Ordinary. Quite ordinary
Ordinary people leading ordinary lives. We look for the extraordinary out there to give us a sense of something more than this. But quite often we end up putting our faith in the witless, the feckless, the pointless, believing them to be something more as a result of how we come to be aware of them. Glossy and distant it seems is better than gritty and close to hand. Familiarity breeds contempt? A prophet in his homeland? Or perhaps that people on our level make us think too much about our own part in all this...
Even in the drab ordinariness of it all we plant and nurture the seeds of the very thing that could lead to our own accomplishment of something grand if we would but just point in that direction.
Our ability to confront and endure a job; a relationship; a friendship; a life which by all accounts is manifestly unfair and beneath us should give us a sense of pride. OK, so it is not a fate borne with good grace but while not stoic, it is an endurance that most would not believe to be within their capacity. Is it really endurance if we are merely griping and not changing anything?
If the #burpeeyear proves to be unusual and any kind of achievement, it is only because I have not chosen to get off the path. That's all. There are many, many others out there who can do them faster, higher, more explosively, with more grace, less rest but most have too much imagination, mental free spirit and other things going on to turn up day in, day out and stick to the grind. They find themselves too distracted to adopt what Fiennes and Stroud dubbed (in a much, much more impressive scaled venture!) a "polar plod".
Provided we don't notice the effort required to keep that going, we are all of us capable of greatness. It is after all, the point of training, induction, indoctrination, to remove as much of the active brain as possible between the stimulus and the response, or as TS Eliot put it
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the shadow
So long as that shadow is a wispy cloud drifting in front of the sun on a Summer's day, we can carry on. Or, if like Autumn and Winter in the UK, we find ourselves getting used to the grey drab, we can, and do just continue.
"It's amazing what you can get used to" quoth the random punter on the 07:00 out of Bristol Temple Meads. And he's right of course. But, that cuts both ways. Our ability as a species to adapt and familiarize can be good and bad. Not convinced that we can all get used to unpleasantness? Think, if you will, about air travel. Whether it is a 1-hour hop or an 18 hour long-haul, we jump in a metal tube with a couple of hundred others and all go through the same compression/decompression. And everybody, and I mean everybody, erm, how can I put this politely?...offgases. And the air is recycled and so effectively we spend the duration of the flight exhaling and inhaling other people's fart-gas...all without complaint and barely a twitch of the nostril. Think it can't be so bad as a;; that? Ask the poor ground-crew who pop the hatch and have to stand well clear! That's the power of habituation folks!
Not appreciating the fart references [for shame!], swap out the imagery and the trumpy plane for the person who gives every impression that they have marinated in perfume/cologne. At first the fragrant miasma assaults our senses but in short order it is barely noticeable, to the point where the next new person might ask, much to your surprise, how you can bear it. As an aside tolerance and adoption of corporate incompetence/malfeasance follow a similar path...although it is less challenging to your mental health to call somebody on their odour than challenge the direction of a business!
It isn't all about colossal challenges or fart-gas though. Where we find ourselves today, wherever that may be, is a consequence of so many foot-falls. One after the other. very few in dramatic circumstances but all of the leading, incrementally to here. Just turning up is not half the battle, although it does give you an edge over the person who doesn't show. We need to progress beyond the point where turning up is a choice. Like we do with work. The difference, at least for most, is that we then invest the energy we save by not wrestling with the "will I, won't I?" debate and investing it in improving the mechanics of what we do next.
The journey out of, or in to the light is actually less of a journey and more of a spread, like water rolling outwards from melting ice. Or the gathering gloom of collecting shadows.
I was talking to a friend the other day about fighters, how they need people they trust in their corner to save them from themselves and how most people will never understand what it is like to dedicate themselves to a goal for eight weeks. It is a good point. I don't! I can begin to imagine but I'll not understand.
I completed the 100-day burpee ladder in January (just over 14 weeks) and am, at this point, 214 days, 31 weeks into the burpee year. But still I don't understand! I have not left my family for the duration. I have not had to build my whole day around it. Some days have felt a bit like that! But I haven't focused sleep, nutrition, naps, several different training sessions per day, stretching and mobilisation, all with one goal in mind. Day in, day out. [Expand this outwards for the boys and girls on Olympic training cycles. Four years... and what do you do when it is over?].
I have made choices around all of those things, but they have been usually been more a question of weighing up time and other resource against result rather than every choice under one overarching objective. As an amateur, even a serious one, I have other things in my life. Competing interests to be sure but I cannot and should not lose sight of the whole of the picture. I can, and should, give everything I have to the activity of the moment, to the current role, but when it passes I must do something else. I am not what I do. Sure, it informs and becomes a strand within the rope of my life but, controversially, there is more to my life than burpees! [Shock horror!] Of course, this starts to sound a lot like balance! But that's not how it works. Alain de Botton is right, "there is no such thing as work-life balance. Every thing worth fighting for unbalances your life".
I may be more interested in burpees than many (and certainly rather more interested in them than is healthy) but, when push comes to shove, they will come second to a few other things in my life. For all my faults (and there many), there are these one or two ideas that I hold very close to my heart and will push back if those are squeezed. Why? That's my business. Do you know what yours are? What's important to you and will you know when they are pushed?
This has been another one of my meanders I'm afraid but I guess, what it boils down to is this... good or bad, directed or not, we all can and do bear so much. Despite what the self-help books will say, that is neither good nor bad. We just do. The value judgement attached to it should be our own, based on a judgement, not merely a happenstance. Then we know and can drive ourselves on, if we want to. One foot, one move at a time. Incremental progress in whichever direction we're facing. For me, for now, that is burpees.