The alarm clock came too soon. My mind was still drowsy from the night before, but the empty checkboxes on the paper above my desk were growing in number and haunting my confidence. I walked out of my door before I could convince myself to stay under the covers. I forgot to eat but once I started moving, I forgot that too. I kept reminding myself the goal was 12 miles and that if I could just check that one box that maybe the next couple would flow more smoothly because that’s what matters right? Checking one box after the next until you have so many pieces of paper reminding you how wonderful and successful you are.
I headed out in the same direction I knew so well. The part of my mind drowsy from beers and a late night with friends couldn’t exactly figure out why doing this one thing I promised myself mattered so much. After all, what do we have if not the promises we make to ourselves right? But I’ve been stacking these papers for the past couple of years trying to build a stepladder to an elusive sense of contentment.
I began to question what I was promising myself and I decided to forget the 12 miles. I decided to just let go. I was tired of my typical route I’ve been to so many times before. The one with the flat path where you can run around in certain circles and easily meet your goal without having to venture too far or risk getting lost. It was safe and easy and I knew if I went right I could check the box and move on with my day. At that moment, though it didn’t seem that important. I was tired of being tied to a clear cut plan so I went left. I honestly had no idea where I was going and I didn’t care. I had a lot on my mind and getting lost with it all began to seem like a good idea. I found the river and followed it. Unlike the lake, the river was going somewhere and I decided I wanted to go too. Sixteen miles later I found my way back home, remembering that running loses its magic when you exhaust yourself in circles tied to check boxes. Plans can help us lace up our shoes and get us out the door but they can limit our potential if we let them.
There’s a quote “what screws us up the most in life is the picture in our head of how it’s supposed to be”, I use to hate this quote because I thought it was implying that one must settle and be grateful for what they have in order to be happy. I have never been the type to settle or be easily satisfied, but maybe there is more to it. Maybe, it’s not about settling at all, but allowing yourself to be open to getting lost because what you might find is better than what you have planned.