Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going crazy without an outlet

I'm currently an injured runner.  Something I never thought I would have to deal with.  I knew I got far more than weight management benefits from my running but until I was sidelined I had no idea the real impact running has on my life and my sanity.  Oh I had an idea but I seriously hadn't come close to the reality.  It's been three weeks since my last real run - minus the test run after I saw my therapist which did not go well.  And I haven't been able to run regularly since before Thanksgiving. 


I can't concentrate on anything.  All I can think about is running and how I can't do it.  I get dejected thinking about going to the gym because I know when I get there I can't run and then because I know I will be tempted to run if I go I just don't.  I stay up too late, I sleep too late, I have too little patience with my kids and my husband.  I can't sit still long enough to focus on writing consistently.  I'm a mess!!  I even found myself resentful about hubby's gym time because he shouldn't be able to do what he loves when I can't.  Am I right?

There is good news, however.  I no longer have foot pain when I wake up in the morning - something I haven't been able to say for going on a year.  (Yes, that long, really!)  And it was only a little bit of pain resulting from my test run after my last treatment.  So, progress!  I see my miracle worker massage therapist again tomorrow and I'm hopeful I'll be back on the trails by early next week.  I've even managed to curtail the daily expansion of my ass by adjusting my eating.  No need to fuel my body for running I'm not doing at the moment... (I'm such a creature of habit!)

Whatever you do that you love, rejoice in it and cherish that you can do it.  And if you're a runner - stay healthy!  I wouldn't wish injury on anyone because it plain sucks ass.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This week's lesson on balance

It's the holidays and like what I hope are the rest of the women/wife/mothers out there, I start planning and spread-sheeting and making lists around Thanksgiving (okay, post NaNo!) and spend the three weeks before Christmas jockeying for the right gift for everyone on my list.  Hubby admits to never having a good idea for a gift and happily sits back and lets me handle everything.  I used to feel a tiny bit bad about this like I was taking too much of my own control in this piece of our marriage.  But lately I wonder if he's actually not the smarter of the two of us having now manipulated himself out of all responsibility for gift giving and letting me have all the stress.  Hmm. I hope it was only coincidental on his part and he's merely reaping the coincidental rewards.

Big Sister's best friend on the planet and her family moved into the house on the corner last month.  After three years of living far enough away that to see each other outside of school hours required coordinating a play date with their parents, the girls are ecstatic to be able to walk across the street any time they want to see each other.  It has added a new dynamic to parenting - since she now wants to do nothing but play all day and all weekend.  She even told me that she wanted to quit dancing so she had more time with her BFF (Best Friend Forever).  The other day when I'd had enough of her room looking like a tornado had blown through and yelling constantly about how she either needed to do X or she was grounded from seeing BFF, I took a step back and had a conversation with her about how she thought things were going.  As if on queue, she asked me how she is supposed to do her homework and go to dance and do her chores and still see BFF every day.  I told her it is all about finding balance between the things you have to do and the things you want to do so you can do both.  Do you think it's easy for me to be Mommy to you and Baby Sister, and be Daddy's wife, and run the household and go to work every day and be a good employee and still have time to run and write and read and all the things I WANT to do?  Nope, it's hard and it sucks some days but by finding ways to be better and faster and more effective at the things that I have to do, and sometimes giving up things I don't care as much about as others, it gives me more time to do the things I want to do.  The conversation that began with her in tears throwing her hands in the air in frustration ended with a pretty grown-up kind of discussion which I hope lays the groundwork for a very valuable lesson she'll have to remember the rest of her life.  Maybe this will be one of those things that she'll remember for the positive column when she's in therapy as an adult?

On the heels of this conversation, the stars aligned as they rarely do resulting in a day all about me.  I had neglected scheduling a hair appointment too long and had some seriously embarrassing regrowth going on.  My sister was in the same boat so we decided to schedule together so we could hang out for a few hours.  The stylist could get us in before Christmas (a miracle in itself) but only for an afternoon appointment.  I checked my calendar and didn't have anything scheduled that day at work and decided it was meant to be.  While I was at it, I'd take the entire day off.  I haven't had one of those with the exception of the time off required to do my two Ragnars since last spring so I was due!  Since I had the whole day off, I called to see if I could get in to see the massage therapist my sister has been demanding I go see to fix my plantar fasciitis issue.  I called, she answered, and had an appointment open the same morning.  What are the odds?  While inputting the massage appointment in my calendar I realized I had a girls' night dinner planned that night from weeks ago and had already lined up a babysitter.  Seriously!  A decadent day of activities for me and only me.  I came home from girls night that night refreshed and recharged.  Dinner lasted an hour longer than normal because one of the group was running late and we decided to wait to order.  We got to chat in depth enough to realize we were all going through the same things as everyone else and buoying each other up like only girlfriends can.  If only I could have squeezed a run in it would have been the perfect day.

Here's where I tell you about how I haven't been running and where I admit that my "injury" had become a full blown injury (without the quotation marks) sidelining me from my favorite pastime.  I can't ignore it anymore when I go for a little baby mile run and can barely walk for days afterward; where it is so bad that even if I haven't run in a couple of days and go to a friend's house with the "no shoe" rule and spend three hours barefoot I'm in agony when I leave; where the only shoes I wear are my running shoes for the support to stave off the pain and I wear them every minute I'm awake every day.  The worst part is that because I really haven't been able to run more than three or four miles a week since the Vegas Ragnar, I put on TEN POUNDS without even realizing it.  Until one day I put my jeans on and they were uncomfortably snug.  Of course then I was so depressed about the ten pounds I put on five more from emotional eating.  *sigh*

The good news is that running is just over the horizon for me.  I put my big girl panties on and did something about it.  I spent an hour with my sister's amazing massage therapist who touched nothing but my lower leg.  I walked yesterday for forty five minutes as directed and still had zero pain when I woke up this morning.  Which means today I get to go for a little jog and see how it goes.  If I have no pain, I'm cleared to resume my normal running.  If it still hurts, I have to go see her again.  I'm tingling with both anticipation and dread at how it will go.  I want to be able to run so bad and I'm so scared it isn't going to be that easy.  But until I try I'm just sitting here with my ass growing larger by the hour - or so it feels.

Wish me luck!  And here's to you - may you have a happy holiday season while maintaining balance in your own life.  Remember that if you don't take care of you, there isn't enough of you to take care of everyone else...

Friday, December 2, 2011

How I survived (and won) NaNoWriMo 2011

Remember when I was heading into this mammoth undertaking and I said I was scared because this time around it felt different?  Well, almost everything about this year was different.

This was my fourth "NaNo" (as people in the know call it) and my second win.  But, I had several epiphanies this time around which will be the difference in getting the first step of this multi-year project finally finished.  It is the hardest step I believe:  Finish your manuscript.  A first draft must exist in order to edit and polish and make pretty enough to convince a publisher to take a chance on your book.  It's something that no matter how many times I've started I haven't figured out how to do.  Before now.

No, I'm not finished, don't get all a twitter just yet!

But I am still writing in December which has never happened before.  Even the first time I won I digressed into word padding shenanigans and let my characters do whatever they wanted to regardless of where I wanted the story to go or what I thought their motivations should be.  In all honesty, it was long ago and I don't even think I realized they NEEDED motivations yet.  That year all I wanted was the sheer volume of 50K to say I'd won.  And December first came and I abandoned the entire thing.  That year I never even got out of the beginning, let alone the dreaded middle.

This year I treated NaNo like I had a second job.  Everyone in my life knew that my writing was happening at a specific scheduled time (9:00-11:00PM) and let me do it without interruption during that time.  If I'm ever going to be a published author without quitting my day job that's the way it's going to have to be.  And guess what - when I started living like I already have what I want, it was easy to do what I needed to do to make it happen.  Epiphany #1: writing every day is possible regardless of what you have going on in your life. It's just like anything else - if it's important enough you'll find the time to do it.

Writer's block aside, which I dealt with the second week and already wrote about, I stuck to marching my characters down the road I had mapped out for all of them in my plot structure/outline.  This got me through the middle before I even realized it.  Epiphany #2: it doesn't matter what advice other authors tell you, the only way to be successful is to figure out what works for you personally.  I thought I was a discovery writer because my favorite author said that's how he writes.  So I spent a couple of years forcing myself to be that, without the success I thought was inevitable.  Then I continued to learn and grow as a writer and explored other possible ways of doing things. I morphed several things that struck me as interesting to work for my own personal style and in the end found my own unique method.

One of the benefits of being an official, registered participant in this event is getting weekly pep talks from published authors who have been where you are every step of the way.  I got one that hit home as we headed into the final stretch.  Basically it said that 50K was not ever going to be a completed novel but the important thing was to finish the story and be able to write "The End" by the time you got there.  To do this, you pick key scenes you already know are going to happen and you don't care about tying them cohesively together, you just write each of them until you get the basic story down.  Then, you go back and fill in the parts between them that have to get the characters from each big scene cohesively.  Ephiphany #3: a rough draft is never going to be anything but a diamond in the rough so don't get bogged down in getting every single thing perfect.  Just write - and ask questions later.  Without this little gem, I would have gotten bogged down in not knowing every single little detail of what happens in the story leading up to the finale and gotten stalled out.  Instead, I wrote the scenes I knew and had already pictured in my head.  And I found out that, by doing so, many of the details of how to get the characters there were answered after they arrived.  And on at least one occasion, I found relationships had changed on the way to that point which will make going back and filling in the blanks that much better.

One of the things I wish I could have changed was not getting so far behind.  I wrote eighteen thousand of my fifty thousand in the last five days.  FIVE. DAYS.  I don't recommend this to anyone - especially if you have a full time job!  I was up until three in the morning for several consecutive nights trying to work and stay awake to do it all over the next day.  I wrote during my lunch hour at work and for the hour I would normally have gone to the gym in the afternoons.  I lived on coffee - pots and pots of it all day and all night - and food that was not good for me.  The worst part is I was so exhausted that even if I had time to work out, I didn't have the energy to do it.  I'm still afraid to step on the scale and see how much damage has been done, I'm already feeling the effects of the caffeine withdrawals, and I'm pretty sure in my delirious state on November thirtieth I said things in a staff meeting that were wildly inappropriate.

I did take an hour the second to last evening to attend an event at a friend's house.  It was exactly what I needed - to see the majority of my writer's group who cheered me on and were as excited about me being out of the middle as I was.  They gave me that extra boost of encouragement I needed to see me through the last INSANE twenty four hours.  If you ever decide to do this yourself, make sure you tell everyone and then shout it out to Facebook and Twitter for good measure.  All the people in your life cheering you on makes those bleak and dark hours when you don't think you have it in you to continue never more than fleeting in the grand scheme of things.

All that aside, I survived - and I'm still writing - and when I look back I hope this proves to be the year that all the pieces finally fell into place.  Someone said that NaNo (or any rough draft) is like filling the room with straw that later you use to spin into gold.  I think of it more like all the hard work of finding and digging up a big, ugly chunk of rock.  When you're done, you're left with something that hopefully you can polish and cut into a beautiful gem.  To all of you who stuck with me and cheered me on and said you knew I could do it: Thank you, I couldn't have done it without you!