"The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well I have really good days."
-Ray Wylie Hubbard, "Mother Blues"
I've come to expect quite a lot from myself.
With a passing interest in just about every hobby on Earth, I find that I have little time to spend on any of them in particular. I've got my books and my guitars and my video games and my exercise equipment, and if I wanted to spend an hour each week on all the things that compete for my attention, I'd need about 60 more hours to get it all in. Yet somehow, each time I return to whatever long-forgotten pastime I've rediscovered in a box somewhere, I expect to have a level of skill far outstripping the time that I've spent.
Truthfully, my best course of action would be to completely drop some of those Renaissance Man goals of mine. There are simply not enough hours in the day for me to become a world-class guitarist while simultaneously producing the movies that I've written, publishing a novel, learning to speak several languages, acting in one show, directing another, dominating the entire world in whatever the newest and most exciting game on the planet happens to be, qualifying for the Olympic marathon and perfecting a recipe for black forest cake. Something's got to go if I truly want to take something else to the next level.
Still, I find that I do not want to give anything up. I would rather be a mediocre guitar player than not play at all. And while the world may never see anything that I've written other than a simply little running blog, it's fun to create a world and play inside it. The real solution here is not to abandon anything, but to manage my expectations of my level of ability.
My favorite expression of this idea came from a completely random song that I heard on the radio the other night, and I have quoted it above (to the best of my recollection). Granted, Mr. Hubbard was talking about his mixed-up life involving a gold-top Les Paul and his stripper girlfriend, but even from our vastly differing experiences, we seem to have come to the same basic place. When you can be grateful for where you are, you don't have to worry about where you might have been.
The one exception I will allow myself is in running, because I know that I can do better. It is the only thing (outside of work), to which I have devoted myself day in and day out for any length of time, and I can feel myself getting stronger. I still need to manage my expectations, but I feel that I can shoot a little higher. During my run in the heat today, I was thinking about my Marine Corps Marathon, when I barely ran any miles in the final stages of preparation for the race. I got to that starting line completely convinced of my impending failure, and I proved myself right.
In Washington, the last couple weeks before the race were filled with stress and emotion completely unrelated to the race itself. Though I had an amazing performance, I could not finish, because deep down, I did not honestly believe I was ready. I expected to crash, and crash I did.
Not this time. This time, I am ready. I have done the miles, and I have worked the speed. I honestly expect to succeed this time around. Yes, I'll be grateful just to finish and to add that line in my ledger, but I will not be satisfied with anything less than what I have trained to do. What the 850 miles I've run this year have all been driving toward. I expect to qualify, and as far as I'm concerned, there is not other option.
I should write a novel about that.