With my birthday fast approaching, it’s near time for my annual self-inventory, a ritual which began for me the night before my 10th birthday. Then, 9-year-old me lay in bed, pondering my seemingly long existence, and cried because I felt like a chapter of my life was ending. I was entering the double-digits. Nothing would ever be the same. Effectively, it was all downhill from there.
I have always been afraid of growing up. Neverland remained the unattainable dream throughout my entire child and early adulthood. But eventually, slowly and suddenly, it came anyway. And adulthood wasn’t so bad, actually.
It turns out, to live is an awfully big adventure.
So now I enjoy these little inventories. I use them as a chance to take stock of who I’ve become over the last year, what major lessons I might have picked up, what ways I’ve challenged myself.
And 25 was a big year! At 25, I went as far west as California. I scaled several mountains. I crossed rivers and streams in the rain. I helped my husband to realize a dream as he opened a gym with Jeremiah. I became a yoga instructor again. I tackled (and placed at) several triathlons. I watched every season of the Vampire Diaries. I got ordained as a minister so that I can perform a wedding for two beautiful friends this upcoming May. I became a certified sports nutritionist. I started a new role at work after completing an amazing and enriching 3.5 year experience with the Citrix team.
I also experienced some major pain and frustration. For my 25th birthday (no joke, my appointment was on my actual birthday), I learned that I have tumors in my optic nerves that might eventually lead to blindness. I also have a nearly constant pain in my left lower back/hip that has made it difficult for me to do the activities that I enjoy. So after evaluating my year and thinking back on the major life lessons learned, I have to say that one in particular stands out:
“Everybody has to start somewhere. You have your whole future ahead of you. Perfection doesn’t happen right away.” ― Haruki Murakami
I’ve written about the way that fitness is truly an evolution, but really, everything evolves. We evolve. Our definitions of self, our goals, our dreams–they are always moving targets, simply expanding out in front of us like the horizon.
But I’m the kind of person who loves parameters. I love guidelines. I love boxes. I tend to put myself into one, forcing a category or a tag on everything I do. My box has a sign on the outside that just reads “All or Nothing.”
I started this year at a point on my fitness journey where I thought I had finally evolved. I had dove headfirst into two new activities that I LOVED. I had decided I would forever be Kaleigh West, Triathlete and Lifter. I pictured myself, tan and super fit (#obvi), running out of an open water swim and waving at my four perfect, precious children while finishing my third Ironman. I saw myself at 80, snatching two-and-a-half-times my body weight overhead.
What can I say? I like to dream big.
As someone who, at the beginning of last year, couldn’t even consider myself to be an athlete, the idea of becoming a hybrid athlete was intoxicating. We opened the gym and the battle against myself began! My weights were increasing, my form was solid, and I was moving into the Olympic Lifting arena with a ton of excitement. I was unstoppable.
Until, you know, I was stopped.
It snuck in around August–that slow, creeping pain in my lower back. It bent me over completely. Like Brutus, it stabbed me right in the back. And the hip. And sometimes the leg.
And naturally, I crumbled.
The downside of being an “all or nothing” kind of person is that, as soon as the all becomes out of the equation, all that’s left is the nothing. My dreams were crushed. I would never be the hybrid I had mentally decided I was.
It’s not that I didn’t try. I did try. I would try and try, and yet the pain would leave me floored (literally, laying on the floor). The second it would hurt, I would stop for fear of being laid out another week.
This went on for months and months. Running would hurt, cycling uphill would hurt, lifting would hurt. But I couldn’t give up. I couldn’t ease into it. I either could or I couldn’t, and I was getting disastrously comfortable with the idea that maybe I really just couldn’t.
Daniel tried over and over again to help me, too. “Just do what you can,” he would say. But I was infuriated. Just doing what I could felt like cheating, like failing. If deadlift was on my plan, then I would deadlift, dammit!
(I think another word for this is “stubborn.”)
The problem was that I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to be patient.
You see that shirt? It says Patience*.
*and if you want one, you should check out the Athleo Barbell Club in Tyler, TX.
Through the infinite patience of my husband and friends as well as guidance from my corrective exercise coach, Zach at Strength Ratio, I’ve recently really come to terms with the idea that some goals don’t need deadlines. We are only who we are today–our bodies are only where they are today. This day is the only day we have control over.
I say it in my yoga class a lot–“Your body may be more or less flexible today than it was yesterday or than it will be tomorrow. Just be patient and relax into where you are today.”
Relax into where you are today. Have you achieved even a minor step in the direction of your goals? Were you able to overcome even a small hurdle? Have you practiced self-love? These are now the questions on my self-inventory, not “are you a champion badass hybrid athlete?” Because a yes to any of those questions is, indeed, progress in the directions of my dreams.
“I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we’re all cowards.” ― Alberto Salazar
I’m writing this because it’s so easy to get in rush to just BECOME what you’re striving to be that we find ourselves heartbroken at the first sign of derailment. We give up. We say, “Well, I haven’t [lost any weight/run a full mile/written a chapter/whatever-your-goal] so I might as well just accept where I am and stop trying to change,” or we press harder, refusing to give ourselves the break, the rest, the “me-time” we would tell anyone else in our position to take. Either way, we don’t treat our bodies or our spirits with respect.
If you find yourself frustrated or heartbroken because you haven’t reached your goals yet, remember, just like the goal is constantly moving over the horizon, you are ALWAYS on a journey toward it.
You just have to be patient.