When my kids remember my first triathlon, they’ll likely think of an early morning, cinnamon rolls on a shady patch of grass, the excitement of watching me cross the finish line, stinky and glistening and grinning from ear to ear. They’ll remember that I got a medal for finishing and it was heavy and shiny, and they each got a turn to wear it.
What they won’t remember, at least consciously, is what it took to get me to that moment. The reason they won’t remember everything that lead up to that moment is because those things were small--infinitesimal, actually. They were tiny drops in a bucket of becoming, in a Bucket of Awesome.
Drinking an extra glass of water is not as exciting as jumping out of a lake after a 1/4-mile swim and moving directly into a 14-mile bike race. Filling my plate just a little bit more full of vegetables is not as memorable as dredging up every last bit of strength I have to run hard across the finish line. Getting off my butt and walking up and down the gigantic hill to the library instead of driving is not nearly as dramatic as telling people I’ve lost 50 pounds.
But each of these small choices has led to the big rewards, has gotten me to a place where, though still on the puffy mom-ish side of the triathlete population, I think of myself as an athlete and, glory be, so do my kids. The joy I find in having my kids think of me this way has less to do with wanting them to think I’m cool and more to do with wanting them to absorb some of the healthy habits I’m modeling for them. I want them to feel possible, to feel inspired, when they look at their mom.
For Mother’s Day this year, before my son had ever seen me compete in an athletic event, he was asked to list his mom’s greatest talent. He didn’t say “writing” or “making cookies” or “crocheting weird things out of yarn.” What he said was, “My mom is really good at exercising.”
Am I really good at exercising?
Why? Because I do it. And then sometimes I don’t do it… because it’s hard. But then, and here’s the important part, I always do it again. Because after trying and failing about a million times to get fit, I finally realized that like anything else in my life, my physical health is entirely made up of the tiny choices I make over and over again. I don’t make them perfectly and I don’t make them every minute of every day or even every day of every week, but I give myself permission to be where I am, pick one more Drop of Awesome to add to my week and feel joy in the addition.
One tiny choice to live well can be easy. Then another tiny choice can be easy again. Oops. The next tiny choice might be hard and I biff it. But wait! The next three tiny choices are a piece of cake--imaginary, calorie-free cake.
Motivation to eat well and move well comes from getting in a mental state where I rejoice in my successes and disregard and move on from my small setbacks.