Alright then, let's run.
My phone lights up with his text message—the carrier of all my romances since I got my first “Good morning beautiful” message at 16 years old.
“Your amazing,” he writes just as my treadmill starts to speed up.
And yes, he spelled it wrong, and the editor in me tries to withhold her judgment and not let an apostrophe, re, keep the butterflies at bay. But the butterflies aren’t coming anyway. They rarely come with him. Instead there’s this silly, happy feeling like I’d get from a too-tight hug, a smile I don’t even notice is there until it fades, and a whole lot of calm. I’ve never associated the start of dating someone with calm, but that’s what there is now. I’m so used to feeling overwhelmed and anxious and excited and scared—but then he shows up and it’s just really, really calm.
But the point of this isn’t him, or the start of dating someone new, or what it means that the butterflies aren’t there. The point is when I finally—too many boys and too many texts later—realized that the message was nothing more than what it was. A short, albeit sweet message from a person I am only just getting to know, that didn’t affect me any more than my best friend telling me I chose the right outfit that night. I’m grateful for the approval, and my confidence gets knocked up a few notches, but if I’m being honest (and I’m usually not), I already knew I chose right. That’s why I chose that outfit in the first place.
This year was hard. This year I came to understand what the word “defeated” really means. This year I signed up for a half marathon.
I learned right away in the training process for a half marathon that running is about 80% a mental game. The physical aspect comes into play, but it’s really the least important component of the experience. And for the first few months after I signed up for the race I was still scraping my way out of my defeated phase. I got really used to telling myself words like, “No,” and “Not possible,” and “If things were different maybe you could do it but they’re not.” I let a lot of other people’s rejections turn into personal attacks and I tightened my hands around a lot of circumstances that were in God’s control thinking they were mine. And when I tried to go on a five mile run I told myself I hadn’t worked hard enough to manage it and that I was too tired or too busy and that there would be time to fit it in later. I always proved myself right—I quit after one or two miles and hung my head as I walked out of the gym fifteen minutes after I’d come in, sure that everyone was thinking I was as big of a loser as I knew I was.
I didn’t get out of my defeated phase because I finally was blessed with this thing I read about called motivation. I started chipping myself out of it slowly, piece by piece, week by week, because I finally just got too bored. I wish I had a cooler story. Some kind of otherworldly experience when things started getting pieced together and life made sense, leading me to a host of successful experiences Hollywood could make a movie out of. Instead my story consists of me moving home, leaving behind a few negative influences, watching a lot of Law and Order SVU, getting lucky a few times, going to more coffee shops, and creating a training schedule that I wrote down and could track every day to keep me actually productive. And what happens when you start reaching goals is you start feeling a little more powerful. And what happens when you start feeling a little more powerful is that you get addicted to that feeling and you have this dream of yourself being sort of unstoppable. And unstoppable people don’t tell themselves words like “No,” and “Not possible.” They tell themselves, “Yes” and “You can,” and “I think you can do even more than that.”
It happens slowly. First it was things like, “Yes, you can apply for these jobs,” and “Yes, you can turn off the TV to go work at a coffee shop.” And then it was like, “You can run those [three] miles, those [six] miles, those [nine] miles.” And then I got a little crazy and was like, “I think you can do more than work full-time and train for a half marathon and write a book and freelance all at once—I think you can try to start your own business too.”
Yes, it may be a little excessive. Yes, I will encounter problems as I try to accomplish every dream I have all at once. But as someone who spent months after months hardly believing that I could get off the couch, I will never be ungrateful for having the strength to feel capable of just about anything.
Running has made me strong. I feel the muscles in my calves turn from paper to rock. I sleep better at night. I am losing a little extra flesh that came around when I thought cooking meant heating frozen pizzas from the comfort of a La-Z-Boy chair. But mentally, I’ve never felt stronger in my life.
“Run through the pain before you stop.” “You are almost there.” “You could even keep going if you want to.”
These are what running taught me to tell myself. It’s the only way I make it to the end. I feel like every motivational speaker probably started out as a runner training for a race.
“Your amazing,” he said to me just before I was about to do eight miles.
Two years ago, my boyfriend sending me a message like that would have made me melt into a little puddle on the floor. I would’ve smiled so big I couldn’t hide it, I would’ve had butterflies up to my throat, I would’ve sunk in the joy of his approval. The things I worked to accomplish were to make him proud, to make my friends proud, to make my mom proud. I wanted to say, “Look guys, look at what I did. Look at how worthy I am of your approval. Keep me, love me, be proud of me.” Two years ago, I might’ve been a little bit of a show-off. The silent show-off who never brags, never brings up what she’s working toward, just waits to finish and hope someone notices so that they could shower me in words like amazing and brilliant and strong.
It rarely worked out that way. Even if someone noticed what good I was up to, the praise never felt sincere enough or important enough.
Now I look at things a little differently. The approval I seek is God’s. Amazing and brilliant and strong are words I can shower myself in, but I don’t take them too seriously. I ran eight miles; that means I have five miles left to go before I hit the thirteen I need. Amazing is not earned. Amazing isn’t what I’m after.
I can do it. That’s all I need to know. I don’t need anyone else to whisper it to me, or text it to me, or scream it at me from a rooftop. That’s how you defeat that word—that mindset—defeated.
Yes, yes, yes. I can, I can, I can.
Alright then, let’s run.