Weeping In Seat 6D

you are an airplane II
Image by sternenrauschen via Flickr

Oh, my. I am so not fond of turbulence. Is anyone?

Came home this week to New York after a fantastic five days exploring Chicago, flying on small regional jet over the Great Lakes, a 90 minute journey. My flight there was easy and comfortable.

Not the return.

We were warned before takeoff it would be a rough flight, not just for some of it, but all of it. Gulp. When it’s that rough, whatever alcoholic consolation I might have chosen would have probably bathed me at some point. So I desisted and did a lot of deep breathing. I read every single word of the New York Times Book Review (even the kids’ books) to keep myself distracted.

Then I just lost it and started weeping, feeling like the biggest damn baby in the world. Some guy was snoring through it. The poor man in front of me turned around to see what was happening and I apologized. The steward asked if there was anything he could do. I apologized to him but said, truthfully, no.

The plane bucked like a bronco. There’s nothing you can do, so a control freak like me is not happy at such moments. I also know, thanks to a friend who’s a commercial pilot, that they almost always — domestically — have two or more choices of altitude to move into to avoid or at least minimize the chaos. But we didn’t, as the pilot regretfully informed us when we landed.

I was the last off, trying to gather my wits and get my pulse rate down. It was the second-worst experience I’ve had in the air — the longest I’d felt such turbulence was a 10-hour flight from Taipei to San Francisco in 1994. At hour five, the lane shook like mad for about an hour. Flight attendants were told to stay in their seats and not move.

That left me really rattled, which is tough given how much I love to travel to places very far away. All I can do when the plane starts shimmying is try to stay calm and know that pilots really are doing their very best to keep us all safe.

How about you?

Are you a brave bunny in the face of turbulence?

Or (cringes in embarrassment) a blubbering one?

Define “Successful”

The New York Times
Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

I found out this week that my new book won’t be getting a review from The New York Times. For ambitious writers, a review — even a crummy one — in the Times is a sure sign of success.

So, I’m disappointed.

But…maybe I dodged a bullet. Some of “Malled’s” reviews have been so vicious they’ve left me gasping.

And yet almost every day since it came out I’ve also been getting private emails from fellow workers in retail, like the one that arrived this morning asking: “Have you spent 23 years sitting on my shoulder?”

To know I’ve been able to tell a complex story well and to connect emotionally with readers is success for me.

I’ve been struggling for a while to write a guest post about “the writer’s life”. There are many!

The reason I can’t figure out what to say is that we all define success so differently.

I received an email this week from a young woman who described me as very successful. In many ways, on paper, that’s true; I’ve punched most of the standard tickets.

But how do I feel internally?

Hah!

Because “Malled” has gotten a ton of press attention, many people consider this success. But for a writer trying to find thousands of paying readers, it’s only one crucial piece of it…success is actually selling books.

Success, for me, is the ability to wake up in the morning and not worry about where the next set of bill payments is going to come from, and freelancing without any steady income means almost constant anxiety.

Getting a job doesn’t feel like it would solve the problem; my last staff job, from 2005-2006 at the New York Daily News, was a terrible fit and an extremely stressful experience. No job can be better than the wrong job. And at my age, in this hard-hit field, getting a staff job feels next to impossible.

Success to me, then, would mean freedom from financial anxiety.

For others, it’s another day simply being alive and/or healthy, or their child’s achievements or finding and keeping a partner or a home…

How about you?

How do you define it?

Have you achieved it?

Or is it…I suspect!…a constantly moving target?


Studies Find Exercise Calms You Down By Remodeling Your Brain

A woman on a treadmill (Original caption: &quo...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s probably no surprise to those of us who have been using exercise as our drug of choice since childhood, but recent studies, described in The New York Times Magazine, find that exercising consistently actually remodels the brain — and creates one, writes Gretchen Reynolds, that is “biochemically, molecularly calm.”

I’ve recently been unable to work out the ways I usually do — walking, playing softball, the treadmill and bike — due to a stress fracture in my left foot. So, for the first time in years, I went swimming instead. It’s been a really stressful time recently, with my partner wondering if he’d lose his newspaper job, so not exercising has been hell. I feel cooped up in the box of my own body. The water was blood-warm, the pool at mid-day uncrowded and, thanks to a glass wall and door, flooded with light. I felt redeemed.

Once more, thanks to moving and using my muscles and my skills, sweating and panting, I felt like me, because “me” is someone strong, active and flexible. Yup, I will be a lousy, grouchy old lady if I lose these gifts. Which is why I want to keep enjoying them every minute I now can.

The Times’ piece points out — if you’re new to the world of exercise/sports — it takes time for the brain to change, at least a month. Well worth it.