Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Back Story, Part I

A few months ago, I decided to start running.

That's a very simple sentence. Who would imagine what a monumental shift in ambition, motivation, identity and self-conception is contained in those few short words?

I had never run before. To be honest, I had never really even exercised before. I mean, sure, I'd marched around on an elliptical machine at various times in the past-- once quite regularly for three whole weeks in a row-- and I'd taken a few yoga classes and gone on long walks with my husband and owned a couple of 8-lb barbells that gathered dust in the corner of my living room, but if I'm really being fair, I have to admit I've never had an exercise regimen to speak of.

There are reasons behind how I got to where I found myself in March of 2010, and some of them are hard to talk about but I will try to delve into them here in the months to come. Suffice it to say, for now, that I finally decided, after 12 long years of bewilderment at the girth of the image in the mirror, to make a change. And for the first time, I had an idea of how to make it stick.

For the past few years, until the birth of my twin daughters in May of 2009, I worked for a company that partners with universities to provide coaching for their incoming students in order to help them assimilate, set goals and reach them, maximize their potential, and get the most from their educational experience. Essentially, I was a life coach. I helped hundreds of students set goals and create plans to meet them. I knew all the methods, all the tricks, all the best practices, and yet when it came to the one issue that plagued me every day of my life, I had never tried to use those methods myself.

And then, one day, something shifted. I'm not sure what it was-- I plan to explore that stuff in this blog, too-- but in the interest of getting this first step done, I'll just stick with that line for now:  something shifted. It wasn't the desire-- I had long desired to make a change. I think most people unhappy with their circumstances aren't lacking in the desire to change them. It wasn't that I didn't have any ideas about what I needed to do to begin, either. It was that I knew I needed to make this time different from all the times before. 

I knew perfectly well how to do that, too. The downside of being a life coach is that you've essentially removed from use all the stupid excuses you create in order to avoid making things happen in your life. You live, for as long as you can stand it, with the knowledge that the life you want is out there waiting for you, and you only need to take a step toward it to make it yours.

Easier said than done. I was a good coach, I think in large part because I empathized so much with the fear of taking that step. I could hardly have faulted others for being afraid to do the thing that paralyzed me to my core. I was gentle with my students about that fear, and respectful of the courage it took to make it. And somehow, I avoided for years having to take that step myself.

Full disclosure: I am not so good at the emotional stuff.  I'm not a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of person. So much of this running thing is about opening myself up to the world again, and this blog is emblematic of that. But I'm not going to lie: it's very uncomfortable for me. So I'm asking you, dear reader, to bear with me as I stumble through the deep dark feelings that have gotten me to where I am. I am hoping that as I delve into this, post by post, it will get easier. It's worked with the running, more swiftly and strongly than I ever imagined possible.

For today, though, I'll just stick with the facts.

So. March 2010. I'd been thinking about running for a while, in large part because my sisters and brothers-in-law had all begun running at various times and for various reasons over the past couple of years. One brother-in-law trained for and ran a marathon within a few short months.  The other quit smoking and cemented his commitment by signing up for a half-marathon of his own, and he and my sister embarked on their own rigorous training schedule. Finally, last summer, my other sister-- the one who had bad knees like I do and who never thought she could run-- started her own exercise program and had enormous success. She completed her first half-marathon in January.

I couldn't believe it was possible for anyone to run that far. At the time, I couldn't run to the end of my block. But something about my sister's achievement struck me differently than the achievements of so many others that I've watched from the sidelines in the past. It removed my last excuse. It made me confront the fact that the only reason I had never run before was that I had simply never run before. Period. Full stop.

So I decided to run. I just decided. And I decided to make this time different. I decided to do the things I thought I'd never do, so that they'd help me reach the goal I thought I'd never reach. I decided to try on someone else's way of thinking, someone else's way of doing. I decided to stop trying to be comfortable, and start trying to be successful.

I just decided. And I got going. 

1 comment:

  1. Yup, must have not waited for the word verification...

    I love this story--there is something so powerful about finding your own key that turns the lock in a door that is stuck.

    I went to a seminar a month or so ago, and one of the things that stuck with me was "When the mind is stuck, relationship is the key." It really seems to fit here. Both your relationship with your sisters, and your sense of being able to 'try on' their way of doing things, and your relationship with your girls unlocked this locked door.