2023: ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

It’s January 11th as I write this and if past years predict this year, the concept of renewal, new beginnings, or fresh starts has started to fade.  No big surprise here-my sense this is why some of us cringe a bit at those “resolutions”…as they rarely pan out.  Instead I’ve been drawn towards the idea of intention, not resolution. 

So it’s in this spirit, that my “intention” has been brewing for many many months.  It was one that was born out of a rather pivotal experience last fall.  I suppose in writing this I’m holding myself to some type of loose accountability.  

It’s an old proverb that draws me in: ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’,  Modern Language:  Listen to Yourself.  In Athletic terms: Listen to Your Body.  In Sports Psychological Terms: Internal Motivation.

In order to understand the juice of what all of these slogans and phrases mean at their core.  Let’s consider the opposite:  We live in a day and age where the immediacy of what other people are doing is nothing more than a two second tap or swipe away. We are catapulted into the swampy nuances of what others are doing; eating, sleeping, smiling, training, traveling-every aspect of people’s lives- in an instant.  Some find this to be a source of connection and inspiration.  But conversely this broad display on personal intimacy also creates a template for comparison and self criticism, conscious or not.  Glass half full, or half empty-it’s hard to disagree that privacy and personal intimacy is becoming more difficult and fleeting.  And so it follows that it’s also becoming  more difficult to then ascertain our own pure intentions, motivations, and frankly our own loves and passions. Nobody’s doing anything wrong, it’s just the underbelly of our social networking and technological immediacy. We’re losing our ability to know our true selves. 

This past fall I set out to do something that many of my peers thought was a bit nuts.  I wanted to run a big city marathon without any time goal (anonymous)  BUT I wanted to train and prepare like I was training for a time goal.  This seemed a bit bass ackwards.   Here’s why:  I like training, in fact I LOVE the pursuit of mastery-it’s geeky, it’s fun, it’s gritty.  But at the very same time, I love to also disconnect from expectation and external pressure.  Most people I know approach it the opposite:  training is the annoying day to day part, racing is the highlight or exciting part.  Don’t get me wrong-I enjoy that (less often than before) but as I approach the interesting twilight zone of aging:  mid to late 40’s in women…I’m much more interested in loving what I do, how I do it, than any result or performance.  I have to be honest: it’s always been and continues to be difficult for me to not put some type of performance expectation on myself.  Years of therapy still hasn’t loosened that knot completely, so I find that I have to at times do things differently to keep my love of sport alive. 

My Project: Oporto Marathon Portugal Nov 6th 2022.  Spoiler alert, a nasty non-Covid virus stopped me from running the full 26 and due to a pinky swear with my husband days before, we agreed that at best, I’d run half of the marathon so as to not botch up the rest of our vacation.  The result: the most fun and exhilarating run “racing” experience I’ve had in nearly a decade! I’ve run in some grueling and beautiful mountain races, gutted out ultramarathons, uphill  races and more but this particular experience connected me with something I’d been missing for so many years: purity and fun.  I was anonymous.  I wasn’t going to win or place.  Heck, I didn’t even speak the language.  I was partially sick and it was raining.  But it was a blast…this experience allowed me to really connect with what I was aiming for: fun and the purity of just running hard, as hard as I could given those conditions that day.  It was an absolutely altering experience. 

Several months later now, the buzz has worn off but the theme remains and will remain as I prepare to launch a quite exciting N of 1 experiment (more later)…I vow to listen to myself and when I struggle to…I vow to find a way to listen.  I vow to hold internal motivation as my guiding light (listening to myself).  Getting quiet and really truly being true to myself feels like nothing else: freedom, exhilaration and an organic quiet confidence emerges.   

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