Healthy Habits: Enjoy the Journey

By Valerie Peralta

The year I turned 41 I completed my first half marathon. I didn’t do it alone. A handful of women I knew from the church I was attending at the time had accomplished the feat previously, so they gathered a bunch of women who wanted to do the same but thought there was no way we could ever run 13.1 miles in a single day, much less a couple of hours. The veteran marathoners broke us into groups by speed and experience and led us through a revised version of the training schedule in The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David A. Whitsett, Forrest A. Dolgener, and Tanjala Mabon Kole to accommodate the fewer miles. Our group leader dubbed us the Obstacle Crushers because whatever had kept us from doing a half marathon up to that point in our lives was likely a self-made obstacle that was not based in reality. (We even ordered shirts with the phrase and an image of a hammer). The day of the race she told us that running the distance that day was just the victory lap because we had already done the work. We had paid a registration fee, risked being scoffed at by our friends and family, completed 18 weeks of training, connected with an accountability partner regularly, and ignored the voice inside that taunted “what if I can’t finish?”

That race paved the way for me to run another half marathon the same year, a handful of sprint triathlons a few years later, and 2,023 miles last year. I admit: Crossing a finish line is one of the best feelings in the world. But my friend was right – with every race or challenge I complete, I learn, accomplish, and have a lot to celebrate along the way.

Last June when I wanted to close my Apple Fitness ring every day of the month, my son joined me on jogs the nights I was tempted to give up, like when it was raining, because he was not about to let me fall short of my goal. While he waited for me to put on my running shoes, he would bellow in a David Goggins-esque baritone as encouragement: “Who’s going to carry the boats?”

Can the idea of enjoying the struggle as I strive to accomplish a seemingly big goal relate to my writing life? Yes, yes it can.

I have not yet experienced the euphoria of publishing a book. Truth is, I’m not even sure that is my writing goal. While I know an important step of accomplishing anything worth doing is to have a clearly defined goal with an actionable plan to achieve it, for now my goal is to write well. And what “writing well” looks like changes the more I write. Even without a clearly defined goal, my writing journey has been punctuated with plenty of beautiful blossoms.

❀ Early in my poetry path, I learned the benefits of a growth mindset over a fixed mindset – and which I leaned toward – in a workshop led by poet Abby E. Murray and art therapist Valli Rebsamen. My mindset and self-talk have not been the same since.

✿ About this time last year, dangerously close to missing my deadline for this column, I wrote my first braided essay thanks to gentle encouragement from Reckon Reviews’ talented and patient Charlotte Hamrick.

❀ Soon after my almost missed R&R deadline, I tackled the weeds of fear that would strangle my words whenever I had to write something by writing every day for three months straight on the website 750 Words. The digital stickers I earned with every entry helped.

✿ I created a better title and ending for the central poem of my yet-to-be-published chapbook during Poetry Foundations’ Forms and Features workshop on revision with Maggie Queeney. Thank you, Maggie.

❀ I joined the #Rejection100 Facebook group and the Rejection Competition, which help turn the painful rejection emails that show up in my email inbox on a random Tuesday or  Friday or even my birthday into something to celebrate.

✿ Writing poetry helps lighten the burden of the heavy emotions I sometimes carry as a result of walking this earth every day, giving me a sense of calm so I can face each new day a little more cheerfully.

Developing my writing skills to the point that I can get my words to look and sound how I want them to increases my ability to use my voice in general, to speak up when I should, and that is fertilizer to my agency.

On Dec. 23, 2023, the Grand Forks Herald ran a front-page story on “social correspondents” that featured Saralee Hoselton, who writes a society column for The Valley News & Views, a weekly newspaper published in Drayton, North Dakota. After writing the column for 40 plus years, Hoselton’s efforts culminated in the Herald article along with her picture. I’m not sure if she ever aspired to such recognition, but she kept writing all those years. I know because she’s my aunt. When I was a teenager some of my family members and I would tease each other that we shouldn’t let Sara know when we went to the bathroom, or she might put it in the paper. Even though the people around her didn’t understand, she kept writing. Maybe writing the column was soothing to her soul because she is a writer. Whatever her motivation, I’m pretty sure she didn’t hate every minute she wrote.

No matter what you write, no matter what your goal is — enjoy the journey. Because in the end, crossing a finish line is one step. Getting to the finish line is your life.

Valerie Peralta

Valerie Peralta is an intermittent practitioner of just about everything she does striving to be more tortoise and less hare. After copy editing for two decades, she’s finally trusting her own words on the page. She earned an MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University; her work has been published by The Blended Future Project and is forthcoming in Heart Balm. She lives in South Florida within running distance of the Everglades. 

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