Declaration Day

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” – C. JoyBell C.

NOTICE: On my blog’s “About” page I state that while I may be documenting my personal experiences and discoveries as a new runner that “a lot of my motivation [for this blog] is to simply get some of these things out of my head to make room for new thoughts.” This is one of those times. You’ve been warned. Here’s the pitch.

“Hiding how you really feel and trying to make everyone happy doesn’t make you nice, it just makes you a liar.” – Jenny O’Connell

I’d like to start by saying that I’ve been in a pretty nasty funk for the last three or four days. But I can’t, because it’s probably been closer to two weeks. I reread my last couple of blogs today and it’s there. I was fighting it, or maybe just trying to hide it. But I can still see it in there.

It’s hard to explain how much more annoying it is to write a blog touting the importance of keeping a positive perspective and sharing the thrill of discovering a new self confidence in the belief I can truly accomplish anything if I’m willing to work hard AND at the exact same time being damn near miserable most days because of my own negative attitude towards life and its challenges. It’s a steep, dishonest stairway to the pinnacle of Mount Hypocrisy. And I seem to have built a small cottage up there recently. I apologize for being such a fucking liar…to myself first and in effect to everyone else.

I’ve spent months typing about all of the exciting changes I’ve undergone and how many more things I still want to change. Those things are true. I have. And I do. But I think I may have started to pridefully stumble into the arrogant pitfalls of believing that I had already completed some journey when I had not; and will not. I have merely discovered a path. And in that I found the direction I needed to start taking the earliest and smallest of many steps on a never-ending journey. After a seed sprouts and stretches into a tree, it’s not done. Barring catastrophe, the act of growing is never complete. I’m proud of what progress I’ve made, but there is so much more work to do. And now is not a time to get lazy, and certainly no time to be poisoned by a discouraging mindset.

“The most common and harmful addiction in the world is the draw of comfort.” – Angel Chernoff

I’ve mentioned before that I am a creature of habit; some good ones; more than a few bad ones. And some habits are incredibly hard to break. I’m a procrastinator and an excuse maker. I always have been. And in the same way that some recovering alcoholics will forever refer to themselves as alcoholics, I will always be a procrastinator and an excuse maker. They are the hardest habits for me to break. Ridding myself of those short-comings requires continuous awareness of them and living with the discomfort that comes with that kind of consciousness.

I’m not yet in the place I want to be. And the comfort I seek may not be easily achieved. There was a time when, upon identifying a goal out of reach (even if only by inches), I would promptly make an excuse for why I have to wait to reach out for that place. And with a solid excuse in hand, I could then create the illusion of comfort in the place where I stood idle.

It’s so easy to do. Maybe it’s really expensive to gain access to this utopian dream world, so I’ll have to accept that saving the money will take time. No biggie, I’m not starving where I am now. Or maybe the path to my nirvana is too steep and difficult to climb, so I’ll have to wait until I’m stronger. Hell, maybe there are just spiders and a rickety ladder between me and what I want. I hate spiders and I’m not a fan of heights either. I’ll just chill down here for a while. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

“Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.” – Orison Swett Marden

when a door shutsTo suggest that something is meant to be is to imply that it would simply occur on its own if we’d stay out of the way; even if we did nothing. I don’t believe that. Nothing is “meant” to be. And if I was to sit around waiting for my dreams to come true, “nothing” is exactly what would happen. I’ve proven this through multiple experiments. Our destinies are entirely up to us to create. Death is the only unavoidable truth in life. It doesn’t care about us at all and should be given equal consideration in return. And it certainly should not be feared.

I believe my future is mine to control. And I don’t want to create some illusion of a preordained path that I’m merely stumbling down unwittingly. If I want to do something, I can do it. If I want to go somewhere, I can go. If I want to become something new, I can do that too. My life is up to me. I’m not giving up any of that control to superstition or fantasy. The blame for failure lies with me, and I’ll be taking the credit for the successes too.

That is not to pretend that I’m some rock in the vacuum of space and above the influence of my surroundings, both positive and negative. I have enjoyed a lifetime of support and encouragement from family, friends, and the world around me. I’ve also encountered those that have slowed my progress and held me back by enabling my draw to “comfort” with negative attitudes and behaviors. I’m not angry about any of the latter; as I’m sure they were well intentioned and believed themselves to be in coalition with the former.

If I’m doing something that is counterproductive to my goals, I have to stop. If someone or something is standing in my way, I have to eliminate that obstacle. It is up to me alone to determine my destiny. There can be all kinds of influences. But ultimately, it has always been up to me to take the good, leave the bad, and move towards greater things. That will always be my responsibility.

“People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren’t already complicated enough.” – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Becoming a runner is what taught me that I can do anything. But I think I somehow missed the real lesson on how I can do anything. When I started running, I wasn’t thinking about running a half marathon, a 5K, or even to that next street light. I just wanted to get out of my house, out of my head, and into some fresh air and sunshine. I couldn’t run around the block. It took me almost two months before I could run a mile continuously. But I just kept lacing up and heading out. I didn’t have any long term goals at first. I did it because it made me feel good in the moment.

Once I decided that I did want to set a goal, I laid out a plan, executed that plan one tiny step at a time, and accomplished each running goal that I set for myself. But I never wandered out of the moment. I ran each run for each run’s sake. It didn’t happen overnight. I started running very short distances at very slow speeds. And as I managed to meet small goals I set new larger ones, until eventually I found myself (or someone vaguely resembling me) running 13 miles on a cold gray Sunday morning; and actually having fun doing it. Who the hell was ThatGuy? I’m still not sure sometimes.

There is no reason why that system cannot work for any goal that I set. I recently spent hours laying out my running schedule for the next seven months. I know how to do this. I just don’t always remember that I know how. Stay in the moment. Focus on the small battles and before I know it, my war will be won. I know how to do this. It’s still new to me though, where making excuses is a habit well rehearsed and almost subconscious. That fact aggravates the hell out of me. But if I stay focused on each day as it comes and do each thing as well as I can, before I know it, I will again be crossing a finish line surprised by how easy it seemed in hindsight. I know it.

“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” – John Burroughs

Hi, my name is Greg. And I’m a procrastinator and an excuse maker. I’m not proud of that. But if I let myself believe I’ve beaten it or to think that this tree is somehow finished growing, then I will let myself down and never get to where I want to be. There is so much fun to be had and exciting adventures to experience. I’ve just let myself be distracted and discouraged by things outside of the present, events that have already happened, or things that haven’t happened yet. Focusing on either is a total misuse of my time and energy.

So right now out of frustration, I wish to again declare to myself, this time from high atop Mt. Hipocrisy, that I will be burning that cottage to the ground later tonight, and using those flames to light my way back down the mountain. I don’t want to make myself comfortable in the wrong place. I want to battle through temporary discomfort to end up in the right place for my happiness and well being. I can’t do that from up here.

Thanks for letting me vent. I’m truly sorry to say it, but I really needed to.

4 responses to “Declaration Day

  1. Well, I was expecting something really rough when you “warned” me, but this blog is just as good as the others you’ve written! Two small things I’d invite you to throw into your tool bag:

    1) I love the idea of taking credit for the goods and others, especially the others. But, if you truly believe that you’ll be taking all the credit for the goods, then maybe it’s time to seek out a mentor. There is very little good that happens in my life that I can’t directly attribute to the good mentors that I’ve had to bounce good ideas off of which then create better ideas. We push it hard in the military and I was amazed to hear lots of discussions about it in this most recent round of TED talks on Education. Mentors don’t just appear, you have to actively seek them out.

    2) True in command, but I think even truer in life in general and maybe I’ve mentioned it before. We don’t have control, we only have the illusion of control. That is in no way depressing to me, though maybe it is to others. I think it’s just life.

    • Thanks for the kind words as usual.

      1) A mentor is not a bad idea at all. I’m initially reluctant, but for selfish reasons more than lack of faith in the benefits of the idea. It would require more one-on-one and intimate sharing of myself than I’m really comfortable with right now. Slow work in progress.

      I get all kinds of good ideas, support, and suggestions from many different sources both directly (people in my life) and indirectly (any number of published resources). But as of right now the only “bouncing” of my ideas I really get is through online sharing, which can be surprisingly effective sometimes even at the limited levels that I share.

      When I say that I will be taking credit for successes, I didn’t mean that I would ignore/deny any positive influences and support in those successes. I definitely didn’t mean to come across as that arrogant. I guess more than anything, I really meant to emphasize that I will not be sharing blame for failures and will be taking total responsibility for myself.

      2) I agree that on a cosmic level there is little I can do to control the physical world around me. The earth will keep turning no matter what I do, and I’m pretty sure the rains will always come. But I have some control in where I place myself in the world, almost no control over how I might literally “feel” about different stimuli, and near total control over how I respond and react to those feelings. That is not an illusion.

      This appears mainly an issue of perspective and impossible to prove one way or the other. But I’m not a fatalist. I don’t mind if others choose to be. It may be comforting to some. I just don’t get any comfort from the thought that I’m powerless, and see little evidence to support the idea. Why even get out of bed in the morning?

      • At some point the mentor may fit in with whatever your overall goal might be. I don’t know your motivation or the requirements (you get an idea based on your blog), just that often times people we trust can help us with the journey. I don’t think it’s easy looking at oneself and making major changes, so what you are doing is very impressive to me (both in what you write about and the actions that inspire the entries). What I like about a mentor (one or more) is that if you trust them enough to accept real feedback, they can provide ideas about directions you might not have ever considered. The most significant mentors I ever had certainly gave me GREAT professional advice, but the most significant thing I ever received from them were recommendations about personal type things…marriage, food, finances…you name it. They had credibility so I took their feedback and figured out what was worthwhile and what wasn’t. Because that trust built up over time, when I found myself really in a bind I was also willing to call them up and say…”Hey sir, I’m in a bind…what do you think?” The exchanges were sometimes fairly brutal, but they had the credibility to tell me to take a hard look at things they considered VERY poor decisions. I did and sometimes I took their advice, sometimes I didn’t, but I really enjoyed the discussions. THOSE discussions were a cut above the normal exchanges with my friends, hard to explain, but they just took on a greater significance for me. A good mentor won’t pull punches, sometimes our friends just reinforce our own bad behavior.

        If the idea of a lack of control is frightening, then I can see it could be perceived as fatalistic. I probably harp on it more because I watch people I work with come up with elaborate plans both at work and personally and when those plans interact with reality and the result isn’t what they want they become unhinged. I work hard at planning, with the understanding that life happens and those plans will have to change. My favorite motto as an Operations Officer was, “Those who plan ahead, plan again.” I love the idea that we make our own fate, but I’m informed by the fact that I could get paralyzed in a freak accident by the end of the day. You can be paralyzed by that fear or you can live with it. I choose to accept that it’s an uneasy ally and it informs my decisions in life. I control what I can control, which is probably very little in the grand scheme of things but I don’t consider my life to be any less rich or fulfilling because of that fact.

      • If you were to go back and look at a lot of my blogs, I think you’ll see that you have provided a lot of those mentoring type services and suggestions whether you intended to or not. I suspect it just comes natural to you. But it’s always been and always will be appreciated. You’re alright. Haha.

        Calling a belief that you cannot control things “fatalistic” isn’t a fear motivated labeling of an uncomfortable idea. It’s the definition of the word. It’s clearly an issue of perspective. And knowing us, it will inevitably devolve into a matter of vocabulary choices.

        You make plans because you do have some control about things in your life. We all do. No, you cannot control EVERY thing in life, and that understanding is indescribably important. It sounds like some of your co-workers didn’t factor that into their plans. And that poor understanding of reality lead to them becoming unhinged when unexpected events occurred.

        I believe we do create our own fates. But they must be pliable. If we end up paralyzed, then we have to adjust our path, not resign to the idea that no matter what we’ve done the paralysis was simple fate, or no matter what we do afterwards the future is predetermined. We create our “destinies” with the attitudes we build in ourselves and how those attitudes affect our interactions with our surroundings and our reactions to the uncontrollable parts of life. But that is only MY perspective. I’m not afraid of feeling powerless for the same reason I’m not afraid of the boogie man. I don’t believe either to be true/real.

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