The art of hitting walls

So, today was a difficult one. It’s one of those days where you wake up and you just feel “off.” You’re tired, hungry, run down and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be so far away that you need a telescope just to catch sight of it.

Today, I began to think about quitting, not me quitting, but rather the process of quitting.

Last week somebody came into the agency that I’d not seen in a good 20 years — maybe more.

“We played soccer together, and basketball too. We may have been in swimming lessons, I think,” he recounted.

I stood there looking a little dumbfounded. I’m hardly in the condition to execute a full-court press at the moment. Nor, had I the stamina of mid-fielder storming the pitch.

At one point in my life I was an active being. You couldn’t tear me away from a basketball court. I was no great shakes. If my local outdoor court was the NBA, I would have been the Bill Laimbeer of that league; big, awkward, but not a total knob.

I got to thinking about why I gave up that lifestyle.

At the age of 17 I performed my first play. It was called Apricot Fishbowl. It was a mix, a potpourri of post-modern drama, and sketch comedy. It was during that show that I realized I wanted to create things; I was a maker.

That April I directed my first show, it was a CODCO play called Cod on a Stick. It featured some of what would become some of this province’s finest creative minds: Jonny Harris, Brad Hodder, Nicole Rousseau, Sara Tilley — just to name a few.

I was hooked. What began that day on April 27, 1994 was nearly two decades of dedication and devotion to a craft that I loved. Do you know what else happened on that day? That day I bought my first pack of cigarettes. Du Maurier Special Mild. King sized.

As I began what would become a very rewarding and fulfilling career in the arts, I brought with me a dangerous confidant. And as my career moved forward, I began to devote the same devotion to cigarettes and eventually fast food, and other sundry items, as I did with the long days and nights on the basketball courts of Cowan Heights.

I hadn’t quit anything. I had replaced one habit with another, and another, and another. And I stayed in the murk and the gloom of that habitual cycle for decades. Fulfilling an exterior image of myself that was not at all accurate or true. It was imposed on me by any number of influencers.

Which brings me back to today. A cardio day with Caitlin. A woman who makes me think twice about doing something foolish like throwing in the towel and not exercising.

And so, at 5:00pm, after a long day of staring at the wall I’d so unceremoniously hit; I got off my ass and I tore it down.

When I first began walking. I would have to stop at least five times around Quidi Vidi because my back would seize up, or I couldn’t catch my breath. That was in December. Just a few short months later I’m now doing circuit training. Not just doing it, I’m killing it. Without abandon.

And it’s hard graft to be sure. And there are days like today when I think, “Jesus, you’ve got to be kidding me, I can’t do this.” But it’s recognizing within yourself that the compulsion that fills you with doubt, is the same compulsion that motivated you to become this unhealthy to begin with. It’s the same voice that tries to fulfill that image that was set out for you. It’s not my own voice. It’s not who I am.

It’s about shifting your gaze onto something more worthwhile. Changing the habit, and replacing it with something that builds, instead of takes away.

It’s about staring at the wall, understanding why it’s there, and then breaking the fucking thing down; brick-by-loathsome-brick.

And then — rebuilding.


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