I want to start this WILW series with a big-picture lesson, one I’ve needed to learn for basically my entire adult life. In some ways it goes against my hardwired personality type. I like big projects with finite timelines, and I like to push them to the last minute. I like working monogamously, one thing at a time. I like pondering and planning for a long while, then going all-in, working hard and fast until it’s done and I check it off The List and then I like crashing.
And all the time I wonder why, even though I complete some projects, I never seem to I move forward on the things I say are important to me: keeping a prayer routine. Practicing meditation. Becoming physically fitter. Building a blog, writing a book, improving the sound of Bach’s Minuet No. 1 on my violin.
Just this week I’ve realized the answer: Consistency. Showing up.
I’ve realized it the way Wile E. Coyote realizes the tunnel is just a painting on a wall.
I’ve gotten a little tired of running headlong into walls. Maybe this doesn’t really qualify as “learning something new”… after all, I’m the one who’s been buying the paint and cleaning the brushes afterward.
How not to hit walls. I hope.
Three weeks ago I started a training program for beginner runners (it’s called None2Run, if you’re interested). I’ve tried–and bailed–on Couch-to-5K programs more than once in the past; in fact, I wrote about one of those experiences. But I came across None2Run a few months ago, and the idea kept resurfacing, and then like some kind of Sign I got an email about a virtual 5K fundraiser to benefit Sesame Workshop–a cause very close to my heart.
I wouldn’t run for just anybody… but maybe for Big Bird…
It didn’t take very many days of running the first week’s program (alternating 30 seconds of jogging and 2 minutes of walking) for me to start making the connection between running training and… well… pretty much everything else in my life.
The biggest lesson for a new runner is both the simplest and the most profound: lace up, get out the door, repeat. Have achievable expectations and be willing to improve slowly. Recognize every day may feel different, but that each day is a step forward… and however many steps it takes to get There is perfect. A new runner (at least THIS new runner!!) doesn’t attempt a 5K on day one, or ten, or twenty. But each of those days matters because you showed up. Because I showed up.
I will show up.
I already know: this is how sweaters are knit.
One stitch, one row at a time. Follow the next instruction. Enjoy the feel of the wool in your hands, the weight of the growing garment in your lap.
Just keep picking up the needles.
So what if I could approach prayer this way?
Can I commit to lace up, pick up the needles, and show up–one Psalm at a time, one confession, one benediction at a time–for the Daily Office? Can I be consistent even knowing that some days prayer will feel like a chore, other days like a blank wall (or a painted tunnel), and maybe only occasionally like a reunion or a revelation?
What about eating? or writing? or meditating? or playing Bach?
The biggest challenge in this lesson, for me, is to stop thinking of everything as a singular project to be attacked and completed. Not only CAN I approach body-care, book-creation, mindfulness, and Minuet No. 1 with consistency–with curiosity, humility, patience, and a good helping of grace–this is literally the ONLY way I can approach them if I truly want what I say I want.
What do I want?
To feel good and feel well, about myself and in my own skin. To experience creative growth, not just project completion. To be fully present in body and mind. And to make music that doesn’t cause anyone within earshot to wish for noise-cancelling headphones.
This is my first Step 1.
I’m not going to “habit track” my prayer life or aim for meditation “streaks” or chart my progress toward Bach mastery. The Extra Credit of consistency training is learning that I can’t control future outcomes or the situations in life that might roadblock completion (also: there is no completion). All I can truly control is showing up for Step 1, and the Step 1 after that, and the Step 1 after that.
Stitch 1, Psalm 1, Breath 1, Note 1.
Lace up, get out the door, repeat.
If I keep showing up, the 5K and the cozy sweater and the Minuet will be there in time, and maybe the body and the mind and the spirit will get there, too.
Or maybe–hopefully–I’ll look around and see that I’m already There in every one of the steps, stitches, psalms, breaths, notes along the way.