He Should Know

I couldn’t go to Easter church. My daughter had the vomits night before, so I stayed home that morning to make sure she was okay.

She was a subdued little one, so I went about my business that glorious sunshiny morning listening to my headphones. I’d been listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s recorded sermons.

From decades past, Martin Luther King preached the word.

His audience was mostly African American people, and in one of these sermons he was recounting things that people would say about African Americans. Judgments and slanders.

He recounted things that sounded to me like they might as well be ancient history. My reaction was “Really? People said that?” And not only did they say that, but in the 1960s apparently, people seemed to have believed it about themselves.

And as I listened to what felt like legends from the mists of time, I had a feeling that this was familiar.

It was 1787 that America passed the 3/5ths compromise, saying that the slave population-African Americans and some native Americans–would count in the census as 3/5ths of a person for calculating representation in congress.

Not only not a whole person, just a technicality.

This is a degrading and horrible law. It was also forever ago. But it casts a long shadow.

I’m not African American, but as a woman, I have some historical baggage that can weigh me down too.

I remember reading about the chivalric ideal of womanhood. A woman should never quite say what she wants to a man, but to cleverly put him off: always coy, always witty and never a person of action.

That shadows my life to this day. I heard it from people last week, reprimanding me for speaking too plainly in a meeting, recommending a course of action.

King Arthur was a myth from centuries ago, but this pernicious weed is still trying to climb my leg and trip me up.

When Dr. Martin Luther King listed a number of stories and expectations society had for the people in his audience I felt it. Those particular ones weren’t mine, but I’ve got my own.

Fears of how other people see me, and shame for who I think I might be.

Any group has their battles. Every group has their secret shames. It’s those shames that make us turn on others to distract from our own disgrace.

What good does it do to talk about it? It’s not fun to remember. And a solution, if there is one, is not easy.

But Martin Luther King did not leave me there. He knew how to preach. He gave me an answer to this situation.

“Love is the only creative, redemptive, transformative power in the universe.”

That’s the sort of answer a preacher would give. Not very scientific. Love is not so easy to nail down. Maybe that is why it can be so big.

Martin Luther King got it done. His life shows that he is someone I want to listen to. I do not understand all of it, but I believe that he knows more than I do.

So I know what creation, redemption and transformation is. That’s what I would like to do with those weeds of judgment. And if love is the force that activates those three things, I am willing to spend time and effort promoting love within myself.

The Power

It takes a trigger. Or a cue. Something that starts it.


And when that triggered action becomes part of our routine, we are two thirds of the way there.


If we get a reward for taking that action, a payoff that we look forward to getting


…We have all the elements of a habit.



I’ve been reading The Power of Habit.


I’ve often worked to engineer habits. As a child, I sucked my thumb…far longer than I should have.


Of course people made fun of me, but my thumb was my own business.


Until one day when I was seven I decided I would stop. Me and Mom crafted a plan. We got this bad-tasting concoction meant to help nail biters and decided to put it on my thumb. Then, in case I forgot and accidentally put my thumb in my mouth and had that awful taste, I would carry a water bottle so that I could get rid of the awful taste.


So prepared, I went to school with determination. And never sucked my thumb again. I didn’t need that water bottle. I never tasted the nasty tasting liquid.


Habit kicked.


New habits can be tougher. How do I START doing something I want to do? I’m trying to sustain a habit of tracking everything I eat. I track all the healthy things no problem. But the dips into the chip bag? Just for 3 chips? I don’t track those. I am working on this habit.


Habits of stopping, habits of starting, these are all mine.


But there are societal habits, too.


How can we change what everyone else does? Turns out there are a lot of people who work on that problem.


Their efforts hit us every day in the form of advertising.


But my favorite story is the one about housewives in world war two.


In the 1940s, housewives had a lot more responsibility than they do now. The basics were harder to come by. I could have dinner ready in seconds. But a 1940s grocery store gave foods requiring a lot more preparation. If you wanted hamburger you had to grind it yourself.


And that’s before we bring rationing into it.


America had to ship food over to feed all the soldiers, and not just the ones from America. We supplied food to our allies.


Rationing was part of the solution, but then also they wanted to use all parts of the meat animal. Like all the organ meats.


We couldn’t afford to throw it away anymore. So the government had to come up with a way to get people to eat what they never had before.


So they put out recipes and suggestions for working these meats into dishes that were already familiar. Like, add some liver to meatloaf. We like meatloaf, right?


It turns out there is a principle at. People like what’s familiar, and automatically reject what is different, So this war campaign, suggesting small adjustments, was super successful.


30% growth in eating organ meats happened during the war. And since people had gotten used to it, by the 1950s, the number had grown 50%.


Wrapping the new habit in our favorite old habits can work.


This is a principle I call sneaking up on myself. I will wrap up something I’m REALLY dreading into something ordinary. I know I get so much work done when I ride public transportation to work. It takes all the pressure off.


Picking the right habits sets me up. This book is making me want to take a habit inventory and upgrade a few.

The Plot

As I have been working on becoming a better writer, I’ve been looking at the basics of plots.

A good story has to have a good plot, so what is a good plot?

A few minutes on the Internet gave me the basics

It starts with leaving. You have to leave the normal world and go on a journey.

A Quest.

Or a flight. If we are fleeing, we are not really questing.

But a journey.

And, at the most basic level in the plot, that journey will lead the hero to a place of transformation.

Which means there is a new normal world.

As you see, I find it very easy to imagine reasons and details about leaving the normal and going on a journey.

But the transformation is hard.

And really, that sounds like a personal problem.

But it’s not just me! Transformation is hard, or it wouldn’t be the big payoff in the plot.

I suppose I’m not the only one trying to find an upgrade on normal.

In these stories, normal has to kick you out to get the upgrade. Maybe that’s the way transformation happens.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the transformation happened as easily as changing your bath towel? It would be nice if life’s upgrades happened that way.

But it wouldn’t make a very good story.

Here, Cinderella. You’ve always had a closet full of shoes. Pick any of them to go to the ball and don’t worry about staying up late.

No story here.

It’s human nature to want the transformation. Pretty much all the stories have it.

And it’s human nature to curse the stone–the boulder in our path and the pebble in our shoe.

But that’s the trade-off. No trouble, no transformation. We’re not meant to sit around being normal. Normal is always changing.

That’s what our stories warn us about.

Not the last time

we went to Santa Monica last weekend. Veronica has a gold colored velour dress


we we’re walking back to the hotel, and a young man yelled out to her” I like your gold dress”


she said “ thank you”


i said to chris, that’s the first time a man has yelled to her that she looks nice from a car. It won’t be the last.”

she said,” he was just saying I look nice.”


yes. But it won’t be the last

The end of effort

Monday Wednesday Friday

That’s when I go to the gym. But sometimes i don’t. I miss a day. But that’s the plan.

And when I go, I start with running. Running is important to me.

I was reading about how I might run better and faster, and learning about the maximum heart rate.

there is a formula: 220 minus your age and then you are supposed to keep your heart rate lower than 85% of the maximum

That formula says that my maximum heart rate is 175

But when I run, sometimes I have run so that my heart rate goes above 170.

Looking over these numbers, I am wondering what this all means.

What happens if I hit my maximum heart rate? That sounds like some kind of scary zone.

My watch monitors my heart rate while I’m running or I wouldn’t even know about this. I keep looking at it to see where I am in my exertion level.

In my mind, I imagine that I can run like the god Mercury, I can stride across the ground, with 7 league strides. Each step pushes my body off the ground and I bound forward weightlessly.

In my mind.

When I actually run, reality is involved. I think about my strides, wondering if they should be longer or quicker or both. I know that I am not weightless. I tilt my watch face up to catch how fast my heart is going. Slow down.

Stay moderate. Stay moving. Let the distance fall behind.

Once, on my run, I was caught behind a fast walker on the left and a slow runner on the right. I was not that much faster than the fast walkers, but I had to duck around and inbetween then and the slow running to travel and my pace.

I saw it coming. Remember? I’m not that fast. I had several paces to decide what to do.

I knew I’d been wanted to keep a moderately fast pace, but I had to get through this bottleneck.

I push down the balls of my feet and sped through. Doubling my pace and swooped around the walkers and past the runner and back into my usual groove.

That right there? that was a push. That was a reach deep for a bit more.

In that instant, I had the more.

I think the maximum heart rate is to tell me that there is a limit to the more. I cannot always burn the candle on both ends. There are times when there is not more to give.

And if I want to have that push in reserve, I better not run at 100%. Both running and other parts of my life.

There will always be that circumstance that take an extra something. I want to keep the extra in reserve, and know when to let it go when I don’t have it. There is a limit and it’s good to know what it is.

Not all of life has the metronome like my heart. But my wisdom and intuition can give that information, if I stay aware that it’s there.