Friday, June 7, 2013

Why you have to FAIL

I wish this was a blog about how hard my training is going. In some ways, that would be an easier post to write because, after all, physical strain is something that's tangible and real in a way that psychological stress or strain is not.  Yet, it's not all doom and gloom here in my little world: I've gotten my mileage up to about 50 miles a week and I'm happy with that. I still swim with the Master's Team Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings; those are my "double days" when I get out of the pool and run. Tuesdays and Saturdays are my long runs (one medium-long, one long-long) and Sunday a day to run and just enjoy it.

I never thought I'd be able to enjoy running again. I'm not fast. I'm not fit. But for now, I'm moving and it means so much to me to be able to wake up, pull on those smelly shoes and hit the trails with nothing to power me but my own body.  Which isn't to say I don't like swimming or cycling: I do. Swimming is keeping my ankles loose and stretches the tendons from the running efforts which tighten them so that I've managed to stay healthy (fingers, arms, legs and eyes crossed while knocking on wood) so far.

And so, what's up, you ask? Well-- a lot, actually. A few months ago, I was accepted to the Tin House Writer's Workshop-- a HUGE honor for me-- but since, I've struggled with my writing. What on earth was I going to submit? My self-confidence shrank as though submerged in cold water and it hasn't-- even now-- recovered. To assuage these demons, I've spent every night for the past three months working on this new project I finally submitted last night because I was literally sick of looking at it (the deadline is Saturday.) I simultaneously wish I could un-submit it and clean up all the errors and incorrect nuances I can see now in the clarity of the morning after; but then, the sane part of me argues that I've done enough and I should just let it go.

But-- and how can I say this-- my life is defined by failure in ways I never thought it would be. And maybe this is what happens to us all in one way or another. I was reading On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates the other night (research for my new project) and she had this interesting thought that the premise of boxing is failure and therefore, boxing is this unique metaphor for life while nothing is a metaphor for boxing. We all fail and are measured by those failures: it's the "didn't quites" that matter most. I don't mean not trying or giving up-- I'm talking about those moments in life when you pour yourself into something and try and try and try and then you come up short.

Or maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better. My book manuscript was rejected by Hawthorne Books today-- a publisher I've admired for so long which said my work simply wasn't their cup of tea. And how awful it is to hear that! Does it mean that my writing is crap? Or, is my story-- my life-- trite and uninteresting? Either way, I immediately thought of that quote by Joyce Carol Oates and I don't know: maybe failure is a painful indication that you are still trying.

Just like I keep trying in the pool when I really don't want to swim a 50 meter butterfly but I do because I can. Or, when I'm running those hills around the Lafayette Reservoir and I don't want to keep going, but I do and I can and then, I simply do. Those moments might be failures, but they are also small victories. At least I'm out there. At least I haven't given up on my story, my voice and my body.

I still want to be an athlete again. And there is not a moment in my life I can remember when I didn't want to be a writer. I hope it happens. And I hope I and Joyce Carol Oates are right about this failure-thing. Lace up the shoes again. Snap on the swim-cap. Pump up those tires and type, type, type those stories.... victories are born of many failures.

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