Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the Muscle.

Welcome to the gun show, suckers.
Yesterday I was at the gym in the free weight area. I sort of hate working out in the free weight area because it's all big burly dudes … and me. I try to be as inconspicuous as possible and not make any eye contact with anyone, but still, I'm uncomfortable.

Fortunately, I usually get one of the benches on the end of the row. Yesterday was no different. I picked the bench on the end. I selected a couple of sets of weights and put them by the bench. I commenced doing my sets. I stand to do the bicep curls, lateral raises, shoulder presses, etc. I sit on the bench while I do the triceps extensions, bench presses, etc. I do push ups, squats and lunges on the floor next to the bench. I repeat this three times. You get the drift.

In no way am I any different than the long row of big guys doing their exercises next to and on their benches. And mind you, mixed among the big guys are also empty benches. So there I was, completely minding my own business, trying to get my three sets out of the way so I could get the hell out of the free weight area as fast as humanly possible because I'm not entirely comfortable there.

And then some dude walks up to me.

"Are you using this bench?" he points at the bench that I am standing next to, on top of which rest my weights and my warm-up jacket.

"Yes," I say and smile. He gives me a disgusted look.

"I mean, are you using it for anything other than putting your weights on?" he is snide and looks at me as if I'm some addle-minded chick who doesn't know what I'm doing. What the hell, I think. Can't he see how ripped I am?

"I'm doing presses on it!" I say and smile, even though inside I feel like ripping into to him. He gives me another disgusted look and then marches off to another area of the gym. I have no idea why he's so pissed and I have no idea why he asked me of all the people in the long row of benches. Was it because I was the only woman? And why didn't he simply go to one of the empty benches?

I continue doing my exercises, but while I do, I feel myself getting madder and madder. I feel regret at covering up my anger with false joviality and friendliness. I mean, I couldn't even be curt and short with this guy. I covered it up with a smile and a friendly tone of voice. I suddenly realize that I am angry at myself.

I'm mad at myself for being mad in the first place. Why do I have such big emotions over such small stuff? And then I get mad at myself for faking being pleasant and nice to this guy when clearly he's an asshole.

So I'm torn.

Should I have put this guy in his place and shown him that it's not nice to pick on the only girl? Should I have pointed out that there were other empty benches for him to use? Should I have not felt offended to be singled out like that in the first place?

I mean, maybe he's writing his own blog post right now about how some dumb chick wasn't even using her bench other than to put her weights on it and it was so rude of her not to let him use it. Maybe he didn't want to work amongst the big burly guys either?

I know there's always another side to things, another perspective. But I'm still pissed.

I asked my therapist about it and she pointed out that it's not a problem that I have these emotions. It's a problem that these emotions feel so big and that I feel the need to conceal them. So in that regard, this little incident is useful. It reminds me that I still have some work to do on Big Emotions.

I'm not a Buddha quite yet. At least not at the gym.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dreaming of Paris and the Life of an Artist.

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod.
I'm on vacation this week so I've read two books. Reading, when it's good, puts me in a dreamy state. Really good words put me in a trance and make me want to put my own words on paper.

The two books I've read are The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod. I'm a bit of a Francophile, if you didn't know. I took a good ten years of French between middle school, high school and college and I spent a summer in Paris as an exchange student. I've often fantasized about sitting in the caf├ęs of Paris and writing like Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. So you can imagine that reading two books about writers running off to Paris to live the life of artists has completely enamored me and made me fitful and dreamy.

I find it encouraging to remember that Hemingway worked tirelessly on his drafts. I also find it encouraging that he wrote entire novels that he didn't publish or that he started over and recreated from scratch. I'm a bit of a perfectionist myself and I feel relieved to see that you can be a perfectionist about your work and want it to be the best it can be. You can't trust anyone else's opinion about this. Right now I'm just laying down the first draft of my first book. I'm in the final quarter of the book and that really means nothing to me as far as when it will be finished. As soon as the first draft is done, that's when I'm going back to the beginning to revise, add in, delete and tear asunder. I want this book to be the best it can be. I can only tell this particular story once.

I also find it fascinating that The Sun Also Rises was basically the truth. It was Hemingway writing about an experience that he and his friends had in Spain, during the bullfighting season. He changed names and some details, but the heart of it was real. I debate doing that with my memoir. It seems fiction gives you so much more freedom. I've already changed all the names in my book. Why not call it fiction and give myself creative license to do what I want with it? It's tempting.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.
Hemingway and his first wife also threw caution to the wind and ran off to Paris with very little money and nothing real to believe in except his talent. They didn't have a score of published works to rest on. And in the same way, Janice MacLeod quit her advertising life and ran off to Paris to live the life of an artist. She was a bit more responsible in that she saved up for the trip, but she essentially did the same thing. Sold everything. Quit her job as an Associate Creative Director in an ad agency and took off for who knows what?

It's all damn inspiring. I don't know that I can quit my job and run off to Paris, of course. I've got two kids and a husband. My life is tied to Detroit. But hey, Detroit's the Paris of the Midwest, don't you know? Okay, stop laughing. But I can be an artist in Detroit. Hell, the town is full of hipsters and artists and a creative spirit. I can be a part of that. I can write anywhere.

But to do it. To really do it. That's what I admire in both Hemingway and MacLeod's lives. They really quit the rat race to focus on their art. MacLeod gives me an instruction guide to do this. What if I saved like crazy? What if I had $60,000 in my savings account to take a year or two off and focus on my writing? Bet I could do it.

MacLeod says it all began with cleaning out her underwear drawer. A small step. Getting rid of the pairs she didn't wear anymore. That led to getting rid of all the extra, all the waste, everything that was tying her down. She also stopped shopping and simplified her life radically so she could save money.

I want to go home and attack the linen closet/medicine closet in our upstairs hallway. I could start there. I want to stop shopping. I want to save and simplify. I can't necessarily quit my job and maybe I don't even need to. I'm not an ACD so I don't have the level of responsibility that MacLeod has. My life is a little simpler as a humble copywriter. I can do a lot with my time. My nights are mostly my own. I can tap away at the computer and write my book. I can save money so that if need be, I could quit. I can get rid of more and live more simply in order to create more room for the artist's life.

I'm inspired dammit.

What more could you ask for from a week's vacation and two books? I recommend all three.

Sweet freedom. Grace really knows how to live.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talk Constitution to Me, Baby.

Happy Valentine's Day to this guy.
My husband is a lawyer. He's also really smart. And hot. That whole combination makes me weak in the knees. Smart. Educated. Aggressive. Hoo boy. 

*Fans self*

Me, I'm not so aggressive. I'm sort of passive unless you go after someone I love. Then I can get all up in yo' face. But my preferred mode is conflict avoidance. My husband, on the other hand, is a conflict-embracer. At least when it comes to work. His style of arguing could be described as "Scorched Earth."

And I find it extremely attractive. He's like a cerebral gladiator. He often sends me his briefs or his motions or whatever other legalese he's been writing or fighting over. I don't know what they're called, but you get the idea. He's an excellent writer. He writes the most entertaining and succinct briefs. Sometimes they are poetry. Sometimes they cut through bullshit like a knife. And I love that. Of course he's never satisfied with them and that's why he'll find this whole post ridiculous and embarrassing.

But damn he's smart. And he's verbal. Did I mention that already? And he comes down like an axe on a felled tree when he's defending someone. It's his entire M.O. His raison d'etre. I suppose he felt unprotected and abused as a child so he has spent his entire adulthood and professional career protecting people who feel helpless and threatened. Some might say that a corporate litigator is not a protector. People are always joking about how evil lawyers are, but now that I'm married to one, I see it differently. If you think about it, he is protecting people who are risk of losing everything they've built. Their companies, their livelihood, their wealth. And he comes down like the angry hand of god and strikes fear and terror in the enemy.

And his clients love it. They feel protected by him, and I in turn, feel proud of the work he does. I write advertising slogans. I try to sell people stuff they don't need. Fred protects people and fights for them. And people make fun of lawyers? Jeez. There should really be way more copywriter jokes than lawyer jokes.

So you have me, the seemingly peaceable Buddhist, the conflict-avoiding gentle spirit. Him, the scorched earth spewing, rage inducing, verbally spry, argumentative fighter. In some ways we seem like we're opposites. But really, we're alike.

We both felt unprotected as children. While I sought out that protection from others, he became that protector himself. I know that for as long as I live, if anybody ever fucks with me, they will have the full fury of an angry, talented, smart, lawyer coming down on them with the full force of the law and a lifetime of pent up wrath over injustice.

He grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and he saw people who were helpless to defend themselves before the law. Now that he's on the side of the law, no one is going to abuse that power. It's funny to me, because he's a lawyer who hates cops. Despite his fancy education, he still carries the distrust of the po-po that he got from watching the police abuse that power in his neighborhood. Rather than feel cowed or frightened of power, he has seized it and he carries it around like Thor's hammer.

And I admire the hell out of him for it. I find people who defend the rights of the unprotected heroic. I find the guy who will stand up to the bullies admirable. I find him brave and strong. And so when he starts spouting off about the Constitution or some Supreme Court decision, I feel my neck get hot.

"Tell me more about the Bill of Rights," I say, my heart beating faster.

It's a lot like A Fish Called Wanda but with less foreign language and more constitutional law.

This is my way of saying, Happy Valentine's Day, baby. I feel protected and loved with you on my side. You're the best lawyer and the best husband I've ever had.