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.
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.