Saturday, July 27, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Getting By with a Little Help from my Friends Edition

1. homemade tank tops with cherries on them
2. homemade english muffins
3. farmers markets
4. friends who confuse New Bedford and Bedford Falls
5. meeting many happy dogs on the morning walk

Friday, July 26, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, More Rain Edition

1. having out-of-town friends still be able to use their tickets to the rained-out Sox game because it's rescheduled for a time when they'll still be around
2. songs about quahogs
3. tiny squirrels to sing them VERY sincerely
4. back-up plans
5. umbrellas

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Long-Lost Friends Edition

1. baby squirrels
2. late nights with wine (or Diet Mountain Dew, if that's how you roll...I won't judge)
3. judging a little bit
4. that feeling at the top of a roller coaster when you figure you might as well enjoy the ride because it's too late to chicken out now
5. Bliss Brothers

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Get Real

I'll be honest: I have a million things I should be doing right now, the most pressing of which involve getting the house ready for some good friends who are coming tomorrow for a few days. They'll overlap with yet another good friend who will be here for the weekend, immediately followed by a week-long poetry seminar out of state, for which I am not at all as well-prepared as I would like to be. We have several house-related issues that need to be taken care of NOW, not because we've been putting them off but because their timing is out of our control. For example, at the moment, Jed is out getting supplies to replace the toilet in the guest bathroom because it decided to give up the ghost. It needs both new internal mechanics and a new fill line, and it's an ancient beast to begin with, so we decided to just let it go. Unfortunately, the people who installed it in the first place decided they didn't need anything as fussy or new-fangled as a shut-off valve, so this decision has resulted in us needing to turn off the water to the entire house. For hours.

You know what it's tough to do without water? Get the house ready for guests. You know what else it's tough to do without water? Everything.

As I type this sentence, it's 8 o'clock and neither of us has considered dinner, and can't clean up for dinner even if we could figure out either what to make that doesn't involve, you know, water, or what to order for takeout.

And I can't concentrate. The perfect storm of stress that's been gathering lately arrived full-force over the past couple of days, and now—when I most need to be able to focus and produce—I find myself unable to accomplish much of anything. Being a poet doesn't require a lot of running water, but it does require an ability to think deeply and pay attention, two tasks I am 100% not up to at the moment. It's a hopeless, helpless feeling—guilt over not doing more, stress over getting the stuff I can do right, anger at things that are really, truly out of my control, more anger at my inability to shake off those very things (because, seriously, getting angry about being angry is just wasting my time TWICE).

I wish I could tell you that my response to all of this was to run and run and run until the endorphins kicked in and I came home sweaty on the outside and clean on the inside. Lightning this morning kept me inside on the treadmill, and the one-two combo punch of insane heat and humidity has made for less than pleasant runs both outside and inside for the past couple of weeks. I've been running, but the runs have left me feeling spent and cranky instead of strong and mighty. It is, I realize, a passing phase.

All this is somewhat off-topic preface to the fact that today when I saw someone on Facebook—someone I don't even know, I should add—make a crack about what a "real runner" does or does not do, I became irrationally enraged. Like, enraged beyond all measure over something that I'm pretty sure was an inside joke to begin with. I did not, I'm proud to say, engage that person, but because I have little to do besides think right now, here is what I would say on Facebook if it wouldn't make me look like a giant douchenozzle (note: it would):

Real runners run. That's what we do. Some of us take walk breaks, some of us don't. Some of us usually don't, but are willing to if we need to. We wear skirts and shorts and capris and tights (although generally, one would hope, not all at the same time). We wear singlets and t-shirts and tank tops and running bras except for those of us who don't. We cross-train and we don't. We love it and we don't. We do it for ourselves, for our families, for some unknown reason. Our favorite part is when we startle a pile of painted turtles into leaping into the river, except for those of us who feel bad when that happens, and those of us who couldn't really care less about whether the turtles are frightened and those of who either don't run past or don't notice turtles. Our other favorite part is when people point their sprinklers at the street on a hot morning, except for those of us who run at night and those of us who don't like sprinklers and those of us who think watering a lawn is insanely wasteful. We run at night, by the way. Or in the morning. Or at lunchtime. Or, you know, whenever the hell we run. We run on treadmills and love it, and we run on treadmills only when we have to (and call it the dreadmill) and we run in pools sometimes. We are chasing personal records, except for those of us who don't care about time or those of us who are aging out of our years of improvement or those of us who are focused on recovering from injuries. Real runners are fast and slow and everything in between. We have always been runners. We are just now realizing we are runners. We run on empty stomachs. We run on full meals. We run races. We run with partners. We run alone.

We—all of us, myself included—would be so much happier if we stopped worrying about whether we were "real" whatevers. Real poets (don't get me started on the Jean Luc Picard meme going around FB with "How the FUCK can you call yourself a writer if you don't write every day?" on it. My mom was a nurse, but she didn't go into the recovery room every day. My dad was an accountant, but he didn't, um, account every day. If you write every day, that's great, but people are different from each other. Nothing works for everybody, and why should writing every day be the exception? There's very little—including eating, sleeping, sex, and bodily functions—that we do EVERY day without fail. So get over it. Also, who got me started? I expressly declared that you should not get me started. This is all your fault)…where was I? Oh, yeah. Real poets, real teachers, real parents, real adults, real friends, real lovers, real artists, real people. Put whatever noun you want after the word "real"—it is, I suspect, liberating to be able to stop worrying about who qualifies as such a creature. I think it's part of human nature to doubt ourselves, and to create criteria to exclude others so that we can feel better about where we are. If we doubt that we are, in fact, a real runner, we can make rules that put us into the "real" category, and thus find satisfaction. Forget for the moment that it doesn't work, not in the long run at least. It doesn't stop us from trying.

So go on with your bad selves. Be runners. Or be whatever else it is that you want to be that you're afraid of being. And then, once you've allowed yourself to live there, open yourself up to other people who are afraid of being that thing. Be generous in your support. The best thing that happened to me as a freshly-minted poet was having "real" poets take me seriously. The best thing that happened to me as a new runner was having "real" runners take me seriously. If you haven't been taken seriously as a "real" whatever, then be the person you wish you'd met when you were starting. It doesn't take any more energy than creating boundaries, I promise. See what it opens up for you.

Extra points if what it opens up is my water shut-off for the house. But maybe that's just me.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Raindrops Are Falling on my Head Edition

1. staying cool
2. wicking fabrics
3. not having to mow
4. pre-watered flowers
5. dogs who sleep in

Monday, July 22, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Cooler Weather Edition

1. easier runs
2. good sleeping
3. resting safe in the knowledge that there's plenty more warm weather to come before things get ugly around here again
4. not needing a zillion glasses of water a day (just a gajillion)
5. the way the word "cooler" has evolved to mean "not 110"

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Mom's Birthday Edition

1. apple pie
2. dancing to the music coming over the PA system in the supermarket
3. how she and her sisters are gradually morphing into each other (in a good, adorable way)
4. the way she'll make fun of you when you're sick or injured (because she will)
5. how many of my friends she's adopted over the years