Y’all won’t even believe this.
I’ve started “running.”
I use air quotes because it’s not so much “running” as it is pained shuffling for maybe half a song length, followed by dramatic staggering, side clutching, panting, walking, gathering my wind, and then striking up the shuffle again.
My personal best so far was running the entire length of Carrie Underwood’s Undo It. Hey, it’s no 14-minute Freebird, but it got me almost half way round the track. I just might make myself a car sticker that says “2.57.” (YEAH, baby, that’s MINUTES. Take that, 26.2ers!)
I have been staunchly exercise-free for most of my adult life. I have worn my sedentary state as a nerd badge of honor, creating this weird logic in my head that it was both vain and a bore to have a gym membership. Puh-LEASE. Treadmills are for hanging clothes on, people.
I have better things to do, right? I’m a WRITER (imagine me saying that with a deep baritone and great dramatic flourish). My ART demands long hours of dedicated screen staring, followed by occasional bursts of manic creativity, interspersed with long and frequent Facebook breaks.
I cannot be bothered with such self-absorbed silliness as “working out.” (Oh yeah, and exercise hurts.)
Then my father-in-law went and got himself one of those fancy triple bypass surgeries a few weeks ago. I heard my husband explaining to the kids how it happened, how among other things, “Pappy never exercised a day in his life” and then BOOM — this fun, near-death experience happened.
I started thinking about that statement — but almost like he’d been talking about me. I pictured Bill explaining to our children why their mother had to be airlifted from Lady Liberty after trying to climb all 20 flights of stairs with them to the top. “Well, your mother never exercised a day in her life, God bless her soul…”
I decided right then to do something…something unfun for the good of the team. I decided to try running. Fear did this to me.
Fear can be an excellent motivator…like when that huge spider is INSIDE YOUR CAR and you become newly “motivated” to drive 90 miles an hour across four lanes of traffic to extract yourself from the vehicle before you die or it touches you, whichever comes first.
Sometimes fear moves us like nothing else can.
But sometimes fear paralyzes.
Whenever I do these walk-jog amalgams at our town track, I pass by a women’s prison. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. It’s just there.
But today (to the beat of the Black Eyed Peas) I found myself peering through the chain link and wondering what life is like there — how those women got there, how it must feel to be locked up without the choices I have, what they would think of a whiner like me who has every blessing but still complains every chance she gets.
I’ve had a huge opportunity nosedive out of the sky into my lap — the chance to have a book published (my manuscript is due by year’s end). And I’m treating a dream-come-true like a hot potato. I’m scared to death of it. Sitting down with my manuscript feels like wrestling mano a mano with Fear Itself.
Fear tells me lots of things: 1) that this book will suck; 2) that no one will buy it; and 3) even if some random stranger does buy it, they’ll think it sucks too.
Fear has me by the unmentionables, big time.
But today, as I staggered by the prison, the weirdest thing happened. I started to cry a little (and not just because running is the worst).
When I thought of how those women in there would give their eye teeth for the chance to live out their dreams and do exactly what they wanted with their lives, it occurred to me:
What a stupid waste of energy it’s been to spend all my time twisting a blessing into a curse. Fear did this to me.
Sometimes fear is a good thing. (I will never, ever in a million years do meth, because I am scared. Have you seen what happens to those people’s teeth? And have you seen Breaking Bad? Fear can be good.)
But for the other kind of fear — the kind that chokes and entangles and trips us whenever we try to run — that kind of fear is a jerk and a liar and needs to get kicked right in the face.
Granted, I can’t kick that high. But I can definitely aim lower and make it count.
You see, I’ve been “working out.” Or something like it.