Fidget, Distract, Focus, Repeat

May 31, 2016

SpainTrail_c-PaulLieto

I’m staring at a blank white screen, watching a blue cursor blink on, then off. Interestingly it follows my heart rate, or my heart beat has fallen instep to the cadence of this blue vertical line:  56 beats-per-second. I know this because I’m procrastinating and observing oddities that’ll keep my mind from focusing on this rising self-induced anxiety. It seems I’m fairly relaxed, however, despite feeling the looming deadline as if it’s taken a ghostly form and sits in the shadows of this dimly lit office watching me fidget, distract, focus, repeat. I’m a few days out from needing to have this white space filled with an introductory piece that’s interesting and relevant for you, the reader and athlete; with a more personal goal of it being enlightening. Enlightening, seriously? Right now I’d be satisfied with interesting enough, and somewhat relevant. I can’t complain though, this is the choice I made. I chose to pursue the dreams of a child; starting in my mid-forties.

When I was young I dreamed of being a writer and photographer. Specifically, I had aspirations to be a novelist, or photojournalist for National Geographic. I didn’t devour books back then as I do now, and I can’t speak to any specific prolific photographic influences, other than a fading memory of black and white photography being an abandoned hobby of my father’s. I also can’t recollect having been encouraged to read, or introduced to much of the literature that peaks my interest today. My mother read, but it was a quiet, somewhat hidden passion. She had old hard back books lying around. I enjoyed holding them in my hands, carefully opening and turning the heavy, worn, stiff pages. I liked the feel of books, the tactile element, and similarly magazines. I’m still drawn to the print medium because of those experiences, and perhaps there lies the source of my desire to write. I go the library and bookstore no less than twice a week, and flip through books and magazines; different sizes, textures, colors, weight, and feel. There’s a sense of craftsmanship and accomplishment with the finished form. I wanted to be a part of that craftsmanship then, and still do to this day.

As an athlete I had similar aspirations of greatness. My bedroom wall had clippings cut from the pages of Sports Illustrated; Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, and briefly Arnold Schwarzenegger. The clippings of Cheryl Tiegs in a fishnet bathing suit were filed in an index card box under the bed. Did the blinking blue cursor just quicken its pace? Fidget, distract, focus…

Entering high school at a buck-o-five and 4’11” I was relegated to the cross country “B” team; football and basketball weren’t in the cards. Frankly, I sucked at cross country, but that was my introduction into endurance sports, which I continued with a few intermissions for the next thirty years. The first significant purchase feeding my endurance passion was after entering college. I purchased a Centurion Ironman Dave Scott edition bicycle. She was a beauty; sported slim tubing, a yellow and white paint job with the Ironman logo on the top tube, and Shimano shifters oh-so-aero on the down tube, plus stealth straps with buckles on the pedals, keeping me and my converse sneakers well secured. I rode the Centurion off-and-on throughout my latter years at Fresno State. Mostly on my own, it goes without saying that wearing spandex in the early nineties in the middle of farm country wasn’t popular. I took up swimming and some running, but it wasn’t until several years later that I actually competed in my first triathlon.

Unfortunately, good intentions are rarely enough when faced with the realities of the world. I didn’t possess the resiliency as a young adult to stick to a path of uncertainty on the creative front. I was convinced life required practicality, and that meant follow the money. While this practical, pay-the-bills route eventually led me into online publishing, I abandoned writing except for sporadic journaling and the occasional birthday card poem. To pay bills I sold any photography equipment I had lying around, as well as the Dave Scott. I never strayed far from endurance sports, however, and eventually purchased another bike, and then another as the practical route started bearing some financial fruit. I was back to training for triathlons by my mid-twenties and raced Wildflower, Vineman, Boise, and eventually a couple of Ironmans over the next dozen years. I moved away from California during that period, just before I got the Hummer that never saw dirt; and before my neighbors to the left, the Joneses, and my neighbors to the right, also the Joneses, started half-wheeling me on weekend rides. The move to Bend, Oregon in 2003, I’ll call my “Walden” period. I pursued a quiet life; swimming, biking, running, while starting a triathlon website, “gigs” with small local ad agencies, freelancing as a web developer, and managing a performance nutrition company. Over the first ten years in Central Oregon I pretty much did everything to earn a living except write. Mostly a lot of fidget, distract, focus, repeat.

The child’s dream never waned. In the back of my mind was a consistent nagging voice. Not that “stop harassing me” type of nagging, but that gentle reminder from a source you know holds some truth. If you don’t listen to that voice — and respect it — it’ll haunt you, and at some period in your life it’ll bite you hard and force you to pay attention. It did me. Too many years of juggling “practicality” and avoiding that which I truly needed to be doing took it’s toll. The balls dropped to the floor and I was forced to re-evaluate and take stock of my choices, and life. Sometimes we choose a path, commit to a trail, then lose sight of where we’re going. We miss a turn, get lost, and stubbornly we opted not to take a map because we’re insistent we know the right direction. Our egos, coupled with a bit of uncertainty, keep us moving forward, because forward progress is better than stagnation. When we finally recognize and accept we’re on the wrong path, we often convince ourselves it’s too late to turn back. We’re committed, and failure isn’t an option. What we need, rather, is to pause, evaluate, and give ourselves permission to turn around, choose a new direction, and change our minds. Perhaps if we learn to be more comfortable with adaptation during our training adventures, we’ll become more open to recognize and accept necessary changes along life’s journey. At forty-three, I found myself needing to accept change and ironically, back where I was at twenty-three. This time around practicality be damned, I was going to pursue writing and a dream.

A couple short years later and I find myself holding the first issue of RaceCenter magazine as the Editor, and these words I’ve written will hopefully be followed by many more I’ll contribute. By no means do I feel I’ve arrived. We never arrive. For now though I’m on the correct path, and this time around I’ll try to remember to pause, evaluate, and adjust my course when needed. Today I spend most of my time writing, running in the mountains, and continually reinventing myself with the following statement foremost on my mind to guide my decisions:

When I grow up I want to be a writer.

Oh, and a respectable cross country runner. See you on the trails.

 

About the Author

Paul Lieto is the Editor for RaceCenter Northwest. He lives in Bend where he writes, runs trails, and drinks far too much coffee. Follow Paul at madebravely.com and @madebravely on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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