Stephen Fry’s an English actor, screenwriter, author, playwright, journalist, poet, comedian, television presenter, film director and board member of Norwich City Football Club. He’s 55 years old, and I heard that he once talked about publishing a self-help book.
“[…] ‘How To Be Happy by Stephen Fry : Guaranteed success’. And people buy this huge book and it’s all blank pages, and the first page would just say – ‘ Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself – And you will be happy ‘. Use the rest of the book to write down your interesting thoughts and drawings, and that’s what the book would be, and it would be true.”
I first came across this quote illustrated in a zen pencils comic some time ago and it has taken me until RIGHT now to realize something about that comic. I believe Mr. Fry’s right when he says that it’s “bloody hard” not to feel sorry for ourselves. Hell, I feel sorry for myself, and I think a lot of other people do too (in at least one way or another). However, it took me until today to realize where in that comic the man stopped feeling sorry for himself. I thought it was when a face of resolution had spread across his face and he threw away that anchor; I thought it was when he suited up and opened the door, facing the unforgiving light of the world. I was wrong. The point at which he stops feeling sorry for himself isn’t depicted. The moment in which we stop feeling sorry for ourselves really isn’t a moment at all but a process. That guy is going to feel less and less sorry for himself with each successful run he has. He’s going to feel less and less sorry for himself when he reflects on his progress only having suffered that far, realizing that nothing really separates who the person is today from the person he was then is determination and persistence. He’s going to see his achievements as his own, “this is what I did.” At some point, he’s going to sit down and it won’t be a revelation. It’ll be a fact that doesn’t surprise him or shock him. He may not even make that connection to his past when it happens: he’ll probably be sipping a cup of OJ in morning while reading the daily newspaper after his morning run when he reads an article about someone who feels sorry for themselves. In that moment, he’ll acknowledge that he doesn’t feel sorry for HIMSELF, and he’ll just move on as the thought comes and goes, fleeting as it is. He has other things to do, things that he couldn’t do if he was too busy feeling sorry for himself.
So now, I feel my legs. I feel the spot above my knees, where bruises will probably form. I feel my ankles and my toes, multiple abrasions, soreness though functional. I feel my calves and my right lower flank, soreness and tenderness. I feel the tops of my hands and my wrists, pain. I feel my back, my neck, and shoulders, tight. I feel stuffy because my sinuses are shot. I feel tired, drowsy, and probably dehydrated. Today I ran the Tough Mudder and finished. I ran 11 or so miles in just under two hours, starting off as an individual but finding someone else to run with. He helped me and I helped him through. Today my wave was second, 0820 in Mesa at the end of February. It was cold. I passed A LOT of people from the first wave, having only 6 people from my own wave passing me. It was not a race but a challenge. I took that challenge and ran. I ran it into the ground. And I am bruised, cut, and sore because of it. It’s difficult to move much and it’s stressful to try to walk around. My brain knows what it’s doing and isn’t sympathizing with my body. It’s a weird push and pull but that’s my life right now. Today, I thought that after I had taken out my contacts, the second day having them, I’d take my air bed out from the garage to air out and put it on the floor and sleep on it for the first time. I figured I’d rest my body.
Have I felt sorry for myself when it came to the Tough Mudder? No, absolutely not. I’ve accomplished so much, and this moment merely signifies the progress I’ve made in my life. But what makes what Stephen Fry said so significant in this moment is: I still have work to do. I still feel sorry for myself in other aspects. I will rest, I will respect my body, but I will stay focused. I will live, breathe, and then I will work (hopefully continuing to do the former well enough). Initiative is habit, just as excellence is.
This may not be one of my better pieces but I didn’t want to break my plan of daily updates for at least two weeks if I could help it. If there’s something to learn from this experience, putting this up on the net, it’s prepare other pieces in advance (maybe not with the purpose of satisfying a quota). With age, they can potentially get better. I may not decide to ever publish them but if an opportunity arises, why not. Lately, I’ve been saving my writing a bit merely for this blog, so I don’t do much else with writing on the side. I need to stop that.