By now, I thought I would be closing in on running the first of the two 5Ks that I put on my list of goals for this year. After all, I have a somewhat flexible schedule. I live in a convenient neighborhood for stepping out the front door and walking or running any number of streets and trails. This spring has been sunny and mild. I'm in reasonably fine health to undertake such endeavors. I should make. it. happen.
What I didn't take into account were my responsibility issues. I spent years training myself, even forcing myself, to park my tail in one place until my work was done. Cancelling outings with friends, being late to family gatherings, missing goodbye parties. Whatever it took to get the job done, because that was the requirement someone put in front of me. So it's harder than I expected not only to give myself permission to get moving, but to figure out how to structure my days so that work gets done and life outside of work develops the texture and meaning that it should have, by rights.
The quandary leaves me feeling as though I'm turning in circles with too much conflicting information and too many opposing, mutually exclusive choices. For example, there is much advice about getting up and getting active outdoors first thing in the morning. There's equal insight about the value of getting up and writing before all else. Another series of recommendations advocates getting up and tackling the day's tough work tasks bright and early.
All of these suggestions have the same aim: To focus the day's first burst of energy on what is most important to any given individual, and to make sure critical tasks happen before the day's events derail the best-laid plans.
What if, though, you're like me? What if everything is a priority? What if you are one person with multiple time-consuming initiatives underway? That's where the responsibility issue comes in, and I revert to the habit of shackling myself in one place until I've finished whatever I promised to other people, feeling my brain and body warring with one another for supremacy as morning passes into afternoon into evening into night while I stare at a screen with varying levels of inspiration and intensity.
There is always someone who cares if a chapter gets drafted, or if a project reaches a client. (Not to mention that those projects, thankfully, pay for both the writing and any potential running that may take place.) The only person who cares if I get out on the pavement, or if I even see another human being, is me.
So such things slip to the end of the line. In a strange way, I begrudge myself the hour to get outside and move or the hour to prepare a healthful meal and eat it leisurely, a challenge I'm addressing by consuming salad like it's my job. I cheat myself of sleep on a regular basis in a strange FOMO-induced battle to keep my eyes open, as my best intentions at 8 p.m. disappear as the clock rolls past 10 or 11 or well past midnight. That's "fear of missing out," by the way, an actual psychological challenge triggered by an overabundance of choice.
I know I consume and retain too much information. That's just how my brain works. It's both useful and exhausting. As a result, it's entirely plausible to me that one would chuck everything and take up life as a modern-day hobo, or conversely, lock oneself in a small home with one's childhood toys and cease interacting with the world altogether. Too much choice is, I think, in many ways more stressful than too little. Because every either/or decision brings us back to Frost's two roads.
It's easy for the day, the week, the month to roll up like a waning toothpaste tube, with tasks reallocated to future dates and a strong sense that either Macbeth or Sisyphus might have been on to something, time-wise. I find myself craving simplicity and the gentle direction of meaningful personal connections as if a return to primitive life functions could solve all challenges. Hungry? Me eat now. Tired? Me sleep now. Intrigued by someone/something? Me spend time with you.
Which brings us back to the beginning. Bored/stuck/taking on shape of chair? Me run now.