7, just to see what happens. I love a challenge.

Last night I made baked farro risotto. Wow, it was tasty. Arden wasn’t a fan, but Trudy ate it up (this still makes me laugh). I think we’re over all the stomach yuckiness for a while, so good food will be back in the mix. I’m still eating the same spinach smoothie every morning, and even resisted the buttermilk pancakes that Arden requested yesterday so that I could save up my sugar day for today. I’ve also been eating lots of salad with salsa.

So, are there peripheral folks in your life who remind you of where your brain should be? Of how to get outside of your brain?

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