When I was in 6th grade, I was asked to play on an all-star basketball team in my hometown.
Okay, is everyone done laughing?
Granted, it’s a small town, so it’s not like I was selected from among thousands of other talented youth. But, ALL the other girls were good. Some even went on to play in college. And the coach’s son was famous for being one of the few South Dakotans able to slam dunk. So it was a pretty big deal.
We won the 6th grade interstate tourney that year.
Yes, I still have the trophy, mostly because it was the only sports trophy I ever won. But partly because I’m still not sure why I was selected for the team. Sure, I was fast and a very aggressive defensive player, but I could NOT make a basket. I think I made around 3% of my shots. I certainly couldn’t hit a 3 pointer (AIR BALL!). My best bet was a layup, although I got called for traveling almost every time. And dribbling? Let’s just say I looked a lot like Stanley from The Office.
I did not play basketball after that year. You see, I tried to practice shooting and dribbling. But it was hard. I was not naturally good at those things. So I just stopped practicing. By the end of the season, I barely played and when I did, no one passed me the ball anymore. I could see the writing on the wall. So I quit.
Fast forward 23 years. This August, I had finally figured out some health issues, and was feeling awesome for the first time in years. On a whim, I signed up for a 10K called the Chocoholic Frolic. Now, I should mention that I had not run in…hmmm…5 years? Oh, and I am not a runner. Not only am I not a runner, but I hate running. I keep trying to like running because it’s free and I can do it with my children in tow. But I have never been able to run much more than 2 miles. Slowly. Hating every second of it. Running was always hard, I was always slow, and I always felt like I was going to puke. So I would quit. Because I am just not a runner.
So, obviously, the next logical step for me was to sign up for a 10K. Thank you, ADHD. Sigh.
But there I was. I had already paid my $60 entrance fee. I had already told all my friends (who looked at me in awkward silence with blank stares, waiting for me to chuckle and say, “just kidding!”). So I had to figure out how to run 6.2 miles in 3 months.
Pride is apparently a powerful motivator. Since I do not like to fail, I sucked it up and started running. Guess what I realized? It’s not that my genetic makeup makes it impossible for me to be a runner. I’m just lazy.
Don’t get me wrong. I do quality work and do work hard. But, I have noticed a pattern. If something doesn’t come easy to me, and it is not required for a job or absolutely essential at that moment, then I will quit. Even if it’s the best way, or would be fun, or will save time, work and strife down the road. Looking back, I’m a little embarrassed to see that I have spent my life meticulously surrounding myself only with activities that play to my natural talents so that I don’t have to do things I am not good at and don’t like.
I certainly believe it is necessary and responsible to discover, use and share your natural gifts and talents. And I certainly think that it is essential to know when to say no and quit things that drain and distract. However, I am talking about an underdeveloped sense of discipline – the ability to work hard and see something through to the end, even if it is not essential. Because it is best. Because it is right. Because it sets a good example. Because in it there is beauty, importance, eternal value and joy. Because eventually, something challenging will be essential and there will be no established pattern of discipline.
I am now faced with the reality that most of what I have to do each day are things for which I have no natural talent (cooking, cleaning and organizing), and consequently have never bothered to learn. So, I do the bare minimum to get by. I have blamed it on just being so busy for years. But if I’m really honest with myself, I know it’s because I just don’t want to work at it. I become immobilized by how naturally inept I am at all of them. I don’t know where to start. There are so many and they are never done and I get so discouraged. At those moments, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of all things common. It’s hard not to sigh enviously at Laura attending her glamorous Opera Ball.
While picking away burrs on my recent retreat, I did a lot of soul searching about this. I didn’t really know how to start to un-lazify myself and how to stay motivated to work on all those things each day that are so hard for me. Then, it hit me.
While it’s still hard, I’m still slow, and I still feel like puking, in the last few weeks I have been surprised to discover myself actually looking forward to running (what the what?!?). Apparently, I’ve started to unknowingly learn some discipline. So I came up with a few parallels to apply to my day-to-day laziness.
- Start with short, easy runs. I’m starting to tackle just a few things at a time. Thoroughly organizing just my clothes. Sitting down with the girls daily to play scales on the piano. Having theme dinners for each night of the week (Monday-slow cooker night, Tuesday-taco night, Wednesday-smoothie night, etc.) to make meal planning easier.
- Have a training buddy. I have enlisted Nick, the master chef, to help me plan meals and to divide up the tasks that will fit best into his new, chaotic schedule. I have a standing (mostly) daily text date with a friend who has similar struggles to share scriptural insights, encouragement, frustrations, and chuckles.
- Take time to properly warm up, cool down and stretch. This is the hardest for me to logistically implement, but I know I need time alone to NOT do chores, to read, reflect and pray at the beginning and the end of the day. It’s a work in progress to figure out the right wake up and bed times, but I’m slowly getting there.
- Have realistic expectations. Just like I will never run a marathon, I will never be great at keeping a consistent routine, or having a pottery-barn-like organized house. And because of who I am, and because I like to see results right away, working through challenging, unending tasks will probably always be a struggle. And that’s ok.
- Find encouraging advice. I know that this looks different for everyone, but I have discovered a few great resources that encouragingly convict and help me to practically move forward by paring down to the essentials. I don’t read many blogs, but my core three are The Art of Simple (home life), Simple Homeschool (not just homeschool; parenting & creating a rich home environment), and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe (awesome, easy homemade recipes). I also plan to reread a challenging book by Elisabeth Elliot on being disciplined.
- Know when to rest. When it gets extra uncomfortable, I’m learning when I need to power through and when I need to stop and rest to avoid burnout.
- Make it fabulous and reward myself. It seems that having a trip to Minnesota for a chocolate filled end goal with friends has helped me to see running in a more fabulous light and has helped me to make it over the I-can’t-do-this hump. Not sure what this will look like in my daily life yet, but I know this results person needs something to work toward. Girls’ Night Out? Date Nights? Trip to Chicago to watch an opera? Homemakers’ Chocoholic Frolic, anyone?
The 10K is November 8. I still haven’t run more than 4 miles. Progress is slow, but I’m getting there. I’ll let you know what happens.