Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Black and Blue Part II

The last time I posted on these pages, almost a month ago, I wrote about the physical pain I felt after a freak, but still kind of humorous ski accident. An unplanned collision between myself and a block of ice in Galena, IL relegated my left hindquarter to several weeks of existence as a piece of abstract, performance art.

Once a prolific blogger, I haven't been able to write since that time. I wish I could lay blame for my creative coma on an exciting new publishing job. I am now in my seventh week at work ghost writing for a widely respected real estate and financial expert. After a fortnight spent as a deer in headlights, waiting for my boss to uncover my secret lack of talent and send me packing, I am adjusting remarkably well. Turns out I have a much greater mind for writing about personal finance and the housing market than I ever suspected. This is ironic because I am eight years past a personal bankruptcy, my runaway mother's final gift, and I own neither property nor dare to approach a credit card. Go figure.

The story of my life the last two years has been the struggle to obtain a writing career in a decimated job market, which feels even more depressed for purveyors of the pen. I temped, I freelanced, I danced, I interviewed until my eyes crossed, but that mission is finally accomplished.

Now my story takes a different shape: the tale of finding myself and losing a marriage in the process.

I have written, often opaquely, about my complicated, crazy love story with husband Eddie. Two people born continents apart (he: India, me: US), from completely differing family backgrounds (his: traditional and close knit, mine: erratic, unorthodox and unstable) who had very little in common on paper. But opposites attract don't they? And once Eddie and I came together in February of 2006, the proverbial sparks flew. Some might say the flames burned a little too brightly. Even before “I do,” there were the kind of third degree injuries that should have given us both pause.

But we would have none of it, united by stubborness if nothing else. Eddie and I were soulmates, so ignoring warnings from friends, family and co-workers, who saw where our volatility and lack of common ground must lead, we married in a lavish ceremony in India in December of 2007. Pop rock artist Pink released a song right around that time. The track, called “Who Knew?” contains the following lyrics:

“If someone said three years from now, you'd be long gone, I'd stand up and punch them in the mouth, 'cuz they're all wrong.”

That sums up the feelings of a lonely bride in Raipur, a small Indian city, on 12/5/07. I missed receiving my Master's degree in person to marry the man of my dreams. I flew thousands of miles without so much as a friend or family member by my side to watch me walk down the aisle (or around the fire, as the case may be). I agreed to face-saving schemes (for my new family) that required lies about my age and parentage, and worst of all, I pretended not to notice that my groom was a little bit more reluctant than could be explained by the phenomenon of “cold feet.” All this I did because I KNEW Eddie was my destiny. It didn't matter how we got there, just that we did and oh! The stories we'd have for our children.

But there are no children, and now there is no longer a marriage. Almost four weeks ago, we made the mutual and terrible decision to separate. I will move out of our rented condo on the 16th of April. A chain of events that began almost two years ago with infidelity (his), therapy (mine), and a divergence of career and family goals has culminated in two very sad, very tired, very estranged broken hearts.

In the coming weeks, months and years, I will need to learn to live a life I never anticipated but probably should have. There is much more to do, to think and to say before I can begin to make sense of where I stand at the age of 32.5: at long last professionally satisfied, but personally annihilated.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Black and Blue

Last weekend, I went away for a ski trip with my sister, niece KK and some other friends, old and new. As a young teenager, I had partaken in the sport a number of times and developed a certain proficiency, even without the aid of formal instruction. To this day I am not a fan of organized lessons where sports are concerned. Trusting in what I have learned in the past and my usual aptitude for the physical, I prefer to wing it.

The important detail to this story is that my last trip down the slopes was a full 18 years ago. You would think I might find this time lag, more than half as long as my life, to be some sort of deterrent when making decisions about which equipment I should choose. But here we encounter another Becky Sarwate enigma. In many instances, a crippling uncertainty all but shuts me down. However when it comes to physical activity, I am absurdly overconfident.

Last Saturday was one such occasion. As our group emerged from the Chevy Suburban that ferried us to the lodge outside Galena, IL and ran for the equipment rental, I was given a series of decisions to make. My first mistake (of many) on this day was the absolutely unshakable belief that I needed the mid-grade speed skis. The low speed skis were for beginners and I felt absolutely confident shoving aside the ensuing two decades after my last time out that could potentially impact my performance today. Skiing is just like riding a bike, I told myself.

And as our group started cruising down Rookie Lane (one step above the bunny hill), it seemed I made the right call. I was tearing it up - weaving in and out of my group as they struggled to find their footing, taking a couple cracks at the slalom course, and rather arrogantly adopting the tough trainer tone with KK, who was quite nervous her first time out.

In fact things were going so well in Rookie Lane that I started to feel bored. I needed a new challenge. Just to the right of where the rest of my group was practicing, there was a mid-level hill called the Moser. The initial dropoff looked daunting but between the mastery I recalled of 18 years ago, when I was able to ski black diamond hills, and the 30 minutes I had spent getting my groove back that day, I was ready, right?

This part of the story turns into an extended metaphor. You have been warned. Picture me as the Titanic, look glorious in my ski cap, pants and jacket. I'm in the best shape of my life (so I think), and brimming with confidence that I am going to get down this hill without so much as a stumble.

I make it down the first steep launch and my sense of invincibility only grows. I confidently pick up speed with each swoosh of my mid-grade speed skis. I enter the second section of the tougher course, careening just under the speed of sound and then it happens: iceberg! I see the ice rock in front of me before I collide with it.

I elected to pass on wearing a helmet (another great choice!) and have a split second to make a decision. Believing that crashing into a rock with my face might not be a lot of fun, I did the alternative. I forced myself into a backward fall. In doing so, it was "only" the left side of my thigh and glute that took the impact. For those of you who have seen me in person, there's a lot of padding back there and for once I pay tribute to the fat for sparing me a broken leg or hip.

I felt rather proud of my disaster aversion skills until I pulled my pants down in the ladies' room. Not only did I feel a tremendous pain, but I saw something that looked a lot like this (image above). I tried gamely to return to the slopes with my group after lunch. The skiing was fine. It was the chairlift repeatedly crashing into my tender backside that finally did me in.

For two days I could neither sit nor lay on my left side, which resulted in minor back strain. The lesson I have learned is that, fit though I might be, I am not Picabo Street and will opt next time for the beginner skis. There's no shame in it. The second lesson I have learned is to appreciate the protective qualities of my jiggly bits. They may have saved my life.