I’ve been percolating over this New Year’s resolution thing for a couple of days, seeing what might stick 72 hours before I announce a 365-day commitment. My record isn’t so good. Like, I’m 0 and 30 since making my first failed resolution around the tender age of 8 when I announced I would start a stamp collection.
But this year I might be onto something sustainable—and something more meaningful than stamps.
If I were to characterize 2015 in one word, it would be “overwhelming.” I felt like I was running in 10 different directions but never getting past my own front door. I was overwhelmed by my commitments to my work, writing, running, friends, family and myself. Commitments that I kept making.
“Why don’t you stop saying ‘yes’ to things if you’re feeling overwhelmed?” asked my husband.
As if that made any sense.
Truth is, I wanted to say yes to every single opportunity last year posed. I like new challenges and projects. I suffer from the fear of missing out. I live in this paradox where I crave time to just “do nothing,” but as soon as there’s “nothing to do,” I’m bored.
So if that wasn’t going to change, then maybe it was simply my outlook that needed a revision. Instead of grumbling and being anxious about everything I “had to get done,” what if I approached each project/goal/opportunity with joy? The same joy with which I accepted it in the first place?
I began by evaluating my running.
I came out of 2014 hitting PR after PR and with the hopes of qualifying for Boston. I finished every race exhilarated about what I had just accomplished and thought 2015 would be even better. But somewhere along the way I got fixated on racing and getting faster. Consequently, I endured a series of small physical setback and large disappointments. The races I did PR, I finished hyperventilating and heaving, beating myself up because I ran negative splits, walked at the water station, or didn’t place—things I knew were lame for an age-grouper running local tracks to care about, but still…I cared.
I don’t want to stop caring about becoming a better runner any more than I want to stop caring about being a better friend, mother, wife or writer. I don’t want to throw my hands in the air and say “I’m just too old/tired/busy for this.” Because I’m not.
But what if I let go of the useless anxiety that clouds my otherwise optimistic outlook? What if I instead focused on the one thing I could change: Me.
I didn’t think it would work because it goes against everything I’ve come to think I know about being driven. For instance, as a writer, I stress about deadlines, inspirational crashes, and whether or not I’m good enough, thinking that these things ultimately fuel my craft. In fact, they stand in the way of it. But the few times I’ve convinced myself it’ll all work out (and by the way, it does), or walked away from a piece only to have fresh insight the next day (because it always comes), or forget what people think and just write what I love (the best writing I’ve ever done), I’ve been surprised at how joyful the experience can be. The anxiety didn’t make me work harder, it just made me feel like I was working harder.
I wasn’t sure the principle would apply to running until today. After four hours of writing, I felt like running—I needed to run. But instead of looking at the half-marathon training program to tell me how to run, I ran just for the hell of it. I put on my headphones and picked a course that would allow me to log anywhere from 1 – 7.5 miles. I could turn back whenever I felt like it. I would run “comfortably” without worrying about the pace—something I hadn’t done for so long I wasn’t even sure what my comfortable pace was. I feared it would be slower than I could handle, but told myself it didn’t matter; my only goal was to adhere to the Brooks slogan I love so much: run happy.
If my breathing became labored, I slowed. If I felt energetic, I picked up. I rocked out to the worst Tween beats Pandora has to offer because that’s my jam. At mile 4, I stopped to chomp on some energy chews, and enjoyed the warm sunlight on my face. I never took the shorter route, not because I had to log the miles, but because I wanted to run them.
Every now and then I would peek at my watch, just to see how much damage running happy would do. Funny this is, it didn’t. I was cruising at an 8:30-8:45 pace, much faster than my easy pace I do while training.
I didn’t finish with my body aching and my lungs heaving. I finished exhilarated at what I accomplished and called my husband and texted Lindsay to share in the joy of just another day of running.
This wasn’t new. This was how I used to run. Happy.
I think 2016 is going to be an overwhelmingly good year.