Under Construction

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wpid-20150127_110805.jpgIt was George Bernard Shaw who wrote, “Progress is impossible without change.” This rings true on campus this year as we walk past fences and find new passages around construction and blocked hallways.

Change can be inconvenient and intrusive, but we endure it because we know it comes with purpose, and we anticipate the results.

Hopefully, campus construction will bring new students and new opportunities for the college and for the community, so we work around the mess.

We’re also joining in…

wpid-20150127_103755.jpgTo avoid stagnation, we’re modifying our blog.

You can look forward to monthly themes such as marriage, travel, fashion, technology, outdoors, and, of course, reading and teaching (and more).

We’ll also have a new design and look.

Write Some Whatnot re-launches February 3rd with Jane’s new post on marriage.

We hope you find these adjustments positive and enjoyable as we travel through a new year together.

In the meantime, pardon our mess!

We welcome your feedback in the comments, and we look forward to 2015!

Hard Hat Kericropped ~ Keri

Here We Go Again

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Keri Sj janeWe’re all getting ready for new classes this week. We are planning course work and writing syllabi. We are meeting new students and giving directions around our always-under-construction campus. It some ways it is chaos, but it’s also fun to anticipate and to plan.

The spring semester sneaks up on me. Summer sort of inevitably winds down and I can feel school coming on, but the winter break is always fast and I forget to look up and see the first day approaching. I’ve written about loving the start of the term, about the strange combination of anxiety and excitement that accompanies the start of every semester. This week has brought all of those same crazy feelings, but the winter start is different: quieter and yet still abrupt.

I think the school start was made harder by the inside part of work. I skied a lot last week. Nearly every day. I looped around a mountain golf course with my dog and my mother several mornings in a row and I even played hooky with Cody one afternoon. I love Nordic skiing for lots of reasons, but I mostly chase that effortless glide. I’m not a practiced skier; I’m sure my technique is horrific and it’s rare that I complete an outing without a fall, but I love that feeling of sliding across the frozen ground. The sound of snow under skis is squeaky and rhythmic when accompanied by hard pole plants. When the snow is good – cold and fresh – it’s easy to disappear into the hard work and sunshine under the Bighorns. A good glide looks like grace even on a klutz like me.blacktooth

Coming inside maybe the hardest part of starting the winter term (fall too, now that I think about it), but it strikes me that I’m chasing the same feeling as I plan my classes. I love the optimism of planning a new semester. All of my ideas seem brilliant and shiny (like new snow). I plan for lively discussions about art and literature and change. It all looks so smooth – challenging, but rewarding and certain (on paper). Preparing for the semester is the glide – the easy, optimistic part of the year.

So we’ve all got our heads down while we plot and scheme. We are walking in to our new classes full of optimism and fire. I’ve got it all figured out – at least for now. However, I do know the uphill climb is out there waiting for me.

~ Sarah

” Momentary Stay Against Chaos”

La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli

 

Classes do not start until for a week, but today I went to school to begin organizing things for the semester. My office was as I left it on December 19th, the desk tidier than it will be until May. I needed to look at the texts I would be using. I needed to begin plotting out the term. I enjoy this part of the process almost as much as I enjoy the teaching itself. I decided to begin my English Comp II class with poetry, and scanned the table of contents in the reader I had chosen, putting a little check next to the poems I wanted to teach. By the time I was finished, (and oddly enough this anthology is organized alphabetically so that Anonymous and John Berryman near the beginning and Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas near the end) I had checked about three quarters of the poems, enough for an entire semester, not just one third of a semester. (And now that I am typing this, I wonder if there’s anything in the common course syllabus that would disallow such a thing. I will have to think about it.)

But before I was working through this table of contents, a friend of mine who works in the financial aid office, but whose real love is theater, brought his lunch to my office so we could catch up on how our Christmas vacations had gone. As these conversations tend to go, we got discussing the purposes of art. I said that I think one of the purposes of art is to organize the chaos we find around us. He said that one of the purposes of art is to teach us how to be human. I do not think these are conflicting definitions. I think art does many things. It does organize the chaos. (Robert Frost famously said that poetry is a momentary stay against chaos.) Music takes chaotic noise and organizes it into something that is interesting and often uplifting to hear. Visual art can make us reconsider the shapes, colors and relationships we see around us. Poetry often takes difficult situations and renders them in such language that they become tender and heartbreaking because of the poet’s use of language, sound and meter.

And so, as I was reading the table of contents of my textbook, I found favorites. Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” that begins “Sunday, too, my father got up early in the blue black cold/ and made banked fires burn./No one ever thanked him.” Or Frost’s “After Apple Picking” in which he says “I am tired of the great harvest I, myself,desired.” These poems not only organize chaos, but as my friend said, they also tell us something about being human, about how bad we are at thanking those who do things for us or how easily we become bored with what we thought we wanted.

However, art also reaches across time. The two poets I quote above wrote in the 20th Century, but once, in 1999, I stood in front of a Botticelli fresco that hangs in the Lourve with tears rolling down my cheeks. Painted in the late 15th Century, it seemed as fresh as the day it was painted, the colors bright and arresting, the expressions on the people something I could recognize. Nothing in the painting connected to the century in which I was living, and yet, it spoke across time to the point that it brought me to tears. Botticelli had painted a hymn to spring that made me, an American woman, from a place he could not have imagined, feel like I had seen something miraculous. This is what great art, whether it’s theater, painting, sculpture or literature, does. We see beyond the mundane, we see beyond the commonplace, even when it is the common place that the art is depicting. We are led deep into the best parts of the human soul.

Whether or not I spend the entire semester on poetry ( I suspect that my students will thank me if I do not), I hope that each one of my students finds at least one poem that he/she carries with her as a talisman against chaos or as touchstone for what it means to be human.

jane

Junk Drawer Brain

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drawer5When Frank went back to school this morning (in the snow, after 12 days at home), he said, “Stay away from my Legos.” He isn’t worried I will spend my day playing with his stash of plastic blocks; he’s afraid they’re going to disappear. It has happened before: the boys go back to school several weeks before I go back to teaching, so I start throwing things away. I scour closets for the shoes no one wears. I clear out cabinets and toy bins. I empty the freezer, the linen closet, and the 17 junk drawers in the kitchen. And it has happened: my children’s toys become causalities in my war on stuff. drawer7

January seems like the right time of year to start fresh, to clean the proverbial slate. It is a popular idea this time of year: Pinterest boasts 560 “decluttering” pins. Real Simple and lifeHacker offer checklists and expert advice. Even Lance Armstrong’s website LiveStrong makes the wild claim that getting rid of clutter will make us healthier, saving “time, money, and emotional stress.” Psychologists say that getting rid of our extra stuff has tangible benefits; clutter causes us to feel anxious, frustrated, and guilty. We will feel more productive, creative, and relaxed if we can keep our junk under control. Not to mention the obvious source of immediate gratification. New Year’s resolutions take some serious commitment, but purging is impulsive, fast, and instantly rewarding. drawer6

The experts are probably right. Most of us feel better in tidy spaces. Most of us have too much stuff. Most of us could stand to be more organized. But let’s be honest about the motivations. Purging our life of garbage may feel good, but it’s hard work that looks a bit like a small rodent on one of those exercise wheels – round and round and round. It’s a never ending chore. Those of us who are good at it are likely just feeding a maniacal need for control and order. We’re also lucky – the DIY world has made us into a bunch of organizing heroes.

drawer4I am almost too good at getting rid of things. I have thrown away key pieces of electronic equipment and federal tax documents. I nearly trashed my husband’s service medals and he is still upset about the mix tapes he found in the dumpster. But I married a keeper (sometimes less affectionately called a ‘hoarder’). Cody is organized – his elementary school report cards are alphabetized and filed – but he keeps everything “just in case.” I’m not sure which case might call for all of the unidentified keys in the bowl by the back door, but we are ready. drawer3

We have managed to train each other a bit. Cody’s favorite thing to save is wood. He’s built (a huge) chicken coop and two compost bins from the wood he’s salvaged, so I’ve learned to walk around the piles of lumber in the garage. And last week he let me take a few of his fifty thousand t-shirts to the Salvage Army. I will make off with the rest when he is at work tomorrow.

drawer 1I like to remind myself about the experts and the benefits of decluttering. It makes me feel less crazy. But the truth is at this time of year I feel a bit desperate to take control of something, to make visual progress. After the chaos and stress of the holidays, the world is slowing around me. The ground is frozen and the trees are bare. It is cold and quiet and the longest and darkest part of the year is just abating. Emptying drawers and closets feels like a reasonable coping strategy. Besides, I will never be able to give up on coffee. Or chocolate. Or beer.

~ S

The Stigma of being Ill: Thoughts on illness in America

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The Stigma of Being Ill: thoughts on illness in America

At the beginning of each new year we often take the time to make resolutions which reflect our intention to change things we have done in the past. These can cover any number of behaviors and may range from, “I will get more exercise” to “I will be kinder to others”, for example. Often we start out well with our good intentions waning as the year progresses. But this year I would ask you to look at the ways in which you view illness and think about ways you may want to change those perceptions.

Since the end of May I have been looking at the new ways in which type 2 diabetes and obesity are treated. I am interested in these conditions and I teach this content to students in the nursing program at Sheridan College. Since I have the time to think about diseases/conditions and their prevalence I naturally have had some thoughts about disease in America. We don’t like it! Things that should scare us don’t and things that are unlikely to happen terrify us. Additionally, we have a propensity to assume that those who have diseases/conditions brought them on themselves while congratulating ourselves for being “well”.

I need to explain what I just said. I suggest that until meaningful discussion about disease/conditions becomes common, meaningful approaches to becoming a healthier nation are unlikely to happen. As a society there is often subtle blame ascribed to those with certain conditions and those who are ill often seem to have an uneasy feeling of shame for being afflicted or perhaps that it is a character flaw. There is an “ostrich” mentality to illness that dates back to the leper colonies of the medieval Europe. Society would rather not deal with the icky and simply avoid the difficult conversations. We don’t like to talk about disease in a way that is clear and honest nor do we like to admit to being ill. While in some cases causality is pretty clear, the smoker who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, ascribing fault to that individual interferes with the goal of positive collaboration to afford the best outcome for that condition. What is the point in ascribing fault when there is nothing that can be done about previous behaviors?

The conditions that I am studying during my sabbatical are ones that are frequently thought of as being caused by “bad” behavior. Obesity may be the worst as it is seen as a sign of weakness in the individual afflicted with this condition. Type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity and as such gets lumped together with that impression of weakness or lack of will power. This perception prevents those suffering from feeling free to talk about their worries and possible paths forward.

I wonder if the American individualistic spirit has something to do with this approach to health. Do we see it as a sign of weakness that we become unhealthy? Are we so committed to doing things ourselves that we are reluctant to asking for help, comfort, solace and validation? Do we sense that others may be sympathetic but may also be congratulating themselves on being healthy?

Stigma associated with illness is common with most psychological disorders such as depression, psychosis, and PTSD. This in turn makes it hard for anyone with these conditions to talk about them and to seek help. This stigma is not new but remains pervasive. However, I was interested and saddened to note that many of the same stigmas are present with physical illnesses as well. We are incredibly adaptable but we are susceptible to a host of different conditions. Cause is important for treatment and prevention purposes but ascribing fault does nothing but create an unhealthy atmosphere and interferes with human connections that are so important to healing.

Judy McDowell

 

 

A Pair of White Patent Leather Party Shoes

 

 

 

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It’s December again,   and the sky outside my window is still dark at 5:20 this morning.  In my American Literature class this semester, we are finishing up the semester with Walt Whitman, that wild poet of the 19th Century, without whom 20th Century American poetry would not exist, and whatever else we learn from Whitman, we learn to love the particulars of his world and ours.

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft;

The carpenter dresses his plank—the tongue of his foreplane whistles its wild ascending lisp;

The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner;

The pilot seizes the king-pin—he heaves down with a strong arm;

The mate stands braced in the whale-boat—lance and harpoon are ready;

The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches;

The deacons are ordain’d with cross’d hands at the altar;

The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel;

The farmer stops by the bars, as he walks on a First-day loafe, and looks at the oats and rye;

The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum, a confirm’d case, (He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother’s bed-room;)

The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case, He turns his quid of tobacco, while his eyes blurr with the manuscript;

The malform’d limbs are tied to the surgeon’s table, What is removed drops horribly in a pail;

The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand—the drunkard nods by the bar-room stove;

The machinist rolls up his sleeves—the policeman travels his beat—the gate-keeper marks who pass;

The young fellow drives the express-wagon—(I love him, though I do not know him;) The half-breed straps on his light boots to complete in the race;

Whitman’s work illuminates the common-place, the particular people who inhabited his time. I can think of no better thing to think about than this at this troubled time in our history.  We are, as a country, reeling from the deaths of young men at the hands of heavily-armed police, we are sending drones to the Middle East to kill people whose faces we will never see. Our politicians seem caught up in petty arguments and seem unable to come together to make the decisions the country desperately needs them to make.

 However, in Whitman’s middle age, the country he loved was engulfed in the Civil War, which wrought destruction and brutality on a nation barely out of its infancy. Whitman’s poems of the war show individual soldiers, not faceless combatants. By naming the particular, by showing, as he does, the curl of a hair on the back of someone’s hand, he shows us humanity.

And so, when my daughter posted a photo of a pair of white patent leather party shoes that her four-year old daughter found in a second hand shop, I stopped to remember a pair that my daughter had had at about the same age.  It is too easy to bemoan the materialism of our culture, especially at this time of year, but often delight comes from just such things as a pair of white patent leather shoes.  My granddaughter will wear these little shoes and feel like dancing, just as her mother did at the same age. As we get older, we learn that material things alone do not make us happy, but even as adults, certain things bring us joy.  The yearly flowering of my Christmas cactus, the touch of my children’s hands, a particularly good cup of coffee: it is the particulars that create our world.  We do not live generic lives, we are not, thank goodness, delighted by the same things, we do not sing the same tunes.  Whitman writes, “I hear America singing.”   He would have loved the white patent leather shoes.

 

Jane

Wild Friendship

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The Peace of Wild Things
By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Last week I taped this short Wendell Berry poem to my desk. I remembered the poem in time to send it to a friend for her birthday – words are our best gifts to each other nearly ten years into a friendship marked mainly by raising children and growing up ourselves. We talk daily, cutting the distance between her California exile and my mountain home with text messages and harried phone conversations. We have some standing rules: hanging-up in mid-sentence without explanation is acceptable, often necessary; whining about husbands is allowable, but both men are saints for putting up with us and should be defended; our children are beautiful, nearly perfect, and will grow up just fine despite our neuroses and constant need to analyze their lives. We have a well-honed pattern for hashing out ideas – we talk it over and over and over; throw words at the problem – circle round it and rehash; think it to death.Mari and Sj
 
I’ve read that Wendel Berry and Pulitzer prizing winning poet Gary Snyder traded more than 240 letters over 40 years. Chad Wriglesworth compiled decades of this correspondence in his book Distant Neighbors The poets write about the big issues they are famous for tackling in their work: environment and place, community, religion and economics. But they also write about family and home. They share details about their marriages and their children. They hash it out. Arguments about ethics and faith thread through the narrative. They even edit each other’s poetry. Berry says their friendship and their letters are an attempt to make “as much sense of the world as possible.” He talks about carrying Snyder around in his head as he writes and farms in Kentucky; Snyder became his “binocular vision.” Snyder says the letters were a kind of conversation about learning “how to live in a place” and defining an “ethical life.” It seems clear that the California Buddhist and the Kentucky “forest” Christian hashed it all out in their letters.
 
Our phone calls between Wyoming and California will never be literary fodder, but they could serve as a sort of scrapbook of parenting and thinking in a modern era. We share the mundane: school lunches and soccer mom commutes, but we also chew on politics and faith. I would love to have my dear friend closer – I have made shameless pitches for a Wyoming move, but I do wonder how our friendship would change if we were no longer forced to talk our way through each other’s lives. She has become my binocular vision, my secondary perspective in so many ways. I notice this most in the quiet spaces between our phone calls. I find myself thinking about how I might explain something so that she can see it. Our physical distance creates a sort of distinct thinking space.
 
I ordered two leather bracelets on my friend’s 40th birthday. Berry’s words are hammered into a small metal loop on the leather: a reminder of our attachment to reason, our attempts to find all the right words, and of how often we fall short. It will remind me to appreciate the space in our longtime friendship, to appreciate the quiet “wild peace” between the conversations. We are not Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder – I will never be a poetic genius– but their enduring friendship is inspiring and seems to make our phone calls a little more legit.
 
- Sarah

When Did We Become Hostile to Knowledge?

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In the last ten months, I have had two knees replaced, participated in months of rehab, and relearned how to go up and down stairs with alternating feet. If I had not had my knees replaced, I would soon have been limited to a wheelchair. I have great respect and admiration for my orthopedic surgeon, for the anesthesiologist who kept me unaware of the surgery, for the internist who helped me deal with drug allergies.

But a number of times in the course of this process, I have heard people say about my orthopedist, “Well, he’s just a carpenter.”  I have to admit that during the first surgery I heard the hammers and the saws that he was using, through a foggy distance that made me think the noise was happening next door, but to call an orthopedic surgeon “just a carpenter” discounts the years of training he has. Certainly carpentry is a craft, but if a board is misplaced, or a nail is bent in the process, it can be redone. Knee replacement involves understanding the muscles, the blood vessels, the nerves as well as the bone, but it also involves the person to whom the knee belongs. Orthopedic surgeons have to have knowledge of more than just bones. Orthopedic surgeons have five years of training beyond their four years of medical school. They have been taught by surgeons who have accumulated years of experience on top of that training. Surgeons continue studying the best ways to help people walk again. They keep learning.

I am not going to dwell further on orthopedics here, but I use this example because it seems to me to illustrate a disturbing trend in our society. We distrust knowledge. We not only distrust it, we denigrate it and often we, as a society, are downright hostile about those who are knowledgeable. The place where this is most obvious is in our politicians’ and our citizens’ attitudes toward climate change.  Most climate scientists concur that human activity is contributing significantly to changes in our climate, yet we continue to have people who deny that this is so. The people who deny the human connection to climate change generally have done no research, have done no reading on the subject, and base their opinion either on some politician’s distortion of science, or on some intuitive notion that fits into their narrow view of weather.

I think that some of this distrust comes from our need for simple answers. We would like an “expert” to tell us exactly what to expect. We do not like getting “I don’t know” as an answer for a question. We want to say “What do you mean, you don’t know?”.  What I’d like to suggest is that we learn to trust the people who say “I don’t know” more than we trust the people who say, “I know based on not much information.” My orthopedic surgeon sometimes answers a question with “I don’t know.” He made it explicitly clear that he sometimes makes mistakes. I expected him to do his best, to rely on his extensive training, but I also accept that he is human.

When I was growing up, when I asked my parents questions about something, their usual response was “look it up.” I would go to the encyclopedia we kept on the living room bookshelf. More than that, however, I remember how to spell encyclopedia (as do many of my generation) from listening to Jiminy Cricket sing the word on The Mickey Mouse Club, where he encouraged young watchers to look things up. We have become a culture where we want to be told the answers, when in reality, the answers keep changing because  knowledge keeps changing. Instead of denigrating those with knowledge, we need to celebrate them and celebrate their ability to continue to learn. We should take them as models.

Jane

Infectious Fear

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Photo by Keri DeDeo

In the dark of night, my husband calls to report he’s headed home.

I gather our two dogs and lock them away with me in the back room.

I text him, “Coast is clear,” and then I wait.

The back door squeaks open.

The floorboards in the hall creak.

The dogs whine and wag their tails at the TV room door, but their expectations go unmet.

The reason for this bizarre behavior? To keep my dog Nikko safe. Diagnosed with immune-mediated neutropenia, her immune system is compromised. Already, since her diagnosis two months ago, she has had three rounds of antibiotics for various infections: 1 from an unknown infection; 1 from a small cut on her foot, and 1 from kennel cough. She’s on another round of antibiotics for kennel cough—the first round didn’t do the trick.

We’re not sure where she contracted the kennel cough, but when we started thinking about the possibilities, my brain hurt. I also understand the fear behind Ebola.

I’m not concerned about catching Ebola. The chances of catching it in Wyoming are narrow. I do worry about family members in South Africa because they are closer to the epicenter of the outbreak, but still, they are far enough away to be relatively safe.

Besides, I have my own worries at home. Right now, we’re homebodies and I worry about the consequences of having an outside dog touch me. If a dog touches me or my clothes and has any infections or disease, then I could carry that to my dog. If I touch a person who has dogs, and those dogs are even carriers of any disease, then I could carry that to my dog. Even if I step on a patch of grass where a diseased dog has urinated, I could carry that to my dog on my shoes. If I shake someone’s hand of a dog-owner of a diseased dog, I could carry that to my dog.

If my dog touches noses with a diseased dog through the cracks in our fence, she could get ill. If her nose touches the grass where a diseased dog has urinated, she could get sick. If my other dog, Maiya, touches grass or dirt where a diseased dog has defecated or urinated, she could pass that on to Nikko.

Just like humans, dogs carry disease even if they are asymptomatic, and a compromised dog’s immune system can’t fight even the simplest infection.

It’s the same with humans. Going through chemotherapy, my immune system was compromised. The people around me had to be careful. They got flu shots, stayed away when they were sick, and my mother-in-law scattered hand-sanitizer pumps around the house. In the end, I survived, and so will Nikko.

But in the meantime, my husband and I shower and change clothes after being exposed to dogs and before petting our dogs. I disinfect surfaces, door knobs, shoes, our floors…anything I can think of that we could have touched.

To some people, this may be extreme measures. Yes, it’s inconvenient to undress in the garage and shower before petting her. Yes, it’s strange to ask visitors if they’ve had contact with dogs before shaking their hand or allowing them to come inside. And, yes, at times I feel trapped in my home for fear of bringing in disease, but then I see her sweet face and I remember the comfort and love she gave me while I went through chemo, and it just seems natural to do this for her.

Nikko

Nikko

~K

Overuse of the Verb To Be

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before the race
Good writers use a variety of specific and vivid verbs to avoid repetition …

 

Recently my colleague, Jane, suggested that we think of people as “doers rather than things.” She wrote that if we can make this change we allow people to move on, to be something other than a “static” idea. And this week I’m struggling to embrace her ideas – I struggle to see myself and my family as a “work in progress.”

Over a year ago I wrote about the Boston Marathon bombing; I wrote about the strength and purpose that I find in running long distances outside. In that same blog post I complained about an injury and admitted to grumpiness. I concluded that I could live without running and that I’d get over being grumpy, but that I loved being a runner. I recovered enough to spend thirty straight days in the back country that summer. I carried a heavy pack for over a hundred miles and I felt strong. After I came out of the mountains, I ran three long trail races and worked-out harder than I ever have. I was a runner.

Turns out I was also blissfully unaware. As I amped up my training time I also collected nagging injuries, nothing serious – just tight this and tender that. I ignored my aches and pains and kept running. I suppose I was the only one surprised by my eventual inability to train. Last June, I completed a half-marathon thanks to a generous injection of steroids and gritted teeth. I haven’t been able to run more than a few miles since then. Not running makes me feel like I want to gnaw my arm off.
It’s not that I can’t exercise. The problem is that I’d begun to think of myself as a runner. Now I just make excuses. I feel the obnoxious need to explain myself, to reassure innocent bystanders that I am, in fact, a runner.

The thing is I also claim to be a writer and a teacher and a mother. Until recently I didn’t see the potential danger of these characterizations. I was proud and certain of the descriptions. I wore them around like armor, flashing them to prove my competence. I’m not sure who I thought was paying attention.

Most of us feel a genuine need to know who people are – we naturally seek common ground, or at least understanding. So we ask people, “Who are you?” “What do you do?” And most of us curate our “I am” responses. We present our best selves and edit for context. So what happens when our go-to-answers are out of reach?

One of my best friends likes to remind me that experiences make people happier than the things they buy. She read this somewhere and she has become an ambassador of “experience happiness.” Instead of buying toys and gadgets, she’s builds elaborate experience gifts for her family and makes beautiful photographs of their adventures so that it’s easy to remember the fun. I think I’d rather collect fun than categories. I’d rather remember the experience of running a race, than lament the bygone notion that I am a runner.

In some ways mothers are always mothers, writers are always writers, but at least right now in the middle of pre-teen parenting chaos, two full-time jobs, and hunting season most static identities feel too big. The categories are hard to leave behind, but change is essential to being human. Accepting that my self-imposed characterizations aren’t helpful and that they do change, should be empowering. It is at the very least inevitable; we are all works in progress. So today I will do some teaching, some parenting, and maybe even some writing. And if I’m lucky, in time I will do some running. Or maybe I will buy a road bike. Or start swimming. In any case, my focus will evolve. Right now I cannot be a runner, but I can seek experience. And change. And progress. I can always be a seeker.

~ Sarah

The Song of the Ungirt Runners

We swing ungirded hips,
And lightened are our eyes,
The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
We know not whom we trust
Nor whitherward we fare,
But we run because we must
Through the great wide air.

The waters of the seas
Are troubled as by storm.
The tempest strips the trees
And does not leave them warm.
Does the tearing tempest pause?
Do the tree-tops ask it why?
So we run without a cause
‘Neath the big bare sky.

The rain is on our lips,
We do not run for prize.
But the storm the water whips
And the wave howls to the skies.
The winds arise and strike it
And scatter it like sand,
And we run because we like it
Through the broad bright land.

 

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