It’s a good thing we live in the middle of absolutely nowhere, wild-looking woods surrounding our home; otherwise, I might have worried that I’d be seen circling an invisible platform in the middle of our road, doing the Rocky victory dance after jogging 1/4 of a mile non-stop a few days ago.
Yes, I said 1/4 of a mile. I understand that the real runners and athletes reading this may scoff at my milestone. But I’m not a real runner. I haven’t even attempted to run–except to chase after my dogs or to catch my husband as he backs out of the driveway to tell him to pick up a gallon of milk–in about five or six years. Back in the day, I somehow mustered up motivation to train for and run a 5K with an athletic trainer/friend of mine. I met my goal, and then all of my running skills slowly atrophied. I began running two miles at a time instead of three. Then one. Then none. Then I sold my treadmill. Then I discovered the divorce/cigarettes/beer-and-wine/stress/migraine medication/worst-job-in-the-world diet, I lost 30 pounds in about six months, and I didn’t have it to lose.
But don’t worry–I gained most of it back after regaining joy, meeting the man of my dreams, and finding a much less stressful job. When we moved into our small old farmhouse in the woods, I decided I’d be a fool to forgo the opportunity to get fit by hiking on the trails behind our house. So I forged ahead and got back into great shape and made my two dogs pretty happy along the way, taking them with me on daily hikes.
Then I came down with the worst flu ever, and it lasted for five months. By “flu,” I’m referring to what others sweetly term “morning sickness,” which is the greatest misnomer since it occurred without fail all day long every day for five months. Needless to say, my love for hitting the trails was derailed. I tried walking on the road instead and kept that up halfheartedly throughout my pregnancy, but after gaining 60 pounds, and suffering from pretty serious edema and other hellacious symptoms, I found myself in the worst shape of my life after bringing our lovely daughter into the world.
I have read all the advice-laden books, and I know my body won’t immediately snap back into shape like a taut rubber band. I don’t expect it to. But I don’t want to sit on my laurels and pray for the fat to dissolve, either. So while my husband holds Maggie and plays his harmonica for her, I haul myself out of the recliner and hit the trails, huffing and puffing like the little engine that could, barely topping the highest hill before beginning the breath-catching trek downward.
A few days ago, after my hike, I decided to jog. I don’t know why. I honestly hate running, and I’m not good at it and never have been. I did run a 5K once, but it was hard and hardly worth the effort. I never experienced runners’ high, and I’m not sure I want to drop that experience into my bucket of accomplishments, either. But I jogged, nonetheless.
I wanted to stop after traversing roughly 50 feet. But I told myself to stop being a weenie and to keep going, even though my pace was perhaps slower than a brisk stroll. Somehow, I managed to jog 1/4 of a mile without stopping and without feeling completely miserable. So I celebrated, did the Rocky dance, and walked back home.
As my heart rate returned to its normal number, I wondered why it felt so much easier than it had in the past. It definitely wasn’t because I was in great shape–I already confessed that I’m in the worst shape of my life, hands down. The weather was a bit chilly, which always makes breathing while running a little challenging for me. And I was wearing my old Adidas running shoes–and by old, I mean old enough to be relegated to the shoe rack by the back door and repurposed as lawn-mowing shoes.
So what was my fabulous secret to success?
My guess is that I ran more easily because I wasn’t trying too hard. I wasn’t thinking about reaching a goal. I wasn’t setting impossibly high expectations for myself as I’ve done countless times in the past. And I wasn’t paying attention to the pain, either. I was just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again.
And that was enough.
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been somewhat–okay, truthfully–a complete and utter perfectionist about most things most of my life. Whether obvious to others on the outside or not, I have always struggled to accept my best as good enough. I have punished myself mercilessly for the same screw-ups I’d pardoned others for. I have pitied myself for making poor choices rather than picking myself up, dusting myself off, and starting all over again.
About five years ago, I started turning that sad wagon around. With the help of the greatest 12-step recovery program and my fellow fabulous members and sponsor, I learned to be easier on myself. I dropped my expectations and just let God surprise me. I began forgiving myself for the list of sins haunting me and began making better choices.
I learned to pat myself on the back for progress, not perfection.
As I rounded the last curve in the road a few days ago after joyously celebrating my mini-jog moment, I remembered sitting in my bathtub about three years ago after ending a relationship that was tearing me apart for sundry reasons. My tears swirled amidst the bath water as I replayed my mistakes in my head and mentally beat myself up with a pretty big stick.
Then I heard God’s silent whisper in my heart.
“You did better today.”
And that was good enough.
It still is. I’ve got to be easy on myself and easy on the people I love. We’re all just doing the best that we can with what we have right now.
And I think that makes Him smile.