Until now, preparations for Peru have taken the form of shots in the arm, minor crisis in the bank accounts, and mad thumbing through guidebooks. During the last 2 weeks I've been silently coaching myself on not getting ill, not even with a cold, not injuring hands or feet or knees, not letting a hangnail flourish into even the smallest infection. But now I get closer to the plane trip, the foreign cities, the people, the jungle animals, the boat trip, sleeping outside, it being summer, being on foot, traveling by bus through cloudforest, the slower pace of other countries, the time to reflect. I'm really excited.



It's easy to compare my new job to the places that invited me to join them. I feel smug about being so satisfied, but it's a very important lesson I'm learning. Most of the positions were very limited in contrast, and much lower-paying. I was expected to sit somewhere hidden from windows and people, and to stay there doing one rote task most of the time. And I would clearly be a subordinate. In several interviews, I was lectured about being managed and it was made clear that I would have to prove myself before being trusted.

I didn't have a job then, so I studied these prospects as if they were all I had; after all, at the time, that was true. I considered the positive aspects, like university access and lofty titles, and in a couple cases really wondered if I should go there. But the moral to this story is, There Are Many Kinds of Jobs. I wanted one where I was respected and trusted immediately, where I could move around the company and do different kinds of work, where I could be independent, and where I could variously work from home and from an office environment that was pleasant (or at least equal to my peers). And, at least for the last two days, that's what I got. I feel very lucky and grateful. Of course, I can't believe I have to go back for a third day (this working thing...it's crazy!), but there you have it.
Yesterday at a company party I spotted the CEO, a young man in his thirties draining a beer, and made a beeline for him. I've heard that he remembers the names of each of his 500 employees, so I thought I'd get him started on mine right away. He is a cousin of the president, so we had to get past the joke about my first name and his last name both being related to vegetation, and then we had a little chat in which I very nearly blamed his cousin for wrecking the funding for education research in this country, and nearly bringing down my last employer. I didn't mean to, it just almost came out. I caught myself just in time. I wasn't wrong, but it's not a Day Two sort of conversation to have with your new boss. Otherwise the conversation was very nice.
It's kind of a funny, futuristic place. There's always the faint hum of moving air overhead, long corridors lined with glass, and workspaces called Pods. But, perhaps also like the future, it's great. The kitchens are stocked with great tea and coffee and hot chocolate all the time, they buy every kind of milk (fat free, 1%, 2%, whole, half and half, heavy cream) for every fridge every week, there's always food around, there's a gym with a pool inside the building, and that old tired dot-com idea of a "toy budget" actually feels pretty nice when you see people playing ping-pong at the table in their workspace (I mean pod).


Day One

It was kind of cool to be part of an organization that actually does something. That's how I felt yesterday during my first day on the job. Most of the places I've worked for don't really do much of anything, and part of my job was always to invent our goals and tasks. Which sounds fun, but after a while, not so much. The new place has a product, it's a product that is very much needed, and they make a lot of money producing it. Also, there is a tremendous amount of room to grow, so the company is very motivated to push itself.

As first days go, this one ranked pretty high. Judging just the things I could see, like lots of healthy people and natural light, made me happy. My manager did a great job of making me feel comfortable and needed, and she's scheduled every hour of my first three days for me. Speaking of which, I should probably go. I'm walking there this morning, even though it's 22 degrees. If Blue can bike for 25 minutes, I figure I can walk for 15.


The Things That Happen Over Orange Juice and Eggs

Have you ever had one of those great moments when you come to a full realization of a year-long transformative process and you get to thank the people who helped you achieve it? That happened to me at brunch yesterday. I wasn't expecting anything on that scale; in fact, I entered the restaurant with some trepidation, since my place in the group has been up and down in the last month. A collection of mostly volunteers, we run a small gym in south Boston that is free to women living in shelters, pregnant and parenting teens, and other women scraping by with few resources. It's a very emotional, physical, spiritual process for most people, and that doesn't always equal stability. Tomorrow my schedule changes to make room for my new job, and I won't be able to go there for a while. I feel a mixture of sadness and relief at this change; I'll miss it, plus I didn't get to achieve everything there that I'd hoped, but in the end, it's hard to go and be there sometimes, and I need the downtime. I hope to return by the end of next month.

Still, there were successes. In the last year, I've slowly come to understand my body in a new way. It's changed, yes, but more importantly, I changed. I began to understand why women's bodies are such a profoundly vital and loaded part of our culture; how childbearing, abuse, food fixations, blue-collar stresses and white-collar rites are all played out across women's bodies, and why physical intelligence is equally important to mental intelligence. In giving exercise such priority in my life, I've also come to see the stigma attached to it.

When I refuse to schedule a meeting during an valued exercise class, I say, "I'm sorry, I have a class at that time" and my white-collar world backs off, thinking I'm educating myself, and that must be respected. And I am. But if I specified an exercise class, rescheduling would seem ludicrous.

I didn't go into all this at brunch. But many of the staff and volunteers had spoken to their experiences with the women whom we serve, and I wanted to speak about one woman whom our members have served: me.

My favorite instructor was there, so I was able to thank her for the work she's done in teaching me how effective it can be to have someone else pushing you, teaching you about your own energy and power. My closest friends at the Foundation were there, and I was able to thank them for working with me as I learned about physical intelligence through the eyes of rambunctious teenagers and women who had never even imagined exercising before. And I could thank the staff for teaching me so much about interacting with people positively, without pretense, and with an openness and lack of judgment.

It was really wonderful, one of those rare perfect moments when everything comes together.

I've never been a New Year's-resolution type of person, but I do appreciate the opportunity for reflection and renewal around this time of Deep Winter. The night before the brunch, at a party, many of our friends from an Intelligentsia-type world approached me with their own body stories; struggling to get pregnant, or to not get pregnant, recovering from severe physical abuse, reconciling their own need to stop living in their head all the time, finding a new kind of peace through exercise, or trying very hard to find the right kind of interaction with their own bodies. Many of these women had looked at me skeptically months before when I spoke unapologetically about the importance of the physical self, about it being more than just looking good for your partner or losing weight, but being more about the whole and balanced self. Now they see me an important ally for them as they take steps on this same journey, and I'm grateful for that role. So many people have helped me to get there.

Last night my mom, hearing all of this, commented that my new job as a technology writer was distinctive for being in the field of health care. "I think I see something happening here," she said. I think so too.


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm spending my last couple of days on unemployment baking cookies for a gathering this weekend. Lots of flour and butter and sugar, 48 candy canes and assorted good chocolate. We're packing in the Christmas season early this year, making sure we get plenty of it right away. The tree (our first) has been up and lit since Saturday, and the porch is covered in pine boughs and colored lights. I have mixed feelings about missing the actual Christmas holiday this year; on one hand I already miss my parents very much. On the other, I'll be in Peruvian rainforest, which I consider an excellent use of this holiday.

We've booked an 8-day tour over Amazon wetland and river, spending much of the time in a small boat with 4 strangers and a Peruvian guide. I hope to get plenty of writing material out of it. We'll also get an exciting/harrowing flight over the Andes, and a day in Cusco, the jump-off city for the Inca trail.

There's a real freedom to taking this time for ourselves, too. After the muffler fell off my car the other day (into the street, prompting sympathetic aid from the neighbors), I thought, oh man, and just in time for a long snowy drive to Rochester or Chicago. But no! All we have to do is hop on a plane and get whisked off to the tropics! And most holidays are accompanied, as everyone knows, by a precarious balancing act of other people's expectations that only gets more complicated and tenuous as we create our own, new family. This year, we get a free pass. Well, "free" isn't quite how I'd describe this vacation, but still. I'm excited.