Readers Write: “Endurance”

Ruby_Sun

☀️Good News Alert!☀️ A piece I submitted is included in The Sun magazine’s Readers Write section (Sept issue)! Readers Write is perhaps my favorite feature in The Sun. This year I challenged myself to submit something every month and had to chuckle at the cosmic timing: I received word about being included on the topic “Endurance” just days after I ran my latest marathon.

Running has taught me a lot about myself. I can see directly how early experiences of confidence in running have catapulted me to where I am now, personally, physically and creatively. Here are the medals I’ve received from running full and half marathons (and one ultra marathon!), and, perhaps most special of all, the one from the first 5K I ever ran in 2013. Never dreamed I would be this person, but here we are.

Medals
More so than endurance running, this piece describes the dynamics I endured in my last relationship — one with a verbally and emotionally abusive man. Most of my friends had no idea the degree to which this was happening, mostly because I was embarrassed to tell them (file under: signs you’re in a toxic relationship). The piece describes merely the quaint tip of the iceberg of what it was like to be with him. I remember viscerally the internal conflict I felt between my self-worth wanting me to stand up to his bullying and the inherited lifetimes of conditioning telling me to stay quiet and small. These days I am stronger and have more tools but this is still a work in progress for me.

Pain that is not transformed is transmitted. No one is immune from this. Today I am speaking directly to my cis male friends: Men who have not healed their own trauma cause harm to others. FULL STOP. That harm has a daily impact on womxn, children, folks with marginalized identities. Harm takes MANY forms. Even good guys cause harm. Men, if someone tells you that you are causing harm, literally the least you can do is listen. If you had any idea of the infinite ways womxn twist and bend themselves to prioritize your comfort, it would/should make your heads explode. Centering men’s comfort has been a survival skill for generations. We need your help to disrupt this.

Here is the piece. Thank you for reading!

Sun_Endurance 1Sun_Endurance 2

Running Toward Creativity

Originally published on Artist Soapbox on 28 January 2019

Greetings, Soapboxers!

This morning I ran a 14-mile trail race at Little River Regional Park in Durham. Running is one of the primary ways I connect with my body and is a huge resource for me. Trail running, though, requires an entirely different set of tactics. Sure, running is the common denominator, but you use different shoes, different muscles, a different gait, and a different mindset as you’re constantly negotiating rocks and tree roots and mud. These obstacles are often cleverly hidden under a carpet of leaves and pine needles. There are switchbacks and river crossings. You might fall. You probably will fall. You will most certainly get dirty.

Which brings me here. To how I’m feeling about creativity at this point in 2019. I’m on the trail. And I’m loving it.

When I’m running I don’t compare. I run my own race. Simply showing up and finishing is a victory. If other people ran faster or slower, that’s irrelevant to me. I’m also not comparing present-moment me with any other version of me. Am I in better or worse shape than I was last year? Irrelevant. I’m here today and I’m doing this thing. This serves as a good reminder for my creativity when I notice other people putting their work out into the world. Art is not a competition. Other people’s success is not my failure. I can cheer them on — and I can cheer myself on — without comparison.

About halfway through today’s race, the crowd had thinned so much that I couldn’t see any runners in front of me or behind me. I’m not a seasoned trail runner, and at times the path was very difficult to discern. In those moments, a voice came into my head. It said, “Slow down. Take the next obvious step.” In my creative pursuits, I often feel out of my depth with no clear path forward. Then Anxious Brain shows up and wants to skip to the inevitable embarrassing disaster at the end (not inevitable, but Anxious Brain hasn’t learned that). Today though, I was in the middle of the literal woods with absolutely no idea where I was. But I didn’t panic. I wasn’t lost. There was a path. Faint as it may have been. All it took was a moment of shifting my awareness… and I was back at it. Taking the next obvious step and the step after that and on and on until the finish line. I’ll remember that when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the task in front of me. Break it down and just focus on the next step.

Those miles spent running by myself also made me think of the solitary nature of creativity. Whether it’s writing, doing research, practicing music, or learning lines, much of my creative work is done in solitude. Even though I am often by myself, I know I’m never alone. We’re fortunate to have such a supportive creative community here in the Triangle. If I need some encouragement, it’s always close at hand. Just like the person on the trail today who emanated seemingly from nowhere to play music on a plastic recorder as a way of supporting the runners. He gave me a boost when I needed one. Bonus points for being random and delightfully weird.

A few months ago, I shared my latest battle with my creative frenemy, perfectionism. At that time, my approach to writing felt like using tweezers to build a sandcastle when I thought I should be slopping around buckets of sand. At that time, that’s what I was working with and my only way forward was to accept it and keep showing up anyway.

Today, I drove home covered in actual mud with a smile on my face. This is the energy I want to carry into my creative pursuits this year. So many things are coming up that I look forward to sharing with you over the next few months. I can honestly say I have no idea how any of it will go, but I’m embracing that. I’m on the trail.

‘Til next time!

MT