When I start to get really stressed out I often have the uncontrollable urge to retreat. Shut and lock the door. Erect social walls. Stop taking phone calls. Cease with all the endless emailing.
I stay in the bathtub longer than I should reading the New Yorker, ZoeTropes All-Story, The Sun Magazine, The Tin House and Bicycling magazine. National Geographic even. Anything to feed the mind while the body takes a vacation, submerged in warm, bubbly comfort.
I know I can’t live my life from the bathtub – even with this newfound freelancey-freedom that I have recently come across. The quieter I get, the more my emotions start to congeal. The more they congeal, the murkier and messier they get. I’m a person who can go really deep – I wade into the murky depths and it can be a valuable exercise. I frequently write from that place and most of my best material comes from those excursions. But I have to be careful not to stay very long because it can be heavy and hard and dark and the further I go, the harder it is to get back out.
With all the hard emotional bullshit that his happening for me right now, I’ve found it really hard to get myself to boot camp these past three days. During these times I absolutely rely on the presence of accountability to get me through. Quite honestly, the only thing that has gotten me there has been the idea that people are waiting for me – that people might miss me if I didn’t turn up.
Today unforseen circumstances meant that I missed my early 5:30am class. It was test day and I would have liked to run my mile with the regular crew but I didn’t have a choice so I showed up to the 9:00am class and Daniel let me join them for the timed-mile and pushup contest.
I have realized that my biggest challenge with performance is my head. My body is more than capable of delivering semi-respectable athletic performances; it’s my head that needs work. I psyche myself out even when there aren’t even any real stakes involved. I have a perpetual lingering self-doubt that creates nearly debilitating nerves.
This morning I gave myself permission to be slow. I gave myself permission to be comfortable if I need to be. I gave myself permission not to finish first if there was someone that I couldn’t beat. I breathed deeply, started at a comfortable clip, surged up the first hill and then settled in.
I haven’t been running much. My ankle injury is nagging and I’ve put my focus in other areas in order to nourish my head and spirit. I’ve been conducting a tour of local yoga studios and focusing on slow, controlled practice. It’s been good, but I didn’t know how it would translate into a timed mile.
I came in at 7:20. Tired, lungs burning, and satisfied.
7:20 is fine.
Moreover, I was glad to be there instead of in the bathtub. Given all that is happening right now it would have been easy to go home, fill the clawfoot with steamy water and disappear for the morning. Instead I showed up, put one foot in front of the other, and let the endorphins flow.
I set a goal of 45 pushups and just barely beat it with a final count of 47. I don’t think that I would have done it had Daniel not been right next to me telling me that I could keep going. As I pushed for the last one my arms trembled nearly uncontrollably. I brought it “over the top” and then collapsed in a heap.
One woman in class had never run a mile in her entire life. Ever.
She ran hers in 10:48 and I think that is absolutely incredible and far more impressive than 7:20 or 47 pushups.
I am inspired by boundary pushing, perseverance and bravery. I am floored by the determination with which some of these women have set about taking care of and improving their bodies and overall health.