When my coworkers ask me how my race went last weekend, I tell them it went well. I tell them I’m surprised I’m not more sore. I tell them the course was hard, and I didn’t quite make my time, but that’s okay. I tell them Yellowstone was beautiful. When I first sat down to write this blog post on Monday, I built such pretty structures to tell you how much I learned and how this race was a profound metaphor for my life. But in the end, the reality is far less appealing.
There is something humble about the way you sneak into my life every day. A fleeting glimpse of the Space Needle out the bus window. The tap-tap-tap of a queen’s confident stride down a 2am street. A dazzle of pink spreading across the mountain-tipped sunrise. You slide unassumingly into my morning smile as I remember: I live here.
To think that it’s been a year already. A year of Orca Cards and coffee shops. Of library books and houseplants. Turbulant cycles of summer and rain. Every day I wake up feeling privledged. My morning tea comes wrapped in a felicitous notion of belonging.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve loved a city before. The picturesque cobbles of an old English town and the tolling of bells hung high in a Minster. There I learned how to live. I learned how to break my heart, how to forget. But here, with you Seattle, I’m learning to be. Just to be. Nothing more complicated.
You challenge me – force me to find who I am. You encourage me to seek myself beyond the four walls of my apartment. I’ve found pieces of me in your ten-story library and stashed in the winding stalls of your downtown market. I’ve found myself on the edge of Lake Union and curled on a seat of the 49 bus. These pieces I left behind in far away countries, but here they find me again. With each day and each piece, I slowly become more of myself. All thanks to you, Seattle.
You encourage me to push myself further. To run that last mile and try that new thing. I’ve become braver because you make me less afraid. You show me acceptance on the paths at Greenlake and encourage me on the hills of Interlaken. The cheers and kind words echo freely between the buildings and people who call you home. You make me better by showing me humanity – the quiet kindness that underlies us all.
Not every day here is a blessed day. But the same is true across all of time and space. We can’t always skip Monday mornings. Your Januarys’ weigh lifeless and limp on a soul seeking sunshine. The damp can be a powerful overlord. There are days, Seattle, where a warm summer beach might tempt me away. But even with my toes burried deep in the sand, I feel you pulling me home. Running away is no longer an option, because even the days when the sun forgets to shine are bright here in this city.
Even your sidewalks tempt me to dance. Footfalls of the tango laid out to follow. Your bridges are guarded by trolls and art springs forth from every crevasse. Frivolity and sobriety are intimate friends here, guarding each other without jealousy or judgement. Here, I can be at once serious and silly. Embracing all sides of me. Celebrating all part of me.
Here as well, Seattle, I’m becoming more human. I’m learning the meaning of friendship and love. There are still plenty of half-made plans and intentions lingering in the soon-to-be now. There are plenty of dates from dubious websites, leading to ambivalent feelings. Just so, there is plenty of laughter and fond reminiscence with kith as close as kin. There are sparks of potential that feel like happiness or the future wrapped in possibility. My loneliness dissolves into an unfounded fear. For here, Seattle, I am filled with hope that I too can be loved.
Dear Seattle, this city I call mine. I cannot thank you for the gifts you have given. I cannot return the favor you have shown. You have proven to be generous and forgiving. You have welcomed me each morning – and so I smile. Here’s to you dear Seattle, and to many more years to come.
Today is the 102nd day of 2017. In that time, I’ve run a measly 113.47 miles. I’ve lost on average zero pounds and mostly just shifted my inches from one part of my body to another. Somehow, I’m slower than I was at the beginning of the year and feel like I’ve made no progress at all. I knew going into this year that running 1,000 miles was a lofty goal. I also knew that running my first half-marathon would take work. But I knew I was up for the challenge. And then the excuses started.
I make excuses in all parts of my life – not just when it comes to running. But that doesn’t make them any more valid. There are plenty of times when “I don’t want to” turns into “I can’t because…” That mental shift gives me leeway to skip a run or eat ice cream even when I know perfectly well I’m making a bad decision. Here are the top offenders:
Today is the 102nd day of 2017. In that time, I’ve written a measly two blog posts. Two. That means there have been 100 days this year that I haven’t posted anything. What a sad state. I had grand intentions of spending more time writing this year. Not only did I want to continue my passion for personal blogging, but also to explore the realm of short stories and poetry. Instead, I haven’t.
There are plenty of reasons why this is the case. If I am totally honest, none of them stands up to scrutiny. No matter how well-defended or how deeply felt, they are at their core just excuses. Here are a few of my favorites:
Distraction – Whenever I try and compose intelligible sentences, my brain wanders in a million different directions. Even in the middle of writing this, I took a 15-minute detour to sign up for a couple 5k races. I might take another to order pizza. Things like that happen almost every time I sit down to do some writing. Thoughts pop into my head – only sometimes related to my intended topic. This pulls my attention to other things, or reshapes my narrative, or simply makes me so confused that the only possible action is to stop. I have reams of half-started blog posts in my drafts folder – all the product of distraction.
Competing Priorities – This year, I’ve found it increasingly hard to prioritize writing in my life. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer and still maintaining The Serendipitous Life, personal blogging was part of my job. Even after that, I found a feeling of personal accomplishment in writing and publishing blog posts. But as my readership has dwindled (due in part to my failure to post anything), I sometimes feel like writing these posts is shouting into a void. Does it matter if I spend the time to write it out and format the post? Track down pictures to include? Does it give me anything I can’t gain from having a really solid think? Is it more important than any number of other priorities in my life? The answer is still yes – because I love writing. The difference is now I have to actively choose to prioritize it.
Mental Exhaustion – Physical exhaustion is one thing (something I talk more about in Excuses, Part 2). Mental exhaustion is a whole other ballgame. Having a job in communications saps a lot of my creative mental energy. I get home from work and some days I just don’t feel up to the task of being witty or insightful or self-depreciating. Even if I have a thought or a topic I think would be interesting to pursue, it’s easier to binge Great British Bakeoff and watch my fish swim around his bowl. I don’t like when writing for this blog feels like a task – and after a long day of work, it certainly can.
Lack of Inspiration – Saying I’ve lacked inspiration is a bit misleading. Instead, I think there is a tension between the inspiration I have found and concern over being too whiny, over-dramatic, or woe-is-me. My life isn’t terrible. Far from it. But I find that the less positive aspects of my life are the ones I reflect on the most – and the ones I process best through writing. I also worry that writing about the positive things might be boring or boastful. There is also a real lack of inspiration for fiction writing. I can barely remember the last time I wrote a short story. And while the idea of writing one appeals to me, every time I sit down to start my mind goes blank. My cursor blinks and blinks and blinks in preemptive disappointment. All the writing books say just to write something, but even that seems impossible.
Travel – Probably the most legitimate of all of my excuses is my recent travel. I spent about a week in Singapore and before that went to the coast with my sister and her husband. Both were absolutely fantastic breaks – and should have been fodder for writing posts. Instead, they became reasons why I hadn’t written – I was far too busy doing nothing on an airplane or in a car. But here, look at the pretty pictures from Singapore:
The good news in all of this is that there is still 265 days left in this year. There is still time to make a comeback – to write more and post more. I can’t say I’ll be completely successful if nothing else I’ve proven I’m good at finding excuses. But I am re-committed to my 2017 goals: writing, thinking, and moving more.
The United States is going through an identity crisis. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s going through an increasingly intense cultural shouting match. The narrative of “us vs. them” has seeped into everyday life; both my news and my newsfeed are consumed by divisiveness. Outrage is ubiquitous. Political decisions are followed by opinion pieces are followed by protests are followed by Facebook posts. We have reached a point where nearly everyone is angry or afraid or ashamed. No one feels represented. No one feels protected. Even if you personally don’t feel endangered, this cultural antagonism threatens something vital in us all. This feeling isn’t specific to one group – both liberals and conservatives see their values under attack.
All politics aside, one thing is clear: something is happening.
The beginning of a story is essential. It’s where everything starts. In science, you can’t have Δx unless you have x. In literature, you can’t have a climax unless you have an exposition. You can’t have a chicken without an egg… but that’s a bit circular. Forget about the chicken. Without a beginning that is catchy or engaging, we’d never get far enough into a story to care about its end. This story is no different.
Realistically, the dramatic arc is very predictable. Either I will run 1,000 miles or I will not run 1,000 miles. Along the way, I will be disheartened and encounter difficulty. I will probably have some quirky experiences that provide lessons about life. I will have days of triumph and days of failure, and in 11 months and 21 days, I will know whether this story has a happy ending.
We all know happy endings are never that clear.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.“
These wise words come from Nathaniel Hawthorne (maybe) and represent the essence of one of my two 2017 New Years Resolutions. Last year, I read a lot. I wrote some – mostly for work and on my personal blog. This year, I want to push myself further. I haven’t written a short story since high school. Fiction is not my forte. I firmly believe that writing broadly and without reservation will help me become both a better writer and a better reader. Reading and writing are essential parts of me – and they are both parts I want to continually build on. Therefore, in 2017 I resolve to write more – more blog posts, more short stories, more poetry. To help keep myself accountable, I intend to enter writing competitions and post my work here.
I must admit, my true inspiration for this New Years Resolution came from an unlikely source. Poo. More specifically, I was one of the winners of DefeatDD’s third Poo Haiku campaign. This was the first “writing competition” I’ve entered since elementary school – and it energized me. Winning was just the icing on the cake.
Unlike reading challenges or my 2017 fitness goal, my writing goals for this year are a bit more nebulous. There is an endless selection of writing competitions that take many different forms. I plan on trying my hand at a few different styles of writing and getting inspiration where I can. My hope is to enter at least one competition a month – but I’m not sure how realistic this is. Also, some competitions have restrictions about posting your entry before the winner is announced.
To circumvent this, I will likely post what Anne Lamott calls “short assignments.” It’s the same concept as eating an elephant one bite at a time – breaking down a larger story into a series of smaller components. I like the concept, and it seems like a good a place as any to start my hand at the great wide world of authorship.