Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Faith a faith a faith-a.

I kind of love Elizabeth Gilbert. I know a lot of people find her stuff narcissistic and condescending at worst, and blind to her privilege at best. But I kind of love her.

From Eat Pray Love:

There's a reason we refer to "leaps of faith" - because the decision to consent to any notion of divinity is a mighty jump from the rational over to the unknowable, and I don't care how diligently scholars of every religion will try to sit you down with their stacks of books and prove to you through scripture that their faith is indeed rational; it isn't. If faith were rational, it wouldn't be--by definition--faith. Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be...a prudent insurance policy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Liquor? You liquor.

I was inspired by this post on Apartment Therapy about the Ikea Rast dresser. We recently redecorated the dining room (the dining room used to be more like my office). It is actually now serving as a dining room, with a table and everything. The last piece (besides the window treatments--still working on that) we needed to get was some sort of buffet or sideboard. The Apartment Therapy post talked about these really cheap ($34!) unfinished dressers that could be painted and adapted in a number of different ways.

So, the plan was to get two of them, paint them in funky colors and put cool handles on them. I had an epiphany yesterday that there was a great function for one of them:

Yeah, I turned what was probably meant as a child's dresser into a liquor cabinet. What of it?

It will likely be months before the dresser gets the aforementioned promised "funky paint and cool handles." Baby steps.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Atmospheres of Growth...

I'm reading this book called The Happiness Project. Even if you consider yourself a relatively happy person, like the author of this book does, she argues that you can always actively seek more ways to be happy in your life.

She discusses a concept in the book called the "arrival fallacy," which is basically the idea that once you hit a certain point, or goal that you are aiming for, you'll be happy. (Like, once I finish school, or once I get this manuscript out, or once I get tenure, etc.). The problem is, the arrival of a certain destination rarely brings us the happiness we're expecting. I pulled this quote out of the book:

"First of all, by the time you've arrived at your destination, you're expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. Also, arrival often brings more work and responsibility. It's rare to achieve something...that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward to reaching these destinations, but once you've reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal...There's another hill to climb. The challenge, therefore, is to take pleasure in the "atmosphere of growth," in the gradual progress made toward a goal, in the present. The unpoetic name for this very powerful source of happiness is "pre-goal attainment positive affect."

I think this is one of the fundamental challenges we face as human beings. I think this "atmosphere of growth" is something different from contentment, which can often feel like "settling," or can often get stale. It is about, as the cliche says, focusing on the journey, not the destination, because in the end the destination never really arrives. The journey is the destination.

I think this is going to be my early New Years resolution. I'm going to lean back into the wind, embrace the atmosphere of growth, and pay attention to the journey.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I run because I can

Since I last blogged, I've run a bunch of races. (If you scroll back far enough on this blog, you'll see that that is kind of a big deal). I've run a bunch of 5ks, two 10ks, and a half marathon (along with two sprint triathlons) in the last 2 years. I also wrote a blog that got a tiny bit of recognition about being able to run. I figured I'd repost it here, for posterity's sake.

I run because I can.

When I lived in Ithaca, NY, there was a man who would walk. All day long, every day, he would walk around the downtown part of Ithaca known as the Commons. The local story was that he once had a very bad fall down the stairs and was hospitalized for some time. Once he was able to walk, that’s all he did. All day, every day and in the heat, in the rain, in the snow – he walked.

I sort of feel like that about running. I spent 3 ½ years unable to do much of anything except feel sorry for myself. I had a stubborn back injury that refused to heal, despite 13 different epidural procedures, four rounds of physical therapy, acupuncture, magnets, copper bracelets, chiropractors, holistic healers, supplements, and finally, major surgery. I spent about two years of that time on high-dose narcotic pain pills 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – I started with pills, and eventually moved to a transdermal fentanyl patch (with pills for breakthrough pain). I was 28 years old and I walked with a cane. I couldn’t tie my shoes, I couldn’t open jars, I couldn’t work very well, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t write, I could barely think. I lost 40 pounds, which sounds great, except that it was all muscle. The thought of running anywhere was laughable. I couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs.

“Pain isolates. We are probably never more alone than when severe pain invades us…Pain is elusive. Despite the fact that it is the result of biochemical processes, it is also…a subjective experience, felt only within the confines of our individual minds.” (Hill, 1994).

I sometimes think of that 3 ½ year period of my life as “the lost years.” Obviously, if I had it to do over, I would take care of my core, and maybe not hang those Christmas lights or pick up that laundry basket that led to the herniation and subsequent tear of my L4/L5 disc. But in a strange way, those “lost years” had a huge impact on the person I am today – in terms of what I think is important, and what I do and don’t take for granted.

In March, 2010, for the first time in my life, I ran a 5k (the Atlanta Women’s 5k). I was almost exactly 2 ½ years removed from back surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation detoxing from pain pills. I use the term “ran” pretty loosely – it was more of a shuffle, really. I finished behind several women in their 70s and 80s (including an 85 year old woman). It took me 46 minutes. I felt like I won an Olympic medal.

Since March, I’ve run 13 more 5ks and a 10k (the 2010 Peachtree Road Race). Today, I signed up for my first sprint triathlon. The truth is, I don’t even really like running that much. I get bored pretty easily, and have to play games like counting my steps to stay focused. I may never break the 40-minute barrier in a 5k (I’m down to a speedy 41:23, nearly a year later). It’s increasingly likely that I’ll never be an Olympian. But I’ll never take my physical fitness for granted again. I’ll run for a cheesy plastic 5k medal any day (or especially a long-sleeve t-shirt. Those are my favorite). I may even run a marathon someday (maybe a half, first – let’s not go crazy). But I will keep running, because I can.

I run because I can. Why do you run?

Monday, November 14, 2011


It is almost the one year anniversary of my last blog. I would promise to write more, but we all know that is probably a lie. I have a 70 mile round trip commute now, though, and I think about all kinds of things on my journey. There is no (safe) way to get those "deep thoughts" to you while I'm driving, so I'll do my best to recreate them after the fact.

I've been having a lot of deep thoughts lately, about a lot of things. Today, as I was driving, I was listening to Utah Phillips, who I just realized today died in 2008. Just one more thing lost in the dissertation vortex. RIP Utah. Anyway, I was listening to the Utah/Ani song "Bridges." I've always remembered and quoted the "the past didn't go anywhere" line and segment of that song. But today, for whatever reason, I paid attention to this part:

"Time is an enormous long river, and I'm standing in it, just as you're standing in it. My elders are the tributaries, and everything they thought and every struggle they went through and everything they gave their lives to, and every song they created, and every poem that they laid down flows down to me - and if I take the time to ask, and if I take the time to see, and if I take the time to reach out, I can build that bridge between my world and theirs. I can reach down into that river and take out what I need to get through this world."

It got me to thinking, as I sat in standstill traffic on I285 (that's another rant for another day), about this work I do and this life I live. Everything is a balancing act between sanity and stress, productivity and progress. I feel incredibly fulfilled by the work that I do, but also incredibly overwhelmed by the prospect of it all. (Balancing all this with my "real life" is also, as they say, a whole 'nother story).

Anyway, it made me think about my favorite TED talk of all time (do you know about TED talks? You should! See TED). My favorite one of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on creative genius. Everyone who has ever tried to do any kind of creative work, which is to say, nearly all of us, should read it and watch it. Love it. Hold it. Massage it. Treat it like you're Jojo, the idiot circus boy, with a pretty new pet. You love your new pet.

That's probably enough deep thoughts for the day. I don't want to use them all up at once. But I'll be standing in the river, reaching down and taking what I need to move through this world. See you there?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving was yesterday. Cassi and I got up at 6:30 in the morning to run in the first-ever Atlanta Thanksgiving 5k. I finished in 1142nd place (which was better than the 1400th I was anticipating). It was also the first race that I got a medal for - it was like I just won the Olympics or something. I wanted to wear it to Thanksgiving dinner, but Cassi wouldn't let me.

We had a great dinner with friends, and we had to go around the table and say all the things we are thankful for. I know we keep calling 2010 the worst year ever, but we still all do have so much to be grateful for. For me, the fact that I am physically able to get up at 6:30 in the morning and run 5ks, no matter how slowly, is so far and beyond what I thought I'd be capable of just a few short years ago. Yes, life isn't always unicorns and rainbows, but it still is pretty freakin great.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remember when?

I used to blog?

Maybe I will again. My Facebook page still says "blogging" is one of my interests...

Perhaps I should change my tagline to "putting the Dr. in Dr. Pants?"