I’m a perfectionist. Often to a dangerous degree. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but it’s also not something I deny. I tend to get very uneasy when things don’t go according to plan…my plan, that is. It’s hard for me to adjust when I have something set in my head and it goes a completely different direction. Many of you have probably been witness to this.
There are two areas in my life where perfection is becoming increasingly more important. Writing and running. I don’t mean to say the activities themselves need to be perfect (Lord knows my injuries and editing errors prove that). What I’m really after is aesthetic perfection. I need the conditions to be right in order to get the most out of it.
When it comes to writing, I need solid instrumental music that doesn’t lapse into anything depressing (“Moonlight Sonata”) or irritating (“Canon in D”); I prefer loads of natural, sunny light; a cup of hot coffee and my water bottle are necessities; and, above all, a comfortable space to be in essential. A desk that holds the necessary writing tools (laptop, pen, journal, etc.) as well as the space for my coffee and water, not to mention several of my office-y accoutrements, and, of course, a comfortable chair. Right now, all I have is a folding TV table and a rather uncomfortable couch. There’s barely room for my laptop on this thing, let alone my coffee and water. Sigh. And there’s almost no natural light in our little apartment (never choose a home that faces north or south) which is incredibly annoying, but is an entirely different topic.
The one thing I know I can always control here (and in running) is the music. Right now, I’m enjoying a Pandora station based on the stylings of The Vitamin String Quartet. If you don’t know them, go to their site immediately. Okay, now that you’re back, you can probably see what I love about them so much. The music is familiar and fun, but without the distraction of lyrics (I’m a chronic sing-alonger, which isn’t helpful when I’m trying to write).
My writing conditions could obviously be far worse. Fortunately, they’re going to get a lot better in a few weeks when we get to our new house, full of very large windows and space for me to set up shop. And yes, I am counting down the days.
When it comes to running, I’m finding that I’m increasingly becoming a “conditions snob.” I really just want to run in weather that’s absolutely perfect for me. Slightly overcast, 50-60*F, and a hint of a breeze. I blame the desire for these conditions on my first half marathon. Literally every single training run I went on, I was provided these conditions. It was a little ridiculous how lucky I got. The thing is, though, I really want to push myself to run in less-than-ideal conditions. I have some pretty fantastic cold weather gear so I should really get around to using it.
Running, however, is becoming a far greater teacher than coach for me. I’m learning things that I honestly never thought could be taught. Things like patience and forgiveness of self. Injuries will teach any athlete patience. Just ask anyone who’s ever jumped back in the saddle way too soon. Forgiveness of self is a far more difficult thing to learn, though not impossible. I no longer feel bad for wanting perfect running conditions (I can always use the dreadmill), but I’m finding there are really only two situations I absolutely will not go out in: rain and extreme cold.
If I can forgive the weather its missteps, then surely I can forgive myself when my knee buckles and I can no longer run. It just means I’ll walk the rest of my route. It means I’m allowed to be disappointed by a less-than-desirable pace, but I’m not allowed to give up because of it. It means that some days I’m the champion of the world and other days I’m a haggard old bag who can barely put one foot in front of the other. What forgiveness of self means is that I am enough.
Giving up my perfectionist self is going to take a lifetime of learning. But as with any skill, it’s not achieved overnight. It’s a step-by-step process, taking pride in the small wins and not becoming unhinged by failures. And today, despite the weather, but because of amazing music, is a win.