Lowered Expectations

manly - brawny

Am I being pathetic…? Or just practical. (At least he cleans up well….)

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The Rules: #6 – BFFs

The Rules #6 - BFF definition

I debated whether or not this one was a “Rule” vs. just a thought I wanted to share, but ultimately decided: Hey, when it comes to relationships, who are we without our bffs? So this one is dedicated to my real-life bff, who, this-time two years ago, threw a corkscrew in my Ikea cart (no questions, just did it), and helped get me started on the path of the new direction my life had taken — who knew? But she was there, regardless. Yup, this one is a Rule. 🙂

“Moderate to Strenuous” (Mt. Sanitas, Round 1)

*Gasp-huff-gasp!*

My legs quaked as I braced my hands on my thighs to suck air. Panting, I raised my head to look at the trail.

And yet another rise that loomed in front of me.

Holy crap! Fuck this shit!

Sanitas 1

—–

Eight hours earlier….

It was late on a Saturday night, and I was already nervous at the prospect of trying something new, let alone meeting new people. But it was an innocuous enough label on the hike I was was considering signing up for the following morning. “Mt. Sanitas, Boulder. Moderate-to-strenuous,” it said. Well….

I’m in shape, I reasoned. I walk for 20 minutes a day, and hiking is just walking on a trail, right?

I also do yoga five days a week, plus strength training. Plus, the hike was nearby, in Boulder, so I wouldn’t have to drive that far, and the start-time was a reasonable 9 a.m. (not 6:30 a.m., like some of the other hikes). Out of excuses for a milisecond, I quickly clicked the button. No turning back now.

The next morning I woke up at my usual time, showered, and applied my makeup (taking extra time, to make it look like I’d barely taken any time with it). Then, due to a bad map on the hiking site, I arrived somewhere in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Not a trailhead in sight. Fortunately, the hike’s organizer had left his cell number on the website. “Oh yeah, the map on the site is wrong,” he apologized… and spent the next 10 minutes talking me through as I drove to the correct place. By the time I found parking and hoofed it several blocks to the trailhead the group was long gone. There was a sign posted at the trailhead warning people of recent mountain lion sightings.

I decided to do the hike on my own, anyway. (There were lots of other hikers out. Odds are the mountain lions would eat one of them first.)

I set out and quickly hit the first set of “stairs” — a series of two-foot high boulders set into the slope. Giant step up, giant step up, giant step up…. After about a hundred ungodly paces, the stairs evened out onto a steppe. Okay *breathe, breathe* that wasn’t so bad. I looked ahead to see that the trail went flat for about ten feet, then went up again. Okaaaayyy…..

—–

I was getting lapped by scores of other people: teenagers, other people “my age” (who were probably from Boulder — i.e. Hippie-Health Central), and even by senior citizens (evidently the altitude had affected their abilities to tell that they were too old for this).

And joggers.

Yes, I was being lapped by people who were running — uphill — and downhill — over the giant two-foot rocks and past me. Instead of Sanitas, I began to call the mountain Sandinistas; I could see Nicaraguan rebels using this as a training course.

Moderate to strenuous? Are you fucking kidding me?!? 

That was when I realized that “moderate to strenuous” for Colorado was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of the U.S. And “moderate to strenuous” for Boulder was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of Colorado. I’m in good shape compared to the rest of the country. I worked hard to get to where I am, and I wear a size 4. That’s skinny in the rest of the country.

It’s average in Colorado. I’m in average shape for Colorado.

But now, I wasn’t just in Colorado. I was in Boulder Country.

Gah!

After about five rounds of fuck this shit. in my head, I knew I wasn’t going to quit — had known it from the start — because that’s just not how I roll. But it made me feel better to give myself permission to dismiss the mountain.

Sanitas.

The Bitch.

And then finally, when I was ready to die, I reached another set of boulders that just had to be the top. There were others, who appeared to be part of a group, panting, too.

“Y’all don’t happen to be Boulder Social Hikers, do you?” I asked.

“Yes, we are.”

Hallelujah! I didn’t even care about the sweat trickling down my nose or how my ponytail had held up. I was just grateful to have caught up with the group. And to still be cognizant and upright.

Sanitas 2

Going down was the easy part. I caught my breath, chatted with some of the other hikers. It was nice. But I haven’t forgotten the way up. And I haven’t forgotten how that mountain almost got the best of me.

Almost.

Sanitas, I’m coming for a rematch. You won’t know when, but someday, when you least expect it, I’ll be at your base. (If you have expectations, that is. You’re a mountain, for pete’s sake.) Just you and me.

Be ready, bitch.

New Day

WP_001042I am the Dawn.

I am the Light

and

the Darkness.

I encompass both

and many nuances in-between.

Little miss Sunshine? Ha! Not quite.

That’s not my description.

(Chin up, Buttercup: you’ll make it through the black.)

You see me radiant,

and you want the light.

Always the light.

Only the light.

But to know me you must know both.

And to have me you must accept both.

For the darkness, though difficult, is equally rewarding —

a promise I do not make lightly.

Listen to the sounds of the night. Become one with them.

Embrace your own darkness

and you can begin to embrace me

and mine.

Only then can you truly see my blaze

and become one with it.

It is always darkest before the dawn.

But

I am the Dawn.

WP_001063

A case of laziness or self-defense? You decide….

I was going to write about my first two, never-saw-that-coming(!) weeks back in the workforce after fifteen and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom. But something else has wiggled its way in and needs to be blogged about first. It happened three days ago, on Thursday.

I was on my way home from work and made a quick pit-stop at the liquor store for a bottle of wine. Back outside, the neck of my paper-bagged bottle in one hand (which, the thought crossed my mind, made me look like a wino, but with better shoes), and my keys in the other, I was about to open my car door when a voice called out.

“Excuse me!”

I looked up to where the woman was standing, about twenty feet away, under the awning of the convenience-mart adjacent to the liquor store. From the distance, she looked about my age and was sensibly dressed, in pants and a winter jacket. But I felt myself get instantly wary… and then berated myself for going to the inner-suspicious place.  Maybe she’s just going to ask for the time, I reasoned. Nope.  

“Are you going this way?” she asked, pointing left, up the block.

This was, of course, the way I would have normally headed to go home, a mere mile and a half away. It was just after five, dusky-ish, and any warmth from the sunny, January day was quickly diminishing. I wouldn’t want to be outside in the cold if I didn’t have to be. Empathy for the woman began to push against my caution. I could hear the echo of my kids’ voices chanting “Stranger danger!” But the echo wrestled with my mother’s voice, saying things about “acts of charity” and helping others in need. My spider senses were tingling. Or were they? Maybe, I worried, I just being uncharitable and didn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to help a fellow human being. Historically, I’d always tried to make people happy and help them. I was a people-pleaser. And a conflict-avoider.  (The easiest way to avoid conflict with someone is to just say, “yes” and give them what they want.) 

Then again, I was still wary.

I felt my head shake and a “no” croaked out of my throat. The woman kept talking, as though she hadn’t heard me (which she probably hadn’t — I hadn’t spoken very loudly).

“I just need to get up there — it’s just by the middle school — and I don’t want to have to walk that far with my prosthetic leg.” 

Oh, great. Now, not only am I being uncharitable, but if she’s telling the truth, then I’m stranding a cripple! The middle school was a half-mile away. Not that far, but maybe it would seem like it if you had a prosthetic leg. The guilt of that thought, however, was accompanied by a Big Red Flag. What I mean by this is that I had the sensation — instinct? — that something was fishy about this whole scenario. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Something was off. I’ve learned to identify when I’m getting the Red Flag signal and to pay attention to it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many times in my life where I’ve ignored these types of sensations. Always to my detriment. (People-pleaser!)

Suddenly, the words of my two self-defense instructors came into my head: “The best way to get out of a bad situation is not to be there.” Pay attention to the Flags and get out of the scenario before you get into a position where you can’t.

“I’m not going that way,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re going that way?” she exclaimed, her face lighting up. A brisk wind picked up, sending a shuddering preview of the rapidly dropping temp. My heart wavered at her hopefulness. Was I doing the right thing? Or just being cruel. Or even lazy. But I wouldn’t ignore the Flag, for whatever reason it had popped up. Yeah, something was off, here.

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again and opening the door of my nice, warm car. “Sorry. I’m not going that way.”

I got in and started the engine. Then, worried that the woman might be vindictive or mentally unstable, I actually went right instead of left. Because what if she saw me go left, and took down my license number and tracked down where I lived? Overkill on the paranoia? Probably. What should have been a three minute drive home took more like ten. I was resentful, too, that she’d put me in that position. And that I was too much of a coward to have made the left-hand turn. Then again, I’m around to tell the tale.

So: what would you have done?

A nod to anonymous bloggers

I started this blog almost six months ago, at the end of September 2012, because I was supposed to. It’s the “writer” thing to do.

For non-fiction writers, a blog is another venue for establishing platform which, in turn, helps sell books. For fiction writers, like me, we don’t really have “platforms” the same way that the non-fics do (despite the title of my blog). But if I can develop a readership for my writing, I can then go to an agent and say, “I’ve written a manuscript…, and oh, btw, I have a blog with X-amount of followers, and I get XX hits a month.” This sets off a light bulb for an agent, because if he likes the manuscript, he knows he has a little something-extra to help sell it to a publisher: blog stats are quantifiable.

Business people (i.e. publishing company execs) love things that are concrete and quantifiable because they can be translated into dollar figures. Publishers know that an author’s good blog-following equals a certain-percentage of already-sold books. (For example, if an author has 3,000 followers and 20,000 hits a month, it’s going to guarantee at least 1,000 books sold. Or something like that.)

So for right now, that’s one of the reasons I’m here. I’m playing around, trying to find my correct blogging niche, which might, one day, help me sell my books. I try to be as real and approachable as possible, but I’m showing you my “public” persona — you know, the one I play at dinner parties or when I volunteer at my kids’ school. Me, but dressed-up and wearing makeup. I actually disclose very little about what goes on behind the silk curtain.

But there are those among us who have not only pulled the curtain aside — they’ve torn it down, shredded it, and thrown it away. They’re walking around the dinner party with no makeup on. And they’re naked.

You know who I’m talking about: the anonymous bloggers.

Some choose the path of anonymity for the complete sense of freedom that it provides — the ability to pour out one’s heart and soul, in whatever manner it comes tumbling forth, without fear of being judged by anyone who knows them. Sometimes writers are afraid of criticism of their work at this stage in the game, or of backlash because their genre would be frowned-upon by family and/or friends. Writing anonymously emboldens them to let the muse out, in whatever form she takes, and to get past their fears.

But many other anonymous blogs are written by people who are not necessarily “writers,” and who are going through difficult, often painful times in their lives. Their blogs read like online diaries — not your average dinner-party chatter. Probably not stuff they can discuss with their co-workers. Maybe not even their neighbors. In some cases, not even their best friend.

Yet I submit to you that it is these blogs, in all of their raw, unedited glory, that are among some of the best writing in the blogosphere.

The authors expose parts of themselves that, perhaps, they are unable to show in any other way. I’ve read post after post on which whole hearts and souls were bled open. The Anonymouses parade their ripped, dirty laundry with unabashed abandon for the whole world to see, holding it up to point out the various stains. “This is the one where I was raped.” “This is where my mom became an alcoholic.”  “This is where my child died and I started doing drugs.” “This is the one from when I cheated on my wife.” “These are the ones from where I’m still cheating on her.” In some cases the authors are proud of themselves. Mostly, though, they express the deepest levels of doubt, anger, fear…. Guilt, shame, humiliation…. Despair…. But the common thread running through all seems to be an elemental quest for answers and meaning. Truth.

Unless they are blogging under a pen name that they intend to use when publishing, there is no business reason (read, “no potential financial incentive”) for them to be doing what they’re doing. It’s all personal. These blogs read like stories, the most intimate glimpses into the darkest corners of the human soul, and I find myself cheering for each and every one who is brave enough to put himself or herself out there in this way. The blogs, themselves, become like giant, interactive diaries, and I’m constantly impressed at the decorum and restraint shown by commenters, whether or not they agree with the actions and ideas of the blog’s author, and the openness with which the authors respond to the different points of view presented to them.

If you haven’t yet discovered the hidden gems of anonymous blogs, you might want to treat yourself to a WordPress search. Just type in a topic of interest, and spend an afternoon with a fascinating real-life read. And who knows? You might even find one that resonates with something inside you.

 

“Um, a little help, please!” — getting an Rx from a writing-doc

I’m in limited-writing mode right now. On purpose: orders from my new writing coach.

I’ve written multiple 300+ word manuscripts. I’ve been an active part of writers’ groups for over seven years. A Chicago Manual of Style and a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (both well-thumbed) sit front-and-center on my desk. I’ve even had a literary agent once.

[Hmmm. I’ve stopped writing, at my previous sentence, for a while now. I’ve been finding excuses to do things other than going forward with this post. I “needed” to check my e-mail. And play spider-solitaire. And take a drink of water. And go to the bathroom. Riiiiight. Those things all “prevented” me from knocking out the minimum one-post-a-week — a measly little 500 words a week! — that I’ve committed myself to doing on this blog.

Sorry, no. What I’m really doing is mental-blocking because I’m about to admit my failures as a writer. And that’s not a fun thing to do.]

You see, despite all of my hard work — even the achievement of scoring an agent (for eight months, back in 2008, until she quit being an agent) — I’m still not published. Which means I’ve never earned a penny from this endless drive inside of me to write. Which means I’m nowhere close to being able to making a living at it. Which means my endless drive is currently headed toward nothing.

As the rejections pile up Self-Doubt grows like a cancer, anchoring its tentacles into the weakened foundations of my confidence. No one will hear your voice…, your thoughts…, your passions…. Ever!

But giving-up isn’t going to stop my need to write. I do want need my voice to be heard. And I get positive feedback from enough readers that I think I have a chance, if I can just figure out what it is that I’m missing. So I’m fighting back.

Just as one would go to the doctor to diagnose an illness, I hired a writing coach to help diagnose what was wrong with my writing. In our first session (so far), she listened to my background about where I’m at with my writing. She read my synopsis of The American (the cliffhanger-ending one), and she got through the first four pages of my manuscript. First-and-best of all: she likes my story. ( :)! ) But based on my “symptoms,” she said she thinks I’m at about seventy-five percent of where I need to be. (Hey, by Rotten Tomato standards, that would make me more than “certified fresh!” 🙂 :)) She then recommended that I read three books (Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass; Hooked, by Les Edgerton; and Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron). Then she wants me to revise my first fifty pages and meet with her again.

I’m wading my way through the Donald Maass book, which I found easily at B&N. The others just arrived in the mail yesterday. (Btw, I’ve been rejected by Donald Maass, personally, on two different manuscripts. Yes, feel free to regard me with awe: I’ve been rejected by the best. *tosses head*) It feels like I’m in school again, and I’m cramming for finals. I really hope I can do this. I have to do this. It’s what’s in me. It’s who I am. I. Am. A. Writer!