On being basic

Have you ever wanted to stop doing what you’re doing? Whether it’s a diet, an exercise program, wiping your kid’s butt, or paying for laundry — sometimes we just want to see an end to things.

To me an end means a sense of completion. Or stopping. There is a sense of a finish line we cross and don’t have to keep doing all that hard work. We have achieved our goal and can now just enjoy ourselves. Why doesn’t this happen? Our goals are transient and once we achieve something, it’s almost harder to stay at that level.  It’s like losing 10 lbs but then having to keep it off. It’s not that you won’t ever eat carbs again, it’s that you have to learn to live your life with eating less carbs – most of the time. It’s an attitude and lifestyle change.

I used to imagine that one day I would wake up and things would be perfect. I still think that, although I am much, much less hopeful on the results. I don’t count on it anymore. I hoped that one day I would wake up and my hair would flow in such a way that not one hair curled in the wrong direction, that my waist would be slim and strong and that I could not literally grasp the evidence of overindulgent muffins, and that — from this strange concept of physical beauty — my mental status would be beaming happiness wherever I went.  Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t want Cinderella’s life, but part of me did wish for miraculous transformation that I thought would somehow address what plagued my unhappy state.

Things don’t happen overnight. Change happens cumulatively. I am not perfect.

My running has suffered. My coach has been so patiently listening to me as I cry and flubber about what doesn’t make sense. I analyze and fret about this. I pay for his coaching services, but worry that my fee will not cover him being a friend.

Most of what I feel could be attributed to post-race blues – the high of success followed by a lack of motivation, unexplained fatigue, and lack of direction. I’ve been here before; it took me a few months of slogging after my marathon last year before I finally felt as though I was actually “running” again. It happens. But this time it feels as though I’m addressing more of my sense of expectations.

I’ve run a lot less lately. I’d taken the joy out of running and created a sense of guilt (will get fat if I don’t run), fear (will run slower if I don’t run) and frustration (I don’t like running but I have to run). Exercising like this sucks. It’s tiring and it makes me tired.

Merry-go-round at Boort Victoria

Where it stops, nobody knows… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I process things slowly; change is not my forte. I think part of my general life anxiety is that I tend to create mysterious scenarios that I have to contend with before I can move on or let go of a situation. Worry creates fear creates anxiety creates one tired mama.  I’m tired of being tired. Not just physically, but the mental drag of never enjoying anything.

I feel like I’ve hit bottom. That was about a week ago.  My coach has taken a very different approach with me now — one I could have probably used about 6 years ago, but wasn’t ready to accept until now. My focus is to go and do with zero expectations. There is no finish line or time or number of days I need to do anything. I need to take care of myself and go with what I can do, not with what I expect to do. I just need basics.

It’s funny how accepting common sense is one of the hardest things we’ll ever have to face.


28 thoughts on “On being basic

  1. Tania,
    I feel your pain, completely. We continuously push ourselves, both mentally and physically over and over again. With running for example… at first it’s fun getting back into the groove of things. Our legs feel great, we are getting faster, we hit a new goal, and then slowly things stop going up and maybe start going down. I too think that if I don’t run I’ll lose all speed and all of a sudden gain 10 pounds. However, I’m learning to let go of that. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism and meditation and it’s helped me to be okay with where I am right now, at this very moment. My ankle has been bothering me quite a bit lately and I am happily taking a few days off from running. Normally, I’d be at the gym biking like a crazy woman for fear of losing my fitness. But instead, I’m reading, drinking coffee, and enjoying the much needed rest. It’s a nice change of pace.

    I read this little story yesterday and I think you’ll appreciate it. It said that when an animal gets hurt, it will stop what it’s doing, lay down in the forest, and let its body heal before going back out. It seems so simple but often times us humans have such a hard time of letting our bodies do just that… heal.

    Sending positive vibes your way!

    • Tracie,
      This is great to hear from you. It’s good to know others can face the same challenges and that there are ‘smarter’ ways to go about getting through things. Being present in the moment is actually uncomfortable for me — I’d rather be avoiding or focusing on what I need to do next/fix/defer. Funny how that gets to be such a pattern it takes over what you actually do like doing.
      I really liked your story about how animals know to take care of themselves. If I didn’t have a coach who understood me so well, I’d probably be out there still running too much and feeling completely devastated.

      Thanks for your positive vibes! I’ll take ’em!

  2. I’m going through a similar process in terms of accepting that my body is older, the injuries are piling up and I have to change my expectations for my workouts. I, too, am slow to process change which explains a year of snowballing injuries. Sometimes common sense is annoying!

    • It’s true that because we used to do something we sometimes tend to think that this is our ‘normal.’ Letting go of that expectation can be hard – almost like a personal failure. But when you think about it no one has that expectation except ourselves. While we are our own worst enemy, we are fighting a battle that doesn’t need to be. Oh, how common sense can miff me!

  3. I think you’re being very hard on yourself and that can be self-destructive. I suspect that as a runner in your age group who’s hatched two spawn, you’re probably in the top ten percentile, if not higher. At the risk of sounding like the type of motivational speaker that makes me gag, sometimes life can throw roadblocks at us. Do what you can to stay on the course. Running seems to be a big part of who you are, but maybe you need to set more attainable performance goals. It seems to me, as someone with a black belt in armchair sitting and spot on the wall staring, that athletic performance is as much mental as it is physical. This is very easy for me to say as someone whose greatest level of physical exertion is scampering into the subway train just as the doors are closing, but I always feel immense relief when I make it inside. The platforms these sweltering summer days are like saunas.

    • You are funny. Actually the whole point of this post was that I am not being as hard on myself as I used to be. I know, hard to believe, hey? I’m not in the top 10 percentile of mommies in my age group, but I am ahead of the bikers and swimmers (unless they are triathletes, but let’s screw the stats in my favour). Running is a big part of who I am — actually, it’s all I “do” — apart from the Grind, and dreaming up dishes that I could actually eat, and being a mommy. You know- the other 98% of my life. So I’m really focusing on making running part of me, rather than me being a part of it. It’s true that life is full of roadblocks but we will keep butting our heads against them until we can learn to embrace them. Listen to me — I might be an armchair motivational speaker as well! Thanks for your thoughts, as always. You always make my day a little lighter. 🙂
      PS. Stay cool!

  4. Tania, I get a sense that you’re starting over or that you’re getting a fresh start with your new mind set, only now you are all the more wiser. Good for you. I feel like I have improved in this area of managed expectations. I nodded a lot as I read.

    • Ah, good for you for nodding a lot! 🙂

      I think when we get broken down we do start to see things differently. And it takes a breakdown because when I had the chance to do it sensibly I chose the hard way. Managed expectations is a great way to say it. I’ll make that my new mantra.

  5. If common sense were so common, we wouldn’t speak of it with such reverence.

    I hope you manage to find what it was you first fell in love with in running.

  6. I have been needing to hear this for years now – thank you! I have avoided running / goals for years, because everything seems so hard to achieve. I think I need to re-think how I look at life; enjoy the scenery as I run. Forget there is a finish line, and just start running. Mentally and physically.

    • It’s hard to start — or enjoy anything — when you are already measuring, assessing, calculating before you get going. It’s all about “managed expectations.” Sometimes I head out and my goal is only to have fun: walk if I need to, listen to music, no time, etc. Often I would run by beautiful scenery so focused on my watch that was all I had to remember my run by.
      There is no finish line!

  7. Before I got to the end of your post, I was thinking in my head, “Take off your watch, throw away your training plans, and just run. No expectations, no goals, just run. Learn to love running again.” Tania, you are a closet Buddhist. Have you ever read “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo? I love it, and it is full of simple treasures. If you have a Kindle, that’s the cheapest version available. Every single runner I know goes through these running slumps, especially after a significant race. It’s all part of the game.

    • Angela,
      Thanks for the book suggestion. I’ll get it from the Library shortly. (I do have Buddhist influences in my family, but I don’t practice anything).
      A simpler way of thinking – let alone being – is what I need right now. I’m learning how to give myself a break, and run for fun. I can make running MY game again.

      • Exactly. Take control by not controlling it. Just run. It’s not like anyone else really cares about our running anyway. We don’t get paid to do it, no one makes us do it, and if it’s not fun we probably shouldn’t be doing it. Sometimes we can make the simplest things into the most complicated ones. Just run because it makes you happy.

      • I think I have mastered this sentence: “Sometimes we can make the simplest things into the most complicated ones.” It’s probably safe for me to move on to greater challenges now. 😉

      • I am the Queen of that sentence, Tania. I like to think I’m getting better at not doing this, only because I finally recognize and acknowledge what I’ve been doing most of my life.

  8. While I am not a runner, I do plague myself with expectations and arbitrary finish lines about writing and career. And when I allow myself to go down that road, all that happens is nothing gets done and the stagnation is self-fulfilling and reinforcing. Being the biggest block in one’s own road is something worth overcoming. It’s hard work, but it isn’t impossible. 🙂

    • How nice that words now accompany your pop-by! It’s true that self-fulfilling stagnation is not an easy road to be on. Learning to step aside and being more zen about finish lines is not impossible, but it does take a concentrated shift in focus. Or un-focus, perhaps.
      What’s this book you’re working on? I am curious to know.

      • You’re sweet to even ask. I’m just finishing a collection of short stories. Once I have that finished, I’m starting a comedic novel about a kidnapping. Nothing says funny like crime!

  9. Ah I feel you. And I love the way you write. My last post was a reminder to myself to stick to my new healthy lifestyle plan. As I sit now I have a bottle of water on my desk (normally tea) but it is only day 2!

  10. Reblogged this on Jane Doh! and commented:
    From time to time I am inspired, by words, deeds, or mindsets. There is a blogger I follow who’s mindset and words spoke to me recently. iRuniBreathe is a fellow mud duck, albeit the Canadian version, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, like I do. Her recent post, On Being Basic, literally helped me over a hurdle I’ve been struggling with for .. well, years. I set up goals, with impossible deadlines, finish lines to cross, and standards I must then maintain FOREVER… which, anyone who knows me will understand, I’m simply not that person. I usually fail and become discouraged. I walk away from possibility simply because I try to accomplish everything overnight. I don’t know about you, but that’s never worked for me…. but I didn’t used to be this way, and I want the old me back.

    iRunIBreathe talked about goals being transient, with impossible standards to maintain. She then goes on to explain that things don’t happen overnight; change happens cumulatively … though she expresses herself with far more clarity and finesse than I’m managing here. See, I just got back from a run around the block. It’s been years, and my brain is still in a state of vegetive oxygen depravation …. BUT, I went out and ran. Finally. No finish lines, no timeframes no goal weights to achieve… just a run for the simple pleasure (HAHAHAHA) of forward momentum. It wasn’t pretty, but for the first time in a long time I felt …. free. Sure my knees complained, and I scared a few families out enjoying the sun, but without the weight of all the “Must Accomplish Now’s”, I actually WANTED to go running. (And for any that don’t know, I’ve been running since I was 5-years-old, and running my first competitive 5K at 7, later qualifying for the U.S. Junior Olympics at 15. (A story for another day)) Somewhere life got in the way. Injuries were sustained, babies were had, crazy was caught, and the stress of life made the thought of getting back on my feet seem like too big a goal to tackle. I had erected obstacles where there weren’t any…. and I didn’t even realize it until I read this post.

    It’s more than just about running. It’s about anything in life we allow to grow too big in our minds, too daunting, too unreachable, and the forgetting that life was meant to be appreciated for the simple matter that it is; to live. Be it 5 pounds overweight, 10 minutes too slow, average looking, only sort-of smart, or even as broke and sunk as the Titanic.

    Go Read her post. ::pant-wheeze:: You’ll see what I mean.

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