Yup, I am behind a couple of days. Sorry. I’ve been tired and otherwise occupied. I hesitate to say “I’ve been too busy to post,” because that is not entirely accurate. I haven’t felt much like writing lately, and I’ve been focused on other things: school, family, running, recovering from running. Resting. Taking care of myself. But I definitely have not been too busy. I’ve been Pacing myself.
I’ve been going at a speed that works for me, that enables me to get done what I need to get done without burning out along the way. I’ve not taken on more than I can handle, or, if I have, I’ve been able to let some of it go for sanity’s sake. I don’t want to be “too busy” because I firmly believe that when I fill all of my time, I don’t leave room for the unexpected.
The unexpected can be either positive or negative. If I’m so busy, for example, that I don’t leave early enough to get to class on time (it’s an hour and a half drive in optimal conditions), the unexpected can sideline me—heavy traffic, for example. Not being able to find parking.
Or, the unexpected can be positive. If I’m so busy that my days are jam packed with pre-arranged activities and appointments, I don’t have time for those bits of goodness that crop up unexpectedly, like a call from a friend who wants to have coffee or an invitation from a writing buddy who wants to get together for a couple of hours of (what else?) writing.
Oftentimes, though, since I quit my job (to become a fulltime writer) back in August, I find myself with long stretches of empty time. In the midst of these empty stretches, I can become quite insecure. My self-esteem gets wrapped up in how (not) busy I am. I begin to equate busy-ness with importance—I’m not very busy with externally imposed deadlines or important things That Must Be Done, therefore, my thinking goes, I am not very important or worthy.
The challenge lies in remembering that I am Pacing myself. Being a successful writer (and a student, which I am now, too) and a runner depend on Pacing. I can’t expect to sit down and write anything decent if I’m going to try to jam it all into one or two late night sessions between other busyness.
Same thing goes for school. If I am going to succeed in my classwork, I’m going to have to do some everyday between classes. Cramming my reading into the crevices between meetings here and appointments there, or around other major commitments will not serve my ultimate goals. When I’m feeling alone with empty hours, I have to remember that I’ve planned it this way. The empty hours are there to be filled with school and writing, pursuits that require solitude.
The empty hours are also there to be filled with running, which, like studying and writing cannot be done willy-nilly whenever time allows. But unlike writing and studying, running does not always need to be a lonely pursuit, which is a new discovery for me. Yesterday I went for a long run with a friend who is training for a half marathon. It’s the longest run I’ve done since I started running in December 2011. Even two months ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that I could do an eleven mile-run, but a few things have shifted for me in the past two months.
First of all, I’ve made running a priority. I run nearly every day now, and I run twice as far as I ran on most of my outings in the previous two years. Last year, eleven miles might have been my weekly total. Not working has certainly enabled me to spend more time running, but so too has changing how I think about my time. I no longer think I’m too busy to run for an hour every day.
The second change I’ve made is that I’ve slowed down. I no longer run like someone is chasing me. I’m starting to truly appreciate the rewards that Pacing myself can bring. And a funny thing has happened as I’ve slowed down. I’ve developed stamina. I can now go farther, faster—even though that wasn’t really what I was trying for. It’s a nice effect though, and I’m happy to keep it.
Running with people is fairly new for me and it’s a pretty big shift. This change sort of snuck up on me. Even though The Little Woman and I started running together and occasionally still do, I’ve otherwise been a solitary runner, partially because I am terrible at talking and running, and partially because I lack confidence and don’t want to be judged. But, when I accepted a marathoner friend’s challenge to run a 10K with her in early January, I realized that I enjoyed the companionship and the support. Now, I try to run with a running buddy or three (other than TLW), once or twice a week.
I’m learning that, sometimes, running at someone else’s Pace can be a good thing, too.