Do the Hard Thing: A Study in Contrast

The Gritty Me: Don’t stop.

The Other Me: I think I should just intersperse walking and running.

The Gritty Me: You are going to intersperse walking and running- after you run for thirty minutes without stopping.

The Other Me: Interspersing walking and running is very healthy. Probably better for me.

The Gritty Me: This isn’t just about your body. Finish what you started. Do the hard thing.

The Other Me: There is a bear on my back. I feel heavy.

The Gritty Me: Are you in pain? Sharp physical pain?

The Other Me: No.

The Gritty Me: Then keep going. Don’t stop. Be Stronger…. Also, change your playlist.

The Other Me: Fine.

The Gritty Me: You have three minutes left. Go faster.

The Other Me: Faster? What?

The Gritty Me: Three minutes, that is just one song. You can do it.  Don’t hesitate. Speed up. Do it NOW!

The Gritty Me and The Other Me in unison:

Four – that’s how many years it took me to get through the lesson That I had to do it all on my own

Three – that’s how many Hail Mary’s they would pray for me Thinkin’ I was gonna end up all alone

Two – for second chances that you’ve given me, Can it be, lucky me, lucky me, now let’s go

One – it’s what we are, it’s what we are

Are we all we are Are we all we are

We are the people that you’ll never get the best of

Not forget the rest of, rest of (Ooohhh)

We’ve had our fill, we’ve had enough, we’ve had it up to here

* * *

We are the people that you’ll never get the best of

Not forget the rest of, rest of (Ooohhh)

Cut to the future, sing it loud, and take the power back

(from All we are we are- by Pink)

The Gritty Me: You did it. How do you feel?

The Other Me: Like a badass.

The Gritty Me: You’re welcome.

__________________________

 

Creating new habits. Letting go of bad ones. Pushing past resistance, past what we are comfortable with to achieve a goal. These things are hard. And straight up- running is hard.  The above dialogue is one that often goes through my head when I attempt to run. It is why I think developing an exercise habit is good not just for your body but also for your mental stamina and endurance.  That gritty voice that pops into your head and tells you to “do the hard thing.” It grows and gets stronger the more you call upon it.  It bleeds into the rest of your day telling you, “do not to hesitate, push harder, keep going, be strong.”

This post was inspired by Daily Post’s Writing 101 class Day Seven:

Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else….Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue.

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No One Will Ever Love You Like I Do

I had to laugh out loud at the final sentence of the letter. I found it crumpled up and clearly tossed aside.  It was tucked into a corner between the front of someone’s house and their steps. I hoped it was a letter when I saw the crinkled college-lined paper winking at me. I love peering into other people’s lives. It is why I am walking around my neighborhood at dusk. The lights are on but people haven’t closed their blinds yet. I can see in.

In one house the front sitting room is filled with lawn furniture.  I assume they picked it from someone’s trash. There is nothing on the walls.  There is no TV. But every night the Mom, Dad and eight-year-old boy sit at a glass table with a hole in the middle, for a nonexistent sun umbrella, and play cards. I would really like to meet them. I keep my eye out for them on the street. I hope their financial situation improves.

A few doors down is a house with the same physical layout.  Every wall is painted a different shade of grey. And then there are the carefully curated objects. A splash of jade. A touch of blood red. Filled bookshelves. A modern chandelier. Art, definitely originals not posters. The whole spread looks like it was torn out of Dwell magazine. The woman always has a full glass of wine. I never see anyone else there. I can’t tell if she is lonely or contented.  I am certain it is possible to be a little bit of both.

Anyway, back to the letter, my little gem. I would love to have a conversation with the guy who wrote it so I could tell him how amazingly condescending (not to mention cliché) his last line was.  “No one will ever love you like I do.” Um.  Gee.  I hope not. What are you saying kid? That your seventeen-year-old girlfriend is incapable of inspiring deep love, affection or devotion in another individual ever for the rest of her presumably long life?  A tad belittling, perhaps? Or are you saying that no other guy out there is as deep as you? A little egotistical don’t you think?

He was doing okay up until that point, but any warmth or nostalgia he was inspiring in the rest of the letter was all crumpled up in disgust and tossed aside with that last line. I wonder, does he honestly think he is the only person who can really love her? Or did he just hear that line in a song and think it sounded romantic? Either way, it was the clincher which is partially responsible for why she is in the backseat of a car right now being deeply appreciated by someone else.

It makes me think of that Cat Stevens song Wild World.  I recently heard that song again while shopping in Trader Joes. I had the same reaction- I had to laugh out loud. People love that song.  It is a classic.  And true, the melody is great and he can sing but the lyrics- wow.  It is the most condescending break up song ever written. It starts out- his heart is breaking in two. He is grieving, “but if you want to leave take good care/ I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear.” Okay. Wait a minute. Scratch the record. Did he just say, “I hope you have a lot of nice things to wear”? He did.

And there are many more great little nuggets in that song.  Here’s another one, “It is hard to get by just upon a smile.” Right. Because every woman really wants to be told that all she has to get by on in the world is her smile. Then there’s the, “don’t be a bad girl” line. All I can think when I hear that song is of course she dumped him. She had no choice.  And Kudos to her for doing it first, the relationship was going to end anyway. He had her in a box on a pedestal. A pretty naïve girl barely capable of finding things to wear or making friends. She had nowhere to go. Nowhere to grow.  Even if she kept herself very contained life itself would have changed her eventually and then he would have been the one to leave.  Probably for a doe eyed much younger woman.

I picture her driving down Highway One in California when his huge hit about her comes on the radio. She scoffs and shakes her head. She is on her way to see a man.  A man who is more than okay with her not being a “good girl.” A man who will never remember her “like a child.” She doesn’t know where her new relationship is headed but she does know this- it is the best sex she has ever had.  Mind blowing. A revelation. Cat Stevens may have been her first but nothing about his much loved song makes her wish he was still her only.

           

This post is a work of fiction inspired by the Day 5 assignment of The Daily Post’s Writing 101 class:

Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path.You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Given the full list of guidelines at 847 words I am not sure that I achieved the level of brevity that they were looking for but it is still short for a story and I had fun writing my first piece of fiction in  a very long time.

And though it is not mentioned in my story, I would also like to share with you the most beautiful and heart wrenching break up song ever written- Landslide.  This song literally gives me the chills every time I hear it:

 

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Mandatory Minimums

I recently finished Piper Kermin’s memoir Orange is the New Black. It is a very honest book about the year Kermin spent in a women’s prison for a ten year old drug offense- one which she had long since buried in her past. The memoir is a journey of personal responsibility and redemption which highlights the deep importance of relationships and compassion in our lives. I recommend it.  However, coming from a fairly privileged background what struck me the most while reading the book is the disparity in sentencing in our courts- determined by whether or not you can afford a fancy attorney; and also, the overly punitive and harsh lengths of sentences for nonviolent offenses.  Frequently, these are doled out in accordance with mandatory minimum sentencing laws.  Often the only thing these harsh punishments do is cripple individuals and tear apart families. It is so f*cking wrong.

So, to be clear- when it comes to prison sentencing I am 100% against mandatory minimums.

However, when it comes to creating a new habit, especially a writing habit, imposing a no excuses minimum time commitment definitely seems worth a try.  I had just started to impose a daily mandatory minimum of 10 minutes a day when a new assignment for my Daily Post Writing 101 class came out and challenged us to:

commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

In deference to the wise people at The Daily Post, I decided to up my minimum to 15 minutes. My ideal is that I wake up before my family every day and write for an hour.  That can’t always happen and so I have my mandatory minimum.  I absolutely must find a way to get in my 15 minutes.  It doesn’t matter how I feel or what else I have to do. I must write for 15 minutes a day- every single day. If I don’t already have a topic then I use a prompt.  If it is 11 pm and I am exhausted and incoherent- so be it.  If I have to plop my daughter in front of a Daniel Tiger episode- so be it.

It has been a week since I have imposed my mandatory minimum and it has been a little humbling. The truth is that I have been lying to myself- I have no excuse.  I really can write every day. I now know that the concept of inspiration is kind of bullshit. I will think I have nothing to write about and then when my fifteen minutes is up- I’ll just keep going. I won’t want to stop and go do anything else. I haven’t produced a lot of polished pieces yet- but so much is percolating, so many ideas have bubbled up. I wasn’t conscious of them but they were probably getting really pretty bored down there, beneath the surface, just waiting for me to show up.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

-from “anthem” by Leonard Cohen

 

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My Own Personal Resurrection

From the back of an old barely written in journal...

From the back of an old barely written in journal…

I failed at lent this year. I am no longer religious. I am no longer a practicing Catholic but I like lent. I like the concept. Lent requires that you do something difficult- that you give something up. I was supposed to decrapify my life by getting rid of a bag of stuff every day for forty days. Stuff I don’t need or use. Stuff that clogs my mental arteries and scatters my brain by taking up space that should be empty and free. My third floor is cluttered with crap. Stuff I was going to sell, stuff I don’t use. I have overflowing shelves and too many junk drawers. And yet I didn’t let go. I only got rid of about 10 bags. Why do we cling to things that hold us back and make our vision fuzzy?

Have you ever watched the uncut version of a move? Every single time I’ve made that mistake I thought- “this sucks. Thank god for editors.” Uncut versions of movies always feel clunky. I have never once watched one and thought- “oh- they should have left that part in.”

Ironically, perhaps, this post is my first assignment for my Writing 101 class offered by WordPress. We are supposed to free write for twenty minutes and not worry about editing. Just write. Don’t edit. That is hard. That is vulnerable. But it is also essential for my own personal resurrection. Sometimes we kill parts of ourselves before they have a chance to really live. Our quest for perfection becomes a stranglehold, a creator of paralysis.

I think of this quote by Ira Glass:

by Ira Glass

by Ira Glass

I wish I had heard Ira’s quote and really embraced it 20 years ago. I wish I had determined to write everyday regardless of the quality with the knowledge that- 1) I could edit later and 2) with time I would improve. Not writing for so long when the desire to do has been one of the few constants in my life was a mini-murder, a little suicide. But this post, this unedited effort (that most definitely could be done much better) is a new beginning- a resurrection. I am back. Hello.

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ISO- Dream Reader- “Oh Baby, Baby- Get Up On This”

dream reader

Who am I drawn to as a person, as a reader*? The Dreamers. The Thinkers. The Makers. The Awkward. The Stylish. The Damned. The Struggling. The Vulnerable. The Irreverent. The Funny. The Driven. The Fearful. The Brave. The Unconventional. People in whom these seemingly disparate characteristics overlap and create tension. Above all though- I am interested in people who try, who are trying. People that are going for something- anything. People who push.

If you lined up all my exes you would not see a row of tall blondes. No. It would be more like a meeting at the United Nations- a beautiful rainbow. Basically, I don’t have a physical “type.” And I guess I have been around the block. (I married late and enjoyed the single life- what can I say?) Judge me if you must but this experience has taught me a few things about the company I like to keep. As different as a lot of my exes are, there are some distinct commonalities among those that mattered. They didn’t necessarily take a conventional path and they all really push themselves.

Some would say my past relationships were failures because they didn’t “work out,” because we didn’t stay together forever. I disagree- none of them were failures. Or maybe they were- and that is okay because the time I spent in their presence was worthwhile. In the very least, I learned about the type of people that draw me in. (And that helped me in eventually finding my husband.) I like people who are willing to try and fail, or fail and then try again in their own way. People who can let go of the past and reinvent themselves- even when doing so is hard. I like people who push.

I attended a small, feminist liberal arts college. One woman put a large sign outside her dorm room, it said: “become the person you want to f*ck.” It is stellar advice actually.

That thing you want to attract to yourself- that person you are looking for to fill your void, that ideal reader, that new boyfriend or girlfriend- you know the one with passion and drive and a sense of humor who also cooks; well- how about creating all of those things within yourself and then see what happens?
Becoming Vivid is about pushing out of the comfort zone. It is not about becoming merely “happy.” Happy can be fabulous; however, happy can also be overly comfortable and complacent. Becoming “vivid” is about working towards your shine-y bright potential- even when it hurts.

Maybe you are getting over a divorce. Maybe you are trying to become a better writer. Maybe you are trying to figure out how to capitalize on your wackadoodle personality so that you can work from home and alternate doing so either in pajamas while drinking coffee or naked with a glass of champagne. Whatever it is- you are in the struggle. As am I. Maybe we will make each other laugh or sigh in recognition. Maybe we will help each other to keep pushing.

And so, dear reader (and you are so very dear), if you decide to spend some time in my presence, whether for a brief fling or a long lasting affair- I am not going to focus my energy on whether or not you love me. No, I will not waste our time together fearing that kind of failure. Instead I will push to be my most vivid self whether or not you love me, and hopefully that will make all the difference.
xoxoxo

*This post was inspired by a Blogging 101 assignment asking us to define our ideal reader.

 

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A View from the Gerbil Wheel

Photo by Jim Black

Photo by Jim Black

Comments I’ve heard about the gym:

“I hate the Gym.  I just can’t stand being on a gerbil wheel…. All of those people running to nowhere. I would rather be outside on trails, feeling the wind in my face.”

Or

“Ugh.  All of these people staring at themselves in mirrors. Yuck.”

I get it. When I ran cross country in high school, I had some transcendent moments running on trails- dirt beneath my feet, trees all around me. The most stunning of such moments still sticks in my head. It was a particularly hot and humid Washington DC day.  The air was thick and heavy and I willed myself to keep running along an urban park trail when suddenly the sky opened- sweet rain slipped through the canopy of trees above me and water kissed my face.  It was exhilarating and euphoric.  I had a feeling of oneness and connection to everything.

Working out in the grandeur of nature can be fabulous.  I am not especially a yoga person but if I could be in Puerto Rico right now, on the rainbow haloed beach pictured above, hearing the waves and smelling the salty air as I took a yoga class- you better believe I would be there.

However, I am not in Puerto Rico I am in an East Coast city.  Spring is just around the corner but it is still cold out. Very cold. I am lucky to live in a city with one of the largest urban park systems in the country; however, getting to a good trail takes longer than getting to the gym.  Also, I DESPISE feeling cold. Bundling up for a run? No that is not going to happen. Ever.

What do most of the people who make the above comments about going to the gym usually do to get some exercise?  My guess- 90% of them DO NOTHING.

Unless you are actually out in nature DOING what you say you prefer, or lifting weights and jumping rope in your living room, or taking a yoga class.  Unless you are currently DOING SOMETHING then the above comments are just self-aggrandizing excuses used to feel good about yourself (I am just too earthy and au natural for a gym…. I am not a narcissist like “those people” in front of the mirrors) while, in reality, your physical strengths just continue to deteriorate.  Meanwhile you continue to weaken.

However, with a slight change of perspective- the view from the gerbil wheel (or weight rack or the back of a TRX class) actually can be quite beautiful. And inspiring.

What do I see that is so beautiful at the gym? Is it the concrete, the mirrors, the iron? Of course not- it is the people.

My gym is urban and it is a real mix.  From the elliptical machine (aka the gerbil wheel) I see a Muslim woman working out in loose long sleeves, loose pants and a light weight head covering. She is next to a young woman in a hot pick jog bra that peeks out of her tight tank top from which a flurry of tattooed birds slip off her shoulder as if to launch into the air.  Both of them are lifting weights.  I see the keg bellied owner of the neighborhood brewery trying to allay some of the negative side effects of his life work and passion.  I see the any-day-now-pregnant woman walking her miles on the tread mill. Determined to maintain her strength as this new life grows and grows inside of her. I see the very beautiful and sweet middle aged woman behind the juice bar talking to a lingering customer- one of the many –who secretly hope that her friendly smile is more than just a professional courtesy. I see the seniors walking in for their “silver sneakers” class.  One grey haired lady’s spine is so curved she is literally bent in half.  And yes I see the uber fit people too, some of them are even looking at themselves in mirrors.

The gym is a place where people who insist on taking time to take care of themselves go.  Where people with goals go…. where people who want to integrate their minds with their detached bodies go, where people who want to get stronger go, where people who want to sweat out their frustrations go, and I’ll be honest here- where people who want to look and feel better naked go.

But what do all of these very different people of different sizes and backgrounds and fitness levels and goals all have in common- they all try. They all try and they all push themselves.  As I take this journey into becoming more vivid these are the kind of people I want to be around. People who try- people who recognize that their body- the vehicle in which they carry around all of their hopes and dreams- is important.

I don’t go to the gym looking for conversations but now that I am a regular they sometimes happen.  Interestingly, a least a quarter of the people who I have found myself chatting with are business owners- some very successful and some just starting out.  To be a business owner you have to be willing to work hard without guarantees, to carry a great deal of risk, to take responsibility and to be very internally driven.  I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that I meet a higher proportion of people like this at the gym then I do anywhere else in my daily life.

I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to living. Or to working out. Everybody needs to figure out what works for them. Not everyone is going to fall in love with the gym like I have.  Ultimately, as long as you are moving and challenging your body that is great.  However, in certain circles, the gym has definitely gotten a bad rap and my point is to expose the beauty in the everyday efforts that some of us make.

Whether or not it is spoken aloud we are all in this together.  We all wake up and put one foot in front of the other.  We all choose every day whether or not to take a step towards our goals or to stay safe (and stagnant) right where we are.  I am just as inspired at the gym by the bent-in-half old lady as I am by the lean legged beach ready babe. Actually, I am more inspired by the bent over old lady who says- “I may be old and my body may be gnarled but unlike so many others- I do not quit. I do not give up. I keep pushing.”

The weather is FINALLY warming up this week and I couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. I look forward to getting outside and moving my body in the balmy sunshine-y weather. I may even try some trail running.  However, on most mornings you’ll still find me at my new temple- that mundane and yet glorious place- the gym.

Please check out this amazing video. It really captures the feeling I have:

 

 

 

 

 

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Time is Slippery. Watch Your Step.

Today the streets are slick and wet and the sky is one enormous grey cloud. I am sitting in my car waiting for a spot in the gym parking lot. An occasional droplet of water slides along the glass windshield.  Across the street, on a rooftop ledge, sit a row of birds- pigeons. Black and grey winged creatures that are also slick and wet.  Several of them. It feels eerily like they are staring down at me.  Watching. “What are you doing lady.” They seem to ask.

Well dear pigeons, I am feeling crushed by the slippery nature of time. That’s what.

From my purse, I pull out my hot pink idea notebook (where I try to grab my ideas before they fly away forever) and my purple pen (a small homage to my 3 year old daughter and her favorite color).  Two bright small things, just objects, but in my hands they bring a sense of relief on an otherwise very grey day. I start writing.

Today is the first day of my Blogging 101 class offered by the lovely folks at The Daily Post. After I dropped my daughter off at preschool and before I headed to the gym I read my first assignment in order to give myself something to contemplate. Essentially it is- who are you, why are you here, why should anyone care? Quickly, I go back to my original About Becoming Vivid page and my About Me page (aka Oh- Hello). Yep. That is it. Assignment done. That is why I am here- to chart my journey of personal transformation and connect with others.

Until something snags my attention- the date. Was it really almost exactly two years ago that I posted my About Becoming Vivid page? TWO YEARS! TWO YEARS! Time is a slippery muddle of undone things if you don’t watch your step.

In two years, not including this one, I have only written eleven posts. Not enough. Not nearly enough.  Where is the growth I speak of, the progress, the imperfection, the struggle, the transcendent moments laid bare? Even though I am pretty certain Langston Hughes was talking about a societal struggle much deeper and more important than my puny little life I still can’t help but hear his famous poem “Harlem” in my head:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

 

Or does it explode?

Source: Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Random House Inc., 1990)

Well…. How about, where I am concerned, we don’t find out. In order for some people to change they need to hit rock bottom.  I am not interested in rock bottom. I am interested in now.

Privately, I have actually made some small steps toward progress but I haven’t written much about it. For the past five months I have been working out five days a week.  It has not transformed my body into that of a Victoria’s Secret model but it has begun to shift my thinking.

In order to keep going on the treadmill, or in a class, you have to talk  yourself through it- “I can do this… keep going….just make it through one more song….the  pain will be worth it… make it count.” We love to think we can compartmentalize everything but we can’t. Thoughts and beliefs always bleed from one area of life into the others. The fact is I am stronger than when I first attempted this blog. I’ve also learned a thing or two about developing a new habit. And because I have done it- it is reasonable to believe I can do it again.  This time I plan to make a habit of writing.

I recently read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  In it he says one of the most powerful forces in creating a new habit is the belief that you can. And what helps people create and foster that belief? Community:

When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real. For most people who overhaul their lives, there are no seminal life-altering disasters. There are simply communities- sometimes just one other person- who make change believable. (Duhigg 89)

I started this post feeling as grey and as dismal as this winter day and now suddenly I feel a glimmer of hope. Like a bright red cardinal on the bare skeleton of a dead looking tree- a reminder that spring is coming.  It occurs to me that by taking Blogging 101 I have found a community that believes change is possible.  It is a start.  It is a step, a carefully planted, carefully thought-through step.

And so to my fellow classmates in Blogging 101, and to the staff at The Daily Post-especially Daily Post Editor Michelle  and Happiness Engineers Velda  and Jeremey – and to anyone else taking the time to read this post I would like to say thank you for this community.

Thank you.

WORKS CITED:

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. 2012. New York: Random House, 2014 Random House Trade Paperback Edition. Print.

Hughes, Langston. “Harlem.” Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. Random House Inc., 1990Selected Poems of Langston Hughes (Random House Inc., 1990)

 

 

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A Little Bit Extra

a little berserk

Photo by Claire Joyce

She is like a lynx stretching next to me- supple, taut, and smooth. After calm deliberate movements she sits poised in preparation for the hunt- her big push outward.

I, on the other hand, feel a tad chilly and also tired.  I am a little early for my second ever TRX class and I mentally prepare for my torture by glancing at my cell phone and pretending it isn’t going to happen. If I was an animal what would I be- a domesticated potbellied pig? Deep down my heart is a wild cat but, right now, my body is not so lithe or calculating. I’ll just do my best.

Push-ups, sit-ups, planks, kettle bell swings, ankles and arms pulling my weight with taut straps- over and over. My whole body is shaking, sweating. I can barely hold my position. I have to stop and catch my breath. I turn to glance at The Lynx- how am I fairing amongst the fittest? “You’re doing well” she says, “keep going.”

Fourteen hours earlier I am lying down next to my daughter. It is dark and warm and I hear her breathing shift into sleep. The warm calm peace of the moment pulls me in.  Sleep lures me. Maybe I will just stay in tonight. Once a month a growing group of “Mommy Friends” from the neighborhood go out and have a few drinks. Several of the people going I have never really had the pleasure of talking to without children chiming in or causing us to keep one eye focused away from each other.

I go.  I pull my tired body out of the warm envelope and splash cold water on my face.  Even after almost 3 years of motherhood (and many more opportunities to get out on my own than I had in the first year) I still feel this sudden shock as I step out of the door onto the street at night alone. “Oh yeah- there is this whole other life and world that exists.” I feel liberated and weightless. I show up late, laugh, commiserate, drink a little too much and stay a little too long.

Walking home, it is dark and extremely cold but I feel ignited. Pleased by the irreverent humor and the growing comradery of my friends. The street lights are shimmering and I am too- a sparkling combination of the crisp air on my face and the alcohol in my body.  Yes, when I go home I will take off my clothes and slip naked into bed with my sleeping husband. A seduction is the plan.

Things go swimmingly. My tired but waking husband welcomes my suggestions….

Then, as if out of some sort of deep biological imperative to remain an only child, my daughter who almost always sleeps through the night starts screaming. It sounds perfectly terrifying. A nightmare? “Mommy, mommy, mommy- I NEEEEEEEEEED you!”

I wake up in my daughter’s room, her warm little hand on my face.  Her nose almost touching mine. You might think it would be the opposite- but she always seems to wake up earlier if I fall asleep in her room. How will I ever make it through my TRX class today? A lot of coffee?  All the coffee in the world?  I completely ceased being a morning person as a teenager. I hug my daughter and squeeze her and rock her. “I love you. I love you. I love you. Good morning.”

After TRX class I chat with The Lynx. “It is okay to stop and breathe” she says “but then you have to get back up and keep going.  When I can, I always do a little bit extra.” I agree.  I am trying to do “a little bit extra” more often and for more things.

I feel a little high.  I came to class tired but I have an exercise endorphin thing going.  I am feeling really, really good.  The fact is that nothing I did in the last 24 hours was done to perfection or even to completion; however, in all things, I did “a little bit extra.” I feel stronger today than I did yesterday.

A friend recently received a fortune cookie that said- “If you want to win at anything- a race, yourself, your life- you have to go a little berserk.” I love the unexpected acceptance of a wild frenzy being required for winning.  Not just hard work, not just care, not even always doing extra- also a wild, rage or excitement.  With every “little bit extra” I do I feel something growing with in me- an inspiration to tap back into my wild cat heart.  So while today my new motto is “a little bit extra.”  Tomorrow perhaps I will even go a little berserk.

 

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Don’t Fear the Chaos Climax and Other Thoughts on Change

 Everything you tolerate drains your energy, makes you irritable, and wears you down. Talene Miedaner

 

Is this true? Is Talene correct? Does everything around you that you just “tolerate” drain you? Bring you down, and suck your energy?

I am talking about the little things. That broken door jamb. The light hanging from a cord in the ceiling in the bathroom.  Chipping paint on your front door.  Flat surfaces covered with piles of paper- some essential and some worthless. Does walking by these little annoyances as if they do not exist, or seeing them and wincing before moving on drain your motivation and deplete your resources?

I am going to say- yes.  YES! And it is a terrible catch 22.  The more little irritating annoyances around you the more drained, overwhelmed and paralyzed you feel- making it harder to get rid of them.

I started this blog SIX MONTHS AGO. I have not published a post in almost two months and not nearly enough has been done to reach my many other goals. Becoming Vivid has been moving much too slow. However, reflecting on my humbling (and embarrassing) standstill has illuminated a few things.

If you want to change:

Expect pain- or at the very least, expect serious discomfort and expect it to last longer than anticipated.   I made a pretty major life change in the past when I went from being a totally lackluster student in high school to an honor student in college.  I always told myself, “I could if I really wanted” and when I got to college the stakes were too high not to try.  My first year was painful.  I had to learn habits and skills I should have learned and maintained since fourth grade.  I thought my intelligence would carry me but my success came down to grit.  I had to make up for a lot of lost time. I had to just keep pushing. I had to avoid distractions and the comfort of my old patterns.  It hurt.  At one point, I felt like I had ropes all around me and I was rubbing against them to get out- or rather to stay inside the new constraints and demands I had put upon myself.  I felt very raw.  Until, I toughened up.

If I want to stay true- or rather really get down- to the business of this blog I need to accept that the next six months (at least) will be very uncomfortable physically and emotionally.  There is an element in our culture which suggests we should be aggressively happy all the time.  This is just BS.  Not only is not possible but I would venture it makes people lazy too.  Sometimes we really NEED to feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes comfort is a trap holding us back from a better future.

Expect things to appear worse before they get better.  The blank page is so perfect, so limitless, so clean, until you put your pen on it and mar it. Or how about moving? Anyone moving houses will tell you that there is a point in their packing process where the disorder and workload seems worse and more out of control than before they even touched anything.  Fearing the chaos climax will only keep you from a hurdle you really need to cross. (I am talking to myself of course.)

Expect every single little step to take longer than you estimate.  When you manage to get your task done in the time allotted you can give yourself a pat on the back.  You can even feel a little smug. However, remembering that things which seem simple from the outside are often a bit more tangled once you get into them can help prevent frustration and burnout.  Exercise is a good example of this.  Everyone wants the quick fix but it can take months to see results.

Do something every day.  Start somewhere every day- even if no immediate results seem imminent. This is the numero uno.  At some point you will turn a corner. I really believe this to be true. And I am going to prove it to you.

Becoming Vivid is both an internal and external process.  The initial excitement of starting a new project or committing to some form of self- improvement is great.  The time almost immediately after that- when the journey is still almost all up hill is difficult.  Once the rush of embracing your new vision wears off- you are left with work, much of it tedious.  Pushing on in the face of no apparent results can be challenging.

Right now, as a motivation, I am embracing the idea that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other into the darkness and chip away at these little annoyances I will also be chipping away at a metaphorical boulder resting on top of me.  Eventually, enough weight will be removed I will feel flooded with energy- free to soar.

 

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Monday Lovely Monday

Monday is my “day off.”  My husband who really does have the day off takes my daughter out for an adventure.  I have no responsibilities except all the millions of responsibilities of the house which clamor and plead trying to convince me to pay them their due.

The bathroom sink is dirty.  There are piles and piles. There are too many junk drawers- a source of a shame.   A light bulb hangs from a cord in the ceiling it needs shelter- a cozy home. Crumbs from toast sit on a plate in the kitchen sink.

I look around. I want to throw every single thing out. I want the weightless freedom of nothing.  I want to leave.  I do.  I walk and walk.  Today I am alone. No child to teach and comfort. No stroller to push.  No other adult with whom to keep pace. Only myself.  Only my body.  Only the city, the warm sun, the perfect spring breeze.

I go into a thrift store and buy a book.  Sixty seven cents. New Selected Poems by Mark Strand. I find a café and refill my travel mug with strong coffee and cream.  I sit outside on a wooden chair on a tree-lined street with brick row houses.  The breeze blows.  The sun shines. “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth./ There is no happiness like mine./  I have been eating poetry. (Eating Poetry 1-3)”

 

Today’s post was inspired by the Random Moments of Delight Writing Challenge.

Works Cited:

Strand, Mark. “Eating Poetry.” New Selected Poems. New York: Knoff, 2007. Print.

 

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