A goal without a goal

When nothing has to mean anything, it feels like there are no limits. Would it be fun to run to the top of Arlington Heights? Would it be unbearable? Would I have to walk? How steep would it be, really? I used to look up at Gray Street from Pleasant Street, if I were ever running in that direction, and think to myself, “Nope.” From the bottom, Gray Street looks like a straight shot to the sky. You can’t see the top; you can barely see the top of the first huge rise (and there are three, of which the first is the smallest). Even in times of peak fitness, hills that steep used to scare me. On the many occasions that I’ve gone running in my parents’ neighborhood, in nearby Belmont, I’ve avoided Arlington Heights like it was Mordor. Heart rate cap or no heart rate cap, I have never been fit enough to approach those hills with anything resembling calm. It wasn’t that I was calm about them this time, either; they are objectively scary, and I knew there was no way they wouldn’t be challenging to climb. The feeling-in-chief, though, was one of curiosity. How was this going to go?

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Books are going back to the library, baby

I’m a little sheepish about the fact that I chipped away at John Le Carré’s A Perfect Spy for…let’s see…two months and even got 3/4 of the way to the end before throwing in the towel. I should have seen the signs much sooner that I was wasting my precious reading time with The English! The Americans (ugh, no class, those Americans)! The wives and their prattle! The Czechs! What’s the deal with Pym anyhow - is he running away because he’s sad about his father or because he’s been double-crossing the English and spying for the Czechs, or has be been double-crossing the Czechs the whole time, or is he really only loyal to the one Czech guy, the father-figure who loved him the way his asshole of a real father never could? Magnus Pym writes through all of this, addressing himself to his own son, but is he really a reliable narrator? WELL? IS HE?

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Go ahead and love something an embarrassing amount: the advice that isn't really about the advice

On Thursdays at 2:00 PM, it’s rare that I’m not staring at my phone, my podcast app open, waiting. Perchance even refreshing now and then. Thursday at 2:00 PM is when the latest episode of Mom And Dad Are Fighting drops, and as soon as I get to leave work for the day, my earbuds are in and the anticipation I feel is delicious. A whole hour - or close enough to it - of Mom and Dad awaits me, and for right now, all could not be more well. If I were to Marie Kondo (or is the verb KonMari? I forget, I’m at that much of a saturation point with this obsession) my phone and its contents, I would be unable to deny that Mom and Dad Are Fighting sparks a joy that I feel in my entire body.

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You nailed it. I said so.

My run coach asked me to guest-host today’s episode of her podcast, the Morning Mantra. This is her conduit to her athletes and to everyone who relies on her in some way for support, courage, love, and affirmation. She records it every day, which is nothing short of amazing. Recording yourself is really hard and triggering and cringe-inducing, and even on a technical level it takes some skill (note that you can hear the difference between my sound quality and hers when they’re spliced side by side), but she makes it seem easy. And though she is a really good run coach, and though most of her audience is composed of athletes, her podcast isn’t about running. As she likes to say, even the running we do isn’t really about the running. It’s about a need for something that’s usually much, much deeper.

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Letting my lizard brain drive the bus

The thing about racing a 5K is that it’s terrifying for a control freak like me. If I feel like I’m in control, I’m probably being too conservative. If I feel comfortable at any point, I’m probably not going fast enough. When I got to the start line on Super Sunday to race the 5K instead of the much more approachable 5-miler, I was about to test whether I really had what it took to let go and not grab on again.

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Go Ahead and Love Something an Embarrassing Amount: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in the age of the Male Glance

I finally managed to write a thing about what I consider the best show on TV right now. And I did it without spoilers! Even though it’s in its final season and it just keeps getting better, and even though I would love to write about what’s happening right now, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend had the goods starting with Season 1, Episode 1. It knew exactly what it was doing the whole time, and while we were busy laughing at its near-constant jokes, it was setting itself (and us) up to become a masterful exploration of mental illness and the damage people are coping with in their lives from a joyfully feminist perspective. It’s still really, really funny, too. But the point is, if you haven't seen the whole series, or any of the series, this essay was written for you.

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The post-Frozen utopia and the feelings it left behind

The Frozen aesthetic is powerful, and it should come as no surprise that Disney would package and sell its sparkly ice-castle exterior while conveniently ignoring its turbulent and emotional insides. Enter the sequels, the spin-offs, the Frozen expanded universe, courtesy of the Frozen industrial complex. Elsa and Anna having a carefree slumber party in Frozen: Ghost Hunt makes me think to myself, “do you people remember anything about the actual movie you made?” More likely, what you’re going to have is two women who will need some serious time to rebuild their relationship after a couple of decades of forced emotional distance! I mean, really! Before slumber parties, let’s see the one where Elsa and Anna go to family therapy, maybe. I don’t know how you package that and sell it to a three-year-old, but wouldn’t anyone like to try?

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Your kid is amazing

Yesterday afternoon on Slate’s parenting podcast Mom and Dad are Fighting (the “This Job Sucks” edition), panelists Allison Benedikt, Gabe Roth and Carvell Wallace responded to a question from a listener whose 11-year-old, a straight-A student, was not too interested in the kind of reading and writing they (the parent) wished he would cultivate. The question (which starts at the 30-minute mark) was, basically, how the parent could make the child a better writer or convince him to read more than just comic books. After the question had been read aloud, all three parent panelists let out a heavy sigh. It was Carvell’s response that implanted itself firmly in my brain and has not let me go: “Your kid is amazing,” he said. “And part of your job as a parent is to find the ways in which they are amazing, not to make them amazing according to your own definition of that. And that gets confusing, because there’s so much overlap between what we value and what our kids end up valuing that often times we can take that overlap and confuse it for some measure of influence over how they turn out to be amazing. … but that’s luck.”

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