So whatever became of this little blog? What ever became of the plan to have no goals.
Well, first off, I have to say, there clearly is a difference between having discipline to do something because you like the results, it feels good or has some sort of tangible effect in your life and between doing things you think you are supposed to because it makes you special or noteworthy or gold star stickered. My plan to do yoga all the time – not a goal of daily yoga, or even so many classes per week – has persisted and found itself into getting involved in two new continuing ed teacher trainings. Which will hopefully rekindle the yoga in my life all the time. I managed to stick with that because I needed it. I needed to not have the stress of my POS job not take over my life and express itself as fatigue, IBS and generalized cranky-pantsness. I did not continue to do yoga because it would make me have great buns or arms or whatever. If that’s a goal of yours, awesome. But for me, I need to cut out obsessing about looking socially acceptable. I needed to start just feeling good. Being able to be me in my skin.
And without my friends diet and running, that became really hard. This isn’t the point where I tell you I gained all 50 pounds that I lost a year and a half ago back. I did get softer. Rounder. Fuller. I did find that I was more out of shape. Which was frustrating and upsetting and at one point about three weeks ago made me have a dark night of the soul wherein I literally couldn’t stand the shape I was in. Which was all of 8 pounds heavier than I’d been when I actually liked the shape I was in. Dark nights of the soul, while exhausting, are helpful in showing you either a) how ridiculous the shit you are obsessing about is, b) how crazy and lost and scared you are, how much you are on the express train to meltdownville, c) that it can’t keep going on like this or d) all of the above at various times. I know friends in 12 step programs will say when you get to this place with addiction to substances or dieting or exercise or whatever, you’ve hit bottom. Maybe some of us bounce on the bottom. Maybe I’ve been hidden quietly on the bottom, like a stingray in the sand. Maybe you have to surface a bit and see the sun through the surface of the water to figure out you’ve been hiding. Whatever it is, the dark place is where you find yourself when the shit you’ve been doing to get through just doesn’t get you through anymore.
And from there, believe it or not, I’ve had some of the best runs I’ve had in probably three years. Slow, lagging slagging, messy runs. No graceful loping gazelle like mastery. No 9:30 miles for miles and miles. But slow sweaty, not sure I can make it through mile 4 runs. And they are perfect. Perfect in running slowly. Perfect in feeling grateful that I can go out whenever I want. And perfect in no longer feeling like I am supposed to be doing something some way that makes me a Runner, capital R. I once made myself a little sign that says, you are a runner even if you only run 5Ks. No more holding myself up to some special place where to do the thing I like I have to do it perfectly, or well enough, or in a way that other people say is the right way.
After buying a new pair of running shoes (mine were beyond dead), I asked about the running store’s running club. I’d deliberately talked myself out of joining time and time again because I had assumed I was too slow. Not good enough. You know, the standard goopy negative crap you spread all over yourself in a way to camouflage the fact that you might want things that are hard or scary or important to you. I held myself back even though it would be a fun way to meet people in my awesome little fun town who might like the things I do. But I finally asked. And asked specifically my “I am flawed, and not perfect and shouldn’t pretend to have a hobby unless I’m awesome at it.” Me: “um, can I join the Thursday runs, even if I am only running at an 11 minute mile?” them: “oh absolutely! There are people who run all sorts of times. Everyone welcome; no one left behind.” Oh right, people don’t suck anywhere near as badly as the mean voice in my head does.
I had planned on having a year of no goals, which meant no races because my competitive, brass ring grabbing self would plan and plot on times. And this did happen. I signed up for a charity 5K with the local bar association and instantly began planning how I would run it under a certain time. Even my fierce, take no prisoners work buddy thought I was insane. I didn’t run the race. I was mostly recovering from food poisoning, somewhat couldn’t get the registration to work, and 100% (does that add up to 200%?) took it as a sign from above to not run the race.
I am signed up for a 5 miler in my little town in about a week. I’m running about four miles now. Slowly, deliberately, mostly with joy and only when I want to. I left my registration in, even though its a hot ticket around here, because I wanted to be inspired to get back to running 5 miles. Which, at a relatively mild pace, ends up being about an hour. And my favorite runs have always been about that time. I focused on how it felt, and what it might do for me emotionally – release stress, help me sleep, make some friends and have fun, and exercise my slightly chubby dog – and I’ve managed to get back out there more often.
My one and only goal, as I had said, was to get a new job. So much that I wanted hinged on that goal. I really came close to just quitting and go into tending bar. With $100K in debt to my name. Yes, it was that bad. It was crying on the way home from work, waking up with panic attacks bad.
I had thought i would have to compromise to get out. I’d have to sacrifice something – time, money, independence. But I spent a lot of time thinking and writing and crying and writing some more. Of arguing with people and thinking things through, that I found, in the end, what I wanted.
When I sat down and started thinking about what I wanted, instead of trying to chase “success”, I made some progress. Guided by writings by fab life coaches like Andrea Owen and Molly Mahar, I made myself think through what I wanted. Literally, down to smell, touch and taste. What would feel like I’d “made it.” What would feel like I had hit every high spot in life?
The answer? A back yard with a porch and a fenced in big back yard where the dogs (plural, I only had one at the time) could play. A car big enough to carry both dogs out for hikes and time to do that. Friends to come over and eat and drink delicious things on a warm Saturday night. Comfy fun colorful things to wear. The end.
I know it sounds a bit fuzzy, but when I broke it down into “how in tarnation do I get these things?” it all started to work. In order to have a decent backyard, I’d need to make a relatively decent amount of money – but not chase gigantic amounts, or I wouldn’t have the Saturday nights and I wouldn’t have the friends. So I had to find a balance of reliable income and reasonable schedule. For me, as an attorney, that meant either a job at a firm with work-life balance and a good reputation (so that their workflow would be constant) or a higher up job with the government. In order to have two dogs, I would have to have a reasonably reliable schedule – which ruled out juggling multiple jobs too.
With that in mind, I refocused my search and applied only for those jobs and started getting some leads. I found a job that was right up my ally – had all the key points and I went for it with everything I had. I faced massive fear and self doubt and a mess of skeletons in my closet (going back into handling some corporate matters in which I had burned out earlier in my career). And I faced all of it because I knew exactly what I wanted. Beer. Dogs. Porch. Yard. Friends.
Yes. I got the job. And it paid more than the previous job only with less hours. And better management. And generalized goodness all around. Because I got the job, I could afford, when my car was about to go kaput, to get the slightly bigger car to fit two dogs. And in telling people why I got the bigger car, people told me about their beautiful, sweet rescue dogs that might fit into the rhythm of my life. And now, I have a gorgeous, though highly chewy, second dog who loves to give a mix between a snurfle and a kiss and is thinking seriously about sitting on the couch with myself and my older dog.
I didn’t write in this blog because I had started thinking about it as an obligation. I had started thinking of the end result. A book. A something. Shiny. With stars. I hadn’t thought about doing what feels good and right and true. Writing, just to write. Because I need to. Because someone reading this might use some portion of it and help make their life suck less. or unsuck. or something new that makes sense to them.
So even though I didn’t do what I thought I would do – without goals, I thought I wouldn’t have to face my massive obsession with weight and diet and exercise, I would just blissfully bounce around, and in reality, without goals I was stripped of a security blanket and couldn’t figure out how to feel good. I had to stare insecurity and lack of enough in the face and start to feel comfortable with it. I’m not one to say that I made friends with the demons. They are still there. I just finally accepted that the obsession wasn’t going to go away if I took some of its weapons away. In doing that, I accepted that I needed some help on that area and how deeply I had sunk into whatever we want to call it. Eating disorders. Disordered eating. Crazy mind-fuck games with food. But without goals, without being focused so hard on doing things “right” I did have to stare things in the face. And from there, made some progress.
I have a lot to learn and think about and write about in terms of discipline and getting myself to do things I want to do, like write articles and write in this blog. And about perfectionism and workaholism and being obsessed with achievement. So there’s definitely more to come.