I am all or nothing.
Everything I do is all or nothing.
I either eat the whole hog until I’m sick, or I starve myself until I’m dead on the sidewalk with a small plate of bacon next to me. There is no in between. And even though I know I am this way, and even though I know it is stupid to be this way, I can’t seem to do anything to change it. Moderation is not a thing I do. There’s probably a lot of joy to be experienced between the all and the nothing. But I will never know that firsthand.
Last night, as I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, I reflected on the year that is now essentially over and thought ahead to the one rolling in. 2022 was terrible. Just the worst. I can’t do that one again. And as if I have any control at all over events in my life, I made some decisions about 2023. Logically, I decided the solution was running shoes. I would greet 2023 with a new pair of running shoes. With new running shoes, I would immediately lose 20 pounds and be ready for a 15k. With new running shoes, I would be able to outrun the things that sat down on me this year.
A new pair of running shoes would fix everything.
And because I had decided this would fix everything, I couldn’t leave anything to chance. I didn’t strike out on my own and go to the Nike outlet as I have done in years past. This time, I went to a real store with real sales people, who used real technology to scan my feet and tell me what it would take for me to become a dark horse champion. I spent a chunk of my morning doing this. I spent a chunk of change as well. I walked away with one pair of socks, one set of insoles, and two new pair of running shoes.
Running shoes that would fix everything. Obviously.
You know what’s better than one pair of new running shoes?
Double the success rate of the ALL I was chasing.
I hadn’t considered the fact that the person running in the shoes was still me.
Same questionable stamina.
Same 20 pounds to shed.
Same age bracket.
Same hamstring injury that’s been nagging me for a full year now.
The only thing that was different was my lofty expectation that these high-end running shoes would generate a Christmas miracle.
I put the first pair on at home and launched an elaborate mental game of Buyer’s Remorse. I do this every time I spend more than $3 on something and have to wear it out in public. Suddenly the sales person was out to get me. She was small enough to fit into my right calf. How could she know what it was like to be me? How did she know what shoes I needed? The shoes were bigger than they had been in the store. Nothing was right. How would these shoes solve my problems if they didn’t fit me perfectly? How would I really know if they fit me perfectly unless I took them out for a test run?
I put them on and started running my two mile route, just to see. My plan was to run 2 miles in the first pair and 2 miles in the second. I would have a read on both pairs if I ran in both. Today. Because today was an ALL day. I had to do it all.
One mile in, at my halfway point, I was thinking the right shoe was perfect and the left wanted me dead. From there I began to think about my exercise goals. And my hamstring. And 2022. And last night’s dream about Jennifer where we said goodbye again, but this time we both knew it was goodbye. And the holidays. And how well I had done through the holidays. And the darn left shoe.
I wanted the left shoe to behave. To make me faster. To fix my hamstring. To give me back my friend. To deliver the 2023 of my dreams.
I went for all.
I got nothing.
And after two solid weeks of dry eyes and celebratory dinners and gift exchanges, I was crying under my sunglasses in a brand new set of Brooks. Because in these brand new spanky-doodle Brooks, I had changed exactly nothing.
By this point, I had blown my nose into the yards of 3 strangers, which was gross but incredibly necessary. And I was shaking my head at the whole situation.
But I was still running.
And that’s the thing. I’m still running. But why do I have to run like a crazy person? Why not walk? Or run some but stop when I need to breathe? I was pulling my arm through a sleeve this morning and looked down at my ampersand tattoo that I got on Jennifer’s birthday. The ampersand represents what’s in the middle of the all and the nothing. It represents life. It represents the wounds of 2022, but it also contains the gifts. I want to stand like a svelte rock star at the starting block and I want to cross the finish line in the top 5% of runners half my age, but I don’t want the gimpy, 2-mile flop and cry that exists in the in-between. The ampersand is the actual running. Life is lived in the ampersand. Races are run, not necessarily won, in the ampersand.
So I’m thinking about that with new shoes on old feet.
I can run into 2023.
And I can run out of 2022.
I can change my shoes, but not my path or performance.
I could win a race outright and still feel loss.
I could lose 20 pounds and find some other frivolous thing to scrutinize.
I can white-knuckle grasp everything within my reach and never have control.
I can run hard.
I can run steady.
But I can’t run away.
I can’t run away from what I gather along the way, blessings and blisters alike.
I can only keep running, resting when I need to.
Because sometimes life is hard.
Whether it’s all or nothing.
Whether it’s fast or far.
Whether I place for my age or crawl across the finish line just ahead of the cop car.
Whether I’m wearing new shoes, old shoes, bad shoes, Dr. Seuss shoes, or no shoes.
Ultimately none of that matters.
What matters is I’m still running.