Self-Improvement via Coercion

I’ve never been a person for whom moderation came naturally. Why stop at one thousand words a day when three thousand words a day will help me finish this novel three times as fast? If I cut out sugar, why not cut out bread, too, and then I’ll lose weight twice as fast. If exercise twice a week is good, then surely five times a week is better, right?

I wrote a few weeks ago about pushing myself really hard prior to surgery, and it both worked and didn’t. I cleared all my to do lists before surgery, which really helped during recovery because I didn’t feel as twitchy from my permanent spot on the couch. It did, however, make me feel like I was riding in a speeding car with no seat belt and someone slammed on the brakes.

Entropy after inertia is not an easy transition.

So now, two weeks after surgery and with four weeks to go until my next, much bigger, surgery, I’m in a strange limbo. Even though I feel like I should be relatively over it already, I’m still exhausted and my limits are set in stone. There’s really no sense pushing it at this point, because invariably my injury just pushes back.

I got really ambitious and walked around Target over the weekend and I was so tired afterward I had to come home, ice and elevate, and then take a nap. When I woke up, I realized it’s actually kind of stupid to walk more than I have to because hello, there’s a huge hole in my cartilage.

I feel pressure (from myself) to be back to normal, so for now life is a constant effort to reign in my Type-A Nutjob tendencies and remind myself that, unlike in mathematics sometimes, the limit does exist. Each day is a marathon, and if I sprint at any point, I might wind up with nothing left to get me over the finish line.

The same principle applies to my writing. In a fit of naivete a few weeks ago, I calculated that if I wrote a certain number of words every day of my recovery, I’d have the first draft finished by the time I went in for the second surgery.

That’s not going to happen.

I refuse to rush what is arguably my favorite part of the writing process, and I’m not going to do that to myself because some days I can hide on my couch and type. Some days, I have to go to appointments, ice and elevate a few times, or take my kids on field trips. Life happens, and I’m not going to short-change myself by trying to force all of it to happen in the narrow window between now and when everything stops again.

Writing will happen, because I’m disciplined enough to make sure it does, but first drafts, for me at least, are not the place for brute force. This is a time of discovery and finesse, and I’ll be damned if I don’t let myself enjoy that process.

So I guess I’ve finally learned some measure of moderation. Better late than never I suppose, and besides, what other choice do I have? Sometimes you have to become a more balanced, well-rounded person against your will. The universe drags you, kicking and screaming, toward progress, and then when you look back, you wonder why you put up such a fuss because really, this isn’t so bad after all.

Going High(ish)

It’s been an interesting few days. My kids are finally over the flu (hooray!), Facebook was full of posts from my friends who participated in the women’s marches over the weekend, a new president was inaugurated, and I’ve had a few unkind things said both about and to me.

I submitted the link to my last post to an online forum in support of Donald Trump (r/thedonald, for those who Reddit). It was my small effort to show that collaboration and cooperation can be achieved even among people with differing political ideals. The response has been mixed.

On the one hand, the post has more upvotes than downvotes, so that’s cool. The comments that have been left for it, however, are breathtaking. To wit:

So here’s the thing about this. I could fire back and come up with all kinds of witty responses to these. I’d be within my rights to. I’m not going to, though, and here’s why:

I’m an author. To be more specific, I’m a published author. I promise you, worse things have been said about my appearance and writing than this (I’ll let you guess which ones hurt more). If you can’t grow a thick skin while working in publishing, you won’t make it very long.

It’s clear I’m not going to change these particular peoples’ minds, but that’s okay. What ultimately matters is how you conduct yourself and how you treat the people around you. That’s the best testament to the value of your ideals. I’m not going to cheapen myself by trying to hurt someone else, and I would encourage anyone reading this who has dealt with trolls to react the same way.

In the wise words of Michelle Obama, and really this quote will stick with me until the day I die, “When they go low, we go high.”

I wish there wasn’t a need in some people to lash out at strangers. I wish there was more discussion, more respect, more willingness to collaborate, but maybe I’m living in the wrong country for that these days?

For now, though, I’m here and I’m working toward peace. For my own small part, I will keep my hands clean when other people sling mud at me. I’ll do my best to encourage the people who need it, and I’ll be happy to help where I can.

If we’re being super honest, though, Wes and I did have a lot of fun this weekend coming up with other reasons why that commenter probably shouldn’t date anyone, many of which were hilarious but that I’ll keep to myself thankyouverymuch.

So I’m not perfect. Oops. I regret nothing.



Instagram Newb

Inspired to try something new, lest I fully succumb to my curmudgeonly tendencies, I signed up for Instagram yesterday. Now, I know all the kids these days have moved on to SnapChat, but I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what I would possibly have to SnapChat about. I can barely wrap my mind around Instagram!

That said, if you’re of a picture-enjoying sort and you’d like more frequent updates on my day-t0-day as a nobody author, saunter your fabulous self on over here. I’m going to try to update once daily, but we’ll see how that goes.

I’m really looking forward to sharing endless pictures of myself with you! Ha. No, I’ll try to throw in other images for good measure. Like maybe of my keyboard or something. See you over there!

Empty Robot Promises

The story I’m about to tell you is kind of weird. Kind of like when I got pulled over for being a tired driver and a passing car full of hot-boxers made the officer question whether my husband is a drug dealer. Except, this story doesn’t involve drugs. That I know of.

The scene is a parking garage beneath the medical office where I’ve just received a shot of synthetic joint fluid. My knee is sore and all I want to do is go home. I take my parking ticket to the lobby of the building, where one of those automated machines is supposed to take my money and validate my ticket so I can leave the parking garage.

Bummer for me, the machine isn’t working. The credit card processor is offline, so I’m advised by the repair man to just pay the lady in the kiosk on my way out of the garage.

I limp my way to my car and drive up to the exit only to see that there is no lady in the kiosk. There is, however, a guy in front of me in line who is likewise waiting for the nonexistent lady to let us out. While we wait, car after car queues up behind us until there is a line of idling cars stretching down the parking lot exit ramp as far as I can see.

At this point, it’s been five minutes and still no lady. I turn off my car and start reading an article on my phone. The guy in front of me pushes the Call for Help button on the malfunctioning ticket validator and a loud alert starts booming out of a small speaker: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I roll up my window and keep reading. It has now been ten minutes. Still, the voice booms: PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Over and over again like the waves of a tension headache.

Behind us, horns are honking and people are starting to yell. The guy behind me uses his truck to hop the curb and drive around the metal arm trapping us in the garage, sideswiping his mirror against a dumpster on his way out.

Fifteen minutes have passed. Horns are more persistent, almost loud enough to drown out PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. Still no kiosk lady. My ears hurt.

Tired of sitting there with my sore knee, I start calling everyone I can think of who might be able to let us out. I call the front desk of the medical office I was just seen in, and they give me the number for building security and promise to do whatever else they can. I call building security and let them know we’re trapped. I call the main hospital security desk and bring them in as well.

Twenty minutes have passed, and I’m about to call the National Guard when a building security guys walks in and surveys the scene with shock. While he fiddles about with the validating machine (useless), the kiosk lady finally returns with a carrier full of Starbucks drinks in one hand and a rolled-up magazine in her other hand. She is likewise shocked and asks the guy in front of me why we didn’t just pay at the lobby. I’m surprised he doesn’t shoot her.

After he’s let loose, I roll up and she tries to charge me extra for the time I spent sitting in front of her extra kiosk. I let her know in no uncertain terms that I will only be paying the amount I would have paid had I not gotten trapped in this stupid garage. She huffs but capitulates, likely because she can sense she’ll find little no mercy among the dozens of motorists who have been held captive to her coffee break.

Finally free, I zoom home with my ears still ringing with the empty promise of a robotic voice screaming PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED. PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL IS BEING ANSWERED.

I hear it in my dreams, sometimes. It’s the haunting sound of futility, the embodiment of knowing you’re trapped by a thin metal arm all because you’re not willing to scratch up the front of your car in an effort to escape.

If given another twenty minutes of that racket, I might have.

That One Time When Erika Was Cool

It's worth noting that I'll never be Amy Dunne-caliber cool, because who would want to be?!

It’s worth noting that I’ll never be Amy Dunne-caliber cool, because who would want to be?!

I’m not what you’d traditionally think of as a Cool Girl. I think lame puns are funny, I don’t know how to throw a football, and I can in no way hold my liquor. I’m a goofball, but mostly harmless, so I take no issue with my inherent lack of whatever constitutes coolness these days.

That’s not to say I don’t occasionally dabble in coolness, though. Every once in a great while, I’ll know something or have done something that someone thinks is cool and then, for one brief little moment, I get to be cool.

An example of this happened awhile ago while I was at physical therapy. I was chatting with my physical therapist when he mentioned he owns a gun and had gotten his wife interested in shooting it. I asked him what kind of gun he owns when he asked, “You know guns?”

I replied that years of writing thrillers has acquainted me with a shallow familiarity with firearms, and he said he had a Sig Sauer.

Now, this is where I got to be cool for, like, a minute. I perked up and said, “A P226?”

He was so surprised that I knew what kind of gun he had, after which I mentioned how big the grip is on those to accommodate the expanded magazine but how the gun made up for that by being a real pleasure to fire.

We talked guns for a while and I left feeling happy but also kind of like a fraud, and here’s why. With the possible exception of a Colt 1911 and S&W .38 Chief’s Special, the P226 is the only gun I know much about specifically. I’ve fired a variety of weapons and have a passing familiarity with them, but I can’t converse about them as much as I can about the P226.

If he’d owned any other kind of gun, I wouldn’t have had much to say. I lucked out and got to be the cool girl who knows about guns.

I’m not gonna lie, it felt good even though the foundation of my mystique is a façade. Maybe that’s the big secret, though. Maybe coolness is a single moment rather than a consistent state of being, in which case no one is ever really cool through and through. If perhaps you think you know someone who’s cool at all times, maybe that just means you don’t know that person well enough.

What do you think?