“It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard. Work harder, work harder, work harder!”

That’s me chanting to my friend Jen in the car the other day after a delightful lunch of pea shoots and hummus at Standard Fare, in Berkeley. I was explaining what running on the treadmill was like for me. “It’s hard,” I’d said, “I don’t love it, but I do it, and as I run I think, ‘it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard,’ and then I say to myself, ‘work harder, work harder, work harder.’”

Jen and I looked at one another, and then we both burst out laughing.

“Oh my god,” said Jen, who has been my good friend since we were 13 in Los Angeles, “you need to put that on a t.shirt. You need to write that shit down.”

And not because it’s an important anthem to live by, god no, but because I have lived that mantra since I was 15-years-old when I used to run up this super steep hill in my neighborhood – the one we called, the Wiggly Waggily – a hill that was tippy top and breathless, a hill I ran because it was the hill I deserved on account of my thighs, which I knew were too big.

How I’d do it is I’d stand at the bottom of the great hill and I’d wait until I heard a car coming down, and then I’d start running up so that whoever was in the car – even if it were some old grandma who couldn’t even see over her steering wheel – wouldn’t see me standing there or even walking the hill like some lazy ass girl. No, the person in the car would have to see me running it. And having them see me running it was what got me up the hill. That’s the kind of hard working, bright star I meant to be. Then I’d run down the hill and wait for another car, and start running up again. I did it 6 or 7 times.

“It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard. Work harder, work harder, work harder!”

And that anthem hasn’t just been reserved for my work outs, which have been in service of my body – which for my entire life has been, in my eyes, in need of improvement. I say this with complete understanding that that whole conversation is a hallucination – and maybe the oldest, most soul killing, energy stealing hallucination of my entire life. And something that I haven’t fully broken the spell on and gotten free from. I know this.

I could blame it on growing up in L.A. or that situation with my father at the dinner table – a story I’ve told way too many times and which involved proving my skinniness to get some desert. The running was in service of that, the body that I had to keep an eye on, the body I could not trust, the one that would betray me. Hard work was what was needed, and that hasn’t changed much since then. I’m still squatting and lunging and doing sit ups and all sorts of other crazy stuff at least 5 days a week.

Push, push, push.

But the reason that Jen and I burst out laughing in the car when I said that was because work harder, work harder, work harder is starting to sound and feel ridiculous. Seriously.

I don’t mean to throw the baby out with the bath water – quite literally I have pushed two babies out of me, and anyone who has done that knows you need to be one tough mother to go through that. And I get it – I get that my efforting, my pushing the boulder up the hill, again and again and again, the take no prisoners, play to win way I played racquetball all those years, the way I get up every morning to run 10 classes a week – the working at night and on weekends… has served me in many ways. I’ve created a wonderful business that I’m proud of, I get to work with incredible people. I know that I make a difference, I’m proud of what it’s taken, the way I’ve had to show up, the stamina and the girth that it’s required.

But these days, all this efforting and heaving and ho-ing has lost its zing. It’s like, “Really? I gotta do things that way?” I want more time to putter. I want time to let experiences settle into me so that I can feel them and write about them. I want to lay on my couch in that one patch of sun and have it hit my face. I have two books I’ve started but have back burnered. I am terrified to face the blank page and stand face to face with my own self-doubt, all those voices – the exact voices I help my students push through.

Work harder, work harder, work harder.

Is just not as compelling as it has been all these years, though I imagine it will take some time to change the direction of things. I think of my life as this huge freighter that is about to turn course, but needs to change incrementally. I am considering running fewer classes, which is probably what’s going to change first. And I want to travel more. I like teaching on my feet in exotic locations. When I thought about letting go of some weekly classes I thought, “Where will my students go? They’ll find other teachers. I’ll be forgotten.” And that was a freaky thought, mostly because I didn’t know that thoughts like that lived in me. And I wondered how much of my hard work was in service of my identity and being seen as a brightly lit star – not so different from the way I ran up the Wiggly Waggily as a kid.

As I write this I’m at my friend Andrea’s house and I just said, “well, I’ve got a blog post here and some of it is good, but it doesn’t quite resolve. I may have to work on it more.”

“Oh no,” she said, “I’m sure it’s perfect as it is. Just push publish.”

Boom. Publish.

Friends, we’ve got some spots open for both the live Wild Writing classes in Alameda as well as the Wild Writing classes on Zoom. This is a 6-week shortie pie series, perfect if you’re curious about the work and want to give it a shot.