My friend Miriam and I met in college, when we both worked for the student newspaper. We stayed connected after she decided to hit the road well before she graduated to opt for life in New York City. I lived Big City life vicariously on several visits to New York, and Miriam and I ceremoniously talked every Sunday.
Back in the late '80s, I decided to move from Denver to San Francisco. After hearing about my plan, she decided to switch coasts. So we moved there together.
Armed only with a car filled with stuff and my dog in the back seat, we moved to San Francisco without jobs or a place to live. After a rocky month or so, we'd found a house in the Sunset; I got a job as a copywriter, Miriam found work as a bartender. We settled in.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
We each handled the earthquake of '89 in different ways when it came to fight or flight. She stayed in San Francisco - I left.
She met a man shortly after I left, and they had a lovely daughter. They eventually moved to Portland. They bought a house. They started a life together, in a new town.
He strayed. She got mad. They parted.
Some folks would have hit bottom. The bottle. The rebound. Miriam hit the gym. After seeing some results and finding her feet after the dust settled, she went back to college.
Her previous size 14/16 body became a 10, then an 8, then a 6. It didn't just happen with exercise. She became fervent about healthy eating. She started a blog http://gimme-strength.blogspot.com/ about finding fitness after 40.
And last year, at the age of 48, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in health studies with an emphasis in physical activity from Portland State University.
That's not where the story ends.
Last year, on her birthday, she marked her 48 years by walking 48,000 steps through Portland, meeting friends at bakeries along the way, celebrating every step.
Her birthday is today. This year, she ran 49,000 steps - 22 miles - as her birthday gift to herself. It took her eight hours. Five hours were actually spent running. Three hours were spent with friends, ironically eating pound cake at bakeries along a course she'd charted with careful attention to tasty detail.
When I talked with her today, she gave me the lowdown of her journey in a typical Miriam way. Not self-agrandizing, very matter-of-fact, with relevant, insightful detail. We talked in between her time at work and a birthday evening spent with her daughter.
Where we used to have long chunks of Sundays to talk 30 years ago, now we both have shorter, more scheduled times to catch up on life without wondering what curious ears might be listening. During our chat today, she subtly suggested that I find some way to commemorate my 50th birthday next month. I know I won't be running 22 miles in five hours, but I'm still looking for some achievable marker to celebrate the beauty that is Time.
But today, I celebrate Miriam. I toast her quiet, determined, well-paced inspiration. And I gratefully acknowledge our colorful past, our rich present, our limitless futures.