When the Road Feels Long, Run a Marathon
Every day, I wake up and look forward to doing something to feel like a person... write, go to kickboxing class, watch an entire episode of Alias. (I apologize PROFUSELY, by the way, for leaving Michael Vartan off the list of Favorite Michaels. I didn't know, guys. I DIDN'T KNOW.)
But I'm in a long string of days where the closest I get to doing something for myself is peeing without an audience. Like, once.
The problem isn't that I fail to put myself on my to-do list. If it were up to me, I'd be the only thing on my to-do list! I'm enormously selfish, y'all. No, the problem is that I have zero time. We're talking zero. This baby of mine is hella cute, but she's ruining my life. I mean, not really? But actually kind of.
Side note: babies are hard. We know this. But what you might not know is that some moms really don't like the baby stage. At all. No amount of snuggles or baby smells can counteract the need to always be on. If you're that mom, you don't get docked points. You can be a wonderful mother without always liking it.
I am that mom, and I think the baby stage is kinda lame. I'll spare you the laborious details of her lack of sleep and excessive literal sucking the life out of me, but it's bad. She's just being a baby, but it leaves me dry. I cry every single day. It's like I'm watching a constant loop of Homeward Bound but only the sad parts. It's THE WORST.
Sometimes it doesn't feel like there's a way out of this repetitive madness, that the end will never come. Maybe you're also home with a baby who isn't going to be twelve tomorrow. It doesn't even have to be about kids! Maybe you made a choice to take a job you love that pays a fraction of what you're used to. Maybe your body obviously functions better when you don't eat gluten or dairy and your days of Pizza Hut are over.
Sometimes the road feels long because it is long. You'll always have your kids. You'll always have just enough money to get by. You'll always have to eat like a rabbit. The always makes the longing hurt even more.
But this weekend, I had a brainwave. I was reminded that it's hard to be frustrated about something you already expect, and then my brain kindly took it a step further.
My road feels long, often at the expense of what makes me come alive, and I can get wrapped up in the despair, like some kind of goth Anne Shirley. But that does me no good. It's cathartic for the length of time it takes me to eat a spoonful of peanut butter in the closet, but beyond that it just makes me cranky and no fun and now I'm the weird girl with peanut butter in my closet.
I realized it was time to lean away from the longing and lean into the long road.
I've decided to treat my current situation like I'm training for a marathon... even though I have zero idea what that actually feels like hashtag couch. What does that look like? I go to bed early. I eat oatmeal for breakfast and mango for dessert. I spend my five minutes of free time making lunches for the next day instead of on myself. I make choices that allow me to do The Next Thing with as much emotional and spiritual energy as I can, and right now, those choices involve far less New Girl than I'd prefer. But because it's a daily choice that builds upon yesterday's, it's not as bad as it could be because its training.
In order to run my best race, I don't need to give up the longings themselves... just the expectation that they'll daily be fulfilled. Each day that I get to do something that's just for me feels like a gift instead of every day I don't get to do something feeling like a loss. I go from "I didn't get to watch New Girl today" to "I got to watch New Girl today!"
It's crazy how that tiny shift has made things so much better. I'm still tired and can't eat dairy and haven't watched two back-to-back episodes of TV in a month, but right now, I'm not supposed to. I'm training for my marathon.
Maybe you're training, too. It could be being a mom or getting out of debt or getting your degree in the cracks of life. When you lose yourself to something you thought would always be good, it's confusing. You wonder if it's really worth it. You didn't sign up for this!
But I've never heard a marathon runner say it wasn't worth it. Making a sacrifice for a longterm goal is one of the most gratifying things... after the fact. During, it's the absolute pits. But if we change how we think, it might change how we feel, how we act, and how we treat ourselves when we screw up and get pissy again.
When the road feels long, don't just look for the light at the end of the tunnel; it might take a discouragingly long time to see it. Instead, train for your marathon, and you'll eventually get there with more purpose than you had before.