Finding MoFo

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Blarney Castle, Ireland.

“The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It’s not fragility. It’s strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve deny you –,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think coal miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig…

…So write…Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

To that I can only add that more and more I think that LIFE must really be about finding that inner MoFo who goes beyond the can’ts and shouldn’ts to get to the marrow of things. You will find your MoFo at mile 25 of your first marathon, in the darkest of times and in the times of triumph. All you have to do is dig…as deep and as long as it takes. And if you are not digging, you are just passing the length of your days without grasping the girth of them.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Who is a good mother?

Is it a mother who breastfeeds until the age of two? Three? Four? Five? A mother who works or stays home? A mother who rushes to her child’s aid at the first sign of trouble or one who watches patiently on the sidelines until she thinks it is time to intervene? Is it a mother who reads all the parenting books or one who trusts her instincts? A mother who co-sleeps or the one who believes in “crying it out”?  Whatever choice you make, you make out of love. A mother is not someone you were born to be, it is someone you become every day with every choice.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the great moms out there, and you are all GREAT moms!!!Image

When there are no words…

Tragedies tend to leave me speechless. Not in the way that I cannot find the words, not in the way that I do not wish to feel them. This silence is more of a healing mechanism, an antidote to the stream of pain, grief, hate, and noise coming in from all directions. I admire the helpers and doers, although I know it is a coping mechanism for them as well. I do not understand the haters who post vile, insensitive comments and push their political agendas under the photos of dead children. Maybe I am not strong enough and too sensitive because all I feel is a profound sadness that makes me want to fold into myself and stay very still until I can once again feel hopeful for all of us humans.

As I have written here many times, I have never felt a greater outpouring of love and hopefulness than during a marathon. I remember every kid I high-fived, every voice that shouted my name, every home-made sign, every volunteer, the nuns ringing their bells on the church steps, the strawberry lady, and my fellow runners. And that is why watching the footage from Boston is particularly hard, because it was mostly the spectators who got hurt. They are not strangers, they are the people who carry us along those hard miles. They are not there for the medals, personal records, bragging rights or self-validation; they are there for us.

I know everything will be different now, and we are yet to find out how much impact this will have on future races. But I also know that when words fail, actions speak louder. So I am going to run. I am going to run for the kids, for the strawberry lady, for the tissue-holders and the high-fivers, the cheerleading screamers and funny sign makers. I am going to run to thank them for showing me what love and hope look like.

9 Essential books on reading and writing

9 Essential books on reading and writing

“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”

Anne Lamott

Getting back in the groove

How to keep running fun and best places to do it.

In early August I made a decision to stop running, not forever, but just to see how it felt. My last marathon was not nearly as great as I hoped it would be – too much stuff going on in my head, too many mistakes and miscalculations, TOO MUCH PAIN. The SI joints bothered me pretty much from the first training run, and neither the shots nor the physical therapy helped. Everyone from family and friends to doctors kept telling me to stop running, but we runners are not known for quitting, so I kept going and I did FINISH! After the usual recovery time I resumed my regular running schedule, but every run felt like work and I wasn’t having any FUN. So I stopped. But every time I would pass a runner in my car I would get a too familiar longing. I did not remember any of the pain or the work, I only thought of my feet hitting the pavement, the wind in my face, the clarity that overcomes my mind, the solitude. Last night I finally gave into the longing and went out for my first 5K loop since August and it felt GLORIOUS.

I so often get asked why I run, mostly by people who think that running is boring. Other than the banal “it feels good” I never know what to say them, but if someone ever asked me how to keep having fun while running, I think I know how I’d answer:

  1. Bring your running shoes on business trips and vacations – looking for a running route or just getting lost in the run will take you off the beaten path and let you discover places and sights you, otherwise, might not have. The change of scenery will keep your mind sharp and awake and will make you feel more present during the run.
  2. Run with your smart phone of choice which will provide music when you need it, safety – in case you get hurt, GPS – in case you get lost, and a camera to capture the sights.
  3. Run your own race
  4. Stop to take in the sights with your mind and your camera
  5. If something hurts, STOP. This is the hardest rule for any runner to follow. I don’t know why we take the whole run through the pain thing to the extreme.

How do you keep running fun and interesting? Below are my most favorite places to run, please share some of yours.

Most scenic routes I’ve run so far:

  1. NYC – West Side Highway. It is about 6-7 miles from uptown to Battery Park (depending on where you start), each block is about a tenth of a mile. Your reward at the end is the most gorgeous view of the Statue of Liberty.
  2. Stowe, VT in the fall – there is a wonderful bike path that takes you through the town and woods of Stowe
  3. Portofino to Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy – an easy and incredibly scenic 5K along the shore.
  4. Napa, CA along the vineyards. You can’t go wrong anywhere you go.
  5. Pacific Grove, CA in the spring
  6. Paris, France – The Luxemburg Garden is gorgeous any time of the year and the small gravel paths are easy on your joints.
  7. Martha’s Vineyard, MA – nothing beats breathing the sea-soaked air and sticking your feet in the cold Atlantic right after a long run. 

It’s a brag new world

I guess in some ways writing is NOT like running. When I train for a marathon I try to tell as many people as possible to keep myself accountable, but I always feel uncomfortable telling people about my writing projects, almost out of fear of jinxing myself.

Writers, in their majority, are an introverted, solitary bunch. If you read interviews of accomplished, successful, even prolific writers, you will find that many of them prefer to write early in the morning before other people, voices and moods have a chance to intrude their lives. They use various devices and tricks to force themselves into seclusion in order to hear their own voice. Samuel Beckett, for example, had a telephone installed in his apartment with a button to block incoming calls. Can you imagine him obsessing over his “likes” on Facebook or the number of his Twitter followers? These days he wouldn’t have a choice.

I often find myself feeling very conflicted about the amount of self-promotion modern-day writers need to do in order to have a shot at being read. Sure, a certain amount of self-confidence is necessary on any road to success, but must it be paved mainly with “look at me” bricks? It is no longer enough to just be a good, even a great, writer in order to get an agent or a publisher interested in you. The responsibility is on you to create your own brand and establish your following.

This predicament is difficult enough for someone who is introverted or reclusive, but what if someone decides to publish under a different name, for various reasons. How does one self-promote a book not written under his or her name?

Furthermore, is modesty really an obsolete virtue? And is bragging the new skill-du- jour? How far away are we from being required to put our Facebook and Twitter stats on the resume? How much is this popularity worth?

Zadie Smith’s Rules On Writing

I was working on a long overdue post about being conflicted between the solitude that I need in order to write and the networking that I feel is required of modern day writers in order to have their work published and even read. But then this popped up in my Facebook (yes, the irony) feed tonight. Every single one of these Rules hits home, but the one that I find I struggle with the most is #8. A fellow writer has already covered certain aspects of why it is so difficult and yet, vital, to adhere to this rule here.
The more I think about it, the more I am baffled by why is it so much easier for me to adhere to a marathon training schedule, and for my family to accept that my entire Saturdays will be devoted to the long runs, than it is to stick to a set writing routine and not feel guilty about making myself unavailable for certain periods of time. Is it because a marathon is something tangible, something that, in a way, involves the rest of my family and friends, and makes it easier for them to understand, and writing is rather abstract, something that is viewed as almost an indulgence?
Which rule(s) do you struggle with the most?
  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand—but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.
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