one month later

Thursday, March 27, 2014

... and I'm finding it's hard to be sad when you are traveling through Eastern Washington wine country. I've stumbled across so much beauty in the past few days, and my mind has been blown by all of the history in this area -- literally millions of years of layer upon layer of change, tragedy and new life. (Can you tell I spent yesterday in a "geology and terroir" class? Ha.)

How can you not look at this basalt and the way it bursts outward like a flower and be totally amazed and humbled?

It is also hard to be sad when you get to drink this:

I know, right? Life sucks.

And walk through a cobblestone-covered vineyard and find this:

So much for which to be grateful.

I see her in all of it.

bike love

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Remember this photo?

Confession: I am listening to my sappy love songs playlist (highlights include the Cure, Peter Gabriel and Iron & Wine) and marveling over how much I love my bike. Because really, when it comes down to it, Muppet is my life partner. Together, we have adventures, we're strong, we set goals and we work to achieve them. And it feels like playing -- like I'm 7 years old again and couldn't care less about anything else. I smile so much whenever I'm on my bike that I'm pretty sure I look a) mentally challenged or b) totally smitten. (Aren't they the same thing anyway in the end? Sorry, I'm bitter.)

I honestly can't decide if being this obsessed with my bike is really creepy or really awesome.

But whatever. All that matters is I went for a 40-mile ride today -- the first really long ride since, ironically, the day Erika came to visit me here in Seattle.

My goal was to practice riding in aero with my fancy-shmancy new bull horns and also clear my head a little. So I rode the Burke Gilman trail to Woodinville. I figured flat and familiar would be good for using the new gear.

The results? Riding in aero feels bizarre. Like I'm tucked in really close to the ground, and the pavement is rushing up super quickly near my face, yet I'm lazy and slouched over and just hanging out. And any tiny adjustment -- any imbalance or weight shift -- makes a huge difference, and I start wobbling immediately. Steering is also very strange. And I'm still getting the hang of switching in and out of aero position.

That said, riding is the best thing ever. I can't describe exactly what it is about the bike -- I'm not even very good at it, but there is just something about it that is intoxicating and liberating and makes you want to stand up in the saddle and start howling for joy.

Also, it is awesome when you're riding and see some guy just randomly walking his horse.

And I got hungry on my ride, so I rode to the Willows, valeted my bike (I'm not even kidding -- I went to a $300 a night hotel and checked my bike in) and then ordered a bacon Bloody Mary and brunch at the Barking Frog.

This whole Ironman training thing is the best thing ever.

that great big world

Friday, March 21, 2014

It is hard to be angry when this is happening across the table:

Seriously: I don't know where these friends came from or what the hell I did to deserve them, but they rock. 

It is still up and down and all around for me -- almost minute to minute sometimes. Yesterday I found myself looking at old photos of Erika with my chickens. She was terrified of birds -- she thought they were fierce little dinosaurs and they would peck her fingers off. But she fed them anyway. And the sound she made when they came close -- I can't even describe it, but it was the most hilarious noise I've ever heard. I remember having to look twice to make sure it was coming from her.

Also still struggling with separating Seattle from Salad Bar. 

Best advice I received today: "Look at that great big world out there. Don't limit yourself because of one bad experience."


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Things I wish I could tell you but I won't because I also wish you would get colon cancer and die alone and friendless, or at least just shit your pants at work:

I don't care if you think I'm a terrible person. I don't care if anyone thinks I'm a terrible person. I'm done being nice and neat. Because who I am right now is raw and messy and borderline nuts, but I'm real. And these last few weeks? I'm realizing they've been a strange kind of gift, like if someone gave you a latrine and at first you thought WTF but then later you hung it on the wall and called it art and the whole world applauded.

I found a new favorite coffee drink this morning: A latte with cardamom-infused simple syrup, hemp milk and orange rind. I like to think of it as the craft cocktail of coffee. I wish you could try it, but it's too good for you.

I also wish you could try this because it's awesome, but again, you don't really deserve awesome or have the ability to comprehend what awesome is.

Remember your wine country doppelgänger? This is what he did recently. Yes, yet another controversy. God, you evil twins are nothing but drama.

Tonight I went to the pho place we used to always go to, and they were surprised when I asked for a table for one. They were also surprised when I didn't order the chicken noodle soup. But guess what? My new order was better. From now on, only beef broth with fried tofu instead of meat. Also, the book I'm reading is more interesting than you are.

This heartrate training thing that Coach Mark has me doing really works. Which means that I can easily punch you in the face and kick you in the balls while still remaining in Zone 1.

I am in love with all of the found art here in Seattle. Therefore I hope all of it stays hidden from you.

Frank's fashion sense continues to evolve. I describe it as "this dead rabbit head is more handsome and manly than your chihuahua."

(This may be the most fun post I've ever written. I'm excited to not share it with you ever.)

thank you

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I don't know what the hell I've done in my life to deserve such good, kind, honest, funny, silly friends.

You guys are the best: The calls, the daily texts, the actual real hand-written letters, the late-night meals, the cat photos, the lack of judginess (yes, I'm making that a word) when I randomly just start crying, the many heart-to-heart talks, the offers to go to Capitol Hill and punch Salad Bar in the face and/or balls, the crazy swim workouts, the running in the rain in ridiculous green outfits, the whiskey, the last-minute flights to Seattle (seriously).

What I've learned in the last two weeks: Gratitude is more powerful than grief.

fighting the fight

Sunday, March 09, 2014

After royally falling apart Friday night in an embarrassingly horrible way that involved crying uncontrollably on the steps of a halfway house while homeless people, etc., tried to comfort me and offer me food, I've decided it's time to get my shit together.

Also, my mom has threatened to fly up here and move in. (Imagine living with your mom at 35. Dear god, that is grief.)

So I am rallying. And I am ever grateful to my wonderful, amazing, beautiful girl friends here in Seattle. They've pretty much been passing me around like a relay baton in the Sad Michaela games -- everyone takes a turn making sure I don't lose my shit.

Hey, girl, hey: I'm totally not crazy, I swear.

And then there is triathlon. Yesterday Belle was baby-sitting me and I went to brunch, and after listening to me describe the brick workouts that have recently started appearing on my training schedule (I swam 3,720 yards yesterday and then got out of the pool and ran 3.5 miles), she asked me why I want to do an Ironman in the first place.

She's so kind to be seen in public with the hot mess that is me right now.

I've been thinking about this a lot myself. In fact, during the funeral, I actually started entertaining the thought of quitting. I was so floored by sadness that I seriously considered dropping out of IMAZ, leaving Seattle, moving back to L.A. and locking myself in a room.

But that's not what Erika would've wanted. That girl was a fighter. And I want to fight. And IMAZ symbolizes what that fight is about -- it's about being brave enough to attempt something you never in your life thought you'd be strong enough to do. It's about setting a goal and doing the work. It's about learning to think of yourself in a new way -- as a powerful person who can make things happen. It's about taking risks.

IMAZ also represents where I've been. I never write about this, but I've had a long history of depression and have been in and out of therapy for about 20 years. Endurance sports are the best way for me to translate that emotional pain into a physical pain that I can understand and overcome. And the act of movement clears my head -- it's almost like running is my prayer and the pool is my church. (Biking is probably my confessional -- I've had serious hysterical sobbing breakdowns on the trainer the past few weeks. Dear cancer: Fuck you.)

How to heal: Shamelessly admire my calf muscle.

I am dedicating IMAZ to Erika. When I cross that finish line in November it will be for her. This bitch is back, and I'm ready to rumble. Bring on the bricks.

how to heal

Friday, March 07, 2014

The past two days were the worst I've ever experienced. 

The grief came like a tidal wave. I tried to be brave, but it swept over me, and I lost all control. I was the stranger crying in the airport. I couldn't eat for almost 48 hours -- I can barely stomach anything still, it all makes me sick. I shuffled around, dazed, hoping this pain was just something I imagined in someone else's story.

But I made myself try -- during the wake, I spoke to the room about how when you grow up in a religious Filipino family, there's the self you present to the world and your real "dirty self," and how I never hid my "dirty self" from Erika. I reached for my friend Susan (whom I asked to go with me after Salad Bar failed) when they rolled the casket in; I cried so hard my body shook. And I stayed to watch everything, the men in green hard hats lowering Erika into the ground, covering her up until you could barely even tell that a blade of grass had been out of place, when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and yell: No no no no no.

I came back to Seattle last night, and I am still crying in public. When people ask me how I am, I say: "Do you really want the truth?" You can only imagine what happens next.

But I am trying. I know it will take awhile -- this one-two punch of death and a breakup has very nearly destroyed me. But I want my fight back.

So I am making a promise to do one healing thing a day, even if I have to force myself out of bed, even if I have to call someone else and ask for help. I am trying so hard to learn to ask for help.  

Day 1: Wednesday

The day of the wake, the first day without Salad Bar. Awful to wake up in the morning and feel nothing but a rush of loneliness. I made myself go for a trail run. Those hills -- the way they tore into my lungs and made my sides hurt. I needed that.

Day 2: Thursday

After everything was over, when I had cried more than I thought was humanly possible, I went to Susan's house. I took off my shoes. And I played in the grass with her 2-year-old daughter, kicking a soccer ball. It was perfect.

Day 3: Today

When Erika visited me last July, we discovered Cederberg Tea House. I've since become a regular. So I went back today. And they remembered her. And I told her story. And tried my best to eat. 

And now this:

I feel like this city is giving me a hug -- it's March, and I'm writing on my balcony, in a tank top and sunglasses.

I'm still crying, but I will take this as a good omen. The loneliness can't last forever.


all kinds of grief, all at once

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

When Erika came to visit me in Seattle, one thing she said was: "I wonder what kind of guy you'll date here."

And then she told me to watch "10 Things I Hate About You" and try to find my Heath Ledger.

Salad Bar was no Heath Ledger. (Unless you want to call drunken karaoke renditions of Kelly Clarkson songs a serenade.) But his birthday was the same day I moved to Seattle, and it was a good story. Such a good story. Most of what we had was a good story. Until this week, when it was not.

We broke up last night.

Between this and Erika's funeral tomorrow, I am barely functioning. Voices are too loud. I can't eat. I am presently writing this on my phone and crying in the airport, waiting for my flight to L.A.

I keep telling myself that I've been through things that are just as difficult. I'm a tough bitch, I can deal, I've survived. But man, this hurts.

So if you're reading this (and hopefully you're taking a poo while doing so -- because I like poo and poo is good), can you please leave something happy in the comment section? Tell me a love story or a terrible joke. Send me your favorite cat video. Please something. Anything. I'd like to remember what it was like to laugh.

I'll start with this:

is it over yet?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

So I'm anxiously waiting for the part when this is funny.

P.S. I'm currently in Minneapolis, where it is so frigid that the vomit on the sidewalk has frozen. It's after 2 a.m. here, and I'm awake not because I had an exciting night at the bar, but because I had to write a press release and answer e-mails.

P.P.S. The funeral is Thursday.
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