Monday, May 23, 2011

I've Never Really Even Liked Pie. I Like Licorice.


Running is a thing worth doing not because of the future rewards it bestows, 
but because of how it feeds our bodies and minds and souls in the present.

~ Kevin Nelson

I have a friend who is really good at rewards. She builds them into her daily routine and schedule so that if she does something she knows she can be proud of (i.e. going for a run when she doesn't feel like it) then she'll have a treat as a deal-sweetener for herself (i.e. she ends the run as a walk through the trees to enjoy beauty.)  When she does yoga she sometimes puts out chocolate to taste as she does it, when she works on a long project she gets herself a little present... things like that.

That perspective really sings to me because I love gifts and surprises. (My husband surprised me for Mother's Day with a day off - on a Monday! - and blew my simple mind.) But as much as I love creating gifts and beauty for those I love around me, I realize that I don't necessarily live that way in my mentality towards myself. I tend to separate "reward" over into the same column as "deserve."

I often make the hard jobs that I do the reward in and of themselves (which, of course, they can be - but it's not the same.) I think I need to learn to see reward in a way that's joy and love based, not just based on strength of will or resolve.

And living by strength of will is exhausting. It doesn't hold up very well for the long-term in the way of motivation. It also leads to a lot of dysfunction - like withdrawal (who can keep it up?!) or a sense of failure (because of all or nothing thinking) or performance orientation (ugh - the whole what-others-think trap.) I'm getting too old for that! And I don't want to model it to anyone around me.

My art group friends really nailed me on this a couple weeks ago, challenging me to only let goals being met be one slice of the pie I look at. I was a bit speechless. Wasn't being responsible the whole pie? Wasn't that the sweetness of the pie? And then I felt how much that exposed me. Now my whole pie needs a new name!

And so I've been thinking a lot about enjoyment again. (This is life-thematic for me.) But even enjoyment for the beauty of enjoyment is just one more task to accomplish. As I've been thinking about it I've realized the call to let ourselves enjoy life is actually profoundly scary. Because it forces us to let go of the internal measurements of joy we all hold tightly to our chest - and turns us towards a measurement that has nothing to do with ourselves: The one that promises that we are loved, we will be taken care of and that He is trustworthy. That is the ultimate context of, and measurement for, enjoyment.

A couple weeks ago I got up at 5 am and it was raining loud enough to hear it on the bedroom gables. I walked the 20 minutes to our running rendezvous point, ran the forest trail and then walked through quiet neighbourhoods talking about deep, heart things with my friend.

As I was coming home I did something I don't think I've ever done before. I didn't push myself to run the last mile hard. I let the other miles (and getting out there!) stand for itself. When I got home I stripped off my sodden clothes, I let myself put cozy jammies back on, I had a mug of  hot peppermint tea and I sat down to enjoy the quiet still hanging in my house.

I am super grateful I got up and ran in the rain and was refreshed by the fresh air and companionship. I'm thankful I pushed myself and ran when I was achy and let the rain fill my shoes and chill my legs for the joy of being alive and outdoors moving my muscles. Running and being with my friend was a beautiful joy in itself.

But to not let a pass/fail mentality creep into my efforts, to sit down afterwards and read a new book someone just sent me, curled under a cozy pink blanket, and to embrace the profound luxury of enjoyment being restful and just as valid as my rain-soaked running shoes... this is big for me, really big.


Amanda said...

Lots to think about! Have you read a book called The Happiness Project? I'm reading it now, and one thing the author talks about is learning not to rely on unrelated rewards from other people (like gold stars), but rather to relish the process and reward herself in meaningful ways. A whole new, wonderful way of thinking...

Kimberly said...

Yes! So hard to apply to myself. So hard.

Sara said...

Oh misha, I love this. I've got so much to learn and after 3 months of bed rest feel a little surprise might be in order. :) thanks for sharing and inspiring. And thanks for your prayers for our little family.

Misha Leigh. said...

Amanda - I have heard so much about it but you just tipped me over the edge to get on the list for it from the library! Thank you.

Kimberly - You are not alone! : )

Sara - If anyone I know needs treats right now it's you, sweet lady!!!

Alishia said...

I can't tell you how this sums up something I've been trying to put into words lately. My life is made up of so many things that just need do be done that I try to convince myself that the reward is simply in the doing, completing and caring for all that has been entrusted to me. And it is rewarding to be a good steward (or just a good enough one sometimes) but yet I am not a robot and I need much encouragement--even if I must build it into my day on my own--to continue down the path of faithful doing...the path of holiness and sanctity. It's a lot of work. Good work.

Nikki said...

So much to chew on! I love the way you wrestle with/process/chew on hard questions, and how you write and share these much beauty is in the process, and it's such a refreshing perspective (because it's different than my own).

Misha Leigh. said...

@Alishia - Yes. And I am finding so much worship rise up in me as I find the enjoyment in who He is and not what I have done. It's still scary and hard, though...

@Nikki - Thanks, lady!