Magical Words*

Run Route- Pacific Grove, CA
Running Route – Pacific Grove, CA

I am finally doing it! I am slowly jogging my way into the elite club of people who call themselves runners. For years, I convinced myself that I could not run. Touted every reason why it was not possible for me – too many years playing netball and basketball on hard concrete surfaces in Trinidad, shin splints, twisted ankles, and knee pain etc. etc…. Then in June of 2013, I went on a walk/run with a colleague and began my litany of excuses for not running. “You are a runner!” she said. For some reason, the words clicked. I began thinking to myself, “Maybe, she IS right!” I came back from that encounter convinced to turn my walking routine into a running routine. And on the morning of August 8, 2013, for the first time—I ran, and ran, and ran for four miles with only two short walking breaks. (Small disclaimer here, I must admit that it was more of a turtely kind of run). But who cares! Wahoo!

Since then I have not stopped running–no short breaks needed!!

Running trail- san diego
Running Route – San Diego, CA.

Now, I keep thinking about those four words that Beth uttered to me and the magic they contained. Her timing could not have been better. We were attending the Women in Leadership Affinity Group Inaugural Conference in Pacific Grove, California. In several of the sessions, one common theme emerged from research of women who had risen to leadership positions in their various contexts. Though they had not aspired to leadership positions themselves, someone had spoken those words of affirmation to them: “You are a Leader!” That was the final ingredient added to the potion that unlocked their leadership potential.

Running- Fort Myers, FL
Running Route View – Fort Myers, FL.

In the book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz captures well the efficacy of words in the first agreement: “Be impeccable with your word.” Though some of the mysticism expressed in this book escapes me, I recognize a good idea when I see one. Ruiz (1997) writes that words are magical; they can cast good spells and bad spells. I have been the victim of the “black magic” cast by words. I was about sixteen at the time when after failing to sing a note pitched by the pianist, he declared that I was “tone deaf”. Ouch! Since then several others have suggested that I have a beautiful voice that should be cultivated, yet it is difficult to escape the enchantment of those early words.

On the other hand, I have also been the recipient of “good spells” cast by words. My elementary school teacher convinced me that I was a great writer; my British Virgin Islands mentor told me that one day I would be able to write the letters Ph.D. after my name; and the words of my friend Beth continue to inspire me to keep on running. I am so grateful for those magical words!

running, forbidden drive, PA
Running Route – Forbidden Drive, PA

Each of us has the capacity to not only benefit from well-spoken words but to practice some “good magic”. After writing this post,  I called a friend who is not only gifted chemist but a brilliant poet, and I tried my hand at a word spell: “You are a brilliant poet! Your work needs to be published. Submit to a journal this week!” I said. D, I know you are reading this so, “Get to it!”

Magical words

To all others (myself included), let’s practice some good magic today. Let’s use our words.

PS: Please share your experience of giving or receiving magical words.

* I first posted this on my sister site in 2013.

Book Review- The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I began listening to the audio version of The Hundred-Foot Journey and  was drawn in by Neil Shah’s expressive reading and his fluency with French and Indian words. I ended up getting the book, but found that I preferred listening to Shah’s interpretation of it—which was a much needed pinch of flavor to sustain my interest to the end.

From the first line I felt drawn into the imagery, smell, scents, and foods in the book. Morais has an adept way with words, which mirrors authentically the image we are left with of the main character Hassan Haji—an unpretentious, likely character who tries to do the right thing in an effort to find his place in the world.. What is even more impressive is Morais’ connection with Indian and Parisian culture and his inside knowledge about foods and the workings of the food industry. And though this book is about Hassan’s journey to making a name for himself from the humble beginnings of his ancestral launch in the food industry, it is as much about his journey as it is about the food and what it takes to become a three star Michelin chef. Ironically, this double focus is one of the strengths of the novel, but it is also one of its flaws. In his attempt to do equal justice to the compelling story of Hassan’s rise to top chef status and to school readers in Indian and French cuisine, the two story lines compete for each other and often left me wanting less of the latter and more of the former.

Morais’ way with words and his ability to create characters who are flawed but brilliantly human and likeable like Hassan’s Father and Madame Mallory—draws the reader into the story and makes us feel deeply about these characters and champion for them in their various battles. The depth of character depiction is without doubt another great strength of the book—for I find myself still thinking of them long after I have read the last words. However, the depth of character and the great emotions that Morais is able to rouse for earlier characters in the book is not well sustained in later sections. Newly introduced characters remain mere silhouettes and again I found myself longing to know more what had happened to Hassan’s relatives and friends that he had left behind in his rise to fame. Finally, in the last few pages of the novel, as if sensing the need to tie it all together, Morais does a quick rounding up of the troops, in a rude announcement of people the reader has forgotten or barely been introduced to in the earlier sections of the book.

Overall, The Hundred-Foot journey is a delicious meal which could have been significantly improved with the omission of several courses. The first courses were phenomenal with great depth and flavor and promises of even better things to come. However, midway through the meal our appetites are sate and the fare becomes mediocre leaving us anxious for the dessert course, which though good does not quite live up to expectations. With all of that said, feasting on the first courses of this delicious book is just too good an opportunity to pass up.