An unexpected thing happened to me recently: I started running.
Not anything completely crazy, like a marathon. Let’s be real, I don’t even want to DRIVE twenty-six miles most days. I’ve been doing 5ks, which are 3.1 miles each.
Running, so far, is different from anything else I’ve tried because it takes effort that no one is forcing me to exude. I’ve always been an active person- cheerleading and dance until the end of high school, and then more dance in college. Things that take effort, for sure, but effort that was scheduled and directed for me. Ballet/jazz/lyrical/modern class from this time to this time-we start off at the barre, then move to the center, do some combinations across the floor, work on the dance for recital/competition, end with stretching. Cheerleading, too: after school, change & go to the upstairs gym. Stretch first, practice competition routine, work on jumps, work on stunts, and figure out what to do at the next game’s quarter & halftime break. These things benefitted me, health-wise and personality-wise, but they weren’t really for me. If I wasn’t there, it wasn’t just me who missed out, it was an inconvenience to everyone-the dance teacher who had to repeat herself later, or the girls in my stunt group who then couldn’t practice.
Back in March, I signed up for a series of 5ks at this place called Charlestowne Landing. The route takes you around a plantation house, under live oaks, down to the river, and past this boat that looks like it could be a pirate ship but is actually just old. It’s a gorgeous route. After you run, they serve dinner and have an awards ceremony. There are 5 races in total, and the proceeds go towards the animals that live there (river otters!!!). The first one was in April, and before it happened, my friend Mary Elizabeth and I were diligent about preparing. We did better than we thought we would. The second race, a couple other friends joined us. Friends who were faster than us. Friends I tried to keep up with but couldn’t. I went too fast at the beginning, and we had to stop for a minute halfway through. We had a better time, because we went quicker at the start, but to us, we did worse.
And to my surprise, I was disappointed.
I’ve never been great at doing things just for the benefit of myself. When I was four, I wanted to learn how to cartwheel. So I taught myself how, practicing and practicing until my hands bled. That was the height of my self-discipline. For example, when I write, I can feel my internal infrastructure going from crumbling ruins to soaring tower. I feel my absolute best in front of a word document filled with my thoughts. And yet, most of the word documents I open never get more than a sentence or two.
It never seemed like a big deal to me. I would feel better if I was diligent about writing, sure, but I don’t NEED to be.
But then I came across this verse:
“Make careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your life.” – Galatians 6:4-5
For the third race, I had practiced and was prepared. I didn’t try to prove myself to the other runners; I didn’t try to keep up. Let’s be honest-the chances of others noticing how I was doing are slim to none, anyways. I just went with how I had practiced, with what felt good to me. I did have one brief moment of pause at the end, but then a friend shouted “GO!” and startled me back into my groove. I ended up getting the best time yet, and I felt so proud of myself.
I tend to do my creative best like a cheerleading routine, in short spurts of high energy. A one-and-done situation. My creative best should be managed like the third race, able to be sustained over a period of time/distance, something I have to work at to maintain. Something that makes me FEEL like my best.
I know I’ve said before that I’m going to write regularly, and then not done it, but I have a new motivation for my creative best. I know how good it feels to do things for my benefit, and I want to continue. Please help-ask me about my blank word documents, send me thought-provoking articles, tweets, or Instagram posts.
In the meantime, the fourth race is coming up. I’m going to go practice.