Dictionary Challenge Weeks 43-44: If You’re Thinking of Quitting

A change happens when you can see the end in sight. You stand a little taller as the burden lessens and the sun shines a little brighter – well, that’s probably just because the winter solstice has come and gone – either way, you can finally, after all those miles, see the finish line. In a way, it’s a bit of a tease because that checkered flag is still just a dot on the horizon. Except now it finally feels attainable. Which is something it had never been before even though you’ve been doing the leg work for so long.

You may not have even had the confidence that you could do it – I didn’t – but you waded in, blind, one step at a time – one page at a time – and felt the surety of failure, felt the impossibility of the task before you as you began. And for some unknown reason you kept going. For every setback, you worked harder. For every sacrifice, you kept at it. For every day that passed, you became more than you were the day before. The hardest challenges are the ones that take a long time. They’re the ones that you have to commit to seeing through to the end even when you don’t see the results, even when it feels like you’re failing, even when it seems pointless. Because the results will come, the wins will accumulate, and it won’t seem pointless anymore.

The time will passSo many times it’s easy to fall behind or slip-up and think that it’s all over. But you shouldn’t do that. You should not demand absolute perfection. It’s not realistic and it will stop you from getting where you want to go. You’re allowed to make mistakes so long as you don’t quit. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading the dictionary or getting into shape or becoming a vegetarian. No one makes the rules but you. So live the life you want. Take on something big and see it through. You’ll fail a lot along the way, you will be discouraged, you will think you don’t have what it takes.

But you do.

Finishing the race isn’t the hardest part. The hardest part is continuing when all you want to do is quit. The hardest part is suffering a setback and showing up the very next day, the very next instant, the very next chance you get. The hardest part has always been and will always be what you do to keep moving forward when it seems like everything else is going backwards.

So show up. Show up every day. And if one day you don’t – make damn sure you show up the next day.

I have 8 weeks left in my year-long race. 8 weeks and 275 pages to go. I am still behind by 10 pages, but today is the first day that I felt like I’m going to win. 310 days is a long time to feel like a failure, but the tides are turning. The tides are turning indeed.

And when they do, I will be a giant.

Well, feel like one anyways.

Weeks 43-44 Stats

Starting Word: side arm                                 Ending Word: streetwise

Total Pages: 1540/1815                                  Ahead/Behind: -10

Dictionary Challenge Weeks 28-29: Halfway Check-in of the Vitals

DictionaryReading the dictionary is like trying to get fit after you’ve let junk food annihilate your existence. You hit the gym and you watch the miles build, you count the reps, the crunches, the calories, and you’re giving so much but that damned scale barely budges. But you do it, week after week, and then one day you realize you’ve lost 10 pounds of excess weight. But that’s not where you quit, because you’re not done yet. You haven’t reached your goal. So you keep going, week following week following week following week following week following week….

Your entire existence has been redefined by the effort you’re putting forth. You’re tired. But you can’t quit. You’ve come so far and even though that counts for something, you know what you set out to do. So even though your muscles are aching you wake up and you begin again.

And while this is required, perhaps even admirable, there is still a cynical exhaustion that comes with it.

You see, in a way, the dictionary haunts me. The bookmarkbookmark I use was something my significant other had made me a few years ago. It was charming, once upon a time – an indication of sweet romance. But now, the meaning has become much more literal… in an unfortunate way. Every morning I find the place I had left off reading from and every night I place the bookmark as I close The Behemoth for a night’s rest. And there’s that book mark reminding me that tomorrow is going to be the same. Every morning. Every night. Every morning. Every night. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

You’d think I’d just use a different bookmark wouldn’t you?

Nope.

I am just over half way and sometimes I look at the braid of my bookmark sticking out from between the pages and I feel, well, a bit more than a little stupid for ever taking this on. But other times I look at it and feel like I’m accomplishing something great. That’s how it goes with anything. When you put your effort towards something and it demands so much from you – you’re proud. Even if it’s something as peculiar as reading the dictionary.

I had a conversation the other day with a friend and she said I should make my next challenge to NOT do a single challenge for a year. Sounds easy right? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t do it. Because working towards something – whether it’s perhaps more practical like running a marathon or writing a novel – it gives you a sense of purpose; it’s rewarding. And that’s something we all need. It goes beyond work and relationships and family. This is that extra thing you do that’s all yours.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Or that you’re not going to want to quit. Or that you might feel genuine hate for what you’re doing at times. But to persevere, to conquer the giant, to slay the dragon… well that feeling trumps it all. And it feels pretty damn good.

Alas, I am not there yet. This giant – The Behemoth – is still requiring much more slaying.

I usually do a halfway point check in with each challenge and though I’m now past that, I’m still going to do a belated check-in of the vitals:

Mentally I’m exhausted. This is due to the fact that I fell so far behind at the get-go that I now, each week, usually try to double the required reading. Over the past few weeks I have also had what I’m calling a “pre-headache.” It’s not an actual headache, but my head hurts and feels like it could develop into a full-blown headache.

Emotionally I’m a roller coaster. Sometimes I’m feeling bad ass, crushing page after page. Other times doubt creeps in as I wonder just what the hell I’m doing and I feel like a freak for spending so much time doing this. But then I read an awesome word I didn’t know or learn a historical fact and all is swell.

Physically… I’m a train wreck. I mean, other than toting this nearly 5 pounds of definitions around everywhere I go, I don’t have time for regular exercise. I play sports a couple times a week, ride my bike to work, and go on an occasional hike, but my poor dumbbells from the Chin Up Challenge have unfortunately been much neglected. I had also taken up drinking coffee for the past 4 months (though I just quit this past Monday) to keep me going.

I don’t know what category this fits under… but I am also now acutely aware of paper density. The dictionary has very thin pages.

Overall, this is a surprisingly demanding challenge thus far (and let’s be real – will probably only feel more demanding the closer to finished I get) but, like I said above… I can’t quit. I wanted to do this and now I’m going to see it through to the end. Learning things I didn’t know before, especially words, is really awesome. It also makes me want to read the Encyclopedia. But that’s a whole other beast I’m not actually considering… yet. I’ve learned a lot from the dictionary and would with the Encyclopedia even more so. Plus, that would be a much easier read.

Now, I’m full of little tidbits and facts that come popping up in every day conversation. It’s gotten to the point that whenever I diverge some random piece of information, my significant other asks just one word, “dictionary?” To which the answer is yes about 95% of the time.

To sum it all up: yeah, wanting to read the dictionary is weird… but also awesome.

Now, because I know you’d all rather have read about the last two weeks of interesting words, I won’t completely short change you on this post: The second sense of the word mad money is “emergency cash carried by a woman on a date for bus fare if needed.” If needed. Hmmm. Now I wonder what kind of situation that would be…

Week 28/29 Stats:

Starting Word: lotus-eater                     Ending Word: Maryland

Total Pages: 949/1815                            Ahead/Behind: -76 pages

Today I Failed

IMG_0630The Chin-Up Challenge Post Show

I have grown stronger, but I have not grown strong enough. I set out three months ago to do 10 chin-ups. Very quickly I realized this was a lofty goal and though I didn’t change it, I knew that if I could manage to do 1 chin-up, I would be happy with that even though it would still mean the failure of this challenge. This is the closest I have ever been to doing a chin-up, but I still did not do a single one.

Today I failed.

Those who have followed along won’t be surprised by this. Some might be: you might have thought I was improbably going to pull this off; you might have rooted for me; you might have seen a fellow underdog make an attempt at something; you might have even seen yourself in me about that one thing you want but have been too scared to try and have. I set the bar high and I went for it.

Today I failed.

This is the first challenge that I have failed and it’s important. It’s important because it’s easy to set goals that don’t push you or make you try harder than you have ever tried before. If you don’t fail – if you don’t fail ever – then you aren’t trying; you’re coasting. There may be nothing wrong with coasting, letting the status quo take you through your life, but if you want something more, if you want to be more, to accomplish more then you have to fail. Nobody likes this idea, but it’s true. If you keep coasting you will never know what you are capable of. There is greatness in you, but it’s up to you to find it. Whatever that may be.

Today I failed.

No one likes to fail and I am certainly no different. I don’t like being told I am not good enough, but I can accept that at this moment in time about this particular challenge I am not good enough. Perhaps I never will be, but perhaps, one day I will. That is entirely up to me. When you fail, it’s life asking you if you have what it takes to try again. It’s asking you do you care enough to try again? Are you strong of heart? And if that answer is no, so be it. That’s where you settle. That’s where you begin to coast. The thing about coasting is that you will always, eventually, come to a stop. It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to say this is the way it is. It’s easy to point to any number of obstacles and say it’s too hard.

Today I failed.

There are many reasons why – some are excuses, some are fact, and some are interpretations of commitment, dedication, and perseverance. But none of them matter. What matters is what comes next. When you go after something and you don’t get it, it’s not the end unless you let it be. You have to ask yourself, is this it? Do I quit? And I hope, whether it’s a trembling, uncertain whisper or a resounding NO, that you do not accept that it’s game over. Every time you fail and pick yourself up again, you are becoming someone who is more powerful than you were before. Don’t let disappointment or frustration make you forget that.

Today I failed.

Tomorrow I may fail again.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

Chin Up Champ Wannabe     IMG_0630

^ Day 1                                                                                         ^ Day 94

 

 

 

 

 

Raw Day 23: A Dining Hobbit

Breakfast: ½ cantaloupe

Lunch: Smoothie – 2 bananas, 10 strawberries, 1 c. frozen fruit

Mid-Afternoon: 1 apple

Pre-Supper: 14 sun-dried tomatoes

Supper: ½ cucumber, 1 okra; smoothie – 3 frozen bananas

Just look at that line-up. I’m only a second breakfast away from being a hobbit.

I felt great again today. There were no hunger issues and I was in high spirits most of the day. I’m even starting to notice increased energy outside of sports and don’t feel like power-crushing series on Netflix every night (although, that will change February 27th with a full-out House of Cards marathon!)

The increased energy is great since I have to spend half my time in the kitchen now. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but still. If you’re going to give raw a shot, just know that some things are quick – like eating a banana. Just peel and go. Everything else takes time. A simple salad is washing, slicing, dicing, mixing, chopping, food processing, forking, chewing, swallowing… There is no just throw some pasta in a pot of boiling water and open a can of sauce. You have to do it all yourself. Including the dressing. Sometimes I just want food now, but there have also been just as many days where I have completely enjoyed the process of preparing my food.

In a way, that’s kind of spectacular. It takes things back to the beginning when good, healthy food and sustenance was the priority for everyone and brings you closer to your food and respecting it. Sure, it sounds weird, but I would definitely say I do respect my food more since going raw. It’s also much more amazing what I can come up with than what I did before. You spend time with your food. You appreciate the perfect mango – juicy, orange-ish, not too firm, not too soft; you cherish the ripened tomato that hasn’t crossed over to the other side; you sing sweet hallelujah when your romaine leaves don’t wilt and blacken as you take them into the frozen air to carry them home. Oh yes, food matters so much more than it did before.

This might be the first post where I sound like a real raw foodist. Except that I’m still planning on a chicken chow mein feast when the buzzer goes…