Friday, January 14, 2022

New Year, No Goals

I've always known what needed to be done and when. I was often dressed and ready for kindergarten before my parents got out of bed. I didn't know much but I knew that I wanted to be on time and that I wanted to be self sufficient. Everything running smoothly with minimal disturbances gave me the most control over my environment and drew the least amount of attention to me. I never had to learn discipline or consistency. If there was an instruction manual that came with each new baby, mine would have said, "doesn't need help with structure."

When I decided I wanted to play Division 1 lacrosse, it never occurred to me that I might not get recruited. In my head, I had simply made a decision about what I was going to do. All I had to do next was figure out the recruiting process, sell the coaches on my whole discipline thing, hope that they overlooked my height, and that was that. Doing the work to get myself to that level? That was the easy part. 

I started doing triathlons right after college. I transferred my high-achieving athlete mindset from one sport to the next. I was competitive and driven. But all along the way, this sport has been pushing me around and knocking me off course, which is the entirety of the reason I've stuck with it for so long. First it taught me that more and more work isn't the answer to more and more achievement. And now I'm learning that more and more achievement isn't the answer to what actually fills my cup. 

My race medals live in a box somewhere out of sight. I would rather decorate my walls with art and inspiration than mementos from the past. I would rather leave blank space for imagining new life than clutter my hallways with the ingrained patterns of yesterday. This doesn't mean I'm not proud of my accomplishments, but they do, in at least a small way, keep me tied to my past. 

A couple weeks ago we packed up and moved from Colorado to Southern California. Both Ryan and I wanted to use the move as an opportunity to declutter and enter this next phase a little bit lighter. We got rid of a startling amount of crap.  And still, seeing all of our possessions in boxes, ready to be shipped across the country, made me think how did we get here? How did we convince ourselves that we need so much shit in order for our lives to function?

But after 2 weeks of living in our new home still waiting on the arrival of said shit, I am reminded that as much as I like to pretend I live in the clouds, I am still a humble servant to my swanky desk chair. The first week, I set up my laptop next to Luna's dog bed, and she was kind enough to let me borrow it. 

The second week, Ryan bought us two $20 folding chairs and mini tables from Target so we could work like actual humans. At night, we push our desks together to form a dinner table.

Since I have a desk now and it is January and I live in a new house, in a new state, I sat down to write my goals for the upcoming year, but I couldn't find them in the usual places. I searched for them through the threads of my old life. I thought about winning races and executing at a high level and the structure of audacious goals that used to hold me upright and together. But what I found is that I don't fit inside that structure anymore. 

I sent my athletes a goal sheet for 2022, like I do every year. Today is their deadline to fill it out to return it to me. I've only received 2 so far, so I suspect that I am not the only one feeling the unsteadiness of the ground beneath our feet. 

We are not fulfilled by the same things we used to seek. We're not interested in running ourselves into the ground for the sake of some arbitrary achievement because we know now more clearly than we've ever known it, that our value is not tied to a result. We will not ever have made it. 

There is no finish line to the relentless grind. The false promise that someday all of our hard work will pay off and we will be granted a glorious seat at the table of admiration and belonging is beginning to breach our consciousness. If there is such a table, and access is only granted after years of wasting away on the treadmill of self destruction, then we are not interested in that table. We feel the weight of relying on the external world to tell us when we are finally good enough and we're ready to build bridges to something new. We will not go down with the fucking patriarchy.   

In the great cycle of death and rebirth, the compost pile of our old skin is rich and fertile. But composting takes time and we are unfamiliar with sitting quietly with uncertainty. We can feel the earthquakes underneath our skin and it is tempting to reach for our old ways of being to stop the madness. The death cycle always feels like madness before it feels like home. 

When I sit quietly in the aftermath of the earthquakes
In the unforgiving uncertainty 
And sort through the debris of my old skin
I know that I don't care to be better than anyone else or 
Better than I was last year, or even yesterday. 
At my core, what I really want to feel
Is unburdened. 

If best is the enemy of better
And perfect is the enemy of done
Then let me be at my best right now
At my peak of perfection
So I can get on with pursuing nothing but the joy of living.  

Without goals, I am free to pursue the sport that I love in the way that I love it. I want to run as fast as I can only to feel the salty air burning in my lungs, reminding me of my edges. I want to be intoxicated by the wild ecstasy of breathlessness, not worrying about if I can do it again tomorrow, or ever again. And when I'm tired, I want to sit down by the ocean for hours, just to watch it breath - a third wheel to the rhythm shared only between the tide and the moon.

Since I started my last post with a quote from Mary Oliver, it feels appropriate to end this post with another one:

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
    love what it loves."

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