Today I was reminded of a valuable lesson that somehow I keep forgetting. Actually, it’s not really that I forget, it’s that I get so wrapped up in polishing and perfecting, that I disregard one of the most valuable lessons I’ve been learning my whole life: finish.
I’ve been trying to get slightly more serious about running, and I’ve been a little obsessed with trying to beat a certain time per mile. Since focusing on this goal I have made great improvements. In fact I began to realize that perhaps I wasn’t really pushing myself during my runs before focusing on bettering my time. But at the end of last week through the weekend, I was hit with a stomach “bug” that really took a lot out of me, literally. On Monday I gave myself permission to run a little over 3 miles instead of 4, but I still pushed for an “acceptable” target time. Today was different.
I was committed to running 4 miles before I even started, but in the first half mile I felt tightness in my hamstrings, there was pressure in my chest, and I wondered if I was going to pass out. Maybe I hadn’t drank enough water today? Maybe it was too hot or the air quality was too poor? What if I kicked it on this street, barely into my 30s, running at a mediocre speed? How embarrassing would that be? These were not helpful thoughts to be having. I cleared my head and pushed on.
I got through the first mile in 7:37, almost 15 seconds slower than what I had been running. That was okay I thought, I’ll make up the time. But my body said otherwise. I may as well have been running with weighted flippers on. I didn’t feel like I was going to pass out anymore, but I felt, truly, like shit. Second mile: 7:48. I began to be really disappointed in my inability to catch up to my previous times. Not only was I 30 seconds behind what had become my usual pace, I was slowing down and didn’t feel like I could do much better. My body just wasn’t responding today.
At this point I began to weigh the options. I should just cut it short so I don’t ruin my average I told myself. Maybe if I go all out for just another half mile I can save this thing and quit then. But then it hit me: I committed to 4 miles and maybe today I wasn’t setting any records. Maybe today I wasn’t even meeting my average. Today I was just going to finish and let that be enough.
As I ran through the remaining miles I thought about this process. How many other things in my life were like this? Many. I know it’s all about progress, not perfection, but I constantly lose sight of this. I do finish many things to near perfection, but there are many more things that don’t get done or don’t even get started because I’ve already decided it won’t be good enough before I even start them. Or I get really stressed out or overwhelmed with all the things I’m juggling that I’m trying to complete perfectly.
Though I felt like shit running today I was proud to have just finished what I said I was going to finish. Maybe I could have run a faster time if I had cut it short or just erased the time altogether from my records and chalk it up to illness. My average time per mile today was one of my worst ever, but it was probably one of the most important runs I’ve had in months.
I’ve had some pretty profound revelations lately, which have been surprising, but what’s also surprising is the timing of all of them. Just as I’m working through ideas of how I perceive myself and those around me in my personal life, I got a book in the mail from my work for a leadership training that I was supposed to attend. The book, titled “Leadership and Self-Deception”, also focuses on this idea as well. It was a coincidence that I’ve thankfully embraced.
I was raised to take responsibility for my own actions, not to blame others for my problems, and to realize that I could only change myself, not other people. But even growing up with this, I all-too-easily slip into the role of blaming: “I’m doing the best I can so it’s their problem”, or “I only acted like that because of what she said”, or “I’m doing so much someone else needs to take care of that.” I think we all say similar things to ourselves, but for me, it’s been especially easy.
I have three young kids and some things going on at home that would make it very easy for me to “get off the hook”. The group I work for just laid off 60% of the staff so things are stressful and uncertain at work. I have a whole list of things to justify my negative feelings, my behavior, and my actions; things that are beyond myself. What I’ve learned lately though, especially reading this book, is that that kind of thinking is an infinite loop of negativity that not only damages our productivity, ourselves, and our relationships, but also pushes those around us to engage in this destructive loop as well.
So I’ve been working on it and it’s not easy. I’ve built these walls of self-deception and justification to “protect” myself, but ironically, it only makes my life shittier and more difficult. And when my life becomes more difficult, it becomes easier for me to keep blaming. See where this is going? I’ve had to look at where I’ve come up short and start evaluating all the ways I’ve been betraying myself and those around me, and let me tell you, it’s pretty ugly. But it seems the only way to break out of it is to be willing to see where I have only been thinking of myself, where I’ve blamed others for my actions, and when I haven’t considered those around me as truly equal to myself.
That’s been an important step for me so far: really seeing the needs, wants, and desires of those around me as equal to my own. The hardest one to admit is the fact that there have been times when I haven’t really considered my kids’ needs on the same level as mine: I have work to do, I have to clean this up, or I have to get this thing done first. What is that teaching them? I know it’s a balance of making sure everyone’s needs get met, but I have honestly not been doing the best I can in seeing all people as equal to myself, even my own kids
It seems so simple in one way but as I’ve been working through it, it’s far from easy and it’s going to be a daily struggle. These are life-long habits, but seeing myself and others as we truly are seems like it’s going to not only make my life easier, but will ultimately minimize the damage I do to myself, to those around me, and to our relationships. I am hopeful. I’m going to work my ass off, but I am hopeful.
For my last post I began with a list (which sort of morphed into a poem) of things that I’ve done or not done where I felt I exhibited weakness. I was going to follow it up with a similarly formed piece titled “I Am Strong”, to balance things and prevent you from thinking I was self-abusive or fishing for compliments or whatever, but then I realized that would be fucking lame and might sound too much like “I Am Woman” or something.
So here’s the thing: I think it’s important to admit weaknesses. While I feel focusing on the positive is just as important, there’s something very powerful about admitting you’re wrong. I think it allows you to take responsibility for it, then evaluate, recalibrate, and improve. And in a public forum like this, I think it ups the ante. In a relationship I think it’s doubly effective because not only is it good for you to own up for your own personal betterment, it’s good for your partner to hear you do it too. It’s way to easy to blame others or let yourself off the hook.
I know everyone has different styles of handling things but it’s always really interesting to me to see who has a hard time claiming their weaknesses. I think it says a lot and I have huge respect for those that actually go on to turn those weaknesses into strengths.
So I’m curious: is it hard to admit your weaknesses? Is it beneficial to you? And what weakness are you turning into a strength today, this week, or this year? I’m working on turning my anger into patience and I’m pretty sure my arteries and those close to me will appreciate it.
i hit the snooze button…ten times
i threw the yokes away
i used plastic bags instead of a glass container
i yelled at my kids.
i chose not to practice
i got angry and didn’t listen
i didn’t cry. i didn’t say i love you
i said i love you but didn’t mean it
i didn’t look you in the eye
i didn’t call. i ate a double cheeseburger…twice in one day
i drank five long islands
i ran away
i chose not to think. i pretended i didn’t see you
i bought more
i didn’t read on
i didn’t choose to learn. i walked away
i spoke meanly
i didn’t revisit
i didn’t appreciate. i laughed at your stupid jokes…for years
i grew resentful
i fell asleep
i didn’t forgive.