Try Harder, Calm Down: Final Thoughts on 2017
At the beginning of each year, I like to set an intention to carry me with me over the next 12 months. These are usually developed as a way to address some aspect of life I’m wrestling with. For 2017 my intention was “Try harder, calm down.”
Stuffed with anxiety about 2017, I resolved to somehow find a way to calm down. Reading the headlines at regular intervals wasn’t working for me. Wondering whether I would be caught in an impending hiring freeze? Also not working for me. General worry about future unknowns was eating me up inside.
As mentioned in my last post, cycling in 2016 did not bring enjoyment, and other areas of my life felt as though they were stagnating. I determined to push myself in new directions and see what happened. Try harder and try in ways distinct to what I had been doing.
I began new work that made better use of my skills, and started a new commute that included a ride up a big hill every day. The new job combined with that darn hill built strength.
I cut way back on running this year, putting in around 450 miles compared to over 900 in 2016. My body was tight and achey at the beginning of this year; it was hard to get revved up about running.
So I calmed down about my running, even though I managed to squeak in two marathons, both of which were very satisfying – the D.C. Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in subfreezing temperatures in March, and Freedom’s Run Marathon in ideal cool fall conditions at the end of September. Oh, and I ran the Army Ten Miler, too, which was humid, hot, and super fun!
In May I finally said yes to yoga after talking for years about it. Try harder! I began yoga in hopes of addressing the tightness in my body before I broke like a guitar string. Sproing!
Yoga has helped me some in this way, although I’m still amazed by how tight my shoulders and hamstrings continue to be. They are taking the scenic way to increased flexibility. A very scenic way.
A couple of months back I had hoped that I’d be rocking a foward fold and touching my toes thanks to my dedication to yoga, and that my chair pose and yogi squat would be easily settled into.
One day during class I also realized I had been wishing that yoga would roll back time for me – that it could somehow prevent ageing and dying. I can even tell you the floorboards I gazed at as the fault in my thinking dawned on me.
The jolt to reality shook me, although it also released some honesty about yoga and the other activities I pursue and do. Yoga, cycling, running, and whatever do not stop time, but life in the present is made better by them. I simply feel better when I’m active and making somewhat healthy life choices.
Do I prolong life through these pursuits? Who knows. I’m not banking on it, although it’s possible that it makes me better able to withstand some of life’s inevitable blows.
I don’t always feel competent or strong when I’m doing yoga, and I wrote about that earlier this year. People’s comments on that post were very inspiring and also helped me reframe yoga and its place. I resolved to say yes to trying my best every time I go to class. Try harder!
It’s not about success or failure on the mat, but about the committment to do my best, whatever that means on any given day. The key to a meaningful practice is to focus on my own body in its current state, and not giving the side-eye to those who are able to access a particular posture or becoming distracted by how I wish my body could do something it’s not going to do.
This approach also helped me be more aware of myself physically, and I find I’m more respectful of both my body’s limits and also aware of how I might safely challenge myself in class.
I take more notice of the various parts of me. I see which parts are stronger than others, as my physical quirks make themselves known. I try not to judge these differences, rather simply notice.
I also feel my feet rooted more solidly to the ground as a result of regular yoga practice, my body more balanced over my legs and hips. Who knew standing could be such a powerful exercise in awareness? Thanks yoga!
One last thought about yoga. The tenets of yoga – kindness, peace, presence – have been so critical for my state of mind this year. Be kind. Live peacefully and don’t be a jerk if you can help it. Clear the mind so that the only awareness of time is now. Calm down. Calm down.
Are you still there? Did I lose you in the morasse of my yoga musings? Come back, readers!
By the numbers the year shakes out at one new job, 450+ running miles, and over 8,000 cycling miles. Two marathons and a Super Randonneur series. Yoga practice 3 to 4 times per week.
Try harder? Check. Calm down? Mostly check.
My running mojo is currently running loose somewhere beyond my reach, and I hope it returns in 2018. If you see it, please let me know.
I’m intimidated by the winter commute temperatures, but I know I’ll bike up that hill every day somehow. I’m excited about long tandem rides with Felkerino in places we have yet to visit.
Thanks for reading, everybody. I hope the year treated you well, too, and I wish you all peace and kindness in 2018.