Are you tired? I’m talking ‘marathon tired’, tired as in ‘hitting the wall’ or in some cases having the wall hit you. I’ve run marathons. They take training. It is common knowledge, but usually dismissed, that marathons are mental challenges, too. Our society has been running marathons as if they were sprints. If you aren’t tired, congratulations. I am reaching back to that training, the physical exercise for sure, but also the mental perspective, the benefits of a support network, and rest. Society can run a marathon as a relay, but that also means letting someone else run ahead while recuperating.
I am not a sprinter. (massive understatements, no extra charge) Take a bicycle trip? Sure. I crossed the country, and did so at about half the pace of many cyclists. Climb Mt. Rainier? Yep, but I used a guide; and it took the guide to convince me to climb those last three hundred feet. Go for a walk? Well, there are three Twelve Month nature studies of hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing in Washington’s Cascades. Oh yeah, and then there was that walk across Scotland. My favorite job as an engineer was massive projects, like space shuttles, that would take several years and someone else’s billions of dollars. These were not sprints, but sprints are for others, not me. Long, slow, and steady – and hopeful. Just because a marathon is started, there’s no guarantee it will be finished.
As a society, we’ve been sprinting through consecutive marathons. Great Resignation? Sure. We’re still in a pandemic. We just got out of a Great Recession. Before that we had the double hit of the Internet Bubble and 9/11. The 90s started with a recession. The 80s started with stagflation. The 70s had Watergate, Vietnam, and the Oil Embargo. The 60s had the 60s. The 50s only look good for some folks for some slice of time. The 40s and 30s weren’t exactly happy times. Which brings it back to 100 yeas ago and the Roaring Twenties which seemed like a good idea at the time. Oops.
I’m not going to list all of today’s troubles. I have a separate blog for that (PretendingNotToPanic.com), and even that is incomplete because I don’t include politics, there.
Personally I’ve been sprinting a financial marathon since about 2010. Losing 98% of my net worth wasn’t highly motivating. Trying to survive was.
Finally, some good news. Regular readers will know that thanks to my house’s value, a resurgent stock portfolio (which is showing wobbly legs), and people who’ve supported my various businesses I’ve been able to get back to – at least hope. Sustainable is still a long way away, though Social Security, and a home loan based on a recovered credit score has enabled enough finances to rest for a bit. (Finances aren’t the same as money. Much of my cash is from debt, but it is welcome, anyway.)
I’d forgotten this from my running days and my engineering career, but after working on something for so long for so hard it can be difficult to do nothing. Even relaxing can be forgotten and be something to relearn.
I just finished several days of a staycation. I won’t bore you with those details, but some comedian could find a lot of material watching me try to remember how to sit still and – gasp – do something simply because I wanted to. Add in pandemic constraints and some bad weather and the list of options get short.
Fortunately, I know me. I know me well enough that I know when it is time to accept a bit of help. That’s not completely true. I usually realize I need help after I’ve gone too far. So, within the last week or so I’ve benefited from my naturopath (who actually manages to provide advice without triggering anxiety attacks), my massage therapist (who does so well that my eyesight actually improves – yes, my head and neck are that tense), and my counselor (who sifts through long discussions to concisely describe concepts for me to consider.)
I’m feeling better, but they’ve also helped me realize how long and hard I’ve been struggling. At least as I understand it, it isn’t a surprise to them that I am not just tired but exhausted; and that several days away from work won’t undo a decade of anxiety.
As I recall, I ran three official marathons, another by accidentally mis-measuring a training route, and one by doing laps around a park. I never finished one without having to stop somewhere during the run. Whether it was to tie a shoe, or jump into a porty-potty, or massage a leg cramp, there was always something that meant I didn’t run the entire time.
And yet, I finished.
And yet, our society makes impressive accomplishments.
So, why do I/we push so hard? Why do we chastise those who aren’t ‘totally committed’ as if they aren’t human with lives and families?
We ask much of ourselves and each other. I knew I was getting tired and exhausted, but it took a bit of a break for me to see how hard, far, and much I’ve pushed myself. I was too busy being busy to notice, otherwise.
I’m not handing out advice. Partly this is a reminder to myself to take better care of my self. I am the only one responsible for me. But I wonder how much we also project those unrealistic goals and expectations onto others.
As I was thinking about this earlier – before I had to put it aside to mow the lawn – I thought about people who by necessity are so engrossed with their struggles that resting can seem mythical.
Much of this is so simple that people who aren’t in the midst of it can’t understand it. Only the rare few can sprint a marathon. The rest of us are allowed to grab that water bottle, walk for a bit, tie that shoe lace, maybe massage a muscle. Winning isn’t as important as finishing. And in the reality of this world, there’s always another marathon waiting. Taking a break is better than having to mend a break.
Not simple and concise enough? Well,
If I Had More Time I Would Have Made It Shorter