Saturday, September 28, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Saturday Morning After Friday Night Dinner Edition

1. Kristen's fake-surprised face
2. How soft Jack's hair is with the buzz cut
3. mai tais
4. running into old friends
5. scallion pancakes

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Theoretical Edition

1. having all the laundry clean, folded/hung up, and put away
2. ice cream for dinner
3. the First Annual Robert Downey Jr. Objectification Film Festival (East)
4. kitten parties*
5. gravity**

*tiny hats optional
**see what I did there?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Off with the Old, On with the New

Maybe you know this about me already: I don't like to shop. I call myself cheap, but I'm not—I gladly spend money on friends and family members, I firmly believe that large purchases should be the best whatever-you're-buying that you can afford, Jed and I donate money to charity. We tip very well, we pay our taxes, we help out friends and family from time to time as need be. I buy a lot of books directly from small poetry presses, because I believe in what they do. All that kind of stuff. And I don't care about things—there are precious few objects in this world that I think of as, well, precious, and most of those are valuable for sentimental reasons.

I do, however, take care of my things, but not for the reason most people probably think I do. I take care of my things because I find waste arrogant. Please don't get me wrong—everyone needs to make his or her own decisions on these issues, and priorities are going to be different for everyone. I just wrote—and deleted—a whole long paragraph talking about the ways in which I deviate from my ideals, but it was boring, so I won't make you read it. You're just going to have to trust me when I say that I truly believe everyone is capable of making individual decisions about this stuff, and since I'm living in a glass house over here, I'm not looking for any good throwing stones. Hell, I'm not even wearing my glasses at the moment, so I probably couldn't hit anything even if I tried.

The bottom line is that Jed and I would generally rather buy quality items and repair them rather than replace them. And since I'm not a fan of the work involved in repairing them, I try to take care of them to begin with, whether this means not dunking our 20-year-old wooden salad bowl into soapy water to clean it or making sure our even-older cast iron skillet gets well dried out after we use it or trying to keep up on routine car maintenance. I find waste arrogant, and being wasteful goes against my environmentalist leanings, which might, now that I think of it, be part of why I find it arrogant. I know things need to be thrown away, but if I can limit the amount of those things—through taking care of my stuff so it lasts longer but also through things like  composting, recycling, and refusing wasteful crap when it's handed to me (seriously, why on earth would I need to put a bag of potatoes INTO A SECOND BAG in order to carry it out of the store?)(and before you get all Ah-HA! You should be buying loose potatoes and putting them in your own bags! let me just stop you by saying that my store doesn't sell loose organic potatoes and I do bring my own bags. Plus, you need to go re-read the paragraph above this one, since you obviously weren't paying attention to my little I'm-not-judging-because-nobody-is-perfect spiel.  So there, you pedant). At any rate, a better word than "cheap" is probably "frugal," but "frugal" conjures up images of dowdy women sitting on hard wooden furniture, darning socks by the light of a candle made out of the drippings gleaned from the birthday cakes of her younger, more extravagant relatives. With "cheap," I can at least enjoy the hyperbole.

I have also, since I started running, gotten really into buying used when I can. For the past year and change, most of my clothes have come from Goodwill or other thrift stores (mostly Goodwill, because there's a pretty good one close to me). I'd say that I rarely buy anything new, but a ridiculous number of the items I've bought from Goodwill have come with the tags still on them. A pair of $130 wool Michael Kors pants for six bucks? Why yes, thank you, don't mind if I do. My love for thrift shopping has risen dramatically as my sizes have shrunk because I really am too cheap to buy an entire new wardrobe every season, which is pretty much what I have had to do. I live in New England, where the seasons are actual seasons—by the time it gets warm enough again for me to pull out the skirts I was wearing just a week or so ago, they will no longer fit. Nor do any of the clothes I was wearing last winter, with the exception of a couple of  sweaters that are meant to be oversized (but are getting kind of ridiculous even so).

All this to say that this morning, after yet another run where my pants started sliding down my hips somewhere in the second mile, I decided today was the day where I would bite the bullet and pick up some new running clothes. I'd been keeping an eye out for them all summer in Goodwill, and managed to pick up a couple of things—a long-sleeved wicking shirt here, a short-sleeved-but-tighter-weave shirt there. There was no luck with pants, though—running clothes in general take a beating, and running pants probably bear the brunt of it (although bras certainly earn their keep) in terms of friction and all sorts of other issues you can probably figure out if you've ever, you know, worn clothes. I just couldn't find anything used that was still in good shape, and the same went for jackets. I do know that runners get very attached to the clothing they have that works for them, and tend to wear it into the ground, and that they get loyal to their brands, so there's not a lot of this-doesn't-fit-right going on out there. Or maybe we're all hoarders. I'm not sure. In any event, the pickings at Goodwill were slim. And it's getting chilly out there.

I managed to spend over $250 on clothes today—mostly for me, although I did get a pair of running pants for Jed—and I'm not done. I'm going to need a couple more pairs of pants or tights if I'm going to keep running outside this winter (which I am). On the plus side, I didn't have any kind of panic attack. I found a pair of running tights that are made out of recycled plastic bottles, which may have assuaged my guilt a bit. I got two jackets of different weights, which will get me through the winter. I got a pair of long-sleeved wicking shirts and some tights to help me get a little more wear out of my heavier skirts before I shrink out of them, too, and four camisoles (also very tough to come by used) because they're part of my teaching uniform in the colder weather. There was probably some other stuff that I'm not remembering right now.

And it's supposed to make me feel good, right? People have been telling me things like how I deserve it, or otherwise talking in ways that imply that they think shopping is some kind of reward. I "get" to buy new clothes—it's one of the great "advantages" of losing weight, this justification of shopping, of spending money on myself. As a Facebook friend (and fellow poet and runner) was saying earlier today about her own process, I'm supposed to feel like I am somehow better, more complete, more acceptable, because I am smaller. I'm supposed to hate my larger clothes and be happy to be rid of them because they are representative of a time when I was, despite my size, less than. And that's troubling enough, but the added layer of fulfillment that I'm supposed to get just from buying crap? I don't get it.

It doesn't feel wasteful—I'll get my outgrown (ingrown?) workout clothes as scrubbity clean as I possibly can and donate them along with the rest of the stuff I can no longer wear. One of my friends will probably take some of it; my mom might take some of it when she's up for Thanksgiving; the rest of it will get donated and someone will get a bargain. But it also doesn't feel like I am in any way completed by the process. What I feel is a vague satisfaction that I won't freeze my ass off on my next run, either because my pants aren't warm enough or because they're falling to my knees. I'm pretty happy about one of the jackets because I haven't had a spring/fall weight jacket in well over a decade, and I'm sick of having to choose between freezing and wearing a winter-weight jacket when it's only about 45 degrees out. And because it'll do double-duty as an outer layer for running on really cold days. Plus, it's cute and sporty and makes me feel like an athlete—a fast athlete. A fastlete. Did I need any of that stuff? Well, the pants, probably, yeah. But the rest of it? I probably could have figured out a way to manage. Will having it make my life easier? Yes, both because it will take away an excuse to keep from running and will keep me comfortable while I'm doing so.

But does it make me complete? Is it somehow reinforcing the idea that I am deserving? I can't say that it does. And I'm more than a little worried about the idea that it is somehow supposed to. I've been writing—and reading—some really good poems lately. I've got great students in my classes this semester (as usual). I've got projects in the works that I'm excited about and a manuscript that feels…fully cooked, somehow, and despite the fact that I've been nursing a persnickety knee for most of the summer, I kicked total ass in a 5K last weekend (Seriously. I broke my 5K personal record by over ninety seconds and left Jed in the dust and—most importantly—finished feeling good and strong) and have twice in the past week broken the 10-minute-mile mark for the last half mile of my run and felt fabulous doing so instead of spent. I feel powerful and mighty. I've been amassing a collection of really sweet notes and emails and such from people I haven't met, complimenting my work. I have a job I love and a creative life that fulfills me and a husband and home I adore and two hilarious dogs.

Jockey, as much as I love them, doesn't make running tights that can give me any of that (although they can help with the whole running well thing, so props to them for that). My Columbia jacket is going to keep me warm, but it's not going to make me complete no matter what size it came in. Would owning these socks or this underwear make me feel like a more valuable human being?

Well, okay. You got me there.

But generally speaking, no. At the risk of sounding preachy, we really need far less than we think we do, and beyond that, far less than we want. Another Facebook conversation earlier this week (although this time with people I actually know relatively well) dealt with gratitude, specifically with this gratitude study. I encourage you to watch the video, but I'll say here what I said then: I know for a fact that people who practice gratitude are happier, and that the biggest differences can be seen in the people who need it most desperately. I often say that running saved my life, in more ways than just the physical benefits—and I believe it. But so did stumbling into the routine of listing, most every day, five things that don't suck. The bar is set deliberately low, but it is still a way of acknowledging gratitude. Buying more shit won't make anyone happy, not for long. The happiness that brings is fleeting at best, especially if, like me, you're not a fan of shopping. But gratitude just gets better. It always fits, you don't need a receipt to return it, and it's always the perfect color. What more could I want?

Except those socks. I really, really want to be grateful for those socks. (Jed thinks they're crazy, by the way. Boys. Snort.)

Five Things that Don't Suck, Reading Papers Edition

1. courage
2. clarity
3. even a vague understanding of the mechanics of the language
4. risk-taking
5. exploration

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bonus Poems Two Days in a Row

Hi, all--I have a second poem up at the Extract(s) site today. Still doesn't suck.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Comeback Trail Edition

1. running fast
2. feeling strong
3. easy breath
4. the vast variety of nods and waves and other greetings you get from other runners
5. being able to kick Jed's ass*

*I don't want to kick his actual ass. But considering the fact that the man used to be able to outpace me after not having run for weeks at a time, I'm totally okay with being able to run him ragged. Which I can.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bonus: Poem up at Extract(s)

Hi all,

I've got a new poem up at Extract(s) today. One more thing that doesn't suck.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Making the Best of a Cool Morning Edition

1. socks
2. holding a warm coffee (or tea) mug in your cold hands
3. pants
4. two giant, warm, snuggly dogs
5. lint rollers

Monday, September 23, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Making it up to Julie Edition

1. puppies
2. kittens
3. fluffy little bunny rabbits
4. giraffes
5. basically, anything that isn't a macro picture of a bee

Sunday, September 22, 2013