The message I’ve gotten this week, this month, hell, this whole damn season is, “do your work.” It’s been a steady drumbeat, but because I’ve neglected my personal victory strategies while getting busy with work and life, my inner ear got cloudy and I couldn’t quite make it out.
Or I could, but I wasn’t really ready or willing to listen.
But just like any other alarm that goes off long enough, this one alerted me that it was time to get moving. Get back to the things that work. Back to doing my work.
In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield says,
Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
I’ve been distracted. I’ve been shoved away. I’ve neglected my work.
I have reading and thinking and writing to do. Manuscripts to start. Scholarship to undertake. I cannot do anything if I am foiled by Resistance. If I do other things, and, in fact, everything else except my work.
Toni Morrison died last night. And she left us many things to think about. Her words. Her work. Her admonition on the function of racism as distraction – a clarion call these days. And much as anything else I’ve explored this week (Brené Brown’s Call to Courage, Ann Pendelton-Jullian and John Seely Brown’s Pragmatic Imagination, my own thoughts), her death, or rather remembrance of her life and legacy, have prompted me to get back to it. Back to work.
Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.” ~Pressfield
I pushed my work away for a month, a week, yet another day. More often than not, it was dereliction of duty more than anything else.
But not today. Today I overcame Resistance. Today I did my work.
Today I ran another 4 miler. I don’t generally run two days in a row, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I had to get it in.
I had modest goals – namely maintaining yesterday’s performance with the addition of a slightly faster warm up mile.
To my surprise and delight, I crushed it.
I pushed the warm up mile and was progressively faster on all miles thereafter. I even dropped my average pace by 30 seconds. That’s pretty shocking, and in truth, I hit my target. As in, what I expected to be doing after a couple of weeks of effort.
Next steps? Keeping this up long term, and not just as a quick trick a couple of days here and there. I’m still taking breathers on mile four, so I’ll also plan to build endurance for speedier runs.
I’m excited to see my mind and body work together to create an outcome. This is one of the things I most appreciate about running. It shows me I can visualize and enact things in the real world.
Today I woke up on time, then promptly fell asleep.
I strive to wiggle out of bed around 4:45, but this morning’s rain gave me permission to push that back. Since I couldn’t run as I intended, I slept instead.
Despite the extra sleep and snuggling with my boo, I was still sleepy throughout the day. I blame the rain and subsequent clouds. I perked up later on when the sun won out.
Reminding myself of yesterday’s victories, I scheduled and scored some today by eating a frog early and then making my way through some easier, yet still dreaded, tasks.
I also planned my approach to an ongoing project so I can stop making excuses and gain momentum. There are still a couple of things left to do before calling it a day, but I can claim today’s W already.
What are you doing today to ensure tomorrow’s success?
I watched a short video this weekend, and it featured excerpts from a piece by Buddhist philosopher and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda. I haven’t felt anything resonate so deeply in a long time. I quickly jotted down all the words I could remember and then found part of the poem excerpted online:
Quietly ask yourself
if it isn’t in fact true
that each of us,
before being defeated by an external adversary,
is first defeated by ourselves.
The weak in spirit,
even before wandering reluctantly
at the foot of the wall
that towers in their path,
shrink first before the sight
of their own shadow.
Terrified of illusory figures
of our own creation,
we are defeated by the bandits
that infest our heart.
are always the conquering masters
of their own minds.
Thus, they fear nothing,
remain unbowed, unflinching.
they live in perfect accord
with the Daishonin’s counsel: The wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
They know that they themselves
are like that brilliant monarch, the sun.
Shooting bright beams
through the clouds
of impermanence and change,
they advance, heads held high
into the raging tempest.
From Be an eternal bastion of peace in Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda
Today’s run surprised me. It had been over a week since my last 4-mile run. Generally speaking, a couple of rest days are good for me. But too many means I start to lose a level of fitness.
It’s not to say I forewent exercise completely. In addition to rest days, I had a couple of bouts of weather-induced indoor aerobics. I also threw two short runs in the mix. In a hotel and pressed for time two mornings in a row, the treadmill beckoned. I’ve mentioned more than once how much I enjoy outdoor running and dislike treadmills, but there was no safe place to run nearby. It was the ‘mill or nothing.
Let’s get right to it and say both of those runs sucked. I never felt as though I could get a good breathing rhythm. I never locked into an ideal stride. I just wasn’t comfortable. Both days, two miles of running felt like five or six miles worth of work.
The past couple of mornings, I looked forward to getting back outside. Yesterday, was a disappointment. Mild fall temps were on my side, but the pouring rain was not. I decided to get on with the remainder of my day, foregoing exercise altogether.
Today, it was cooler than ideal, but clear, and I was determined to go get my miles. But get this: I was worried. Because my recent runs were short and difficult, I wondered if I had what it took to eek out my mileage. Some Saturdays I toy with the idea of a “long run” (five miles or more), but today my standard four felt like a stretch.
I wondered just how long it would take me to finish. How would I feel at the halfway point? Would I have to walk it out for large stretches of the trail? Would I just stop at a mile and turn around? The questions loomed. This level of uncertainty about a run is unusual for me, but there it was. I stalled a bit, and went out anyway.
When I got to the Greenway, I could tell immediately the run was going to go well after all. I easily hit my warm up pace and found a comfortable stride within the first 1/2 mile. It felt nice to open up and push the tempo. Being outdoors again was glorious, despite the cool air. Despite the damp leaves clinging to the trail.
I felt great, like the in shape runner I am.
Getting up to Snuff
I’ve run intervals a few times this year. Before now, I’d never tried them out. It’s true they help with speed, and I’ve come to realize they build my confidence as well. I know I’m reasonably fast for super short distances – I was a sprinter in my day. A few years at 3+ miles per run, I’ve now built some endurance, but often I’m scared to push my pace. I simply don’t want to peter out.
But intervals are designed for you to push, then rest. And really, I’m not racing anyone. I’m building my own fitness. Who cares if I need to rest at various points during my run anyway, intervals or not? And just because I got comfortable holding a steady pace at four miles, didn’t mean I needed to remain comfortable. That can easily lead to stagnation. And to some degree, it had.
In recent runs, I’ve found myself thinking about all of this while also mulling a scene from Gattaca (spoiler alert). In it, brothers Anton and Vincent are swimming. Ever since they were children, they tested each other to see who had the endurance to swim the farthest in open waters. Anton always won.
An older wiser Vincent finally stopped living down to everyone else’s expectations, and resolved to give life his all. In a confrontation between the two, they decide to swim one last time. Right when Vincent would’ve cried mercy, he didn’t. This time, Anton was the one who tapped out. He screamed at Vincent demanding to know how he was accomplishing this. How was he pushing beyond well-established boundaries? Said Vincent,
I never saved anything for the swim back.
Vincent gave it his all. He held nothing back. He learned to overcome his limiting beliefs about himself. In the end, he was victorious.
Often, I hold back when running. I get comfortable with a certain pace. Knowing I can push it, but will have to recover later, I don’t take chances. Steady state. But with the introduction of intervals, I saw my fitness increasing, and it became easier for me to see what would happen if I push it. I’d go faster! And yes, I may have to rest a bit, but I’d go faster for longer the next time.
So today, out on the open path, no music, no pressure, just me, I ran. And when it felt good, I ran faster. And when I thought I’d been running a good distance at a good pace, I checked in. Do I really need to rest right now, or am I holding back? And I’d rest or run accordingly.
It was a great run. Much faster than usual the first two miles, and faster in stretches toward the end. I ran my fastest overall pace for this distance.
I surprised myself. I didn’t hold back. The race was only with myself, and I won.
Four of us went movie-going yesterday – two adults, two kids. We donned our 3D glasses, cozied up to some popcorn, and settled in for Despicable Me 2. My movie watching has been severely limited the past few years, so I hadn’t seen the original. I met the characters for the first time, and while I had a couple of favorites in the bunch, Agnes inspired this post.
Gru is our hero, super-villain turned anti-villain, and Agnes is the youngest of his three daughters. Without giving too much away, Gru finds himself sad and unsure of what he can do about something that feels out of his control.
He admits his sadness to the intuitive little one, and in an effort to comfort him, Agnes poses two questions:
Is there anything I can do? (No).
Is there anything *you* can do?
This second question resonated with Gru, who was sparked to action as a result. It moved the story forward and it moves me forward as well, whenever I feel similarly overwhelmed.
Materially, realizing there was something he could do didn’t change Gru’s situation all that much. On the other hand, realizing there was something he could do changed his attitude, and helped him uncover potential in what seemed a hopeless state of affairs. Spotting that potential and then taking the next step gave him power when he was otherwise powerless. And sometimes that’s all we need.
Realizing we can’t do everything but we can, at least, do something, can help us gain perspective. We can then take action rather than being defeated in our hearts, settling for nothing at all. The next time you’re in a rut, or feeling overwhelmed by adversity, think about Agnes, and ask yourself what you can do. It doesn’t matter how big or how small, but is there anything you can do? If so, get to it!
We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. ~Calvin Coolidge.
What, you may be wondering, is a joy jar? It is a piggy bank of sorts. Instead of money, in go notes, mementos, and expressions of joy about the wonderful things that have happened throughout the year. Melanie Duncan explains it this way:
A beautiful idea, and a creative twist on the gratitude journal. I am currently in search of an appropriate vessel, and I’m excited in advance, about all the things it will contain. A few reminders are in order:
No victory is too small, and every joy is worth documenting.
Attention brings awareness to the joy already present in daily life. Look around in wonder and with a grateful heart.
It’s not a race to fill up the bowl. Quantity and quality are not mutually exclusive.
Melanie’s idea is that this is an end-of-year ritual, but one needn’t wait 52 weeks before reaping. Perhaps I will review the contents of my joy jar on special occasions like: my birthday, my anniversary, the last day of the month, a rainy day, a random Monday in July…
I shall celebrate every milestone. Every victory. Every inspired moment. Every single one. I shall count joys early and often, and in so doing, accumulate all the more.
Today I claim total victory. I ran a personal best, smashing all of my previous times for an average pace below 10 minutes a mile.
This is huge news for someone who never thought she’d run distance for fun, and who once believed the occasional dip below a 12-minute mile was cause for celebratory cheers.
And this, in a nutshell, is one of the things I most love about running.
Running is a daily opportunity to set tangible goals and work toward them. Funny thing about running – it brings you face to face with reality. Sometimes the weather isn’t cooperating; do you run in the rain or sweltering sun anyway? Sometimes your body isn’t cooperating; do you wrap the knee or rest it? Sometimes time isn’t on your side; should you cut your run in half or just wait until another day? Or maybe the laundry has piled up; do you wear those uncomfortable shorts and hike them up the whole time, or…?
Decisions. It’s extremely rare when I can say my run and the stars are in complete alignment. Despite the snooze button, my failure to wash clothes, Mother Nature’s quirks or anything else, I often decide to run anyway.
And maybe today’s run sucked: I was slow, it was hard to breathe, I was hot, cold, etc. Maybe today’s run was perfect: I hit my target pace, I had great form, it was a glorious temperature with a refreshing breeze. But true glory lies within the confines of whatever the circumstances are. In other words, no matter what, I have the opportunity to do my best – realizing that “best” may look very different under varying circumstances.
Today’s circumstances were pretty favorable. And in the past week I’ve surprised myself, shaving two and a half minutes off my “typical” total time. For the first time since I began running over two years ago, the 10-minute average pace was within my grasp!
Monday’s run was literally a couple of seconds shy of the 10-minute pace. I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as I yanked my skort up and down throughout the run, finally stopping to give it a good pull.
Going out this morning, my aim was what it always is – to have fun and do my best. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to top that 10:01 pace today. Usually, I run fastest after more than a couple of days of rest. When I touched the gate at the end of my run and stopped the clock, I cheered my time. 39:10 (9:48 average pace). Total victory!
I have no idea what my next run will be like. Will it be warm or chilly? Will my knee be irritable? Will I add back all the time I’ve shaved? I don’t really know. But I do know that I’ll enjoy my run, and I’ll do my best, whatever that means at the moment. In the end, I can’t win in the past. I can’t win in the future. I can only win in the present moment. And so can you.