TV Tokens

August 19th, 2009

tv-tokens1Before I discovered hulu, shutting off the cable was pretty effective in curbing my TV habit. One episode of hulu, though,  is pretty much like just one drink for the alcoholic. I line up show after show in my queue and then I’m inert for the next several hours, watching until I’m a zombie. I watch until there are no more episodes of my current line up. By then it’s really late, and I feel dirty, like after cheap sex. The connection between my laptop and the TV makes a buzzing sound which I worry is zapping my precious computer. When I carry it downstairs, away from the tv, and onto its rightful place on my desk, it’s hot from all that streaming video, which is probably not good for it either.  While it’s playing, though, I just sink into the mindless oblivion that is television watching, and don’t worry about the pile of papers on my desk including ones that say YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. I also don’t worry about the fact that if it’s midnight now, going to bed early and waking up early is not going to happen so my whole next day is already screwed up.

In my either/or thinking,  I’m either a person who watches tv or a person who abstains. This summer I’ve been promising myself I’d stop the tv watching. Each week I told myself, okay, this week, no tv. But if we had no movie to watch with dinner, Wayne would say, “Want to watch a hulu?” and I always said yes. I knew I was supposed to say no, because a) eating in front of the tv causes mindless eating and consumption of more calories and therefore no good for either of our diets and b) I knew that once I sat in front of the tv for dinner, the rest of my evening and night were already gone.

On the other hand, one episode of hulu is a lot shorter than a full length movie. Theoretically, I could watch one show, and then read or meditate or get some work accomplished. Just one drink.

One solution is no movies, either. I don’t want to give them up, though. I also read that watching a funny tv show, because it makes you laugh, has been shown to lower stress levels. Scientifically supported rationalization for watching the Daily Show or some movie like “Be Cool.”

Part of me likes to be the weirdo who is so out of touch with the world because she doesn’t watch tv. The other part, the one that keeps winning, wants to be part of the world of Daily Show and Colbert Report watchers. Of course, if it was only those shows, it wouldn’t be such a problem. But after them I go to Burn Notice, Mental, Lie to Me, Bones, and sometimes even go to for NCIS or CSI. Before I got rid of cable, I was addicted to Without a Trace, Criminal Minds, Law and Order CI, and those shows aren’t available in full episodes, so when we go away to a hotel, I binge on those. None of those shows can be rationalized by a daily dose of laughter. First of all, they’re not funny. Secondly they leave me with images of wackos who are waiting outside my house to attack me and do horrible things to me. I keep tuning in, though. they pull me in and I’m completely transported for a whole episode. When it’s over, I just want to be sucked into another one.

At one point it seemed like if the rule was just movies, that would be a solution. That didn’t work, though. Movies are long. Lots of nights I really oughtn’t plan on spending two hours in front of the tv screen. The other issue is the post movie let down. It’s even more intense than a post tv episode let down, and I feel even more desperate to keep downing more. I watch all the special features, even when they’re painfully dull. Then, I’ll watch whatever is on one of the five horrible tv channels we still have coming into the house, like the Style network. At that time of night, usually I end up watching “Clean House” which plays out the exact same drama in each episode of a dysfunctional family who can’t throw out anything, living in a huge mess, who cry over giving up their things for the yard sale, and then they are wowed by the newly decorated clean house.

Yesterday I wondered if tv addiction is so much like alcoholism that there really is no “middle way.” What if there was a way to consume television like a normal person?

So, here’s my idea: TV tokens. I put 8 glass pebbles into a small glass. (They used to be in a flower vase.) Each piece represents half an hour, and that’s my allotment for the week: four hours. Last night I moved three tokens from the weekly allotment glass into the used up glass. Sure enough, after the movie, wanting to save my half hours for something good, I didn’t watch Clean House. I turned off the tv and got ready for bed. Maybe this’ll work.

My Amazing Articles

August 7th, 2009
Message in Bottle by Rachel Kurtz

Message in Bottle by Rachel Kurtz

In light of all the spam comments I’m always deleting from this blog, Wayne tells me I should just shut off the comment feature altogether, but I won’t do it.  I’m hopeful that one day, real people will read my blog and feel the urge to make genuine comments. I already got two real comments, though one was from Wayne.

Blog spammers have gotten pretty clever. Only months ago I was mostly getting easy to spot jumbles of letters or advice to “try this link.” But now, they’re not so immediately transparent to someone filled with hope that people out there are reading and appreciating my work. I wanted to believe that  I’ve written “amazing articles” and “great stuff” and that people are going to “bookmark” my blog or “visit often.” I even wanted to believe that people wanted to subscribe to my RSS feed, even though I don’t think I have one.

Eventually, though, I began to wonder about the vague praise. None of the comments referred to the content of my actual blog entries. I looked a bit further. Their email addresses often included promises of flat bellies, improved sex life, or how to make money without leaving home. Spam, spam, spam.

What is the difference between writing an unread blog and all my other unpublished work? Hope. And doesn’t hope keep us all calling out into that void, hoping someone is listening? I guess that’s why people like Facebook so much, because it’s more like a billboard than a message in a bottle.

So, dear reader, if you exist, maybe you would care to leave a specific comment.

Different Strokes

July 31st, 2009

pool-waterThe Y pool is cloudy, crowded and too warm for laps. But there are no other pools in town unless you are a student at the college—which I am no longer. Their pool was clear, fairly empty, and just the right temperature. On the plus side, the Y pool has windows to the outside, which is better for my mental health. It’s probably also safer. The lifeguards take their jobs seriously, rotating positions on some sort of schedule. The lifeguards at the college pool read and made lanyards, occasionally glancing at the pool.

I can’t figure out why the Y pool is so cloudy. Is it a different cholorinating system? Kid pee? It also is distinctly salty, not that I’m drinking it. That part is perplexing, but the temperature is not. Old people doing their “Aquafit” suspended by the blue floaty belts, don’t want to be chilled. I can’t blame them, but it sure is uncomfortable to swim laps in such a warm pool.

On the other hand, I’ve had the opportunity to witness some really interesting strokes. You might think that the people in the lap lanes would just use crawl and breast stroke, unless they were real swimmers who might use back and fly as well. It’s the Y, so there’s also the side stroke and the elementary back stroke. But over time I guess people make up their own strokes. I don’t know why this should annoy or amuse me so much, but it does. I feel like everyone in the lap lanes should swim “normally.” Since I seem incapable of getting over my judgmental stance on lap swimming, I decided to try to name the strokes I’ve observed. Some of these came from the college pool, others from my first two days at the Y:

The elementary hot tub stroke. This stroke looks like it might be the way to drift backwards across the hot tub from one seat to another, keeping the body vertical, head straight up out of the water. The mechanics involves a little waving of the legs, but the stroke is primarily powered by the arms in a gentle hugging motion.

The dolphin struggling repeatedly to surface stroke. Or, the no hands butterfly. When I saw this one, I thought perhaps the man had no use of his arms and was therefore flailing down the lane as best he could. His flapping body, with arms held down in front of his chest, seemed to force his head down, and then he’d arch his back and thrust his face out to grab a breath. His eyes were wide and desperate. Then I saw him do a couple laps of freestyle, with no apparent physical limitations. The butterfly is a graceful stroke that uses up enormous energy. A week ago at the college pool I watched a guy who was clearly a competitive swimmer doing a few laps of butterfly. His entire body created an elegant undulating kick, ending and restarting as he pulled his upper body out of the water, arms circling over and in front his head, and diving shallowly back in the water. I never mastered the butterfly enough to expose it in public, and it was too exhausting for me anyway. It’s not generally suited to the fitness swimmer, especially one with no formal training or practice in his past. This is probably why the man came up with his own variation. It worried me, though, as I passed him twice on his one lap—we were sharing a lane—because it kind of looked like he might not make it to the other side. Fortunately he had a blue floaty belt.

The porpoise. This woman looked like she was genuinely delighted to feel her own weightlessness in the water. She came up for air and then dove down to the pool bottom, propelled herself forward, and then planted her feet on the pool floor to launch herself to the surface. She continued in this fashion lap after lap. Out of all the made up strokes, this one looked like the most fun.

The prayerful composite backstroke. This stroke combines elements of various strokes in a way I’d never imagined. The frog kick belongs to the elementary backstroke we learned in camp. The full elementary backstroke, however, is a relaxed stroke that keeps the body entirely on the plane of the water’s surface. It’s a little like the breast stroke lying on the back, using a similar kick. The arms, however, make a different pattern; since you’re on your back, you don’t have to rise up above the surface to breathe. I remember learning it at camp, the instructor calling in, out, down as we drew our hands up into our armpits, outward to the sides, and back parallel with our bodies. The competition backstroke, on the other hand, is freestyle (crawl) on the back. Arms make circles out of the water, and legs flutter kick. It’s fast, and always scared me the one year I had to do it when I was on the swim team. We were supposed to count strokes after the flags strung above the pool, to determine when we were at the wall, to avoid bashing it with our heads. I never trusted my count.

In the prayerful composite backstroke, the arms circle up out of the water, but instead of one at a time, as in the competition back stroke, the two arms simultaneously float overhead with hands pressed together as in prayer. It was sort of graceful.

Freestyle variations. As you might expect, there are a lot of spastic variations on the freestyle, or crawl stroke. I watch these with interest to reassure myself that I might not look professional, but at least I don’t look like that. I remind myself, “Comparisons are odious” (attributed to various writers and sages), but it sure feels good to think, compared to that guy, I am like Michael Phelps. One man was practicing a particularly exhausting looking version that I imagine stemmed from not having formal lessons. I notice that people who learned to swim with family and friends sometimes use a complete head out of the water style, face swinging to each side, with each stroke. This was what he reverted to when he apparently got tired, but the lap before was much more interesting. He started with his face in the water but every other stroke he flipped his upper body violently towards his back to breathe, head all the way up facing the ceiling. It was tiring to watch.

One kid at the college pool asked me how I managed to swim so many laps without stopping. “Practice.” I said. Then, more helpfully, “Try swimming more slowly.” The kid had to stop to rest midway through a lap. “I am going slowly,” he said. I’m no swim instructor or coach, but I did think I saw his problem: I observed that he was kicking like mad. That’d tire anyone out. The flutter kick is terribly inefficient, it seems to me. After not swimming for over five years I tried using a kick board for one lap, and I felt like I was going to drown, it was so much work. So I suggested to the kid that he barely kick at all, just enough to keep his lower body floating near the surface. I thought this was really pretty good advice, but it didn’t seem to help him. He seemed to want more help from me, but I just wanted to work out, and I didn’t feel comfortable taking the role as swim instructor.

I noticed that lately I have an inexplicable contrary reaction to people asking me for swimming tips. As a swimmer, I feel like enough of a hack to be embarrassed to play the teacher. It’s ironic, considering all the skills I’ve taught over the years in areas where I’m no expert. I taught my creative writing students to write screenplays, my experience based on reading three books, several websites, and writing the first 40 pages of my own screenplay. I knew full well this did not qualify me as a screenwriting instructor, but I forged ahead. Right after college, when I was an intern at a whitewater canoe and kayak school, I taught a whole bunch of kids to roll their kayaks when I didn’t have my own roll. Maybe I’ve changed since then. When another man wanted my advice on improving his stroke, I advised him to take a lesson with a real instructor.

Dog Trap

July 13th, 2009
Cleo. Photo by Wayne Mercier.

Cleo. Photo by Wayne Mercier.

“There seems to be a dog on the porch,” Wayne said from the other room.

“AAAAAAAAHHHHH!” I said, jumping up from my computer. “I forgot about the dog!”

I had let her out when I was making tea before sitting down to write—20 minutes before. Cleo had been standing on the porch, looking inside the glass door for 20 minutes, patiently waiting for someone to remember that we have a dog. “Sorry, Cleo!” I said, scratching her butt, musing how difficult it is to express guilt to a dog.  “I’m a bad doggie mom.” I blame this one on my ADHD. I wonder if this is further proof that if I ever had a kid I’d be likely to leave the baby in the carseat on the roof and drive off a la “Raising Arizona.”

I’ve done this before—with the dog, not a baby—and so Cleo usually doesn’t come into the porch anymore, which makes sense because once she pushes the door open with her nose and goes inside to wait, she’s stuck. The porch door opens inward, so she can let herself in, but not out. Wayne calls the porch “the dog trap.” Now she usually waits outside the door to the porch. She’ll nose it open an inch or two and lets it close so it makes a small banging sound to say, “Hello, I’m ready to come in.” That way she’s still free and if she gets tired of waiting she can venture into the neighborhood. Escape generally doesn’t occur to her when she’s in the fenced in backyard, peeing or just sniffing, even though there’s a big exit she could use to wander off. If she’s standing around waiting by the porch door long enough, however, some sound or smell will often capture her attention. For some reason that didn’t happen this morning. Instead, she was stuck in the dog trap for some twenty minutes and I guess that’ll teach her to be a good little doggie.

Super Macro

July 12th, 2009


A lot of things look cooler when you get really really close up.

I don’t know why this did not occur to me before.  I saw that Wayne almost always tries to get as close as possible to his subject when he takes a photo. And he seems to know what he’s doing.

Cramps as a Spiritual Practice

July 11th, 2009


Yesterday I decided that rather than taking two Alleve, which I knew, if taken in time, could stop my cramps, I would spend my day fighting the cramps off with my mind. I was trying to clean the house for my dad’s visit and I’d double over in pain and think, “Wayne’s right, just take the medicine.” Then I’d breathe, and think, “that which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.”

I read somewhere that learning to deal with pain by not getting upset about it reduces the pain itself, and makes the body and mind more resilient. In fetal position on the floor, I was thinking, childbirth is a lot worse than this and women do it without medications, so why can’t I deal with some measly cramps without resorting to a pain reliever?

This experiment, which just left Wayne shaking his head, partly has to do with my trying to take fewer drugs. I am always trying to take fewer drugs. Every time I go to a new doctor for the same or new problem, I walk out with at least one new prescription. Every doctor is sympathetic to my desire to take fewer medications, because they each know that all drugs have side effects, and some produce unpleasant interactions. Still, they insist, this medication is vital, and any potential side effects are outweighed by the benefits.

At the end of an appointment, I take the scripts, and dutifully fill them, resigning myself to adding other colors to my pill reminder. What side effects will I encounter this time? And how long until I can stop taking it?

After visiting the TMJ specialist for a second time, I knew he was probably right that I do need to reduce the swelling in my jaw, but wondered, what will this super strength Alleve over a long period be doing to my poor stomach? I want my jaw muscles to unclench, and avoid further degeneration of my jaw joint, headaches, and related problems, but how can I get through the day feeling so sleepy from muscle relaxants? When I came back complaining of the side effects from the second set of medications (after the first set didn’t have any discernible positive effect at all) I told the doctor I was done with the meds. He agreed, but said, “you’re asking me to treat you with one hand tied behind my back.”

I understand why it is important to take medicines. People used to die of strep throat and other infections before antibiotics. I understand that leaving certain conditions untreated, even psychological ones, like depression, can make be more destructive to the body than the medicines used for treatment. My mom spent her whole career in “drug discovery” for two major pharmaceutical companies. The drugs she worked on saved lives, and made other lives bearable. If I make claims about “Big Pharma” I’m not only implicating my mom’s life work, but my own beliefs that modern medicine is a positive force in our lives.

And yet, when I throw back my morning and evening meds, I look at each one and think, do I really need this?

I feel like when I take all these drugs I’ve bought into the our society’s medical shortcut–throw drugs at every condition. We have overprescribed antibiotics to ourselves and to animals and as a result, have produced mega-bugs, resistant to everything we’ve got. You can go into a hospital for some routine procedure and die from an infection created by this process. Then there are medications for problems that we used to think of annoyances and not medical conditions. Can all these prescriptions advertised on television really be necessary or even useful for the broad audience they might attract? Even the banal anti-inflamatories like Alleve, eat away at the stomach with long term use.

I discovered that the cramps came in waves, and I didn’t have to ride out constant pain, but just wait for each wave to pass. It also occurred to me that when I wasn’t just hoping for the drugs to kick in and make the pain go away, I actually felt like I had more control over it. I alternated between wondering if I could make it, and taking deep breaths, imagining all those muscles unclenching. I remembered that pain is not good for the body and soul. And then reminded myself that accepting pain, and not allowing it to upset me was probably good for me.

I said to Wayne, “I’m using my cramps as a spiritual practice.” I know just how insane that sounds, but I made it through the day without Alleve. For whatever that’s worth.

Is There Any Such Thing As Laziness?

July 2nd, 2009

slugI’m in the midst of a writing program and am revisiting a piece about my own struggle with ADHD and this popped into my  head–there are all kinds of reasons kids don’t turn in their work on time, or at all, in some cases. They are all usually labeled “lazy” by teachers. As I look at my own story, I remembered being called lazy in second grade when I was really trying. So I know how painful that label can be.

I never, or almost never, turned work in late, though. By the time I got to sixth grade, I was in full stress mode, and it may well have happened sooner than that. There was pressure and expectations at home and for some reason, maybe internalizing a notion of success I interpreted as theirs, I was my own (best? worst?) slave driver and I couldn’t stand to get work in late. Because it was never easy for me either, I guess I don’t understand why kids don’t do their work on time. I hated homework, too, but I did it anyway.

Still, I’m left wondering as I explore my own difficulties, and I have more sympathy.

Why do kids avoid assignments?

  • seems too difficult or overwhelming and they cannot get started
  • the work is boring and they are not used to making themselves face boredom
  • they are distracted by things they have to do or think they have to do–they work, babysit siblings, take care of responsibilities at home
  • they don’t think it is important
  • they hope if they ignore it, it will go away
  • when they think about school work it makes them stressed out
  • perfectionism–cannot start because they are afraid it won’t be perfect
  • lose themselves in other enticing activities–tv, internet, texting, gaming
  • are overscheduled and are tired when it’s time to do work
  • are underscheduled and have no structured time to do school work
  • lazy?

What does it mean to be lazy? To avoid difficult tasks or those that require energy? To avoid tasks that are not fun? To lie around and do nothing?

Back in the Pool

June 30th, 2009

It’s weird how I can identify a fear as totally irrational, and yet, still feel afraid. I was looking down through the glass at the college pool, one floor below, with my new friend Gail. She swims frequently, and the quiet pool called to her. For me, even though at one time I had swum over 3000 yards every day, I just saw an empty pool that looked ominous and lonely rather than peaceful.

Even getting ready was unnerving, despite the fact that one summer I’d even occasionally swum laps in this very pool. All of that seemed so distant, ever further away than when I’d packed my swim bag the night before. When I unearthed my old Reebok bag that was missing a zipper pull, I wasn’t too optimistic about the endeavor. Yet, when I pulled out everything inside I was shocked that my bathing suit still fit, my cap was not a solid piece of silicon (apparently because it was unused), and there were my goggles, ready to go, too.  I even found my Ultra Swim shampoo which claims to chemically extract the chlorine from my hair. It was like I hadn’t left off swimming so long ago.

Standing in the locker room, however, I didn’t even know if I’d even remember how to stuff all my hair into the swim cap. Gail had run back to her room to get her swim gear, and I wandered around in my Speedo and cap, damp from the “shower before entering pool,” warm water dripping out from my cap onto my shoulders. I considered myself in the mirror. A bit of unsightly bulge at the back, but not as bad as I expected. Speedos sure squish everything in. From some angles I looked kind of svelte. In fact the whole picture kind of looked like an ex-swimmer, which now I was afraid would unfairly raise expectations of anyone who happened to see me before I got in the pool.

I was never a real swimmer. As a high school freshman I joined the swim team because I thought I’d be good at it. The kids who were good, however, had been swimming on the YMCA team for years, and it never even occurred to me that with diligent practice I might be able to catch up. All I knew was, I was in the slow lane, and still had to get out many days in the middle of practice to take my inhaler. Then the coach would berate me for standing around. So I’d jump back in. By the end of the season, my asthma was bothering me all the time, not just swimming, and I found myself winded just walking up a flight of stairs. That was clearly no good, but the real reason I quit was because I was angry with the coach. After a swim meet where every one of us swam, she only took the varsity lane out for pizza to celebrate the victory.

Sometime after the season was over,  I was seized with the idea of swimming on my own, and getting better on my own. Who knows where such ideas came from. I don’t even know why I thought I could do it. I bought a membership to the Y, and began swimming by myself. I started with whatever I could do in I think a half an hour. When I look back on that first day it seems like I did some absurdly short amount. Like 250 yards–10 lengths. Maybe I did 500 yards, the race that seemed impossibly long to me when I was on the team. Whatever it was, I decided that every two days, I’d add another 50 yards. Somehow, with only that decision as motivation, I got up to 2500 yards, (later, even more) at least five days a week, maybe six or seven. (I guess I didn’t know about rest days.) Miraculously, my slow patient method paid off. I never had to get out of the pool to take my inhaler again.

I’m not sure if I was in high school or college when I injured my shoulder. I remember feeling something go terribly wrong inside my right shoulder,  in the middle of a lap, and I knew I couldn’t swim another stroke. I let my feet drift down to the bottom of the pool, but I couldn’t quite stand. I sort of bobbed my way down to the shallow end. My friend the lifeguard saw that something bad had happened and in his zeal to help me out, grabbed me by my right arm and hauled me out of the pool, by that arm. If I had to guess when I actually tore the labrum in my shoulder, I’d say it was right then. I didn’t get an MRI until many years later, however. I didn’t even see a doctor for months. I tried to hide my injury by eating left handed that night, but Mom knew right away. Still, we all kept thinking another couple days rest, ibuprofen, and ice.

Years later, after rounds and rounds of physical therapy, swimming again, not swimming again, I gave up on swimming altogether. I kept canoeing, despite the fact that it clearly was hurting my shoulder, though, because I could still do it. Until, you guessed it, the one day that something went horribly wrong inside that shoulder. I had to have my husband haul me out of my canoe by my life vest.

Then there was surgery, long painful recovery, and finally back to canoeing, but I never got back into a pool again since giving up swimming before the surgery. So here I was poised to enter the pool again, and I was nervous. I told Gail as we perched above the water, “I don’t know why I’m so nervous”

She said, “don’t worry it’s shallow here, and the life guard is right there.”

“It’s not like I’m going to drown!” I joked. “It’s just that it’s been so long, and when I’m in my whitewater canoe and I swim, that’s like, really bad news. I don’t really know the last time I’ve swum without a life vest.”

Gail had jumped in by this time in my stalling, rambling, excusing. “It’s cold!” she said, “I’ve got to start moving.” Off she went, and there was nothing to do but lick the inside of my goggles yet again and go. In fact, the first 500 yards went by interminably slow. My breathing was wrong, my flip turn was so far off that I abandoned it, my shoulder hurt, and I actually did feel like I was going to drown. I told myself to relax, but the Anxious Annie in my head wants to know, how am I supposed to concentrate on my breathing when all I can do is gasp for a breath every several strokes? When is the meditative, relaxing part going to kick in? Maybe I really can’t swim anymore.

Then, without announcing itself, a calmness finally came to me. I noticed that my breathing was getting easier, even as I got more tired. 100s were going by faster, and I found myself in my old trouble of keeping count of my distance. I still worried about what I was doing to my shoulder. (Was this the signal from my body I’m supposed to pay attention to or ignore?) But I decided to keep going until Gail was done. Then I was at 1900 and decided I couldn’t leave without making a nice round number. At 2000 yards, I was done, and so was Gail.

Six Minutes Doesn’t Sound Too Bad

June 28th, 2009

I came across this article in the health section of the New York Times “Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?” and thought the answer was, duh, no you can’t get fit in 6 minutes a week. This stupid rushed culture….outrage…it takes time…blah blah blah.

Well, the researchers said that all-out intervals three times a week is as good as hours of training. This is good news for me. It’s not that I’m so busy that I can’t find time to work out. It’s just that making myself commit to being in the gym for a long boring workout is just hard to do lately.

They say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So why not try something new? Of course, the actual program takes more than six minutes. They did four to six cycles of 20-30 seconds intense (all out) and four minutes rest. That adds up between 17 and 24 minutes total per workout, not including warm up and cool down. Still that’s probably a total of 30 minutes three times a week. Not too daunting.

There are all kinds of caveats about this program, and I wonder if I’d hurt myself going all out on the elliptical trainer. They say biking and swimming work best. I haven’t swum since years before my shoulder surgery. Maybe it’s time to start again?

I have been missing swimming. Actually I’ve been thinking about it again, lately. Though swimming hard sprints when I was out of shape is what injured my shoulder in the first place. Then again, now that I’m doing a summer writing program at a college and have access to the pool, it’s not a bad idea to start again.

Swimming again would required the purchase of a new bathing suit. I’m considerably heavier than when I last swam. Also, as I remember, a number of my suits had become see through. My swim cap was permanently adhered to itself last time I found it so I threw that out. Also, who knows where my goggles might be.

Already I’m thinking of throwing in the towel? (Ha ha ha.) All of these items are available to me. Another article in the Times (old but for some reason I just found it today) was about motivation. (“With The Right Motivation, That Home Gym Makes Sense.”) It suggests why hanging around the house all day with the elliptical trainer, Nordic Trak, and canoeing erg upstairs making snarky remarks at me hasn’t made me fit so far.

Well you lightly dusty pieces of equipment, maybe I’ll go swimming.

The Dangers of Reading

June 27th, 2009

Last night I went to bed late not because I was watching tv, but because I’m reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I got home after 10 and thought, I’ll just read a chapter before bed. I got into the comfy chair and read a few chapters. Then I fell asleep. When I woke up, I didn’t get up and get ready for bed, of course. I continued reading. Partly that’s because I was too tired to get up and get ready for bed. the other part is that I get totally sucked in by narrative, story line. I have to know what will happen next. That’s why I can’t stop watching tv before the episode is over, even if I hate it.

I have been working through Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way to “recover my creative self” over the past 10 weeks. Several weeks ago I was horrified by the week four exercise: reading deprivation. Just the week before I was reading the journal Creative Nonfiction and feeling energized by the ideas it gave me for my own creative nonfiction. So, I’d argue, reading is good for my creativity. That was only a small piece of my outrage, however. The real problem is that I felt that reading was my ally in my war against television addiction. It’s like my methodone.

I did it anyway, the reading deprivation–well, I made it five days. No tv and no reading. Then I binged. I had one of those epic headaches I get and I just sat down in front of the tv and watched a guy sticking his hand inside enormous freshwater carp. Then I watched a movie, “Flash of Genius” and then I watched “Clean House.”

Cameron says that blocked artists lose themselves in reading instead of creating. It is true that when I took away reading, as well as tv, I had to do other things to avoid tasks I didn’t want to start. I played with glitter glue, I did some scrapbooking, that sort of thing. I was miserable though. That week I wrote in my “morning pages” that quitting cold turkey was bad for my mental state. I realized that tv, radio and reading were self-medication for my anxiety.

I have noticed lately that I spend a lot of time reading about meditation, and not so much time meditating. I am in the middle of two books on writing creative nonfiction, and two collections of short creative nonfiction, and am not writing a whole lot of creative nonfiction. I am reading two books on being happier, and not spending time out there doing the things that make me happy. So maybe Julia Cameron has a point about being aware of how I use reading.

Anyway, I could stop anytime I want.