Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blog Hopping...And Hoping: And A Little About Me

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”  ~ Anne Frank
It's been a Loooong summer at my house and besides running, working and child entertaining I have had neither the time nor the mental/creative energy to write a blasted thing - and this makes me very sad, and frustrated.

So when I was asked by Diane Wilhelm to participate in a little 'blog hop' thingamajig, I thought, "Oh goodie, something to get my writing butt in gear". Of course I received her message at about midnight, after a 3 hour frenetic, exhausting drive through the Colorado mountains capping off a day of watching and waiting and preparing to run and then not running...etc etc Leadville 100.

So after that "Oh goodie" thought, came the "Crap. I'm exhausted. I can't do more". But I said "Yes".  And here I am plucking away at the keyboard, and I want to thank Diane for the nudge - for thinking of me and spurring me to action. I really need a swift kick in the patooty, but this works too! I have missed writing entirely too much, and without writing I lack grounding. And so here goes...

You can check out Diane's post at:

The Blog Hop is titled: "My Writing Process" and it covers these four questions:

1. What am I working on?

A better question might be: What am I not working on??? Golly, I have so many things percolating around in there, that it's a mess of craziness in my head. I have a million and one projects: Book ideas, half written blog posts, short stories (Yes, I USED to write fiction - but that's too scary to share ;) , that sometimes I don't know where it begins and ends.

It would be lovely to say: Oh, yes. I'm working on a book - I mean who isn't working on a book??? It seems that everyone I know has either written a book or is writing a book. Even my husband has written a book and is working on another, and I have to live with him! So, yeah. I feel like a total loser.

At this point I just need to get back in the habit of writing and carve out some little bit of time to do it. But my life right now makes this very difficult. And yet, it's true, I believe, that we make/find time for what matters...and so if it matters...

My dad was great story teller and writer, and always bemoaned his lack of time for reading and writing. His sense of duty, to take care of so many things he may have cared less about (though he cared about taking care of others which lead to his actions) meant he never made the time. These opportunities don't just fall into our laps. You really must go after it with a pitchfork. Now that he is gone, I find this a tragic thing. I don't want to follow in those shoes...

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I guess you would call this blog a 'running' blog, but more often than not I'm not writing about running itself but something I thought about while running or something that running and life share in a general sense. As a college philosophy instructor for 16 years, I find it impossible not to bring philosophy into every aspect of my life. So, it is an essential part of how I view the world, and that comes out in my writing. Sometimes my approach is pretty analytic and I pick things apart to make sense of them and other times it's synthetic, and I try to put the seemingly disparate pieces of existence together in an attempt to make sense of things that just don't always make sense.

This blog is also fairly personal, and this is a good thing and bad thing. I'm thankful that my mother doesn't read it. I've opened myself up a few time here and shown things to complete strangers what I have never shown to those closer. Perhaps it's the anonymity of the interwebs that makes me feel comfortable doing this, but for a fairly private person, it's strange and risky and scary. And yet it's the scary posts that I've received the most heartfelt response to - when I reach out and readers reach back, and it helps them and it helps me - and so, it's worth the risk. If I am nothing else I am always ME. What every that is, it comes out, even if I don't know what it is.

I was once told, after I started my own business, that I needed to watch what I wrote. I thought long and hard about that, and honestly, this idea made me feel pretty sick, and it didn't make me feel very good about myself. I have to sensor ME? How depressing is that?  I decided that I had to continue being me, and if people didn't like it then they needn't work with me. Period. I am always who I am, and I don't want to associate with anyone who wants/expects me to be other than I am. That may make me a bad businesswoman. So be it.
“Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” ~ Franz Kafka
3. Why do I write?

Oh dear...Why do I write??? Well, I've always written, though sharing what I write is a more recent thing - and initially I kept my identity under wraps because it was just too terrifying to attach my writing to ME. I need to write. It's like I need to run. I need to love. I need to connect. I need to go out into nature every-single-stinkin-day. I need see beautiful things. I need to see that there is, somewhere, justice in the world. We have needs and we have wants. Part of understanding who I am is knowing the difference between these two things. My life is richer when I view it through a writer's eyes. It is just that simple. I see things differently when I write - when I'm in the midst of a writing project. 
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ~ Anaïs Nin
Socrates maintained that we are most human when we are discussing and arguing. I suppose this is my way of being human. Writing is the attempt to reach out, out into that great big world out there, and to connect, somehow, with someone.

4. How does my writing process work?

Oh, I really don't have a "writing process".  When I'm inspired to write about something I just sit down and do it. Some posts take 20 minutes to write, and some take 2 days. I rarely work on anything for longer than a couple hours, and even that is rare. When I sit down to write I am there because I have something that is bursting at the seams and must be released. My ideas usually come to me when I'm running, and my best writing (as in most satisfying to me) happens when a thought is fresh and vivid. When an idea takes me by the throat and shakes me a bit. That's when it's good - for me, that is.

I wish I could be more purposeful, more methodical. I remember reading about John Cheever, everyday, sitting down at his desk in his underpants and just writing. Writers who do it day in and day out and are disciplined - Oh, how I admire that. There was a time in my life when I would have loved to call myself a 'writer' (Okay. I still would), but without that discipline, it doesn't happen. I suppose if I could simplify the other stuff, then that could happen, but now life is overflowing - which is good, and hard. Then again, that is just another excuse...
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
So that does it, as a start, for me. For now. And so I hope, as with most things, that this will spur me on, and get me thinking again in a way that gets my life vibrating again. For that's what writing does. And running. And love. And that's why we're here. To vibrate. For all we really are is energy. Shake it up...

Next week:  I'm handing off the baton to two bloggers who I know well and admire as people and writers:

Danica Lucker @, A fellow 'running' blogger who has supported my efforts from the get-go, and is the real deal in writing and running and parenting and all the other hats she wears.

Peter Beal @ , who is my husband. Yes. Talk about nepotistic. But I wouldn't have ever started blogging without his example and encouragement - and he will also try to take credit for my blog name - but in fact that was a collaborative effort. He writes about rock climbing, nature, art and much much more.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Courage: An Active Virtue

"You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor." ~Aristotle
“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.” ~ Lao Tzu  
I've spent a fair amount of my life chewing over the qualities, attributes, ideas surrounding, meanings attached to, implications of, possible ramifications of, confusions over: Courage, authenticity and integrity.

These were things I delved into in graduate school, though that was hopelessly out of fashion in uber analytic American philosophy. So this became a personal, somewhat private, obsession. I wrote my masters thesis on Integrity but that question remains unsettled as all essential questions often do. But recently I've become more consumed by questions concerning courage. Perhaps it's because I fear I lack this most primary of virtues. Or perhaps it's because I fail to see courage when it's there.

 And I wonder; Am I possibly confused about what courage looks like? What it actually IS?.

So what is courage? (and no. This is not the first, nor is it likely the last, time I've written on this) Well, obviously one way of looking at it is as the virtue of acting in the face of fear, danger, standing your ground (literally or morally). It's feeling fear, recognizing that a situation is perhaps threatening, and dealing with it rationally while still feeling the fear. As Aristotle says: Courage is feeling just the right amount of fear - not too much (cowardice)  and not too little (foolhardiness).  Courage is dealing with a situation based on the realities of the situation itself PLUS your individual ability to respond to the situation. Bah blah blah. I'm not so interested in this kind of courage right now.

Because courage is also something else - something perhaps even bigger. It's not just a reactive virtue. That is, it's not just something we need when some situation is foisted upon us - it is a virtue we need in order to create a meaningful life - and that is the ACTIVE side of courage. When something is pressed upon us we have little choice but to respond in some way - and hopefully we will do well. But what about the courage when we act on something even when we are not forced into it.

Runners get this. As silly as running is, we are a little bit courageous every time we step out the door for a run (it's safer to stay on the couch or stay in bed) - every time we sign up for a race - every time we toe the line with butterflies in our stomachs. AND especially when we do something that pushes us out of our comfort zone - and where that zone lies is entirely individual. And that is an active choice. It doesn't happen to us. We do not have to do this thing. We choose to do it. And that choice changes us forever. We are not the same person after as before. That act of courage contributes to our characters - a courageous character - whether we see it as such or not. But, if you just do the same thing over and over, if you do the things you are pretty sure you can do, does that require courage? Yes, I think it does a bit, but not as much as when we do something that scares us.

We (like to feel/believe that we) are all safe in our little corners of the universe - the ones where we feel confident, in control, safe, or at the very least, not in peril (of course this is a colossal lie, but it makes us FEEL we have control). But that is not what we are here for. What we are here for is to discover what we have to give, where we can go with this one life we know we have (others are as yet unconfirmed). And every single time we do one thing that makes us feel uncomfortable and scared but also a little bit excited, then our lives become greater - for that spreads out into all aspects of life.

Think about something that scares you but also makes you smile inside and out, and you feel a little gitty at the mere thought of it - at the audaciousness of it. And then do that.
 “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ William Faulkner
Courage is found in unlikely places.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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