Saturday, March 2, 2013
Exercise: Suffering doesn't make it better
I've been simmering for a while.
Way back in October, the very wonderful Joel Runyon threw down the gauntlet to his mediocrity-defying fans: Do something you hate.
The world's gone soft, he says, and it needs to get over its sparkly unicorn entitled self and deal with the hard. Reality ain't pretty.
Pick something you hate, he said. Learn to love it anyway.
My knees nearly buckled when I read this. Hell no, I muttered. I've come too far to take that mantra. Joel, I love you and your fan-effing-tabulous off-the-charts life. I adore the inspiration you hand out, and there's no denying that it's working for thousands of people each week.
I'm not saying you're wrong, but I've got the receipt for this version of "No pain, no gain." You can have it back.
When I hear "Love what you hate," I'm reminded of all the courageous women I know who smiled through a rotten deal, stood by a destructive partner, starved themselves for the scale or endured a demeaning boss.
They weren't making excuses or looking for the exit when things got a wee bit difficult. They honestly thought they were stronger than the pain. They figured they had enough willpower, discipline and smarts to stick by their choice and save the day.
What they didn't calculate was the cost in confidence and power over all of the years of stuffing their intuition and moving forward anyway. Most of these women describe something like erosion -- a gradual wearing down of their joy, their optimism and their wholeheartedness until the river of Make It Work Anyway cut too deep.
That river exposed their essence, and they awoke from the denial and numbness. They quit doing what they hated and stopped telling themselves that it was okay.
Now that they're enlightened quitters, do you know what they say instead?
I wish I'd left him sooner.
Shoulda turned in that resignation years ago.
I'm so glad all that is behind me.
I know this pattern because I'm one of these women. I have a great family and an amazing husband, but I'm one of the millions who has lapped up the message that forcing myself toward success is the only way to get there. And I've paid the price.
After Joel posted Love What You Hate, I steamed, but stayed silent. I didn't write, thinking that his blog's popularity and my obscurity settled the issue. The world wanted his message, and mine was just reactionary and weak -- exactly what he railed against.
I'm speaking up anyway, because I'm tired of everyone shouting through a megaphone as they pin medals on the idea that suffering leads to happiness.
It's clear that Joel's battle cry has struck a chord with many others who are looking to summon their inner power. Excellent. I have no desire to quarrel. I don't need to make this right or wrong. Let them find teachers like Stephen Pressfield who stoke that fire in their belly each day. I will watch and be amazed by all the impossible things they accomplish.
But I can't stand by. For those who can't bear to take on another thing they hate, I offer another option.
Find something you love more.
I don't love running, but I love the power in my legs and the nah-nah I give my inner critics as I defy them. I don't love crawling out of my warm bed to my chilly basement to do yoga in the winter morning darkness, but I love the beauty of my muscles stretching and reaching in graceful ways. And I love the freedom of biking -- deeply, truly and seriously.
When I love that strength in myself, I don't need to hate anything. I'm already home.
So maybe we don't need to draw lines between love and hate. I'm offering you permission to challenge the idea that exercise equals suffering. You can refuse to be a martyr.
Do something you love, and when it gets hard -- and it will -- choose something you love more than the struggle.
Chances are, it will be your own strength.