I’ve been feeling pretty scattered lately. While I’m still enjoying the process of having a lot of goals and things to work toward (yay! No burnout yet!), I’m getting to that point in the process where I’m struggling to balance everything. Last weekend, as another Sunday evening fell upon us, I remember thinking there’s just never enough time – which, if you know me, is utterly laughable since I squander so much of mine. It’s just that my goals have felt much more competitive with each other than usual: it seems like I can’t do one thing without feeling like I’m sacrificing another. If I go for a run, I feel bad that I didn’t stay home and get much-needed cleaning done. If I stay home to clean and tidy, I feel bad that I didn’t get any reading done and I’m farther behind on my reading goals. And so on, and so forth. I’m really not doing a good job managing my life lately.
Last night I skipped a run. I also didn’t get any reading done. Our apartment is in desperate need of attention. We haven’t cleaned in forever and it’s getting so bad in there. But we just keep putting things off. Between working late and me being at the gym/class or on some run, we actually haven’t had a lot of time at home in the evenings. Yesterday morning Kevin was stressing out about how messy it is and how there’s going to be so little time to clean in the coming days. We have our belated Valentine’s Day date night tonight, and then our weekend is surprisingly busy – my long run in the morning, a wedding to go to in the afternoon, brunch on Sunday then and Kevin’s going to a hockey game while I make a trip down to my alma mater. But hearing about our schedules is probably boring as hell, so I’ll get to the point – last night, I slowed myself down.
I forgot about reading or running or meal prep or making progress and I focused on doing something that needs to be done. While Kevin was working late, I did dishes, I did laundry, I cleaned the bathroom, I tidied up. That’s how I spent the evening I should have spent doing a hill repeats workout and knocking another 50 pages out of my current book.
I may be in a bad mood later because my weekly mileage is so low and I only have three more weeks to get in shape for my half marathon, or because I’m going to end February a little more behind on my 36 books in 2017 goal, or because I had to spend money eating out since I didn’t do any meal prep. Or maybe I won’t feel bad about it, because I really believe that what I did last night was the best possible way I could have spent my time. It needed to get done and I don’t regret skipping out on other things to do it.
It got me thinking, and I was reminded of something that we so often forget as runners and goal-chasers: being able to train for races and chase goals is a privilege. And, like all other privileges, I have to earn it. Having extracurricular goals is a treat I earn for taking care of myself and being a responsible adult in the rest of my life. If I’m neglecting to take care of myself, my home, my family, and my job, then I haven’t earned the right to work toward any running or reading or whatever goals.
And that’s why I had to skip my run and forgo my reading time last night. I didn’t earn it. If I had forced myself to go on that run instead, I wouldn’t have felt very good about myself later. Sure, I would hit my weekly mileage target, but my house would slip further into chaos and I’d still be feeling scattered and stressed about my poor time management. We all struggle with balance sometimes, goals or no goals. It’s hard. Goals and “fun” things are important, because they enrich our lives. But nothing we choose to do should ever take priority over something we need to do.
My “time out” last night also created a momentum shift for me. Getting some of that much-needed cleaning done was like a weight lifted off my shoulders, and I suddenly felt a little more in control of the stress I’ve been feeling. I settled into bed at a decent enough hour that I could take 20 minutes to write in my journal. I wrote about the stress I’ve been feeling over how poorly I manage my time. I brainstormed ideas for how I can be better at arranging my time so that I can work toward my goals without feeling guilty and overwhelmed, and still have time to take care of my responsibilities and have a social life. I’m still figuring it out, but the wind is blowing in the right direction now.
And I don’t feel like it’s such a big deal to be “behind” in my half marathon prep or reading anymore. There will be other races this year, and I have plenty of time to get caught up in my reading before December.
If you made it all the way through my bloviating, congrats. I suppose this was just a long-winded way of saying I needed a day to get my sh*t together.