I bonked last night and I saw it coming. I’ve been home alone with the kids the last few days while my wife was out of town for family reasons. I love being with my kids, but trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives while balancing work obligations was tough. Add on to that the fact that I don’t sleep well without my wife – even when traveling, but especially when I’m home and she’s not – and it was a recipe for failure.
My FitBit told me I got less than three hours of sleep Tuesday to Wednesday and that little bit of sleep was disturbed seven times by restlessness. I got up with the dog and my oldest son, Jack, and would ordinarily get my run out of the way before the little ones woke up, but I was too exhausted to even think about it. I got everyone dressed and ready, delivered to school and then went home to clean, finish laundry and work on a presentation for work. I left the suburbs, cruised downtown for 90 minutes of catch-up with some folks in town from other agency offices around the world, then made my way back home to get the kids off the bus, give them a snack and get my sons to a yoga class (growing boys need to be stretched every once in a while), my daughter to basketball practice and Dylan, the middle one to his basketball practice. (That was a long sentence, but it felt like my day).
My wife got home while the boys were in yoga and came to meet us at the rec center. I was so happy to see her, but she could see the exhaustion on my face. She agreed to sit with my daughter while I went for my run at the rec center and that’s when I felt it coming. I felt mentally weak and physically drained. I got on the treadmill to begin my warm up and knew getting through the run would an act of sheer will, the strength for which I doubted I had.
I was right.
I made it through the warm up and the first segment. By the time I got into the second, longer run, everything started to hurt. Not the kind of pain you get from an injury, but the hurt that comes with defeat. I’m halfway through my running program and it felt like I was starting all over. I’d done the same run Monday morning and came home refreshed, warm and alive.
Resistance, I thought, nothing but resistance.
I did my best to get through it. I moved from the treadmill to the elevated track during a walk. I didn’t complete every run fully. I paused to walk twice on the final three segments. Thirty seconds, forty at most, then back at it. When I was done, I collapsed on the carpeted floor feeling defeated and sore. I stretched and beat myself up for my weakness.
After the kids’ practices, I planned to go home and write, but by the time I got there, I was a zombie.
“You should go to bed right now,” my wife said. “Right now then get up in the morning and do what you need to do.”
My back hurt, so I popped a Tylenol PM and got into bed without even showering. I slept for almost ten hours.
When I got up this morning, it was as if yesterday had never happened. I was aware I had bonked on my run and skipped writing – I did manage to read, practice language, do a journal entry, write a blog and get the kids where they needed to be when they needed to be there – but it didn’t sting quite as badly as it had last night.
Sometimes in our pursuit of achievement, we fall. A run goes badly. You miss a day of doing something you should do. The point is not to beat yourself up. Missing one day of writing did not put me off my schedule. Bonking on my run didn’t mean I’m a failure. It meant I was tired. It meant my mind and body were not in a place where success was possible. Rather than let it get me down, I’m choosing to keep moving forward, to stay true to my pursuit.
We always have that choice. I read a statistic – courtesy of my wonderful friend Gabby – that said 53% of all women fail in keeping to a diet. They fail and food becomes a source of guilt. They fail once and assume they have failed for all time. Failure, in that case and in so many others, is a choice. But so is success.
Don’t let a bad day ruin your year. Don’t let a bad run take you out of the race. Don’t let exhaustion ruin days to come. Instead, take a minute to get rested, take some time to consider the circumstances, to understand what caused the momentary lapse and learn from it. I need to run in the morning. I can’t put writing off until the kids are in bed. I need to attack my day.
Let your memory of failure be short-term and your vision for success be long. And remember, failure happens to everyone, but what happens next is a choice you have to make for yourself.