Thursday, October 29, 2009

Running in Circles, Chasing My Tail

A coworker who's been running for over a year and I were talking about my fledgling habit Tuesday. She suggested several things to help me enjoy my workout more, and one of them was running somewhere new.

So, yesterday I ran down to our main road, turned left, and went into the giant neighborhood behind my street.

It was exciting! And new! And I was listening to the new Black Eyed Peas album, (which was good for running and became immediately stupid when I stopped--beat vs. lyrics, I'm sure) and I was Boom Boom Pow-ing and indeed Tonight was a Good Night!

Most of you knows what comes next.

I got lost.

Not seriously lost, but definitely turned around. I ended up at another entrance to the giant neighborhood, and, although I knew where I was, there was no way I was going to run down that road at 6:00 p.m. I would have gotten squished like a bug.

I turned around and walked back from whence I came. I contemplated knocking on a door. I berated myself for not carrying my cell phone. (Very dumb. I've decided the main characteristic of my new phone should be that it is small enough to run with comfortably. I carry my cell phone when I walk the dog. Why would I not carry it when I run somewhere new by myself?) I decided to ask a passing car, and the man kindly gave me the wrong directions and wrong street name.

I feel somehow comforted by this. I'm assuming this man lives in this neighborhood, and even he has no idea how to escape. I'm guessing he's still there, driving around saying, "Why are there only three unique street names? Why are they all labeled Blvd. and Parkway and Circle and Lane with the same name?"I did find my way out, but I did not come out where I had intended.

On a positive note, I ran a few more minutes than planned because the fear of I'm-going-to-loop-around-on-roads-with-the-same-name-until-I-die-in-this-subdivision made running look more attractive than walking. Being Lost Faster seems somehow better than Being Lost Slower.

I looked at a map when I got home, and there's just very little chance I'll ever be able to run in that neighborhood without getting lost. I think I'll try it again this weekend, but I'll carry my phone.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Note: If you do not want to think about vegetarianism, stop reading and go have a piece of bacon. I absolutely understand.

Today is my six-month vegiversary. When I decided to become a vegetarian, I decided I wouldn't publically self-identify as one until I had been meat-free for six months.

I'm a vegetarian.

Here are some things I want to say for the record:

1. Becoming a vegetarian was like a conversion experience for me, but, unlike the one I had when I was 12, it was not fueled by fear of the End Times. I read a book and realized that being a vegetarian was easy. It wasn't like meditating or learning Spanish; it was a passive decision. I just decided not to eat some things. Not doing something is much easier than doing something.

2. I don't feel like I have an iron deficiency. I take a multivitamin. I eat leafy greens. I don't need blood in order to get iron. There are entire cultures who are vegetarian and survive quite nicely. Hello, Hindus! Love you!

3. Yes, I like the taste of meat. I don't like that something with a brain and a heartbeat and a nervous system had to die so I can eat its flesh.

4. I feel like I get enough protein. I have a bottle of Bean-O in my kitchen.

5. Yes, it's harder. It's difficult to go out to eat, and family get-togethers are a bit of a nightmare. Yes, it's worth it.

6. I like vegetables much more now than I did six months ago.

7. I still eat dairy products. I find this slightly incongruous, but I haven't gotten to the point where I'm willing to give them up. I may never get to that point. I justify it to myself by saying that nothing had to die in order for me to drink my milk. One could easily argue that the way the dairy industry treats cows is horrific and shouldn't be supported and that our dependence on the milk of another animal is weird and gross. I hear you. Intellectually, I agree with you. I'm still eating cheese. (Sorry.)

8. I'm really happy with this life change, and the temptation to try to convert everyone else is strong. I am trying to be aware of that and not be obnoxious. I'm guessing I fail with some regularity, and I sincerely apologize.

And here are the main reasons why I made this choice, which, unfortunately, I have a hard time distilling when an aunt asks why I'm not eating her green beans flavored with bacon:

1. It takes around 15-17 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. The world would have a lot more food if we'd eat the grain instead of the cow.

2. Animal farming is a significant contributor to global warming.

3. The way animals are slaughtered in this country is horrific. I don't want to be part of that system. "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

4. I feel not eating meat is an ethical decision. It would be great if nothing had to die in order for me to live, but that's not the way the system is set up. Since I'm not willing to starve to death, I will try to eat in a way that does the least amount of harm. Eating plants, in my mind at least, does less harm than eating animals.

5. I believe having the ability to kill and choosing not to do it is Right Action, one of the Eight Noble Truths.

6. I feel better looking into my dog's eyes knowing I don't have dead animal in my stomach.

To become vegetarian is to step into the stream of Nirvana.

Happy Vegiversary to me!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Meditating with the Buddha

Most of you know I have a thing for Buddhism. I'm a Protestant who works at a synagogue, but I love me some Buddhism. I wrote my master's thesis about the role of women in Buddhism, and I find the Eightfold Path the smartest way to center my life. This is not in conflict with my other religious beliefs, and I could bore you to tears with why I believe this to be the case. Be glad I'm not doing that today.

Buddhism makes a big deal of being in the moment. Meditation is not described as connecting to a Higher Power. It's not prayer. It's not waiting for divine intervention.

It's sitting. And breathing. That's it.

Except I find it impossible to do. Sit. Breathe. When thoughts enter your head, acknowledge them and then let them float by without judging them.

Buddhism is practice. It's not a religion; it's a practice. Can't meditate? That's okay. Just practice. Practice doesn't imply that you have it figured out; it just implies that you're attempting something. Success isn't really the issue.

My favorite Buddhist writes about being told by her teacher that he believed she had approximately 10,000 more lifetimes before she reached Enlightenment. There was no pressure; she had lots of time to figure things out. I have time.

All of life is practice.

Sit. Breathe.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Relatively Speaking

This is something we know but forget: The difficulty of any task is relative.

I have been working on a mystery shawl. The Knitting Guild--yes, I'm in a knitting guild, sh'up--puts one clue on its website each month. There are four clues, and the fourth one gets published on November 1. You sort of know what you're knitting, but not really. It's all very Secret and Surprising and Challenging.

The project is lace, and the yarn is tiny and the stitches are many. Every other row I have more stitches. The wad of lace is up to 592 stitches in a round. (That makes me mad, by the way. Why couldn't the most recent clue end at 600 stitches? Now I have to say, "I'm up to nearly 600 stitches." It doesn't have the same ring to it.) Lace is hard and unforgiving and is really, really hard to take out when you get to the end of a round and find out that you have an extra stitch.

When I finished clue 3, I was thrilled to have over a week with no clue and therefore no possible way to work on the shawl. The freedom to knit something not tiny and not green and not lace!

So I started working on a secret project for Brandy. (It's not really secret, just secret from Brandy. You know.) This project is difficult. There are Colors and Charts (stupid charts) and Math.

But you know what? It's not difficult after knitting lace. The yarn is small, but not as small as the lace. The chart is tricky, but it's over 96 stitches (which, as you know, is nearly 100, stupid designers) instead of nearly 600. No problem.

My point, and I have one, is that this project would have been very difficult if I had just finished a simple hat. But I didn't, and it's not.

I've been frustrated recently by my extremely slow running pace. Really slow. Really quite slow. Really startlingly slow. But I've been looking at it incorrectly.

Four months ago, I would have found running a mile harder-than-lace hard. Now it's not. It makes me wonder: What else can I do?

What else can we all do?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dr. Weston

C.S. Lewis wrote more than Narnia. One of the other things he wrote is a Space Trilogy, the second book of which is Perelandra. In it, our hero, Ransom*, is fighting against the evil Dr. Weston. At first, Ransom tries to reason with Dr. Weston, but by the end of the book, they're in a serious knock-down drag out.

SERIOUS. I remember that Ransom is stronger, but Dr. Weston has peculiarly strong claw-like fingernails. It's not pretty.

As a serious theologian, this pissed me off, of course (the whole story, not just the fingernails). Doesn't it seem like a cop-out that the force of good has to resort to beating the crap out of the force of evil? Doesn't that, um, make the force of good less good?

I know, I know. "C.S. Lewis is writing in metaphor. The entire trilogy is a metaphor." I get it. I do. But I still didn't like it.

Today, I thought about Dr. Weston for the first time in a very long time.

You can't run today. You need to go home and make chili and figure out how to love cooking.

You deserve today off. You walked yesterday.

Your running buddy isn't able to run. You should not run as well and then you'll catch back up together.

Your pace is so slow that there really isn't any point in you continuing. Forget the tortoise and the hare. Think about turtles squished on the road. That's reality.

Your excitement about running has waned. Soon you will stop running altogether and start wearing your fancy running shoes to the grocery. You knew you weren't a runner and couldn't keep this up.

I've been reasoning with this voice all friggin' day. It's exhausting. It's maddening. And most of all, it isn't doing any good.

Then I remembered Dr. Weston. And I punched that bastard in the face and ran anyway.

*I like to believe that Douglas Adams was thinking of this story when he created the character of Random Frequent Flier Dent. Lewis's Random is the instrument of God, and Adams's Random was the instrument of the multidimensional Guide. Adams was an atheist, but he was a thoughtful one.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monkey on My Back

I work in a place in which the sentence, "There is no monkey in the sanctuary" is uttered without irony.


I have a purple shirt that has been living on the chair in my bedroom for longer than I care to admit. In my mind, it lived there because it was too small. (I have no idea why it couldn't live in the closet with other too small clothes.)

I own three of these shirts in different patterns, unsurprisingly. The one in question is a large and the other two are extra large. Last week I tried the extra large and had to admit the thing was just too big. I was simultaneously pleased that I'd lost weight and sad that I had lost two shirts out of my work wardrobe. So, today I put on the large and am thrilled with the lack of tightness.

Then I realized that the reason it was living in the chair for months and months was not due to its size. It was missing the bottom button.

I wore it anyway. Screw it. Sometimes just getting dressed is a big enough challenge for the day. I can't expect to be adequately fastened as well.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Little Red Running Hood

Emily and I have signed up for our first 5K. On December 12, we will be participating in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for the Indiana Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation.

We can absolutely do this. As Em reminded me, halfway through yesterday's workout we were halfway through the training program. We only have four (and a third) weeks left. I'm excited to have a 5K actually on the calendar.

Well, excited and scared.