The Benefits of Obsession

I have come to the conclusion that no matter how much I meditate, how many silent retreats I go to, how much spiritual evolution I achieve (hmmm…the words “achieve” and “spiritual evolution” are oxymoronic, are they not?), I will always have a degree of obsession. I have always been an obsessive person, as long as I remember. When I get into something, I get totally into it—be it a new eating regimen, a work project, or the planning of an event—I fixate on the goal (or the process) and go for it. When I set a goal for myself, I can be incredibly disciplined.

The benefits of this obsessive streak have been manifold—the seven books I have written, the business I have established, the website I built, the persistence with which I approached learning everything I needed to know about my cancer, making sure my kids have whatever they need to be supported in their interests, etc. The downside is equally evident; when I am driving toward a goal, I put blinders on and stop seeing—or listening—to anything or anyone who gets in my way, anyone who thwarts my mono-focus—and this includes my spouse, my children, or other people close to me. I stop noticing changes in my life that any normal person would assess as requiring a shift in direction.

For years, I have been working to break this obsessive streak. I have managed to separate my obsessive goals from my sense of self-worth, which has been quite a feat. I don’t actually care anymore if I get the results I want, but I still get fixated on the process itself. I have developed a sense of humor about my obsessiveness. I don’t take it seriously and have learned to observe it objectively. I have learned to make good use of it when it will truly be helpful (like in training to walk 60 miles in 3 days), and to shake it off when it is interfering with life in the present. I have come to the conclusion that I will be never be rid of it entirely. It is a daily tightrope I walk.

 I have been enjoying the challenge of following through on one of the commitments I made on retreat—mostly, I have been relishing the times I am interrupted and given the opportunity to drop what I’m doing and pay attention, full attention, to the source of the interruption. Usually this means listening—listening to Karyn, Lizzy or Eli in particular. I am growing to see their interjections of their lives into my planning, focused mind as opportunities to loosen up my grip and let go, and they give me plenty of practice on a daily basis.

My obsessiveness has come in handy in my decision to do the 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. In the week since I signed up, I’ve gotten the proper socks and shoes, written a fundraising letter and designed a fundraising poster, created my webpage on the 3-Day website, and begun following the training guidelines, almost to the letter. I’ve written to my cancer nutritionist to get advice about ways I should alter my diet and my supplement schedule to support the new demands I’m placing on my body. I’ve even ordered a pink tee-shirt from the 3-Day store that sports the logo, “Too Inspired to Be Tired.” I was nervous about making the commitment, but now that I have, I have put myself behind it totally.

One thing about the training process—going from basic couch potato to being able to walk 60 miles in 3 days—that I find fascinating is that the recommended training schedule includes rest days and down time—time for my muscles to catch up with the new demands I am placing on them. You don’t walk every day—you walk hard one day, rest the next, walk hard again, then do something else—like yoga the next day, and so on. On the weekends, you do two very long walks, but then on Monday, you rest. The idea is to build up the body slowly and not break it down. This is a new concept for me…to build gradually rather than with the intensity that has typically been my way.

After I do a big walk (4 miles at this point in my training), my feet ache afterwards. I experience that “good tired” that comes from exercise and I feel happy. I guess what they say about endorphins is true; it’s just that it has never been my bent to live in my body.

I do notice that I have felt really happy since I signed up for the walk. I like a challenge; I love the cause; and I am building my strength simultaneously. My buddy Nona has signed up to walk with me; she is training in Denver and is going to fly out to San Francisco to walk with me and be my tent-mate. Lots of people have offered to go on training walks with me and I am looking for a local team to join. Tonight I’m going to a talk by two physical therapists about how to avoid injury while training. All of this is brand new to me. I like being a beginner. It helps me understand my students even better.

Subscribe to my mailing list and I will immediately give you a beautiful eBook: Writing Toward Courage: A Thirty Day Practice

A Gift to Inspire Your Writing

Subscribe to my mailing list and I will immediately give you a beautiful eBook: Writing Toward Courage: A Thirty Day Practice.

Scroll to Top