Starting from Where You’re At

canstockphoto3075263As people in the Northeast are trying to dig themselves out from under piles of snow, I’m doing some metaphorical digging out of my own.

After going through the worst winter ever in terms of colds and flu, I must rally myself into a consistent workout program, bring better focus to my writing, wrap up some loose ends with the job and return to the solid sense of purpose I had for a brief few moments in the fall.

The challenge is to not romanticize where I once was. I get tripped up by the accomplishments and skills I had in the past. It’s demoralizing and serves only as an obstacle to growth in this moment. I need to be mature enough to recognize that I have different limitations and need to adjust my expectations.

I’m not bouncing back as quickly from injuries or maladies, which is a tough pill to swallow. An easy five mile run can turn into a miserable 3 miles of referring pain from knees to back to shoulders. A cold becomes weeks of sinus infections and dry coughs. Instead of needing a day to recover from weight training, I need 2 or 3. A headache can ruin a day.

I had to delay testing for my first taekwondo black belt this month. I was driving myself based on standards I only attain after months of solid training, not sporadic weeks. My instructor said that I could be ready, but I knew that even if I passed the test, it wouldn’t be my best. I want to feel like I really earned it.

Writing became sluggish and resistant this week as well. I was tempted to not do any at all and just read books in my cozy chair. I have weeks when writing seems easy in terms of topic or flow. My inner editor has taken to calling me a ‘numbnut’ every time I choke out a paragraph.

I suppose this week has been about sinking into those feelings and recognizing that, to rally my motivation, I need an honest assessment. I need to approach everything with new eyes, instead of looking backwards. Adaptability is one of those keys to happiness and success that is underrated. I’ve been going along, mad at myself for not living up to past standards and digging myself a deeper hole out of which to climb.

And so, my friends, I will drag my cranky body to the gym this morning for a mild workout, write uneven, navel-gazing posts for awhile and quite possibly, be awful at everything I do. There’s no way out of this hole except tunneling through the mediocrity, dealing with aches and pains, and accepting that where I’m at, is the point from where I start. It’s not a motivational speech someone would pay for, but it will do for now.

29 Comments on “Starting from Where You’re At

  1. I don’t think what you’re describing has anything to do with mediocrity. That’s not fair to yourself. If you’re used to working out regularly and suddenly you get out of that routine, your body has to get back in the groove. Especially as you get older. Same with writing. Same with everything. I totally believe in setting standards. For having expectations. But they have to be realistic (while aspirational) or else you are just setting yourself up to fail. What was, was. This is a different time in your life, with different pressures, responsibilities, limitations and possibilities. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

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    • I suppose when I say mediocrity, it’s my assessment of my workouts and writing at this point. I’m just saying that I have to be okay with that sometimes, especially during times of recovery. But I’m optimistic about where less-than-stellar work will take me eventually, so that’s something.

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  2. I’m with you. I have slogged into 2013 with the hopes and plans of turning it around. I’m determined. Things don’t get better on their own – not completely. Being active in making things better is the way. I support your journey and wish you much success. I, too, suffer aches and pains that last longer than they used to, but I take comfort in the fact that eventually they disappear! Forward, into the sludge, we go.

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  3. The Movie “Evening Star” has a great dialog line between Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine. “She says to him, `Do you mind aging?’ And he says, `No, there’s a perverse majesty in being able to get to the place we are and survive.’

    We may not be able to celebrate jumping higher, running faster or keeping our skin taunt of our own biological volition, but these capacities mostly came with our genes. Age brings qualities like more persistence and seeing deeper as the acts of Neo-Olympian geriatric valor. I embrace these harder fought, harder won victories far more than the superficial prom-proms that peppered my youth. What I am now comes more from what I worked hard to bring to the table. This seems to me a far better reflection of real merit than whether or not I happened to look like barbie or ken.

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    • I like that phrase, too – “Perverse Majesty”. It is more challenging as we get older, but you’re right, when those victories come, they are delicious!

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  4. You just have to work out often enough to make it part of your routine, then you’ll feel out of sorts when you miss it and won’t let yourself fall too far off the track. On that note, it’s time for me to get back on the track…

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  5. I think all any of us do, no matter who we are or how old we are, is the best we can with what we have to work with at this moment in time.
    🙂

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    • This is definitely true. There’s something about late January/early February in a cold climate that really impacts ambition as well. I think this would be a great time for hibernation until early April!

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  6. I’m wishing you fortitude, motivation and fewer colds! Stay safe in that merciless winter (that much snow would likely kill me, I’m a creature who needs warmer climes…)

    You can get there!

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    • Thanks – I’m usually fond of colder weather, but I have to say that was before I had a youngster bringing every cootie possible home and spending half the winter being sick or recovering from being sick. I actually think these milder winters for our state make the flu season much worse.

      Had a decent workout and taekwondo practice today, so that always lifts the spirits (all those happy brain chemicals)!

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  7. I’ve been feeling the same way about my own writing, lately – things just aren’t flowing as well as in the beginning (I know that’s to be expected), and it’s been harder to come up with a subject that engages me. But a certain phrase keeps popping into my head: “Just write the crap out.” Maybe writer’s block happens when all the crap clogs us up? It’s gotta come out in order for the good stuff to keep flowing.
    See, even my metaphors right now are unappealing…yet somehow it speaks to where I’m at, writing-wise. Hang in there!
    And I also wouldn’t mind hibernating until April, if I could take a couple of novels into my cave with me.

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    • You would be amazed at my awful use of metaphors these days – I abandon them shortly into any piece because they’re weak and then have to go back and re-write most of it. I am starting to recognize that writing goes in cycles for me. Some weeks I can’t stop writing and other weeks, I’d just like to spend time reading (lots of input, no output). It’s something to think about in trying to figure out how to be the most productive, while allowing time for the brain to just take breather.

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  8. I don’t think you are alone in finding things more challenging. I have had a year and a half of stupid small injuries that just don’t get better – I have allowed this to let me off the hook when it comes to working out. I am finding that my ability to just ignore these things and press on sometimes makes them worse. Maybe it’s age, I sure hope not.

    You are tackling goals on so many fronts and I admire that. I think it’s smart to start from where you are at rather than where you used to be. I get caught up in that myself and find it hard to let go and just start – kudos to you for starting.

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    • I’ve just learned this in the last year as well – if I don’t allow enough healing time, the injury lasts much longer. The problem with it is that I have to keep re-learning working out as a habit if I take too many breaks. I’m trying to scale back and change workouts so that I’m at least doing something to maintain the habit without re-injuring myself. That takes a lot more planning and thinking it out than what I’m usually inclined to do. I just have to keep re-learning these lessons over and over and in the dead of winter, I’d rather just nap!

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  9. I can relate to what you’re feeling. Work has made it very challenging to keep blogging, and I feel like most of what I’ve written since, oh, October or so, is pretty weak.

    But it’s really the persevering when it’s not easy that makes us good at it. Slog on through the sludge! Into the breach once more!!

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    • If persevering is what it takes, I’m all over it – maybe just not as enthusiastically as I could be. Another fine rallying cry “Slog on through the sludge!” There’s at least a t-shirt or bumper sticker in that.

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      • Credit (and royalties) to Snoring Dog; the sludge was her idea, I actually thought I was just echoing her.

        We could be the Sludge Sloggers! (Say that ten times!)

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  10. All the best with your training in the meantime. Sending lots of healthy wishes your way !

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    • Thanks so much for the healthy wishes! I’ve gotten in some better training over the last few days, so that made me feel better. Now if I could just master a spin hook kick without falling down from dizziness due to a head cold, that would be awesome. On the other hand, I haven’t mastered that kick when I’m 100%, so it might be bit much to expect!

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      • Totally with you on that one – 3 or 4 and dizziness certainly sets in. I really admire people who can hold their ready form consistently after doing several.

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  11. Be good to yourself. I’m still feeling a bit off after my flu bout and this past weekend’s allergy fest. Rest if you need to.

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  12. I love this line: “I get tripped up by the accomplishments and skills I had in the past.”
    It captures so much about being middle-aged and starting over.

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    • I feel like I’m starting over…repeatedly! Part of it is the winter blahs, but in the last few years, I have to keep hitting the “Reset” button. I suppose I should just be grateful that I’m able to do that!

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