This Frag Has Been Offered Severance

I’m very close to the end of the surplus frags, y’all. I’ve got one more after this and then you’ll be lucky to see more than one per week. It required perseverance to get through them all.

No, that feels like a lie.

I like the word by definition but my brain hears the severe part of it more dominantly than the rest of it, which makes the word feel harsh and critical. Separated into to words it is even more ominous; we succeed per severe hardships endured. It’s a bit of a trigger.

I like guidance. I don’t like coaching. Persevere feels like pressure. Perseverance feels like something I produce under pressure. Not a fan. It’s not the pressure, though. I don’t like who I am under pressure. I don’t like the way I treat myself under pressure. I’m mean to Me. Even if the end result is some good thing I don’t like being mean to myself to get it.

I’ve written before about a friend who used to compel himself to lose weight by writing FSOS on his hands with a Sharpie. It stood for Fat Sack of Shit. When I think of things I’ve done which required perseverance to accomplish I pick other words to describe the effort. Unless I was mean, harsh, or critical; then I might say I persevered. But if I have to abuse myself to get it there is no joy in the accomplishment. Using my friend’s example, he’d just end up a Thin Sack of Shit. I don’t want it that way.

I trained for my first marathon completely on my own. No running partners, no training group. When people ask me about it my most effective motivator was simply the avoidance of regret. In the training weeks leading up to the race I remember reminding myself that every training mile I was tempted to skip was a mile I was going to regret on race day. I didn’t want to regret anything in November. I wanted to cover the distance comfortably and I didn’t want to feel regret. I wanted to feel other things. I based my decisions about training upon how I wanted to feel months in the future. This is so conspicuously unharsh and non-critical that my conscience doesn’t really jive with claiming that I persevered to train for a marathon. I didn’t. I did run the miles but when it got hard I simply did what was necessary to avoid regret.

Of course, as the years passed and I finished and didn’t finish more marathons, I reconciled with regret. I made friends with regret. I also grew weary of deliberately inflicting unnecessary suffering upon myself in order to feel triumphant. Or worthy. Or accomplished. Or capable. Or free. Or any of the other feelings I believed the finish line brought me. The feelings lasted only as long as the finish line elation and then they faded. In order to get them back I had to train and race again. When doing it for myself wasn’t enough I switched to helping other women do it and then I could feel even better things. Figuring out a better way to feel those feelings slowly replaced this formula over the years. Now I regret torturing myself to chase or earn feelings and beliefs about myself. I came full circle with regret.

As much as I used to crave acceptance and inclusion I can no longer relate to the uber-popular girl running or workout squads who are preoccupied and obsessed with how much hard work they are signing up to do, how much it’s going to suck, how much sacrifice and discipline it’s going to require in order to feel a certain way. It may have taken a decade to figure it out but through some less critical version of perseverance, I finally got it. It just doesn’t have to be so hard, ladies. Chasing unsustainable feelings so we can believe certain things about ourselves creates a condition in which the beliefs are also unsustainable unless we are perpetually enduring the suffering which allows us to earn it.

Performance-based goals are only satisfying as long as we are performing. This feels abusive to me now. I’m no longer willing to perform for anyone, even Myself, in order to prove anything about Me. I don’t have showcase perseverance so you’ll believe certain things about me. I won’t be measured per severe hardships anymore, especially self-inflicted ones. I’ve opted in to the feelings and out of the suffering. I still run miles every week. I still work to maintain muscle strength. But it’s no longer about achievement.  It’s simply about wellness. I’ve mellowed. I’ve become more merciful. This is my antiseverance practice.

— Mercy

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