Photo prompts are fun and I don’t do them nearly enough. But often the thing I like about them (and similar Facebook / Social Media games) is the “don’t post an explanation” or in this case, “You don’t have to have any explanation.” For me the beauty of these sorts of prompts is they do give me something to talk about and so I sometimes bend the rules. I’m going to bed the rules further by sharing the last two photos on my phone for November.
Here’s the first one:
This is me looking doubtful. I’m about to go for a run. Outside, though, the weather is 3 degrees C and it is windy and raining. I have, always said that this is, quite literally, my least favourite weather to go outside in. A bit warmer and maybe you’ll be comfortable, a bit colder and it will be snowing prettily, the wind blowing the flakes around and keeping them from landing on you and melting as you move outside. But at this temperature? the air is cold and damp, the rain soaks your clothes and skin and you are quickly chilled to the bone.
But if nothing else, 2020 is a year of learning about “Doing the needful” while also recognizing that if we do that grudgingly we’re going to have a terrible time of it. We must wear a mask which isn’t always comfortable, but we do it. We don’t have to like it but we also don’t have to dwell on the discomfort. Embrace the fact that it’s making it possible to more safely go out. We can no longer go out to see our friends perform or perform ourselves. We can feel sorry for ourselves and rest in that misery or we can get on Zoom and enjoy the fact that unlike the storytelling shows you went to a year ago, both the audience and performers are coming in from around the world.
And so it is with exercise. I’ve made a commitment to go outside for exercise and for 237 days (skipping three due to one day of illness and two of dangerously windy weather), I’ve kept up with that commitment. It was incredibly easy to comply with this plan in July. It seemed like every day was delightful and sunny – and the sky would stay light until well into the evening. But now? Now it’s dark by the time I get out the door. Instead of a ride in shorts through a 28 degree forest, the weather is hovering near zero. Again, I could sit in that negativity, cursing mother nature for making the days shorter and the nights colder, but what would that accomplish? I could stay indoors and be less active or do only indoor exercise – but I’d miss out on fresh air, the feeling of the ground beneath my feet and the smell and sight of the forest around me. Or I could just see it as an adventure. After all, one other thing I’ve learned through this journey of daily exercise is this: There may be initial resistance but it does not last longer than 20 minutes. In fact, within 20 minutes I am often feeling incredibly happy – the best I will feel the entire day. And so it’s non-negotiable. I will go outside and figure out how to stay comfortable. Whether I enjoy myself or not is my choice.
And so I put on a pair of waterproof leggings, a pair of shorts over them, a long sleeve merino wool shirt for warmth, a windbreaker to keep the water and wind off of me, and a headband to keep my ears from freezing and a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm. I step out the door, turn on the music and start. Today my 20 minute rule does not hold true. The music starts and 50 metres, less than one minute into my warmup I am feeling great. Cold rain is pelting my face and the wind is incredibly strong, funneled as it is between the highrises in our neighbourhood. I run out of our neighbourhood and across the bridge over the Don Valley – the same one I rode under on a similarly rainy night. And now, just a little over a kilometre in to my ride I notice something. Not only am I comfortable, I’m actually a little bit too warm. I’m not as hot as I was running across this bridge in August but I’m also not the least bit cold. In fact, the cold rain feels good on my face.
In 20 minutes I look down at my watch to see how far I’ve gone and notice that I’ve gone even farther than I had intended. I didn’t even notice it was time to turn back.
On the way back I’m running into the wind. I cross back over the Don Valley and look down at the cars crawling northbound, heading home. Would I rather be inside one of those warm vehicles, resting and listening to the radio? Not a chance.
I stop at a red light my glasses immediately fog up. I’m so warm now that water is evaporating from my skin and fogging my cold lenses. Once I start running again, it’s like turning on a car’s defroster. My lenses clear and I can see again.
After 45 minutes in what I had, up to now, described as the worst possible weather, I arrive back outside our building. I am happier and even warmer than I was when I left. The “needful things” we do, while often seeming like a hassle before we do them are often the very things that make our future selves feel great.
Which brings me to the last of my November photos. At the very end of my run I took a photo to document exactly how I felt – to share with others the idea that doing the thing we don’t really want to do can often be the best thing for us. I’m sure my future self will also appreciate the reminder.
Here’s what to do if you’d like to play along:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone for the month.
2. No editing – never mind if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to Brian’s post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”