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The Power Of In Between, And Getting Back To That Volcano

Hey, Friend.

The writing teacher asks: “What are you afraid of?” I say: “I am afraid of not being her again.” Teacher: “Her?” Me: “HER. The ultra runner, the yoga teacher, the racer. Hike up to the top of an active volcano with a bundle of plantains. Do pull-ups with 50 pounds strapped to my waist.”

Teacher: “So, write a story where you kick this fear’s ass. A story that ends triumphantly. And so I write: ******* It’s 3am, and I have been climbing this fucking volcano for the last five hours. The task at the last checkpoint was to cut down three long pieces of bamboo, and take them to the next checkpoint at the lagoon at the bottom of the crater. Each piece has to be at least six feet, and as I try to hold on to all three at the same time, the bamboo digs into my shoulder. I stop, and take off my t-shirt, bunch it up, and stick it under the backpack strap. Better. The island of Ometepe is located in the middle of lake Nicaragua, and it looks like two bosoms. Seriously. Two volcanos joined at the centre, and a small local community living in the foothills. One boob - the active volcano. Still warm, still smoky. The other boob - passive volcano. It’s been cold for years, and where the fire once lived, there is now a green lagoon.

That’s where I am headed. Me and my bamboo. I pop another sugar cube in my mouth, and suck on the hydration tube, sticking out of my backpack. There are two women still in the race. They could be ahead, they could be behind. They could be lost, or they could be already at the finish. I won’t know until I finish or until I drop. I look at my watch. We took off from the beach at sunset, so I have been on the move for ten hours. Fourteen more hours until the cut-off. Italian and the baby are at the finish, trying to stay cool in the air conditioned rooms of Paraiso - the nicest hotel on the island, which still costs only seventy bucks a night. 3am. That means she will wake up any minute now, angry, sleepy and grumpy. Kind of I am right now. Italian will pick her up, and hug her, and give her the bottle. And everything will be ok in the world. I don’t know how I will make it to the finish line today. With a bit of luck, and a lot of stubbornness, I will be back on that beach before the cut off. As one of the few (so few) finishers. Or, perhaps, I will twist my ankle in the next twelve minutes in this damn jungle, and wait for the next racer to make it to the checkpoint and tell the race officials that SOLO is out, and someone should probably try and help her get off this volcano. No matter HOW I will make it to the finish, I know what I will find. My husband and my baby - happy to see me. In my element. Beat up, sunburned and tired. But back. Not just back to them, and back to the finish, but back to myself. ******* Italian has never been to Ometepe. This race has been cancelled year after year due to COVID. If I do make it back to that start line, there won’t be a baby any more - Italian will be watching two real human running-around and talking-loudly children. I was afraid of not being “her” again, when I wrote this. I was pregnant with my first child, when I wrote this. I was grieving the missed start lines. Championships. Races that went on without me. I was grieving that identity of my past, as if there was no way it could be in my future. I still miss her. But I am no longer grieving her. I learned the power of in between. Life happens in between. In between crises. In between emergencies. In between breakdowns. But also - in between breaths. In between winters. In between children. This person, this “HER” is in my past. This “HER” is not in my present. But just because it’s in my past, does not mean it cannot be in my future. Right now I am in between.



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