Holding On In Tumultous Times

“We have to find find those things that make us feel most alive, and hold onto those.” Chris Fagan, Adventurer

The above quote is from a Mother’s Day episode of She Explores: Women in the Outdoors podcast with adventurer Chris Fagan who shares openly about the strategies she had for coping with her husband’s cancer diagnosis. Although the episode was recorded pre-pandemic, host Gale Straub encourages listening with a Covid-19 filter for resilience lessons.

What makes me feel most alive these days is staying active through treadmill walks on crummy weather days and hikes on good weather days. Today is Day 66 of social distancing and yesterday I took my 16th hike. Getting out on the trails and seeing nature springing to life reminds me that everything has a season, and this too shall pass. Right now, it seems endless…and hard.

I’ve always been a planner, so the ‘not knowing’ is what has been hardest for me: how we can safely resume working with others without fear of infection; when we’ll get an effective vacine; how and when we’ll have effective contact tracing; and when we’ll ever be able to heal the fissures of distrust and hate that have come to define our political discourse.

On my last hike, I listened to an On Being episode where host Krista Tippett and musician/artist Devendra Banhart read passages from When Things Fall Apart, by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön. The first passage Krista read from the book was “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Although the book was written more than 20 years ago, it’s never been more relevant given world events. As Chödrön says later after that passage, “Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all.”

When I’m feeling anxious in the days to come, I’ll remember these take-aways…Give in to grief, because there is a lot to grieve now. Make room for every small relief you feel, the roof over your head and the food on your table, because so many are struggling. Move through your misery, because it too shall pass. And breathe in joy, that you are still alive in this moment.

Late Bloomers and Other Tales

rich-karlgaard-late-bloomers-book2Last week I listened to Srinivas Rao interview Rich Karlgaard on the The Unmistakable Creative podcast about Rich’s new book Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement. Rich and I grew up in the same hometown, we graduated high school one year apart, and my step-brother ran track with him. Listening to Rich talk about his dad and growing up in Bismarck, North Dakota brought back a lot of memories.

I’ve always identified as a late bloomer, so Rich’s message really resonated with me. Whether it was getting my Bachelor’s degree when I was nearly 30, running a marathon at 60, or writing the memoir I’m currently working on, I’ve always bushwacked my own path.

This month it’s been a challenge getting back to my memoir after writing fiction for NaNoWriMo. To get in the mood, this weekend I dug out old journals trying to mine some of that material. I came across a writing assignent I had submitted on November 23, 1999 in response to a writing prompt called the Book of Life by Eldonna Edwards, who was teaching an online writing class. (This was written a little more than a month before we buried the time capsule mentioned in my previous post.)

LateBloomer

Our assignment was to imagine our lives as a book, picturing who would play our characters in a movie, then writing the chapter headings relating to the story. This is what I wrote:

The book of my life would be creative nonfiction. A well-crafted piece of work with dashes of poetic verse, sprinkled liberally with humor, the story would open on the Dakota plains. If made into a movie, my parents would be played by an earnest Ben Affleck and a troubled Claire Danes. My traumatized teen would be played by Drew Barrymore (remember, this is 1999), up through my searching 20s, where the story would move to Southern California. I would be played in mid-life and later years by Meryl Streep. My husband would be played by Kevin Costner and my daughter would play herself.

Title: Late Bloomer, A Coming of Age Tale

    1. Fun, Frolic, and Carefree Days
    2. The Isolated Early Years
    3. Teen Turmoil
    4. Searching for Answers Outside Myself
    5. Military Missions and a Failed Marriage
    6. Believing in Myself
    7. The Wonders of a Blind Date
    8. Life is Good at 30
    9. A Decade of Family Fun
    10. Hope, Dreams, and Unexpected Emptiness
    11. Life Sucks at 40
    12. Climbing Out of the Pit
    13. Moving and Other Chaotic Choices
    14. The Phoenix Rises
    15. Timeless Mother – The Crone Years

I have no recollection of this assignment and others written during that email class, but I’m glad I kept them (and thank you Eldonna!). When I wrote this, I was at the beginning of Chapter 13…and seven months later I would move to Michigan with my family where other chaotic choices ensued.

Late Bloomers. It’s a way of life.

Blessed are the late bloomers, who believe in themselves, follow their intuition, and trust that the journey of life will take them where they need to be.

Podcast Parade: Super Soul Conversations with Cheryl Strayed

Before I cut the cable cord, one of my go to programs was Super Soul Sunday on OWN. I’ve been thrilled to discover some of my favorite shows are now also podcasts, including 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning.

supersoulWhile searching for Super Soul on my podcast app, I came across a follow-up episode of Super Soul Conversations with author Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl had appeared on Super Soul Sunday in 2012, a year after the release of her bestselling memoir “Wild”. During her 2017 update, Cheryl admitted to Oprah that prior to the interview she had gone to GoodWill to purchase something to wear for $5, and earlier that week her husband called asking her why their rent check had bounced. Wait, what?!

It’s easy to look back in retrospect given all the bestselling success of Wild and the subsequent movie, and believe she was an ‘overnight’ success. Far from it. Like many other writers, Cheryl struggled to make ends meet working, raising her family, and fighting to find time to write. Being a newly committed writer, Cheryl’s story encouraged and inspired me.

Every time I listen to a Super Soul Conversation, I get something from it regardless of the guest. I’m grateful my commute gives me the time to enjoy different podcasts, and Super Soul Conversations is one of my favorites.

Podcast Parade: Write-Minded

I love a parade, don’t you? I began marching in parades at the tender age of 4 and I have the embarrassing pictures to prove it. My love of parades continued through high school marching band, so I was already an accomplished marcher by the time I joined the Marines. But enough about me, I want to share a parade of podcasts I thoroughly enjoy during my weekday 90+ minute commute. It’s a great way to catch up on favorite shows, get investing tips, or learn about the writing life.

NaNoSheWritesWith this month being NaNoWriMo, I’m kicking off my inaugural Podcast Parade with “Write-Minded: Weekly Inspiration for Writers”. Grant Faulker (NaNoWriMo Executive Director) and Brooke Warner (She Writes Publisher) blend interviews, inspiration, and writing tips with down to earth authenticity about their own writing lives. According to their website, they “… bring to this weekly podcast their shared spirit of community, collaboration, and a deeply held belief that everyone is a writer, and everyone’s story matters.” Love that.

I particularly enjoyed this week’s episode about NaNo Rebels, those who are not writing novels during NaNoWriMo. Because this first NaNo attempt I’m writing a memoir, I felt like an imposter among the novel writers. When I heard about NaNo Rebels, I immediately identified, “yup, that’s me”. Not only could I relate to being a NaNo Rebel, Grant and Brooke interviewed runner Cami Ostman, author of “Second Wind: One Woman’s Midlife Quest to Run Seven Marathons on Seven Continents”. Since I’m writing about my Marine Corps Marathon journey, I soaked up every minute of the podcast and added Cami’s book to my reading list.

Every podcast concludes with a writing action. This week it is ‘Write down three times you were defiantly sure of yourself.’ Okay Grant and Brooke, challenge taken:

  1. Even though I was last chair in my high school band, I signed up to try out for All-State Band after attending Summer band camp. I not only made All-State Band, I got moved to Concert Band. It was the first time I learned that if I really applied myself, I could make dreams a reality.
  2. I joined the Marines at 21. I was an Army Reservist but my father never believed I would go active duty. The day came when I was tired of sitting behind a desk and a Marine was the only military recruiter on duty. With “Where do I sign up?”, I was the easiest recruit he ever had and it was the best decision I ever made.
  3. I hadn’t run in more than three decades when I signed up for a half marathon at the age of 56. I left doubters in the dust and on the couch.

So, when have you stood strong in your defiance?