Years ago I listened to; 'The Power of Habit' as an audiobook. Sometimes I treat my library like the mall; I walk in, load up on things, and then take back whatever doesn't work for me. Since I was returning books, I thought I would wander around a little, and stumbled on this again. Remembering how much impact it had on my life the first time through, and now that I have a longer commute, audiobooks make sense again. A woman named Lisa is the first subject, and listening to her story helped me a great deal. I too have a past, one I am not particularly proud of, there were a couple things in her life that parallelled mine, and hearing how she was able to turn her life around gave me some much needed hope, and encouragement. These things are all fine, well, and even good, but without accompanying action, they are ineffective. Lisa started running, at first she was slow, and couldn't go very far, she was in Egypt, trying to light a pen instead of a cigarette, and decided that she needed to make a change in her life. She went on a trip, started running, and now her life contains a lot of the things she didn't have before. Stability, financial security, a better job, even a new romantic interest.
I figured that if Lisa was in worse shape than I was, and had more to overcome, it should be a fairly simple matter for me to change my life as well. As I drove I thought to myself, what one habit would I be able to adopt that would completely, radically, and totally change my life? Prayer was an obvious choice, and I could be better about this, I contemplated this as I drove, sifting through other ideas as they cropped up, out of all the things that crossed my mind, none of them really seemed right. They weren't bad, but I needed that one keystone habit. I'm not totally sure where I was on my way home when I realized that if running worked for Lisa, it might also work for me, but as soon as the thought became conscious, I balked. When I was in grade school my dad would wake me and my next youngest sister up whenever he felt we should be up for the day. He wasn't particularly nice about it either. We went through some basic calisthenics, and then walked down to a park where we ran. It's hard to explain how traumatic this feels even to this day. I'm now 47 years old, and I can still remember the pain of gasping for breath in the frigid cold. We were in sports because that's what we did, whether we liked it or not.
Cross country, track, they were nightmares, not as bad as the math track meets we went to, and I still have no idea how I managed to qualify for this, there are many things I am good at, areas where I excel, but running is not it, and neither is math. One sport wasn't enough for my father, so I played volleyball in addition to being on the cross country team, ran track, and played softball. I had a paper route, and then a second, my parents fought, we had no money, and lived in a house that people rented to us because they knew my family, and realized we were not going to be able to pay much for rent. Back in those days, sunscreen was a brown plastic bottle of Coppertone, and I think we had that same slippery front with the grippy material on the sides for years. I'm still very fair, but when I was a child, my hair was platinum blonde, and my skin suffered as a result of forced exposure to the elements. Drinking adequate water was not a thing back then, and if people think I don't own many clothes, or shoes now, I can take them back to a time when I might have had one pair of regular shoes to wear to school, and everything else other than church. It was not fun, it was toxic, dysfunctional, brutal, harsh, and partially explains why I have so many issues regarding fitness, and exercise today.
The other parent I have is still alive today. My mom is in better shape than most people I know. She does yoga, gardens extensively, she walked to work for decades, in almost every kind of weather since we had one car, and others needed it to commute to further destinations. She hikes, she pushes her wheelbarrow up and down the hills in the back of her yard, her home is built into the slope of a steep incline, and once she's inside, she doesn't stop to sit down, or rest. She bakes her own bread, knits sweaters for friends, and family members, washes her floors on her hands and knees, sews much of her own clothing, and can't seem to understand why I am not ecstatic about all of this. At work my manager cares about how people feel, I care about how others are treated, this may be a semantic argument, but the difference is important to me. Most of the time it seems as if people neither care about how I feel, or how they are treating others. We are all different, my mom loathes history, I find it fascinating. She can't stand baseball, I can sit and immerse myself in it for hours. You get the point.
All this is building up to this morning when I woke up, laid there thinking - I do not want to go running, or even for a walk - decided to just do it, pulled on my socks, tied my running shoes, and opened the door. Since I had read up on this a bit last night, it wasn't as bad as I feared it might be. To help myself out, I put my reminders near the door; in addition to footwear, I left a bag of recyclables near the stairs, that was going to be my cue, even if the only thing I accomplished this morning was removing that bag, it was more than I had done some mornings. While I was reading, I found an article on running for the absolute beginner, and it was a good read. What's worked for me in the past was what people in the industry call; run/walk. It's not a terribly complicated concept, you walk a little, run some, and then walk again. I didn't enjoy reading about the drawbacks, they felt discouraging, and I wanted to be motivated, inspired, not adding to the list of obstacles to overcome that were already on a long running list in my mind.
My Apple watch would have made a good partner this morning, but I felt as if I stopped to retrieve it from my bag, I would lessen my chances of getting outside, every second is precious, each moment is a potential delay that could derail me. I was so tired it felt inhumane to do this to myself, I stumbled to the wooden enclosure where the recycling bins are stored, tossed my bag, and kept going. Things were not as bad as they could have been, I went to the grocery store after my outing (calling it a run feels extremely premature, and silly), in the past I would have purchased whatever caught my eye, it was a place to be whimsical, one where there were bright lights, and an astonishing array of foodstuffs, and when you grow up like I did, your castles in the sky might be stocked with name brand trash bags, a nice brand of tea, and other little treat type things that some others may not view as captivating, beautiful, or luxurious. My drive home included bicycle signs, I've wanted a bike for a while now, and it will have to go on my list of future acquisitions, but the signs, literal metal objects staked into the ground, were a great reminder that none of us are totally sure what the future might hold, and it is entirely conceivable that I may own, and ride, a bike.
What all of this is doing, aside from helping me physically, is keeping me from unhealthy habits. I feel tired all the time, burned out, I told my oldest I never do anything fun, and this is not entirely true since I am someone who can have fun organizing the supply cabinet at work, but what I mean is I do the same things all the time. I'm stuck, in a rut, and this is a new thing for me. I have a pair of shoes I like, and I want a second pair. Buying running clothes is not in my budget yet, but the good news is I have things I can wear until that time comes. Years ago one of my favorite managers was telling me about a multi-purpose cleaning product, why have ten things that do one job instead of one product that cleans ten plus things? This is a huge concept in my life. I want to get into better shape, manage my money better, spend more time outdoors, and get out of my own head more often. Incorporating a run/walk habit into my life accomplishes all of that, and this is why I am optimistic about my ability to stick with it. Rather than try to kill myself as I might have done in the past, I made my peace with being slow, and staying close to home. I'm not sure how far I went, probably about a mile would be my guess, perhaps 'running' a quarter of that. But starting is the hardest part, and once you begin, momentum will keep you going.
Here's to more, and better days; take care,
P.S. I mentally called this the mailbox game as I would jog to the nearest mailbox, walk, and then make my way to the next one. The book discusses how changing your behaviors can alter your mind, the areas of addiction and comfort seeking will still light up when presented with temptation, but with new habits, one is able to override the coping mechanisms that were relied upon in the past. I've done a lot with my life lately, that feels really good, and I want to get to a place where I don't view shopping, or some of the other tendencies I want to replace as rewarding, which is most of why I am writing this. Another author I admire recommended telling others about your hopes, dreams, and goals, as community support is a factor, I'm going to search for an accountability partner, I've done things like this in the past in other areas of my life, and found it tremendously beneficial. This is new, fledgling, and will take time, but I'm laying the foundation for a healthier, happier, brighter, safer, stronger me, and that might be the gift I need to be giving myself, and everyone else.