Friday, August 26, 2011

When things fall apart...

Posted by Jennifer B. at The Writing Cocoon.  

I don’t know how to explain the last three weeks succinctly, and I have to start with a bit of an explanation, but I’ll give it a go.

 In my self-destructive late twenties, I gave up a lot of things, for various reasons, that were important to me. Most significantly, I gave up running and writing. It was a fairly soul-crushing period of my life.
Four years ago I gave up my well-paying corporate career to move to a new country and start a new life. Like a fool, I honestly believed that would be enough for everything to fall into place and that it would be easy to figure out a direction for my life. Not even remotely true. I waffled about for a good two years, unable to break free of my fears and doubts.

 Two years ago, I laced up my old running shoes and started to run again. It felt good. It felt like a new beginning, and it felt like a return to home, a return to me. One year ago, I opened up a Word doc and started writing for the first time in years, and I ended up writing a book.

Then, the hurdles came. Yeah, I should have seen it coming - should have known better. I mean, that’s life, right? Parents and grandparents died, injuries mounted, family pressures skyrocketed, and doubt kept knocking at my door. But, for the first time in over a decade, after each setback, I would regroup and forge ahead. I started to make progress.

I finished a first draft of a novel and my running steadily improved. I signed up for a half-marathon, my first race since 2005. I began to plan for the rewrite of my first draft. They were both supposed to happen in September.

The parallels in my running and writing seemed natural and logical to me. I was on a journey and both paths led back to me being true to myself. Both made me stronger and gave me energy. I built up this symbolic relationship between the two things. It may seem hokey - I’m finding it hard not to laugh at myself- but when I was running, I thought to myself, if I can make it through this mile, then I can do anything or once I finish this mile, I will never have to run it again, there will be a new mile. It seemed to reflect what was happening in my writing.

Then I threw out my sacroiliac joint handling heavy luggage on vacation - the same dysfunctional joint that ended my running in the first place. This time, though, things were different - worse. I could barely walk. Weeks went by and I improved enough to try out first, a few short runs, then a long run. But, that didn’t last long and disaster struck after a 3 mile run - I couldn’t walk the next day. Then came the ruling from my PT - no running for at least 3 months, maybe 6. That meant no Great North Run. I was devastated.

Now, I’ve tried to keep things in perspective, really I have. I’ve been watching my sister struggle through a permanent, debilitating injury. I will recover…some day. It isn’t the end of the world. If you are a runner, you will suffer injuries. But 6 months? Really? I’m going to have to go through that crappy beginning running faze again? It felt like the Universe was slapping me in the face.

To make it worse, I had done something truly stupid. I had promised myself that, after the successful completion of my first race in years, I would finally face making a giant decision in my personal life. No pressure, eh?

The real and symbolic losses wrapped up in my inability to continue my running hit me hard - and at a time when I was facing the next big step in my writing. I became a little weepy. Then I became a lot weepy. And did I drown myself in my writing work? Well, for a little while, but then I sort of overdid it right before my 6 month rest prognosis, and when the final blow was struck with that unwelcomed news, I couldn’t face the uphill climb of a rewrite. I couldn’t face my computer screen at all. A kind of mental fatigue set in at the thought of all of the hard work before me. I just logged out and didn’t log back in until…today.

This week has been a little better. I’ve resigned myself to my new, non-impact cardio, extreme-rehab exercise routine. I’m going to get back to running, it just isn’t going to be in the time frame I want.

As for writing, the schedule is being reworked, again, and I’m incorporating more non-writing types of creative work in my day. I’ve dusted off my sewing machine and finished a few languishing quilt projects. Yesterday, I picked up a brochure on drawing lessons. I read somewhere a while back that it was important to have non-writing creative outlets, and now I believe it to be true. It has been nice to accomplish something creative, while giving my brain a break from words.

Today I return to my rewrite prep. I’ve got to finish a few exercises from the Plot Whisperer’s PlotWriMo, then I will start the edit of the first draft. Next week I hope to rejoin the flash fiction writing challenges over at the AW Writing Cooler, something I had been enjoying immensely.

That’s where I’m at. One step forward, two steps back. I know this dance well.


  1. Glad to see you back, I was wondering what happened to you. I'm sorry to hear about your setbacks. I do believe non-writing creative stuff will help you out in your writing, but I also think that writing will help you as you get yourself back into running shape. Good luck and hang in there.

  2. Thanks, Jeff. Still trying to get back into the swing of things.