Six Days to the 5K: Why Try?

In six days, runners/walkers/limpers/crawlers from all over the world (honestly!  that’s not patented Cari hyperbole) will be participating in the first ever Catholic Exchange Virtual 5K.

Are you one of them?  Are you psyched?  Are you fit and toned and raring to go?

Yeah.  Me neither.  In fact, I haven’t run in over a week.  No workout tapes, no slow shuffles to the park- shoot, nothing.  In fact, other than a desperate speedwalk through the New Haven station to catch a train, I haven’t done thing one to improve my physical health.

But that’s ok.  Want to know why?

(Just say “yes”, because I’m going to tell you anyway.)

It’s ok because of something my priest told me in Confession last week.  And while I did not confess my dismal failure in the diet and exercise department, his council is still applicable.

After confessing the usual (honest to God, gossip?  Still?  You’d think I’d have rooted that one out by now if for no other reason than I’m so so tired of having to keep confessing it), Father says to me, “You know, sometimes it’s very easy to let our sins become anchors in our spiritual journey, weighing us down so much that we can’t progress forward.”  

Man, those priests are smart.  He was right, of course.  All these sins I carry around and confess and repeat and confess and repeat, ad infinitum, do often weigh me down.  I come out of the confessional feeling shiny and new, like I’ve lost the spiritual equivalent of two dress sizes.  Then, usually within 48 hours (50, if I manage to stay away from Facebook and email), I’ve gone on a sin-binge, and find myself full of self-loathing and pity.  The sins are anchors chained to my soul, and there will be no advancing in holiness because I’ve got myself some serious woe is me-ing to do.

Father’s suggestion to remedy this was embarrassing and painful and immediately labeled by me as “stupid”.

“Name some good things you’ve done this week,”  Father said.  Inwardly I groaned.  I wanted hair shirts and fasting, not pep talks.  But the request was a reasonable one, so I stifled a sigh and hesitantly mentioned the fact that I’d managed to feed my family all week, educate them, read to them (once or twice), and clean up after them.  From behind the screen, I could see the priest’s head nodding in approval.  He pointed out that these were all not only good things, but they were Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy.

Then he told me my penance was to continue focusing on the good that I do.  Which is the worst kind of penance for me, but what can you do?

So when I looked at my calendar the other day, and realized how quickly the 5K was coming, and how little I’d done to prepare for it, my immediate response was to launch myself into a shame-spiral.  I haven’t been working out.  I’m a failure.  The world is going to end because I’m lazy.  Why try?

Then I remember Father’s words, and I remember the anchor.  And I remember that we were created to have bodies and souls and the two interact with and influence each other by design. If I’m to strive growing in holiness despite my sinful nature, then I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to think that I should strive toward a healthy lifestyle despite my gluttony and sloth.

So even though I am not as fit and toned as I expected myself to be when I first proposed this run, I’m still raring to go.  Because right now is a new moment.  Right now I can decide to focus on the good things I’ve done, and with firm resolve attempt to move forward.  Three-point-one miles forward.  And I’m excited about it.  Because at the end of it, I will print up my fabulous graphic, tape it to a t-shirt and take a goofy picture of me in it.

I hope you will, too.

(and send me the picture, so I can include it in my post-race article here next week).

Anchors away!!

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Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a website for her farm, Ghost Fawn Homestead.

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