I'm not going to tell you to go run (or swim, hike, walk, or whatever). If you're on the couch, into a second beer, halfway through a bag of chips, and depressed, I'm sorry and will do you this favor: I won't tell you it all gets better when you get up and moving. Screw that. About all that's likely to do is piss you off.

There are good thinkers I read regularly. Leo Babauta is my favorite. Trigger warning: most of these are self-help people. Self-help is a laughable category, but sometimes I need someone to help me help myself. You know?

Most of this year those thinkers haven't gotten me to move far or often. At least physically. Mentally, I'm no longer in a terrible teaching job partly due to things I read. But physically it has been a different story.

I've been a runner for a while. Last year I ran thirty-five miles in loops run with a different friend or pair of friends. Last spring and summer I ran five or ten miles most every day to get ready for the big run. I was as motivated as I've ever been. Running was natural.

This year, not so much. I mean to run, but haven't made the time, haven't gotten into a routine, haven't set up a schedule. Not that I want a training plan. Even last year I didn't have any plan other than to run most every day. I'd head out the door, start my watch, then let my whim decide whether to turn right or left at the corner. I don't need a plan. I don't have goals. I just know I'm happier when I run.

Don't worry. I'm still not going to say that you will be happier if you run. Who the hell am I to decide that? And who wants to hear that crap? Not me.

I've meant to run. I've wanted to run. I just haven't run. And no amount of motivation has worked on me. Not the numbers on the scale, the aches in my potato body, or the understanding that running makes me feel better. None of it has worked.

But in the last seven days I've run four times.

My daughter joined her high school cross country team. She has friends on the team and needs the spirit of belonging to a team. She got the usual August mailing from the dance studio listing classes they'll allow her to take. Looking at it her face kind of fell. She likes dance but hasn't much enjoyed the dance school. It's a different kind of spirit. One that hasn't served her. She's going to run cross country in search of a different spirit. Last week she joined the team but her forms hadn't been processed.

"Coach says I should start running each day until I'm cleared to join the team. Will you go for a run with me?"

You bet your ass I will.

If you're feeling unmotivated and depressed, I'm sorry. I have no words of encouragement or life hacks. My solution involved my wife and I deciding to have a second child sixteen years ago. That might be longer planning than you're in for.

Still, nothing moves me more than my girl asking for time with her. She wants me to run with her? I'm in shorts and strapping on my sandals. Last year I ran thirty-five miles. If she asked me to go thirty-five today, I'd run until I couldn't any more. That's motivation.

Don't take this as advice, but if you're on the couch, maybe go see what your kid wants to do with you. Self-help turns out to be easy when it's not so much about the self.

Accept & Explore

I ran a lot of hills last summer. At first I gutted them out just trying to get over. It wasn't fun and made hills more difficult than they needed to be. Luckily, I talk to myself while running and on as I started up one hill I said this:

Accept what the hill gives you. Give the hill what you've got.

I've been in therapy for more than a decade and am just starting to learn things. My therapist is wise and thoughtful, but I tend to reject most advice and counseling thinking, That's fine for other people... or Yeah, but... About four months after she suggests some ridiculous, wrong-headed idea I figure out that it is spot-on and of tremendous help.

Years ago, discussing a conflict in which I found myself, she suggested that I simply accept what was happening. "You mean surrender?" I asked. She waited for me to think about it. I said, "I can either fight or surrender and I'm not giving in." She waited, maddeningly patient, then suggested that acceptance isn't surrender. The situation did not require me to win or lose.

Of course I resisted. I'm a binary kind of guy. It was months before I realized that entering the battle meant I had already lost and there's a wide expanse between winning and losing.

Hills aren't battles. They're just hills and geology says they've been here a few million years and aren't going anywhere fast. Might as well accept them. And running uphill I have the opportunity to see what I have to give. That's a cool way to think of it. It's an even cooler way to feel.

Feeling open to the possibility that life isn't a battle to be won and there are more than two options available allows me to move up the hills and get over them. I accept and explore. And the view from atop some of those hills goes on and on as if there is no end to what I might see.

Not The Hardest Thing

After the dentist I went home to my daughter who had had trouble with a hawk. Really. Home from school she found a hawk (a juvenile sharp shinned hawk according to a friend who knows these things) sitting in our driveway refusing to move. My daughter was supposed to put the garbage cans in the spot occupied by the hawk but you know how hawks are. I agreed with her not messing with it. No way. She went to have a snack while I changed into running clothes. I had just enough time to squeeze in a run before making dinner.

Ten minutes later I started jogging down the street. The air felt colder than I had expected. Maybe I should have worn the tights and damn, I left my gloves on the kitchen table. I hate running with cold hands. This is going to be tough, I thought.

A quarter mile into the run I felt rain drops. Big ones. Rain plops. Few and far between. Some snow flurried in there too. Wasn't it supposed to be forty-something degrees? Felt more like thirty. The rain plops came harder. The sky was dark, dark grey, like dusk in early afternoon. I had my reflective vest. I wondered if I shouldn't have grabbed my blinking LED lamp. I kept going.

At around three quarters of a mile rain really came down, filling the shoulders of the road and soaking through my vest and shirt. My hat dripped. That rain was cold, let me tell you. It went through me. I blew into my fists but was missing those gloves I'd left in the kitchen. I wondered, how long does hypothermia take? Surely longer than I'd been out, but maybe I should turn around.

I'm trying to accumulate mileage. I want to get in shape and am making a game of how many miles I run this year. I know the average miles I need to run per day. It's not many, but it's more than I had run. A car drove by and I caught some of its splash. I think the driver waved an apology. I waved back: It's fine. I kept going.

I ran through the worst of the rain and what seemed like all of the puddles. By the time I had my miles in the rain had slowed, the sky had turned a lighter shade of grey, and my hands weren't that cold. Maybe it was forty-something degrees again. My feet and clothes were soaked, I was beginning to chafe, and I was still cold. Then this thought came to me:

This isn't the worst thing that's happened to me today. This isn't the worst thing this week. This isn't the worst thing that will happen this year.

Cold, wet, chafed, tired, worried about hypothermia, my job, my weight, and money, I thought, this isn't the worst thing, and felt a little better. I knew I could keep going.

I don't recall the worst thing that happened that day. I don't know the worst thing so far this year. The worst thing didn't happen on that run and isn't happening now. I may never know the worst moment, but compared to whatever it might be most everything feels like something I can survive by putting one wet foot in front of the other. It turns out the puddles aren't that deep and sometimes it's not as cold as it seems.