I have never known Katie, my oldest friend and near-sister, to be a runner, so when she started running more and more last fall, I just sort of quietly observed, impressed, and didn’t really say much. I know sometimes it can feel like a jinx, to talk too much about a new resolution or interest, and how determined you are. I figured she’d explain it to me at some point.
Gradually she was running more and more. She even ran a 10k on New Year’s Day morning — alone. Her running buddy, a woman in her neighborhood, was sick, but Kate had set her mind to do it, so she went off, driving herself, and did the race and sent me a picture from the end that made my eyes sting.
We have always joked that Katie greets the yearly turnover with the words “It’s a New Year!” — up and awake brightly and sprightly before everyone else, even when we were younger, and everyone was hungover, groaning. Even then Katie had likely fallen asleep before midnight, reading. Mentally preparing for what lay ahead, I thought.
We have always been different that way. Katie loves to plan ahead, down to the very last detail. She likes to imagine the future the way people like me imagine the past…the little details. What clothes will we be wearing, what dinners will we cook? What rugs will adorn our houses 10 years from now? You know, things everyone needs to know NOW. It’s extreme. I’m no better — a pathological non-planner, the other extreme. With an illness, sometimes you stop making plans to avoid disappointment. But when you wake up in the morning and can’t commit to what you’re going to do that day, living in the moment can become paralyzing. Katie and I make a good team because we can meet somewhere in the middle — I can try to pull her back into enjoying the moment, and she can probe me to figure out, what do I really want for the future?
Katie visited me here in Pittsburgh shortly after that 10k, and so we got to talk about the running thing, finally. And I learned something that surprised me. Apparently, she’d always dreaded the New Year… “It’s a New Year!” was an effort to feel good when she didn’t actually feel good. She’s finally realized that for her, the new year starts in September. I think a lot of people can relate to this —I know I can, and it was like a revelation! Because of school, of course. August is slow and swampy and then September is crispy, chillier, brighter. You feel like you want to buy pencils and notebooks and start taking notes! Yes, we’ve been doing it all wrong. She realized that to start on January 1, to try to pick yourself up from an already low point of holiday exhaustion, partying, e-commerce, was like signing up to lose. Why not SET a goal for January 1, so that ON January 1 you are achieving something ? Something that you begin in September, when it feels like the right time to do something like buy new sneakers and hit the pavement, or fill out applications, or start saving.
So that’s what she did. And though the 10k was a challenge on Jan 1, it was more like an achievement. How much better to start 2016 off having already completed a goal, rather than trudging through the first day of your journey towards one.
I loved this point of view. This mentality flip was right up my alley. She told it to me while she was giving me a leg massage — my legs ache terribly and she is better than a certified masseuse. She told me about running and thinking of me and repeating a thought in her head about me to keep her going. She said she knew it was cheesy, but it made us both cry anyway. I think there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing someone actively make a change in themselves, quietly and sincerely. I thought how cool it was that I could inspire her to run, but that little did she know, this running of hers would inspire me. I have been worried about after transplant — I’ve never been someone who likes to exercise because it requires routine, something I struggle with. Yet I know that finding a rigorous exercise routine, and sticking to it, will be vital to keeping my new lungs healthy. I’ve secretly worried that I will hate it so much, how will I ever power through? Hearing her explain how she finally did, was so so helpful. It made me feel like if she could do it, I could do it when the time came.
Katie’s next goal is running a half-marathon, in Pittsburgh, for Cystic Fibrosis! It’s in less than 2 months, I am so excited and proud of her, and lucky, really lucky, to have her in my life. I feel like we are always learning from each other, and this year I am going to cast off my hatred of New Year’s Day, and no matter where I am in September, whether its Pittsburgh or Boston, sharpen a pencil, and set a goal.