Saturday, December 17, 2011

Accomplishments and New Adventures


I'm up early this morning having not been able to sleep past three. Finally, at quarter to six I rolled out of bed, made some coffee, scooped the cat litter, and sat down here to write. There is plenty to talk about.

I am in the midst of accomplishing something I set out to do. Seventy days ago I started back to writing on 750words.com (I didn't start publishing them until October 31). If you don't know, 750words.com is a place to do daily writing and it's all about streaks. I've been on and off the site for a couple years and my longest streak is seventy days in a row. Today, I tie that streak.

It's easy to get excited about finish lines as they approach. When I started back up on this writing, seventy days felt an eternity away and so it was easy to think that once I got to the milestone I would feel changed. It just ain't so. Here I am, tying the record and I'm the same guy. Well, not really, but the changes are more interesting than conquering a challenge.

I changed as I wrote. I changed when I started publishing. I changed day to day and not in a linear fashion. For the most part, as I got into the writing, I lost track of the number of days. Once in a while I would note the streak and then move on. That was it. I was too busy running the race to think about the finish line.

That's a lot of what I was talking about two days ago. I've been present to writing and trying to be much more present in living. In that way, the challenge, the finish line aren't what motivate me. Instead, the act is motivation. It's hard to put it in the right words -- I feel as though I'm dancing around the idea instead of nailing it down -- so I'll go with the old Harry Chapin lyric: "It's got to be the going, not the getting there that's good."

And so it has been.

Today, my interest is held much more by a new adventure than by something in the past. A friend has been inviting me to run some trails with him. I have consistently demurred. The reasons I have given him don't matter because the real reason is anxiety. He's a stronger runner than I am, experienced at running the trails. I've never run trails and I worry about a lot of things. The friend is a super-friendly guy, very generous and kind, but yet I worry that I'll hold him back and he will regret having asked me. In short, I'm afraid of failure and heretofore have avoided it by declining the invitations.

Not today.

This morning I'll walk down to his house and together we will catch a car-pool up to Highland Forest, a sensational place, where we will run an eight-mile trail loop. I'll admit, I'm nervous about this and I think that some of my not sleeping was about this, but the anxiety is okay.

Being present during writing is easy for me. Being present through anxiety is another matter. My therapist tells me that it's okay to experience anxiety. I've spent the better part of a year trying to figure out what that means. I have learned over the previous forty-two years that anxiety is something to react to, to run from, to push down hard. The fact that I haven't felt very good under that plan has in no way deterred me from following it. My therapist is trying to get me to feel better, to live life more fully, and one way to do that is to accept anxiety, be present to it, and see what happens then.

Each time we've discussed this, there has been a strong voice inside me saying, "you've got to be kidding."

Yet, already, just writing the words "I am anxious" I know that I feel a little better even though that's not the goal any more. Feeling better is a finish line and I know that it's an elusive one. It's not that I can't feel good, it's that the image of "feeling better" I have carried in my mind is one in which all the work is done and I'm healed. We are never healed. Instead we can be _healing_ and that's what I believe being present to anxiety is doing for me. When I can accept the anxiety it is no longer an enemy and I no longer have to use energy to combat it. I can save that energy for the run and, given that it's eight miles of very hilly trails with a fresh coating of snow, I'll need all the energy I can muster.

As for streaks of writing, I'm tied with my old streak. I'm happy about that, but I'm really happy knowing that, regardless of streaks, I'm bound to write on.