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Discomfort Lasts About Thirty Seconds

Is Georgia officially in a drought?

It seems impossible that we wouldn’t be, given that we’ve basically been in a drought for every year I can remember, though I can’t specifically remember hearing about it this year. Given that this is a stream-of-consciousness post, I won’t be stopping to do research on that, but it seems fair to assume, especially since, prior to this week, it had been about six weeks since we glimpsed a raindrop.

Yup. Most of October and basically all of November slipped by without even a sprinkle here in the Greater Atlanta area, so the rains of the last two weeks have been welcome.

But as you know (maybe), I’m a runner, and one that won’t be confined to the indoors for a run even in the worst of conditions. (We do own a treadmill, but feh. That’s for if you’re 1000 steps short of your daily goal and you still have an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to watch. And yeah, there’s gym memberships, but paying money to go to a sweaty room and run indoors is sort of the antithesis of why I run to begin with, so, nope, no gyms for me.)

So of course it happened: the first rain in over a month, and to boot, some of the nastiest to come our way came about on a run day, in the wee hours of the morning last week.

And while running in the rain can be delightful in the summer, in the winter (inasmuch as winter actually exists in the Southeastern United States), it’s not so much. Damp shoes mean blisters. Sodden clothes mean chafing. To say nothing of the sheer demoralizing cold that can seep into your bones in the throes of a windy, whipping rain on a thirty-five degree morning.

It’s more than a runner should be asked to bear, in other words, and it inspired in me that rare notion: that I could, I really could, just take the day off. Nobody would know but me. I’ve been diligent of late, and at this point, I know that missing a day doesn’t mean I fall off the train for good — a fear I had in my early days as a runner and that I still occasionally have as a writer. And, apologies to any readers north of the Mason-Dixon line, being an Atlanta native for basically my entire life, thirty-five degrees is cold. Add rain and wind and it’s prohibitively cold. In other words, this was an excellent candidate for a sleep-in morning (although sleeping in, in my house, means you’re up at 5:40 instead of 4:40. God, my college-aged self is spinning in his sheltered little womb just thinking about it.)

And, come to think of it, that’s how a lot of my writing days have felt of late. It’s rainy out there, and dark, and cold. It feels like harder work than I want it to be. The blank page doesn’t offer you much in return, and man, it sure would feel good just to take the time that I would have spent writing and use it on something else. An extra thirty minutes in bed. Getting some lesson planning done (how am I always so far behind? Oh yeah, because in my free time, I run and write instead of planning lessons). Reading. Squeezing in a nap.

But, y’know, I’ve gotten to the point that it’s not so much about convincing myself to do the thing that looks uncomfortable from the outside. Nine mornings out of ten, I’m just going to go for the run. I don’t have to berate myself, call myself a fat slob, chide myself about how lazy I’m going to feel … those days are gone. I know now, intrinsically, that the day is always better if I run. So I run. And, likewise, I don’t have to talk myself into facing down the blank page anymore, either. I just do it, as naturally and automatically as kicking my shoes off when I get in from work. It just feels wrong if I don’t. Getting the daily word count in is just the thing I do now.

All of which is to say that, despite the fact that it was a great morning for not getting the run in, I got the run in. It was as miserable as advertised. Within two minutes I was soaked through two layers. Half-blind from rain in the eyes. Feet squishing in my shoes. Huffing and coughing and slogging it through the cold, grinning wanly and shaking my head at the lonely cars driving by in the dark, laughing at what they must have been thinking seeing me out there.

I finished with nasty blisters on both feet (I almost never get blisters — not even from my six-mile mud run), which are still ailing me a week later. I had sore, stinging nips that itched uncomfortably under my shirt for the rest of the day, despite the band-aids I covered them with (nobody ever said running was glamorous). My chest-rattling cough resurged … the one I’ve been tangling with since October.

But it reminded me of a thing I already know: no matter how daunting the run looks, or how intimidating the blank page may be? Once you get over the fear of the thing and get into the guts of the thing, all of a sudden, it becomes a lot easier. In fact, once I got over the initial shock of the cold and the rain (which took about thirty seconds), it became just another run like virtually any other. The discomfort doesn’t last. After it passes, you just put your head down and go to work.

In short? The first step, the first word, the first day, the first anything? That’s the hardest. But once you’re in the thing — the run, the writing, the new job, whatever the challenge is — it becomes easier. Shockingly quickly, in fact, it becomes bearable when just moments before it was unthinkable.

It’s always better to take that first step despite the fear. (Well, I guess, unless that first step happens to be out your front door during the zombie apocalypse. In that case, maybe do sleep in.)


This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Look, a Running Post!

There are run days, and then there are good run days, and then further still, there are great run days.

I’m the hippy-dippy type that thinks that any run is a good one; any time you can break your inertia, lace up, and take to the pavement for a jaunt, an excursion, or a quick up-and-down the block, is better than a day when you can’t. Perhaps in keeping with my groundlessly optimistic viewpoint, weather has little to do with whether a run is good or great or simply a run: rain doesn’t bother me, cold doesn’t bother me, hell, I’ve even run in the snow (which northerners would scoff at as no big deal, but here in Atlanta, that’s a delightful treat akin to finding five dollars when you’re out for a run — which I’ve also done). Heat… well, we can talk about the miserable heat-and-humidity runs of the South another time, those provide a special misery all their own.

So even though weather can’t dampen my spirits about a run, exceptional weather can sometimes make a run exceptional. The temperatures are dipping pleasantly here this week (lows in the 40s), which benefits the runner tremendously. Skies have been clear, too, with hardly any humidity. What that added up to at 5 AM was a cool three-and-a-half miles in just over a half hour, under a blanket of stars that you don’t see too often ’round these parts.

Living in the suburbs has its advantages, sure, but I do long sometimes for the wide open spaces where the night sky presents you with a few thousand stars, rather than a few dozens.

But even the favorable gleam of light from the infinite doesn’t account for the uplift I’m feeling. To be honest, I should be feeling like twice-run-over garbage; every human in my house has been fighting flu-like symptoms for the better part of a month, and the condition recently surged to give my wife and I both a couple of sleepless nights. Sprout #2, in particular, has handled the settling plague with all the grace of a toddler getting knocked over by a tire swing.

So why did today’s run feel so good?

Maybe today, the stars aligned in a way that was beneficial for my mind and spirit.

Maybe it’s the draft I just finished — the one that’s been on my back like an angry monkey for the past 8 months.

Maybe it was the gallon of snot and phlegm my lungs expelled during the run.

Maybe the construction on the roads in the area has lined my lungs and brain with asphalt particulate and I’m hallucinating the good vibes.

Or maybe I just really needed the run.

One way or another, this morning’s miles were great miles. And it’s a second day with no looming deadlines, projects, or even, really, thoughts about writing.

So here I am. Not thinking about writing.

And … writing about it.

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