Motivation

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.

Sunday Afternoon: Stressed Out, I Guess

Just went up and took a shower. Two o'clock in the humid afternoon. Spent the morning doing chores around the house. Washed both cars inside and out. Cleaned up my basement workbench. Threw in two loads of laundry. Cleaned out the Shop Vac and regular vacuum cleaner. Helped clear up after my brother helped my daughter build a wooden prop for one of her photo shoots. Lots of sawdust. While I was at it, I swept out the garage. Busy morning. Good to get things done.

The humidity is knocking me around. Woof, it's like being on some science fiction planet where gravity is twice as strong. It should make me stronger when I come back to Earth, but I just want to lie down and give up.

I've had symptoms of something. An odd, underwater kind of headache. Feels like my spring has wound down. Aches all over my body. Fatigue. Trouble sleeping and night sweats. I'm moodier than usual and filled with the desire to be alone. Even when I get a writing idea, it feels like too much work to pick up the pen or computer. It all feels like too much under this gravity.

The next door neighbor is shunning me. Maybe she's embarrassed. A couple weeks ago I told her she had to do something about her barking dog. For hours early in the morning and late at night she left him out, his bark like cannon fire. I told her, we can't take it. I said, this is no way to be a neighbor. Okay, she said, her head down. The dog has been more quiet. That moment of conflict keeps barking in me. She walked by this morning while I washed the car. I said, good morning and asked, how's it going? She and that dog walked on as if I hadn't spoken.

The neighbor across the street was having his house painted but the work stopped while the cladding above his garage was removed and a guy is now rebuilding it. Things rotted out. I bet the whole thing was a shock, an unplanned expense, and though it's not my garage or bills to pay, it makes me anxious. The circular saw cuts my nerves. I feel like my world could rot out any moment.

The window sills on one side of our house are rotten. I need to call for quotes to replace them. My wife has been calling for roofing quotes. It rained hard yesterday and again it rained in the dining room. Four ceiling tiles are bowed, browned, and disintegrating. The drips fell into a bucket placed next to the pile of things my daughter will bring to her first year at college.

We take her to college Thursday and this is exactly how things are supposed to work, but, well, you know. She's our girl. Our first. And she's so good. Not having her home on a daily basis, it's going to be a tough adjustment. I know she's ready, but I wonder if the rest of us are even close.

Speaking of ready, my mind keeps thinking that I have to get ready for school. An old colleague told me there's an ice cream social for the teachers tomorrow. I won't be at the social or back to school this year, but my mind and body don't yet understand. I've had school nightmares for weeks, sometimes more than one a night and they dog me into morning. In the dreams I'm unprepared and things go desperately wrong. I wake thinking I've got to start planning lessons, though I also know I'm no longer a teacher. That logic has little weight even on my higher gravity world. It floats away like smoke.

My new job is fascinating and partially undefined. I'm being trusted to shape it, to create a position at which I can excel. Lovely, really. There are parts of it for which I have buckets of talent. There are other parts I don't feel I'm learning fast enough. No one else fusses over the speed at which I'm learning, but it reminds me of another set of nightmares in which I need to run or walk somewhere but my legs hurt too much and lack the strength to support my weight. I'm pulled down far from where I need to go.

This week I have meetings in which I need to be both learner and leader. At one meeting, tens of thousands of dollars rest partially on my performance. I wonder if the people who hired me made a dreadful mistake. Logic says they haven't, but at about now I feel like lying on the ground, sore of leg, and overcome by gravity as I look up the slight incline which transforms into something mountainous.

I've put on a record. Supertramp's Crime Of The Century. I'm sitting still as I type this. The headache is held at bay. There are drops of rain beginning to fall. The air is still heavy with humidity, but I know it's about to become filled with a storm of rain. Likely some of it will trickle into the bucket through the dining room ceiling, next to the things my daughter will take so school, each drip feeling like more and more weight, things for which I am or should be responsible.

That or the sound will be a rhythm that carries me off to sleep, for a while, a quietus in which my body will be held up by the soft couch cushions as if it were weightless and gravity, anxiety, depression, all three were the stuff of make believe and pain is less than a fiction and dissipates like the humidity on the breeze signaling changes in our world.

An Amazing Gift

"...the universe has sent me some amazing gifts just when I thought it had forgotten me."
— Carol Mikoda

I have good friends who write well.

The message above came to me this morning and has stuck with me all through a tough day. I've been feeling very much at the end of my rope for the last few months. There are times when I appreciate the goodness around and within me. Then there is all that dark time when I spiral. I've been so tired all day and while those sixteen words haven't been quite enough to fill me with energy, renew all my hopes, and get me over all my troubles, they have certainly buoyed me and allowed me to float a little better than otherwise.

What amazing gifts has the universe sent to you?