In 2017, I hung out my shingle as a content creator and digital strategist. I’ve done everything from newsletters to thought-leadership articles — and tons of social media promotions for trade shows and industry events. It’s been a fun ride. And still is.
After a long day of lounging in my home office and staring at my back as I wrote prose that could ONLY become award-winning marketing content, my 13-year-old Sheltie was eager to get out and about. Mostly about, not just out. We can let him outside into the almost-junglelike backyard that has plenty of room to move and a vast underbrush to explore, and he could not be more bored. Rather, he prefers to traverse the neighborhood at a nearly glacial pace, sniffing every perpendicular structure along the way.
I once saw a dog documentary that featured a dog behaviorist who likened dogs walking and sniffing to humans logging into Facebook: Sniff. I’m here. Sniff. Pee. I like this. Sniff. I like that. Longer pee. I’m here again. Little pee. Hello. Sniff, raise leg. HBD. Sniff. Pee. Love this! Sniff.
But I digress, as all writers write when they have no other transitional sentence.
This afternoon, I was also eager to get out of the house. My afternoon fatigue — self-inflicted from a long night of scrolling through Instagram and researching idiot causes of iPhone-induced insomnia — had come perilously close to derailing a writing project I had labored over for three hours. My phone reported a frigid 49 degrees out, which meant leaving my balmy home office of 70 degrees. Naturally, I had to bundle up as though we were about to trek the arctic tundra: two coats, texting mittens and overpriced sunglasses bought a lifetime ago that would surely protect against the blinding-white glare of the winter sun.
We walked our usual route, careful not to poop or step on a neighbor’s fresh-laid cement. When we came to our usual turning point, I decided to soldier on. The sun was dipping behind the trees. The sky was pretty. We hadn’t walked on this street in a while; it would be nice to see the neighbors’ Christmas lights.
Up and down we went, one hill after another. I wasn’t nearly as short of breath as I had anticipated, and my sweet, geriatric dog trotted along happily, with surprisingly more energy than much-younger dogs. Our neighborhood is called “the Hills” for a reason: There are hills. Large and small. Formidable and sometimes unforgiving. Cross-country teams and running clubs train here. In another life, not terribly long ago, so did I. That is, if what you call what I used to do “training,” which I don’t. I just ran; some years, I ran daily.
When I finally figured out how to run on my terms and for me — not anyone else — running became really fun. Running became a passion.
I ran a few races here and there early on in my Middle-Age Discovery of Running™ — which, according to some unnamed historians, I was the VERY FIRST woman ever to embark upon such an honorable midlife mission. I tried training plans, but they didn’t hold my interest. I was a simple runner. Every time I ran, I wanted to run better than the last run, no matter whether it was distance, speed or time. Just better. What exactly defined “better” varied from day to day. Years-long story short: When I finally figured out how to run on my terms and for me — not anyone else — running became really fun. Running became a passion.
And then one day the love affair was over.
It wasn’t a quick death. Quitting something you love rarely is. In this case, it was more like a drawn-out divorce that no one wanted.
Don’t get me wrong: Dog walks aren’t bad; they just don’t provide the flush and rush of endorphins that running offers.
I don’t believe anyone ever intentionally gives up running without physical cause. Most of the time, and this was certainly my case, life gets in the way. A thankless, bullshit job with long hours takes over. No time for a four-miler? You try to squeeze in a short jog instead. You can kid yourself for a while, but it’s not the same. Eventually that jog becomes a walk. Then the walk gets shorter, and then finally, all you’re left with is stroll-and-sniff Doggie Facebook Walks™. Don’t get me wrong: Dog walks aren’t bad; they just don’t provide the flush and rush of endorphins that running offers.
Today on our walk, as the sun slipped away, streaking the sky with dazzling corals and blazing pinks, I noticed all the things I would know now if I were still running. We have a lot of new neighbors. The house on the corner is doing something new with their lights this year. Bold move. I wonder if they’ll get a ticket for that. That fluffy dog in the third cul-de-sac is new! And really loud. He’s big, but I think he’s a puppy. Little kids seem to live at this other house now. Let’s step over this pink scooter, and move it off the sidewalk, along with this tiny bike. It seems a lot of the houses have growing families, alive with little ones eager for a visit from the Jolly Ole Elf. “This way, Santa!” a homemade sign reads.
Up and down, up and down, the sidewalk of my neighborhood led us past one lovely surprise after another. There was a time when I knew every slab and joint of concrete, and every crack, crevice and dip that could twist an ankle. In spring, I knew which streets had the prettiest flowers. Ooh, I can grow that! No, no, you can’t. In summer, I knew which ones had the best shadows. I’m BURNING! In fall, I knew which street had the most dangerous acorns. NOT TODAY, NUTS OF SATAN!
And in winter, like today, I knew when it was 4:30 by the way the shadows fell, a backdrop for the twinkle of holiday lights, a quiet prelude to the Mumfords’ soaring horns and harmonies that would propel us up the Last Big Hill™ home.
Maybe I’ll know all this again one day and more.
I really loved yesterday’s Google doodle. I wish I still wrote about them from time to time.
Today’s Google doodle is an enchanting salute to astronaut Sally Ride. Animator Oliva Huynh explains how she did it in a behind-the-scenes video.
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about AMC’s Breaking Bad. To say I love it is an understatement. The show was genius on every level, and I don’t believe I’ll ever know television that great ever again.
When it ended, I was among the thousands of fans who were sad and joyous to see it go, concluding exactly the way it should have. A show that good couldn’t live forever without endangering the integrity of the story and the characters. TV has a cringeworthy history of great shows gone wrong because the networks tried to keep them alive. I could not watch this story go on longer than it needed to, and I also knew Vince Gilligan wouldn’t let it.
‘All the days became so long,
Did you really think I’d do you wrong?’
Another reason I was glad to see it end was because I was too involved with the characters. I cried for Hank on the way to work one day — in an off cycle. I called Trey, sobbing: “I’m a hot mess! I’m really scared for Hank this next season!” (We know now that I had reason to be, so I’m not completely crazy.) I also dreamed about the show. During the second part of the final season, I dreamt on a couple of occasions that I had to write the series finale against some crazy-impossible deadline — as the Nazis were on the way to our house. Although this sounds ridiculous in the light of day, as I type this, I remember so many details of that the dream, but mostly I remember how terrifying it was. I can sometimes talk myself out of a nightmare, but I wasn’t able to in this case. (“This is just a dream, this is just a dream, you’ll wake up soon … Oh, my God, no it’s not! THEY’RE COMING!”)
Vince Gilligan’s Nazis invaded my dreams. I’d like to chalk that up to a simple case of fangirldom, but that’s not it: The character development on Breaking Bad was simply that good. The Nazis terrified me just as much as the other characters engaged me. We fell in and out of love with the core characters, just as we do with the people who come and go in our lives. We came to enjoy that uncertainty, never knowing how we would feel about a character from one season to the next. Now, as I rewatch earlier episodes, the ones when Walt was much more likable, I’m angry at his character because I know the destructive path he will pave with his hubris, and I mourn his future casualties. When I watch Hank make one awful joke after the other and suffer paralyzing panic attacks, I’m sad for the jocular boob. He’s the hero I didn’t see coming — the one I didn’t want to lose, even though I knew he had to go.
These are two meager examples of how deeply invested I was in these characters. When I heard rumors of a prequel, based on Saul Goodman’s character, I thought it was a lie. Or a carefully crafted PR stunt by the studio to build interest in the second half of the final season. As it became more evident there was such a show in development, I didn’t believe and didn’t want to.
And then came the trailers. And the gushing critiques. And now I’m watching it with bated breath, reminding myself that the writers don’t want this to suck anymore than I do. I’m also reminding myself that even before the news of the new series that Trey and I would consult IMDB and then watch all the Breaking Bad episodes that have Saul in them. That’s investment in a character — a character you want to know for a long time.
I’m glad to meet him again.