It had been months since I was running. I had made a few half-hearted efforts, much like the one I was slogging through this morning, but by no means could I call myself a runner.
One day, in looking for excuses to not run, I even heard myself say, “It’s too cold.” This of course is a silly excuse to not go outside. It was too hot, too wet, too early, too late, too much, too hard.
Having entirely exhausted my excuses (because I don’t own a TV, though I seriously considered buying one just for that purpose), I went for a run. I immediately had a dozen new excuses because running in a non-runner body kind of feels like every cookie you ever consumed has shown up for a dance party on your inner thighs.
The threat of spontaneous combustion alone is enough to deter even a determined athlete.
To enjoy running, to enjoy many of those things we might want to become or experience, we must cultivate them. In fact, for anything to develop, it must be cultivated: given the right environment and elements to grow (see: my thighs, couch lock, and some cookies).
While I trudged up the trail, certain my left lung was collapsing, I questioned the opposite of cultivation, deciding it is immediate gratification.
It looks like me tying my shoes after months of inertia and thinking I should be able to comfortably hammer out some strong miles. Or have the immediate endorphin result without the hard work. It looks like fast weight loss, quick investment returns, and a fairy tale. And a lot of disappointment.
If we treat ourselves and our visions like our gardens, we would have the understanding and patience to plant a seed. None of us hope to harvest corn in May, so why do we consistently expect more from ourselves than is possible?
Recognizing my failure to cultivate the joys of running, I wondered what other things in my life I wanted, but failed to cultivate. The list grew so long, it was overwhelming until I remembered that it must begin small.
So I planted that seed. It began with changing my schedule ever-so-slightly so I could sneak in an afternoon trot. Then I started putting running clothes and shoes in my car in case something suddenly opened up and I had an opportunity for a jog.
It was more than a week before I actually ran, but I did. It was like seeing those hopeful green seeds pushing through the soil in spring. It was also slightly less miserable than my previous run.
If you want to cultivate your own life of adventure, health, happiness, the first steps are so easy. You grab a back yard map book, a water bottle, and a friend.
Maybe you want to cultivate an artist or a musician. Imagining the hours of training and practice may seem intimidating, but getting an easel or a piano lesson is not.
In a few weeks we will binge and bloat and over work and over extend ourselves until, for some reason, the First of January inspires a new life. Suddenly we’ll wake up with a resolution and incredible challenges, strict and unforgiving. Aside from the lack of compassion, it demands immediate gratification.
But why wait until the New Year to plant the seeds of change? You can till that soil and nourish them already. Gift yourself that new bike for Christmas early. Join the running club. Walk around the block. Take your kid hiking. Give your wife a trekking guide.
Cultivate the life you want. After that, it just takes a little watering to keep it growing.
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