Doggedness, Stick-to-it-iveness and Perseverance

This is a crop from the same series as yesterday’s pic. I was trying to capture the glow of this color. As you can see, I got nice glow, and the background gravel is in perfect focus. Not so much the flowers. Always some new skill to work on.

Which keeps life interesting.

I’ve been buckling down since the Caribbean vacay, to take off the vacation-indulgence weight. Oh, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas indulgence weight. Yes, yes. I know it’s over halfway through May already. (Though, while we’re on the topic, how the HELL did THAT happen??) I got back on normal eating and exercising after the holidays, but never quite amped myself up to take it up that extra notch to really lose body fat.

So, I’ve added weightlifting back into the exercise routine and, this week, I took the added and dramatic step of not drinking wine.


Yes, you heard me right. No alcohol Monday through Thursday nights is the new rule. If you know anything about me, you understand how much this breaks my heart. But counting calories was just not quite doing it. I figured, if I cut out the wine four nights a week, that would be enough to change things.

It’s changed things all right.

My weight is going UP. I’ve gained almost THREE pounds since last Sunday!

I know, I know – it’s the whole gaining muscle and muscle is denser than fat thing. I am down just over two pounds of body fat. I try to focus on that part and not the climbing overall poundage. Intellectually I know the program is working the way it should, but the irrational part of me, the part who misses her goddam glass(es) of wine in the evening, is having a screaming tantrum.

I suppose that’s part of any progress in life – managing the sulky, indulgent part of ourselves and sticking to the plans we make. When we get rejections or difficult revision letters or sales below what we hoped, that’s the voice that whines that we’re not having FUN anymore.

There’s a story passed around among my mom’s friends from many years ago. They all decided to go on a bike ride. Believe me, this was not an athletic, outdoorsy group. But they got a wild hair and all saddled up their bikes. One gal even got one of those little bike-trailer dealies and put her three-year-old daughter, Betsy, in it. They rode up to Cherry Creek reservoir and back. This effort nearly killed them, particularly Betsy’s mom, what with pulling the bike trailer. So they collapse and hit the cocktails upon their return – much more in character for the group. (See? I come by it honestly.) Betsy, however, did not like this phase of the day. Scowling at the group, she declared “I *was* having fun, but I’m not having fun anymore!”

This became a mantra applicable to ever so many situations.

So, I try to find ways to soothe my Betsy. To promise her that fun will be had again. She doesn’t really care so much about my goals of fitness or writerly fame and fortune. She’s all about the right now. I try to remember that and make some time for the playing and fun, after the work is done.

There’s a place for that, too.

Is Suffering a Virtue?

We’ve been having an interesting conversation in the comments, and in other places, on my post the other day: Careless Conclusions About Genre Reading.

A number of people have mentioned that their culture’s “literary” fiction is depressing. And we’ve been tossing around the idea that literary fiction might be defined that way, as being about suffering. In some ways, this makes sense. The original essay’s author referred to it as “serious reading.” There’s a very strong idea that we gain virtue through suffering.

This concept is pervasive through many religions. In Catholicism, only the spirit matters, so the flesh should be mortified. Physical pleasure should be denied and pain sought out, to liberate the spirit from the flesh. Many oriental philosophies believe that only through pain and suffering do we grow. Pleasure puts us into a dreamy state while pain keeps us alert and aware. This kind of thinking is a part of many martial arts systems, as well. Islam is conducive to the creation of the suicide bomber because the body can be easily sacrificed for the delights of afterlife. Judaism has such a corner on suffering it’s become a stereotype.

Many religious rituals are based in creating pain – fasting, sacrifice, hours of prayer, even self-flagellation.

I think these sorts of ideas underlie the debates over “worthwhile” reading. Romance is all about love and finding happiness; therefore it’s not a weighty genre. Suffering and heartache are resolved with a happy ending, not the sacrifice of the physical self to gain enlightenment. In other kinds of genre literature, the character transformations are rarely about angst of the soul. (Although I think we could make good cases for this in many sci fi & fantasy books.)

I’ve bought into this from time to time in my life. Deliberately denied myself pleasurable things and caused myself various kinds of suffering and pain, to achieve various goals.

And you know what? I’m just not convinced.

I’m blessed with a pretty damn wonderful life. I live in a wealthy country, with access to state of the art health care, culture, food and freedom. I don’t have to worry about my village being raided by Mongols or the plagues warm weather will bring or whether the food supply will last through the winter. My concerns are minor and mostly things I choose to care about, as opposed to being life and death problems.

Which part of this am I not supposed to enjoy?

Sometimes I think just relishing all the wonderful things in life is enlightenment right there. Love, sex, music, food, the scent of flowers and the colors of the migrating birds, time spent talking to interesting people, practicing my art – all of it is so full, rich and rewarding.

It might not be a serious attitude, but then, I never claimed to be a saint.

Never really wanted to be one, in fact.

On that note, I hope you all have a fabulous and FUN weekend!