(Not) doing that thing you do

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I end up not doing the things I usually do. Things that I like, things that are good for me, like running, or reading, or playing the guitar, or cooking healthy food, or writing.

Sometimes, predictably, it spirals downward. I feel sad, or tired, or ill, and I don’t do the thing that I like that is good for me, and so I feel worse, and so I keep not doing it, and it goes on.

I have two lessons to take from this. The first is that in general, it’s better to suck it up and do the thing. This is admittedly not news to me, and can’t possibly be to anyone else, but I’m sure this isn’t the last time I’ll learn it.

The second is that there is more to a person than their hobbies, or goals, or successes or failures. I just told someone else this just the other day, but it’s a harder answer to accept than it is to give. Who am I, without the things that I do?


Feeling groovy


I first tried playing through the chords of some Simon and Garfunkel songs for the first time a few weeks ago, and it was total magic.

A wooden cassette rack lived in the hall outside my bedroom when I was a kid. I would sometimes peruse it, and occasionally take something from it. The Best of Sam Cooke, Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, Paul Simon’s Graceland, some Rolling Stones. Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits was one of these.

Hearing the familiar melodies fit together with the sounds of the guitar was, as I kept stopping to tell Brad, like, SO cool. 

I was particularly encouraged by The 59th Street Bridge Song, which is just C G D G over and over (and over) again. It made me think that maybe I’ll eventually be able to play songs as though they’re really songs, with notes that actually connect to each other.


While searching for chords, I ran across the Simon and Garfunkel section of Betty Lou’s Site for Guitar Underdogs. It’s beyond charming. Besides her very serious collection of guitar chords, she’s got some serious vintage styling, a transposer feature on each song page, and plenty of dog pictures.

2016 Running Goals Update: February


Knocked 25 seconds off my PB last Thursday with a 31:32 actual 5k. This was a challenging pace, but was not an all-out effort, which feels pretty cool to me.


Managed a 9:13 mile as part of a two-mile run last Monday, but haven’t tried a mile for time yet.

3. RUN 10 MILES.

I ran 8 miles with Steph on Saturday! It’s the farthest away from home I’ve ever been, Mr. Frodo I’ve ever run. I felt solid up through mile 6, which is the farthest I run on any kind of regular basis. After that I was just hanging on!


No progress here yet.


Nothing yet here either, but it’s light enough now that I can get in a couple miles after work!


I don’t play many games. I like the social atmosphere that springs up around board games like Settlers of Catan. Actually playing them, though, is my least favorite part. I don’t thrive on competition. I don’t enjoy trying to beat another player, or racing the clock, and I’d rather not have to fight anything. It doesn’t take long before I’m willing to make ridiculous trades just to get out of playing the game. I’ll give you one ore for two ore, okay?

I’ll admit that I do play games on my phone. Candy Crush is my constant waiting room companion, and I checked on my Neko Atsume – Kitty Collector cats obsessively through the winter. But many of my friends play games with purpose – the way I might sit down to read a book or watch a new episode of a TV show.

Somehow, though, I found myself lying in bed on Saturday evening, guiding a little band of refugees across beautiful, lonely fields of crystalline asteroids in Kiwanuka. At my request, my followers clambered onto one another’s shoulders, and hung on tight as I tipped them one way or another to make bridges.


I showed the game to Brad and he played with me through what turned out to be the last of 30 (!) levels. He looked at me and said, “You like these puzzle games, don’t you?”

Yeah, I guess I must, because soon I’d moved on to Monument Valley. I’m going to have to show you in pictures. It was more delightful than I can express in words, and I don’t want to ruin it for you if you decide to play it.

Playing these games felt indulgent, like I was “wasting” my time in these little made-up worlds. More than reading books, even though the books I read are usually also made-up. More so even than watching TV, because I’m usually also engaged with the real world – knitting, cooking, or cleaning.

At the same time, I felt challenged and satisfied by the puzzles, and delighted by the visual beauty of the games.

Do you play games? What do you like or dislike in a game? What are your favorites?

Ultra beginner

After years of thinking to myself “I’d really like to learn to play an instrument,” I finally said it out loud to Danielle a few days after New Year’s.

“What instrument?” she said.

“I don’t know, maybe guitar or something.”

“I’ll teach you guitar.”

She said it like it was nothing, but it wasn’t. She is a magical dreams-becoming-reality fairy. I said “UM, OKAY” and a week or so later she gave me my first lesson. She taught me how to play a D chord, a D4, and an A. I played them in the order that she told me to and suddenly I had played the beginning of “Free Fallin'” and I was so excited I cried just a little.

We had another lesson about a week later, where we worked on switching chords and strumming. She let me borrow her precious guitar baby and I practiced almost every night for about two weeks. I started trying to learn “Free Fallin'” with a G instead of a D4 and started working my way though the Guitar Noise tutorial for “Horse With No Name.”

I can’t remember another experience with learning that has been quite like this. There’s a huge gap between understanding what I’m supposed to do and actually being able to do it. Maybe learning to ride a bike was similar? It feels foreign to my adult self and I’m fascinated by it.

On Thursday, I returned Danielle’s guitar to her. I thought I’d wait until Saturday morning, but on Friday after work I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I headed down to Loud & Clear Music, where a nice guy named Memo showed me a bunch of guitars. He answered all my questions and volunteered lots of helpful information, and left me alone as needed to strum and compare. He also stood and stared at this guitar with me in total silence while I made faces at it for a thousand years. Then I said yes, okay, I’m buying this guitar.

🎸 😱 😻

I gave them an amount of money that is more than my current rent but less than my rent at my old house, and is comparable to what I would have to give my mechanic when something unfortunate has happened but things could still be much worse.

I felt a little queasy about spending so much on something that I really don’t need at all. When I got home I thought I might just turn right back around and return it, but I haven’t. I played around on it until I had to eat dinner, and then again until I went to bed.

And that’s where we are.


2016 Running Goals Update: Two Lessons

1. Run 5k in under 30 minutes

For about five minutes yesterday, I thought I had this one in the bag.

So close!

Is this thing working? It says my average pace was 9:48. That’s basically lightspeed. That’s the fastest I’ve ever run for three miles.

However… three miles does not a 5k make.

Lesson 1: Remember how long the distance you’re going for actually is.

I was pretty psyched until I realized that in my excitement I had forgotten how long 5k actually is. It’s not 3.01 miles, it’s 3.1.

After further consideration, I realized that even if I had kept going for another tenth of a mile and made the 5k distance, I might not have come in under 30 minutes. At a 9:48 average pace, I would have finished 5k in 30:27. I was definitely going faster towards the end, and maybe I could have kept that up… but maybe not.

But, that brings me to…

Lesson 2: Willpower is, um, like, pretty important.

I hadn’t thought about trying for this goal when I went out yesterday, but after the first half mile I realized I that was moving pretty quickly, and that it didn’t feel horrible. I kept it up for another half mile, and decided that I had already come this far and I should see if I could maintain the pace and make the goal time.

I got about another half mile in before it got rough. I kept up the pace, but it wasn’t pretty.

I don’t think it was really any easier yesterday than it would have been last week or the week before – but for some reason, I was willing to put in the effort and be uncomfortable for a while yesterday, and I hadn’t been before. That feels significant.

2016 Running Goals

I like to run. I’ll have plenty more to say about that, but for now, I present to you the only goals I’ve set for this year… and they’re all related to running.

1. Run 5k in under 30 minutes.

I think this is pretty realistic. Or at least, I think it’s pretty realistic until I try to run at a 10 minute pace for any length of time. The fastest 5k I’ve run in recent history was 31:57 on this past New Year’s Eve.

2. Run a mile in under 8:30.

The last single mile I ran for time was last May, and I did it in 9:03. That was the fastest since… what, middle school? We’ll see, this one feels like a reach.

3. Run 10 miles.

My longest run so far was 6.6 miles this past November. Gearing up for 8 miles with Steph on Saturday, though…

4. Try running before work.

I don’t even know how many times I’ve tried to make myself do this. It has never worked. The most recent occasion was Monday, but it turns out it’s still super dark in February at 6:20 and it was pouring rain and it was just not happening. Maybe this summer?

5. Run 5 days a week for one month.

I’m curious what running more often is like. I can tell you right now that this is absolutely not happening during the winter, but once it’s light out for longer and I can run after work, I think this is possible!