Potential and Kinetic Energy: Onward In Power

Here we are, Day 30 of 30, woohoooooo! What a fun month of reflecting, learning, writing, and sharing! Looking back, I see about eight posts to revisit, ideas to flesh out and expand. I also see recurring themes stretching back to before this blog even started–funny how that always is–I am who I am!

I started this blog in 2015; my goal was to make it a year. After that, I’d decide if I wanted to keep it going. Wow. I love perusing the years and seeing which themes persist/repeat, which fade and re-emerge, and which evolve. And something new stirs now, from the 8th annual 30-day challenge.

After nine years of physical training for menopause preparedness, my vertical jump may be higher today than anytime since I was a student. My balance and core strength are definitely better. I know this because my hang time during burpees and single leg jump lunges feels exhilaratingly long. When I squat, on one leg or two, I feel the tension, strength, and stability in my quads and glutes. When I explode up and my toes leave the floor, it really feels like flying, even if for just a second. I feel confident and powerful, free, and also intentional and in control. I attend to position, landing softly, protecting knees and ankles from injury. I have focus.

The ideas that emerged this month, especiallly the eight, also feel strong and powerful. They have potential. They move. They are, in many ways, the culmination of 8 years–maybe a lifetime, actually–of reflecting, exploring, articulating, synthesizing, integrating, of continuous playing, learning, noodling, seeking. They feel at once like energy stored and released, self-propagating, renewable–light, heat, wind–all of it.

I have lived long enough and through enough challenges now to have pretty good perspective. Nothing stays the same for long; nothing is guaranteed. Hard things happen and I have no control. Worrying and ruminating waste precious time and energy, for no benefit. I can do hard things; I have skills and support. So now I can really, freely, revel in the awesome when I have it. And no matter what hard stuff is happening, I always have something awesome. That clarity shines like the brightest lighthouse from deep in my core, and it orients me–reliably, unassailably–in any storm.

Is this what happens in middle age? Consolidation and magnification, gathering for expansion, the existential equivalent of the strongest and funnest squat jump? If so, I’ll take it! Who knows what’s next, it could be anything! I am ready.

Onward, my friends, there is much work to do!

Taking Up More Space

Dillon Reservoir, Dillon, Colorado

Here in the last week of 30 daily posts, some themes have emerged. Liberated was initially intended as a description of growing more irreverent with age, and ‘the value of your opinion to me…’ was all I had to say about that. As I thought (and wrote) about what I really feel liberated to do and say at this age, it really did circle back to bolder bids for connection, especially at work, with patients.

Smooth With Edges also started out with more of a defiant, rebellious feeling. The meme about Hecate came across my FB feed and vibrated immediately with deep resonance–of holding divergent, soft and hard, smooth and edgy parts of myself together in harmony. I like that I’m playful, curious, lighthearted, and nerdy. I also see myself as strong, taller in personality than physical height, and a force to be reckoned with when needed. It was too much yet to try to express in prose, so I chose stanzas instead. It spilled out in seconds, and by the end was no longer about me, but about Daughter and every girl or woman who holds back any part of herself in any way, about my urgent desire for us all to shed our constraints and own our power in full.

One kid has cleared the launchpad; the other now readies in the hangar. For almost twenty years they have been the two foci of my elliptical life orbit. I have done nothing in all this time without considering and accommodating them first–waking hours, meal plans, social activities, vacation dates/locations, professional meetings and engagements. Mom liberation occurs in stages: from nursing, from carseats, from dependent cook, obligatory chauffeur. While both kids lived at home, simultaneous attunement and attachment to both was 24/7, the default. The center of my logistical world was always our house. I felt most secure when my two life hubs were home, my universe a tight sphere. Now one nucleus is flung 1700 miles away, and my heart space has expanded exponentially, in a familial big bang of sorts–and I celebrate it.

As the kids’ independence grows, I find myself with bandwidth reserves now available for other pursuits–my own. It’s not that I subsumed all of my own needs and priorities to the family, and some constraints were still very real. Sometimes now I feel like my lung capacity is bigger, my breaths deeper, my armspan longer. How fascinating.

Last year my 30 November posts were a consolidation, a legacy capsule series to reference when the primary source is deceased. This year, like Sven the sourdough starter, I rise. I expand, multiply, propagate–ideas, connections, reach. I get to play, noodle, experiment, riff–make more. How exciting!

Liberated, indeed.

We Should All Listen to Romance Novels

[Note: this post discusses only binary, cis-gender, heterosexual romance, as that is the genre I currently consume.]

Buckle up, friends, we are taking a ride!!

Okay so never in a million years would I have guessed or predicted that I would binge romance audiobooks, and yet here I am. I have finished 46 books in 8 weeks–omg that’s almost one a day, holy cow! And that does not count the ones I have repeated!

Every year I have a brief period when I get a little tired of intellectual non-fiction. Here in 2022 it happened about 3/4 of the way through A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Neil Gorsuch. I finished eventually, and highly recommend it–he reads it himself; you can kind of space out during the pedantic parts, and still get to know him (a little) and his jurisprudence (at least a little). I especially recommend it for my progressive friends; but that is for another post.

During these cerebral time-outs, I scroll around on my Audible account for fun books included in my membership. For whatever reason, The Fix-Up by Kendall Ryan caught my interest this time, and it all started there. “Every reader deserves a hot hero and a happy ending,” her website says. Hallelujah, I say!

One of my favorites, and my first recommendation to many friends–great reviews so far!
And Blakely’s novels are generally lighthearted and fun!

Around book #4 my book club met. I debated whether I should tell my new friends what I was doing (how fascinating)–I, the fiction shunner. Then, cosmically, one of them started talking about how she skips over the sexy parts in romance novels she reads, clearing the path for me to share–openly–because I most definitely do not skip the sexy parts! That night I learned a few things: 1. All of my book club friends have enjoyed romance novels; 2. A novel cannot be shelved as romance unless the ending is indeed ‘happy’; 3. There are ‘closed door’ romances, wherein sexual activity is implied, and ‘open door’ ones, which describe it all in detail (my books’ doors swing wide open). Since then, sharing with more and more friends, I have also learned: 4. Romance may be the best-selling book genre; 5. Almost all of my women friends have read them, but we don’t talk about it (still fascinating!); 6. Almost none of my friends can name any cis-het romances written by cis-het men; and 7. None of us know any such men who have read or would read romance.

“Brain Candy.” That’s how one of my friends describes it. It’s pure entertainment, total vicarious escapism. I agree! That’s why we seek it, no? How better and farther to get away from the mundane and stressful grind of responsible, daily adult life? That’s definitely what I wanted.

Finished all but Book 8; highly recommend–short, fun books that don’t take themselves too seriously.

It’s all so predictable and formulaic, which I love, because I can just relax and enjoy. The stories all follow roughly the same arc: Immediate attraction. Some obvious, primary barrier to togetherness (distance, prior relationship wounds, age gap, coworkers, some other made up reason). Supportive friends and family who “knew all along you two were meant for each other, duh.” By about 20-30 minutes left you’re home free, no more conflict, just happy ever after. I had never heard the word kismet before now, and it comes up everywhere in this genre. And there is an entire romance novel language–for body parts, sex acts, desire in all its forms! The best books hook you right away with witty banter, engaging premise, or just hot sex. My favorites have smart, sassy, free-spirited heroines, lots of cheeky dialogue, and fun plot twists.

All of these books are stand alone novels, and it’s also fun to read them in series. I loved this set, too.

These books have really refreshed my outlook on life and relationships–that was a total surprise! They remind me what it was like to be in love–that optimistic, impetuous, idealistic promise of a bright future, that whatever comes, we can face it together. It’s us against the world, baby! At book #29 I journaled notes for this post: “…stories that remind us of how we all want/long to love and be loved.” These 8 weeks of romance consumption have, remarkably, cracked the mortar of my cynical emotional turrets, and loosened some heavy armor I did not realize I had accumulated. Yahoooo!

Working my way through these (listening first to all of the ones read by Shane East).

I have shared these epiphanies with two male friends–dear brothers on the thoughtful, relational, self-reflective journey of life. They were so supportive and loving, listening as I marveled and waved my hands. Their eyes widened along with mine when we asked ourselves, what would it take for men to also be able to enjoy these fun, erotic stories that get us women so (energized), and then be able to share about it safely [insert gobsmacked emoji here]?

Because here is what I think makes these novels so important, and why we should all cosume them (I highly recommend listening, especially if they are read by Shane East):

Contemporary romance novels celebrate and validate, unequivocally and unapologetically, two things that our culture and society insidiously shame us for:

Women’s libido and erotic sexual desires

Men’s intrinsic need for deep emotional connection

They do this by writing from both partners’ perspectives, describing their honest emotions, inner conflicts, self-delusions, and fears. But since these books are mostly written by women and consumed by women (as far as I know–to my cis-het male readers–do you read [write!?] romance?), I wonder if the male characters I read resonate with men who read them? Hence my query for romance novels written and/or consumed by men…

And they exist, hooooraaaaaaayy!

Turns out, authors Leigh Greenwood, Jessica Blair, Emma Darcy and others are men writing under female pen names (huh–more to unpack there, eh?). Now I have to get my hands on their books–will I relate to their female characters? Many have also pointed me to Nicholas Sparks, so he’s on my list, too. And guys, there’s even an article that lists 7 romance novels to gently set you and your gender on the romance path! “The best thing about romance is that love is for everyone!” it proclaims, and I wholeheartedly agree! What will it take for you to dip (or dive) in? What’s the best thing that could happen?

So there you have it, my unexpected, uncharacteristic (or not?), utterly awesome and ongoing journey into romance audio novels. I’ve never consumed this many books in one year in my life, by a long shot, and I could not possibly be happier about it. Not sure when I’ll get back to the other stuff… (she smirks)