Hitting the Pavement

All my life I’ve hated running.

In middle and high school, my PE teacher would take us all to this big field in the middle of my hometown, under the unbearably scorching hot Equator sun and made us run several loops around the field. The popular kiddos, also known as the jocks and/or athletes would rock this challenge, finishing out strong, high fiving each other, ensuring their top status in the high school popularity strata to remain strong.

Well, suffice it to say, I was a loser. Socially speaking I floated somewhere in the middle. I hung out with mostly girls, and with a few exception, we all kinda sucked at PE. However, my girls are excellent in hard and social science and languages. But was that cool in high school? Nope, of course not.

In one of those running excursions, incidents would happen. Naturally, those always involve the losers. Somebody would faint, puke, or be too weak to make the trek back to the school. Now this never happened to me, but still, I was always amongst the last to finish the running.

I always hated the feeling of my stomach being shaken. And that breathless feeling. And the feeling that my legs are about to fall off.

Who in their right mind would voluntarily put themselves through such torture? such was my youthful thought.

In college I had a phase when I was a health junkie, a work-out fanatic. I would run in the treadmill at the gym for cardio and do weight training. I watched what I ate. But like many other things in my early adulthood (such as that one fleeting moment when I thought I was an existentialist), it lasted only but a short while. I was preoccupied with too many hedonistic things to care about something so… positive. (for example : friday night choice of working out at the gym or a dinner out with friends? well, the choice made itself.)

Then for the longest time I was just a sloth. I didn’t do exercise of any kind.

A year after my son’s birth, I began going to the gym and repeated the same routine I did in college. Treadmill for cardio and weight machines. This went on a cycle of on-and-off until about the beginning of this year. To be fair, it was mostly off.. a.k.a I would hit the gym once and then skipped for months. Also, during the winter, I would eat like a caterpillar who’s about to go into hybernation. I just stuffed my face all the time and I never even bothered to count my calories.

It was not until my jeans started being way too tight and my husband started making comments about the appearance of a muffin top  that I began looking at myself in the mirror. My jeans went up 2 sizes!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t care about sizes. I DON’T think that the only way to look good is to be skinny. I think everyone is beautiful in their own ways, in their own body sizes. As a feminist I often made sarcastic remarks to my male friends for being so hung up on the old fashioned standard of sexiness and/or fitness. Curvy is beautiful. Big is beautiful. Not everyone is going to look like some skinny Korean actress and that IS okay. I mean, look at Christina Hendricks and her killer curves. Look at Her Highness Queen Beyonce. If I had a body like those girls I would strut my stuff every day!

But I began feeling like I was not fit. My depression always intensified during the winter and being sedentary had finally taken its toll on me, not only mentally but also physically. I would wake up and still be tired. I would ask myself, “What’s my purpose today?” All I wanted to do was to go back to bed and stay there all day. I didn’t want to exercise, didn’t want to hit the gym, didn’t give a flying fig what I ate.

My husband began noticing this regression in my well-being. He decided that it was time to take fitness really seriously. We started working out together, hitting the gym, running, doing weight training.

On Saturday last week, I ran the first 5K race in my life. I wrote here on another post before, that we were going to run a race in early April. Barely any training went into preparing for it, because we had just started exercising again only a week prior to the race. Also we found out that my husband wouldn’t be able to run the race with me, because he couldn’t take the day off work. (In our true clumsy fashion, we forgot that it was on a Saturday not a Sunday, and he has to work on Saturdays )

So I ran with a girlfriend and her 8 years old daughter. The day before I thought, “Shit, what am I gonna do if I can’t finish the race? Oh well, maybe if I don’t feel up to it, I just wouldn’t go.”

I went anyway. I dropped my son and dad-in-law at a playground nearby and walked toward where all the runners/walkers are. Found my friend M and her daughter L. I told her, “I don’t feel so good, couldn’t sleep well last night, too anxious for this. I won’t be too hard on myself, I’ll walk and then run, and then walk, anyway I’ll be taking it easy and I’d understand if you don’t keep pace with me.”

She said we’ll do it together. They’ll keep pace.

I finished 5K or 3.1 miles in 43 minutes and 40 seconds. Far from being good.

but i finished.

I never stopped moving. When I got tired or when L would call me, “Wu! Wait for me, don’t run so fast, wait for me!” (this girl loves me for some reason 🙂 ) I would slow down and walk.

M and L finished about a minute after me. We were just happy to finish it. We didn’t care that our time isn’t impressive. M kept telling her daughter how proud she is of her. I high fived her and told her we’ll do it again next month in another race.

I signed my husband and myself up for another race next month to benefit the Zoo.

Today, I ran some parts of the Forest Park with my husband. 5.7 km or 3.6 miles in 39 minutes. Not even close to being good, but I made progress. We started out the first and second miles strong and the third was kind of dragging. But I ran faster than I did Saturday, and I never stopped moving. My husband kept saying, “Even if it’s a slow jog, keep going!”

I find that the adrenaline rush I got right after finishing is incomparable to any other feeling in the world. It’s addictive. It’s ridiculously addictive. The euphoria lasted me all day on Saturday, and right now I’m feeling happy, high, from the running.

A friend of mine once told me, “When I hit the pavement, I can feel all my sadness melted away.  I cranked up the music, ran as fast as my feet were capable of, and cried all my problems away. There’s something liberating about running.”

And maybe, just maybe… I begin to understand how she feels now. Over the winter I would see these people running, even in the middle of a snowstorm, and I would always thought, “What a bunch of crazies.”

Maybe I was the crazy one?

If I can crank up my music, run, and cry my depression away, then hell yeah that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to continue running, and friends, now you can hold me accountable for it.


after my first 5K race. Pardon my terrible photoediting skill, hahaha.


Hi all,

Another long while passed since I’ve last blogged. It would appear that not only have I lost my writing mojo, my laziness has also reached an all-time high. Life’s been life, that’s to say it’s as usual, there’s up and there’s down.

Today I would like to post something, a tribute if you will.

My paternal grandmother, my Eyang Putri (or Ibu as I call her), passed away 45 days ago today. Ibu was the main reason behind my trip home last year. I can safely say all of us in the family have expected the moment to arrive, though the sadness is undoubtedly palpable. She has lived a long, full and happy 75 years and her memories and spirit will always remain with us forever.

I will forever remember the last time I spoke to her on the phone, eleven days before she was gone. She had called me the day before, Monday, but I missed her call. I returned her call back the next morning on Tuesday. She had heard from my Dad that my son was sick so she inquired about that.  I talked to her for a good 30 minutes. She was asking about my new niece (my husband’s sister had just given birth to a little girl), she was telling to me to amp up in teaching my son his letters and numbers.

Before I hung up, I told her the same thing I always told her, “Nanti aku telpon lagi ya Bu. Sehat sehat ya Bu.”

She replied, “Iya. Terima kasih ya ‘nduk.”

She always thanked me for calling her. I always told her she shouldn’t thank me. It is my duty to call her, to check up on her. And that I should’ve been a better granddaughter and call more often.

that i should. that i really fucking should.

That thank-you would be her last words to me.  I wish I could say no regret, I wish I could say that confidently, but the truth is,

i really, really wish i stayed on that phone a while longer. a lot while longer. another half an hour, another hour, another two hours. 

I am happy that she’s in a much, much better place. Like my Grandfather before her, she chose for her body to be cremated shortly after her passing. She was cremated in Jakarta. My family spread her ashes in the sea. On a chilly Wednesday afternoon, my husband, son and I went to the Mississippi River bearing a bouquet of flowers we picked up at Schnucks and picking the flowers by the sprig, throwing them out to sea and said prayers for her.

“Say your prayers for Yangti,” my husband told our son.

“Tell Yangti to have a good rest,” I told my son. (My son calls my grandparents Yangti and Yangkung.)

In his childlike voice, throwing the purple geranium sprig, he said bravely, “Sleep well, Yangti and Yangkung!”

off went the purple geranium, out into the river, flowing with the water. going to sea, i hope. my ibu loves flowers. i can only hope the bouquet i picked meets her standard.

My husband threw the yellow geranium sprig, then he looked out into the sea. He probably whispered some good words to my grandparents. He’s never met my grandmother, he’s seen her a few times on Skype over spotty connection and spoke for a few minutes on the phone. Her with her broken English and my husband in all his awkwardness. She would tha nk him profusely for taking care of me. The last time, over the phone she told my husband in her frail but confident voice

i love you.

My husband was taken aback. For all his western sensibility and the way they throw their i-love-yous rather freely and sometimes lightly, he was taken aback, that this woman he’s never met, a woman who certainly wasn’t raised to say something so profound so easily, he was taken aback. A smile appeared on his face and he replied,

i love you too. thank you.

And so I am sure, at that moment, as he was throwing his yellow sprig off to sea, he whispered those same words to her.

I threw the pink geranium, and I whispered to the sea, I know they are listening somewhere up there. I told my grandparents my hope that their reunion would be sweet, and that they are happy together now, inseparable.
I told my son that Yangti is now happy up in the Sky, reunited with Yangkung and that even though she wouldn’t be in her house anymore the next time we come visit Indonesia, she will always look upon us and take care of us.

One day we were in the car. I was driving us to my husband’s grandmother’s house. My son was looking out of the window, the same thing he always does when we’re in the car. Suddenly from the backseat, he said, “Mama, does Yangti live in the Sky now?”

Something about the innocence, clear voice in which he asked the question stirred up a certain pang of sadness in me.
I turned my head up to the sky and smiled. I told my son, “Yes, yes she does, baby.”

A few weeks ago it snowed in our city. A blanket of whiteness. My first thought was, “Bu, sekarang Ibu bisa lihat salju deket rumahku kan?” It’s funny now that she’s gone, I am so certain that she gets to experience everything she always said she wanted to experience when she was alive. She always said she wanted to see my house. Wanted to see my town in the snow. Wanted to see my son’s daycare and his friends. Wanted to meet my dad in law.

After she’s gone, now I found myself quietly talking to her, introducing her to all the things she wanted to meet, all the things she wanted to see.

“ini daycarenya franklin, bu. ini gurunya, miss carol, ini gurunya yang satu lagi, miss rhonda. daycarenya di belakang gereja.”

“ini papa mertuaku. orangnya aneh, tapi hatinya baik. dia sayang banget sama franklin.”

Because I know, now she sees. Now she meets them.

A few mornings ago I woke up, and you know how sometimes when you wake up, you have a certain song stuck in your head?

that morning my song was the traditional javanese song ibu used to sing around her house. she’s a hummer, she hums a lot of songs as she pittered-pattered about the house. sometimes, more often than not it’s a church song, something from the Madah Bakti or the Puji Syukur. sometimes it’s this song, lir ilir.

I went onto youtube and listened to lir ilir a few times.

Today, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend Lindsey called me. She told me that she had just lost her grandma to cancer. I don’t think I’m in any place to console her, but I found myself telling her, “don’t worry, your grandma is in a much better place.  i heard heaven is a very cozy, awesome place. i mean, i’ve never been, but i think it’s pretty awesome. maybe your grandma will meet my grandma up there. they’ll have fun.”

she said, “are you sure you’ve never been?”

then, just like that, we laughed. we shared a laugh. i said, we should celebrate our grandmothers and their lives. (maybe next time we’ll share a meal and some cheers for these  kick-ass ladies we get to call grandma.)

as I hung up the phone, one of my writing blocks dissolved into a puddle of inspiration.

and so this post was written.

Rest in Peace, Bu. You will forever be remembered, loved, and prayed for.


yangti and franklin, her first and only great-grandbaby. july 2012.