Less than two weeks until the date of the half-marathon I've been training for. I've run 419 km since April, and run longer than I ever thought I was capable of. It's been great journey from which I've gained a lot: a wonderful way of experiencing the outdoors, a glimpse of what the body is able to do, a growth in commitment and dedication.
In this last month, though, I've been struggling. Some tricky parts of myself that I didn't realize were so influential have been dug up and I've been made to confront them. It took me by surprise, and it doesn't feel particularly nice.
As a kid and teenager, I found that I was pretty good at most things. Not great at anything, but good at everything. I could pick up sports pretty quick, was a B+ student without working too hard, played instruments to the mid-levels, and didn't quake at public speaking. Because of this, I felt like I could half-ass most things and still do alright, which was exactly how I wanted to get through Jr high and high school. I knew that I would never become highly competent at anything because I never stuck with anything to the best of my ability. My competitive and perfectionist nature would reinforce this behaviour by saying: "Being the BEST is the only thing worth being, so unless you can be that, why even try?". I could thus placate my disappointment at not being the best by knowing that I never fully tried in the first place. I began to internalize this message that I was someone who never did her best, never gave things her all.
In university it began to change a bit. I found some challenges that I really wanted to conquer, some courses that I truly felt gifted at and wanted to excel in. I wanted to rewrite a bit of who I was as someone who didn't try. I saw results and gained some successes that have become some of my proudest.
The struggle between allowing myself grace and not becoming the "girl who slacks off" continues to rear it's head unexpectedly. I realize it most when I am at a job or in an exercise routine, and it's at those times when the perfectionism speaks ugly. It says if I take a break, or don't reach a certain level: "I am lazy", or "I don't try hard enough" or "I always quit".
And so as I get ready for a race of 21.5 km next Sunday, the first time I have ever run that length in my life, after 4 months of running more than I ever have in my life and adhering to a stricter fitness regimen then I ever have in my life, my body is wearing out. I need to take shorter runs or run less during the week and that perfectionist voice tells me I'm getting lazy again. I thought I was bucking the trend of "always quitting" and yet here I am in the last quarter doing what looks a lot like quitting to that prissy perfectionist.
I had been so proud all along. Felt like I was building "mental toughness" and thoroughly having fun with the process. And then this came along reminding me that I still have that perfectionist blood running in my veins, waiting for my weak moments to tear me down a notch and distrust anything that smells of grace.
Oh but grace, how sweet the sound! Wouldn't that be nice, to let it infiltrate me to the core of my being. That's really what this is all about, at the heart of it: the struggle between sticking to the regimen and enjoying the journey for all its highs and lows. I am realizing that maybe all my pride in my commitment to the *Plan* was my perfectionist overlord purring, "Yesss, this is what good people should do. This is how people become the best. Do all the right things and you're on the right track".
It's not the ideal way to live life. A grace filled life sounds so free, so full of love and joy.
But this is the question: "Can I work hard at something, and still be okay with just being mediocre at that thing?"
That feels painful to even write. My perfectionist overlord is crying.