I came across the phrase, "the story I'm telling myself" in Brene Brown's "Rising Strong". She operationalizes it to identify her emotional state during a disconnect with her husband, Steve. It is a powerful, vulnerable, and courageous demonstration. I highly recommend reading her work and watching her share this work so you can employ it in your own life and disentangle emotional messes quicker and more efficiently.
This morning I told myself a story that limited me and kept me from achieving a goal. I'm training for my first marathon. Not only that, I'll be pushing my dad in a running chair. Not only THAT, but we'll be doing it in DisneyWorld! Not ONLY THAT, but it will make up the final scene of the fourth documentary in our award-winning series, Boys of Summer. So...there's a little build up here.
I'm in week six of my training. I do three short runs and one long run a week, extending by 1/2 to a full mile each week on the long run. This morning I mapped out a nine mile run. Crazy as it sounds, I was looking forward to it.
I was not a distance runner growing up - in fact, I hated it. I loved sprints and explosive sports - particularly basketball. My dad, on the other hand, was one of the early adopters of the late 1970's running craze. It was a regular part of his life until Parkinson's took it away. I started to run in my late 30's, needing an exercise that could fit in to my schedule and would push me in new directions. I was surprised to find I liked it. The emotional and psychological sides, in particular, appealed to me. I found the runner's high / "flow" fairly quickly.
So I'm out on this 9-mile run and I'm feeling good. Large portions of it were on a nice trail, so traffic wasn't an issue, which allowed my mind to flow even more freely. I was following a canal and the swift water next to me, busy with ducks, was a welcome partner and guide. The weather was in the mid 60's - perfect. At about mile seven, I was beginning to feel a few nagging hurts. These are just parts of running for me - the constant assessment of what's acceptable pain (leading to growth) and what's injury. The trail was nearing a busy road - which meant a departure from flow as the environment commanded my attention. I didn't look too closely at this part of the map on the computer when I planned the run and it was an area of the trail I'd never been on before. I assumed that the trail must somehow traverse this busy road...but I wasn't sure. The canal I'd been following abandoned me to run under the road (see above).
But the trail diverged up a hill, bending to the left, out of sight. As my right hip was beginning to ache, the thought of running up a hill to what could be a dead end or truly somewhere off course (how far would I keep going to try to find what may or may not exist...?), adding unintended miles to my run, seemed like a bad idea.
The story I was telling myself was, if you run too far too early in your training, you might get hurt. And if you get hurt, you won't be able to run in January. You'll disappoint Team Fox, friends and family who are cheering you on and, most of all, your father. You need to be careful. I looked up at the trail then at the water going under the road. I actually looked to see if I could with the water through the pipe. I decided to head back down the hill and go the safe route.
It nagged at me a bit as I new I was cutting my run just short with this new path. It turned out I ran 8.85 miles. Close enough for hand grenades to my goal of 9 miles and nothing to gripe about in terms of training. But where did that trail I turned away from actually go? I ended up driving back up near the trail on the other side of the road while dropping my daughter off on a play date. I walked it back toward where I stopped and lo and behold, there was a tunnel that went under the busy road. It was tight - an old metal pipe, probably 250 feet long and retrofitted through the hill. It was lined with industrial lights every 25 feet or so.
As I walked through it, I saw just down the hill, where the water ran through the hill - where I had stopped. I was no more than 500 feet from discovering this "secret tunnel". That's where I stopped because of the story I told myself. The point here, for me, is to examine the limits I put on myself because of the stories I tell myself. It doesn't mean I should just throw caution to the wind. It just means that sometimes the pathway through the seemingly impenetrable path on the road to where I need to get is just up the hill and around the corner - closer than the story I'm telling myself might believe.