Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

Runners Need Each Other

So, I have a theory about distance runners and triathletes: we are introverts that have always relied on ourselves and have a hard time accepting help from others. Many of us are very extroverted introverts, but introverts nonetheless. We enjoy solitude and self-reflection. We are introspective and possibly described by others as “deep.” So, it’s no big surprise that we tend to complete the majority of our runs solo. We approach running as we do virtually every other thing in our lives … with discipline, dedication, and great thought. We will certainly go for a social run with another runner or a group of runners and we’ll have a great time, it’s just that we don’t necessarily need that group atmosphere to push us to work on our sport. We’re fine running alone. I must admit; however, getting involved in a connected network of runners has helped me with motivation and inspiration these past couple of years. If you haven’t forced yourself to branch out and run with a group on occasion, or at the very least to forge social media connections with other runners, you are really missing out. Do it. Put yourself out there. Get a group. At some point you are going to need to ask for help and you’re going to want supportive running friends to help you. Trust me. It will happen.

You know how giddy we get when we talk about running? Well, the only thing better than that personal giddiness is sharing it with another giddy runner. How fabulous is it when you find out the person you are talking to is also a runner? It’s simply the best. I become overjoyed! I just want to know everything about their running experience. Do they have a background in running? At what age did they start? Do they race often? How often do they run? Are they training for anything at the moment? Do they cross train? What shoes do they like best? What gadgets are their favorites? Where do they predominately run? Do they trail run? Have they ever completed an overnight relay run? Have they been injured? How do they balance their jobs, families and running? The list of questions goes on and on. I want to know it all. I want to talk about races we have in common. Difficult courses. I want to hear all of their gross running experiences and I’m ready to share mine. The runner bond is like no other. It brings people incredibly close incredibly quickly. It’s quite astonishing how profound the bond between runners is, and I believe this is in large part because we have similar makeups, personalities, and quirks that make us well suited for distance running.

So, are there common personality characteristics that all of us runners posses? Ask yourselves, do you find that you are any of the following?

  • Introverted
  • Adventuresome
  • Brave
  • A leader
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Tenacious
  • A Planner
  • Confident
  • Obsessive
  • Masochistic
  • Creative
  • Self-aware
  • Competitive

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this right now, you exhibit many, if not all, of the previous characteristics. I know that I do.

Runners tend to enjoy quiet introspection while running where they can see things in a way they don’t ordinarily get to see them when they don’t have time for them. Additionally, the fact that we will set out early in the morning for hours of running demonstrates that we are comfortable with some solitude. Runners love to see new things, period. They are explorers, enjoying the outdoors and appreciating nature. They are risk-taking adventurers that love the feeling of movement. Runners are brave, and they are leaders. Runners are goal-oriented and decisive. When a runner makes up her mind to do something, she goes after it with all of her heart and soul, for she possesses great determination and perseverance. Runners are tenacious, approaching difficulties head on. Runners are planners and they follow through with their commitments. Runners are confident and they rely on themselves to get through tough times. Runners are constantly learning to block out the emotional aspect of pain, and this serves them well in their day-to-day lives. It’s not that we are necessarily masochistic, it’s just that we have learned to soldier through discomfort and not only continue to fight, but keep coming back for more. Runners are also creative and wistful and are probably the most self-aware people on the planet. We spend a lot of time thinking while running, and so we know ourselves pretty darn well. I have met enough runners by now to know that we all pretty much fit this above description, so it is only natural that runners would make great friends to other runners.

Because I am somewhat introverted, it took me awhile to convince myself that running in a group setting and forging friendships with other runners was a good idea. Additionally, because I tend to be very self-conscious and insecure, I was scared to death to run alongside others. What if I looked stupid? What if I ran way too slow? What if my heavy breathing was really annoying? What if I needed to blow a snot rocket out of my nose? What if, what if, what if? Honestly, still to this day, I cannot run a normal run alongside other runners unless it is a race and I have my earbuds in and I am completely detached from the other runners. This is the only way I can normally run. But over the last two years I have invited others to share runs with me and I have attended group social runs. I have forced myself to do this for many reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy a challenge and I know that forcing myself to run with others will ultimately make me a more confident, capable runner. Well, maybe some day. For right now, I’m still a nervous ball of awkwardness every time I run with others. Do my fellow runners think I’m a total spaz? Who knows. Probably not. I’m sure I’m magnifying things. But, I know for sure that there’s just something about sweating and pounding the pavement side by side that allows for intimate conversation and instant camaraderie. It is rather like  a sort of communion, like sharing a meal; breaking bread. The shared participation fosters fellowship.


But there’s a more important reason why I feel it necessary to share runs and have connections with runners; it is because running is hard and it’s nice to have camaraderie with those who know exactly what this means. Sometimes I lack inspiration and motivation and I can draw from my running buddies’ good mojo. Sometimes I’m the one offering the good vibes to my runner friends. Sometimes I’m in need of advice. The bottom line is that runners need other runners. It’s as simple as that. We need each other. We belong to a select club that not many people understand. Running, more than any other sport, allows the intensity of a relationship to come through.

So, if you haven’t already, join your local running club. Take part in group social runs. Make social media connections with other runners. Share your running passion with others.