Tuesday, March 29, 2011

running through it

There was a point recently when I was exhausted by all of the ways I was stretching to do new things. I was describing this feeling to someone, and knowing that I'm a runner, he asked me, "What do you do when you get a side-sticker?"

"Stop," I said. "Or slow down."

"Or," he said, "you could run through it."

He had some cross-country friends when he was a student at Oxy, and he'd go running with them for fun. There was no way to get through those runs but to run through the pain, he told me. (For those of you who aren't familiar with the campus and surrounding area -- it's hilly!)

How telling my response was! Stopping, or at least slowing down, is how I respond to most stressors in life, especially when I'm being asked to do more or develop a new skill. I even have this thing where, when I start out for a run, especially if I'm not feeling very strong or if I'm attempting a longer run than usual, I tell myself, "You can always stop." It makes me feel safe enough to take on the run. There's probably something valuable about this option for some people, but for people like me, who default to playing it safe and reducing pain, it's not always helpful.

And I'm not just talking about running here. I have these safety clauses in most areas of my life. Something like, "If you feel uncomfortable/unprepared/unable/not safe/afraid, then just default to hiding/shutting down/staying away/avoiding/etc."

But I want more. I want to learn to push through, to stay active and to learn something in the process.

My sister wrote about some running advice and inspiration she's been mulling over, and yesterday I finally watched the video she referred to. At the end, there's an interview with Amy Hastings, who recently placed second in the LA marathon. She describes feeling pain unlike she's ever felt before.

But instead of stopping, she ran through it. Something I'm hoping to learn to do.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Life In France is a memoir, and more -- it's a guidebook for living in the direction of one's calling and passion. And I'm taking notes. Here's my list so far:

>Allow your hunger to guide you.

>Stick to your vision. There is something in it for you even if others don’t understand or accept the outcome. (To be accepted by others may not be the point.)

>Work hard; be serious about your passion, but enjoy it, too.

>Be open to possibility. But don’t compromise.

>Time and patience are required to create something really excellent and worth putting out into the world.

>Look for friends, collaborators, mentors and partners along the way. You can't do it yourself.

(image via here.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

post-it quotes: when i work

"A great free joy surges through me when I work..." -Clyfford Stills, American painter

At the MOCA a few weeks ago (my first time), I found myself enamored with not only the permanent installation but also the accompanying artist quotes. This one by Clyfford Stills rang true. When we work in the purest sense of the word, we feel a joy so deep that even the simple, expansive words "great" and "free" don't quite do it justice. But I get where he was going.

It reminds me of the famous quote from the main character of Chariots of Fire, an Olympic runner: "And when I run I feel His pleasure." Perhaps this joy is not just something that wells up from our own hearts, but is actually the pleasure of the Creator, because we are doing the very thing He created us to do.

This kind of work is what I'm after -- God-pleasing, joy- and pleasure-filled creative work. And I'm not reserving it for a bohemian gathering of friends with scarves and glasses and coffee or some novel-writing-induced nirvana. I think it's possible at my nine-to-five.

Post-it quotes is a new series. Each week I'll feature a new quote that's made it's way to a post-it note on my computer at work, combining two of my loves -- wise words and post-it notes -- with my desire to stay focused and develop excellence at my work and craft.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

she reads aloud to me and I'm in sixth grade again

My Life in France plays in my car while I maneuver through downtown LA during rush hour on my way to work.

But I imagine…

I’m in sixth grade again. It’s just before lunch or the end of the day, and we break from our work and sit quietly at our desks, the lights turned off, some of us with our heads down. Our teacher transports us into a different world as she reads aloud, complete with vivid scenes and lively descriptions and different voices for each character. This time it’s 1949, France, into the life of a woman who lived a simple life guided by pleasure and fascination. And I think, someday I want to grow up to be like her.

More on Julia soon…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

post it quotes: the first draft

I read The Old Man and the Sea in ninth grade. I clearly remember sitting in the school cafeteria during study hall wondering why I was reading about a man going fishing. I didn't get it. My mind wandered -- probably to what mascara to buy or when I would next see George, my crush. (My appreciation for literature came late, folks. I blame that on the Babysitter's Club series.)

Still, it's a relief to know that even Hemingway had shitty first drafts.

And remembering that it's shit helps me be a little less defensive/hurt/hopeless when that first draft comes back all marked up. It means practicing being a learner, receiving critique as a gift, and working hard. Good things, all.

Next on my to-read list: Hemingway. Any favorites out there?

Post-it quotes is a new series. Each week I'll feature a new quote that's made it's way to a post-it note on my computer at work, combining two of my loves -- wise words and post-it notes -- with my desire to stay focused and develop excellence at my work and craft.