The alarm jars me awake at 5:00 a.m. It’s dark and I turn the pillow, sinking into the luscious coolness. But if I don’t get moving quickly, I’ll lose the chance to exercise before I have to leave to take the kids to school and continue on to work.
“Just sit up. That’s all you need to do.”
This voice is the opposition to what my good friend calls the I.R.T., or “internal resistance team.” This voice (it’s just one, but I hope others join in soon. Perhaps some of the I.R.T. will defect?) is my motivator.
“Just get your workout clothes on.”
“Just go to the gym. If you get there and don’t feel like exercising you can come home.”
When I start the treadmill, sleep still in my eyes, my muscles feel stiff and unyielding. “Just do 10 minutes. Then you can go home.”
Ten minutes into my run, I decide to do 10 minutes more. Or five minutes at a faster pace. Or 2-minute intervals at a high incline. Have I tricked myself into completing my workout? Maybe. But it gets the job done.
Photo credit: Earls37a via Flickr
I have to make a presentation at a conference next week. Thinking about it makes my heart race and my thoughts rev like Kyle Busch in a 45-mile-per-hour zone. I’m wrestling tigers again.
I’m not sure where I read this (I read a lot of stuff), but it’s helped calm me when fear rises up and threatens to dissolve my mojo. That physical reaction I’m feeling is the same one cave women felt when a saber toothed tiger threatened to turn laundry day into an all-you-can-eat buffet. The thing is, that reaction was appropriate for cave women, who needed to fight or fly at the prospect of a tiger lurking in the grass.
It doesn’t seem fair, but my body reacts the same way to the thought of tripping over my words in front of a bunch of mild-mannered communications professionals. Oooo…scary. Still, it happens and it’ll be back with a vengeance the morning of my presentation. So I have to keep telling myself, “There are no tigers.”
That’s really what I say to myself. It helps remind me that, although I have enough adrenaline coursing through my veins to leap over the podium and sprint to the safety of my hotel room, I’m not facing anything life-threatening.
Once I wrestle the “tiger” into submission, I’m able to think more clearly and keep my wits about me. I’m not lulled into post-dinner couch sitting relaxation, but that’s a good thing. I like to call that little edge of anxiety that remains my mojo. It’s there to remind me I care about what I’m about to do.
On vacation in the summer of ’99 I saw a youngish mother like me, with two girls roughly that same ages as my two sons. But while I was matronly and plain, she was fit and stylish with strong, lean legs, a bouncy ponytail and brightly lacquered orange toenails. I hadn’t polished my toenails since 1993, the year my first child was born.
“She probably neglects those girls while she pampers herself,” I sniffed. This despite the lovely smiles she shared with them and the laughter that floated over from her little family’s picnic blanket. I watched them talk and pass sandwiches around, her girls comparing their own freshly polished toenails.
I never met that woman, but her equally orange fingernails squeezed marks in my brain. How could she take care of herself like that but still be a good wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee? The answer swam around for years, just beneath the surface of my consciousness. Like a tiny tadpole, it grew stronger, bigger and more restless. Until it finally broke through.
Taking care of herself was what gave her the strength and energy to take care of those she loved.
Trying to do everything for everyone, keep everyone happy, calm and supplied with clean socks and homemade cookies, and rarely uttering the word “no” had slowly depleted my own stores. As I approached my 40s, I was dangerously close to empty. This good girl thing just wasn’t working for me anymore.
So I tore up my good girl contract. And I’ve been ungood ever since.