When I think about 2017, I think about pain.
Not in a dramatic or "whoa is me" way, but in a more meaningful way. More of a reflection on the decisions I made to pursue hard things (discomfort) vs. pursuing pleasure (avoiding pain). How did pain - physical, emotional, personal - affect outcomes this year, positively and negatively?
I know this much for sure: my greatest mistakes in 2017 came from choosing to avoid discomfort. Whether it was a quick fix, skirting an issue, retreating, a bullshit excuse or allowing feelings to dominate - this simple choice was never one I felt proud of.
In triathlon, I followed a training and racing schedule that made me very proud (until it didn't). I trained (arguably too) hard, I chose to race the most competitive events I could find to see how I stacked up in an honest way, I was diligent and disciplined (until I wasn't). The first 6mo of 2017 were hard....in the BEST possible way. I was focused, confident in my resilience, and genuinely pumped on life.
Then....after a massive letdown at IM Canada and finally admitting that I was injured, I backed off and relaxed for a few weeks. Just as I was coming out of that, I got into a bike crash and entered this strange downward spiral of shitty decision making and confusion. Triathlon became baffling, my job was picking up steam at a rate I was unprepared for, my marriage was on the precipice of a potentially major shift (kids? or not yet?) and I didn't know it....but I was overwhelmed. I started to consciously avoid any form of discomfort and became self-indulgent. I was telling myself stories....that it was okay to party a lot and have fun now "while I can". It was as if I had given up on who I wanted to be (who I had been earlier in the year), like I didn't think I could handle anything. It wasn't pretty.
I was having fun on the surface and felt liberated from a training schedule, the pressure of racing, and was blowing off steam because work was stressful. But it turns out, in this empty pursuit of fleeting moments of joy and irrational exuberance, I lost track of my foundation: hard fucking work. strength in persevering. the bliss of feeling used up. appreciating every moment with my husband and friends. I had unknowingly created all this residual pain. And here is what I learned as a result...
The physical pain of injuries is hard to avoid and reminds you that you are breakable, so don't take your health for granted. Simple. The emotional pain of working so hard for something, only to be letdown is part of life - what matters is how you respond, and the good thing about time is it passes. Your problems may not be around in a year, but your memory and reputation about how you dealt with them will be, so do not retreat. Then, there is the personal pain. Chris rode this roller coaster with me. He was patient, unwavering, and honest when I needed it. But I know it was hard for him too, and that is the only discomfort I wish I avoided this year.
2017 taught me to never stop doing hard things. To pursue them wholeheartedly, and that will get my mind right in the process. The moment I retreat, rely on empty pleasures and quick fixes, I will inevitably create painful ripple effects.
Onwards to 2018, I am ready.