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Amateurs Wanted

I started running regularly seven years ago. A mile, a few times a week. I stayed with it, until I was doing a ten-mile run every week, and I considered a four- or five-mile run average, and a three-mile run a break.

Today, I still run regularly, and my average distance is three miles. Sometimes, I run a mile and a half, occasionally just a mile. And yesterday I ran four, and am thinking of ramping back up to longer distances again.

My running life ebbs and flows, and always will, because I am a confirmed amateur runner, with no professional ambitions.

In other words, I run because I love it. (“Amateur” comes from the Latin “amator,” meaning “lover.”)

These days, “amateur” is often used and felt as a negative word, and few of us want to be considered amateurs. If you are going to run, get yourself in training for a marathon – or at least a half – and get on with it. Fancy yourself a writer? Start a blog and begin your e-book, ramp up your social media image and build your e-mail newsletter list.

My eight-year-old son is a runner, but he’s not serious about it. He loves it so much that every day he takes off running, if not outside, back and forth on the sidewalk, then inside, back and forth in the living room. Back and forth and back and forth. And if I ask him to stop, he says, “I just can’t! I’ve got to run!”

My eleven-year-old daughter is a writer, and she too is not serious about it. She’s an amateur. She loves it. She has started several stories, and she regularly grabs her notebook and pen, curls up in a corner or if the weather is good, climbs up in the maple tree in the front yard, and writes.

Neither of my children are thinking about measurements or outcomes when they do these things they love. They just do them, no Nike needed.

As adults, we have this idea that if we want to start something, we need to take it seriously, and we need to excel at it. And there’s something to that. That’s part of growing up and making something of your life.

But after you’ve identified the things you want to take seriously, there should still be room to try something new, or do something for fun. And even with the life pursuits we are most focused and serious about, love and play still have their place.

I’d wager that the best professionals are still and always, at their core, amateurs in that field. Love of something drives us to work hard, learn and practice and fail and get up and do it again. Without that basic fuel of love energizing it, ambition can go corrupt in all sorts of ways.

Go amateur. Do something you love.

In the soundless depths before dawn
you are with me.
You are not only in the lightening of the sky
but also in the embracing dark of this room.
I wait for you
with you
and the morning
like the night
is faithful.

^What I wrote this morning,
and then
what I read:

“To preserve the silence within – amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness, where the rain falls and the grain ripens – no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.”

And also this:

“Is your disgust at your emptiness to be the only life with which you fill it?”

^Both quotations from Markings by Dag Hammarskjold

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The names of the nine victims in Charleston, source – The Post and Courier newspaper.
Title of this post is a line from U2’s song “Peace on Earth.”

It’s been a rough few weeks of gray and rain here in usually-sunny Colorado. But I am happy to report that I will be playing out tomorrow night. I’ve even got a couple brand new songs to play!

The show will be 7:30-9:00 pm on Friday May 22nd at Starry Night Espresso Cafe, 112 S. College Ave in Fort Collins. (www.cafestarrynight.com)

I graduated from Bethel University (then Bethel College) after transferring there for my last three semesters. While I disagree with the institution’s corporate stance on homosexuality, this article from the student newspaper gives me hope that thoughtfulness, compassion, courage, and grace will move the conversation – and policy – forward in a way that supports and encourages everyone, including LGBTQ people who find themselves at Bethel.

(Full link: https://medium.com/the-clarion/being-gay-at-bethel-7ba07c8e5b9)

I cried on Mother’s Day this year, and you are allowed to laugh at me. Because I did, afterwards.

Many women have experienced miscarriage, infertility, death of a child, and other such tragic and justified reasons for crying on Mother’s Day, but this wasn’t my reason.

There are other women (like me at one time) who are childless by choice, and happy with their choice, and yet may feel pressure or disapproval or just plain awkwardness from friends and family when Mother’s Day rolls around. Also not my reason yesterday.

And other people who have unfavorable memories of their own mothers – or none at all – and don’t necessarily welcome a special day for therapeutic purposes. My memories of my own mother are an embarrassment of riches, so I can’t claim this reason either.

No, mine was much less significant, but I’d wager it’s not so uncommon. My reason was expectations, and by now, I can see this problem coming a month away from any big day. Besides Mother’s Day, I have cried on my birthday (and not because I felt old at the time), my wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. And these are only the particular holidays on which I can actually remember a specific cry-fest.

This year, the first blow to the dam of my tears was my son Silas getting the first plate of pancakes, and no one noticed! On Mother’s Day! But I nobly said nothing and continued drinking my coffee.

I won’t recite the litany of offenses. It included a grumpy big sister and an annoying little brother constantly picking at one another, and ended with father and daughter in a parent-preteen standoff about her attitude, which is terribly tiresome to conduct as a parent and infinitely more tiresome to hear as a bystander. On Mother’s Day! How could they?!

My coffee was unfinished and still hot, but I couldn’t take it any more. “I’m going for a walk,” I tearfully choked out. Laced my shoes, slammed the screen door. Pulled up my jacket hood, loped around the neighborhood and cried quietly.

The nerve of my family, to ruin my special day! Other families, my Facebook feed had cheerfully informed me, were giving their mothers breakfast in bed. Other children were probably hugging one another as they danced around their beloved mother, other husbands probably regaling her with chocolate and roses and loving words about her tireless devotion etc.

After I had my little cry, I began to notice people. An old woman walking a tiny dog, alone. A middle-aged woman whose face tightened with a manufactured grin as she greeted me with an obligatory good morning. I began to think about people who don’t have families, or aren’t on good terms with their families; and my inconsiderate, arguing mess of a family at home began to look like a little slice of heaven.

There they all were, together, a day off of work and school, and I could be with them too! And Nathan had cooked pancakes for all of us! And my children had made and written special things for me – and the day was only beginning!

At home, I found father and daughter tenderly talking things through. Hugs and apologies followed all around.

But one of the apologies I refuted. Luthien said, “I’m sorry I ruined Mother’s Day for you, Mom.”

I told her nothing was ruined, and then I suggested we just forget about Mother’s Day and enjoy our Sunday together. Which is what we did.

Which – as could be expected – included more moments of aggressive sibling relations and parental impatience. But also – as could be expected (if only a person remembers to look) – scintillated with beauty, love, delight, and joy.

treasured gifts from my children

treasured gifts from my children

 

 

When Abraham Lincoln was in his late thirties, he revisited his childhood home, and wrote a poem about it. Though the American Civil War and his own early death were still years into his future, the poem he wrote in 1846 feels like a fitting backdrop for many of the Civil War photos I came across while making this video.

The song is also on my Soundcloud page, where you can download it for free: https://soundcloud.com/julia-tindall-bloom/my-childhood-home-i-see-again

 

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