Category Archives: Writing

Row the Boat

This is week 17 of a countdown to 1.

At the one week mark, I shall be running a marathon.

But I’m not thinking about that. Not really.

I am thinking about beginnings.

I am thinking about how every single day if you wake up, you are given a chance to be better, be the person that you really want to be.

I’m thinking about excuses.

I’m thinking about Elena Ferrante and friendship (lovely essay by Laura Maylene Walter to be found here.) and what it feels like to be unmoored.

There are times I feel like a helium balloon and the only thing keeping me in place is the tight grasp of my children. Man, do I owe them for that.

It is so easy to get caught up in life, in friends that are no longer around, in commutes and train schedules, in a job you detest. You get home and you have laundry and dishes and homework folders that need to be gone through. By the end of it, the end of that day, all you have done is emptied the water from a row boat with a prominent hole in the center. Always emptying, never truly dry.

Do you ever feel completely exhausted? Yes, I know you do. We all do.

We’ve surrounded ourselves with things that just don’t matter in the scheme of what life is, what life should be, what we could be.

And so.

A few weeks back, I texted my best friend that we needed to do a marathon. And she said, yes, we do.

An odd response given that we’re both mid-forty and we both have bad backs. We both work full-time. We both have children that we let down on a daily basis. We can’t do everything and God help us, there are times we can do nothing.

But she said yes because she knew. She knew that feeling of beginning again.

Of starting over.

Of taking a moment, finding that impossible thing, and making it happen.

I’m running to bring me back to writing, to bring me back to a better version of me. Perhaps the best version of me.

I’ve been working on a short story and it’s horrible. You see, I’ve forgotten how to write. I’ve forgotten why it’s important. I’ve let myself drift out in a row boat with a hole.

But when I say, I’ve been writing, what I mean to say is that I wrote something that I thought had potential and then began typing it to realize it is just bad. So I stopped. I said, I can’t do this. I said, I suck. I said, what’s the point of writing anyway. Who cares?

The last marathon I ran was ten years ago. I had to prep to even begin training by running a mile run. One mile. Over and over that one mile until I could run two.

I just got home from a three and a half mile run and it’s my short run for the week.

But I’m not thinking about that. I’m not thinking about anything other than tomorrow I run again, I run just that one run.

When I’m done here, I’m going to finish typing the bad short story, the one I ran from. Then I’ve got about an hour until the Valentine’s party at my son’s school and in that time I’m going to reread my bad story and see if I can make one sentence not so bad. I’m going to see if I can make one sentence fantastic.

And that’s how I start. That’s how I plan on sealing the hole in the boat, one run, one sentence at a time.

Because every morning you get to begin again, and today I remembered that I want to spend my life rowing the boat around the lake, not scooping out the water.

One small thing today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.

Today.

xoxo

 

 

Cut

I’ve just made a second pot of coffee. I have today and tomorrow off from work because tomorrow is my birthday.

For various and sundry reasons, I’m contemplative.

I cut my hair off recently. It was well past my collar bone, faded blonde and thin towards the ends. Now it is short, an inch or two on top and trimmed around the ears, tight in the back.

People asked me why I did it, and my answer was short, I needed a change, It was unhealthy, I didn’t want to be stuck.

Those aren’t lies.

They just aren’t the truth.

There is an interesting social profile about the people who genuinely like it, and the people who really, really don’t. For the most part, they don’t think I can tell the difference. What they don’t know is that reading people’s faces is my superpower. I know when I’m being lied to. It’s why I detest talking on the phone.

In general, men fifty and younger hate it. Women 40 and younger hate it.

Women over 40, love it. I think they know without knowing why a woman past 40 would chop off all her hair.

So much of my life has always revolved around my weight. Have you ever played the Once-I-Lose-Weight game?

Once I lose weight, I’ll cut my hair. Right now, my double chin will be show.

Once I lose weight, I’ll buy new clothes that make me feel good. Nothing looks good at this size.

Once I lose weight, I’ll be the me I’ve always wanted to be.

Once I lose weight…

Once I lose weight…

Once I lose weight…

So the reason I cut my hair was simply because I wanted to stop being somebody I wasn’t. I wanted to force myself to see that I might not ever be smaller than I am now. And that I was okay with that.

When I was in high school, I’d eat a rice cake and some grapes and run around a stadium track after school. I would tell my parents I had eaten dinner at a friend’s house, and I’d tell her I had just eaten at home.

I’m 5′ 9″ and weighed 125 pounds. Nothing was more important to me than keeping that weight there. When I put on a pound, I’d stop eating.

I am now 185 pounds.

So I cut my hair because I want the magic of life to begin now. I  needed to prove to myself that nothing, absolutely nothing, has to wait because I am larger than I have ever been before.

My weight does not control my happiness.

So I cut off my hair to prove that I am a woman, not a girl, and I control my destiny. I decide who I want to be and how I move through the world. I am not trying to be 25 anymore. I am embracing, as of tomorrow, 44 years on this planet, and I’d like to spend them surrounded by people who are kind, who are thoughtful, who are creating anything, whether a craft project with their kids or a literary masterpiece.

And in turn, I want to be creating things. In the last week, I’ve finished a short story first draft. Today I’m going to work on another one and maybe type up the first one. The form seems more conducive to working full-time, and spending the little time not at work with my family. Short stories can be squeezed in on the train.

And I’m not thinking about publishing. I’m thinking about writing.  That’s it.

I’m thinking about second chances and what it means to be human. What it means to fuck up. I’m thinking about how life can surprise you when you don’t resign yourself to what is, but rather to what it can be. I’m thinking about magic and embracing all of me, not just the parts if they are improved. I’m thinking about work, the work on myself and the work of making art.

I’m thinking about making time for what’s important.

(Thanks to Nanea Hoffman of Sweatpants and Coffee for the quote above. If you don’t know about her, take a look. She gets the joke, my friends.)

Pursue it relentlessly, my friends.

Relentlessly.

But make another pot of coffee first.

Love.

 

 

 

Spoonfed

In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s still me. Due to a conflict of interest of the work/life sort, I’ve had to switch out to a nickname. Enough business.

Hope This. A small lending library in the middle of the Adirondack mountains.

I consider this a view of hope.

I read the news all day at my job. Reading the news is a large part of my job.

There are days that I think, I need a new job. Many, many days.

Right now our country is saturated in fear. Our fear has led us to collectively make some questionable decisions and helps explain to me how Trump is not only running for President, but moving up in the polls. Fear-mongering leads to a collective amnesia about what fascism looks like.

A country isn’t a business. A country certainly shouldn’t be run like a business in 2015 where money is the one, the only priority. People are losing jobs because of a bottom line in which companies see no need to take care of people.

When children wash up on beaches because a shot at hope is the only alternative to certain death, and we’re too busy arguing economics, we have lost sight of what it means to be a human being.

Technology has led us into a hole of the unreal. Depending on the day, my Facebook feed is one picture after another of propaganda about why I should arm myself and my family to keep us safe. Religion is being used as a shield of protection against the enemy. But who is the enemy?

We’re all the enemy.

There is no safe. There is life and living life.

We went camping this weekend in Michigan and went to a storytelling on the beach around a campfire. Mike, our storyteller, told stories that he had heard from his dad as a child. We sat on benches in the sand and listened to Native American stories, ghost stories, stories, stories, and more stories. As the night wore on and darkness fell we looked through telescopes pointed at Saturn. We saw the Andromeda Galaxy. I still have trouble wrapping my head around it, an entirely different galaxy. Jesus.

The only thing certain is death. We have no idea when it’s going to come, but I wonder how many of us are truly living now.

And that’s what this is about. I want to rebel against the fear that we are being spoonfed and embrace the power of living our lives, making each day a little bit better, a little bit kinder, a little bit more worth living because we are countering all of this anger and fear, with art and kindness.

Art matters. We cut it from our schools so we can compete in a global economy. Fuck STEM. How about we teach ourselves and our children how important it is to read, to write, to draw, to play an instrument?

When was the last time a brawl broke out at a reading? A band concert? In a library?

The idea behind the little lending library above is that you give a book, you take a book. The person who created it knew that some people might take the books. And that is enough for some people to think the whole idea an idealistic comeuppance.

But here’s the thing. Maybe someone takes a book that changes their life, that saves their life, that helps them to save somebody else’s life. Maybe it’s the way you view it.

Maybe we give people the benefit of the doubt and try to make room for us all.

Maybe we turn away from fear and toward kindness.

Maybe.