Archive for July, 2009

Just Do It

Ultrarunner Kristin Corris

Ultrarunner Kirstin Corris

To run or not to run, that is the question.  The answer, for me, is easy. I have to run.  Not because it is a compulsion or an addiction but because I have set it up that way.  Eighteen years ago when I originally made the decision to lose weight and get fit I started with a goal – a weight goal, but also something more tangible to work towards.  Even before the weight started to drop, I decided to run a race.  Since then I always have a goal in mind.

Currently I am training for the Baltimore Marathon.  The goal works for the long term.  It keeps me from missing a week or even several days of training because I know I will not be able to complete the goal without the training.  But an individual day is another matter.  That is when I start to question myself.  Do I really need that run today?  The commercial tells us to “just do it” and that has become my mantra.  I just do it.  If there is a run on the books and I really don’t want to do it, all I have to do is put on my running clothes.   This sounds like a small step, but it isn’t.  Sometimes that first step is harder than the marathon.  The bed is calling, an article is beating against the inside of my head, begging to get out but I still have to take that first step.

The struggle with myself continues until I step out the door and start putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes it lasts longer, and I have to trick myself into one mile, and then two until I finally complete the six, eight or ten mile run I have scheduled for that day.

Inevitably these end up being my best runs.  I don’t have an explanation for that.  I wish I did.  What I do know is that the “just do it” trick works with just about anything.  Cooking – okay, I don’t want to cook but all I have to do is look up a recipe, something new and see what happens from there.  Cleaning my house – fine just a quick run through to pick up the dirty clothes, then the rubbish, then the toys and suddenly I have a clean house.

In writing there is a saying as well, “apply seat of pants to seat of chair.”  It is the same theory.  There are days I do not feel like writing.  There is nothing worthwhile to write about, but I know that one of my clients is waiting for a piece so I sit in front of the computer and I start typing.  It never fails.  I type until something flows.  Just like running I have to find the rhythm, but when it comes I find I have written the most unexpected story.

Maybe the great runs and the sudden inspiration in my writing are rewards for perseverance.  Maybe it is a matter of greasing the gears.  But it makes me wonder how many other ways our perseverance can get us ahead in our lives.  How many people can relate to this dread and the “just do it” attitude?  Are there doctors, attorneys, or politicians who don’t want to save a life, pen a deal or fight for a new law, who “just do it” and fight through the dread and accomplish something life changing?

And if there are, what does this mean for the rest of my life.  How can I apply the attitude to other areas of my life?  How can I give this attitude to my children so they may have the same successes I find?  So, maybe the question isn’t to run or not to run.  Maybe the question is to do, or not to do.  And if so, the answer will always to be, to do.

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The Magic

Reading bookYou pick up a book and it is just paper and ink.  Nothing special, right?  Wrong.  A book can take you anywhere in the world in seconds.  A well written book can transform your life.  It can make you believe you have been there and done that.  I love a book that you have to stop and think about.  Was I there, did I do that or did I read about it somewhere?  There have been books whose movies I have sworn to have seen only to find out a movie was never made.  It was just written so beautifully and so vividly that it took me to Ireland or Italy or the Savannahs of Africa or it painted characters so real I could smell their perfume or hear the lilt of their voices.

Frank McCourt did that.  As I read Angela’s Ashes, I sat in his kitchen listening to his younger brother die, hearing his mother’s sobs.  I smelt the ale on his father’s breath and wanted to wipe the ring of condensation left by the pint from his brother’s casket.  I laughed so hard I cried when his grandmother sent him to confess about throwing up the Body of Christ.  And I cried for his mother as he climbed on the ship bound for America not knowing whether he would ever see her again.

Frank McCourt died over the weekend and I cried.  I cried not because I knew him or because I felt he went too early but because his talent died with him.  Because I know there were stories he still had to write, stories I would still like to hear.

As a writer, there are times I read a book that brings me to tears, not with its story but because it is so beautiful.  Because I know there is no way I will ever write as well.  There are people who put pen to paper and create a world that is so real we can touch it and taste it.  Books that have me rushing home to read so I can make sure the characters are okay.  I laughed at a friend who was reading a book and found herself praying for the character at the end of the night, only later remembering she was a character.  I laughed, but I have been there.  I know how real a character can be.

In Stephen King’s Misery, the main character’s foot is chopped off.  I read this while riding a city bus, the build up left little doubt as to what was coming but I still jumped in reaction to it happening.  The person across from me laughed, asking how I could be startled by something happening in a book.  Twenty years later I still can not explain that, other than to say, some writers have a magic to them.

I hear stories of people who want to write the next great American novel.  I wonder whether there are people who believe they will be that person.  I write because I love to, because I feel like I have to spill these words onto the paper or my head might explode from the pressure of so many words, but I don’t write to be the next great author.  In my wildest dreams I can not imagine having the talent it takes to transport someone to another era, another country or another life.  I love those who can and I hope there is someone out there who will take up the cross that Frank McCourt carried for his readers.  Someone who has the stories to tell or the characters to bring to life.  Someone who has the magic.

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Bonus Baby

I have never been one for a surprise but three years ago I was given one of the biggest surprises of my life.  TenWilmington vacation 2008 033 years after my second child was born, we were blessed with a bonus baby. Blessing was not the first word to come to my mind when I discovered I was pregnant but I have come to see that there are some very real benefits to having such a large gap between children.  There are the built in babysitters and the fact that my husband and I are not only older and wiser but also more financially stable than we were when our first two children were born.  There are also benefits we could never have guessed.

With the first two children, there was a constant guilt.  If I gave in to letting them sleep in our bed, have an extra snuggle before heading off to bed or skip a bath, I worried about breaking the “mommy rules.”  I would never admit these indiscretions to other mommies for fear they would ridicule me.  This time I don’t care.  There is no guilt because I know this is the last time a little guy will crawl into my bed.  I remember the last time that happened with my older children and I know now that I couldn’t pay them enough for a goodnight snuggle.  So, I feel no guilt at all for giving in and breaking these rules this time around.  I cherish the moments because I know just how fleeting they are.

My bonus baby keeps me young.  People told me this would happen but I thought it was just a way to console me in the loss of freedom I had just started to gain.  I was wrong. He really does keep me young.  Without this three year old boy in my house, I wouldn’t be reading Good Night Moon, watching Toy Story or running through the sprinkler in my front yard.  I wouldn’t be crawling under a swing set, pushing a dump truck, or pretending to be pushed into the pool.  He makes me laugh a hundred times a day and that makes me feel young again.

Having this gap between children has also given me friends I would not have made any other way.  These are women who were outside the circle I had created over the years.  They are younger and less experienced but they are fun and supportive and our children give us something in common.  As I have gotten, older, some of my couple friends divorce, or moved away.  Many of my friends have  gone back to work.  And my circle of friends had begun to dwindle.  But Zane has given me a whole new source of friendships and for this I am grateful.

On a lighter note, he has given me a revenge I didn’t expect to get for fifteen years or more.  My older children don’t have to wait until they have their own children to see exactly how hard it is to be a parent.  They get the benefit of having Zane’s refusal to go to bed interrupt all of our dinners and his temper tantrums embarrass them in public places.  And I get the benefit of seeing it happen.  When they are older, they may be able to hide their children’s indiscretions from me.  They could tell me they don’t know what I had complained about as they were growing up but now, they get to experience it right along side me and my husband.

I admit there are things that make having a baby at forty difficult.  The late night feedings were harder, my patience with watching Blue’s Clues or listening to Wee Sing Silly Songs for the hundredth time runs a little thinner than it did the first time around and I really could have done without the two years of diaper changing.  But the benefits, especially the ones that came as a surprise, far outweigh the hardships.  And now I can admit that not only is he a bonus but, he is also a blessing.

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