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Today is the one-year anniversary of my starting to run. It’s hard for me to believe I’ve stuck with it for an entire year—not my usual M.O. I think this blog helped (even though I abandoned it for a while), keeping a log helped, but it also helped to have a running partners and friends who like to do the different races in town. Thank you all for your support. I’m going to celebrate today with my favorite long run by the river and then I’m going to register for a 5K coming up on May 1st. Run for the Zoo: that was my first 5K, a year ago, and I walked more than half of it. I’d started out on a walk/run plan of running a minute, walking a minute and I did that through the 5K (I think I was up to 3-minutes stints by then).

I’m not sure how I feel about this anniversary. A bit emotional, actually. Very proud, but a little embarrassed or disappointed that I haven’t become a marathon runner yet. I suppose I thought I would be farther along now than I am. I had a few down months, slogging along, running maybe two or three times a week—a couple of times only once—terrible weeks. February was awful with below freezing weather. I did run some—never missed an entire week, in pretty cold temps mind you, but it did slow me down.  A terrible cold, the death of my cat (I actually ran more that week—running is good for grief I found), moving, chaos at work…lots of reasons not to run. And then, to my dismay, I gained weight; six or seven pounds, seemingly overnight. So now, I’m back to watching my weight and pushing myself to run more. It has not been easy. My legs have been weak, flabby in the thighs, muscles have gotten mushy; running has taken a lot more effort this past few weeks than I remember it being in the beginning. But for two weeks I’ve pushed myself to run longer and more often and it’s finally feeling like fun. I’m stronger; seeing some muscle tone in my thighs. I’ve dropped the weight and I can really tell the difference in the way my body moves, in the energy I have.

It’s amazing how quickly one can lose momentum, frightening really. A cupcake here and there; skip this run or that yoga class. It’s like I started thinking I was immune to calories. I was eating more but maintaining because, I told myself, I’m running now. Denial is not a river….The fact that I lost the weight by cutting out the junk and exercising wasn’t registering at all. I’m not cured of calories; good lesson there and it applies in other areas of my life as well.

My goals for year number two: keep watching what I eat and improve my stamina and consistency. Sure, I want to do a few 5Ks but I’m not concerned with racing. What I really want is to lengthen my runs (4o minutes instead of 25-30) and instead of running three times a week (sometimes 4), get up to running five times a week. I also want to do more trail running. That’s what I really love; running on dirt, under trees, and away from cars and buildings is inspiring and makes me love to run. 

Here I go, into my second year running…

Four miles wasn’t so bad. In fact, this run was easier for me than the last 5k in August. I don’t get it. Longer. Colder. In fact, it snowed last night and the roads were a bit icy. The wind was bitter. I suppose I was mentally in a better space. I’d prepared with running in the cold and I wasn’t worrying about time. I did not even carry my trusty egg timer (trying to wean myself) and I had no idea when I’d gone a mile; there were no mile markers on the road. I just ran, practiced being present—in my body—and kept an eye out for ice. I ran about three miles with a friend who likes to “chat” (her words) and I don’t mind. It keeps me distracted from negative thoughts, and it helps that she doesn’t expect me to answer her (breathing is challenge enough; you don’t smoke for 20 years without any repercussions). The sandy parts were a challenge, but I kept going (a little slower, maybe, but I didn’t stop) then at the end sped up to pass two women around my age who had been dogging me for most of the race. I’ve reached a new goal: 4 miles. It feels good! I don’t know my time, it hasn’t been posted yet, but I’m not worried. I ran a good race. Now I can kick back and eat my fill of turkey, low-fat pumpkin pie and stuffed eggplant. Yum. Happy Thanksgiving!

Running today was not easy—feeling sluggish, a bit sad, but my body went into automatic at some point and I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was running, I was just moving above the ground. I like it when that happens; it’s like flying. I’ve used that analogy before with things—with riding a bike, with writing. Yes, sometimes writing feels that way. Like I’m soaring above the ground, zipping around, a kind of high. Although, writing is not always like that, writing is often just plodding away. Just like running is, those first seven to ten minutes—sometimes longer—before my body goes into automatic. I don’t like that, really, the word “automatic.” It makes me think of machines and robots when it’s more like a natural state, a zen state of writing, a zen state of running, where I’m in the moment, doing the thing and not thinking about doing it.

I was in that state today, floating over the sandy ditch bank, watching geese fly overhead in arrows, calling out in their funny way—I felt like I was soaring with them. But I’ve since landed. I’m feeling a little depressed, still, after getting a rejection “letter” (email, to be precise) from this small press I’d submitted my book to. Unhappy, but there’s a strange sense of freedom in their rejecting me. I think I would have been sorry had I gone with them. They are not respected; I think they put out a bit of pulpy stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with pulp–it has its place). I suppose I should be glad that my work does not fit in with their “needs” (whatever those are.) I do think my novel is a bit too literary for them, even though it may not be literary enough by MFA program standards. It is still too complex for the regular, strict-genre fare that this particular press puts out.

If that’s the way I feel , why did I submit to them and not do a thing (as far as writing goes) for three months while I waited for their reply? I was sure I would be picked up, to be honest. I thought that well of my novel, it was actually too good for them, they’d be happy to pick it up. What is wrong with this picture? First of all, I was definitely aiming too low. Secondly, I was afraid to go to a better press. There are very few presses that deal in my niche market and I’m afraid to be rejected by those that are more respected. This is difficult, writing about this. I’m afraid but I have to forge ahead, to walk though this fear and see what happens. I have not actually tried to publish this book. Sure, I submitted to a contest (one winner out of however many. I didn’t win—big surprise) and this “lowered expectations” press. That’s hardly a try and I really thought that they were likely to take my book because—look at the crap they sell—mine is much better. Whew, that kind of smarts! Maybe mine isn’t better. That’s the thought that keeps seeping into my gloominess, maybe I’m really not good enough—even for Bottom of the Barrel Books. Aaaaugh! The writer’s plight: always fighting with the magically morphing ego (now too big; now too small). I’m either the best or I’m the worst, never somewhere in-between.

All right then. Stop whimpering, dust yourself off. I need to look for a new publisher, rewrite my synopsis, get someone to edit it, try again. And again. And again. Who do I think I am, really, that I shouldn’t have to go through the many rejections that all writers, most writers, have to go through? This is hard to write about and I don’t know if I want this to be in the blog. Reflection on rejection, not very inspiring. I’m feeling about seven years old today. Feeling sorry for myself, wanting to give up, wanting to eat a bunch of junk. The run was good, but its effects are not as lasting as I’d hoped. I came home, escaped into a mystery novel, not wanting to deal with grading the stack of student essays, not wanting to deal with revamping my synopsis, working on that outline for another stupid press.

What would Julia do? (I’m speaking of the one and only Julia Cameron, of course.) In her book, the Artist’s Way she talks about letting yourself feel the pain of rejection, she says, “give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds.” I will allow myself to grieve a little bit; it really was a death of sorts, death of a dream (at least for the time being), even though my expectations may have been unrealistic. I know that in a day or two I will have healed and will move on in a new direction. Sometimes rejection is the best thing for me. It motivates me to look at something in a different way. It offers me perspective. I was limiting myself; I had not been taking risks, not really wanting to put in the effort, step out on a limb. I may even feel grateful for this rejection at some point in the future. Maybe. (September 12, 2010)

Reality. Boy, this is a hard one. I don’t know if I want to talk about it right now. Mostly, I’m trying to deal with the pain in my knees. I don’t know if biking exacerbated it, it surely feels that way. It’s disappointing because I want to bike to work. It beats driving to the university and trying to park; it’s stressful and it’s expensive. Plus, it ends up taking a lot of time. Reality is: I need to stop writing and grade papers. I need to work on a lesson plan for tomorrow. I need to, I need to….

This (writing) is not reality. This is something else (playing, fooling around, procrastinating comes to mind). Society, my mother, that voice that tells me I’m not being practical–that’s what I’m hearing. I’m wasting time by writing. Reality, for me lately, has been all about finding a better job: a real job—with benefits. A career. The kind of job that a woman my age should have. That a person with my advanced degree should have. It’s not that I don’t like teaching. I’ve been an adjunct for a few years, but there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It’s part-time (even though I teach four classes) and it’s temporary (I have to renew a contract each semester) and it doesn’t offer benefits. So, reality is biting me in the arse. I’ve been looking for other work, but the reality of it is, we are in an economic crisis, jobs are scarce, and I don’t have a very good employment background because I wasted all those years living a “unconventional” lifestyle. (Dropping out is easy; it’s dropping “in” that’s hard.)

There you have it: reality bites.

Anyhow, I can’t escape it, so I am attempting to face it. This is going to be the hardest part to write about: facing 50 with limited options. This I know many of you can relate to. How do we deal with this? I’m writing about it. I know I need to work on my job hunting skills, my interviewing skills (I want to slit my wrists just thinking about this). Not so inspiring as the running bit, is it? Well, that’s reality for you. But (to put a positive spin on it and try to yank my mood back from the depths) if I can start running at 48 and finish three 5Ks in five months time and run for 40 minutes straight (which I did do two or three times) then maybe something I don’t see happening will occur.

I don’t know what’s around the bend. Maybe, just maybe, I can do something I never thought I could do in the employment arena. I’ve heard that I’m good at organizing, at seeing the big picture, at paying attention to detail, I’m creative, I’m a good communicator…hey! I could be a writer! All right, I’ll behave. That was a little sarcastic, I admit. Well, I’m working at that job, waiting to get paid, and trying to be open-minded about the job market. What can I do that I’ve never thought of before? (This one takes everything I’ve got.) I’d rather run uphill for thirty minutes straight, on trash day, during rush hour.  This is turning out to be an exercise in motivation. I’m learning to motivate myself, in running, and I suppose I can apply it to this enterprise as well. Snapping teeth are great motivators!

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