that got me through the week.
I am one week into a marathon training cycle and was immediately reminded that this is my happy place. For someone who (really) doesn’t identify as a planner, I love a training plan, right down to my absurd, color-coded spreadsheet. (I’m even less of a spreadsheet person, so this is really saying something.)
What is it about training that brings contentment? Endorphins? The illusion of control in a chaotic world? The sense of organization that otherwise feels elusive? The clarity that comes from having a goal and progressively moving toward it? Certainly yes, on all counts.
Yet I suspect a big part of my joy hinges on one simple fact: My runs are blissfully screen-free.
It is perhaps the only place in my life, besides the shower, where this is true. (Even on walks, I am undisciplined and find myself glancing at my phone, even when I intend not to.) Runs are where I can hear my own voice, the place where ideas emerge, synapses connect, possibilities dance around.
Here are three things I pondered this week…
Easy loves to hang out on the other side of hard.
For a long time, I believed I couldn’t run, because, well, I couldn’t. Whenever I tried, it ended both quickly and badly.
Then one day, maybe eighteen months ago, I was slogging my way through Central Park when this woman ran by me. She seemed about my age and height, but beyond that she might as well have been another species.
She glided by like one of those bugs skipping along the surface of a lake—water striders, Google tells me—steady pace, elegant stride. She wasn’t moving at rocket speed or wearing the latest gear or otherwise looking like a hotshot. She was just a person who made it look easy.
Something crystallized in that moment. Whenever I considered giving up, I kept her in my mind. “If you want to glide like a bug,” I’d think, “You first must plod like a donkey.”
Multiple mentors have made this point and all of them were right: If someone makes something look easy, it’s likely because they put a lot of work in behind the scenes.
Unless you are remarkably prodigious or adept at something, most endeavors will be challenging before they get easy. Pressing “publish” on a post does become easier, or at least slightly less terrifying, after you’ve done it a few dozen times. Learning a new language happens gradually, but fluency grows with time and effort.
Apparently it takes around six months to develop a new skill (depending on the skill and the source you consult). Habit formation can take anywhere from two weeks to a year, with an average of 66 days to become automatic.
But if you, like me, prefer words to numbers, here are three: ease takes time.
Likable has nothing on lovable, even though the latter shows its flaws.
Have you watched/are you watching the second season of The Bear? I won’t post any spoilers, but for anyone who’s seen it, can we take a moment for what is quite possibly the best show EVER? (I just wrapped last night; my enthusiasm is fresh.)
I’ll admit that when I first started watching, I thought, “Why is everyone raving about this stressful restaurant show?” But my goodness, how it redeemed itself—how it, and I, cracked wide open—over the course of that first season. And season two! It makes me want to use punctuation! It makes me want to employ words like “tremendous” and “magnificent” and other terms typically reserved for natural wonders and fantastical beasts. It hits every note, each episode its own little masterpiece.
It got me thinking about how we fall in love—with fictional characters, but also with IRL, flesh-and-blood people. I don’t just mean romantic love, but also platonic, familiar, and from-a-distance love. The kind where we’re able to transcend admiration, examine various facets of a person, and offer them our best attempt at understanding.
I’m currently working on a piece of fiction, and as in life, I find myself worrying a fair amount over whether my protagonist is “likable.” Do we trust her? Do we understand her? Do we care enough to want to follow her for some-hundred pages? But then I realized, GoodReads reviews be damned, writing a likable or unlikable character is not of much importance. Likable does not equal compelling. And it sure as heck doesn’t translate to lovable.
While this realization applies to writing, it might be more salient when applied to life.
We may extend our empathy to a friend or neighbor or spouse, taking into account the experiences that shaped who they are. Ye olde, “They’re doing their best with what they have to work with.” But do we extend ourselves the same understanding?
We may worry about being “liked,” getting approval, feeling popular or well-received. But who else knows our backstory if not us? Who else is more deserving of our acceptance, our encouragement, our care?
This season two review summed it up so beautifully (NYTimes; click at your own risk, spoilers abound):
“Every experience you ingest, every memory, every hurt becomes part of you, like it or not. You are what you eat. You can internalize the bad stuff until it curdles in your gut and leaves you heaving in the back alley. Or you can externalize it into something new, maybe no longer sweet, but with tang and richness and umami depth.”
One morning, my run took me past a sign bearing these lines, by Hafiz:
How did the rose ever open its heart
and give to this world all its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light
against its being,
otherwise, we all remain too frightened.
Which leads me to my final thought: Supportive people are the effing best.
Obvious? Yes. Worth repeating? Also yes.
There are humans in this world that are simply wonderful. (A number of those characters in my life read this newsletter—some I know, others I feel as if I know through the magic of the internet. I’m waving to each of you.) They champion other people’s work. They are generous with their likes, their time, their compliments, their knowledge.
Are they awesome by nature? Were they raised by unfailingly supportive people and are fluent in encouragement? Did they not receive positive feedback, so now they’ve made it their business to offer it wherever they can? It’s different in every case.
But it behooves us all to seek out such individuals, and also, to be them.
The more blooming we can inspire, the more beauty we’ll have to enjoy.
Card of the Week
Here is this week’s card for the collective, as well as some thoughts to carry into the days ahead. As most modern readers will tell you, the tarot is not about fortunetelling, nor is it about neat, definitive answers. The cards are simply one path to reflection, a way of better knowing ourselves and others through universal themes. If this reading resonates with you, great! And if not, no worries. Take whatever may be helpful and leave the rest.
The Chariot loves to appear in our day-to-day lives.
I see it whenever I climb into a car, step onboard a train, or set out on foot. I think of it when life is moving at a steady clip, when things are “working,” when I find myself in that sometimes-elusive but always welcome flow-state, where everything falls away except the task at hand.
Were you to consult one of those little paper guidebooks about this card’s meaning, you’d likely find a collection of keywords including direction, power, determination, movement, success, and control.
Whew. Not the chillest, our Chariot.
Don’t get me wrong; these are all excellent buzzwords, each a meditation in its own right. And that’s exactly what The Chariot bids us to do.