Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Marking Time

This whole scene is what the best moments of my life are—me in the kitchen taking a break from cleaning an extraordinary mess from a particularly good supper, the kids in the living room being too wild (any moment now, I’ll have to shut down my computer and break up a fight), the clock three hours from the new year and I have still not showered from my morning at the gym and I know that out there beyond my front door are all sorts in Sunday best, music pumping, toasting and exuberant, who will they kiss, and I know who I will kiss, the man with the Xbox controller, battling our son in a game, and he is smooth-shaven today though yesterday he was gruff, there will be no rasp against my cheek this year, no prickling on my bottom lip, and maybe I won’t kiss him at midnight after all, maybe I’ll fall asleep on the couch like last year and he will tap my leg, nudge my arm, “the ball’s dropping,” and I will raise my head with sleepy eyes and yawn and say in my choked morning voice, “Happy New Year,” and go back to sleep and tomorrow the gym will be too crowded and everyone else will be walking zombie-like through the stores, another hangover behind their eyes, and it will be another day and another year, another way to drop a pin, set a marker, tell that time is indeed passing me by.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunrise in Winter

The dark-skinned lady in her fur-trimmed coat sits on the tartan blanket a few feet from me, her eyes turned towards the sea. And my butt is numb from the cold sand dune I chose as my seat. Sea oats stab at the backs of my legs. How long should I stay? Then the sky puts on a spectacle—the darkness of evening giving itself over to the color of dawn. A gift. A new day. An awakening. I watch until my eyes burn. Stay as long as I like. And the lady walks towards the sea, turns her shoulders north and then south. And I long to know her story. A lone jogger plods his way across the beach, barefoot in the winter sand. And my children are warm in their beds at the house while my fingers are numb from typing in the chill of morning. A heavy-set woman in jean shorts and crocs removes her shoes and wades in the sea up to her ankles and then walks away—that is all. And the dark-skinned lady turns towards me and her ears sparkle with jewels and her neck is wrapped in gold. And I long to know her story. The jogger returns and chats with her and I watch from my writer’s perch on the freezing sand and stretch my ears for their words. The wind carries their conversation and drops it in my lap—the cadence is dull, small talk, tinny laughter and I feel the pit of disappointment, a sticky ball in my stomach. And I will walk all the way to the rock jetty on the south end of the island to discover something. But then, when I find the jetty, it has nearly disappeared, covered by sand, shards of stone sticking out. The beach has changed since I last was here. A photographer sets and snaps photos of seabirds with the ocean as his backdrop and I envy his simple way of capturing the human existence—point and click. And I walk back, not sure if I’m full or empty again.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Flash fiction piece I wrote only partly based on my threat to leave Husband if he didn't rid our house of all four-legged critters who thought they had the right to live in my bedroom merely because they possessed the quality of teeth able to knaw through sheetrock. Enjoy! http://thickjam.com/no-179

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Runs with Pen

I completed my first half-marathon this past weekend. It was odd for me, an odd goal, born purely out of my desire to button my pants and maybe wear a bathing suit this summer. But, I suppose that people have accomplished more for lesser reasons than those. While I was training for it, I had a difficult time balancing my writing life with my running life. The running seemed so all-consuming, so opposing the creative life, that my brain couldn't put a sentence together in a logical order. But during the half-marathon, something occurred to me—running and writing are really not that different. You need the same sort of things to accomplish both of them, like:

Inspiration. My inspiration for running and writing come from vastly different sources, but are essential, nonetheless. For running, I'm inspired by people (the very few) who don't do it as well as I do and for writing I'm inspired by the people who do it way better than I could ever dream of doing it. Usain Bolt (or Husband) are not inspiring at all to me when it comes to running. In fact, they frighten me a little and make me not even want to try. But the girl who just started out, who is struggling, but still lacing up her shoes everyday and putting one foot in front of another until she gets her miles in—she keeps me moving. With writing, I look to the writers that I admire and try to dissect what they do. Where do they use humor? How do they weave backstory in so seamlessly? When is it okay to indulge your desire to describe every detail and when do you need to add action? The writers who can do all this, and do it well, are the ones who inspire me.

Comparison will steal your joy. I have to recite this mantra to myself often when writing and running. If I compare myself with Husband who literally runs twice as fast as I do then I'm going to get discouraged and give up, but if I remember that the only person I have to worry about letting down is myself, then it's easier to push through. In writing, it's so tempting to let jealousy take over, but I'm on my journey and it's not going to look like anyone else's journey and that's okay.

Sometimes you suck. Sucking is okay as long as you don't let it eat your brain. You have to use it as a humbling experience instead of an excuse to quit. Let yourself screw up big, but don't quit. We all suck sometimes. Deal with it. At least you tried. Get up the next day and try again.

You need a place. Find your place where you feel comfortable. Husband likes to run down busy roads, I guess so that everyone can see how awesome he is. I like to run down blind alleys and cul-de-sacs, hoping that no one is peeking out of their windows to see my pitiful form lurching down the road. I bought a desk this year that I put in the living room and sat my laptop upon, excited to "write at a desk" like a "real writer." I'm sitting in my bed right now writing this blog post. Daughter uses the desk way more than I. Find your own place that works for you.

You need people. Running and writing are both solitary pursuits. You can do them on your own, but you won't achieve the same things you can achieve when you share them with other people. I have never gone on a run with another person and probably won't ever do it, but I do talk about it with other runners and share my milestones so that I can feel some sense of camaraderie and a feeling that I'm not in it alone. I wrote in isolation for many years and only started to see a significant improvement in my writing when I joined a critique group and opened myself up to the judgments of others. People are essential.

So, go write a book or run a marathon. They're kind of the same.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ode to Running

One day, (Please be soon for the love of all that is holy!) I will love running again. But until that day:
I will not eat fried foods because I know that they make me nauseous when I exercise and the last thing that me and my lovely neighbors want is my vomit all over the sidewalks.

I will limit alcohol to no more than one glass of wine even on days when First Son refuses to do homework and Second Son spills an entire gallon of lemonade all over the kitchen floor and Daughter will not let me within ten feet of her with a hairbrush for the third day in a row and Husband is out of town and traffic literally did not move for fifteen minutes and. . . Where’s the corkscrew???
I will limit coffee to . . . oh, never mind, we all know I’m not going to do that.

I will keep all of my winter running gear clean so that I don’t have an excuse to not run on thirty degree days.
I will put on those clothes even when I don’t feel like it.

I will lace up my shoes even when I don’t feel like it.
I will stretch my shins, and drink my last sip of water, and start my ipod even when I’m scared.

I will open the door and step out onto the road because I know that once I start I won’t stop until I’m done.
I will take one step and then another and then another and then another and on and on until I have put in the miles that I promised myself I would.

I will do this because with each step I take my muscles get stronger and the lazy person inside of me gives up a little more and I paid ninety-five bucks for that half-marathon in March and I am not paying all that money and not finishing! Do you hear me weak body?!
I will make myself do this every day until the day (Tomorrow would be GREAT!) when I want to do it and will feel blessed to do it and will do without fear and loathing.

That’s why it’s a challenge and that’s what makes it worth it . . . also . . . being able to button my pants . . . that makes it worth it too.