Monday, June 20, 2016

In Defense of Whimsy

I was late to the Doctor Who train. It wasn't until the summer of 2013 when my friend Samantha, who also happens to be my television soul mate, loaned me the first season of the 2005 reboot that I finally gave it a try. I wasn't smitten instantly - it's hard to be taken with giant green alien blobs whose greatest threat is they fart too much. But by the end of the season, I had been charmed and intrigued just enough to keep watching. By the end of the summer, I had cried myself to sleep over the end of season 4, ordered Doctor Who-themed earrings off Etsy, and heard my roommate humming along to the theme song in the shower. I was a Whovian.

* * *

Last week I saw play at the Ottawa Fringe Festival all about the struggles of turning thirty. It was one of the worst productions I've ever seen for a lot of reasons - no overarching narrative, unnecessary audio and visual interruptions, a shocking and gratuitous nude scene which served no narrative purpose whatsoever. It was a disaster from start to finish.

But to me, the play's worst offence was it's mundanity. It addressed the well-worn topics of Facebook making us feel inadequate about our lives, the difficulties of wading through the bog that is online dating, and drowning our sorrows in vices, whether they be wine or cat pictures. I left the theatre just feeling bored.

Maybe it's a bit hypocritical of me to complain about someone reflecting on real life, since that's sort of my M.O. I write almost exclusively about my own life and how I understand the world I'm navigating. I read a lot of nonfiction books, and I especially love auto/biographies. 

But lately I've felt inundated with "reality." I can't read any more think pieces about how hard it is to be millennial in our current economic climate. I don't want to see another book cover with a YouTuber's face staring back at me, the details of their life's (all 21 years of it) struggle to internet stardom. I am bored of talking about how terrible Tinder is. It's all a bit serious and, well, bland.

* * *

I've never loved a show like I love Doctor Who

I love Doctor Who because it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous at every level. It gives the audience a few wisps of reality to cling to, and then demands the wholehearted suspension of disbelief: A alien who regenerates into a new body every few years and flies around in a time machine called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension in Space - a name that could only have been conceived of in the 1960s) that's bigger on the inside, and, for someone who has access to all of time and space, inexplicably seems to spend a great deal of time in London. He always lands somewhere just as the drama is starting, and he doesn't carry a weapon, preferring instead to use cleverness and conversation to solve problems. I mean, its absurd.

Except, it's not.

One of my favourite running themes throughout the show is that the Doctor's companions think of themselves as lucky women (and sometimes men) to run with the Doctor. After all, they are just 19 year old girls who live in council estates with their mother, or they are "just a temp" who thinks that just finding a husband will help her find value. There is the doctor who feels unloveable and the little redhead who just waits for someone to come back.

But through the Doctor, these women realize that they are incredible, important, invaluable. My favourite companion, Donna Noble, frequently exclaims that she's "just a temp" and what on earth can she do to help anyone, but by simply being with the Doctor, she realizes her resourcefulness and her compassion. We learn that the Doctor didn't choose her randomly; instead, she found the Doctor, because she's "the most important person in the universe," and she alone saves humanity from compete destruction.

There are other elements, of course. There is an episode where the Doctor comes face to face with the devil and that is scary. He faces real racism and discrimination on the Planet of the Ood. He loses control of his mind to an alien and that's terrifying. He faces his own loneliness, the knowledge that he is the last of his own species, time and again. For more than 900 years he's had to watch the people he love die, or lose their minds, or worse - forget him. These are heavy themes that act as a reminder: living forever and traversing all of time and space doesn't save you from very human pain.

But ultimately what makes the show so wonderful is that it is truth wrapped up in whimsy. While these immense themes provide the foundation of the show, the Doctor himself is the most whimsical character since Willy Wonka. He's lighthearted, forgetful, messy. He makes mistakes. He jokes. He has a strange eye for fashion and obsesses over Fez hats and Converse sneakers and leather jackets. He believes in the impossible because, more often than not, the impossible happens.  He faces fear with curiosity and an adventurous heart(s), and he always hopes for the best and expects the best, too. He believes goodness is inside everyone, and that we all ultimately want to choose good over evil.

* * *

On the way home from the disastrous play, all I could think was that I wanted more whimsy. I think our brutally self-aware society has forgotten about the everyday magic that makes the heaviness of life just a little bit lighter. 

I think there can be balance. We can stay focused on and aware of our reality while believing in the impossible. Because of course the winged statues on Rideau aren't Weeping Angels, but there's a brief spark of joy, just a microsecond, in pretending they are. Of course a TARDIS won't drop down on my street and whisk me away to Planet Klom tomorrow, but what's the harm in sort of hoping it might? 

There is value in the weight of reality, but there is so much joy in whimsy.

-Jillz

Post Script: This is my favourite quote about the essence of the Doctor from writer Steven Moffat:

It's hard to talk about the importance of an imaginary hero. But heroes ARE important: Heroes tell us something about ourselves. 

History tells us who we used to be, documentaries tell us who we are now; but heroes tell us who we WANT to be.

And a lot of our heroes depress me. 

But when they made this particular hero, they didn't give him a gun--they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn't give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter--they gave him a box from which you can call for help. And they didn't give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat-ray--they gave him an extra HEART. They gave him two hearts! And that's an extraordinary thing.

There will never come a time when we don't need a hero like the Doctor.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The State of the Thing*

Well hello there.

I haven't blogged in a long time. I mean, we all know this. Some (very kind) people have asked me to write something, and I promise you: I've thought about it. I've even tried! But I've been a bit preoccupied and also, if I'm being honest, a bit uninspired. But a very wise friend said to me once that creativity comes in seasons. There are times when we are in full bloom and can create and produce beautiful things at a remarkable pace. Then there are other seasons where our creativity lies dormant, and we can use this time to rest and nourish ourself, until we are able to start making things again.

So that's where I've been. Dormant.

There are a few reasons I've not been writing. The first is quite practical: my new apartment. The place I moved into last November ended up being an absolute nightmare. I don't have the time or the energy - or the bandwidth - to detail all the problems I had. A fresh hell arose every week with something in my apartment, or with the property management company, or with the building as a whole. A small sampling of what I had to deal with:
  • my apartment was over 35 degrees in early January; 
  • the fire alarm went off for two days straight; 
  • I nearly ended up in a legal battle over road salt; and 
  • several building-mates had face-to-face encounters with bats.
The good news is that I've since moved to an apartment I love in a fantastic neighbourhood. But in order to get out of my first lease, I spent the past six months becoming an expert on Ottawa bylaws and landlord-tenant laws. I spent hours and days reading through legal text, talking to other tenants in the building, and looking up bat sounds on YouTube to verify if the noise I had been hearing in the walls all winter was, indeed, bats (still unsure about this one).

The second reason I haven't felt particularly inspired is that I think I've been in recuperation mode. If you read my last few blog posts, you know that 2015 was a really difficult year. I felt emotionally raw, and I spent most of last year in survival mode. And while the past six months have certainly done their best to challenge me, I also feel like I've had the time for self care. I've read a bit, and watched lots of documentaries. I purged a lot of my makeup and clothing. I went to the doctor and got a prescription for orthotics. I made a commitment to use up all the food in my fridge before it goes bad, so I've been spending a lot of time with recipe books. I adopted a cat named Benedict Cumbercat, and he brings me more joy than I could've predicted. I'm seeing a counsellor who makes me feel very calm. I've been listening to lots of podcasts - some on faith, some about storytelling, others about justice and truth.

I didn't really realise it until now, but I guess the past few months have been my pruning period. I needed some time to rub some balm on my soul, let it lie fallow.

But I've been feeling reinvigorated lately, and I'm inspired to start writing again. I've been working on a novel sporadically for a little while, but it's laid pretty much untouched for months; I'm getting excited about it again, and have begun working on it. I have a few blog posts that I've been tinkering with, and I'm writing another article or two for publication in online magazines. I've also decided to start bullet journalling, which I hope will help me organise my thoughts so I can actually build on little threads of ideas before they disappear from my mind.

I've also been thinking a lot about the future in a way I haven't really had the luxury of doing before. I am finally in a state of mind to be able to think about what my life might look like in the long term - the sort of work I want to be doing, and how I can achieve it. I've spent some time thinking and planning for the next three- to five years, and it's been exciting for me to actually be able to envision the things I want beyond the immediate future.

(I realise this all sounds very vague, but I'm hesitant to share details on my public blog. Not right now. These plans feel very intimate, in a way; I feel like I'm following direction from my very soul. Right now, I'm enjoying just ruminating on it and being hopeful.)

To conclude this very circa 2010 blog post, I'm just going to throw in a list of things I've been enjoying over the past few months, because why not?
  • I loved the book (and the documentary of the same name) Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. Scientology is scary and fascinating and insanely complex, and Wright does a spectacular job exposing and explaining. It's one of the best books I've read in a very long time.
  • I've been watching YouTuber Casey Neistat a lot over the past two months. He's made a video every single day since March 25, 2015. At first I hated him because I thought he worked too much and never saw his family, but I've grown to really enjoy his daily vlogs.
  • Aloe juice. Delicious.
  • I've been trying to eat better the past month, so I've replaced chips with Goldfish crackers, and I almost can't tell the difference. (Almost.)
  • I've cut back on the amount of makeup I wear daily, and I often go out without any on at all. I'm loving the freedom of being able to rub my face without fear of Panda eyes.
See you all back here soon,
Jill

* The title is a reference to the emails I get monthly from the website Library Thing, which are called "The State of the Thing." I never read those emails.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Beautiful and True

In Blue Like Jazz, Don Miller writes the phrase "beautiful and true" a lot. I've always loved that. I think the truth is always, in some form, beautiful, and I love the idea that there are life moments that teach us what those beautiful and true things are.

My friend and I sat on my couch in my Ottawa apartment as the clock struck midnight on 1 January 2015. My friend and I toasted, as I had every year before, to "hoping this is the best year yet!"

If you read my last blog post, you know that 2015 was not the Best Year Yet. We could, if we're speaking in superlatives anyway, say it was probably one of the worst. At 12:01am on 1 January, I received a really crappy email from a boy I wanted to be dating, and everything kind of went off the rails from there (I won't rehash it all here, but you can see my last post for the nitty gritty, where I laid out my woes in great detail).

About two months ago, everything in my life almost instantaneously reversed. I have a nice new apartment and a comfy grey couch, a job that actually lets me pay bills and use some of my skills, and I've been able to go on dates with actual straight men without wanting to cry and/or vomit.

In these past few weeks of upswing, I've been able to really process the past year. Some friends have noted, and I've felt it, too, that I am a different person than I was 12 months ago. I think you probably grow the most when things are difficult ("if you're not laughing, you're learning," as they say), and there are some lessons I've learned that I'd like to say are also beautiful and true.

Grief is not linear

I was listening to an episode of Rob Bell's podcast the other day where he featured an interview with David Kessler, a grief specialist. Kessler said that a common misunderstanding about the five stages of grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance - is that we experience them in that order. Instead, we actually might rally back and forth between two or three of the stages; we may spend a lot of time being angry, we may skip over bargaining entirely, and we may never reach acceptance. He also said that when we mourn, we don't just grieve the loss of what was, but the loss of what could have been.

I spent a lot of time grieving this year. I grieved the end of a long, intense, and unhealthy friendship; I grieved a love that never had the chance to flourish; I grieved for the life I was supposed to have at 28. I spent a lot of time being angry at the beginning ("I can't pay my bills, and it's [insert anyone's name here] fault"), and then long stretches of being depressed ("I am repulsive and forever unlucky and everything I touch I ultimately destroy"), peppered with moments of bargaining ("What if he misses me as much as I miss him, and he's just waiting for me to send the first email?").

I remember talking with my best friend in June, and I had felt a resurgence of anger about something I thought I had forgotten months ago. "I just hope they are as miserable as I am!" I sobbed. "Why am I still so mad about this? I've already been through the bargaining stage! Why am I back here?" I felt so guilty about backtracking my feelings, and I felt weak and lonely and helpless that I hadn't been able to reach a stage of acceptance.

But I've since gotten there, and I've realised that you cannot make yourself feel something if you're not ready. Our self-help culture tells us that we have to rebound immediately, and not once we've actually processed and healed. I've learned that in order to feel better, we have to give ourselves time. And sometimes that means feeling awful for a really, really long time. But grief ends, or at least changes shape, if we let ourselves take the time to experience it in whatever way we need to.

You are not weak for wanting love

In 2015, I said something out loud that I had never dared say before: "I want to be in love with someone."

I have never felt so exposed and vulnerable in my life.

One of the things I like a lot about myself is my independence. I've always felt very determined to achieve goals on my own and be able to take care of myself. It makes me feel confident and brave that I can make big life decisions on my own.

When I was younger, I had a lot of friends who were constantly in and out of relationships. No sooner would one relationship end than another would be blossoming. And it often seemed like their happiness (and their sanity) rested on having a boyfriend. 

I rejected this behaviour. In fact, I feared becoming That Girl so much that I slowly started viewing relationships as an impediment to life, rather than an enhancement.

For so long, I thought if I admitted that I wanted a real, meaningful relationship, I was admitting defeat. I was not the strong, independent, confident woman I had tried to hard to appear to be. I was so afraid of sounding like a girl. I would open myself up to ridicule and judgement: I'm too fat, too outspoken, too weird, too [whatever] to find love. I would just be another boring, weak-willed woman, swept up in the falseness of love that movies tell us is real.

In February, I read Don Miller's newest book, Scary Close. It's about intimacy in relationships, and about connecting to other people in profoundly meaningful ways. It's truly a fantastic book, and it made me think about how much bravery and independence it takes to be committed to someone else. I've realised that simply having a significant other doesn't bring you joy, but building a community with someone else is intensely fulfilling. It is good hard work.

This year, I realised that wanting to be in love does make me sound like a little girl playing dressup. But it also makes me sound like a 30 year old football player, and a 70 year old woman in a nursing home. Because wanting love and wanting connection with others is the most universal desire, and wanting to build community is the noblest of all goals. And wanting love does not make me weak; it makes me spectacularly human.

We are not alone

I was scared to write my last blog post. I don't know what I was more worried about - that no one would read it, or that everyone would. I felt vulnerable and I was afraid that people would think I was whiny and weak, or worse - they'd pity me. But I posted it anyway, because sometimes we have to do things that scare us. 

I have been blogging for 5 years, and I've never had such a strong response to anything I've written. I received emails and Facebook comments and private messages from people I hadn't spoken to in a long while; I had texts and phone calls from friends and family; friends of friends tweeted links and shared my blog around the internet. And the overwhelming refrain from every single person was: Me too.

It occurred to me in November, after two dear friends gave up 10 hours of their day to help me move and in the following days as other friends stopped in to help me put together furniture and organize my new apartment, that I have never really felt alone. Throughout this entire year, I have been sad and sick and frustrated; I've been angry and downright miserable. But I never once felt like I was alone. For all the suffering I went through, my friends suffered right along with me - maybe not by choice, but always graciously. I made countless phone calls to moan and complain about the same things over and over, and people kept listening. I cancelled plans because I was sick for the 10th week in a row, and they still invited me the next time. Friends sat in coffee shops with me in total silence as they sipped their coffee and I brooded. I quit my job with no money and no plan, and my family just packed me up and brought me home, no questions asked.

I have struggled often this year to be able to adequately express my gratitude to the people who, sometimes inexplicably it seems, love me. It is humbling in the extreme and comforting in the deepest way to know that even at my worst, people still care. "Thank you" doesn't seem to cut it.

But I also felt so connected to and surrounded by support when I laid my dishevelled self out on the internet for all to see, and people just said "Yeah, I get it." People told me that they'd been there, too, and that it would get better. That sometimes they felt like they had their lives together, and other times it was a disaster. Some people thanked me for just being honest, because it made them feel like they could be honest too. Because we all think that we are the only ones who feel unsure of ourselves, and it's good to know that everyone else is right there alongside of us, just making it through the day, too.

And I think this is the most beautiful and the most true: we are not alone.


Here's to 2016. May it be the best year yet.

Monday, September 21, 2015

What You're Worth: Why Everything is the Absolute Worst Right Now, But I'm Still Trying

I have been having violent and terrifying nightmares lately. These dreams cause me to wake up covered in tears and sweat, and look around my room to make sure men with knives and guns aren't standing over my bed, waiting for me. It's made me dread sleep, which has made me a daytime zombie.

I've talked to a few people about these terrifying dreams, including my doctor, and the general consensus is that I am unsettled in my waking life. And that's not surprising: to be honest, everything is the worst right now. I'm unemployed, and have been underemployed ever since 2012. In a few weeks I will be homeless in Ottawa. My beautiful pink couch has gone to a new home. I have no money and few job prospects. I've never had a successful relationship, and I've actively avoided speaking to single straight men for approximately 9 months. I've fallen so far behind on my training schedule for a 10k race in October that yesterday my running app asked me if I was still alive. The only successes I've had lately is making it to level 21 in Paradise Bay, and figuring out how to stream The Great British Bakeoff from the BBC website.

In the midst of this persistent and baseline of terror that my life is a complete and total waste at the age of 28, my sister called me. "I have a request," she said.

"...okay. You may proceed," I said.

"I want you to write a blog post about worth."

I stopped swatching eye shadows and stared at the phone. "Like, monetary worth? You know I don't understand the economy. I just hear the word 'taxes' and I start to hyperventilate."

"No, obviously not," she sighed. "I mean people's worth. What it is that makes people valuable."

What prompted this request was a post she had seen on Facebook. A friend had wished a happy birthday to their daughter, adding that she had a nice house, a good job, and a husband. What bothered my sister about this was that it seemed like such an obvious statement: what made her daughter worthy was a trio of surface successes.

Even though I want to believe I'm strong enough and smart enough to know that marriage and money isn't what makes a person valuable, hearing of another engagement or someone getting the very job I had also applied for causes me to crawl into bed and watch Community for the 13th time. It isn't that other people are experiencing cool and exciting things in their lives; it's that I feel like I'm reminded that I have nothing to show for myself, and therefore I do not matter; I am worthless.

Rationally, I know this isn't true. Of course I matter; all lives matter. But the doubt and fear and pressure of the media and Facebook and social circles remind me that some matter more than others. If you can tick the boxes of success - love, employment, purchasing power - then you have hit the jackpot! You win! Your life is more valuable because we can quantify it.

And I think it boils down to ease. It's easier to congratulate someone on a new job or gush over a cruise to Mexico, than it is to remark someone's ability to contemplate important social issues. It's easier to see a wedding as mark of success, rather than the ability to be vulnerable over and over again, risking heartbreak every time, as a mark of strength. It's easier to congratulate someone on buying a house than it is to congratulate them for waking up to another day of unknowns and simply trying.

I've been lucky, in that I have parents and a sister and friends who have reminded me consistently over the past few months why I matter to them - I'm funny; I'm smart; I have thoughtful insights to their problems; I can cook; I am passionate about stuff, which in turn makes them passionate too. These tidbits have shone like lanterns in the window while a blizzard rages all around me. And these people have also reminded me that they were once where I am, or their future is uncertain too, and that this isn't it, and there's so much to be excited about. That I am not alone.

I guess what I really want, with this entire rambling post full of feelings, is to be able to celebrate the little successes. To post on Facebook "I got out of bed today, and I applied for a job, and then I paid my internet bill on time" and have a surge of "likes" and comments: congratulations! well done! good luck!

Because I think what makes us worthy not our successes; it is simply that we are trying.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fifteen of my Favourite Feelings

A little while ago, Hank Green posted a video called 15 of My Favourite Feelings. In the description of the video, he says:
When we're confronted with negative experiences, we want to analyze them and think about them and remember them for future use. But with positive emotions, we often just feel them and enjoy them, which is wonderful, but also leads to us putting less weight on them and it seems like they take up less space in our minds. [...] Recognizing and harping on the positive experiences we have is a great way, I think, to both have a better outlook on life, and have more positive experiences.
I think he's right. I could use a little boost right now, so I decided to spend some time thinking about fifteen of my favourite feelings.

  1. When someone I really respect tells me, unprompted, that they really respect me
  2. When someone tells me that something I said to them a long time ago, and I've long since forgotten having said it in the first place, has stuck with them, and has shaped their choices and decisions.
  3. Reading a book I didn't expect to love, but quickly becoming so immersed in the story that I have to stay up reading until my eyes hurt from fighting to keep them open.
  4. Meeting someone for the first time and instantly knowing you're going to really like them.
  5. Having a vision of an exact shade of lipstick I want, and magically finding it.
  6. Getting messages from people I haven't spoken to in a while, telling me that something I've written has resonated with them personally.
  7. Remembering old jokes and stories with long-time friends and laughing as much as we did the first time.
  8. Seeing people I deeply care about find a person or a place or a job that makes them happier than anything else. 
  9. Talking about makeup with other people who also really love talking about makeup.
  10. The first moment of realizing that the wound left by people and situations that have hurt me is completely healed, and I don't have to ever think about it or them again.
  11. The relief that comes with finally making a hard decision.
  12. Spending a whole recovery day in bed, binging on a new season of TV.
  13. Walking out of a hot yoga studio and being hit with a wave of air conditioning.
  14. The easy and honest conversations that come at the end of a long, good day over a cup of tea.
  15. A text from a friend of family out of the blue, just saying hi, and reminding me that good relationships are not conditional on constant contact.
This was really nice, and almost cathartic. It's good to remind ourselves of the things that make us feel good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Supine Butterfly

Sometime mid-June, my friend convinced me to sign up for a month of yoga. This was a huge deal. I had spent a very long time scoffing at women in yoga pants at the grocery store. I was pretty sure it was just a hipster fad, which meant it was 100% not for me.

But I had been running for six months, and I was becoming a bit disenchanted with it. I had pain in my hips and shins, and I started to feel like I needed something to supplement running, if for no other reason than to give my pedicures a fighting chance. I had some friends who were not hipsters but also really loved yoga, and invited me to come along for one Saturday morning class, just to see how I felt. With a promise of brunch to follow, I tagged along.

The class - hot yoga vinyasa flow - was a bit strange (who actually thinks that much about their breathing?!). The poses were foreign to my body and so much more difficult than I had anticipated. I spent a lot of time in child's pose, recuperating. Most significantly, I had never sweat so much in my life! But I left feeling challenged and energized.

I took the plunge and paid for a month of unlimited classes.

Just over a week later, I was I was five minutes in to a Yin class (Yin yoga is slow, deep stretching that lets you hold positions for much longer than you would in a flow class). My friend couldn't come with me, so I was going it alone for the first time.

I chose a spot in the corner of the room, and I was lying in supine butterfly. The room was almost entirely silent except for the unmistakeable sound of purposeful breathing you can only hear in a yoga class. The instructor swept in and asked that we remain in supine butterfly for a little while. "As you're breathing, let the floor take the entire weight of your body," he said. "Just completely release. Take stock of how your body is feeling. Take a minute to notice how this day has imprinted itself onto your legs and arms and feet. Let yourself be completely aware of your body."

It was that last sentence that triggered something in me. As my feet pressed gently together and my arms hung loosely by my sides, it occurred to me that this was the first time I had ever been completely aware of my body.

As a woman, and especially as a fat woman, I have spent my entire life trying to make myself smaller. I have crossed my legs and squeezed myself as close to the corners of sofas as possible. I have worn undergarments that pull and suck and reduce. I have turned my breathing to shallow gulps; I have pressed myself against walls and chairs, I have interlocked and interlaced my limbs. I have tried to reduce myself. I have tried to make my body as close to invisible as possible.

All of this adjusting and compacting has left me grossly unaware of what space my body actually occupies. I know how I've tried to make it fit, but I have denied myself the freedom of simply being.

And lying on a rented mat in a hot room full of strangers, I was being invited to be aware of my body. Not so that I could reduce the amount of space I took up, but so that I could truly occupy the space my body needed. Just so I knew. Just so I understood my body better. Just so I was comfortable.

I had never been invited to be comfortable before.

I felt my body unclench. It was a tightness I'd become so familiar with that its release felt unfamiliar. My stomach grew to it's full size and my legs relaxed and my arms touched a lot of floor. Because they needed to. And I had the thought that this tension I'd been wrapping my body in was my apology. "Sorry, World. Sorry I am fat and female. I'm sorry I need so much space to live in. I will do my best to eliminate my hugeness. I will be uncomfortable so you don't have to."

That class was extraordinary, and I felt different as I left. I felt a renewed connection with the fat body that I had been at war with for 20 years. I felt challenged to awareness. I felt excited to start occupying the physical space I needed and not feel guilty.

I felt comfortable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What a Long Way You've Come


I was 2.1k into my run this morning, and I was really struggling. I had more than half of my distance left to go, and I just couldn't do it. My legs hurt, it was humid, my face and hands felt bloated. I hadn't slept well, I didn't stretch properly, and I hadn't eaten anything before setting out.

Everything about this morning was hard, and I was discouraged. I was furious at myself for not having prepped better. I was discouraged that I wasn't able to run faster and for longer intervals. I considered unplugging my headphones, stopping my run app, and slowly dragging my feet home in time to shower and eat before going to work. As I was walking begrudgingly home, sluggish and stewing in my cloud of frustration, I could just feel it in my body that if I made it home in this mood, I would feel defeated for the rest of the day.

I sat down on a bench, turned off my music, and took long, deep breaths. I reminded myself that a year ago, I couldn't run for 100m, let alone 5k. Six months ago, I wouldn't have woken up at 5:50am to run before work. One month ago, I wouldn't have gone to yoga to learn the stretching and breathing techniques that make running easier.


I am a goal-oriented person. I thrive when I am working towards accomplishments, whether as trivial as wearing heels around my house for a full week, or as grandiose as working as a writer for the BBC in the next 5 years. But when you spend so much time looking ahead, it's easy to feel like you still have miles to go.

I have this picture as the lock screen on my phone to remind myself not to forget where I've been. My friend Karen used to say "Honour where you are today." I like that too, because it keeps you in the present. It reminds me to stop thinking about what came before and what will come after, and to just be conscious of where I am right now.

I needed that moment to reflect this morning - not just on my running, but on other parts of my life. To honour that things are hard right now, but I've come so far, even from a few months ago. In January, I didn't really believe I'd be able to do a 5k race. I could barely believe I'd get out of bed on some days. But I have a theory that if you do the things you hate often enough, eventually you won't hate them anymore. And so even though every half hour on the treadmill sucked, and every morning layering up for to face the winter morning made me want to cry, and knowing that I had to do it again the next day, I kept doing it. Because we need to take steps forward to put the distance behind us.

I still have a long way to go. There are goals yet to be accomplished. But it was good to remind myself of what a long way I've come.

Jill