Friday, May 13, 2005

Pushing through to the other side

Today's subtitle comes from Special Inspirational Mentor-type Person Geneen Roth, whom I'd never heard of until this very moment, having recently googled the phrase "the only way out is through."* And I'd always thought Lewis Carroll said it. (No, but he did say, 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful voice, 'it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.' . . . which is better still.) "Otch**," my mom is saying right about now. "What the hell is he talking about?" Well, Mum, it's about to get even worse. This afternoon, while torturing myself on the elliptical trainer, I thought about how much exercise had in common with writing, and how quantum tunneling provided such an apt metaphor for both. Here's a short bit from Wiki on quantum tunneling: Quantum tunneling is the quantum-mechanical effect of transitioning through a classically-forbidden energy state. The classical analogy is for a car on a roller coaster to make it up and over a hill which it does not have enough kinetic energy to surmount. Think about how hard it is to sit down with that blank page and get moving. Better yet, don't think about it, just do it. Because I know you do -- the writers out there, anyway. Have you ever been able to will the words onto the page? In the moments between blank page and written page, something happens. You tunnel through that energy barrier and find yourself on the other side. Conscious effort has little to do with it. Same with exercise. Every time I get on that elliptical trainer, I'm convinced I'll never make it past 20 minutes. By 25 minutes, I've hit my second wind; by thirty, I'm thinking, "Ten minutes until cool down. I can take anything for ten minutes." Finally, I get my five minute cool down; and before I realize what has happened, I've sweated off 450 calories. If I stop to think about writing, the task seems insurmountable. If I stop to wonder if I really, really feel like exercising, the answer is always no. Without fail, I have to do these things automatically, without forethought, so that they're done before I've even had time to bitch.
Jake update: He had his lumbar puncture this morning. Sailed right through it; his biggest gripe was having to wake up at 7AM. (Hey, he's home-schooled. 'Nuff said.) Clear fluid, normal pressure. What galls me is that I know they've done a Gram stain by now, and (if someone's bothering to check!) we could have some useful information. Namely, does he have chronic viral meningitis? But, no. I'm only the patient's father, not his doctor (although I have lanced his ears and pulled red string out of his nose). I'll have to wait. Monday morning, I'm calling. Jake convinced Karen to stay another night in Medford, so I'm ganz allein yet again. He's doing okay. No spinal headache, but his baseline headache is still there. If we come up with bupkes on the LP, I'm not sure what we'll do next. Perhaps we'll go down to the mecca (Stanford).
Menu for tomorrow: focaccia, oxtail stew (I make it with navy beans and smoked ham shank), and apple pie for dessert. I'm going to make a fairly standard bottom crust, but for the top I bought some puff pastry. It's high time I tried to figure out Marguerite Slater's* apple pie recipe. D. *According to Wikiquote, Geneen Roth is also responsible for "Be fully present for five minutes each day." There's something pathetic about that, don't you think? **My father's name is Arthur, nickname Archie, further shortened to Arch, transformed further still by my mother's thick Bostonian accent into Otch. ***Lance Henriksen's mother, and my surrogate mom during my first year at Berkeley. And if you're exceptionally nice to me, one day I'll tell you the story of how Lance reunited his mom and dad after they'd been divorced for umpteen years. You won't get that story on IMDB.


Blogger mm said...

Tell your dad Archie is not short for Arthur. Art is short for Arthur. (Archie is short for Archibald.)

What the hell is wrong with you Americans?!?

5/14/2005 03:50:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

That's my mom's sense of humor . . . perhaps also the humor of the guys my dad served with in WWII. I think they find the name 'Archibald' unbearably funny, hence the nickname 'Archie'.

The only thing wrong with Americans is the guy in the White House and the religious right-wing who got him there. My parents are neither. Sorry to get all political . . .

5/14/2005 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger mm said...

Don't worry Doug. We've put a few tools in office up here, too.

5/16/2005 08:48:00 AM  
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