Just SHOW UP -
Marathon Training -- Month 1
Submitted by Nancy
"Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don't do it.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got."
Steve Pressfield, The War of Art
Am I a runner? Can I run this marathon that Pat and I are training for? Am I a writer? Can I find a publisher who believes in me and likes my writing enough to publish my book?
I bet you have your own set of questions that repeat, like a skipping record, within. What are the questions you ask yourself? Am I a ______? Can I do _______?
My questions haunt me. They pester me, fill me with doubt and divert my energy from running and writing to worrying and brooding. Then I get stymied; stuck in the never-ending cycle of self-doubt, like a mouse running around and around in the Ferris wheel in its cage. Not fun. For me anyway. It always looks like the mouse is enjoying himself.
According to Steve Pressfield, author of The War of Art, these questions can only be answered by action. Do it or don't do it, he says. All right then...I'm doing it!
Back in November I was sitting at the hairdressers, with brown goop all over my hair, writing a hike report about our last hike. I was writing by hand, without my glasses, half-heartedly, feeling kind of low, when I found myself writing, "How about training for a marathon?" That was it. In that instant I was awake, excited, and motivated. The idea had been born. I suggested it to Pat. We did research about training programs. Once the word "marathon" was out of me, my enthusiasm for the idea kept bubbling up inside of me, overflowing from within, thrilling me with the possibility. Pat and I had talked about doing a marathon before, but it had never bubbled up like this. Before it had felt daunting. This felt like a mean-to-be; like a grace wave invitation.
It is not that different from my writing. Back in my 30s I had visions of writing a book and traveling around the country giving presentations about it. I was clear at the time that was what I was supposed to do. But I didn't even know if I could write and I had nothing to write about. Fast forward 25 years and my Hike Reports seem to bubble up from within and find their way onto our public website. People are asking for the book, echoing my vision of years ago.
So, Step 1 - make the commitment.
I am going to run a marathon. I am going to write a book and send it to publishers. As soon as I commit, the self-doubt arises, an automatic response. "Write a book? What makes you think you can write a book - you vocabulary-challenged author-wanna-be? And run a marathon - you non-athletic, 56-year-old-gray-hair? Who are you kidding?
Com'on - you have your version of this too...right?
According to Steve Pressfield, that self-doubt may actually be a GOOD SIGN! He says, "Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), "Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?" chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death…The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it."
So I gotta do this!
What do YOU have to do? What are your self-doubts bringing to your attention?
Step 2 - Show up.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love says: "Don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance. Do your dance. If the divine cockeyed genius assigned to your case, decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed for just one moment through your efforts. Then o-lay. And if not, do your dance anyhow. And o-lay to you nonetheless. O-lay to you none the less for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up."
Pat and I are 6 weeks into our marathon training. We have run 97 miles since January 10th. And believe me when I say that it has not been easy. The majority of runs have felt really long, and really hard. The challenge for me starts way before my feet hit the pavement.
I hate the cold. It has a psychological hold on me that translates into anxiety when I even think about venturing out into winter. So my fearfulness starts during preparation time, as I am dressing in layers, trying to decide how many layers I need and how thick each layer should be. And do I need a hat? Extra gloves to wear under my mittens? The anxiety ratchets up when I go outside to get in my car and feel the freezing air surround me. A voice inside me says, "holy shit - I am going to run in this?" I ignore the question, get in the car and drive downtown to meet Pat. The car warms up, my heater on full blast, and I start to enjoy the warmth of the air around me. I park and sit in the car's coziness until I see Pat running down the sidewalk. Okay. It's time. I drag myself out into the cold and greet her with a whimper, "It's cold!" We start running, right away, my cold anxiety at its zenith. When we start, I always feel like a slug. It feels like my I-want-to-do-a-marathon spirit is dragging my you've-got-to-be-kidding body behind her. Our first 3-mile run felt like forever. I remember thinking, holy shit - if I can't run three miles how the hell am I going to run 26.2? Our 10-miler last weekend was a killer. We had to stop and walk a few times. I had stomach cramps and my shoulder was aching from an old injury. The wind was blowing and my ears felt like they were going to fall off and brake into pieces on the sidewalk. The next day I told Pat that I didn't know if I could do it. The difficult run had left the door open within for my doubts to take over.
Fueling my doubt fire, a friend of mine lent me a book that has essays from first time marathoners about their experiences. They talk about puking, hitting the wall and barely being able to move, having diarrhea on the route, chaffing and bleeding skin, pain worse than childbirth, and crawling across the finish line. OH MY GOD! Are you kidding? I had to stop reading the book. There is only so much pain and agony I can read about before I start to wonder what awful thing is going to happen to me?
But, still, I show up. At the appointed time, and start jogging. No matter what my inner state of being is - doubting, freezing, discouraged, tired or sluggy. And I keep running. And running. We run until we have reached out goal for the day. We stretch, high-10, and I get in my car and come home. I have a marathon-training chart on my office door and I take my lime green magic marker and cross off another day. I am careful not to look too far ahead on the training calendar. If I study the calendar and see where we start to run big miles, 15, 18, 20…that is an open invitation to that voice in me to question my sanity.
Same thing with my writing. I show up. I sit down at my computer and I write. I just keep writing the Hike Reports. That part is easy because they are in me, they bubble up, and I write down what comes up. I am just making visible what is invisible within. Once it's out, the challenge begins. Editing my hike reports, putting them in manuscript form, researching publishers…all feel like I am trying to propel myself through cement. The critic in me who thinks I can't write and that no one would want to read what I have written anyway shows up. I ignore her and sent out my first manuscript last week which started a free-for-all in my head, for every voice, every doubt, every demon residing within to come on out for a party.
But I think I am discovering the key to avoiding these nay-sayers. Not only do I have to show up - but I have to stay in the moment. If I am worried about what the publishers will think, I am in the future, not in the moment. I am not showing up. If I am worried about throwing up all over the marathon volunteer who is handing me water, or that I am going to rub my thighs together until they bleed -- that is not showing up, that is worrying about the future. If I am anxious about the cold, I am the little girl in my past who was freezing. I am in the past, not in the moment. When I stay in the moment, packaging the manuscript and writing the address on the box, I am fine. Just like when I am running on the sidewalk, one foot in front of the other, I am fine. But when I forward think, about 26.2 miles, or a publisher opening up the box and reading the first paragraph, that's when I start to disintegrate. So I don't go there. I just stay in the moment.
Being in the moment is a grace wave magnet. Being in the moment says, "Here I am! I am ready!" And if the grace wave obliges and sweeps me over the finish line, or calls me up and offers me a million dollars for the rights to my book -good for me. If not. I am doing my part. I am sending out my manuscript and running my miles each day.
Step 3: Get under the worry and find your excitement.
Hey and I have figured something else out as well. My doubts and fears of the future and past are not really me - they are surface irritations. Under that layer, deeper inside, is me, the me who gets fired up by a challenge. The me who said to Pat - hey - let's run a marathon! That deeper part of me, the real me, is excited by running a marathon, and psyched about putting myself out there in book form. I can feel the real me energy within when I bypass the surface doubting level and go right to the center of my being where my excitement for the bigness of live begins. That's where the Grace Wave will find me.
I call it the Grave Wave. Elizabeth Gilbert calls it the "divine cockeyed genius who is assigned to my case." Stephen Pressfield calls it "the Almighty." It doesn't matter what you call "it", only that you live where she can find you. Below the doubt, in the moment, in your passion for life, in the center of your being.
I said to a dear friend yesterday, "I am not a REAL runner."
And she looked at me and said, "It's too late, Nance. You are a runner. Just like you are a hiker."
I am a runner, a hiker, a writer. I am committed. I'm showing up, in the moment, and I'm digging deep, past the anxiety down to my excitement. I am training for my marathon, writing my book, hiking more mountains. I am showing up, every day for whatever task sits before me that moves me one step closer to my goal -- to getting published, to crossing the marathon finish line, to reaching the summit. And I am open to the Grace Wave showing up and taking me for a ride.
I don't know what is calling to you in your heart…what little whisper is deep inside that keeps popping up in your mind every once in a while. I don't know what it is you are meant to do - but you do. And if you aren't sure, notice where yours doubts are screaming the loudest - that's your next goal! So take a moment to sit back, close your eyes, dig a bit deeper past the anxiety and find your excitement for your next life moment.
Join me...let's do it together. Find the goal, commit, show up, dig deep and get psyched!