Monday, January 26, 2015

Filling up the tank

Having recently resolved to "beware the barrenness of a busy life," I've been focusing less this year on what - and how much - I am doing, and more on who I am being. Fewer items on the calendar each day. More space for spontaneous fun, creativity, and the occasional necessary dose of quiet. Less pre-registering, and more last-minuting. Now four weeks into this new year, I find that I'm making good progress at not making progress. There have been more movies, dinners, and good bottles of wine for no reason with my husband. Short-notice running dates, afternoons absorbed in art projects, and many happy hours curled up with books. I realized on January 10th, with exactly eight days of notice - and exactly zero training - that I'd registered for the Carlsbad Half Marathon a few months prior and then promptly forgotten about it. (How's that for evidence of an over-scheduled, stretched-too-thin existence?) But I rolled with it and made a happy long Sunday run of it with friends. And hey, since I had nothing else on my calendar for that day, there was time for a leisurely brunch afterward with my friend and running muse Kate! Last week's five-day cross-country business trip didn't even phase me. On the final leg home, I had a few hours of work I was planning to get done, but I didn't resist when the nice guy in the seat next to me struck up a conversation (like I usually do). Instead I gave him one of my free drink coupons, we chatted from Atlanta to San Diego, and I made a new friend. Less doing. More being. Nailing it.

What could possibly disturb this new blissful state of being? Nothing! I've nailed it! Nothing but balance and harmony, from here on out. Oh what's that up ahead? It looks like some kind of ... tornado? A swirling mass of sweaty t-shirts, spreadsheet entries, and protein bars, leaving a chaotic mess everywhere in its wake. Wait a minute ... I know what this is. I remember this! This is marathon training.

It started today. In 18 short weeks, I'll be heading to Boise for the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon.
A sack of potatoes for every finisher?
This one's been on my "list" for a long time, and I'm excited! This weekend I did all the things I normally do as I'm getting ready for a race. I sketched out a training schedule, looking at weeks that I know will be tough with work and/or travel, and figuring out the necessary adjustments. I bought a cute new pair of running shorts, and stocked up on my favorite training food. And as I contemplated how to integrate the additional hours that training requires into my newly pared-down life, it occurred to me: the hardest thing about marathon training (at least at the level at which I compete) is not the actual running or cross-training. The hardest thing about training is managing its impact on my life. And this time, I'm determined to do it better.

I've made peace with the need to stop working on a task before it's complete, or skip the occasional night out with friends in order to get to bed early. I know by now what those 20-mile training runs feel like, and that I need to plan ahead and block off most of the day for them. My husband is well-accustomed to my dietary preferences, and knows that there's a lot of whole wheat crust pizza in his future. I've got the essentials pretty well dialed in. But it's the interstitial "stuff of life" that often trips me up, and this is where I can improve, creating a little more time and space. I can spend a couple of hours on the weekend menu planning and shopping for the week, thereby avoiding my usual daily trip to the grocery store. I can fold the laundry as soon as it's out of the dryer, and spend less time ironing (and by "ironing," I mean "searching the closet and drawers for something that's reasonably wrinkle-free to wear to work, instead of ironing"). I can spend a few minutes each morning thinking through the logistics of the day more thoroughly, so that I leave the house with everything I need, and do less back-tracking.

This weekend, I practiced being the kind of person who gets themselves organized on Sunday evenings for the week ahead. I know you people exist. I'm related to several of you, so I'm hopeful that with some practice, I can coax awake its dormant genetic expression. I grocery shopped. I filled up my car with gas. I picked up the house, and ironed some clothes (for real). And when I left the house for work this morning, I had a full tank, literally and figuratively. These are the spaces in my day where marathon training can happen. I don't have to get sucked into the tornado. I don't have to give up the important stuff. So let's do this, Famous Potato. You're on.

My Monday morning armload.
Marathon training takes a lot of planning.
And it also takes a lot of bags.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My great undoing

I'm definitely a resolution-maker. I know it's falling out of fashion, but I still love cracking open my notepad every January 1st, thinking back on the year behind me, and focusing my intentions for the year before me. These musings are usually a colorful, chaotic affair, not a neat or organized list. There are usually several colors of ink and pencil, lots of lines and arrows and doodles, and I have been known to sketch out a pie chart. 

"The big pieces of the patchwork quilt
that is my life are solidly in place,
but it's in the seams and intersections
where things tend to get a bit wonky."
I have my foibles, but am generally a pretty "together" person. My marriage, and my relationships with family and friends are happy, healthy, and solid. I put myself through many years of schooling for a career with great personal meaning, and started a business ten years ago of which I am immensely proud. I'm healthy, with reasonably good habits when it comes to diet and exercise. A marathon runner! Must be doing it at least most of the way right. Right? On paper (or rather, on whatever electronic media you're using to reading this) it all adds up fairly well. The big pieces of the patchwork quilt that is my life are solidly in place, but it's in the seams and intersections where things tend to get a bit wonky. My days and weeks are over-scheduled. I struggle to focus at work. My house is always a mess. I have dozens of interests (besides running) that I can't ever seem to make time for. I haven't figured out the meaning of life. And am I saving enough for retirement? Like most prone to introspection and self-examination, I'm eternally off-kilter, on an endless quest to figure out the things I need to do differently.

Do, do, do.

I may not construct my annual list of resolutions in a linear fashion, but I'm nonetheless a compulsive daily "to do" list-maker. I'm always running off of at least three different lists - things to do today, things to do this week, and things to do this month. And odd as it may seem, I can't say I even get any satisfaction from checking things off of those lists. I never finish them, and don't really try. I just re-write them each morning, leaving off the things that either got done, or that I've decided can be moved or eliminated. I've never once ended the day with a completed list, but from those daily checklists I can eke out a vision of what I would look like if someday I really, truly had my act together. The current vision goes something like this: I'd work enjoyable 8-hour days (or maybe shorter!) while my business thrived. I'd be fit and fast enough to qualify for - and run - the Boston Marathon. I'd occasionally be able to see the bottom of my laundry basket and I wouldn't have to hurry and clean my bathroom every time someone was coming over. I'd be active in my community, and volunteer for causes I care about. I'd visit family and spend time with friends often, and be the kind of person who reads two books a month, travels frequently, blogs weekly, crafts and sews things for fun, remembers everyone's birthday, and knows how to play that dusty mandolin I bought fourteen years ago. I would be awesome, you guys. And I'd never miss my eight hours of sleep.

What I'm finally starting to figure out, after forty years of doing, is that what I'm really after is not a check-marked list of things I have done. What I'm really after is that vision of who I could be. I finally know that I can't really do all of those things - at least not all at once. I am just not cut of that cloth. I'm no introvert, but I still need time to be quiet and reflective, and an occasional day with nothing on the calendar. And I need some space in my life for spontaneity. Recently my best friend from high school found herself in San Diego at the last minute for a couple of days of work. There wasn't one single unscheduled, unobligated hour within those two days that I could slip away and meet my old friend for a cup of coffee. While those two days were surely filled with many of the things I want to do in my life, I realized sadly that they weren't making me into who I want to be. The individual squares of the patchwork quilt were lovely, but it was sewn together all wrong.

So this year, my resolutions aren't about what I want to do (or not do) in 2015. Today I'm spending that time thinking about who I want to be. It's going to take some doing to undo my habit of doing. But I can do it! Wait, no ....