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September 2011
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November 2011

On the Need for Small Triumphs

Right before leaving work, I found a case that ruined an entire argument I had made. "How do I bill the client for the past 10 hours of work, in light of this new case? I should have found this case sooner. Do I disclose the case in the motion? The other guy is an idiot, and probably won't find it. Doesn't the adversarial process require the other person to find this stuff out? What about the duty of candor to the court." I felt like shit.

I started driving to the gym when I almost passed out. I had forgotten to eat. I stopped by the Shell station for a protein bar, and spent the next fifteen minutes on the road trying to rationalize not going to the gym.

Feeling detached, I pulled into the parking lot and grabbed my ticket from the machine. I pulled into a space, grabbed my gym bag, and went to grab my ticket - which the gym validates.

Fuck. I can't find my ticket. Jesus fuck.

I'd like to say I felt anger, as anger fuels me. I didn't have the energy for anger. I felt weary. Beta. If I had more emotions, I probably would have cried.

It wasn't that a replaced ticket, as the woman said, would cost $12.50. It was that everything was fucked up. 

But I use the banal struggles of life to drive me to something more. Even small struggles can lead to increased life skills. "Find a way to talk the woman into giving you a replacement ticket, without paying the fee," I told myself.

"A replacement ticket is 12.50," she insisted. "But I just got here. The wind blew it out of my hands." She was sorry, but it was only $12.50.

I wouldn't leave. In sales, they teach: He who speaks first, loses. I stood silently.

"Where are you going," she asked? "To the gym," I replied, and she promised to let me out for free if the gym would give me a note proving I was a member.

The small victory gave me no energy. Because I had had less than 500 calories over the last 24 hours, my workout was shit. I was weak. I couldn't get a pump. I hadn't had enough water, so my stomach was bloated. I was too disgusted to even look at myself.

It felt like being stuck in traffic. Even when you're moving, you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. I ground through my workout, questioning my manhood and mortality. "So this is what getting old feel like..."

I had to finish my workout with cardio, and went to the dreaded stair master. After two minutes, I was exhausted. "Fuck this, I'm out of here."

Then I set a goal - an entirely arbitrary one. I was going to do 20 minutes on the stair climber.

At five minutes, I wanted to quit. "Just hold the hand rails. It doesn't matter. Just don't stop."

At 5:15, I started telling myself, "You haven't done this machine in a long time. Ten minutes will be a good start. You are already soaked in sweat and panting. Ten minutes would be great!"

Ten minutes came along, my lungs burned. My gums hurt, too, and my entire body was on fire. My legs itches due to increase capillary circulation of oxygen towards the skin.

Every 15 or 20 seconds, I'd look down. "Look, man. You're almost at 2 miles of stairs. Just stop at two miles. Twenty minutes, after all, is an arbitrary goal. It doesn't mean anything."

My inner id kept trying to get me to quit, and my super ego kept rejecting it.

Twenty minutes arrived, and I stepped off the machine. There was no sense of accomplishment. There was only the fatalistic sense that it was over.

I left the gym punch drunk, went home, and did laundry. 

The next morning I felt like a G. I had energy, blood was circulating, and my performance at work was awesome. I found a way to deal with the case that ruined my previous night, and the workout in the gym went perfectly.

If I had gone home, the id would have had its way. Last night's trimph, while trivial and arbitrary, reset my entire being.

I always set arbitrary goals - even if they make no sense. 

Even small triumphs feed the spirit.