By the end of the second week, I came to the realization that I had to right the ship. I wrote out all the stuff that I had been slipping on and gave myself a pass on 99% of them. This was the first, important step in the right direction.
- Narrow your focus onto one, fixable thing at a time
I felt too tired to write, too congested to run and too emotionally fragile to better manage my diet. Those are, of course, all stories my brain gave me to absolve me of responsibility (not feel better, just less responsible). Instead of taking on this entire gang at once, I decided to pick off the weakest of the bunch.
Once I made the decision to improve my sleep, I mentally wrote myself a pass on the others. Don’t worry about writing, you’ll have time later. Let’s run when we are healthy and when we want to run. Eat when you’re hungry but don’t freak out if you also eat when you want to. Right now, we just need to focus on sleeping.
I set a stable wake-up time: 4:45am. This time allowed for a run if I felt like it and if I didn’t, I could do whatever else I wanted for a couple hours before work.
Then, bed time: in bed by 9:30pm. I choose a book from my bookshelf (Redbreast by Jo Nesbo) and made the arrangements with Diana to let her know I needed to be in bed, reading, by 9:30pm.
Three days later I noted that by sticking to my stable bed time and fighting like hell to not nap after work, I was slowly starting to feel better.
I moved on from there to increase my activity level. I used the morning times to run and rode Diana’s enthusiasm for a new gym near our house to add in some fitness classes as well.
Although in hindsight it may have been another error, I decided in that first week to run to the gym (2.5 miles). While running, I felt myself getting frustrated over my pace. I became extremely deliberate with my defusion strategies and started to talk out loud to myself. I’m good. This is a warm-up. Keep moving forward. I walked into class 20 minutes later doused in sweat. The class itself was a cross-fit style class – lots of jumping, lifting, pulling and twisting. It helped that Diana was in the class with me – she works extremely hard and that motivates me to work hard too. Plus – I still want to look good and try to impress her. During the class, I also pushed myself towards doing the second thing that helped me come back…
- Be a cheerleader for others
It started with Diana. In the brief moments between exercises I would give her a little fist bump or a quick “looking good.” That made me feel good. It gave me a little energy boost. I slowly started to cheer on the other people in the class. The more I did, the more energy I had. The more energy I had, the harder I could push myself and the better felt
By the end of class I felt completely exhausted – wiped out from the cumulative work of the run and the class. I also felt proud of myself. In my head, I told myself so. That was a crucial step to my come back
- And be a cheerleader for yourself
- Be both Craig AND Arianna
Over the next week, I slowly started to add more goals onto my list. With my sleep in a better place, I started to push for a healthier diet and more consistent running (one thing at a time). With each goal accomplished, I felt healthier. I was crawling out from under the rock of sickness.
By last Friday, most of my things were back to normal except for one thing – writing consistently.
The final return
Diana and I were spending a weekend in Naples. She was speaking at a conference on Friday and I came along so we could spend some quality beach time on Saturday. Friday morning while she got ready for her conference I got ready for a run. I realized that I had forgotten to pack my water bottles, my run belt and my wrist bands. I quickly felt like skipping the run or otherwise dramatically altering my plans.
No, you’re good, we want to run – any means necessary.
Diana drove off to her presentation and shortly after I stepped out to run. A quarter-mile later I was at the beach. I made my way down towards the water, turned right and kept running. I ran until the beach ended about 4 miles later. From there, I turned back inland and kept running. I put all my focus into easy, quick steps. Every time I felt my body try to push the pace I breathed into that feeling (usually felt in the pit of my stomach) and reminded myself of the last, crucial step…
- Be patient with yourself.
As an added challenge, I decided going into my run to go on a 25-minutes on – 5 minutes off cycle. At the end of the first round, the 5 minutes of walking felt completely unneeded. That was the point. I kept walking until my watch hit 30-minutes and I could run again.
By the fourth cycle, the 5-minutes became a more welcome break. On the fifth cycle, with the heat steadily climbing and my body steadily breaking down, the 5-minute walk was completely needed. I trotted back into the driveway of our rental house 12.5 miles later.
After showering, changing, and doing my best to replace every calorie lost, I eyed my computer. I felt proud that I was able to do such a long run after such a long time sick. I felt tempted to tell myself I was back. But I wasn’t. I still had things I was avoiding.
I took a nap.
I woke up and looked at my computer again. I could feel a pit in my stomach grow. I wanted to write but it felt like it would take all my energy, that it would send me back to zero.
I opened my laptop and without thought put on some music on Spotify.
Then I skipped a song, then another, then another. How can a person write without the proper music?
I caught myself and turned off the program. My mouse dangerously hovered over the Netflix icon. One click and the whole sweater would unravel.
I opened Word.
The cursor blinked on a blank sheet of white.
Be patient, be narrow, and just start.
So I typed, “Where have I been?”
Then I wrote, “Three weeks ago” before editing it to clarify that this was the last week of august.