Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Inspiration

In between not posting and not sleeping, I have been thinking again about "what should I do with my life?" Thankfully, there is a book I love called exactly that - What Should I Do With My Life: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson.

It has stories about people in a variety of circumstances who have examined and then changed their lives to better suit their true selves.

I've read this book before, but this time I looked at the reader's guide at the back as well, and found a number of questions that I've decided to use as a guide to helping me figure this stuff out.

Given that I already have half a dozen ideas for posts for this blog that I haven't yet managed to write, it's a little silly to think I will manage to write much on these. But it's worth trying. And if I do succeed at wrestling with these questions, I will share with you here.

(Selected from the reader's guide at the end, also available here.)

19. What have you been called to, over the course of your life? Have you listened to those calls? Which have you acted upon, and which have you chosen not to?

22. Po concludes that it’s in hard times that we’re forced to overcome the fears and doubts that normally give us pause. To what extent have the changes in your life been self-selected, during good times, or been forced upon you, during hard ones? When you’ve suffered hardship, has it altered what you consider important? Has hardship changed your life, or have you fought to get back to "normal"?

23. Po warns against editing out important pieces of our story in order to make our story more presentable to others. "Embrace your luck, pain and ghosts," he suggests in one chapter; in another he writes, "look backward even more than forward, and chase away preconceptions of what our story is supposed to sound like." He contrasts the Resume Version with the Work-In-Progress Version. How do you describe yourself in a public situation? How do you do so differently in a private situation? What failures do you rarely bring up? Do you agree that we should be more revealing of our "real story" in public situations?

24. In the chapter "The Brain Candy Generation," Po says the true search is for what you believe in – what kind of world you want to live in. In what ways are you making the world a better place – even if it’s just one quality interaction at a time?

25. Po tells Tom Scott that happiness is too easy a test; rather, we should ask what will be fulfilling. Leela de Souza found that fulfillment when she stopped asking what would make her happy, and instead asked "to what could she devote her life?" Mike Jenzeh’s life improved when he gave up that it was all about himself. Yet these stories are balanced by the likes of Warren Brown, who stopped suppressing what made him happy, and Kurt Slauson, who had been denying himself permission to enjoy his life. Have the most fulfilling periods of your life also been happy ones? Is happiness essential?

26. Bart Handford tells Po the parable of the three bricklayers building a cathedral, suggesting that even menial work can be meaningful if it’s contributing to something you believe in. Have your most meaningful accomplishments required a lot of menial work?

28. In the chapter "The Ungrateful Soldier," Po recounts C.S. Lewis’s assertion that belonging to an Inner Ring is a powerful, wayward desire. Po asks Tim Bratcher who’s sitting at that table – who’s in his Inner Ring. Are there ways you’ve used status as a surrogate for individual expression? What elusive ring do you long to belong to? Are there people in your life (or in your past) that you don’t respect, yet are still trying to prove wrong?

29. Both Stephen Lyons and Chi Tschang tell Po that if you can develop into a person of good character, your chances of succeeding in life improve dramatically. What do they mean by "character"? What’s an example from your own life of good or bad character?


I've had a number of people recommend this talk to me but resisted because I don't like watching video online: Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love" on genius.

And now that I've seen it I recommend it to anyone who is involved in creative endeavors.

Blessings on your work!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Still Here...

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a week since I posted, especially since I've had so much I've wanted to write about. I guess I've just been busy doing things.

So what have I been up to?

~ Buying one pair of running shoes that are great, and one pair that have not worked out at all. I'm going back to the store on Monday to see about replacing the latter, so I've spent some time researching different kinds of shoes.

~ Going running in the pair that are great - the Nike Free. Closest to barefoot you can get in a running shoe, apparently. So not what I need for long runs on pavement, but GREAT for speedwork on the track. And fun, fun, fun.

~ Seeing my sister and her family. First to help out with the Lion Baby while she got the house ready for her husband's graduation party (and his parents' ensuing visit), then for the party itself last Sunday (for which I also baked), and then today because my mother arrived for her month-long new baby visit.

~ Going to bed earlier to compensate for Buddy's new sleep difficulties - waking up very early some days, waking up multiple times some nights, waking with night terrors on a few of those. He is teething, and going through some growth spurts, and has newly developed separation anxiety - all in all, he's needing extra help in the night. And I need an earlier bedtime to be able to give that extra help.

~ Lots of PLAYING with Buddy. 'Cause during the day, he's a lot of fun.

~ Researching training schedules for a half-marathon. Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to try for the Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon this year, and I'm not. BUT I think I can train for the Chicago Half Marathon, one month later in September. I've found a schedule that looks possible - better yet, fun! - so I think I will go for it.

~ And finally, I've been reading about running, which is its own pleasure.

And now for some time with The Dude - frozen pizza, beer, and a movie. Life is sweet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spring Is Here!

I've started running in the park near me at work, part of my new plan to get more runs in each week. I drop Buster off at daycare, drop my bags off at work, and then head over to the park. Thankfully, there is a field house there with a changing room and showers - I don't think I could really consider running in the summer there if there wasn't. Not and then head into a day of work.

It's a lovely park, just off the lake, with a quarter-mile track, picnic tables, tennis courts, softball diamonds, and playground. So lots of opportunity to watch people. The local neighborhood association maintains the garden that frames it to the east and west, with a nice assortment of annuals and flowering trees and shrubs. And of course the views are fantastic - looking to the east there is the lake, and to the west the Chicago skyline. And there you are, running your miles, with a great stretch of green in the center and beautiful greenery along the sides. In the middle of the city.

I love running in my neighborhood, but I always have to watch out for something - cracked and uneven sidewalks, cars coming out of alleys, a new intersection every minute or so. Here I could really pay attention to more attractive distractions. A red-winged blackbird streaking across the field. Sparrows bathing themselves in the dust. The differences in shade and light as I ran through and then out of the gardens. The slight breeze from the lake as I turned east.

And I loved not thinking about distance, just setting my watch for 30 minutes and then running as I felt like it until it went off. At home it's easier to run for distance, because I can plot out a course and know I'll be back home at the end of it. The times I've run for time in my neighborhood, I end up overshooting my home or not being anywhere near it at the end of the time, which isn't very relaxing to me. So in the park I had a nice easy run of half an hour, occasionally picking up my pace for a lap just for the heck of it, and remembering when that half hour would have been a slog.

I've been thinking about my running history recently (and will post more on that later). Usually when I think about it I see the gaps in my running, the months I didn't run, the races I wasn't able to train for. It's kind of startling to look back and see that I've been running for thirteen years now. And as much as I've been grousing to myself about how out of condition I am, I was able to go out and run a 5K three weeks after starting running again, after a break of almost two years. Without hurting the next day. That's pretty darn cool.

I am looking forward to making this a regular part of my week, and to having a place where I can really watch the seasons change.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lucky Me

Before Buddy was born, and then again in the first few weeks when he was still so unformed, I would think about what my hopes for him were, what kind of kid I hoped he would turn out to be. Again and again, I hoped the same three things for him (leaving aside the obvious one of health):

1) a love of music
2) a love of movement
3) curiosity & enthusiasm about the world

I feel very lucky that so far he is blessed with all three.

I mention these hopes because today he delighted me with his delight. We went to visit his new cousin, the Lion Baby, and he was DELIGHTED with him (once he got over his anguish that someone in the room was nursing and it wasn't him). And then we went outside and he was DELIGHTED by the breeze on his hair, and the sun on his face, and his uncle fixing a hammer, and the metal table he could bang on, and his daddy singing to him. He laughs and laughs, and giggles, and smiles, and flings himself wide open to grab it all.

I just love this kid.