Starting where I am, progress and using pain as tool for peace.

If you are reading my blogs because of the triathlete training tag, I ask you  to endure the first more literary leg of this blog as my transition to my new obsession will come faster and more smoothly than I predict my first actual race transition will be, but then again I might just surprise us all.  

 
I am a typical middle aged bookworm with bulky glasses, more imaginary friends than lifetime peer relationships and a large, low rear center of gravity. I am typically voracious in my book appetites if atypically eclectic in my reading style. Just finished Melissa Anelli’s nonfiction "Harry, A History" at breakfast, and half way through "Hexed" by Kevin Hearne from lunch. I am listening to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files on audio while in the car and am up to book 6. I am rereading (again) "Ghandi an Autobiography" in the bathroom, have Jon Kabat-Zinn on the night stand and C.S. Lewis "The Great Divorce" in my briefcase.  

Certain writers are my mainstays, but I will try any printed page for depth and flavor. I have an ice cream like hankering for the spiritual and I am a huge fan of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Pema Chodron, and C.S. Lewis. I can’t get enough of their writings. One of their books is always in play, not only because the written works themselves are immensely readable but also because the author’s human struggle is the muddy garden in which these flowers of  enlightenment bloom.  Ghandi and Lewis have been with me since childhood and can be blamed for my attempt to guide my life by the principles of Satipatthana and Ahimsa. Pema joined my team when I was struggling to build some new neural pathways post surgery and infection and was given her book  "When Things Fall Apart"; she introduced annata, annica and duhka to me as the tools they are in language I understood. 

I am not quite a book junkie who will just buy a book for the score, but I do have certain lighter favorite authors like Charles de Lint,  Wil Wheaton,  James Owen, Jasper Fforde, Karen Armstrong, Ayya Khema and Linda Pastan whose works are now purchased whenever they appear and are devoured on the strength of past positive experience. Then there are the authors like Christopher Moore, Debbie Macomber,  Stephen King,  David McCullough whose flashes of brilliance in the midst of McMainstream writing will get me to peruse the back cover of their latest and often buy it.  

 
I am making it sound like I choose what I read, but as I look more closely at my overstuffed shelves, I see that all a book really needs to do, is sit attractively on the front table of Changing Hands (my, yes MY, no I don’t own it but it is where I spend all my book money) and bat its attractively colored cover at me, flirt with an intriguing chapter list, or maybe take me out on that first page date, and I am theirs; mind, time and wallet. So many books, so little time, so many stories to live (from the comfort of my armchair with a nice glass of tea in easy reach.) I am the typical book nerd full of sweet and salty treats and disdainful of all that sweaty spandex sports world.
 
Which is why I am baffled as much by the book I am carrying around constantly as I am at this person stretching across from me in my bedroom mirror. Perhaps it is a a bit of a midlife crisis that starting June 1, 2011 I officially came out as a triathlete wanna be. The book I carry now (all the time!) is by Jayne Williams. 
 
The cover is a very realistic sports in progress photo with too much yellow; it looks more like a healthy diet bar than a tasty  tome. Inside the book the author’s writing style would have won my mockery in the days as a professional critic. The funny thing is, I think that would have been Okay with her, maybe more than okay, she would have embraced my mockery and just kept running, swimming, biking and sharing her experience.
 
If my  am very sure she would have been okay, it is because she is teaching me to be okay as well. Her book, "Slow, Fat Triathlete" has become as important to my going forward as Ghandi has been to my getting here. The funny thing is, she says all the things I am used to hearing from my spiritual sensei’s but the meaning is now manifest in the tight stretch of my neck to improve the chance of breathing air instead of water, the fold of my abdomen impeding a new core building yoga pose, the awkward weight and friction of my thighs as I break into a trotting sort of run.  I struggle with the very real dailiness of starting where I am in something I don’t have to do, compassion for the non-athlete I am is as much a challenge as the movements. Pain is proof I am pushing to improvement. The challenge today was to be mindful enough of my needs to take the day off training (Yup, Jayne recommends downtime too!) Patience, practice, compassion….easier said than done when the only success is showing up again to the process.
 
As to the annihilation of ego portion of my life program, that is a whole story in itself. The biggest ego lesson of slow, fat triath training is not the very HUGE one of continuing to show up for something I don’t shine at, the biggest lesson for me has to do with learning the "self" in selflessness.
 
I want to complete a triathlon, it has been on my bucket list for a few years. But… I don’t need to complete this goal to support myself better. It won’t make the world a better place. It won’t feed anyone, heal anyone, save anyone; make anyone’s life better except maybe me. This is probably the first most selfish thing I have ever done.  If I am no more and no less than anyone else, and I would make this kind of effort, utilize these resources, spend this time to help another, is this then my lesson in letting go of ego, I can and should do the same for me?
 
More daily logs coming tomorrow…for now, me and my deep thoughts are gonna go clean the bathroom and then make a healthy supper and maybe go for a swim, and if the pool bullies are there, I have a plan.
 
 
 

Writer’s Block: The long and short of it

Time is only a perception, so it is on this perception, not page count, I will answer this prompt.
The longest book I ever read was Ulysses by James Joyce. It was a "new" edition and was a required review inclusion for my column, so its heft was emphasized by time constraint. I remember that I started my review with the statement "There are two kinds of people in the literary world, those who will tell you they have read James Joyce "Ulysses" in its entirety with relish, and those who prefer truth to pretension."  I appreciated its art, its shock value and Joyce’s talent but truly felt much of the praise given to the tome reeked of  "the Emperor’s New Clothes" syndrome, right down to the intricate and intimate level Joyce’s inner neurosis were nakedly dangled in our faces. Someday I may read it again,just to see if my opinion has changed.

The shortest is tough, but recent  books that were devoured so quickly I only wished for more deliciousness and therefore had to re-read and savor again and again are James Owen’s "Here There Be Dragons", Claudia Emerson’s "late wife",  and most recently a collection called "Bordertown", in particular the final story by Charles de Lint.