Why I'm getting rid of goals

Spoiler alert: it's anxiety!!!

Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links.

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Last Wednesday, I attended my first in-person group fitness class since March 2020.

During the pandemic, I actually worked out more than ever, thanks to a dearth of other options and a newly discovered YouTube idol. But after spending 15 months lifting the same three sets of dumbbells in my guest room, I was ready for a change. And I got one—as a newly reinstated member of the YMCA, I now have access to my beloved kettlebell class, plus a weight room, a yoga studio, spin classes, a sauna, and a pool. I once again have choices, and wow it’s already stressing me out!

Don’t get me wrong—choices are great and I’m grateful for them. It’s just that I don’t know if I should go to spin or boot camp, lift weights or swim laps, belly up to the barre or bend and breathe in yoga. I don’t know where to direct my attention, and if I can’t direct my attention, I can’t set a goal, and if I don’t have a goal, then what is the point of doing anything? Am I supposed to exercise simply because I like it and it’s good for me? Impossible!!!

Years ago, after my tiny Texas roller derby league broke up, I started running. But I couldn’t just run aimlessly (the horror!) so I decided to follow the Couch-to-5K plan. When I achieved that goal, I followed a half marathon plan. After checking that box, I ran two marathons. For years running was my main form of exercise, and I always had a race on the horizon. A training plan. A clear goal. A finish line. 

Then, two years ago, I sprained my ankle and essentially ended my mediocre running career. (My dedication was impressive; my speed, not so much.) I turned to weight lifting as a low-impact way to stay in shape, and quickly fell in love. How amazing to feel myself growing stronger, to master new lifts, to admire my shoulders every time I passed a mirror!

But then my mind started to spiral. I like lifting weights. What next? Should I become a powerlifter? Should I join CrossFit and enter a competition? Should I measure the circumference of my biceps and attempt to increase them? What is the plan, where is the roadmap? What is my goal? 

Maybe you’ve noticed that I’m not a very chill person. Instead of relaxing or living in the moment, I’m always thinking about what I’ll do later that day or week or month. I used to view this as proof of my goal-driven personality, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just anxiety. A person should be able to enjoy something as simple as exercise without running a marathon or becoming a bodybuilder. I should be able to move my body for fun, for pleasure. To “find what feels good,” as my BFF Adriene likes to say, and let that be enough.  

It’s a lesson I’m capable of learning, because it’s how I approach writing and art. Yes, I have goals for my projects—word counts, timelines, dreams of a lucrative book deal. But when I’m actually sitting at my desk, I see only the story in front of me. Even when my books don’t sell, I never feel like my time was wasted. I know that the benefits of my creative practice—understanding, appreciation, a sense of purpose—come not from the goal, but the process.

As life continues to open up and we’re faced with all the options that were missing this past year, I’m attempting to set only one goal: do what feels good in the moment, decide what that is when the moment arrives, and don’t worry about whether it fits into some larger plan.

Snack of the Week

I’m still making my way through I Can Cook Vegan, and this week I decided to try my hand at Chocolate Chunk-Rosemary Chocolate Cookies, mostly because it seemed like a fun way to put my tiny garden to work. I’m happy to report that these cookies are AMAZING, like little pillows of chocolate with a subtle note of herbs. I brought them to share with some friends, and they were the perfect accompaniment to the worlds’ best chimichurri. Dinner with friends is one goal I have no qualms about relentlessly pursuing.

Relatable Reads

American Has a Drinking Problem, The Atlantic. I’m always reevaluating my relationship with alcohol, and this article was fascinating but not in the way I expected! It actually made me appreciate the power of alcohol from an evolutionary standpoint AND made me excited to have a drink with friends. 🍻

Why You Might Feel the Urge to Overspend Right Now, Vox. “Our decisions don’t come from formulas, but a mishmash of the feelings, reactions, and mental shortcuts whittled by evolution to keep us alive in the wild, within small tribes, without consideration for targeted Instagram ads for peep-toe espadrilles.” I love a budget, but even mine has been a little out of control lately. This article explains why it’s not my fault—it’s behavioral economics! 💸

The Aesthetics Of Activism: How Instagram Changed Protesting, Refinery29. Having a low barrier of entry can often mean that people don’t go beyond their comfort zone when it comes to participating in social justice movements. And that’s led to, if not tension, at least a desire for people to do more to push the movement further beyond just sharing an Instagram post.” 🌈

Benji is One Down Dog, Texas Monthly. This profile of my favorite canine celebrity is exquisite—equal parts absurd and profound. (I cried while reading it!!!) I can’t wait to see Benji later when I roll out my yoga mat. 🌵

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