blue sky, yesterday afternoon
Yesterday I was writing to deadline, pulling together some notes on the context and writing of The Juliet Stories for the ebook version that will be published alongside the printed book. Ebooks offer flexibility, room for extra material, and mine will also include one of my character’s songs. The essay is a short piece with photos scattered throughout. Distillation was key. I think you’ll like it.
But this morning I came across a longer meditation on the same subject, written while I was in the middle of discovering this book’s potential to be what it has become. So if you’re interested in a more detailed, mid-process version, visit “Midwife to Stories.” (Interesting also that the story I was in the midst of writing did not make it into book; goes to show how much gets discarded along the way; and how important it is not to worry about whether or not it will be discarded when you’re working. You can’t get at the story any other way. It all matters.)
Yesterday evening, as promised, I went for a walk in the dark during soccer practice. I walked briskly for six kilometres, which took about an hour; I could run twice the distance in the same amount of time. The air was crisp and cool and more like mid-October than early February. I’d dressed differently than I would have for a run, and I regretted that; I was too cautious. When I go for another walk tomorrow, I will leave behind the heavy winter coat and the big boots. Both completely unnecessary. The good news is that I was able to march without pain; and that being outside had an excellent effect on my body and mind. I’m still finding acceptance difficult — accepting that I can’t run for now — but there are alternatives and the alternatives can be good, too. Different, but good. If I had to give up running, I decided last night, I would get a dog. I would hike in the woods. I would hike long distances. One way or another, I would cover the ground.
After the walk, I got to watch my Soccer Girl scrimmage for fifteen minutes. As you may remember, she was a rep goalkeeper last season, and will be again this summer. But if you’d happened across the field yesterday evening, you simply wouldn’t have believed it. She looked for all the world like a centre forward. She scored four goals, and came close to six. She handled the ball with such confidence, dribbling through defenders, keeping control, biding her time. She made lovely passes to teammates. She waited patiently, using the space on the field, knowing the ball would come to her. It was so fun to watch. Sometimes parenthood is sweeter than anything else on earth. (And it only takes a smidgen of sweetness to make up for the underlying anxiety and vicarious pain that is so much a part of parenthood too.)
one of my favourite places for a walk
I’m blogging under the influence of an excess of restless energy. I haven’t exercised since this head cold knocked me sideways on Wednesday … plus the cavity-filling during yesterday’s potential exercise slot … and deciding to stay up late to watch Groundhog Day last night and therefore sleep in this morning … which really only adds up to three days of exercise-deprivation. Apparently, three days is WAY TOO LONG for my brain to be stuck inside a sedentary body.
I can see a real dip in my patience, in my frame of mind, in my focus in the absence of a) sunshine b) the outdoors and c) an endorphin-rush.
I can also see the less pleasant aspects of my personality poking out like sharp elbows. The all-or-nothing self. ie. I haven’t run for almost three weeks and therefore I will never get back into shape ever again! The doom-and-gloom self. ie. This is worst winter ever. The snappish self. ie. The one slamming the office door.
I need a new go-to form of exercise. Nothing obvious has presented itself, and my attempts to fill the void feel slapdash and ineffectual, ie. I’ve found myself doing lunges in the kitchen while eating a hardboiled egg or even while doing the dishes (not a very effective way either to do lunges or the dishes; or egg-eating, for that matter). Anxiety is creeping in: What if I’ve lost my drive? What if I’ve lost my willpower and my determination? It’s circular, of course. The less I exercise, the more anxious I feel.
I’m looking into a membership at a nearby gym. I’ve scouted another early morning spin class on Thursdays. And I’m open to suggestions.
My daughter has a soccer practice tonight. How I wish I could run in the dark. Okay, I have to accept that for now, I can’t. But I can walk in the dark, right?* And I’m gonna. For the sake of everyone around me.
*This walk has been approved by Kevin and the rest of my dear sweet family.
I am not running right now. My last attempt was a week and a half ago, a long weekend run of 15.5km on a bitterly cold and windy afternoon. The light was thin. My hip cried the entire time. That necessitated a frank assessment of my physical limitations, and a visit to my family doctor, and his request that I refrain from running. For now. I see a sports medicine doctor on Friday and the truth is that I’m holding out hope that his opinion will be otherwise: Go ahead and run! It can’t do any harm! (Hope hurts.)
Meantime, I am getting by with extra yoga classes, which seem to be helping. At the very least, I am strengthening and stretching and practicing my breathing. I am also continuing to swim, though not quite to the distances I’m used to: I stop when it starts to hurt rather than pushing on (the opposite of my usual style). And there’s spin class once a week.
But as mentioned in a previous post, none of those activities gets me outside. I’m missing not just the endorphin magic of a good run. I’m missing the bitter cold, the snow, the wind, the purposeful entry into the elements, even (and maybe especially) into the unpleasant elements. I’ve gone for runs in the dark, in cold rain, in hail, in blazing sunshine, in humidity. I also run in less extreme conditions, but it’s those more adventurous outings that stick with me, that please me most, that seem like tests of will and determination; there is a thrill to just sticking with it, hanging in there, going on. I could see how that sounds psychologically revealing; and not everyone’s cup of tea. And I accept that this injury may teach me many good things that I couldn’t learn otherwise: such as the value of stopping rather than pushing through; and patience. That too.
On Sunday, I went to my daughter’s soccer practice. It was a clear sunshiny afternoon, bright with snow on the ground. I could not run. But I decided not to sit by the sidelines indoors. Instead, I dressed for the weather, took my camera, and went for a hike in the woods. The trails were so familiar, trails I ran on all last summer and fall. And I was able to walk briskly without pain. It wasn’t like a good run, no, but it’s not fair to compare. It was exactly what it was: a walk in the woods.
Many of the photos came out with a melancholy feel (as above; do you agree?). I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the wintry landscape, the bare trees. Or maybe it’s the eye that was seeing the wintry landscape and bare trees. Whatever was captured, melancholy was not what I felt upon returning home. I felt better. Just plain better.
Found this German saying in the newspaper this morning: “Who begins too much accomplishes little.”
Uh oh. Is that me? As I woke at 5am, churned away at spin class, got home, ate breakfast, threw laundry in washer, thought about working on the writing project I’m developing, checked email instead, received message on how to use my camera better, spent next hour and a half playing with camera settings and taking random photos around the house, finally sat down at desk to work and started a new blog post. This one.
All the while, this is my morning to work while Kev hangs out with the kids. ie. my time is limited! And what have I done? Is it my habit to dart from project to project, from activity to activity, never fully developing the potential of any?
Maybe my word of the year should be focus. Or choose. Or limits.
Ugh. I don’t want a word like that. I want to do too many things. Not just do them, but master them, become expert at them. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
(Yes it is, at least all at once, if experience is any guide.)
But everything in me wants to deny it. Wants to embrace the opportunities, chase all interests, learn with a hungry and curious mind.
Look at it this way:
**This morning I challenged my body and put in time and effort toward racing goals this summer.
**This morning I ate breakfast with my kids.
**This morning I learned something new and useful: how to adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings on my camera manually, and what effect these previously mysterious numbers have on the outcome of the photos I take every day.
**This morning I recorded, briefly, where my mind is at.
**This morning I connected with friends in person and via email.
And now I am going to open a word processing file and spend an hour, **this morning, working on The Big Fat Juicy Belly Worm. Yup. My project in development is a story for children. I read the first chapter to my kids last night, and I think they’d like to hear another one. What could be more motivating?
Sorry, German saying. You’re probably right, but I’m going with my manic energy this morning.
On a completely different note, this blog post titled “Read and Loved in 2011” by The Keepin’ It Real Book Club reached out of the blue and touched me **this morning. Read it and see for yourself.
Resolutions. Do you make them? We went around the table last night and everyone had the chance to make a resolution for 2012. Not all cared to participate, but here’s what we got:
**Albus resolved to finish his Perplexus game (at least it’s not a video game), and buy two new ones and finish those too. (Inspiring … sigh).
**AppleApple resolved to train for and complete a try-a-tri. Her dad wants to, too. We’ll check age limits, but try-a-tris are short-distance triathlons with lengths I’m certain she could manage.
**In addition to the try-a-tri, Kevin resolved to dance more. He intends to practice with help from a wii game we played on New Year’s Eve called Just Dance (we had a kid-oriented New Year’s; very fun). I’m not sure whether a wii game will make him a better dancer, but it is good exercise. (Fooey said, “The best part is that you don’t even have to have a wii remote–you can just dance!”)
“all the little grains of snow,” taken this morning, back porch
Today, I am pretending the holiday is over; Kevin is helping with that. Whenever the kids are off school or home sick, childcare coverage falls to me, and as I start both working more and wanting to take on more work the imbalance becomes more obvious. I’m thankful that Kevin came around to recognizing this himself, and offered, for this coming week, to share childcare and split the days. Today he’s off anyway, so I get the full day. Friday I’d already arranged for babysitting in the morning, so he gets the full day. We’re splitting the other days half and half. I’m already floating the idea of doing this for summer holidays too. Something’s got to change this year.
I don’t usually do resolutions because who knows what will come or how a year will change a person. But I love lists, and this is good place to start.
1. Share the childcare. Take on more work projects. Work more hours.
2. Explore work options. Take risks. Dabble. Whatever I do to fill my hours and earn money, may it be creative, and perhaps surprising.
3. Budget better. Needs no explanation. Kevin and I are already collaborating on this front.
4. Continue early mornings + exercise. On my race list this year (assuming no injuries): the 30km in Hamilton in March; another Olympic-length triathlon; another marathon; and maybe just maybe a half-Ironman triathlon. I’d also like to do another half and another 10km. But racing is expensive. See #3.
4b. (late addition) Stretch!!!! After all exercise. For at least five minutes.
5. Develop book ideas. Apply for grants. Write another book!
6. Promote THE JULIET STORIES.
7. Practice photography. Use my eyes. Use my feet. Find new locations and subjects.
8. Make music. Write songs. Record.
9. Do everything I can do to continue to be “a good model” for my children. Be forgiving. Be kind. Seek to understand. Love.
10. Go bravely forth.
“Desert in the snow,” taken this morning, back porch.
*note: to see photos in full please click on them
I think I’ve got it figured out. Except for sleep. I just don’t seem to get enough of that. Mornings are best when I’m up early, out of the house, doing something — swim, spin, run, yoga. I come home to breakfast and morning madness but my mind is clear. I feel good. I’m more patient than when the kids and I roll out of bed around the same time and grump around together in the same sleepy blur.
But then comes the crash. By 9am, my eyes are heavy and I’m moving slowly. So slowly. I slip into a 20 minute nap, get up, pour that treasured cup of coffee (I only drink one cup a day, but it’s a hefty cup.) But I’m still tired. The nap takes the edge off, but my brain still feels only partially operational.
Yesterday afternoon, a writing day, I lay down on my new office floor (yes — on the tile) and took a quick nap. And then I napped again at yoga class during the opening shavashana. In fact, I went early knowing I would nap, so I could nap longer.
Before bed, no matter how tired I am, I have to read. I’m reading a really good book right now: Half-Blood Blues on a borrowed Kindle. (Read it! Read it!) I rarely turn off the light until my eyes are literally crossed with exhaustion. And then I sleep instantly, and deeply, and often right until the alarm sounds to start the cycle all over again. (Last night I was woken at 1:45am by a little voice across the hall calling “Mama!” When I came, he said, “I need a kiss and a hug.” I didn’t even mind being woken up for that.)
Here’s what happens when I don’t get up early: within a day or two, I’m sleeping less soundly. I’m prone to the 3am wakeful worries. And so I keep getting up early — three or four times a week. And taking naps. And planning to crawl into bed earlier. And not. And sleeping deep. And waking again.
One small note on naps: I keep them short. And I consider them to be part of the creative process. It probably sounds crazy, but I get some deep problem-solving done during naps. The stuff that’s too complex or troublesome or bound up with emotions to figure out by just sitting and thinking or trying to write through it — that’s the stuff that gets treated during a nap. I’ll wake recognizing something I couldn’t before. I’ll wake feeling soothed. I’ll wake with a brand-new angle.
But I’m still tired. My nap hasn’t figured out a solution for that.