(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 4.824% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

It’s 2021, and the tarnish is blooming on those New Years’ Resolutions. The diets are giving way to pizza and sugar, the workout plans collapsing into sleep. And there’s a lot of reasons those good intentions collapse into tangles of soggy dreams, but here’s one you should know:

You can’t be addicted to progress.

Which is to say that when I started working out three years ago, I showed up at every sessions expecting MASSIVE GAINS. I’d go in there with a pep-me-up-coach-I’m-ready attitude, expecting to make some huge breakthrough.

This happened more often than not at first. Not that I was overhead-lifting refrigerators, but I walked out of each session with a new posture, some new technique I’d learned, something new and exciting.

But those soon dissolved into days where I just, you know, showed up.

I didn’t do much those days. I didn’t beat last week’s lifting record. I didn’t do more reps. I just showed up like some schmuck, did a task I’d done five times before, and left wondering why I bothered.

Let’s be honest: It’s hard to show up if you’re not pushing forward.

The trick is, some days you’re stopping yourself from sliding backwards.

Those days weren’t satisfying, but they kept my rhythm up – here I am at the gym again – so not going would feel weird. And they kept my body stable – I wasn’t making great strides, but I wasn’t tumbling backwards into couch-and-Cheetos-dust Ferrett from 2015, either.

No, my body wasn’t making progress that day. But it was creating a stable platform for future progress.

But looking at all my past brushes with fitness, that expectation that every time would be magical is what stopped me. I wanted every workout to be exciting and fresh, with some stunning surprise that would wow me… and when I didn’t get that, I assumed something had gone wrong and I wandered off.

Trick is, some days you just show up. That’s it. That’s all you get.

Waiting for the fireworks is actually what will cost you the real Fourth of July.

And that’s true in almost all areas of life – I used to only write when I was INSPIRED and READY TO WRITE THE PERFECT NOVEL, but it turns out that regularly putting in 500 words got me a lot further than these mad days of 3,000 words.

(Plus, as an added bonus for creators, the correlation between “How I feel about my art that day” and “The quality of my art that day” is a lot looser than I’d suspected, with some of my best work coming on so-called “crappy” days and some of my magnificent inspiration leading into useless corners.)

I used to think that every day in a relationship had to uncover something NEW and DELIGHTFUL about my partner, or else the relationship was surely on the backslide. We had to be continually propelling ourselves upwards, like a rocket fueled by pure love! Except after twenty years of marriage, I’ve discovered that some days – some weeks, some months – are just comfortable living, where you look for breakthroughs without panicking if you don’t find them.

(Plus, as an added bonus for lovers, that pressure to EXTRACT A NEW AND SPECIAL FORM OF LOVE out of your relationships with every date can lead to intensifying relationships that are not fundamentally stable enough to withstand the searing dragonfire of ultimate intimacy. Sometimes you let it go slow because you’re carefully putting weight on the bridge between you to see what’ll hold.)

Point is, a lot of life is just maintenance. It’s not exciting, watering the flowers. The flowers themselves can be exciting, but it’s not always gonna be spring bloom time, and you still have to watch after them even in the dead of winter if they hope to come back.

A lot of what you’ll do is just showing up, cranking out some effort, and then going home. There won’t always be shooting stars or headsplodey revelations. But if you learn to wean yourself off of that idea that this isn’t worthwhile unless you’re continually unearthing MASSIVE PROGRESS, well, you’ll often skip past all those mundane intermediary steps that aren’t a trip to Thrillsville but they are the left you hang in Albuquerque to get to Thrillsville.

It’s three years of regular fitness. I am not a muscle-bound dreamboat with cumgutter abs and biceps that could strangle pythons. But I don’t have back issues any more, I lift heavy pieces of wood in my shop from my core, and I sleep better.

That’s worthwhile, even if it’s not the Schwarzenegger dream.

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