Of Hypocrisy and Results

"Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike... Our nervous system isn't just fiction, it's part of our physical body, and it can't be forever violated with impunity." -  Dr. Zhivago

I have lately found myself groveling before something I dislike. I have been groveling to the imaginary tyrant of "results."

My central belief in changing my daily life has been: "Do what is good for my body and what happens, happens. Don't focus on 'success'; explore satisfaction." No weight loss goals. No pace goals. Instead, explore levels of effort, observe, enjoy.

This belief was easier to hold when I had not yet seen changes. When I had not become stronger and faster. When I had not competed in races. When people had not begun to notice my changed body and reward me with attention for it.

Seeing "results" entangled me with desire for results. Much like that time I got both legs and an arm twisted in the seaweed at open water swim: after desire comes obsession.

Results are an addictive illusion. They give us something to point to, a way to share our pursuits, a tangible surface to enjoy. They are the sheen on the soap bubble. But results do not prove one lasting thing about us, they aren't a complete picture of our effort, and for god's sake, they don't confer superiority.

A person can observe change in herself. She can see whether specific changes increase or minimize her bliss. She can with choices influence the direction and forcefulness of her change. I've lived that. I know that with change I can have experiences I couldn't previously dream, much less dare.

But "results?" "Success?" Delightful mirages. Cotton candy, incredibly sweet nothing. When not yet possessed, they are fantasy. When gained, they evaporate and must be replaced by new obsessions. And yet they are seductive habits of thought.

Over the past few months, I've been plotting to get faster, charting the trajectory of how many pounds may yet come off, and indulging in guilt for not working with focus to become physically stronger.

This is the sound of groveling: If only. If only. When I get there. When I get there. I have to. I have to.

I can't hold contradictory beliefs without exhibiting hypocritical behavior. And I don't want hypocrisy to become the default. Ever. Because hypocrisy, while part of being human, is a deforming habit.

Hypocrisy is the worst kind of lie. With it, cruelty successfully masquerades as concern, greed as charity, jealousy as interest. Hypocrisy destroys trust. It makes every truth look like a lie. It makes friendship impossible.

So what to do? In the abstract: Be honest and gentle with myself; be unafraid to discover my hypocrisy; keep learning.

And in the concrete: Don't imagine run times. Run. Don't fantasize about being a stronger cyclist. Ride my damn bike. Don't imagine how many pounds should be lost or what my body will look like in two months or whenever. Enjoy the body I'm in, to the fullest, in every way. Drink a lot of water and eat high quality fuel in quantities that keep energy high.

And laugh, hard and often, at guilt.


Anonymous said...

I commend you for not being ignorant of said "hypocrisy." Being obsessed with results is something I witness daily at university. I find, though, that those hard-fought for Bs are so much more satisfying than the easy As. The more effort we put into something, the greater the perceived rewards. I think you've put in the effort, now it's just a matter of letting yourself relish the rewards a bit.

Ann Pai said...

Thanks, CP. That's an interesting analogue - the idea of being graded. Relishing rewards, yeah... learning to return to that place where positive (or negative) vibes flow over me like water in the pool - you can't cling to it, just experience it as it passes.