I’ve been thinking about priorities a lot lately. When things are going along smoothly, and life is good, priorities don’t take center stage. Everything just seems to fall into place in a normal way. But when things get tight …. or tense … or otherwise uncomfortable, priorities seem to hit me in the face. What are mine? What are my priorities, really?
It’s easy for me to say that working out is a priority for me when I have enough money for a personal trainer and a yoga studio. It’s easy to do, and I really enjoy it. But, when money got tight and I had to make some decisions to budget more closely for the next 6 months, things like facials, yoga and personal trainers got cut. Even internet service got cut. So, all of a sudden I’m left on my own. Is working out really a priority? If it is, then it won’t matter if it’s not as convenient or fun to do. If it is, it won’t matter if there’s no one else there egging me on, encouraging me to get out and “get it” even when I don’t want to.
This morning I read a reading in Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates’ book on yoga. He is in recovery from substance abuse, too, and he wrote about a conversation he had when he was about two years sober. A friend asked him what he wanted his life to look like in 25 years. He replied that he’d want to be 27 years sober. She assured him that if staying sober remained a priority for him, he probably would be. He went on to say that he remembered being astounded at the stories of homeless drunks who drank all day, every day before they got sober. Where did they get the money to buy alcohol? That is why addicts can get substances, ruin their lives and relationships and maybe even eventually die with no desire to get sober. Their SUBSTANCE is their priority. Getting high is the priority. Feeling good is the priority. Priorities are very powerful driving forces in our lives.
Each of us has our own priorities, and mine are no better or worse than yours. Where we set our priorities ultimately defines who we are and who we are to become. I always said that working out was a priority for me, but I would have periods of time where I didn’t do it. I had LONG periods of time where I did not eat right. I’d abuse my body with food. All the while, I’d be saying eating healthfully was a priority for me but I just couldn’t keep on the straight and narrow. I was jolted into awareness one day when I read a passage in one of the many hundreds of books I’ve read on taking care of my life. It said that if something is a priority, I will do it. If I say eating healthfully is a priority, but I rarely do it, then it’s really not a priority. I may WANT it to be a priority, but it’s not. What I realized is that feeling good was my priority. So, when I ate sugar because I didn’t want to feel sad or lonely or bored or stressed, I was going for the feeling good thing. It took a long time for me to realize that to really feel good, I needed to eat better. I needed to quit drinking. I needed to go to bed and get enough sleep. I needed to cut out caffeine. The short-term fixes did nothing for my long-term well-being.
My contract with Jessica (my personal trainer) ended about the time I went out of town. I’ve remained active, but it’s been hiking and kayaking and walking my dog. I’m now back to the grind which tends to take up a lot of time. This is where knowing my priorities becomes important. Is it really a priority for me to work out with weights and run? If it is, I need to find a solution. If it’s not, then time will tell. Ultimately, it is my action that determines my priority. So, this morning I got out my women’s strength-training book and my Jeff Galloway books on training for running, and I planned my workouts for the next two weeks. The fact that I took almost 45 minutes of my time this morning doing that is a step in making my fitness a priority. The next step will be doing it day in and day out.
Last night I went to the gym for a class. I met Coach Murphy, a local football coach turned personal trainer who is 76 years old. I was immediately drawn to his enthusiasm and high energy as he taught our class of 16 wannabe athletes. I really wanted to make a connection with him, so I asked him if he knew my Dad after class since they were both in the sports industry in Baton Rouge at the same time. Of course, he did, and we started talking about writing. He got interested in the 6-man football team history in this area and was so interested in it, he just self-published a book about its heyday. He went around the state interviewing, videotaping and making notes on former cheerleaders, players and fans. He shared some tips on writing and how he got started. I left my workout feeling really good … not because of the workout so much but because I met somebody that was a great role model on how I could feel at 76 if I made myself a priority. The light in his eyes is something I want 25 years from now. I suppose if I keep making that a priority, I will have it when I get there.