You know that feeling you have when you know the flu is about to hit you? Your throat is scratchy. Your nose is runny. Dull aches and pains are running up and down your body. You know it’s just a matter of time, but you fight it as hard as you can, pumping yourself full of Emergen-C, NyQuil and chicken noodle soup. You even lay off the booze, go to bed early and take a few rest days from the gym. But then, BOOM, a week later that freaking flu hits you and knocks you out. It was going to happen no matter what. You just delayed the inevitable.
I’ve felt like that lately, only instead of avoiding the flu, I was trying to avoid confronting the reality of my current situation. I’m still 100% sure that I made the right decision moving back to Omaha, but as the days go by and once promising job prospects disappear, I have felt a little bit of a “happiness flu” creeping up on me (does that even make sense?). So, I’ve fought it off by spending tons of quality time with the family and friends I’ve been missing for the past 12 years, focusing on improving my blog, hitting the gym and working on some freelance articles. I’ve even become a regular in a vinyasa yoga class (and I almost like it…almost.).
In all honesty, there’s a sort of constant anxiety hanging over my head. Yes, I’m finally in Omaha, but, to put it bluntly (let’s not beat around the bush), I’m 30, unemployed, single and living in my parents’ basement. Please laugh out loud right now. It will make me feel better.
Anyway, I certainly have a lot to be thankful for, but I don’t care who you are, this situation would probably put a damper on your mood every now and then. Somehow, I’ve avoided that inadequate feeling…until now. The other day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t fight the “happiness flu” anymore. I had to admit to myself that yes, I felt a little disheartened about my current situation. Then, I had a couple of glasses of wine with Emily, and suddenly the world was a better place. It was actually a relief to acknowledge that I wasn’t completely okay with where I’m at right now. Just like the 24 hour flu, I knew this uncomfortable feeling wasn’t permanent, but it felt somewhat healthy to sit and talk about it over some pinot grigio.
Anyway, this long-winded intro is actually to say that, like every other unsettling time in my life, running has become my outlet. Now that it’s finally warmer (probably temporarily – damn midwest weather), there is nothing that makes me happier than lacing up my shoes and running until I don’t feel like running anymore. I never have a plan, a route, even a pace. I just run, blast my cheesy country music (intermixed with random rap songs) and literally work through every problem in my head, whether it’s writer’s block or personal issues. And when I’m running, everything I’m thinking about and hoping for seems entirely possible.
So, lately, I’ve been thinking, if only I could live the way I run…
I run without goals. Last Wednesday brought ideal running conditions to O-Town, so I decided I wanted to go on a “long run.” I turned on my iPhone stopwatch, laced up and headed out for an adventure. I wandered through neighborhoods, onto main streets and around random ponds. Lots of critical thinking was done. When I finally finished, here is what the stopwatch said:
How far did I run? I have no idea. Probably around 12 to 13 miles, but who knows? From a very early age, we’re always taught that we’re supposed to have goals in life. Without goals – how can we measure progress and improvement, right? New Year’s Resolutions, career aspirations, family planning. The goals never stop…along with the pressure that accompanies them.
Yet, when I’m running, I’m completely comfortable having no plan whatsoever. When I was in Boston, I set out for a run on the Commons and somehow ended up at Harvard. Even when I sign up for races, I usually don’t follow much of a training plan. It’s not like I’m planning to win the damn thing, so I might as well just keep enjoying my directionless runs! The lack of expectations and pressure allows me to live in the moment and enjoy the ride.
I run with confidence. Well, this section could drag on, so let’s just sum it up. Sometimes I struggle in the whole confidence department (I’m sure everyone does at some point in their lives). I pride myself in being humble and self-aware, but there is a fine line between modesty and a lack of confidence. It’s only natural, given the unsettled status of my life right now, that I have felt a lot of self-doubt creep into my head. I second guess a lot of things, from the writing on this blog to whether or not I’m qualified for some pretty senior positions.
(Please tell me you caught this 90′s movie reference…)
But, when I run, I second-guess nothing. Once I’m in my rhythm, I know I can run as fast and as long as I want. I never question my ability to keep on truckin’, and I know I’m a damn good runner. When I’m in a race, I’m pretty ruthless. I’m the girl that passes a bunch of people as she sprints through the marathon finish line. Nobody can get in my way when I’m barreling through that last 0.2 stretch.
Yet, in life, I tend to be passive, letting others take the lead because I lack confidence in my own conviction.
I run with no fear. Whether it’s 26.2 miles, a bunch of hills, or a snowy trail, I’ll just keep running through anything. I get in a zone once I put on those headphones, and nothing can stop me. In life, there is a fear of the unknown – of not knowing what’s going to happen next. I’m certainly feeling that right now. But, when I run, I could care less. I just roll with whatever comes my way on the path that I choose to run.
In my own life, when something throws me off course or off my routine, I feel a little lost, and my first reaction is to panic.
When I run, the outside elements don’t affect me. Once I decide to run, I am going for a run…no matter what mother nature throws my way. If it’s raining out, I’ll put a plastic bag over my iPhone. If it’s snowing, I’ll wear a hat and an extra layer of clothing. If it’s windy, I’ll run extra hard against the wind.
Yet, in life, I sometimes find myself overly concerned with those outside elements…others’ opinions. In the end, I’ll always do what is right for me, but I will waste precious, seconds, minutes and hours worrying about how my actions will be perceived by the outside world.
I pace myself during long runs. One of the first lessons I taught my Girls on the Run team about was the “power of pacing.” It is something that I intuitively understood when I became interested in long distance running. In fact, I paced myself so well during my first marathon that I probably could have run 5 more miles after crossing the finish line. It’s simple, really. If you have 26.2 miles to run, then your best bet is to start off slow and let ‘er rip towards the end. This is an extremely difficult task, particularly in races, where the adrenaline rush is at full force. Yet, I’ve never had a problem with it. But, when it comes to life, I tend to go full force all the time. When I take on a new task, or when work becomes too busy, I try to do it all, mistakingly thinking each time that I am superhuman. This usually results in me on the couch enjoying a different type of marathon…a television marathon.
When I run, everything seems possible. Whether is 3 miles or 26.2, when I’m running, it’s very easy for me to visualize myself crossing the finish line. Even when the hills pile up and the rain starts pouring down, I’ll keep that image in my head to help me push through the obstacles.
Yet in life, when things start going wrong, I find it harder and harder to “think positive.” We all do. In fact, sometimes I find myself fighting against the negative thoughts creeping into my head. I couldn’t be happier about finally living in my hometown, after want to come back for years. However, with each interview that doesn’t work out and other similar small setbacks, on top of some of the bigger setbacks, I feel those pessimistic “what if’s” coming on…
- What if I don’t get a job?
- What if my freelance writing isn’t well-received?
- What if this blog fails?
- What if this blog actually sucks? What if I’m like one of those really bad singers on American Idol who thinks she knows how to sing but actually sounds like a dying frog when she sings? And, why, oh why do her family and friends encourage her to continue singing?
- What if I’m doomed to be the single woman with 5 dogs, 3 cats, 2 hamsters and a bird for the rest of my life??
The good news is that I’m clearly not dramatic.
The other good news is that even though I have days when the above irrational thoughts cross my mind, I’m usually able to come right back to visualizing that triumphant sprint through the finish line.
So, ultimately, in many ways, I can and do live the way I run. The difference? When I run, these instincts innately kick in, but in life, sometimes I just need to kick my own self in the a** to think this way!
Apologies. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to drop a Michael Bolton “Go the Distance” reference…Seriously, the song is amazing, but that hair is epic.
And there really is no better way to end a philosophical post than with Michael Bolton. With that, I am off! Three guesses to what I am about to go do…
YOUR TURN: Take your pick between serious and fun…
Most embarrassing 90′s crush? Michael Bolton. I admit it. I still think he’s hot. The blog is not a place to judge, my friends.
What’s one lesson you have learned from running? See above
Do you “live the way you run?” Sometimes…on the good days!