A literal literary finish line

I was just revisiting my Life List, and I realize that I’ve checked off quite a few items on it this year. Part of that was to be expected. I typed out the list this year, so several things were fresh in my mind because they were already in the works, and therefore I managed to not forget to include them. There are a great many of Life List items that I probably haven’t even dreamed up yet.

Still, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit, too, because of the freedom I’ve regained in my personal life in changing jobs eight months ago. Last night I was able to cross something off my Life List that may have seemed to many of you as a minor activity — one whose only roadblock was me deciding to do it and then doing it. Instead it was the equivalent of training for and medaling in the Olympic decathlon,** and crossing it off my Life List is the perfect little symbol of how different my life has become in a year, all wrapped up neatly in a bow. Or in this case a dust jacket.

Friends, I hosted a book club meeting.

My friend Stephanie invited me to hers for the first time about a year ago, and upon hearing the books they were discussing (Hunger Games, We Need to Talk About Kevin, etc.), my interest was completely piqued. But trying to be a part of a book club as a working sportswriter or doing anything that required some sort of regular, scheduled commitment is beyond what I would call a BAD IDEA. Take your mark, set …

1. 100m Dash Reading the assigned book on time
I absolutely love to read, but the time I found to do it was in fits and spurts, ie when the athletic teams I covered were in the midst of their two-week exam period or off for Christmas or their two-month summer break. Planning on finishing a book by a deadline any other time of the year would have been a recipe for failure.

2. Discus Throw Making myself free on the date of the meeting during which that book would be discussed.
I worked a lot of nights and weekends. Sure, I had random days off, and book club is never on Saturday or Sunday anyway, but one of Murphy’s laws for sportswriters is that the random day you have off during the week is never the random day all of your friends are available.

3. Pole Vault Making it to that meeting within a limited amount of lateness, or making it to the meeting at all
Inevitably, had I planned on attending a book club meeting in my old life, it would have been a time I was working a day shift (see above). Another of Murphy’s laws for sportswriters is that if you plan to do something after work, news will break while still at work, and you will remain at work for the rest of the day/night. Y’all, the number of holiday and birthday celebrations (my own included) which have been ruined for me because of this law number more than my fingers can count.

4. Javelin Throw Coordinating my schedule with the schedules of 12 other ladies in order to meet a second time
For one’s first attendance of book club, you have to show up when the existing members have planned to meet. Once you’ve attended one, you get to be in on the discussion of when to meet next. But of course your free time does not correspond at all with anyone else’s.

5. 400m Dash Repeating steps 1-4 enough times to earn status as a regular member of the book club
If you’re going to get to the point where it’s kosher for you to host, you’ve got to attend enough meetings to feel comfortable with the Modus operandi of hosting your book club comrades. Obviously, no one is going to turn down the wishes of someone who wants to host, but no one likes attending a meeting held at the home of someone who doesn’t know what the eff she’s doing.

6. 100m Hurdles Volunteering to host a largish gathering at my house
Ok, this one isn’t so much related to my old job as it is to my mild anxiety over hosting parties, alluded to but not totally explained here.

7. Long Jump Finding a time that both worked for me and a majority of the other members
Obviously related to No. 4, but of even greater importance. You have to find a time that is virtually foolproof in the face of your work schedule, and enough book club members have to be able attend at that time to make it worth scheduling the meeting.

8. Shot Put Finding enough time to plan and clean
During the sports seasons, you work a lot of overtime. When you are not working, nonessential chores and activities are eliminated. Essential chores and activities? Eating, sleeping and trying to maintain a somewhat functional relationship with your spouse.

9. High Jump Read book
I mean, the particular book club I joined won’t kick you out for not reading the book (and seriously, if you’re a part of one that would, I give you permission to quit). But not read the book that YOU selected and asked others to read (at least that’s how it works in our club)? Rude and a touch awk-ward.

10. 1500m Run Getting off work in time to be able to prepare for and actually host meeting
You can’t back out of the meeting that’s scheduled to happen at your place. And in the great world of sportswriting, news can break at any time. And, as Murphy the optimist knows so well, if you’ve got something scheduled, that’s the exact time news will break, thus rendering you unavailable to the world outside work.

If you’re a sportswriter, I’m sorry. Can’t be done, and don’t even fool yourself into thinking it could be but know that it’s amazing what not being on call 24/7/365 and getting most of your work done during daylight hours can mean for your personal life.

I feel like I’ve bitched a little too much about my former life lately. The lack of freedom to plan my personal life at best was something that was just my way of life and something I put my head down and dealt with. At worse, it had me in tears many times because it forced me to ignore my family when they were around, skip gatherings of friends or make me ridiculously late to my own birthday dinner. The things I say about it all now are all the things I wanted to say during the worst of times but couldn’t say because it would have been inappropriate to reveal the private nature of my very public job.

As much as it may not seem, I’m over the hard feelings caused by the lack of freedom. What those feelings do for me now is inform how I spend my free time. I choose to make commitments to my friends often, and I do everything in my power to uphold those commitments. And then I thank God every single day for the opportunity to finally do both of those things … and for the laughter and friendship of book club.

**Because this is The Modern Gal, in this case we’re talking about the women’s version of the decathlon.
***Books read since committing to book club: Gone Girl, Wild, Brothel, The Boy in the Suitcase and The Fault in Our Stars. Feel free to discuss any in the comments. I will gladly respond with my own feelings as I have strong ones about each one.

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3 Responses to A literal literary finish line

  1. sizzle says:

    How did you like Wild and The Fault in Our Stars? I read Gone Girl during my honeymoon and it was a good pool-side book. I never liked any of the characters in it though which is odd for me.

    • I LOVED both Wild and The Fault in Our Stars. Wild is a good read if you like crazy, free-spirited women trying to find themselves — not everyone in our group loved it because they didn’t like the author, but I did. The Fault in Our Stars will make you cry so hard, but it’s worth every tear shed — and that was the unanimous feeling about it.

      I had been so excited to read Gone Girl, but it disappointed me. Like you, I couldn’t stand either character, and I thought the bait-and-switch bit was cheap and obnoxious.

  2. Pattie says:

    Glad to hear it’s not just me who’s not crazy about Gone Girl. I’ve been trying for at least a month now to read it, and I’ve only managed to get five pages in! (I’m glad for the other books I’m currently reading.) Thanks for the recs for Wild and The Fault in Our Stars. Surely they’ll be easier for me to get into than Gone Girl.

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