Touch, jab, gel.
This is what I learned this week from The Kid, my ten-year-old daughter who is in a swim club at our local rec centre.
Touch, jab, gel is the easier sequence of motions to learn how to turn at the end of each pool length. The Kid explains slower each time as if I’m the dumbest bonobo in the forest. “See, Mom? You touch the edge with both hands, and then jab back your [left] elbow and then you gel.” The gel motion is done with the right hand toward the head, which then causes the swimmer to do a nice little (or awkward in my case) turn to switch directions. My flip turn is a work in progress.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Swimming isn’t running. Yeah, about that – I’m in the stage of what a runner friend calls “false starts.” I started running but then something happened and I fell out of my momentum. This past week, my running watch of six years died. I bought it when my family and I lived on a small remote island off of the coast of BC. The watch reminded me of coastal forests, slippery boardwalks, running in the month of Fog-ust when you could run in and out of fog pillows in the road. The watch reminded me of all the good stuff.
I’m not a dumb bonobo though. I know that the running false start isn’t really about the watch. It’s about the driving force behind me signing up for a big hairy ass goal and shouting it out (i.e. telling friends and family and writing about it). Scary shit like that, making yourself vulnerable when you reach for something big that you want and then you also TELL people about it. Sccaaaarrryyy. Momentum when it comes to goals is weird and scary. If you are like me, you’ve made goals. Big ones. Little ones.
Momentum toward a set goal is like reading a recipe of a favourite dish in the dark. Coffee-infused brownies from Rebar (a restaurant in Victoria). Or, my father’s recipe for cinnamon buns with lemon zest cream cheese icing. I can follow a recipe in the daylight, but in the dark without light or guidance (i.e. a written recipe) I don’t know the way. I get lost. Easily. Momentum for this absurd, crazy goal – to run a 25km trail race – is simple: me. And, joy. And the momentum needs guidance from others, a community of fellow runners, the support of family and friends (to see my crazy as the good crazy), and inspiration.
It’s not an easy feat to look in the mirror and acknowledge that the person you see is a stranger. It’s not easy to say: hey, where’s the joy? Joy isn’t a set of keys. You can’t bribe your partner or child saying, “Whoever finds my joy first gets twenty bucks.” The real answer is simple: work. I need to get in the pool. I need to lace up my shoes. I need to find my joy. I. Ownership of myself and how I feel and interact in the world.
I have a writing mentor who I asked how do I get back to writing. Her answer was simple and harsh: put your ass in the chair.
Do the work. I need to do the work. If I can put my ass in the chair to do the writing, I can also lace my shoes and open the door for my running.
I have other work to do. I have those gremlins, or inner voices, that tell me the goal is too big, that I shouldn’t have told people that I was going to do it. And, I certainly shouldn’t write about it. Because, the gremlins tell me: you’re too slow, you’re not really a runner again, you’re a poor version of yourself. You’re lazy, you’re fat, you’re no good.
The gremlins are assholes, and they are damn good at their job. But, the thing is: I am getting much better at kicking them down, punching their teeth down their throat. Telling those voices to shut the fuck up. Because, I know (deep down in my heart – that place where the gremlins can’t always get to) that I can do the work.
The work, or dealing with the asshole gremlins, will help get rid of those false starts and just make them bad run days. In order to sit in the chair, lace the shoes, put on the swimsuit [insert your own personal goal here] you eventually have to get tired of the bloody gremlins in your head and decide to listen to a new soundtrack.
As I close this week’s blog, I want to close with a small gift, a haiku (a 17 syllable poem) of instructions:
Look in the mirror,
see yourself. Open door, get
outside. Today. Joy.
In the next blog, I’ll talk about my favourite run and why having a favourite route (or two or three) is important. And, I’ll let you know how the running (and swimming) is going number-wise. My partner (The Man) likes Excel…so I might let him spreadsheet my running km as a way to track my progress. More on this later.