This Is The Work

This past January, I made a different sort of resolution. Or maybe not a resolution; Maybe it was more of a goal: Start and finish all the major house projects and updates that have been lagging around here for years.

Oy. Vey.

The list is long and daunting: Refinishing the hardwood floors downstairs, new carpeting upstairs, a new driveway, replace the deck, a new stamped concrete sidewalk, a new hot water tank, new toilets. And don’t forget the landscaping issues! And light fixtures!

Whew. This is a lot. You’re probably thinking, “Jules. Have you not done ANY work on your house in the last 75 years?” And the answer is, I have. But I was also raising kids solo and working and just couldn’t make it happen. Whether it was a function of time, money or resistance, it was easy to keep letting it slide.

But now I can get it done. So this is the year. I mean, I definitely decided THIS is the year. And in order to get the first projects done (the floors and the carpeting) there was a lot that had to come first. A lot as in, every ceiling, wall, woodwork, baseboard, door and door frame had to be painted. Did I hire a painter? No I did not. Should I have hired a painter? Maybe. But with such a long list of projects, I knew anything I could do myself, I should. And if there’s one thing ya girl can do herself, it’s paint.


When I tell you the last few months I’ve spent every weekend painting and working on the house, WHERE IS THE LIE? Every. Weekend. I was eating, sleeping and breathing paint.(Seriously not recommended.)

In the midst of it all, as you might imagine, a person could start to get a little weary. Me. I am the person. In an effort to keep myself mentally strong and motivated to reach my goals, my mantra has become,

“This is the work.”

I learned this phrase from a long-time friend for situations just like this: In the trenches of hard, tedious work. The weeds. The deep water. When there are 10,000 other things you’d rather be doing. To be honest, you’d like to quit. Or not start at all. And actually, the goal becomes hazy and a little out of reach, suddenly feeling less important.

But I had made a resolution. I want the space around me to be beautiful and I want this to be my forever home. To get there, I was going to have to do the work. On a particularly tiresome and overwhelming day, another friend reminded me, I didn’t have to like it, I just had to do it.

But here’s the secret sauce: The work happening inside you while you’re doing the work is where the magic happens.

Yes, I was painting for hours on end. Yes, my arms and shoulders ached with fatigue. There was paint in my hair and splatters of paint where I missed the drop cloth. But it’s all of the chatter inside, the resistance, the gritty self-talk, the pushing through and perseverance. The deeper resilience to learn. The misconceptions to unlearn. Peeling back the layers of what’s happening inside and uncovering spaces that still have room for growth.

We all have a mental broken record that gets stuck in a groove, and when things feel hard, our brains press play. ”I can’t do this. I’m alone. It’s too much work. It’s too hard. I’m in over my head. How did I get here, doing this alone? I don’t want to do all of this.”

You get the point. And I bet you know the groove your brain plays, too.

None of those things are actually true for me. I can do it. I’m not alone. If I wanted help or support I could ask for it. But I’m stubbornly independent, so I don’t. It IS a lot of work, but if I want to reach my goal and get these projects done, This. Is. The. Work.


Ten years ago, I was approaching 40 and in one of the toughest seasons of my life. I decided to train for a half marathon and ended up running two that year. Although running all 13.1 miles to the finish line was its own reward and glory, it was the work happening inside me along the way that made the difference. My brain wanted to quit long before my body did. I would start out every long training run thinking, “There’s no way I can run 8 miles…” And then whaddyaknow, 8 miles later, I’m almost home with tears running down my face. I could, in fact run 8 miles. And then I ran 13. Twice.

So here I am, approaching 50, still growing and learning and digging in. Even when I hate it, something about it feels good. It means I’m alive. It means I’m IN this. I’m engaged with my life. It’s not about the painting or the rest of the work I have to do. (There’s SO. MUCH.) It’s about the resilience I’ve developed over the years that’s serving me so well. The mental toughness so important to me? It’s solid, even if it wobbles from time to time. I don’t want to run from hard work or challenges. And I don’t want to run from the work inside the work, either. It’s what makes us who we are. It’s the fire that keeps forging us. Hard, challenging work helps us become our best selves. The hard is what makes us great. And my forever home is looking more beautiful than ever, inside and out.

My New Running Partner


As I was leaving the house for my run that morning, I was already running late. Torn between skipping it completely or rushing to fit it in, I chose the latter and scrambled out the door. Total self-imposed stress, I know, but still better than berating myself the rest of the day for missing a run. Within moments, I realized I had forgotten my watch but didn’t want to waste time going back for it. And as long as I wasn’t going to time myself, I figured I’d skip using Runkeeper, as well.

If you’re not familiar, Runkeeper is a GPS app that tracks every aspect of your run and also offers voice coaching with time and pace cues. If you’re having a good run, Runkeeper is your friend. On a bad run, you want to throat punch her.

So for the first time in a very long time, I was running without a clock. Without being timed. Without the compulsive need to check my pace and mile split times. Simply put, I was running without the pressure of performing and competing against myself.

My counselor asked me recently if I enjoy running and what I think about when I run. She wondered if it was a peaceful mental place for me. (Yes, I have a counselor. She has this amazing ability to help me process life events and relationships, and in turn, formulate healthy responses and reactions. I adore her and she’s worth her weight in gold) Ummm. Wow. The fast answer would’ve been, “Yes, of course I enjoy running.” And I do. To an extent. But you’d never know it by the self-talk that normally bounces around in my brain:

“Ugh. God, I’m so slow today. Is that all the time that’s passed? This sucks. What the hell is wrong with me? I do NOT want to run 9-minute miles. Mother of pearl- I wanna be sub 8 on this. Or at least low eights. Have I gotten slower? I need to eat better. Less beer would probably help too. I should really cross train. I say that everyday and never do it. Dumb. This hill is kicking my ass. I suck. How did I ever run 2 half marathons when it feels like I can’t run 4 miles today? I’ll never be able to run a full marathon.”

You get the picture. Big sigh. It’s not very nice. I’m kind of embarrassed by it. My counselor went on to ask me if I would ever talk to a friend the way I talk to myself. Ummm no. Never. Ever. So what would I tell a friend who was having a bad run? “Hey! Not every run is going to be your best. Every run is different. You still got out there today! You’re still running! Look at all the people who never exercise or run at all. Be proud of yourself. You’ll do better next time.” Woah. Big difference.
So there I was, running without any self-imposed pressure–and though I was tempted to worry about my time, I made a conscious effort to just simply run at a pace that felt natural to me. And then I did something that felt sort of corny at the time. I started to think about some quotes I’d read recently -the ones about living in the moment and enjoying life and being fully present. So part way through my run, I made myself breathe as deeply as I could and started to meditate on the positive things in my life right now. It’s very possibly been the worst year of my life (or 2nd worst year anyway) and therefore seemed like a loser idea,  but this is what I heard in my head:

“I love that the sun is shining right now. It’s an absolutely beautiful morning. The trees are changing colors and it’s amazing. I’m so thankful I can run this morning. I know my schedule won’t always be like this, but it is today- and I’m thankful for that.”

I could feel the tears starting to come.

“Thank you God for my kids and how well each of them are doing. Thank you that they are happy and healthy and each in a good place. Thank you for my parents and how much they love me and support me. Thank you that I have brothers and a sister that love me and would do anything for me. Thank you for the friends in my life that love me and adore me and think that I am lovable and funny and kind.”

I am in the home stretch now, running down my street with tears streaming down my face. “Thank you for my home. I love my house. My yard. My dog. Life has been so, so very hard- and yet there is so much sweetness too- I am overwhelmed. “

The day I forgot my watch, I probably didn’t run my fastest 4 miles ever, but it wasn’t my slowest either. I loved the happy and free girl I ran with. In those moments, yes, I loved running- but I loved my life, too. And that’s a good run day.