It has been a long week. I was out of town in Seattle and Bellingham, Washington over the weekend and, of course, traveling doesn’t make keeping a routine any easier. I wrote a bit while I was away, but the trip made it challenging. I will blame the changing seasons and the nostalgia overload for my resistance in the past several days. Returning to the Bay Area, stepping out of the Oakland airport, I was immediately relieved by how warm it is here. Yes. The Fall I had been waiting for. Such a relief after the nipping cold that has already struck the Pacific Northwest.
I have returned to early alarms in the morning followed by 20 minutes of writing, but I have been dragging my feet. I got out of work today and was walking through the late afternoon sun across the parking lot thinking about writing and the resistance that is relentless inside of me at the moment. I’ve had trouble keeping my eyes open, my mind wanders, and I write things that don’t make any sense (not even to me). I am even having trouble revisiting anything I’ve written already long enough to edit. Soaking up the suns warmth, it dawned on me that I continuously have thoughts that I should be writing, I should be posting.
We all have a long list of “should’s” in our lives and it’s a fascinating thing that happens when you look at the difference between things that we are somehow obligated to do (or think we are) and those that we reward ourselves with. For me, writing is fun. I started without anyone asking me to and I continue to do so without any outside obligation. So why do I keep telling myself that I should write? That I should be posting to this blog?
I feel that I should because I want to be committed and act like a professional. You do not get proficient or good at a skill without dedication. If you practice any skill long enough, there comes a time when you feel resistance towards it. The number one reason most people do not master a skill is that they give up shortly after they have began.
This is a common theme for me, as well. I have a lot of interests and ideas, many of which I am excited about right out of the gate. However, give me a couple of days and it is possible I’ve forgotten about it completely. Or I’ll pretend I have to mask the embarrassment from lack of follow through. That being said, there are several things I am quite passionate about and have spent countless hours working on. A few of these would be bicycle touring and bike maintenance, reading and writing, painting and drawing, business and personal development. These passions have taken me on a cross-country bicycle tour, overseas to study art, and to multiple conferences to meet authors and entrepreneurs. This is to name a few benefits of follow through.
The experiences that I consider amongst my greatest accomplishments are the results of longer term projects where I endured the ebb and flow of inspiration and interest. Then comes the nagging “should”. I wish I could eliminate this word from my brain. It sucks the fun out of an activity like a vacuum pack seal. I’m annoyed just typing about it. We do not pursue things like surfing or painting or music because we should. We pursue our passions because we are inspired to do so, because we have no other choice, because it connects and flows out of us, when it wills it to be so.
So I feel forced to ask, but really it’s a simple question that surfaces in my mind: are there things we should do? I don’t really believe so. I would like to answer that we should be kind and we should take care of ourselves. However, I can’t help think of Byron Katie and follow up my answer with another question: is that true? Can we know it to be true that we should be kind? A question for another time and blog post.
Walking through the parking lot I realized that my resistance grows when I feel like I should be doing something. I am passionate about writing and about treating it like a professional practice. I want to be a proficient writer, therefore I want to work on writing everyday. Should I write? I do not know the answer to that question. I know only that when I say the inverse – I should not write – that my mind flips a little and reverts to thinking “What?! But I MUST write!” The thought of losing the practice, of foregoing the blog, of abandoning writing, is more painful than the irritation of the “should”. That being said, I tire of thinking I should anything and hope to slowly eradicate it from my mind.
Are there things you feel people are obligated to do? When do you tell yourself you should be doing something? How does it feel to have the opposite thought – that you should not be doing that thing? Would love to hear it: Lara@LaraBuelow.com
What do you do when you fall off the horse? That’s right – you get back on.
In May I wrote 26 days out of 31. I haven’t written since June 3rd, but the time has come to start again. In May I focused on writing. I stayed the course, writing almost every day, and experimented with posting to this blog twice a week (every Monday and Wednesday). In May I published 9 blog posts. Writing and posting this frequently has allowed me to explore several other themes this month.
I began by asking “what’s wrong with these pants?” My way of exploring body issues and seeking to change my thought patterns in order to avoid further developing a self deprecating attitude. Especially while shopping because shopping is supposed to be fun and it sucks to be stuck crying in a dressing room somewhere, when we should all be striving to love ourselves more everyday.
Following my exploration of jeans and our psyche, I explored how one defines success. Maybe it’s by recognizing evil thoughts about your own body and reminding yourself you are WUNDERBAR! It’s an interesting thing to question your definitions of success because it is likely to uncover something either highly influenced by your parents or society and expose dreams that you may be discrediting. This can be an incredibly powerful process because you can reframe your ideas and start building an empowering definition of success that supports who are. You may begin to see areas of your life you have been successful in that you didn’t realize before. It’s a great way to prioritize projects in your life and start moving towards the things you really care about.
May is national Bike to Work Month. I wrote a Bike to Work Day post about how I think bicycles are the coolest form of transportation. Did you know that they are still the most efficient form of transport in the world?! That blows my mind every time I think about it. I love riding bicycles. Get out an set yourself free!
While listening to BlogcastFM, I found out about a book called What Superachievers Have in Common by Camille Swiney and Josh Gosfield. I was so intrigued by the interview that I immediately went to a book store and bought it. I could write a blog post about every chapter, so I chose a few that stuck with me and started writing. The book is full of inspirational stories that make you want to get off your ass and practice getting totally awesome at something. It is also a great reminder of all the unconventional paths there are available in the world. Ever thought about what it would be like to create crossword puzzles for a living? Or designing baseball stadiums? Yea, don’t sweep your dreams under the rug, because chances are we need your crazy idea.
One of my favorite chapters in Superachievers is: How to be the Most Fabulous You. I think about Simon Doonan pretty much every day now. I hate feeling average or boring and feel that style and dress have the ability to brighten the world through our clothing choices. So I really take it to heart when Doonan says “dress everyday as though you were going to a Lady Gaga concert, you’re guaranteed to have more fun”. This is it, folks, this is your life. It’s all about today, there may not be a tomorrow. Get out there and express yourself!
My favorite blog post of the month is Rejection Sucks. Not only does the title sum up exactly how I feel, but this post explores several topics that I am super passionate about (relationships, vulnerability, risk, and love/hardcore crushes). It feels good to reflect on an experience that was painful, process the story, and come out the other side feeling like I’ve done the work to move on. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has a wonderful blog post called The Obstacle is the Path, that was wonderfully serendipitous to read at the time. It can be a hard pill to swallow; the anger, the hurt, the rejection – that is the path. Walk it.
Embracing my own path, I came out and declared myself a Dear Diary blogger. Ah! The weight off my chest! I love Dear Diary blogging! I love owning my own shit and getting straight on my motivations. I asked myself why am I writing? I explored who I write for and what the writing process does for me. I wrapped up the month with Feats of Strength, a post reviewing my work at the CrossFit NorCal Regionals. It is impactful to watch humans perform such intense activities. It was an inspiring event that made me question where I want to focus my energy in my own exercise practice.
Believe it or not, that was the month of May. It felt good to write regularly and digest the various parts of my life that can seem so disparate. These posts helped me weave the different corners of my life together, in true blanket fashion. Superachievers meet CrossFit games, Zen Habits meet CrossFit thighs, rejection meet writing practice, blogging meeting psychology and Bam! 9 blog posts later I fall off the horse. Here is me dusting myself off and getting back on.
It’s bike to work Month! Thursday May 9th is bike to work day! I would be lying if I didn’t mention how disappointed I am that I am not volunteering for bike to work day this year. I’ve volunteered for bike to work day for years now and this time around I have forbidden myself to take on any extra activities. I just paid about $350 in bicycle repairs, so I’ve been rolling along these San Francisco hills again.
Yesterday, as I approached the Arguello Gate into the Presidio on my way to San Francisco CrossFit, a round-bellied cyclist swung into the lane in front of me. He turned his head and did a double take. “Oh Hey!” He said with his eyes twinkling behind his glasses. It took a few seconds until recognition kicked in. “Doug! Haha! Hello!” I replied with enthusiasm. I had never seen this coworker outside of the context of work, and here he was at 7:30AM in his retro stretchy biking outfit. It’s always fun and exciting to see people out of context and realize you are crossing paths with a friend.
The day passed and at 4PM it was time to bike home. Getting my ass up and over the hill back through the Arguello Gate is always daunting. It’s such a big hill! So I remind myself that I have all the time in the world to get up and over that incline. One pedal at a time. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Notice the sun on your skin, the breeze on your little hairs, indulge in all of your senses as you inch forward. It is a chance to slow down and take it easy.
The last crest is a bit of a doozy. Near the top of the hill there is a bizarre y-shaped three-way intersection as you go over the last slope. It always seems perilous to me and I try to be extra aware of motorists as I huff and puff my way to flat ground in the bike lane on the other side of the road. Success! I made it to the top! Smooth sailing mostly downhill the rest of the way home! I inhale deeply and soak in the view of the bay and Alcatraz. I see two lovely women cycling towards me and register the blonde as my roommate on her turquoise cruiser. I ring my bell and wave, “Hey Ladies!” I’m smiling now as gravity pulls me around the bend, the wind lapping my hair around my ears.
It’s only been about 48 hours back on the bike and I am bumping into friends on the road left and right. I love how accessible and connected the city feels at times. This is the magic of the bicycle. It connects you with the outdoors and the elements, and with your community as you cruise the streets. None of this idling inside your stuffy vehicle. Breath in the smell of eucalyptus and salty sea air as it sweeps down Geary, feel your sun-kissed shoulders getting tanner as you stretch your arms at the stop light.
The pedal revolution is often one of silent daily activism. The power that it has to transform and delight is horrifically understated in the United States. Cycling instills feelings of freedom and joy, while empowering individuals to make things happen by their own steam. It’s an empowering practice to know that you got yourself from point A to point B. It was all you, every pedal of the way.
Now get off your ass and ride.