on stamina, autocrats, war and puffy clouds

Had I not wiped the tears from my cheeks with the back of my glove they might have frozen in their tracks amid the biting wind. I had bundled myself up like a babushka, but my face was still cold. Smellie and I went out early this morning, and we found ourselves mostly alone in the fields crunching across the tundra, each tan blade of grass sheathed in ice from yesterday's sixty-degree thaw and last night's teens. My breath blew out in front of me in puffy clouds. I kept my head down; I was grieving for the people of Ukraine and for the world, and wondering at the nonsense of it all.

I had started writing about the characteristics of endurance athletes: stamina, grit, commitment, brawn, resilience, focus, backbone, spirit, determination, mindfulness. I meant to mention how Michael reminds me that I used to be one, used to swim up to four hours a day six days a week with little rest clinging to the edge of the pool between grueling sets, not to mention the hours of sit-ups, pushups and lifting weights. Sometimes I wonder, what the hell for? At others, especially during the past eighteen years since Calvin came along, I couldn't be more grateful. 

I was going to write about how I had burnt out then soured on indoor swimming after Calvin was born—my salty tears mingling with the sweaty, chlorinated water—lamenting the thought that working out while pregnant might have contributed to his afflictions.

But all that seems so goddamn trivial now that Putin has sicked his troops on Ukraine. At this moment, in the first day of launching his invasion, Pootie's military is massively attacking Ukrainian cities and towns. Innocent sons and daughters are being maimed and killed in a barrage of bombs. Families are fleeing their homes—men, women and children who just yesterday were going about their business will be refugees in what will soon be a war-torn land—in winter. All this because of the narcissistic power-lust of one twisted, sadistic, insecure, mendacious, puny little petulant man who thinks he has something to prove. Regrettably, I can think of some other dudes like that, too. Grow up, man. What universe do you think you live in? Calvin's so much better than you.

It astounds me how this guy Putin has to get so puffed up, so intent on putting his thumb on others to get whatever it is that he wants. Makes me think he was probably never valued, never loved. And so he has to make life hell for others, get attention at any cost. Tell lies like the cheater, bully and autocrat he is. Throw tantrums. Only he's doing it with lethal weapons and at the grave cost of lives and livelihoods. What a prick.

And then my thoughts leave the douchebag behind and travel to the good people of Ukraine and Russia. Hell, they've got some grit and stamina to live through this shit for so many years. They are or will be the real marathoners, taking their babies and leaving everything behind with no certain future on the horizon. Man, their horizon is full of popping, firecracker skies, helicopters and other flying war machines. And no doubt some of them have to deal with ill, elderly and infirm relatives and enigmas like my son, with all his quirks and pains and needs causing frustration, tedium and misery. Compound that with a massive military assault and evacuation. I think about this kind of thing and how we've got it so effing easy. Note to self: remember that.

And so I pause my thoughts, then send on what I can to Ukrainians, hoping they can just put their heads down and plow on through until the pain is over, like when I used to race the 400 I.M. and the mile, or like I did in the first year or more of this damn pandemic when Calvin was home from school. But war and occupation is different, and these good people likely won't get a breather, likely won't get to experience those gorgeous landscapes I leisurely drive through from the comfort of my reliable car, where the horizon, though at times it might be dark and moody, is calm and blue, full of hope and puffy clouds.

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