Making the Writing LIfe

I got up at 4:30 this morning because I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t sleep because I had spent yesterday out of town and I shoved my personal work aside. After a day of denying my need to write, this is what I have done to myself. I HAVE TO WRITE. There’s no way around it. So I’m up early, to write, before the next commitment.

I don’t know what it is; it gets hold of you and doesn’t let you rest until you’ve released the pressure. The words are piled up inside and must come out. You’ve invited the muse to show up but when you don’t show up, the words want to come out anyway, and when you don’t let them, haven’t made the personal time to do that, they build up, the pressure of all those words crowding together inside you.

I have to learn to take myself seriously, and by that I mean, take my writing seriously. It is not something to be shoved into corners. It must be the centerpiece of the room. Sure, it could be a female thing—take care of everything else before you take care of yourself, but I don’t like excuses.

I have a choice. I want to choose the writing life, so why do I keep shoving it back? Is it because I don’t take myself seriously as a writer? Probably. That’s a slippery slope and I’m not going down it. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.

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Incomparable

Sometimes I don’t sleep well. I’ll fall asleep right away, but then I wake up, usually about 2 or 3 am, when the liver meridian is strongest. One of the liver’s jobs is to synthesize the events of the day before, deciding what to keep and what to discard. So when I don’t sleep well, I guess there’s so much to filter through, that it wakes me up.

The good news is that I’m privy to my subconscious thinking in those wee hours. Small situations of the day before loom ominously at 3 am, and since I’m awake I can, if I want to, figure out why.

The other morning I was thinking about someone I barely know and I felt funny—bad funny. Instead of shoving it under the rug I decided to poke around in the depths of me and see what I came up with. And it was this: I was comparing myself to this person and judging myself against them in a little subconscious competition. I realized if I do this with someone I barely know, I must do it with everyone. Not that it’s a bad thing–I think it is in our DNA–survival of the fittest.

But if it is a subconscious behavior it leads me–controls me. If, on the other hand, I am consciously aware of it, then it becomes another opportunity to set myself a little more free. I can realize that there’s no comparison between me and someone else. There’s no comparison between anyone and anyone else. Each of us fits into our lives, hand-made for that life. There’s no one else who can fill it or live it.

We are all incomparable.

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Must We Tweet?

 “When I was a child, people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist-deep in tidings and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.” 

E. B. White, the essayist and author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and other classic children’s books wrote the above in 1930. He was talking about the newly emerging technology of television. And if he thought there was too much information out there in 1930, I shudder to think what he would think of today.

Is ignorance bliss—or are we burying ourselves in tidings? We have reality TV (why?) and memoirs up the wazoo, blogging and then of course there is tweeting. Tidings everywhere. Lots of clamor and few places to reflect.

But reflection and its relationship to self-knowledge is exactly what are missing from our over-stimulated lives. I’m not sure where all this information sharing is going—whether it is good or bad—but it is.

In the old days, we set out on our hero’s journey to find our empowerment. Then, once found, we carried ourselves, in our newfound power back to our communities to share and to complete the circle. But what do we have now? Is there a Hero’s Journey? Is there a circle of power?

Or is there only a clamor of rootless voices, desperate to be heard?

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Life in the Pits

This week I am in Boulder, Colorado at the Cyclocross National Championships, which, for those of you unfamiliar with this sport, is sort of like steeplechase on bicycles. A course is laid out with twists and turns and barriers to jump over, stairs to climb up on, steep down hills to freak out on, and the pit. The pit is where the racer can switch to a spare bike or get an emergency repair during the race. I work in the pits. In every race where our team has a racer competing, I hold that racer’s spare bike.

And wait. When the racers come by, I set the bike up, ready to do the switch as quickly as possible if the racer needs it. Reasons for why he or she will switch bikes vary. Sometimes the course is so muddy/snowy that the gears clog up and the bikes have to be cleaned at the bike wash, or maybe something has gone wrong mechanically, in which case the rider will usually try to give a clue before they pedal away on the spare bike. Yesterday, Richie switched bikes and panted out “back is folding” before he left.

Hmmm. Is Richie’s back hurting? Is this a clue to me not to expect much in the way of results from him?

No. In fact, Richie was referring to an earlier conversation he had had with one of our team, discussing tire pressure. He had told Dan he was “afraid the back tire would fold if it didn’t have enough pressure in it.” Mystery solved. We put more air in the back tire and brought the bike to Pit 2 and had it ready for another switch when Richie came around again.

Sometimes the rider will gasp something out that I don’t quite catch. Then, I turn to my fellow pitters for translation help and we usually manage to decipher what is needed. Sometimes we don’t and so I check brakes, gears—the obvious stuff. The last resort is to yell to the rider when they come around again “what’s wrong with it?” But that is unprofessional, so we generally just try to figure something out.

When the course is really sloppy, the riders may switch bikes every half-lap. In addition to riders coming in and out of the pit as fast as possible, the pit crew needs to clean the bikes as fast as possible. The bike wash gets overcrowded, and sometimes we are reduced to just pulling the mud off with our fingers. I was at a race once where we started dumping the bikes into the lake that was next to the course to get them clean—

Oh, I see It is time to get myself up and out and over to the pits. Brittlee is racing in an hour and she might need me.

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Puff Daddy and Me

Ten or so years ago, Richie and I were invited to a bicycle fund raising event at New York’s Rockefeller Center. At the time, I was attending the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy and I was halfway through the Pathology semester. Which, for those who have taken a Pathology class, know that means that I now had, or would soon have, every disease we studied.  At the time of the New York trip, I was studying hepatitis—A, B, C, D and E, and I knew if I went to New York City, there was no way I could avoid contracting one of them. You can pick it up on doorknobs, for god’s sake.

When we got to the event, I was surprised to find that it was a much smaller occasion than I had thought it would be—less than a hundred people—all milling about a catered buffet and bar. On individual daises positioned around the room, bicycles belonging to celebrities were being silently auctioned to raise money for T.E.A.M—The Exceptional Athlete Matters.

Maybe it was the smaller venue or maybe it was because you can only be terrified for so long, and but once I got into that room, something happened. Heck, I was going to be an invalid for the rest of my life, so what did it matter what I did. I threw caution to the wind and became a different person. I became a fan. A rabid, groupie, autograph hunting fan. I have always disliked even the word “fan”, but here I was, pen and paper in hand, seeking out autographs.

Lance Armstrong–fresh from winning his second or third Tour, when we all still believed him—was there. So were Greg LeMond and Diana Nyad. I went up to them all, asked them for autographs (and in the case of Lance and Greg, their wives too. Because the wives do a lot.) Their responses varied from caveman-like scowls to charming engagement.

And then I was standing, little notepad and pen in hand, next to a lawyer friend of Richie’s, and he said, “oh my god, there’s Puff Daddy, you have to get his autograph!” and I said, “who’s Puff Daddy?” And Richie’s friend looked at me like I had two heads and said “he’s a rapper,” and I said, “eh.” And he said, “no you really have to, he’s famous.” But I didn’t have the same enthusiasm to be a rabid autograph hunting fan for someone I didn’t know. And a rapper? You can’t even understand the words anyway. But the lawyer was insistent. He walked over to Puff Daddy and I watched him say a few words, gesturing at me. Then he motioned me over and I went, dragging my feet. I must have appeared horribly shy because Puff Daddy warmly shook my hand and engaged me in conversation, not waiting for me to speak first. “I go to a lot of these things,” he said earnestly, “but this—this is the real deal.” I nodded and stuck out my notepad and pen. I was afraid he would ask me something that would divulge to him that I had no idea who he was. But he didn’t talk about himself at all. He seemed genuinely moved to be there. He signed my little notebook and smiled at me, and I smiled back, like a fan.

Because that’s what I was.

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