When I was in high school my mom told my guidance counselor I was tenacious. We were gathered together in the guidance counselor’s office, surrounded by glossy catalogs featuring vibrant New England fall backdrops and bright-eyed, J. Crew clad students, talking about safety schools and reach schools when I glanced at the questionnaire my parents had completed before the meeting. In my mom’s perfect handwriting, a rounded, cheery mix of cursive and print, under the directive “Describe your daughter,” was that word: tenacious.
I shouldn’t have been surprised; I was not the kind of kid who read the textbook once and had the material memorized. I stayed up late studying for tests. I wasn’t a natural athlete. I struggled to complete a mile for the annual state fitness test in middle school. Lacrosse tryouts in the ninth grade were a near-death experience.
But the fact that my mom saw me as tenacious filled me with joy. I felt seen. I wanted credit for my hard work. I wanted validation. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic, being in my 40’s, or therapy, but I’m realizing I’ve been searching for validation my whole life. I’ve looked for it in GPA’s, finish lines, PR’s, the scale, bylines. I see now, I was looking in the wrong places. That kind of validation is fleeting. It fills a gap but the gap inevitably grows and you have to fill it again. Real validation is an inside job.
I’ve been in the habit of picking a word, rather than a goal or a resolution for the year. My word for 2020 was joy. (LOL.) I’m thinking my word for 2021 is going to be gentle. This feels really foreign and scary. Like, will I just lie in bed all day if I go easy on myself? Will I publish anything at all? Will I serve my family Kraft macaroni and cheese and hot dogs every single night? Who will I be if I don’t feel like a lazy piece of shit for pressing the snooze button? But also, what a relief it would be to treat myself more gently. What if it felt good to not identify so hard with working hard. What if I could keep creating and keep moving my body because it felt good, not because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t? The idea is terrifying which means I know I need to do it.
Speaking of that sweet spot between fear and action, validation-seeking and boundary-pushing, if you’re into that kind of thing, I’m creating something for you in 2021. Stay tuned.
Now for regularly scheduled programming…
We made the decision to home school this year. It’s kind of like dating. When things are going well (read: no one is crying and the girls are engaged), it’s amazing. When things are not going well it is hell and I want to disappear from this earth. PS I’m not talking about remote learning with our school district. I’m talking about crunchy, hippie, DIY homeschooling and this is not something I ever thought I would do.
Ever the problem-solver, Dan asked me how he could help one night. I regret to inform you I had a temper tantrum and screamed “SCHOOL DAN. SCHOOL. THAT’S IT. MAKE CORONAVIRUS END AND SEND THE KIDS TO FUCKING SCHOOL.” The crescendo was when, in a blind rage, I threw the wireless earbuds I happened to be holding. Part of them broke off and rolled under the fridge. Thankfully I know myself well enough not to trust myself to have the expensive kind so at least there was that.
Here is a more socially acceptable version of how I feel about home schooling that I shared with 9News:
And in the interest of not re-inventing the wheel, 9News also interviewed me about how we were handling Thanksgiving… (TLDW: We are into food.)
Also we moved this fall. (Hence two wildly different Zoom backgrounds in the 9 News segments and yes that is a Magic 8 ball on the shelf in the second one because life is unpredictable and I want to know WHAT IS NEXT.) I can’t recommend moving during a pandemic while homeschooling and trying to maintain your career as a freelance writer. Also, it was harder on our marriage than even the infant stage with our kids but also I’m thrilled that we made what might have been the shortest move in the history of moving; we are literally down the street from our old house. No joke, you can walk there in five minutes.
It’s been a while since I posted but the first good read that comes to mind is what I’m currently devouring: An advance reader copy of Milk Fed by Melissa Broder. It kind of reminds me of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. If you’re into reading about fictional women who conflate thinness with worthiness, both will be right up your alley. Also, So Sad Today, a collection of essays by Melissa Broder, who btw I went to college with and read 1.5 of her books (including The Pisces, another fave), before I realized it and my head exploded. In short, I graduated over 20 years ago and I distinctly remember how this woman’s poise and beauty astounded me even though I did not know her personally and she writes with such candor about her depression and anxiety that it’s hard for me to reconcile the image with the human.
Mysteries aren’t normally my jam but I loved Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman. As kind of a late bloomer myself, I was delighted to discover she became a successful writer later in life.
A Voice for Writing a Voice for Podcasting (Timber.fm)
I got to interview powerhouse author and podcaster Joanna Penn for this profile and she was a font of knowledge and inspiration. I wrote the profile in 20-minute chunks in between packing, signing endless electronic documents, texting my realtor, mercilessly tidying and vacuuming in preparation for showings, home schooling, and other assignments with more urgent deadlines and I ignored the voice in my head gently suggesting I share an outline with my editor before diving in. I was nervous it wasn’t good before I turned it in but I always get a little nervous that my work isn’t good before I turn it in.
Alas, it wasn’t good. My editor asked me to completely re-write it. Obvs I felt bad and I doubted myself completely for about 24 hours. If you don’t do this every so often I’m sorry but you’re not really a writer.
But you know what’s awesome? I didn’t totally freak out. I didn’t end up crying on my rabbi’s shoulder like I did that one time last year. I was grateful he was willing to let me try again. I gave him a couple of potential outlines for a new version and wrote nothing until he approved one. I have had editors who publish my work as-is, including typos. They make your life easy but they don’t make you a better writer.
Tina Muir—Running for Real (Timber.fm)
No drama here. Just a chance to interview a runner and podcaster I deeply admire and to share her message: Authenticity is where it’s at.
You Should Smile Behind Your Mask. Here’s Why. (The Washington Post)
I think the title pretty much says it all. I came up with the idea for this story when I noticed I was not smiling or greeting at other runners behind my mask. Ever since I left New England, being friendly to strangers is something I’ve grown accustomed to… and I missed it. But I wanted to know- did it actually matter?
Cardio Isn’t Enough. For a Healthy Heart, Add Resistance Training. (The Washington Post)
If it’s wrong to admit I inspired myself with this article, I don’t want to be right. I enjoy weight training but it’s not my favorite. After diving into the nitty gritty of the long-term benefits of weight training with knowledgeable experts, I found myself itching to re-connect with my dumbbells.
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