I have a love-hate relationship with stairs. It's in no way a 50-50 proposition. It's closer to 83-17, like a blob of hamburger. The hate part seems obvious. I mean, just looking at stairs makes me groan. They aren't pretty or cheerful, and after hauling yourself up x-number of flights, you spend the next several minutes wheezing like the blob of hamburger that you are.
Ditto for stairwells. They are dusty, drab, and discouraging. They just keep climbing into the sky, giving you no clue whatsoever as to how far you've gone or how much farther you have to go. They are the indoor version of "just one more switchback until the top of the mountain" -- always looking promising but taking far too long to deliver.
But here's the thing about stairs. They are always there. Always the same level of difficulty. Always ready no matter the weather. And they are free. Stairs require no commitment of money or equipment. You don't have to wait to use them, wipe them down, impress others while you use them. You go up, and then you go down. Stairs are a tool that offer no excuses. And I hate that.
So I climb stairs. Or I did, anyway, almost two years ago. And I hated every single minute of it. I climbed and climbed and then walked and huffed and puffed as quietly as I could in between the book stacks. Over the weeks and months my route got longer and longer, and my time got shorter and shorter. Start in the basement. Run the stairs to the fourth floor (88 stairs total. Oh yes, I counted). Walk the stacks of the fourth floor, go back down the stairs to the basement. Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the third floor. Walk the stacks of the third floor, go back down the stairs to the basement. Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the second floor. Walk the stacks of the second floor, go back down the stairs to the basement. Run the stairs to the fourth floor, walk down to the first floor. Walk the stacks of the first floor and finally go back to my desk and sweat.
I can't tell you that I ever discovered that magical love of running the stairs, but I can tell you that it got easier over time. I can also tell you (with an eye roll and a look of absolute disgust), that there was never a time when I finished that I didn't feel better from running those damn stairs. Even when I didn't want to, even when I was tired, or frustrated, or had a headache. When I finished, I felt better, body and soul. I hated that. And loved it.
I loved it because it became clearer to me that I had it within myself to feel better. To make changes. To challenge myself. To encourage myself. The stairs were the constant and I was the variable. Once I was able to battle the formidable obstacle that is my brain and my will, the stairs weren't such a tough thing. And, I began to appreciate the view from the top, which was pretty nice.
After faithfully whining, complaining and forcing myself up and down those damn stairs all winter, I took to the outdoors when the weather got nicer. But here, well, here there were variables. Uneven paths, people, bikes, dogs, construction, and the fact that being mobile on a mostly horizontal plane was very different than a mostly vertical one. But now I was in a groove and it wasn't such a struggle to keep pushing and not allow the excuses to take over.
And then, after eight months, I felt like I had made it. It was the top of the stairs. The end of the run. It was finally time to enjoy the view. I had achieved success. I had completed a goal. I was done.
And that was a big mistake.
Success, completion and done quickly turned into apathy, fatigue and excuses. The stairs sat in sedentary stillness all winter, spring, and summer, and so did I. And now I'm faced with starting again. I'm not necessarily all the way back at square one from two years ago, but I'm far enough back that today between the third and fourth floor, it was obvious that I wasn't finished, and should never think that I am.
There are as many stairs to climb and paths to run and places to explore as I'm willing to face. Successes are mileposts along the way, but there is no terminal point, unless I stop climbing. So it's time to start again, to huff and puff a little, to remember where I was and look forward to what comes next. It's been awhile since I ran the stairs, just like it's been awhile since I posted online. I'm not going to make excuses, I'm just going to start again. There are stairs to climb, places to go and stories to tell.
I hope to never be done, and I'm ready to get started.