Alright blog, what have you got for me today?
This feels like a day for random bits. Things I want to remember about this very moment in time.
**My two eldest children, at this moment in time, have exactly the same shoe size as me. And apparently I have a lot of shoes, because right now my eldest wears a pair of my old running shoes as his indoor shoes at school, another pair as his outdoor shoes, and his winter boots were also formerly mine; and just this morning AppleApple took my pink lightweight tennis shoes to school to be her new indoor shoes. She’s outgrown her old ones. She’s also outgrown all soccer shoes. And this morning started with a lengthy search through her drawers for clothes that still fit. Suddenly all pants are rising above the ankle, and all shirts above the wrist. The very definition of a growth spurt.
**I’m plugging away at my multi-sport activities. This morning was spin class. Do I push too hard in this class? I really give it my all, leave everything in the room; and then look up with glazed eyes at the end of hour and realize it is 7:15am and the bulk of the day’s responsibilities still lie before me.
**I had my first DNF in a race on Sunday. It was a 30km race, and given my injury I could neither train for it, nor hope to complete the distance. I’d accepted that it wasn’t to be a few months ago, but hearing people in spin class this morning talk about their experiences in the same race made me more than a little envious. I feel like I’m holding steady in terms of my fitness. Barely. After such exciting gains last year, it’s difficult to stay positive about just hanging in there. But just hanging in takes commitment too. And I haven’t quit. Four early mornings a week is four more than I was doing two years ago. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but daily commitment and discipline isn’t often or even usually about an immediate reward, nor does it happen because we feel like doing it every day. It’s about making change over time, the steady accretion of experience. Mostly, it’s just about showing up.
**I’m starting to do research on what I hope will be my next book. Kevin and I have marked several writing weeks on the calendar, one per month for the next three months. I’m nervous about diving into a new character and a new world. But I’m curious to see what will come of it. Stay tuned.
**Remember when I used to get a good revelation after most yoga classes? Not necessarily an enormous life-altering revelation, but at least something small, some interesting new way of approaching a problem or idea? And that doesn’t seem to happen any more. It’s made me wonder whether I’ve stopped looking for revelations. Am I going to class free from specific unsolved problems? Or have I forgotten to use that time as a meditative space? I’m not sure. In any case, I took a nice long shavasana yesterday evening, and emerged with the notion that I should learn how to write screenplays. Is that nutty? Maybe it was sparked by reading this article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail about the slow decline of the novel, and the rise of awesome tv shows. A large part of being a writer (for me) is wanting to express ideas and be read, to provide entertainment but also food-for-thought — to an audience. I never got around to writing in-depth about Mordecai Richler’s biography, but one of the things that impressed me about his career was its breadth across the mediums. He wrote frequently for television and radio, and in his early career worked on many screenplays for which he received no credit, but obviously gained valuable experience. Would my abilities fit into other mediums of expression? … that was yesterday’s take-home yoga “revelation.”
**But I’m too tired this morning to follow up. On just about anything. So a quick and dirty blog post it is. And catching up on emails.
**And running birthday party errands for an almost-four-year-old; that will be this afternoon’s main task. The bar for today is set pretty low. I was just glad to get laundry in the washer, and soup in the crockpot after waving the kids off to school this morning.
I feel like I’m writing a lot about Juliet lately. I apologize. But this blog is an accurate reflection of my life and interests and the way I spend my hours, and truthfully, Juliet is filling up a lot of hours. And a lot of mental space.
Some cliches pop to mind. This too shall pass. Strike while the iron’s hot.
It’s not every day that I can tell you to go and buy April’s Chatelaine magazine. Look for Juliet! She’s in there (the review is not available online). And she’s in the latest Quill & Quire too. A thoroughly lovely and thoughtful review. There is also today’s post up on The Afterword titled “My time in Nicaragua.”
So it’s busy. It’s tumbling me along.
And I’m grateful for getting up early and working as hard as was physically possible this morning in spin class. I’m pretty sure exercise is the answer to some of my questions, and some of my anxiety. It has the effect of transporting me somewhere quite beyond the scribbling scurrying superficial thoughts. It empties and clarifies my mind. I’ve hit the stage of the publishing process over which I have no control. Let’s just say I have some learning to do, yet, in the roll-with-it department. Look at that sky in the photo up above. Those clouds know how to roll with it.
If you’re in Waterloo, I should also let you know that I’ll be reading tomorrow evening at Conrad Grebel College’s series called “Mennonite/s Writing in Canada.” 7pm. I’ll read something different from what I read at the launch. Books will be available for sale. Hope to see you there.
I had another physio appointment this morning. It’s hard work retraining these muscles. My physio says she expects it to take another four weeks of work (and that means daily exercising at home too) before I can run without pain. And only when I’m running without pain will she begin to address some of the more technical problems with my stride. I’m grateful to be running again, if only for 20 to 30 slow-paced minutes a couple of times a week; but I’m frustrated by not being able to push harder, to run faster, to challenge myself at the pace and speed and distance that I could just a few months ago.
So I feel in between. Very much in between. In a kind of quiet zone I’d never planned to visit let alone linger in.
It occurred to me this morning that I’m in a similar place with my writing. Last year I worked so hard on the specific project of Juliet. In parallel, I worked so hard to become a long distance runner and triathlete. I achieved both goals. And then I fell into this in between zone. And I’m lingering. And I’m impatient. And I’m anxious to get training and working hard again.
For my writing, the in between zone is the launching of the book. It’s done. It’s ready. Here is its chance to enter the world and sink or swim on its merits. I feel a great responsibility toward it, and toward those years of effort. I want to help it find its way. It’s my job, too, to spread the word, to share the words. And that takes time. And mental energy. And painstaking work that feels a little bit like those strength exercises I’m doing every day now. Tiny repetitive muscle motions that are much harder to do than it would appear.
What I hope for, with both of these lingering lulls, is to emerge on the other side stronger and fitter, with muscles retrained and fresh ideas gained and the pent-up angst of a forced rest period channelled into positive energy and drive. Writing a book and training for a marathon are similar exercises. Both require intense commitment to a goal, and the ability to keep working toward that goal even on off days, even when the point of the goal feels temporarily lost. Will this forced wait renew my commitment? Return me afresh to work that can seem, at times, tedious and interior?
I don’t know for sure. But I can hope.
I was glad to have a companion for yesterday afternoon’s rather odd errand — I’d heard the book had arrived in our bookstore uptown.
“I’m feeling kind of silly about taking my camera into the store. ‘Hi, can I take a picture of my book?’ What do you think?”
“Of course you should! It’s your book!”
I was surprised to find copies smack-dab in the front window, too. The article in the window is from yesterday’s local newspaper; an interview. Inside the store there was a poster about the launch party this Saturday.
I’m trying to figure out how I feel about all of this. I’m not taking it for granted, not at all. It’s lovely. That’s what it is. It is a lovely experience running alongside the rest of my life.
Yesterday, the rest of my life revolved around selecting disastrous areas of the house (they are all disastrous, so I decided to make the job manageable by focusing on one at a time), and sorting through the accumulated minutiae, organizing, and then vacuuming.
Is it just me, or does “before” actually somehow look better, more welcoming, filled with life, etc., than “after”? Whatever. Those photos represent hours of labour. I was pretty grumpy by the time we got to the uptown photo errand. And I missed my chance to go to yoga class. And no make-up yoga today because Kevin’s working in Toronto. And tomorrow is Family Day which means the pool won’t be open early. And And And.
So, yes. It’s lovely to find the mundane interrupted by the unusual.
Every Monday morning my alarm goes just after 5am and I wonder, why am I doing this? Less than two hours later, I’m showering after a good swim and the answer is loud and clear, because it makes me feel terrific. And just like that the new week begins with good energy and a sense of momentum.
This winter, I’ve really pushed the early morning exercise, aiming to rise early at least four mornings a week. Last week it was five. Surprisingly it was not that difficult, though it did result in an unplanned crashed-out nap on the counch at 7:30 on Friday evening. Still. Worth it? Yes.
I took this photo on Sunday afternoon following my second post-injury run: sixteen short minutes of snowy bliss. I felt just like this: like I was flying, like my feet weren’t even on the ground. Monday morning, after the swim, I went for my first physio appointment and the news was good: dedicated strength work should balance out my muscles and make me faster and stronger in the long run (pun intended). I’ve been feeling rather down on myself, questioning whether I’m too old, whether my quest to become fitter and faster has hurt rather than helped me. But that wasn’t the physio’s take. She sees me as an athlete who needs to focus and hone my training in order to support the good things I’m doing for/with my body. It isn’t silly to dream of getting faster. It’s a perfectly natural goal, and achievable too.
Momentum. Sometimes I think sheer will can get me anywhere. Sometimes I know that’s bull. But will does wonders. Sometimes I feel arrow-sharp, aimed at a goal. Sometimes I feel indecisive and anxious. But even on the most indecisive morning I can get up early and swim, and I do. That’s the sheer will I’m talking about. And if nothing else, it gets me off the ground.
This week’s unoffical theme has been the free trial. In order to fill holes in my exercise life, I tried out two different classes at two different gyms/studios. It was all about trying new things. I lifted kettleballs. I took an aerobics class. And my specific conclusion is that aerobics classes are not for me. Swinging kettleballs just might be. My more general conclusion is that trying new things is really not that hard. You just show up. You accept that you’re the newbie. You might be wearing the wrong shirt (a touch too flashy for this morning’s t-shirt-style aerobics class). You don’t know where to stand. And apparently you can’t get your arms to coordinate with your legs (aerobics class again; really really not for me). You look awkward. At least a little bit.
And that’s okay. Just make the appointment, set the alarm, and show up. If it’s a fit, you’ll know it, and if not, it was a unique experience you’ll never have to repeat.
What I learned in this morning’s aerobics class is that looking fit and toned is not a powerful enough goal for me; I kind of looked fit and toned even before I was. The luck of genes. Nope, what motivates me is the desire to stay sane, to take the edge off, to channel my nervous energy and competitive nature toward semi-useful ends like marathons and triathlons. It is also a way to inhabit my body and to get out of my head.
Which I need. Pretty much daily.
A photographer came this morning to take a shot to accompany yesterday’s interview (it will run a week from Saturday in the KW Record). He seemed slightly disappointed by my ordinary setup: desk, computer screen, chair. He said he’d imagined me scribbling into a notebook reclined in a comfortable chair. He did pose me with pen in hand, which happens next to never since I can’t read my own printing. It got me thinking about how the writer gets imagined — when you think writer, what do you see? Tortured soul? Drink in hand?
Running may be my version of drinking. Here’s hoping kettleballs will suffice too.