Stopping vs. Standing Still

Since about March of this year, I’ve been getting back into the habit of exercising. I like to exercise at night, not for any particular reason. I guess it makes me feel like I’m working for my bedtime.

The idea of willingly putting myself through so much torture was, at one time, unheard of. But now, I find myself looking forward to working out more and more. I still don’t entirely identify with people who work out all day every day, but I do set aside about a half-hour five days a week. And, while I don’t exercise a ton, I’m starting to understand how people can get addicted to the feeling.

Sometimes I push myself too hard and too far, resulting in many sore and strained muscles. When I feel pain – not just average “workout” discomfort, but genuine pain – I stop. I have to listen to my body and give it a rest. I don’t give up on exercising entirely, but I’ll allow myself a day or two to heal.

I find this is harder to do with other pursuits; grappling with the idea of stopping versus stopping “for now” can be a challenge. For example, when I’m trying to write something (such as this post), and I’m hit with writer’s block. There are some days where it feels like I should give up completely, but then I have to remind myself: I’m not stopping, I’m just standing still. Stopping implies an end.

It’s okay to take a break once in a while. It’s okay to breathe. There are times when stopping, full-stop, is necessary. There are other times when a pause is all you need.

Just stand still, catch your breath, and keep moving forward.

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The Climb

I really, really hate high places. In fact, I’m such a wuss that I even get queasy going too high on the swings.

Once upon a time, when I was a wee child, I went on a field trip with my summer camp to a rock-climbing arena. We were all bouncing off the walls and waiting impatiently for our chance to climb. Soon, it was my turn and once I was strapped for safety, I began my ascent.

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Happiness is a Warm Jar

As each day unravels, it’s easy to slip into complacency. I find myself doing the same thing, day in and day out. Everything feels stagnant, and while each day is different in its own right, the days remain largely the same.

On top of that, it’s hard to find what’s good every day outside of “I woke up, all of my body parts are functioning as usual, I have food and a roof over my head.” Of course, these are not to be taken for granted (I learned the power of running water when during my Peace Corps service I was denied it for an extended period of time). And really, we should be more thankful of these privileges. I remember telling a friend or two about said waterless plight and how they shouldn’t take it for granted.

“I don’t!” they said.

But believe me, they do. I do. You do, too.

A few years ago circa 2012, I learned about something called a happiness jar. Starting on January 1st of the new year, you’re supposed to write something – anything – that made you happy every day. By the end of the year, on December 31st, your jar should have at least 365 reasons something or someone made you happy.

So on January 1st, 2013, I washed out a salsa jar and threw in my first piece of paper. Sadly, here in 2017, the jar isn’t even halfway full (to be fair it’s a massive jar). I even started one during my service, only for it to meet the same fate. It’s not that I’m devoid of emotion; it’s that I don’t find interest in writing the same reasons over and over again. So now, instead of forcing myself to drop a paper into my jar every day, I add one when I am genuinely happy.

It’s a great exercise in understanding gratitude. There are some days that are so bad, I have to actively remind myself of what good happened so that I don’t write off my day as a complete waste. Those entries to the jar are most important.

My jar stares at me from across the desk every day, and I stare back. Yes, it’s only barely halfway full, but I can still find reasons to add to its collection. One day, that jar will be full, and I can finally dump out its contents to read, to reflect, and to start again.