Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Perseverance

So, I've learned something about myself over the last few months. First off, I've been meaning to write about this topic since the beginning of the year, but as it kept dragging on and evolving, I kept putting it off, and maybe for the better.

I hurt my knee mid-December. Nothing drastic, just what they call IT Band Syndrome. Take a couple weeks off from running and you'll be fine.

So I did.

The second week after I started back to running, I pushed it kinda hard. But I needed to; I was training for a marathon and needed to get back up to my mileage. I think the breaking point occurred during a 6-miler: I ran/walked the first 5 miles like I usually did, but then ran the last mile back to the house, and pretty fast. That Saturday I went out for an 18-miler and only made it 6 miles. My knee was hurting again.

For the next few weeks, I kept running. I would try to take it easy, but the pain never went away. As a matter of fact, it seemed to get steadily worse.

So I went to an orthopedist.

They do an MRI and discover only little things wrong: the IT Band Syndrome is still there, I have a small Baker's cyst on the back of my knee, and it looks like I have a tiny tear in my meniscus.


At this point, I'm just hoping to run the half marathon. Anything, just please don't tell me that I've trained for 6 months and will have nothing to show for it. (Ok, sure, I lost a few pounds and made some friends, but I did have a goal in mind...)

One month off from running.

I join a gym so that I can do Spin class. I want to stay fit, increase my aerobic capacity, but I can't do anything that will involve impact on my knee. I start a stretching regimen. I HATE STRETCHING. I hate stretching the way Indiana Jones hates snakes. But I do it anyway, in the hope that I can run.

Three weeks before the (now half) marathon, I start back running. And there is still pain! And now it is shooting all around the knee! I'm beginning to wonder what I'm going to have to do to fix this...

Back to the orthopedist.

Where I find out that on top of all the above, I have now developed tendinitis and bursitis. I think I may be the only person to develop tendinitis while NOT ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING TO AGGRAVATE THAT TENDON. So they give me a shot. It's given directly through the most painful part of the knee, straight into the joint. It is not comfortable.

But after three days, I feel fine!

I ran the half marathon. I ran it with a friend of mine, and did pretty well. My last two miles were the fastest miles of the day. I saw my family on the course. I passed someone on the very last straightaway. But there's a twinge of disappointment in only going half as far as I wanted to.

Oh, but there's more.

As I said at the top, I learned something about myself during those months. It came during one of the Spin classes. One of the teachers is a friend of mine; I've known her since I was a kid. She is brutal. She will shame you in a class, not by calling you out, but if you try to keep up with her, you better have brought your big-boy shoes.

Something she said in this particular class made me realize: I had been planning when to quit since the moment I got on the bike. Somewhere in my mind I had been thinking, right from the very beginning, how far I had to get before I could bail and not look like a pansy. The next time I ran I noticed the same thing: I may have planned on running 6 miles, but by the end of the first mile I was already trying to evaluate if I could cut this run short and just "make it up later."

I'm a quitter.
At least in my thoughts, if not always in my actions.

So, what makes me hold on? What makes me keep going when it's too tough? Why do I choose to persevere sometimes, and bail out other times?

A friend posted this on Facebook: "I would like to work out without having to work out." True.

Realization: I will only hang on long enough for everyone to think I've hung on long enough.

So, I'll set lofty goals for myself, but talk myself down from them not long after beginning. I'm the same way in my Christian walk. I want to be more like Christ, I want to resist temptation, I want to read my Bible, but I'm already planning my escape. I mean, how far can one man really go anyway?

I've begun to recognize those thoughts, and to work past them. Not just in working out, because the benefit from that is temporary. But in the rest of life as well. How long can you or I resist temptation? As long as we decide we can. It is as important as we make it.

I didn't have any problem running the half marathon all the way to the finish, because that was what I came there to do. I have problems finishing my training runs because it's hard to see the goal. I have trouble persevering under trials and temptation because it's difficult to see the end goal.

But I'm tired of my own excuses.

W(h)ine and cheese

Emotion never lends itself to an accurate worldview. Be forewarned. I think I write better when I'm very emotional, so this one could be a doozy.

I've had a frustrating day.

At the risk of sounding like "that guy", I feel that I have a lot of good ideas. And I'm not scared to pitch them. But man, does it seem like a lot (it feels like almost all) get shot down. What's worse is when, much later, you see that same idea come back around, but pitched by someone else as brand new. Then everyone else loves it! They prance around the plagiarizer (is that a word?) as if they have received a revelation. Meanwhile, I'm sitting off to the side wondering what made the idea so bad the first time?

I need a win.

I have said before that, as if I needed one more thing about me to be weird, I apparently have weird spiritual gifts. I didn't get faith, nope, nothing that blasé. I think I'm a good encourager, sure, but I wonder if my spiritual gift is dealing with disappointment. Because I sure seem to get enough thrown my way.

non sequiter

I've worked very hard not force my opinions or ideas on other people. In years past, I was in many, many situations where an opinion was forced on me, and I think I came to believe that was the only way to get your way - rhetoric, conviction, logic, and bombast. And something about it turned me off. Some would call it the mellowing of age; I'm not that old. I used to be completely concerned with getting my way, now I think I'm a little more concerned with getting along. Because I can lead all day long, but if no one is following, then it isn't doing much good. To this day I can remember how some people didn't like me as a teen because of my attitude; that arrogance of always being right, and being able to prove it. I don't like remembering that, and I've tried to change.

And that's not to say that I won't argue passionately for something I believe in, it's just to say that I don't place the importance on winning an argument or "being right" as I once did.

But I wonder if, in my desire to be more humble, I haven't allowed myself to become a doormat in a lot of instances. And that idea just pisses me off. So I think, what do I have to do to be heard? To have my opinion valued at the same weight that it seems others' are? Do I have to stake out a position and refuse to budge? To be louder than everyone else in the room? Do I have to demean others' opinions? Should I be so verbose as to simply exhaust everyone? Perhaps I should simply invent facts and situations to prove my point; I could even belabor the hypothetical. Maybe I should be/act offended or put out that someone else is getting their way.

No, I've chosen to (try to) be honest and mature.

So, once again, I'll swallow my disappointment (which tastes remarkably like bile) and hope for better.

One day.

They say that leadership should be collaborative, and that you should empower others. But no one ever talks about how to do that from the middle. Everyone is concerned with how to lead from the top. I don't have a problem with that. How does one lead from the middle of a team? Because I'm not the biggest, strongest, loudest person in the room. And I don't want to be. But I also don't want to be dismissed out of hand, or treated as if it's not a big deal to disappoint me, but it would be to disappoint others.