What to Do When You Crash and Burn

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On New’s Year Eve, I crashed and burned so hard that I am still recovering here at the end of January.

It all started out so well.

My son and I were at First Night in Tacoma. December 31st was the kind of cold that made everything hurt from the tips of my nose to the 4th chamber of my heart even when wearing a fluffy coat, gloves, and a hat. It was clear, it was crisp, and the frigid air made Quinton and me want to race to the next indoor place.

So we did.

We ran from the Tacoma Art Museum (which has very little for 5 year olds to do), hoping to get to the Washington State History Museum before we iced up like Anna in that climactic scene of Frozen. We held hands smiling and laughing as we zipped along toward a group of boring people walking calmly up ahead. It was one of the high points of 2015, and I knew I would remember the moment long after Quinton grew into a young man.

Then the tree root under the pavement happened. 

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Scene of the crash along with the guilty tree

Before we made it to Union Station, Quinton tripped and swung around in front of me. It was all I could do not to squash him flat onto the concrete.

We lay there stunned until Quinton began to sob.

“It’s a bad one, Mom,” he said holding his eye.

I felt like I’d done the splits without warming up after about 15 years since my last successful attempt.

I knelt on the icy pavement, holding him as the boring but uninjured people walked by while asking if we were okay.

I nodded. Quinton sobbed a little louder.

The night slowed down after that. We hobbled to the history museum, only to find it was not ‘participating’ in First Night.

Then we made it to Harmon’s Restaurant and drowned our sorrows in a big plate of fries.

Quinton’s eye healed in a few days. I’m still doing physical therapy for my hip and it’s slowly getting better.

But you know what?

It was worth it. 

That moment running down the sidewalk when 2016 was right out in front of us while my son raced with me to meet it will stick in my mind.

Maybe that initial joy will stand out more because of the freezing cold, the crash, and the burn of the pain.

I would do it all again.

(Okay, maybe next time I would avoid the tree root.)

In fact, the writing projects I’m in right now have great potential for pain and loss. Still, I plan to keep running down the creative pavement because I feel as alive as a five year old on a cold clear night when I do. 

May you all know great highs and console one another over french fries when it all falls apart like it sometimes does-

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Epic Fail Part One: The Gift of the Seahawks After the Loss

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My first column in The News Tribune ran last week. In it, I talked about my admiration for Pete Carroll and his leadership of the Seattle Seahawks. After reading it, several people I knew (and many I didn’t) sent me emails telling me how much they liked my work, including my high school English teacher Mrs. Koon.

It felt wonderful but also oddly terrifying in a way that I struggled to understand.

Apparently, it’s one thing to write along hoping someone will notice and that I will improve enough to be good. It’s another to have people watching for my next piece to see if they like it or not.

Then the Hawks lost.

Dramatically.

Because of a decision Carroll made.

I’ve read the posts and talked to my friends about it. Most people say it was a bad call. They say Pete Carroll made a mistake in throwing the ball instead of running it with Lynch or, my husband tells me, running the ‘read option’ where the Wilson fakes it to Lynch and then runs it in himself if he reads the situation correctly.

“What’s with all the throwing!?!” one person posted on my Facebook feed. “Run the ball!”

I’ve seen plenty of analysis as I’ve tried to process and understand what happened. I’ve even read smart statistics about why Carroll made the mathematically best move.

For the record, I think he made a mistake. Or, at the very least, he made a carefully calculated gamble and lost.

When I saw his face fall after the game ending interception, I felt a recognition. That is what I am afraid of when people say they liked my work and are looking forward to the next. That. Making a mistake, feeling the devastation, and having more people watching to see it.

In a strange way, it helped me that Carroll lost the Super Bowl.

Don’t get me wrong.(Please, dear fabulous Seahawks fans!)

I’d so rather we had won and keep wishing for the Hermione’s time turner so we could go back and make that last yard with Lynch, the read option, or another down. Anything.

It’s just that something about seeing a gigantic failure gives me permission to keep going, knowing that we all make mistakes.

Some will forgive us.

Some will not.

That’s the risk.

The pain of that football loss only happened to me because I cared enough to feel the absolute thrill of the victory two weeks before.

My writing is a calculated gamble I’m willing to make because the joy of getting the words right matters to me enough to face the risk of the defeat, public or not.

To that end, this month I’ll focus on the epic fail. I’ll look at different failures each week. For Carroll and for me, I’ll look for stories of resilience — of how others have overcome huge mistakes and come out stronger for the struggle.

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