The first day of this year is also the last day of my family vacation, so Mom and I did our first run of 2020 near Las Vegas on our way back from the deserts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico to My Hometown on the California Coast. Las Vegas has some of the gnarliest trails in the world, but because we wanted to start the year with a long run, Mom and I ran an easy-peasy trail that wouldn’t slow us down.
“So what are your resolutions, Oscar?” Mom asked as we ran.
“What’s a revolution?”
“It’s where you pick something that you aren’t happy about and you make a rule to change the behavior.”
“Oh, my revolutions are for you to stop getting so old, to give me more hot dogs, and to spend more time at the office,” (Mom and I work together, but because we carpool I always have to leave when she wants to).
“No, it’s not someone ELSE’s behavior that you want to change. A resolution needs to be about yourself. So some good resolutions might be to keep in shape despite a busy schedule, or eat healthier.”
“Oh, okay. So I revolve to eat more hot dogs, to spend more time at work, and to run more often.”
“You’re getting older too, and I’m not the only one who gets stiff sometimes,” Mom said. “I think that maybe you should resolve to eat a healthier diet; no more scraps from the lunch table or hot dogs from gas stations, and cheese only on special occasions.”
“Revolutions aren’t for someone ELSE’s behavior, Mom. Keep your revolutions off of me. I’m committing to eating more hot dogs.”
“Okay, well I’m resolving to get back into shape this year,” Mom said. Mom used to run fast-ish, but then she couldn’t anymore. They sewed a bum into her knee last year, and after that we learned how to hike. But lately it takes an hour or more of running before she remembers that she’s uncomfortable and slows down, so it’s getting harder for her to convince me that she can’t run.
“In that case, I want to run 3 races this year,” I said.
“And I’m tired of getting stuck in snowy, and muddy, and sandy roads,” Mom said. “So for every mile we run I’m going to save up for better tires, and eventually a 4 wheel drive van.” Mom and I have a car-house called the Covered Wagon that we take into the wilder-ness, but because it used to be a mailman van, it’s better at driving on house-streets than car-trails in the mountains.
“And I want to find a lesson in ALL my runs, even if it’s just a little one!” I said.
Every once in a while, Mom stopped to pull water out of her packpack, and every time she went in there for the bowl she also pulled out my traditional Las Vegas headdress. That meant it was time to take pictures. “No, Mom! We’ve got to hurry! I don’t want my miles to be ruined by going slow.”
“Don’t be silly! We are 600 miles from home and it’s a beautiful day. Life is too short to waste a run by rushing through it. It’s not a race.”
“Are you sure it’s not a race? They’re giving out medals and stuff…”
“No, it’s a challenge. There’s a difference. A race is something that you do against someone else, a challenge is when you commit to doing something difficult and compete with yourself. It’s like a competitive resolution. Challenges are different for everybody because they depend on context.”
“Wait, so a challenge is a contest?”
“Not ‘contest,’ ‘context!’” Mom corrected me. “Context is the part of your life story that led you up to this moment. It’s different every day and for every person. For example, do you remember the last time we were on this trail?”
“Yeah! We hiked. God that was a long day! It was exhausting.”
“Exactly! There are days when walking is harder than running. Nobody else knows what was hard for you last year, and what troubles you’re going to have this year. So nobody can define your challenge but you.”
We’d run more than 11 miles by then, and I was getting hungry. “Oh good!” I said.”Then let’s have gas station hotdogs for lunch!”
“I said no more hotdogs,” Mom said.
“You do your challenge, I’ll do mine. It’s called context.” I reminded her.
“Well here’s another concept that affects a lot of people’s challenges. Sometimes there are factors outside of your control that make keeping your resolutions really difficult.”
“Like when people get injured or sick?”
“Exactly! Or when you want hotdogs for lunch but you’re a dog so you don’t have money. Everyone’s got their limitations,” Mom shrugged.
Oscar the Pooch