What Has Time Forgotten?

Time capsule: where did you think you would be?

Time capsule: where did you think you would be?

Miles run Sunday: 5 (excellent!)

Miles run Monday: 3 (horrible!)

Miles run today: 0

When I was in elementary school, a few of my friends and I had an extra class that we got to take once a week.

I remember sitting out in a trailer (they now call them “cottages” to make them sound more upscale) near the PE classes, enjoying the sunshine and the respite from dreaded math and my teacher who used words like, “flustrated.”

Not a word.

Out in our trailer, we did fun things like create island nations and corresponding governments and argue about which resources were more necessary. Today, there’s a board game like that called “Settlers of Catan.”

We were the kind of trailblazers who made our own Catan… er, Rainbow Island.

The teacher was a bit of a wild card. We made fun of her, but secretly, we all liked her and her wacky, way-far-out-of-the-box skill set. During all hours of the school day, she held one of those tall, plastic cafeteria cups full of ice  and frequently crunched it with zeal while teaching. I hope her teeth survived to old age.

She had large, fuzzy hair the color of rust sprayed to her level of perfection, and the tips of her fingers would hover over it from time to time to check that its perfection was still intact.

Sometimes, she read us five-minute mysteries that we had to solve on the spot (I never did). They involved details like “larynx” and “late-model sedan” that remained foreign to me until I was at least 25.

One time, she brought in one of our classmates who later went on to be salutatorian in high school who tried to explain binary code to us (again, foreign, and dare I say it? Pointless.).

But one of my favorite activities was the time capsule. Various teachers through the years gave us time capsule busywork, but with this teacher, I had the strong belief that she would perhaps keep the information safe and present us with it on the day of our college graduation or wedding or even on the morning that we were launched into space.

So I laid out my information with great seriousness, thinking ahead to the time 15 years in the future, when I would be 25, and the time in the very distant future when I would be (gasp and gulp!) 35. Unthinkable.

But think I did.

My main exposure to future-think was my mom’s favorite TV show, Star Trek. I was dearly hoping I would not have to wear a unitard for my future on the space station.

The goal of the time capsule was to think ahead to what we would be doing, not the people we would become.

That’s why the concept of the book I just read, What Alice Forgot, was so intriguing to me. Almost-40-year-old Alice falls off of a stationary bike at the gym, bashes her head pretty hard, and forgets the last 10 years of her life. The last she knew, she was still in love with her husband, pregnant with her first child and prone to sleeping long hours on the weekends.

What a difference 10 years makes.

The author, Liane Moriarty, does a fine job of illustrating the small changes that lead to big changes… not only in what Alice is doing in her life, but in the kind of woman, wife and mother she has become.

I do set goals for myself for the next five and 10 years; things I want to experience, things I want to accomplish.

But do we do enough thinking about the person we are becoming as life has its way with us?

What are some ways you stay in tune with not only your outward goals but your very being?

What would your 10-year-old self be happy about your life today? How would he or she be disappointed?


In Between the Goals: Embrace the Process

Work vs. Play. Please note that my grocery store labeled Cadbury's Mini-Eggs "produce."

Words I have written in new novel started yesterday: 1,207

Words I need to write by October: 69,003

How many ways this is a bad idea: 42 million

My son got his first goal at a soccer game last night. The look on his face was a tremendous blend of “I can’t believe I just did that!” and “I just did that! I wanna do it again!”

I can relate: I have a goal-setting problem. This may come from the same gene as my list-making one, as if by simply writing down “Mueslix,” on a grocery list, it’s as good as done.

I absolutely love short-term goals: blog posts (check!), the newspaper articles I write (check!), essays (check!), getting a 10-miler or other long-run distance done each Wednesday (check!)… but the long-term ones are both my saviors and my nemeses (is that the plural of nemesis?).

I have come to view winter as a time to buckle down and work: the kids are at school (unless they’re sick, which can happen quite a bit in the winter), the weather is too cold to beckon me into the outdoors much, and Things Get Done. This winter, in between shivering and squinching my shoulders and threatening to move to The Islands, I did some novel queries, wrote and researched a couple of longer articles, trained for a half-marathon and felt generally productive.

Summertime, on the other hand, is my favorite season. After the kiddos get out of school, they fight with each other roughly every 5.3 seconds for the first two weeks. Then they settle in, and we go to the pool, visit the family, go to the beach, eat lots of ice cream, watch movies and go on bike rides/runs. Not a lot of goal-doing gets done. Short articles, and this summer, maybe short blog posts will get completed. Don’t bet on productivity. It’s a 16:1 spread.

Then there’s this wonky time in between the two seasons: the feeling of being untethered. The half-marathon over (but a 10-miler race next weekend!), the long, hot summer stands before me. The first novel written, the next one a shimmering possibility turning over and over in my mind. Completing a goal is a complicated mix of satisfaction and… what now?

Back in my last year of college, my then-boyfriend spent some time thinking I was uptight when the end of college was looming. Senior year, for me, was like the image old cartographers recorded of getting ready to step off the end of the world. I didn’t have the problem of having no goals, because my goal was to get a job. Preferably one that didn’t involve asking the two questions: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to put this on your credit card?”

(I’m rethinking about whether this is uplifting story, since I did end up waiting tables for seven months. And I’m a little peeved that I never got Employee of the Month.)

Some form of redemption did occur when my then ex-boyfriend (remember how unsupportive he was about my freak-out? I kick butts and take names, and don’t forget it.) came over and told me he finally got it. He finished college a year later and experienced the same form of untetheredness.

I did go on to get a job, and then another job, and another job… all goals, all checked off and satisfying. But always, there is the feeling of “what’s next?”

As a goal-setter, I’m trying to learn to embrace the process; the inevitable, in-between time… the time when thoughts are swirling but nothing is getting on paper or legs are covering shorter distances with no goal race in sight. Of course, the novel will get written, the race will be registered for.

I think about the goals themselves at my son’s soccer game: there’s the whole field, lots of running, and people serving as obstacles; the goals are a pretty small fraction of the whole game space. But when the ball sails in between the posts because you had something to do with it… satisfaction.

I’m setting new goals for the fall, even if there will be some slacking off during the summer months. And I have a new tool in my arsenal: Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs are now categorized as “produce.” I can’t imagine anything more motivating.

Tricking Yourself… It’s Called Denial

It's actually Mile 21... on the way back.


Miles we planned to run today: 11

Miles we ran today: 12.5

Number of ways my running partner could have beat me up but didn’t have the energy: 35

I’ve hit upon a trick to get yourself to do stuff you don’t want to do: trick yourself into thinking you only have to do a little bit, then go farther. I know, I know. It’s been done before. Hasn’t everything? It was the old, “Swim to me” story for my running partner today. It is a credit to her exhaustion that I am still alive to write this post.

If only I had told myself for my marathon last year that I was only going to do 13.1 miles, maybe I wouldn’t have bonked so hard at mile 21. See that picture up there? It tricked you into thinking I was completing mile 17, didn’t it? My swollen hands and annoyed face can clue you into the fact that it was actually mile 21.

We set our sights lower this spring: the half-marathon. This is to give us a few months off to forget the pain and torture that is the marathon so that someday we may want to try it again (I’m shaking my head).

So we have this problem around the town where I live: the sidewalks don’t connect up. You may think this is a tiny suburban problem, and if we only ran out in places where there were mountain lions and fresh air instead of rattling trucks and exhaust fumes, we wouldn’t have this problem. You would be right. But we have not yet found a place where there are mountain lions to concern ourselves with.

See, when we start plotting out a course on MapMyRun, we have insider’s knowledge. The street may keep going, but the sidewalk doesn’t. All of a sudden, you are running towards a goofy dog and his owner, and then you have stepped off the pavement onto the nothingness that is a pile of mud. This makes figuring out a course slightly problematic. The cars don’t much care if you’re needing a place to run. You are an icky, sweaty exerciser who is in the way when these drivers have somewhere important to go.

This morning, I sat down to figure out a new, different, exciting 11-mile run for us. The fact that one does not exist did enter my mind. Nevertheless, I went to MapMyRun and started mousing out a road route for us. Really, and I’m not kidding: it lied.

I am now pretty much an expert at guessing how much more mileage it will take us to get home (despite my math phobia). But when we were out running, my calculations failed me. We kept going as we passed our goal (oh, there went 11) and considered stopping in at the Target Starbucks for an orange scone and venti latte. My husband doesn’t work too far away, and we could always call him to come pick us up, we decided.

But we kept going. Then, the benevolent clouds that looked so gorgeous and springlike started to look kind of threatening. But we kept on running. Then, cold raindrops started hitting my sunglasses (!), although my running partner denied it. I looked over, and every inch of her face was covered–visor, sunglasses, hat… there was no rain getting to her, no sir. But we kept on running.

We almost did a half-marathon today. It wasn’t intentional, but we were victorious.

Next time I have to sit down and work on paying taxes, I’m going to tell myself I only have to do the first three months. Oh, and please tell my running partner that we have to pay a steep penalty for running an entire marathon if we only signed up for half.