64/300: Loving the Work

Last week, I wrote about Moments of Confluence. I wrote about owning your Echo. I wrote about embracing opportunities when they come, even when they are challenges, about taking responsibility for your responses. Today, I’m thinking about the work.

It had been nearly two weeks since I had gotten up for a pre-dawn run. My back and shoulder have been making it hard to sit in my chair at work, let alone chase Penny through the morning streets. And, I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that in that two weeks, everything started to lag. The focus I’d had for more than two months had become a mish-mash brain bash as my attention shifted like sand in a hurricane from one project to another, from one need to another, from one set of aspirations to another. I was feeling it mentally, emotionally, physically and, no matter how many promises I made in my morning journal, I knew I needed to get back on track.

I needed to own my echo. I needed that moment of response to take an active role in the day ahead.

It came, oddly enough, while I was watching a talk by James Patterson. Think what you will of his books, but 76 best-sellers means the guy has something figured out. He was talking about outlining and how it shapes his writing. The outline is the plan, it’s the to-do list, it’s the map. Do it right and the writing is easy, you just have to sit down and push the keys. “Don’t worry about the sentences,” he said. “Concentrate on the story.”

I realized he was right and not just about writing. I had gotten caught up in not being able to run my best, to write my best, to do my best, when the thing I need to do was the work and allow my best to come out. Strange how something out of context can make such a larger point.

So, last night, I took my muscle relaxer for my shoulder and climbed into bed at 9:30. My alarm was set for 6:30. A good night’s sleep and then back on track, I thought. The alarm went off. I crawled to the floor and stretched. Penny licked my face as the aches kicked in. I thought about leaving it alone. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. I fed her breakfast and curled up on the couch, still groggy from the meds and sore from everything else. Maybe I would just take her for a walk.

I let her outside to go to the bathroom. I let her back in. More licks to the face. More excitement to be alive. Okay, then, a walk.

I put her leash on, pulled on my sweats and a pair of gloves. I sat down in the garage to put on my shoes. She sat in front of me. Just looked at me, her tail swishing back and forth on the concrete floor.

“You’re right,” I said out loud. “Running it is.”

The first couple minutes were fine. The next ten were rough, but she looked so happy, so I pushed on. By the time I was 20 minutes in, I knew I was slower than I had been a few weeks ago, but the endorphins, the sunrise, the way her head bobbed back and forth – something changed. I remembered that I had come to like running earlier this year. I remembered that I liked the work.

I had already written my outline, but I had gotten too worried about the sentences. I needed to focus on the story – the running, the time with my dog, the feeling of doing something when I first woke up. I had forgotten how much I loved that. Taking time off was the right thing to do for my health, but now it was time to run again, to write again, to push myself ahead because someone – even if it was only a Golden Retriever – was counting on me.

James Patterson, Penny, the man I see in the mirror and the one I hear in my head – they convinced me to get back out there and I’m glad they did. It might not seem like much and, on even a medium scale, it’s not. But I felt something I hadn’t felt in the last couple of weeks and it makes me want more – pride.

You don’t have to write perfect sentences. You don’t have to have a way with words. You just need to focus on the story – your story, whatever it entails. And realize, just because you pause doesn’t mean you’re done. You’re not over. You just have to remember how to love the work.

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