I’ve been running quite a bit recently. Partly because I want to get in shape, partly because I need a way to wear my dog out, and partly because it’s one of the only safe things I can do outside.
I am still pretty weak and most of my runs are actually jogs/walks. But in the few weeks since I’ve started running, I’ve noticed something about myself.
If I just focus on the pavement directly in front of me, I tend to run farther. But if I look up ahead to where I want to go in the distance, I start to feel overwhelmed by how far away it is, my legs feel like rocks and I end up taking a break.
If this isn’t a perfect metaphor for my life and goals, then I don’t know what is.
I wrote recently about how I journal every day and how I try to end each entry with a ‘Goals + Dreams’ section. This is where I set my intentions for my life — where I get to play and dream and just put positive, hopeful energy into the universe. Some goals are grander than others, but they’re all on my wish list of dreams. Ash and I want to start a podcast. We both want to write a book. Writing, singing, speaking, personal success, etc etc. Oh and hopefully travel one day (if we ever get the chance again).
In my life, these are the things I’m “running” towards.
I spend a little time each day writing these goals out and visualizing them. But over the years I’ve learned that if I focus too much on the end goal and on all the different steps I’m going to have to take to achieve these things, I feel anxious and overwhelmed. And I start to feel very similar to how I feel in the middle of my run where I’m panting, exhausted and like GOOD GOD I’M TOO OLD TO BE RUNNING WHY HAVE I CHOSEN THIS?? All of a sudden my writing feels forced, sluggish, painful. All of a sudden the very things I desire turn into burdens rather than joys.
All of a sudden I just want to quit.
But if I just look down at the little bit of pavement in front of me — the small things I need to do in this moment — something shifts inside me. I’m focused on the here and now. The present. These present steps. And suddenly I’m focusing on the lyrics of the song I’m listening too. And I’m relaxing in my body and mind and without realizing it, I wind up at my goal. The run becomes lighter. The writing begins to flow without forcing it.
I know not everyone is like me. Some people need to constantly focus on the end goal as it’s the only way they will ever reach it. It doesn’t cause them the same anxiety it causes me — instead it fills them with purpose and drive. My brother is one of these people. For me, though, I know it’s a balance. It’s like, yes I need to know the end goal is in sight, I need to know where I’m headed, but once I have that in mind, I just need to focus on the steps right in front of me. I know when I’m exhausted and I look too far ahead of me at where I’m aiming to go, I just want to give up. But if I look down at what’s right in front of me, the task isn’t so scary and I can keep going. Just a little further.
For me, I need to stay present. I forget that a lot. Hell, even in this time of quarantine, I’ve felt a pressure to use it all up. Use this time, fill it up with progress towards my goals. And that’s a great desire! And yet, once again, I’m focusing too much on what lies ahead and not enough on the steps right in front of me today. Which are write a little. Spend time with my dogs and my lover. Connect with my friends. Fill my spirit so that when it’s time to give, I am overflowing.
An interesting side effect of this quarantine (at least for me) is the way it is forcing me to stay present. I used to scour the internet for fun things to do on the weekends, planning my time out weeks in advance. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps in my attempt to experience so much life, I stopped experiencing some really precious, present details.
Right now I can’t plan anything. When I think of the future, it’s a gigantic question mark and it can seem overwhelming. Whether I spend time pondering the good possibilities (like traveling again or singing karaoke) or the bad possibilities (like impending doom and the apocalypse), all of it seems incredibly futile. And so far away.
All I can do is focus on the ground in front of me.
This quarantine has brought great clarity to the present for me and that is a wonderful thing. I’m not setting a timeline for my summer body or my future plans, because who knows what the future holds? I am focused on me, today. And what I need right now to be happy, healthy and at peace.
I still need breaks every now and again, both when I’m running and in my life in general. But the nice thing is, each day I seem to be running further and making more progress towards my dreams … if I just focus on the steps in front of me.