In search of comfortable
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I’m a health care reporter, and a general maximal enthusiast. Each issue, I'll write to you about what I’ve learned through life and on the job.
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Folks, it is 2022!
Like you may have, dear readers, I’ve devoted some of my time during the holidays to think about what I’d like to keep in my life from the past year and what I’d like to do differently in the next. I know that I still have a lot of growth left in me — and today, that’s exciting. I see a new year as a beacon of optimism: We get 365 (give or take) blank slates to accomplish whatever we set our minds to and more. (This mindset makes Mondays my favorite day of the week.)
But devising a plan to actualize those goals requires some reflection — which I enjoy less. I quickly realize that there is probably a reason, if not several, that that I’m not already doing what I set out do with a new goal. The reality of these limitations (time, energy, motivation, etc.) quickly douses out my crackling enthusiasm for new projects. (Tuesdays are understandably the absolute worst.)
In an ideal world, for example, I’d add daily yoga and meditation to my routine. I’d get better at concentrating on only one task at a time so i can be fully present with my loved ones or side projects in my non-work hours. I’d save more money, spend less mindless time on my phone and I’d cut out some of the processed foods I love so much in an attempt to be kind to my gut.
I love all of these ideas, but I know that today and every other day this year, I will still have only 24 hours, and the stresses of this last year won’t magically melt away. I have a feeling that trying to cram in more will ultimately result in feelings of frustration, failure and inadequacy — all of which make me feel bad. And that, my friend, I am trying to avoid.
Instead, I think I’m going to focus on just one, amorphous goal: to be more comfortable.
Physically, yes, I will be wearing fewer jeans and will be replacing them with velvet or silk instead. The only heels I will wear will be chunky. Bras will happen only some days of the week.
But more importantly, I want to just be more comfortable with myself and my choices. If there are steps I can make to give myself just a little more grace, and keep me going just a little longer, I think that’ll be a win.
I thought about this idea while on a trail run the other day. I want to get better at trail running, and I know that the only way to do that is to keep lacing up my shoes and getting to the woods. But I’m not a particularly comfortable trail runner at the moment: I get anxious knowing how much harder it is for me than road running. There’s more elevation, tripping hazards and room to get lost. Thinking about all these things — especially when I think I should be going farther and faster like my more experienced peers — freaks me out so much it’s hard to even get started.
None of this spiraling self-talk is actually helpful in the middle of the run, and it makes the experience even more uncomfortable than it has to be. So, as I found myself in the middle of the woods, starting to get hungry and cold, I thought that maybe, instead of thinking of miles left on my feet, I’d focus on what may make me feel a little better in the moment. Maybe I could take a sip of water. Maybe I could take a little off the pace. Maybe I could even just wipe the sweat off my brow. And those small little actions, every now and then, eventually added up to me making my way home.
The fact of the matter is that for me, trail running is hard. Telling myself that it shouldn’t be doesn’t make it any easier.
Running has always felt like a separate realm from “real life,” but I know it’s all the same. Just like trail running, there are a lot of factors today that can make life uncomfortable. Surviving a global pandemic is hard. Work is hard. The technology that gives us the ability to stay connected also gives us a constant reminder of the alarming state of the world, all the other things we have left to do and all those who appear to be doing so much more than we are.
Sometimes, finding comfort can be a simple perspective shift. For me, that could be remembering that I’m tremendously privileged to have quite a nice life. A little temporary discomfort, like frustration with a problem at work or disappointment in the way someone treats me, is ultimately inconsequential and not worth the extra energy being upset requires. Other times, I can find comfort in small acts of generosity for myself, like doing my makeup in a way that feels good, or taking a few minutes to sing one of my favorite songs.
In the grand scheme of things, I hope I can find comfort in remembering that the things I push myself to do are not in the name of “discipline” or trying to be “better” in the vague sense — but rather because I am someone worth taking care of, physically, mentally and spiritually. And acknowledging that sometimes can be hard, too.
I hope, dear reader, that you were able to find some peace in the final days of 2021. Maybe you’ll find inspiration in the new year to evoke a chance in your life, or maybe you’ll decide that now isn’t the right time. I just hope you are able to find more comfort in whatever it is you do with the time you have.
What else have I been up to?
A selection of my work for POLITICO from the last few weeks:
Crossing the finish line at November Project’s summit relay in San Diego, California in mid-November
That’s all for now. Stay curious, friend! ❤️
Top image by E. Y. Smith; headshot by Matt Anzur.