December 30: Undone: Bucket lists, To Do Lists, Always crossing things off. 2012 is almost over — what is still left standing?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic, Paris, France 23 April 1910
I love this.
I mentioned I was reading Brené Brown’s book, and she uses this quote as the framework to bring together warm fuzzies and her empirical research. She likes the bit about daring greatly while I like the part where Teddy says: the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…
You see (and you probably know), I am a do-er. That is, when I say I am going to do something, generally I do it. Last year, I picked five things I wanted to do; to achieve. I wanted to be a “better” runner. I wanted to run an international marathon. I wanted to watch more James Bond movies; cook more; stop post-morteming my marriage.
What’s left unfinished?
I am not sure I became a better, faster, stronger runner. In fact, despite more consistent training and nutrition, I had a quantifiably slower and shittier racing year.
But finish times and splits aside, I discovered some interesting and unexpected things about running, and friendship and resilience that I never expected to find. I never expected to cross a finish line with eee. I never thought I’d watch Strand complete her first marathon and hug her when she crossed the line — I remember when she was a chain-smoking college sophomore! I never dreamed I’d finish the Berlin Marathon on my own, or stand outside the Javits Center, wrecked, sobbing like I did when my grandfather died after I got word of the cancellation of the 2012 NYC Marathon.
I didn’t expect that my brother would call me one morning and say he’d be keen to run a half.
Running tied together peaks and valleys of my 2012. And I was open to people and experiences because of running. So I guess I became a better runner after all. Just maybe not a faster, stronger, slicker, high-ponytailed, sub-4; 4:15 marathoner.
And in July, as I came in from sweaty summer training, BBC-A or Encore or some cable network showed James Bond films each night. Each July, I’ve relapsed like woah — gratefully sinking into the familiar embrace of command and control — it seemed sensible to have dinner with a tuxedo’d secret agent.
So we dined. It’s silly, right? But that ridiculous smirk got me through the summer.
But all was not a success. As to cooking…well, I tried. And I’ll try again. And I’ll report back in 2013.
Marriage. I’m still learning the right ways to frame that experience. Sometimes I want to scream and remind myself (and everyone else) that I did it; I had it; there are all those photos of me on my daddy’s arm at the Cathedral. I know what it was like, and it happened.
And then, some part of me feels like I talk about it because I don’t want to forget.
But at the same time, my marriage was so lonely that being single doesn’t feel that different. How odd.
And then I realised: I’m Okay with post-morteming the Thing until it feels right to stop talking about it; and stop using examples of it. Andrew is a ghost, now. But the experience of the marriage is still present for me.
As to the things undone, it has taken me all this time to discover that the critics don’t count, really. Not the ones outside my head, and not the Self-Doubt Troll that lives in my head. I am a do-er of deeds; I am a woman who gets into the arena; who strives valiantly. Who errs; fails.
I’ll always be aware of relapse — but I have good support. I might never be a consistent presence in the kitchen — and that’s okay. And if I’m always rattled by the fact of my first marriage…the great news is that I’ve done it, and there are all those beautiful pictures of me on my daddy’s arm in the Cathedral, and I know both victory and defeat and never have to do that shit again…