Last year, my first race back after injury was at the Indian Creek Fifties 15 miler [officially declared to be 14.25 miles, but we all know better]. It was a beautiful, runnable, rolling course with bomb-able downhills and sweeping views along the Colorado Trail. It was the beginning of an incredible year. I’ve had my eye on one more ultra this year, but didn’t officially register in order to allow space for recovery after Mt Hood. I was pretty set on running the 55k since it is three months post-50-miler. But I’m not ready.
If comparison is the thief of joy, why is it so thrilling to get a PR? If comparison is the thief of joy, why does finishing 3rd or 10th or 156th feel so good? You and I know that this classic phrase is true, but it’s more nuanced than it appears at first glance. Like stress, a certain level of comparison is healthy, but go a hair beyond that and it quickly turns toxic. Comparison used as a tool to assign value is the real culprit. In this context, comparison is not a mere pickpocket. No, it straight up kicks down the door, snatches your joy and then proceeds to flip your furniture, drown your electronics and smash the contents of your fridge on the floor just for fun, leaving a dangerous mess in its wake.
That feeling of reaching a summit, when those last few hundred feet of vertical struggle is over, there is a feeling of relief, humility, awe, gratitude, achievement – but it is brief, and after a few minutes, it’s time to turn around and go back the way you came. It’s not that the view gets old or that you don’t want to savor the moment, but the goal has been achieved and no matter where you sit, some pointy rock edge is jamming you in the ass – it gets cold and windy and chances are a storm will roll in before too long. Before the journey down the mountain is even over, you find yourself already craving another and reminiscing about the journey up, almost wishing you were still headed in that direction.
The other night I went to the Trails in Motion film festival, leading up to the Golden Gate Dirty 30 race that I’m running tomorrow. Featured in these films were a couple of local legends – Courtney Dauwalter and Clare Gallagher. More importantly, several films showcased athletes who may never podium, but who demonstrate an inspiring amount of heart, grit and perseverance, who put themselves in unique positions to experience both suffering and joy.
It’s no secret. I’ve been flailing.
Anyone close to me lately has seen the signs that I lost my way. I can’t stop thinking about my last blog post – although it contains many complete sentences, it feels completely incoherent. I’m leaving it up to demonstrate that sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the right and positive things, to demonstrate my humanity. The funny thing is, that post took me forever to write and edit and write again, while this one is just flowing out of me. A sign that I’m on the right path.
This is the natural course of these big lessons in resistance. As the pace of change has quickened in my life, I have been resisting instead of remaining open and vulnerable. As a result, I’ve experienced a lot of darkness, confusion, grasping for control, the going down of rabbit holes and general overall emotional flailing. While my unconscious has been busy processing all the disruption in my life, my ego went hog wild, partying and breaking valuables. It’s not all that surprising, but while I was in it, I just knew I was miserable and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. That’s when I remembered. I have a say in the matter.
When I was in high school, I was attracted to guys who were interested in having deep conversations about philosophy or economics or anything I was curious about, which was everything. The first and last to break me was one of those. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known and a true original thinker. I met him when I was his math tutor. He was crazy smart but didn’t care about proving it. He introduced me to the author Douglas Coupland and more specifically the book Life After God. I read it at least three times, reveling in the fact that someone could articulate with such sarcastic wit, the existential curiosity that lived within me.
How does a girl who grew up constantly being told “you’re so smart, you’re so pretty, you’re going to go so far in life” spend so many years feeling worthless, only to level-up to imposter syndrome once she gets older? I figured it out yesterday while slow-jögging up Green-Bear, as there is magic that happens when I move my feet in the dirt. Self-worth, for those of us not innately blessed with it, has to be and more importantly, can beearned. While I appreciate the external validation from the well-intentioned adults, it focused on celebrating qualities that were completely out of my control and did nothing to help me develop a sense of value or grow as a person. What I needed was to be taught a growth mindset.
I “used to” have this superstition that if I acknowledged an area of my life that was going well or that I was excited about something, I would jinx it and it would all fall apart. I think I still feel that way to a degree. I keep the things that excite me to myself, especially when they are still delicately taking shape.