In Medias Res

Let me explain … the title of both this post and this blog.  I like Latin words, and I am a writer, and in writing it is considered good storytelling to start “in medias res”, or in the middle of things.  This technique is used to draw people in to the story right away, rather than making them wade through all kinds of boring narrative just to set up the good part of the story.  Thusly and therefore I am starting this blog/story/tale in the middle of things, even though it is technically the beginning.  But not for me.  In my life, that is.  Are you still with me?  If you are, I give you high points for endurance and fortitude.  Let me explain more:  I am in the middle of my life (46 years old), in the middle of my quest to become a writer, in the middle of my life-long love of reading, and eighteen years in to my battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.   More on the OCD in another post — I really over-explain when it comes to that subject.

You have heard the expression “a picture paints a thousand words”?  Well, I am more of a believer in “why look at a picture when you can use a thousand words?”   Through self-evaluation, I have determined that there are two reasons why I always over-explain.  1) I dread — and I mean DREAD — the idea of being misunderstood.  I think it may even be a phobia. There may even be a name for it. *pause for internet search* There is!  It is called ambiguphobia.  
2) Nobody just “accepts” my thoughts or ideas when I state them simply.  I don’t know if this is something I have caused by always explaining so thoroughly that nobody feels the need to tune in to my specific words, because they know that they will absorb it through repetition, or if it is because I have no credibility whatsoever.  *breath*  I tend to believe the second, mostly because if I cite other sources when speaking, (CNN, Oprah, my husband, etc.) then I elicit the proper response and my need to continue talking ends.  So.

I decided to write about the things that I think in a blog, and get feedback from readers on how I could have said what I have said (this is starting to sound very Dr. Seuss) with few words.  OR, if readers believe that I am not over-explaining and that I in fact have used just the right amount of words, in which case I will use this blog and those comments to say “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!” to those who have ridiculed me in the past.

Does that just about explain it?  Or over-explain?


Bibliophile and other “philes”

A bibliophile is defined as “a person who collects or has a great love of books”.   The term is derived from the Greek word biblion – ‘book’ and philos – loving.  Since I both love to read books and I collect books, I am pretty much a full-blown bibliophile.  I can’t even remember how old I was when I started reading, but I do know that reading was a way for me to understand the world and more specifically, the people in my own orbit.  I’m sure I wasn’t self-aware enough to know this about myself when I was in elementary school, but I did know that other kids thought I was weird or stuck-up because I read so much and so quickly.  We had this thing called the “Scholastic Book Order” when I was in elementary school.  We’d get a paper to take home with the month’s offering of books and we could order books at really low prices.  My mom never put a limit on the number of books that I was allowed, and I can remember how excited I got when the knock came on the door to the classroom and the teacher was handed a pile of books.  I never understood why I was the only one in the class who ordered more than one.  I usually had a pile of at least five to take home with me, and any classmates that actually ordered books instead of comics or posters only ordered one.  That was the beginning of my addiction to books, and it has only grown since then.  It’s not just reading the books, I love holding them, feeling the heft, smelling the pages, displaying the covers, reading the dedications and sometimes underlining or writing in margins.  I am not a fan of the Kindle or the Nook or any of the digital readers.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that those who read strictly on a digital reader cannot call themselves bibliophiles.
Collecting books is by far my biggest virtue (or my husband may call it a vice), but there are a few other “strange” things that I collect that contribute to the idiosyncratic wonder that is me.  I collect stuffed animals.  Yes, I know, I am a grown up, but I like stuffed animals.  I use my many nieces and nephews as excuses to “have them on hand”, but the truth is if I see an adorable stuffed animal I can’t help myself.
I also collect rings.  And not only do I collect them, I like to wear as many of them at once as I can.  Yes, I do.  My mother gets exasperated with me, but then again she thinks that denim shirts are still in style.  So.  I also collect music, but this is really more of a subcategory of my bibliophilic nature since I consider most good songs to be mini novels, with the lyrics, music and intonation providing the full story.    Books, stuffed animals, rings.  Not too bad.  At least I don’t buy shoes.  That would just be too NORMAL.

Why I Run

So there is this misconception out there that people who run do so because they have some sort of malformed gene that allows them to enjoy and activity that most people abhor.  Not true.  Running is not fun, and those of us who are out there pounding the pavement aren’t doing it because we love it.   I can’t speak for everyone who runs, but I run because it something that I know I can both do and tolerate.  I ran  high school track (a sprinter who thought the 100 meter dash seemed like a long run),  and I continued running in college because it was a social activity.  I had a lot of friends who liked to take a break from studying and go on a group run around campus at midnight or one o’clock.  It was more social than exercise, but what those runs on campus did was give me a lot of great memories that I associated with running.  I attended a few aerobics classes during my time in college too, and I hated those.  No chatting, no BOYS, and we were inside a stinky gymnasium.

So when my son started school and I had the time to start an exercise program again, running was a no-brainer.  I already knew that I could do it,  I didn’t have to be a member of a gym or club to do it, and the biggest equipment expense was a pair of running shoes.  I have learned a great deal about how to make running more tolerable since then, and in case anyone reading this is thinking about starting a running program, I want to share what I have learned.
1) mailbox by mailbox — my husband gave me this little pearl of wisdom.  I don’t know where he heard it, but it is the running equivalent of Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’.  Basically, start small.  If you try to run as far as you can on your first run, then chances are there won’t be a second run.  Decide before the run how far you are going to go and make it do-able, both physically and psychologically.  Then increase the distance week by week by nothing more than the distance from one mailbox to the next.  Eventually you will work your way up to a distance that fits your exercise needs.
2) find ways to put your mind into “wander” mode while you run.  For me, a combination of an upbeat playlist on my ipod and composing facebook posts, e-mails, or story ideas works best.  Don’t think about problems or stressful situations or anything that will get your anxiety up and subvert your adrenaline away from your legs and arms.
3) approach the run as an empowering event.  Don’t think of it as “something you have to do so that you can lose weight/look better/lower cholesterol.”  Think of it as something that you choose to do so that you will feel great about yourself afterwards and for however many days it is until your next run.  If this sounds like self-psychology or playing a mind game, that’s exactly what it is.    You know yourself best. Figure out how to outsmart yourself when it comes to exercise.  Find ways to trick yourself into getting it done.

I am an impatient person.  This is why I don’t ‘walk’.  It drives me nuts.  So when I first started running, I ran out toward a specific point before I turned around, so that I had no choice but to run home.  The distance out to that point didn’t seem too bad, and I knew that by the time I got out there I would be too impatient to stop and WALK, so I would run back.  My husband, on the other hand, enjoys leisurely walking.   Running is not the sport for him.  He likes to bike, and walking a bike is probably more work than riding it, so he never finds himself stopping to walk on a bike ride.

I run because I like the feeling of having finished exercising.  It is a wonderful feeling. And I run because it is the only form of exercise that I can fool myself into enduring a few times a week.  The bottom line.  Analyze yourself.  Don’t waste time looking for an exercise that you ENJOY.  Nobody enjoys exercise, we only enjoy being done with exercise.  Look for what you can tolerate and then find ways to make it more tolerable.


 We have a beautiful paved running path near our house that is my constant refuge.  Above me the tree branches, most still green from summer, arch across the running path,  creating a tunnel of leaves. Most of the time by forcing my body to move forward, my brain lock gets jostled enough so that the log jam in the river of thoughts that is my brain breaks loose and my thinking runs free and clear.  The thrill of new, clear thoughts is its own high.  The thoughts start small and tentative, not quite clear of the logjam yet : the pain in my problem knee, a song lyric, the black eyes of squirrel frozen on the path in front of me; my instinctive leap over it; the joy of being airborne for even a moment.    And then gradually my mind is moving freely, fluidly.  Forward, sideways, backwards.  I look down at my thighs, still tan from summer, one black running shoe landing on the scattered yellow and red leaves, and then the other.    The cadence of my arms and feet matching  the music coming through my headphones.  Da. Da. Da. Da. Even and strong.    I am moving forward, but the irony is that at the end I will be at the beginning again, and that is right here.  At THE END.   Up until a few weeks ago, I thought that my life had set its course, that it would go round and round and I would never be able to get off the damn spinning ride that I had somehow backstopped my way on to when I wasn’t paying attention.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only dance.