Some things stick to you the way the goodness of Martha Stewart’s golden caramels cling to all the tiny crevasses of your teeth (here’s the recipe; my peeps rave about them when I make them à la Marcus). And since discovering it years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice has stuck to me: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” It’s been a compelling call to action to rise up. [Read more…] about Will You Rise Up?
I wish you could have been there with me. But if you’re like most ‘normal’ people, you were probably still sleeping.
It was Saturday, 28 June 2019, and at 5:30 am I left my condo for my morning run. When I hit the Martin Goodman Trail, and even though the sun was on the rise, I could only see a couple of hundred yards ahead due to the thick fog. Running away from the downtown core towards the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, the view was spectacular. The fog blanketing the city rendered the CN Tower — all the buildings, actually — invisible. I usually run without stopping, but this time I planned to stop and capture the view. [Read more…] about After the Fall…
Catching a cold on New Year’s Day really bummed me out. Mostly because getting sick annoys me. The scratchy throat. The cough that feels like I’m about to, at any moment, bring up one of my lungs. Instead, it’s the clumpy, green mucus I hack up. The nasal congestion and my nose that becomes so raw from blowing it the skin peels off in my hand. The sleepless nights (because as soon as I lay down in bed, the cough that I thought had gone away reappears to keep me up all night). The lack of energy, which keeps me from writing and doing the things I love.
Oh, yes, Lord, I was sick and tired … and tired of being sick. Although it took me a few days to realize it, I ended throwing my own self-pity party. And that sent me spinning. I couldn’t really get myself moving. Not with my writing. Not with my running. Not with life in general. I felt like 2018 sucker punched me, like the joke was on me. Or I was the joke. I felt stuck, like I was moving nowhere fast.
Then something happened. Three things, actually.
The first occurred last night after I had read a few more chapters of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. From our very cluttered coffee table, I picked up Oprah Winfrey’s new book, The Wisdom of Sundays. Orpah’s first words of wisdom, just before the Introduction, instantly had me changing my thinking: “All of us are seeking the same thing. We share the desire to fulfill the highest, truest expression of ourselves as human beings.” That was when I realized I was in the throes of a woeful, and silly, self-pity party. That was a powerful moment when I realized I had to change, and that meant it was time to change my attitude.
The second change occurred when I got up this morning (Saturday, 13 January) and took myself to my favourite Second Cup location to write. I set to work on a new story, one I know will become a full-length novel (or novella at the least). There, holed up at my usual table in a corner of the café, my hand sped across the page (I still like to write my first drafts longhand) of my Moleskine notebook. I felt the energy, the exhilaration of beginning a new project and watching it unfold. It reminded me (and I needed reminding) of the thing I love to do most in life: write. I felt the restlessness beginning to ebb. I was finding my feet again.
The third shift occurred this afternoon on the way back from Loblaws. Driving home, the blinding afternoon sun had me eager to get out for a run. I saw several people outside running, braving the frigid temperatures (-21°C/-6°F with the wind chill), and I desperately wanted to be one of those people. Just getting over this cold, I knew that wasn’t a good idea. But an alternate solution was open to me, and that was head to the gym in my condo building and run on the treadmill. Not my favourite way to run, but it was a way to get me completely out of this funk. So, once the groceries were away, I changed and made my way to the gym. I ran for thirty minutes, and running brought clarity. I had gotten off track. I’d forgotten that all it takes to get moving — and to keep moving — is to write. Every day. That one act keeps me sane and happy and fulfilled. It is the truest expression of myself.
Feeling Like My Old Self Again
The sun has set. And there is, once again, a little bounce in my step. Actually, I feel quite energized, as if I’ve had too much caffeine. (In fact, I’ve almost completely eliminated caffeine from my diet; now I drink decaf 98% of the time.) When I’m writing and running — like I did today — there is a natural ebb and flow to life. Everything old seems new again. And my creativity spills over into other spheres of my life. Like in the kitchen. Tonight, I took great liberties with Max and Eli Sussman’s Shellfish Shells (from their cookbook, Classic Recipes for Modern People), making manicotti instead. And I switched out the canned tomatoes for fresh, which I think always add more depth and flavour to the sauce.
I am once again hopeful for the days ahead. And for that I can thank Oprah. In her book she writes: “I believe part of my calling on Earth is to help people connect to ideas that expand their vision of who they really are and all they can be.” Yes, with The Wisdom of Sundays, you’ve helped me see exactly that.
Where do you find yourself on your journey? Do you see who you really are and all you can be? What is your top goal for 2018? Let me know in the comment sections below.
P.S.: My top goal for 2018 is to publish my next novel, Freestyle Love, to rave reviews.
Whether it’s at Christmas or at any other time in the year, when I tell people I’m going to Port Colborne, the immediate question that follows is: where’s that? I tell them it’s not far from Niagara Falls and, unless they’re familiar with the area, they nod accordingly. It’s clear, though, by the stunned look still twisted into their faces that they really have no idea where it is. And that’s okay.
If I hadn’t met my partner, I wouldn’t have known where Port Colborne was on a map or that it even existed. It’s a city where, usually around major holidays like Christmas and schedule permitting, I get to escape the hustle and bustle of life in Toronto. It’d be unfair to say that there’s not a lot to do there. There are various events and activities throughout the year, and I’ve discovered Lucy’s Café — a wonderful Italian restaurant where the likes of Pierre Elliot Trudeau dined. But I don’t do much when I’m in Port Colborne. Not because I don’t want to, but because my partner and his family love routine. And heaven forbid anyone dares to break it.
So when I’m in Port Colborne (like I was over Christmas), it’s a time when I can disconnect from the world. My body decides to almost conk out. While I can never manage to nap in Toronto, there I spend the days trying to keep my eyes open. I’m convinced that, away from city life, my body tries to get me to slow down. And I resist at every turn.
But while I was in Port Colborne this last time, my body went into slow-mode. And I found myself thinking about the year that was.
The Year in Review
2017 was a big year for me. The journey was long, and at times uncertain, but a good year overall.
Actually, it’s been a phenomenal year as I ventured into the self-publishing world with the launch of The Flowers Need Watering back in February. Becoming an indie author, I’ve learned a lot about the self-publishing industry and myself. I know the journey is far from over. In fact, it’s only just begun.
With The Flowers Need Watering published, I then turned my attention to the rewrite of another novel-length manuscript, Freestyle Love (more on that below).
I tried hard in 2017 to do the things I love because, as Lauren Vanderkam reminded us, “When we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want, in the time we’ve got.” So I spent a lot of time honing my culinary skills, creating mouth-watering dishes for me and my partner to enjoy. Admittedly, my partner wasn’t too keen on everything I prepared, so I just started telling him it was chicken or beef. (Imagine, now, his unknown love for venison and bison!)
I also upped my running game — increasing my distance, improving my pace and running my first 10k race since 2010. While I didn’t achieve a personal best (I came close), I felt energized. I stayed active this year, running at least two times a week (often more). I kept pushing myself, and it paid off.
Yes, 2017 was a big year for me because I kept writing — despite the jet lag, despite the doubt that tried to silence me, despite when life interrupted. I wrote. Every day. And that proves that I’m still heeding the call of what it is I feel compelled to do.
2018: Looking Ahead to an Exciting Year
A ‘New’ Book: I’m gearing up for the rerelease of Freestyle Love, which was originally published in 2011. I learned a hard lesson with Freestyle Love, one that, thankfully, I wouldn’t repeat with The Flowers Need Watering: the importance of a professional editor. In reviewing the manuscript for The Flowers Need Watering, my editor hit on all the big-ticket items — character and plot development, structure, continuity, story arc, theme development, repetition and plot holes. He didn’t only point out what wasn’t working, but also what worked well. Through that process I realized something else. Maybe Freestyle Love, despite what I thought at the time, wasn’t my best effort. Now I knew I could do better. So I decided to try.
The release date for Freestyle Love has yet to be finalized, but I’ll keep you posted.
Twitter Fiction Tuesdays (#TwitFicTues): I’ll be continuing my popular Twitter Fiction Tuesdays series that explore the short story in 280 characters (or less). Join me Tuesdays at 12:00 pm (EST) by following me (@MMarcusALopes) on Twitter or by searching the hashtag #TwitFicTues.
Flash Fiction: In November, I began publishing short fiction pieces on my website. Appearing at least twice a month, these short fiction pieces make for a quick, intriguing read in 1,000 words or less. This series will relaunch in January. Stop by my website – www.marcuslopes.ca – to check them out.
A Final Note
As 2017 draws to a close, I want to thank you all for being a part of my creative journey. The road has not been easy, but I am grateful to you — everyone — who has supported and encouraged me along the way. I am where I am because of you, and I am eternally grateful.
Once again, thank you for being a part of my journey. From my house to yours, I wish you a Happy New Year filled with peace, joy, love and happiness!