Yesterday was my birthday and I posted on Facebook:
So, I posted the above status and someone commented how she couldn’t even fathom swimming 100 laps (FYI my Y’s pool is 25 yards long). And her comment took me right back to something I find myself reminding myself, and my friends, and people I coach, pretty much every day:
One of the many lessons we learn in yoga, that is practiced on the mat, and then as we become more self-aware we take the practice off the mat and into our life, is that comparison is at the root of most Resistance, leading into Suffering. So, in other words, when I say, gosh, I am in awe of your ability to run an ultra marathon, I could never do that – I am comparing myself as I am today, with who you are today, and I am immediately not only discounting my own possibilities, but I am in a way ignoring the many hours of training and prioritizing and self-doubt and growth, that led to your ability to show up to your ultra race this weekend. Because, when I say, gosh, you are incredible, I could never do that, in a way, I am putting you into a demi-god, superhuman category. Which means, we are separate, we are not alike, and I may as well not even bother.
I recognize this because I have done this so many times in my life. I have been on both sides. And even as I write this, so much is becoming clear to me. In my coaching, I have always felt and said that I would much rather coach the underdog, who really doesn’t believe in herself and who doesn’t see what I see lurking below her surface (or buried deep) – than coach the super competitive athlete or otherwise driven person. I still feel very close to the turtle (“Tortuga”) I was in high school, earning me that nickname on the track team. I still feel like that girl I was in middle school who was so tortured by bullies, the girl I was in high school who felt somewhat comfortable yet not quite the right fit, no matter the social clique or country. Those feelings of not quite belonging, of not quite connecting, of the insides not quite matching the outsides – are still with me. And inform my coaching, and my personal seeking.
Several times people have told me that they appreciate how real and vulnerable I am willing to be when I write and speak. Vulnerability is the new Black, but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. I vacillated over posting my admission to recognizing the uneasiness I felt about my drinking, and my eventual decision to quit drinking and begin a path into recovery. I decided to post publicly, because I felt the need to “come clean” with my peers and people who consider me a role model in the health sphere. I also posted it because I wanted my “audience” to have access to my new chapter in life. Most people that I know today did not know me when I was in my 20s and hated running. Facebook didn’t happen (to me, at least) until I was well into my triathlon “career” and parenting adventure. So most people who follow me today, virtually or in real life, didn’t see how much it really took for me to get to where and who I am today. Even if I did know them then, they probably were not aware of the good, the bad and the ugly of what it took to get to my current chapter as a mom, wife, triathlete, coach, entrepreneur. So, I don’t fault them for looking at me today and thinking, oh it comes easy to her. Of course she can do that – but I never could. Or, I totally suck, this is way too hard, why can’t I do it like she does?
Opening up about recovery is in a way, a gift to me as well as to anyone following my journey. I am still new to it. At this stage, it’s like I am doing the recovery program version of a Couch 2 5k running program. Which is pretty much accessible to anyone who can stand up from the couch. The recovery world is still one where anonymity is often encouraged, and when someone in recovery decides to go public, it’s a controversial move - and they are usually years and years into recovery (or a scandal forces the issue into the public realm). I didn’t take my going public lightly, and I still don’t. And I am so glad I did post that blog entry and have posted several since, because of the incredible people who have stepped into my life since then. Many of them admitted to me that when they read my post, they were flooded with relief, knowing that someone else was in the same boat as them. I was someone who like them, was also still just in the Prologue of their recovery journey, as opposed to most people who finally open up about their recovery and are years in (way past Book One).
This morning, I did a 50 minute yoga practice on my mat on my bedroom floor, followed by a 15 minute seated meditation. I shared this with my accountability group – a group of 8 women all across the US, who are in different stages of recovery. One of them remarked that she could never do that (yoga and meditation alone, at home) – her ADD would kick right in. Again, she is doing the totally natural thing of comparing her chapter 2 to my chapter 12 (well, actually more like 5 I think). I started with 5 minutes a few times per week and built it up. I still have to discipline myself into doing yoga and or meditation every day, or several times per week. I read, listen to podcasts, watch videos, attend workshops, because I want to follow people who are on their chapter 20 or their next volume. I remind myself – I want what they have and I just need to keep moving forward, one breath at a time.
We live in an instant gratification world, where people usually only show and post their Chapter 12 successes. (Though my 15 year old daughter has me intrigued with the whole Finsta thing – she and her friends have a real account as well as a Finsta account, as in “fake Insta,” and that’s where they post “fails,” and this Finsta account is only available to very close, trusted friends). This is normally what we are comparing ourselves to: the person who did a 30 day cleanse and posts the 60 pound-less After picture (but not the picture a few months later of 60+ lbs regain). The person who qualified for the bonus trip to Hawaii and posted the umbrella drinks on beach picture (but not the post each time they were rejected or laughed at). The person who kicked booze and painkillers (but not the picture of their recycling bin as they snuck to the local dump each week or several times a week, 5 years ago).
The truth is, every single success, if it is really important and meaningful and transformative, is the culmination of small, consistent steps forward. Steps that eventually add up to a new chapter in a book that is a series of chapters that build on each other. Sometimes the chapters feel like they are moving backward, as we make mistakes, or feel discouraged, or start the whole comparison game and feel like total losers. But this is just Resistance, and we need to recognize it as such. And let it go. And keep moving forward, writing our own, new story, and staying in our own book.
Now, go. Write your story. Start with the Prologue. Just Start It.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.