January 10, 2012

There’ll Be Days Like This

There’ll be days like this…When you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises; when you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape; when your boots will fill with rain, and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment. And those are the very days you have all the more reason to say thank you. Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.
~Sarah Kay

Part of the reason I fell out of the habit of regular exercise a many of years ago was that the number of things that seemed to be standing in my way somehow grew to be big enough that I just couldn’t see how to do it. I have long been a busy person with a full life. At one point I was in medical school and working a job and managing to train 3-6 days a week in martial arts. Later, I was working in private practice, had a part-time consulting business, had a baby, did volunteer work, and still managed to do yoga, go to spin classes and walk in the parks near my home. I can’t exactly recall when it became too much – but it was somewhere after baby number 2, the consulting company taking off into a full-time business, agreeing to chair a health conference and joining a corporate board on the side…

I never stopped exercise wholesale – it just slowly but surely got squeezed out of my life. One day I woke up and I had memberships at a gym and 2 yoga studios and I really wasn’t using them at all.

I had become one of “those” people.

Funny enough, I used to counsel people like myself when I was in private practice. I used to sit with them with their schedules even and try to help them figure out, in a realistic way, where and how exercise could fit in their lives. I would insist to my patients, that there would be a way to make it work. In truth, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. I would always secretly tell myself that I would never get so busy and disorganized that I couldn’t take good care of myself.

Until I woke up and realized that was me – and I wasn’t taking care of myself – and it was starting to show. Ugh.

So I had to start from scratch. I had to talk to myself like I used to talk to my patients. I already know the reasons I should exercise and the reasons I want to exercise – but I had to make it a priority somehow in an unforgiving schedule with two young children, a demanding career that includes travel, positions on corporate and non-profit boards, and more. I had to take a critical look at my own life and say, “I know the time exists…but where is it.”

Somehow when you really want to do something, when your motivation is high, you can usually squeeze water out of a rock. Since taking a good hard look at my life in June of 2011, I have found the time to exercise on more days than not. But life doesn’t stop making it hard for me. In the first half of this month, I have 7 days of scheduled travel, I have two large projects that need to be completed at work, I have two articles due for journals, several presentations that have to written and delivered, a dozen sports practices between my two boys, a trip for one child to the orthodontist, a sink that needs to be repaired, and some interesting “unscheduled things” like a problem at my kids’ school and a couple of extra issues that have arisen at work requiring immediate attention.

We all know there will be days like this – but what if that is just your life? What if it is not really days, but months, years, decades…

I am not complaining.

A big part of what I love about my life is that it is full and rich…and some of the unpredictably of is what often makes it fun and exciting. It also makes it hard and can put me in a near constant place of making choices like: buy dinner or make it? pay bills or do laundry? go to the hockey game with my kids or finish that presentation that really needs to get done? watch my son’s water polo practice or get my banking done? write my blog or sleep for another hour? run or…not?

Some days, the challenges just overwhelm my ability to be motivated. Some days, not only don’t I run because I just can’t visualize the time, but I also give into the craving for sweet potato fries and ice cream. Instead of spending extra time on the work projects I could be finishing at home, I curl up on the couch with my boys and watch sports or a movie and I try to ignore the inner voices that would like me to feel guilty or defeated or panicked. Instead, I give into just enjoying collapsing for a minute (or an hour or two) and let myself be blanketed by the comfort that all the problems I had today will still be there waiting for me tomorrow.

The key, you see, is in the return.

You can have a day of defeat if you get up and get back in the game the next day. If life sends you away, you have to find a way to face it with fresh eyes and new determination again and again. Because – at least if you are anything like me, it’s going to keep happening.

Wish me good luck tomorrow.


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