Let's Just See What Happens

Keep going. Don't quit five minutes before the miracle.

The first part of that is the title of Austin Kleon's new book. The second part is my paraphrase of a Dani Shapiro idea. I like both thoughts and how they fit together to inform what I'm doing and trying to do.

Last night's sticky note, a reminder to myself and a start my morning pages, says: The slow work. Just keep doing it and believe in the worth of what I am writing. It's easy to forget that the tiny thing I do today adds to whatever I did yesterday and will be followed by what I do tomorrow. I forget that, especially when I want to be published and successful in this writing thing. Successful? Isn't this successful? Does making money equate with success? If money is success, I may be out of luck. A friend wrote me that "Trying to earn anything from memoir is...well, possible. But it helps if you were raised by religious fanatics in Idaho and wound up with a degree from Cambridge." My degrees are from Onondaga Community College, SUNY Oswego, and Radford University. I grew up in Syracuse. My parents were not fanatics about much of anything. I'm so screwed.

What I'm doing now, writing on this blog, sending out an essay or two, earns me no money and likely won't for a while. I have very few followers on the Twitter account I set up only for writing and connecting with writers. I have just over fifty people subscribed to the blog. These are the facts of my networking efforts. But that is less than half the picture.

I have been writing every single day. A lot of writing. It adds up. The effect is cumulative.

Just now I went out and shoveled the driveway and sidewalks for the second time today. The snow is still falling. I may go out later and clear it again. Then tomorrow morning there will be more snow and I will clear that. The snow will keep coming until it isn't coming any more and we see and feel spring. Each time I clear the driveway is one more push to keep things orderly, to keep going, knowing that the miracle of spring is only minutes away if I squint at my watch just right.

Not The Hardest Thing

After the dentist I went home to my daughter who had had trouble with a hawk. Really. Home from school she found a hawk (a juvenile sharp shinned hawk according to a friend who knows these things) sitting in our driveway refusing to move. My daughter was supposed to put the garbage cans in the spot occupied by the hawk but you know how hawks are. I agreed with her not messing with it. No way. She went to have a snack while I changed into running clothes. I had just enough time to squeeze in a run before making dinner.

Ten minutes later I started jogging down the street. The air felt colder than I had expected. Maybe I should have worn the tights and damn, I left my gloves on the kitchen table. I hate running with cold hands. This is going to be tough, I thought.

A quarter mile into the run I felt rain drops. Big ones. Rain plops. Few and far between. Some snow flurried in there too. Wasn't it supposed to be forty-something degrees? Felt more like thirty. The rain plops came harder. The sky was dark, dark grey, like dusk in early afternoon. I had my reflective vest. I wondered if I shouldn't have grabbed my blinking LED lamp. I kept going.

At around three quarters of a mile rain really came down, filling the shoulders of the road and soaking through my vest and shirt. My hat dripped. That rain was cold, let me tell you. It went through me. I blew into my fists but was missing those gloves I'd left in the kitchen. I wondered, how long does hypothermia take? Surely longer than I'd been out, but maybe I should turn around.

I'm trying to accumulate mileage. I want to get in shape and am making a game of how many miles I run this year. I know the average miles I need to run per day. It's not many, but it's more than I had run. A car drove by and I caught some of its splash. I think the driver waved an apology. I waved back: It's fine. I kept going.

I ran through the worst of the rain and what seemed like all of the puddles. By the time I had my miles in the rain had slowed, the sky had turned a lighter shade of grey, and my hands weren't that cold. Maybe it was forty-something degrees again. My feet and clothes were soaked, I was beginning to chafe, and I was still cold. Then this thought came to me:

This isn't the worst thing that's happened to me today. This isn't the worst thing this week. This isn't the worst thing that will happen this year.

Cold, wet, chafed, tired, worried about hypothermia, my job, my weight, and money, I thought, this isn't the worst thing, and felt a little better. I knew I could keep going.

I don't recall the worst thing that happened that day. I don't know the worst thing so far this year. The worst thing didn't happen on that run and isn't happening now. I may never know the worst moment, but compared to whatever it might be most everything feels like something I can survive by putting one wet foot in front of the other. It turns out the puddles aren't that deep and sometimes it's not as cold as it seems.