My throat was stinging like it was when I first encountered peanut butter whiskey, this time as I was on my way up. Whose lawn is better to throw up on? I examined the suburban sidewalks. I was running on the morning of August 1.
My self-hatred was unbearable. After a friend’s housewarming barbeque the night before, I hated myself for eating chips and guacamole with my cheeseburger and I hated myself for running at 10:45 a.m. There is already a blazing Texas sun, instead of earlier. I mostly hated myself for my weaknesses. Already looking for somewhere to puke half a mile in.
Running was no longer an option. The feet were immobile as I stared at them. The feeling of failure was overwhelming. Failure was the result.
My neighborhood was filled with brick homes with Kia Sorentos in the garages and crepe myrtles along the driveways, the picture of American domesticity. Lawnmowers were started by men wearing Crocs. A woman held a garden hose and swung it. There was no sign of happiness or sadness on their faces. Sweaty, resigned, in a state of hiding their guilt due to exhaustion, their faces mirrored mine.
The year 2021 has been defined by languishing, for me and for everyone else, certainly. The feeling is well known: Stagnant. Stupid. Emails and dirty dishes dominate most days. Is anything wrong? No. Has anything been accomplished? Honestly, I don’t know. My feeling should have passed by now, right? Making new friends, writing, volunteering are all things I can do, but I am too busy thinking about everything I should be doing. This paralyzes me (make new friends, volunteer, write). In addition to this, languishing has a collective as well as an individual effect: everyone is caught in the mud. No one can pull us out because there is no rope.
I decided I had seen enough of the malaise this summer. Let’s not languish anymore. Getting unstuck was imperative.
However, how? There had to be something that I could focus on. I suddenly found myself tempted to run, hurtling forward and losing myself in the present. Let’s ignore my hatred of running. It is liked by others. People who are ambitious run. Running is a skill that successful people have. You can use the sidewalk for free. Is it that hard? First time I ran, I didn’t see spots until I reached the end of my neighborhood street. I hadn’t done more than a third of a mile when a fitness app blinked at me, “Done?”.
An acquaintance gave me a suggestion in July: Try running slowly. Keep your steps short and shallow. Check out your progress. I was astonished to see that it worked. My first mile as an adult was completed during the last week of July. The sweat was covering my body; I wiped my eyes, wearing a sports bra.
The feeling of achieving your goals is wonderful, why is that? The progress principle states that you feel progress when you achieve meaningful, short-term goals. It is more likely you will progress if you feel like you can. Getting unstuck can be achieved by setting small goals.
Consequently, more runs would be better if the first felt good. A new goal comprised of small objectives was set. Running one mile a day, every day, was my routine in August. Thirty-one runs, thirty-one miles. My goal seemed easy, and I was sure I could achieve it. My march forward would be forward. Moving is my preference.
Getting unstuck can be achieved by setting small goals.
During July’s last Saturday night, I sipped on some peanut butter whiskey. A harsh reality arrived in August: Moving forward would be painful.
I was in pain during every run. I can feel it on my thighs, my calves, and my ankles. I found new places for the pain to hide, behind my kneecaps and along my hamstrings, as I attempted to go downhill. When you run, you cannot cheat. The concrete is under your feet. I’m done.
My work was done, though. On the first day of August, I only paused to take a break. Completion brought comfort alongside the aches. How was my day? During the mile, I ran. When? Reaching the finish line. How did the end come about?ded? As I said. A mile away it was.
Exercising is too often treated as one more thing on the endless to-do list of “wellness.” Exercise is one of the things we should do all the time, since we can do it forever. Have you had your coffee yet? A green juice could be involved. Would you like to go for a walk? The sprint may be short. You and a friend are splitting a pizza? SoulCycle could be right around the corner. There is a constant pressure.
“[Modern exercise culture] has inundated women with Peloton ads, Alo Yoga tank tops, and Outdoor Voices spink, enticing them to control and mold their bodies forever, writes Danielle Friedman. Continuous improvement is the key to success.
There is nothing to achieve without an end goal – something concrete to strive for – and yet we give ourselves far less dedication without such a goal. Is there no point in taking a day off from something that could last a lifetime? Wouldn’t it be nice if Netflix finished that series? Nothing is at stake when there is no definition. A goal as vague as “I want to look good,” or “I want to get in shape,” leaves you with nothing but opportunities to fail.
I thought about this quote from Anne Lamott while I ran: “Discipline has been my path to freedom.”
As a result of my lack of discipline during the month of August, I was unable to accomplish every goal I set for myself. It wasn’t possible to attend a dozen dinner parties, read War and Peace, or prepare my taxes at the same time. I had to run. Without the possibility of doing everything, I could commit to doing something. I decided to run, then I did..
The act of setting goals is more than just determining priorities. It is about removing optionality and choosing.
You can earn respect in any number of ways. Learn to whittle. Grow a tomato from seed. As you choose to do hard things again and again, you will achieve lean calves and slender abs.. You can paint or skateboard an ollie. Pick something to practice every day. Discover that you can accomplish hard things. Have faith in yourself.
Seeing your track record, you can say, “I did that.” “I can do this too.”
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