Is Running The Best Procrastination Strategy Ever? Discuss

LIFE. It feels like I’m looking into fog or deep water, squinting my eyes and searching for defined edges among so many shifting priorities and goals, all moving in and out of focus at different times. Running has been the clearest priority for a while now. I’m also trying to prioritize simple and practical self-care. I hate to use the term “adulting”…but I tend to go from work to runs to social engagements without a lot of time in between, and I’ll leave the dishes in the sink or the work clothes in the pile because getting to the next thing is more important to me than cleaning up my space. I’m really good at working towards big, flashy goals. Training for a marathon, finishing NaNoWriMo, making everything spotless before a party or event. I’m less good at the daily upkeep that would help me feel less scattered and anxious in my environment. So I’m working on it, because it’s winter and I need every bit of positive energy I can get. I’ve also been watching Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, and it is HIGHLY MOTIVATIONAL to imagine what the Fab 5 might say if they were looking around my apartment.

RUNNING. I am really proud of how much time I spend running…as anyone who’s talked to me for more than a minute has probably figured out. It’s hard not to mention it because any interesting thing I do in any given week probably has something to do with running or one of my running communities. Part of why I’m so proud is because it’s a GIANT CHANGE that I made in my life, and a change that I STUCK TO. I made this change not long after radically changing my hairstyle, which helps with my strong sense of “before” and “after,” and it’s reassuring to be in the “after” and to know that I’m capable of making giant changes. This is who I am now. And it’s a relief to no longer have the constant anxiety of feeling like I should be exercising regularly, because I do. That aspect of my life is now in place. I have different anxieties about whether I’m training properly or doing enough, but BARE MINIMUM I exercise 4 days a week. And even as I struggle with things I have struggled with for years, like keeping my space tidy, and even as I am sad about the things I am sad about, and mad about the things I am mad about (things that ended suddenly, without much closure), at least I am this person now. I ran 27 miles this week. I ran over 1,000 miles this year. This is who I am now, and that means a lot to me.

But… remember those shifting goals, edges obscure, some so vague you have to squint to see the shape of them? I started this blog to write about writing, and sometimes it seems like constantly crushing the running and physical goals has allowed me to slack off on other goals that are difficult, and that I’ve been working towards longer. I get a large or small sense of accomplishment after every single run, and if I’m feeling accomplished it’s easy to put off working on my book until another day. After all, I am tired. I earned this post-run beer. And my laptop is slow and bug-ridden, and I can no longer use it without a mouse and not plugged into the wall. So much hassle. I might as well just watch something on Netflix, or plan out my long run for the week and think about how accomplished I’ll feel after that.

I don’t really have an answer. Priorities shift and life comes in seasons. I may be failing miserably at my December Sketch Challenge, but several times over the past years I’ve been able to use my art training to design athletic T-shirts for one of my running clubs, which combined my big new running passion with my long-term goal to keep making art. Of course doing any of the art I want to do is hindered by my buggy laptop than can barely run Photoshop anymore and my broken drawing tablet…so the real answer here might be that I need to save enough money to purchase tech that would enable me to do the things I want to do. Which means finding a second or a different job and working more hours, which may be difficult to schedule with all the running and won’t leave much extra time for creative endeavors.

And those are some of the things I am trying to balance! Life is always messy and nothing is perfect. I try to make progress every day. Lately when I find myself sitting on the couch, exhausted from a late bedtime and early wake-up and body aching from my strength class the day before, I ask myself, “What can I do to work towards my goals right now?” Sometimes it’s writing a few cover letters and sending out some resumes—each one is a little easier to do. Sometimes it’s just washing my dinner plate and cup before going to bed, or doing a little foam-rolling and stretching to help my legs feel a little better. Maybe tomorrow it’s opening up my manuscript file and revising a chapter, or even a paragraph. A sentence. Who knows, right? Anything could happen. And this is who I am now. I have made changes, and I can make more.

-GM

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Winter Blues and Running Motivation

A good thing about today is that I have a meal in my crockpot bubbling away, and it will be ready when I get home from laundry/gym/library/errands and before I go off to my Thursday run. I haven’t made Butternut Squash Risotto before (another recipe from THIS BOOK that saved my life last winter) but the sage and cumin spice-combo smells delicious.

A bad thing about today is that it’s still November, and winter isn’t going away for MONTHS!

My Seasonal Depression is mild and manageable without medication, which makes me hella lucky! But as the days get colder I still notice myself feeling down more often than usual, and feeling more tired, even though over the summer I was doing more things with more intensity and with…not less fatigue but different, more positive fatigue. I have a pretty full schedule of life-giving events that I never miss, and sometimes over these last few weeks I find myself not wanting to go…even though I KNOW I’ll feel better when I get there. So I go, and I do.

Some of this is to say November hasn’t been a big writing month, even though in my post just two weeks ago I told you about my big November writing goals. I stand by my decision not to do Na-No this year because there just isn’t a new book in me right now, but without that bar graph and relentlessly increasing word count the writing has not been happening. It’s been a little more about survival—making it to the runs and social events, making a plan for tracking my expenses and making a budget, trying to feed myself more healthily and inexpensively. This doesn’t sound like that many things, but sometimes that’s just where you’re at, you know? I work early mornings at a coffee shop, and I LOVE the morning shift because I get out so early in the day—but if you’re not careful about getting enough sleep, a workweek can feel like a bit of a deathmarch, something to get through until that next day you can sleep in. During the summer on Wednesdays, the first day of my weekend, I just slept for hours and then woke up and ran for hours. And I actually miss that long run training schedule, because you feel just a little less pathetic about the week’s worth of dishes piling up in your sink when you ran twenty miles that day.

Running! The ebb and flow of fitness is a weird thing. I started being intentional about running and fitness just about two years ago, which is a very short time in the scheme of things, and I’ve had the luxury of getting fitter and faster for the majority of that time. I did my second marathon this September (2018) and got a Personal Record by 45 minutes. Going into that race I was the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been in my life. This was just a little over a month ago, and I’ve continued running and lifting things, so most of that strength hasn’t gone too far away. My miles dropped off when I stopped doing race-specific long runs, however, and now I’m trying to get them back up and build a stronger base for the winter. It’s demoralizing to feel exhausted after a 20-mile week when just two months ago you crushed a 47-mile week for your highest-mileage week ever. But you can’t always be at your best/most/fastest/highest/farthest ever, though I do think I have an awful lot of personal bests still to come. You have to keep yourself going by trusting the process over the long haul, and trusting that you’ll get there for your next big thing (I’m leveling up for my next race, if all goes well: a 50-kilometer trail race in the spring). And looking at the little things helps too. Last night was the coldest night for running so far this year, and for 3.3 miles I averaged 8:55 minutes per mile. This isn’t fast by a lot of people’s standards, but I remember a similar cold night in November or December of 2016, back at the beginning of this journey, when I ran my absolute hardest for a similar distance. I remember huffing and puffing on my way back to the bar, really putting my heart into it and running until it hurt—and I averaged 10:30 minute miles. And I was proud! And I should have been! But it’s cool to see how far I’ve come, and good to remember the huge difference between now and then, especially when I feel like I haven’t been working as hard as I could been have over the last month. There’s a lot more months ahead, and lot more hard work to go!

And a lot more cold weather before spring. Brr.

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My Running Revolution

I started running again last week, and it’s changing my life.

The other day, my dear friend and email correspondent Constable Maelstrom and I discussed the concept of agency. How it’s easy to let things happen to you in life, and it’s easy to just float along and assume you can’t really control the stuff that makes you feel good, or the stuff that makes you feel bad. Well, as Constable Maelstrom said, to hell with that. When I went for a run last tuesday, I took agency in my life and my health. I said, to hell with not feeling good, and to hell with worrying about things I can’t control. What I can do, right now, today, is go running. I can do this good thing and choose to feel incredible, rather than letting the days pass me by.

Did I mention it was raining last Tuesday, when I took that first run of the year? I’m a warm weather person, and while I know that running is something I enjoy and something that enriches and improves my life, I have always allowed my running routine to be controlled by the weather. Tuesday was pretty daring for me, going running in the rain and the barely forty degrees. I went again Wednesday, when it was 37˚ and sunny. Lower than my ideal temperature, but I bundled up and did okay. Then, on Thursday and Friday, a cold wind blew. “It’s winter again,” I moaned. So much for my healthy routine! But it was sunny again on Saturday, so I did the thing and jogged around the block. On Sunday, it was cold. I sang in church, I joined my parents and their church group for corned beef and cabbage (and roasted carrots and Irish soda bread), I wrote most of a blog post, and we all finished Argo (which we’d started the night before. Good movie). At the end of the day, I felt kind of antsy and desperate. At dusk, and in just under 20˚ Fahrenheit, I went for a run.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but for me it was huge. Prior to this week, I’ve never gone running in temperatures under 40˚, and under 50˚ only on very rare occasions. On Sunday, I took agency away from the outdoor thermometer. I stood up and said, I’m the one who gets to control whether or not I run on any given day. Me. I get to choose.

Since then, it’s been awesome. On Tuesday, I ran in a snowstorm. On Wednesday, I ran through the post-snowstorm slush. Yesterday, even though I’d given myself permission to take the day off, I ran because I ate deep-fried seafood for lunch (so yummy) and I needed to do something healthy to counteract the sugar-sauce and the grease. I’ve been for eight runs in the past ten days, and I feel incredible. I have so much more energy for every aspect of my life. My tummy is shrinking at an alarming rate (anyone else excited for bikini season this year?), and I’ve had the courage to take agency in other things, like correspondence, creative work, and employment. Good things just keep happening. We had a great set at the pub last friday in which I barely messed up my harp solo at all, and then we left early to jam with old and new friends until midnight. I’m making exciting new friends, and I’m having exciting new conversations with some of the old and dear ones. I even found a job to apply for (read my last post on Writing with a Day Job!), and it’s valuable work for which I feel well-qualified. I can’t tell you how excited I am about everything—and I think it’s all happening because of the running, and because of my choice to feel great.

All good blog posts need a visual, so here is a photograph of me.

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It was taken in Thailand, looking across the river into Laos. Here’s what the photo doesn’t tell you:

On the day this was taken, I’d had a terrible morning. Imagine being stuck on a bus for two hours with the radio set on the sappiest, most saccharine english-language love songs you can imagine—within a month from the worst break up of your life. Plus, my legs were absolutely covered with bites from monster mosquitoes that itched with a persistance American mosquito bites can only dream of. It was was also getting to that point in the three-week trip where we’d had so many new and incredible experiences, almost more than I could take, with relatively little time to recharge. It’s also possible that I was hungover. We finally piled out of the bus into at least ninety-degree weather onto a rocky plateau, the sun a hard orb above, and went for a hike just below the cliffs where we could look across the river and see some cave paintings. I was cranky, antsy, upset, and full of that bad sort of energy that boils around inside and makes your skin crawl. Even though it was the sort of weather where you’d sweat your brains out just standing still, I needed to run. When we hit the the part of the trail that headed back over land to the bus, I cajoled one of the guys on the trip to join me in a run. And then, I ran my heart out. I sweated and huffed and barely kept up, but I set my feet against the hard rock and pounded forward into the blazing sun and the still air and ran out all my anger and frustration and heartache. This picture was taken that afternoon, and you have no idea how much sweat had drenched and dried into my clothing and hair, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful pictures of me from the whole trip.

Writing Marathon Day 6, and Tonight’s Contest Winner

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Six days in!

The Writing Day

I’m not sure there was a writing day today. I had a really lovely day though; I exercised, played my harp, stir-fried some celery, had a great lesson, bought some oat bran, snuck in a tiny bit of writing that went really well, enjoyed choir practice. I’m hoping to dash out this blog post and get some more work in tonight. I’m past the part of chapter 11 that was really hard, and the editing process seems to have smoothed out again. It’s just that life got in the way today, and since I really like my life right now I don’t feel too bad about it. But hey, maybe I can still get some work in tonight!

Also, by the way, my number of followers has been climbing steadily this week, and I want to thank you all for that. I also seem to be following behind on responding to individual comments, but even if it takes me a day or two to get back to you please know that I read your comment and loved it.

Okay, we need a blog topic.

And the winner is…

Jess. Congratulations, Jess!

Jess is a friend, and one of my classmates from the Illustration program at Northern Michigan University. She’s a really great artist, so you should definitely check out her online portfolio: Icarus Falls Design.

Jess very kindly provided me with a question or a prompt to choose from, and even though the prompt looks like a lot of fun I am going to choose the question, because I suspect it will take less time to answer and I’d really like to make some more headway on Chapter 11 tonight.

Jess’s entry: What motivates you? When you’re thinking about writing or drawing, what is it that gets you to actually sit down and pick up the pen? What’s the first part of the project or story that comes to you?

The thing that usually gets me back to a story, and actually working on it, is the name of the main character. I don’t entirely understand this, but mentally I hang a lot of their personality, their very essence, on the sound of their name. So when I find myself walking around the house and whispering “Vanya” under my breath, well, I know it’s time to get back to creating him on the page (in image and word). Having the wrong name for a character can also be a major roadblock to working on something. Upon my return from Thailand, I had to complete a fiction writing assignment in order to receive credit for the trip. I already had one very good scene for the story that I had scrawled down in my sketchbook on the tour bus as we drove away from the ruined city of Ayutthaya, and I had the basic plot, but I was stumbling over the name of the main character and without it, I couldn’t make any progress at all. Then I took a shower to to clear my head, and the name came to me: Hadley. Just weird enough to be interesting, and with just the right sort of old-fashioned feel to it. It seemed both original and classic. Hadley. Now the story could begin.

Of course, motivation is a big, huge, complicated thing. Right now, I am motivated by tons of things. Here are approximate samplings of motivated interior monologue: “This has taken too long and I need to work harder so I can be done now.” “I want this to be done, yesterday.” “My only justification for living with my parents and not having a real job is that I’m working on this, so I’d better work on it.” “I can’t wait to see the finished book.” “I’m ready to stop messing around with the words and start illustrating them.” “I want to be rich and famous.” “I want to start marketing my book.” “I want to tell this story as well as I possibly can.” “I freakin’ love this story!” “I need to finish this and find out if anyone else will love it.” “I get to write about pretty boys and magical harps today, how cool is that?” “Ogodyes this scene… except I can make it even better, here, here, and here.” “Okay, need to work on this today because… Taniel. Vanya.” “Vanya.”

Somehow, it all comes back to the names. In the peculiar alchemy of my brain, they seem to encapsulate everything else.

Thanks so much for your question, Jess, I had fun answering it! You will receive your name-doodle prize in a week or so, and by the end of February at the latest.

And it looks like I do have some time and energy left to tackle a bit more of Chapter 11. I will let you all know how it goes tomorrow!