Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Body and The Pen

During a job recently, the client was busy with an independent project and I was reading the September 2010 issue of The Writer. One particular article caught my attention: "An essayist finds her stride" by Jenny Rough. She wrote about learning to skull and her writing. Learning to skull and, as her instructor put it, be in flow with the water. She went on and told about her learning curve with paddling, the seeking and failing and trying again, and the moment when she felt that connection. I leave the article reading to you. Nice parallels. It made me think about my current situation and lessons.

I made some notes to write this post.

A few hours later I arrived at my second job. On my first break I went into my blog reader to see what other people have been posting. That day's post from WOW: Women on Writing, was called Writing is Exhilarating and is about, yes, the challenges and thrills of physical activities and writing - similarities.

I knew that I definitely was going to follow through with this post. 

I have been exploring the connections and interdependent influences of movement, of physical activity, and writing. Really, of creativity in general; but my creative focus is writing, so that is what I write about.

I've done three of the Paddling Poet workshops with Ridgefield Kayak in Ridgefield, WA. These have been amazing and inspiring. Participants who have never written but wanted to and didn't know how, wrote. One person who said she was not a poet but loves to read it started taking notes as instructed and after a few minutes exclaimed, "I wrote a poem!" She was floating in her kayak in the middle of Lake River.

Movement. Being outside with the elements. Or inside with the people. Walking, hiking, crunching through snow, sloshing in puddles, thwacking through the mud, swishing through pines/bamboo/cottonwoods/red-leaf maples - moving with the wind, the sun, the clouds, paddling the river. Inspiration, moving through, flowing. That connection Ms. Rough was seeking and achieved. I have felt it, too.

Right now, though, I'm dealing with the reverse. Last week I made the decision to not do Portland's first half marathon. Yes, I was one of the first to sign up when it became available and I was excited. I thought I'd beat my Seattle half marathon time; I had lots of time to train; I was determined.

It's been a series of small setbacks this year. I bounced back from the ten weeks of "Northwest Crud" as it became known, last winter into spring. I was definitely behind on training and slow to get back into it. But I did get back to a level where I could do the Cascade Lakes Relay - which was awesome, again - and I beat my times for last year, which was a surprise.

I was dealing with a sore back prior to the relay. I did what I needed to do and it was better; and I had a quick recovery after I was done with my legs. But the problem persisted a little; receded; resurfaced.

I've been on the fence about whether to let go of the half marathon goal or push through it. I've been doing massage and chiropractice and ibuprofen and strengthening/rehab stretches. Increase my walking and drop the focus on pace. Decrease my walking and focus on posture.

The pain was primarily coming with walking - after a mile or so. Sometimes an ache, a tightness, would continue afterwards - but the pain went away. Most of the time.

So my journey became a little different that Jenny's - I had to learn to adjust my activities by listening to my body. I had to not let my frustration become hopelessness or depression - which it can. Doing less walking, less moving, can stir those feelings, as well. So I pushed for 6 miles with a friend and I did it! The next week I was hurting more and only did 3 miles. Then I tapered back to 2 miles; which I did, muscles tightened, I stretched them out, finished up without pain. No pain - that was my goal.

With that I decided that it was better to let go of this marathon - half marathon - and listen inward. There will be other opportunities if I want to do it again. Right now I need to take it slow, build it up, and do other things. Swimming is back in my workouts. More stretching.

Right now the situation feels like a teeter-totter, because less activity has probably contributed to a weakened core, which contributes to some of the back pain. So the pain causes decreased activity - and so I go around the circle. The return to the pool will help. And I hope to get back to more walking - but, for now, it's a little at a time. Knowing when to push and when to pull, to walk upright, to swim, to lift weights or not.

Revise the goal. And keep moving. Keep writing. Keep creating. Because the creating happens even when I ache, when my back muscles burn, when I cry because all I could do was walk 2 miles. Sometimes writing involves the same revision of goals: if the story isn't working, put it on hold, try another point of view, kill off a character, work on the memoir.

Movement: of body, of words, in the flow.