Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

The opposite of running.

In running on October 28, 2011 at 12:51 am

Yesterday began with 2.5 hours in a dentist’s chair; I was complimented for my ability to remain still and not flinch.

Today, I showed up for my first-ever MRI and was taken aback to hear that it was going to take half an hour — a half hour in which I wasn’t supposed to move my knee. At all. Then there was a problem with the first attempts, and 30 minutes stretched to 45.

In neither scenario did I find it difficult to maintain almost perfect stillness, which is a bit of a mystery. I’ve tried to sit still to meditate for five or 10 minutes many times, and I never last more than about one or two.  I’ve never been able to meditate for more than about a minute; my mind ‘Rolodexes’ (a friend coined that excellent phrase), and soon I’m up and off to the races, knocking a few items off of the ‘to-do’ list. Researches say that our crazy, overloaded lives mean we regularly experience the fight-or-flight adrenaline rushes that were originally reserved for life-or-death situations back in ye old days, and I believe it.

Now I just need to figure out how to translate my ability to sit perfectly still in dental/medical settings to sitting still in everyday life.  Maybe it’s a matter of giving myself the same authority I automatically cede to  the dentist and the MRI tech?  They told me to be still, and I did it; no problem. Even with needles and drills involved.

Surely,  I can manage to sit still for 15 minutes for the more pleasant outcome of a clear head? I overcame my running challenge; maybe sitting still will be next.


Off to a smashing start: 1-0.

In book group, reading on October 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Month 1 of the new book group season has come and gone, and I not only finished the book, I finished it with two days to spare. So far, so good.

The book, Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, was easy to finish – in the best sense. The characters were well-drawn, and you were swept along by what happened to them, even though what happened to them was horrifying. As several friends in my book group said, you thought about these women in between reading sessions.

The history behind the novel, the author’s first book, was surprising. I’ll borrow the background and the book description from the author’s web site:

“In 1851, a lawyer named Elias P. Drake purchased a plot of land near Xenia, Ohio with the intent to establish a summer vacation resort where the country’s elite could relax and enjoy the mineral springs in the area. At the time, it was believed that natural water could cure illnesses and bring about good health.  What made this resort unusual, however, was that it became a popular vacation destination for southern slaveholders and their enslaved mistresses.  Ultimately, these flagrantly open relationships offended the northern abolitionists who also frequented the resort.  After four years, the resort closed.

“This part of the story has been confirmed by historians.  I took this forgotten historical note and sketched in a fictional account of what it would have been like to be an enslaved woman traveling to this free state each summer.  Why wouldn’t the women try to escape? What kinds of emotional attachments did they have with these men?  Initially, I believed that it was entirely possible that they actually loved the men.  Ultimately, I discovered that it was much more complicated than that.

“Situated in the free state of Ohio, Tawawa House offers respite from the summer heat. A beautiful, inviting house surrounded by a dozen private cottages, the resort is favored by wealthy Southern white men who vacation there, accompanied by their enslaved mistresses.

“Regular visitors Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet have forged an enduring friendship. They look forward to their annual reunion and the opportunity it affords them to talk over the changes in their lives and their respective plantations. The subject of freedom is never spoken aloud until the red-maned, spirited Mawu arrives and voices her determination to escape. To run is to leave behind the friends and families trapped at home. For some, it also means tearing the strong emotional and psychological ties that bind them to their masters.

“When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet soon learn tragic lessons,that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the cruelest circumstances as they bear witness to the end of an era.”

3.5 stars

(Next month: The Great Gatsby.)

my best run ever.

In running on October 19, 2011 at 1:55 am

So my first half-marathon was on Saturday. As mentioned in earlier posts, toward the end of the summer, I had a come-to-Jesus with myself – specifically my knees – about the race. My knees were clearly telling me it was time to surrender. Accept my (current) limitations. Let go.

Don’t ‘just do it.’

And because I’ve become addicted to running – for me, a feat no less miraculous than finishing a marathon, much less a half – I listened to my knees. Punishing them for 13 miles on pavement was way too likely to leave me unable to run for weeks after, and as my volunteer ‘coach’ pointed out, that would mean missing a good chunk of the best running weather of the year here.

I did feel a few pangs leading up to the race last week, but then I heard from a friend, a “real” runner, saying she’d like to take me up on my offer to run the race in my place. I was glad that my bib would be in the mix on Saturday, even if I wasn’t. Having her run for me also brought some comic relief, as I can virtually guarantee that no matter how many races I run under my name, her performance as me will never be bested. (She ran the half in 1:58; I guarantee another hour or two would have been tacked onto that time even if I had run the whole way.)

But I did log a significant in-kind victory. That strategy I had in mind when I signed up for the race back in May actually worked. Over the years, I have had many motivational strategies that failed miserably, so this was big. I am the Queen of Rationalization, and I knew that if I was going to keep running through the sweltering splendor of a central NC summer, I had to have a BIG goal. A 10K was just not staggering enough; I could easily talk myself into a week off here, a week off there. ‘I can catch up … it’s only a 10K.’

In the end, my friend ran well in my place and with any luck, enjoyed herself. And I will be happily enjoying my hard-won new running habit throughout the fall and into the winter, doing micro-marathons three times a week with my aching but not trashed knees.

Aretha & Barry

In book group, reading on October 16, 2011 at 12:26 am

‎”If you think of the world without people it’s about the most perfect thing there ever is. It’s all balanced and s%#t. But then come the people, and they #@$% it up. It’s like you got Aretha Franklin in your bedroom and she’s just giving it her all, she’s singing just for you, she’s on fire … and then all of a sudden out pops Barry Manilow from behind the curtains.”

— Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (August book group pick)

A writer’s toast to Steve Jobs.

In writing on October 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Tonight, I heard the news of Steve Jobs’ death. Across the globe, droves of Apple fans are already expressing their sadness at the idea of a world without Jobs’ innovation, inspiration and verve. We’re sending our thoughts out into the world via his many paradigm-rocking products: iPhones, iPads, MacBooks and iMacs and more.

It is a mind-boggling thing to imagine the number of creative projects – from books and magazines to movies and songs – that have been launched thanks to Steve Jobs’ creative projects. How many of us may never have managed to get an idea out of our heads and into reality if we had not had such beautifully usable, inviting technology at hand?

I’ve managed to write a book in large part thanks to Steve Jobs & company. Along the way, I’ve used the built-in iPhone audio or notes apps to save ideas or fixes that came to mind on the fly. Long, uninterrupted blocks of writing time at home are often hard to come by, but my Mac laptops gave me a chance to make use of bits of extra time in the middle of busy days. I researched, wrote, revised or reviewed in coffee shops, waiting rooms, lobbies, libraries and many other spots in cities across the country.

And yes, I realize that in theory I could have done this with a non-Mac laptop, too … in theory.

But in reality, I’m a Mac, to quote the famous commercials. Apple’s style and approach have always worked for me in a way that the others’ didn’t, and I’m convinced that you need to love the tools with which you ply your trade.

My book project exists only in a stack of pages and in my Mac “cloud.” I haven’t taken any steps toward publishing it, and even when I do, the odds are slim. But when the last chapter was complete, I realized what a satisfying thing it is simply to have finished. And it was my Apple tools and the flexibility they brought that helped me get to “The End” during a chaotic stretch of life.

So I add my thanks in memory of Steve Jobs … for dreaming up tools that have made it possible for even the English majors among us to not only write, but to create beautiful things when inspiration strikes.

And also for the message in that famous Stanford commencement speech – reading those words again tonight made me feel as if I was smart, not foolish, to have made a go of forsaking a secure paycheck for work that I love.

I’m sorry that “The End” came much too soon for Steve Jobs, but at least he was wise enough to spend the years he did have doing work he found satisfying.

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

~ Steve Jobs

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