I like to exercise. It makes me feel good. Productive, energetic, confident. The problem is that I
can’t don’t always make time to do it. Some days, I count as exercise carrying groceries from the car to the fridge and squatting down to the floor to read Honey My Bunny for the twelfth time in a row. The longer I go in between runs around the block or visits to the gym, the easier it is to let it go. Instead, I find that I’m much more likely to fill that void with, um, chocolate chip cookie dough. That also makes me feel good. For a few minutes anyway. I understand myself well enough to know that I operate best when I have very specific goals. Like my oldest daughter, I’m a people pleaser and I want to do what is expected of me. If I sign up for a race, then it is expected that I should train and show up and perform. If you need me to fill in at the last minute to be on your relay team running for 24 hours in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I’m your gal. (I still don’t quite know how that happened.) Once I have a goal, I am much more motivated to initiate exercising again. Once I start exercising again, then I love it. Once I love it, I want to do it every day. Until it becomes habit again.
This little project I’ve been doing kind of reminds me of this cycle. Even though I consider myself to be a rather nice person in general, I have not always consciously practiced works of kindness. I say practice because it does take some amount of effort to get outside your own head once in a while. Is it enough to be kind natured? Or does one need to perform an act of kindness to positively impact another person? I consider myself to be somewhat of an athlete, but if I’m not actually exercising regularly, is that really true?
Once upon a time, before I had three young children, I signed up for a triathlon in Hawaii. I had a twelve-week training guide that I followed religiously. I exercised for hours each day, obediently checking off each task as I went. I raced. My then boyfriend proposed. It was awesome. When I came home, I signed up for lots of races that season. I was never a great triathlete, but I enjoyed that phase of my life. When winter rolled around, I realized that I couldn’t keep up the pace. I had to focus on other things in my life. Exercise took a back seat for a while. When I was on strict bed rest with the twins for 17 weeks, for example, I was barely allowed to lift my own spoon. I would say that now I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I don’t have the means, the time, or the energy to tick off the miles like I used to, so I’ve changed my goals. Now I walk my kids back and forth to school. I enjoy Kettlebells twice a week at the gym. I do push-ups with the baby on my back. I chase the twins on their bikes. In a nutshell, I’ve tried to blend a healthy-ish lifestyle with my actual life.
The same could be said for the whole kindness initiative. Sometimes your desire is to save the world. And by all means, if you can, please do. For the most part, I imagine, we do what we can within the scope of our crazy busy lives. Smile at a stranger, hold the elevator, write that thank you note. It’s not the Ironman, but it is a jog around the block. The small gestures keep you in practice. They keep you trained so you may elevate to the next level when it’s time. Keep it up and maybe you will soon be saving the world after all.
Today was one of those practical training days for me. It didn’t take long, but I made a conscious effort to practice kindness, to maintain a good habit. I paid off someone’s fine at the public library during my lunch break. (I was driving right by. Didn’t even have to go out of my way.) But still, it was good practice.