We're running today: January 19, 2023
Learning from Martin Short and Viggo Mortensen
Today, I (finally!) got out there.
I thought I would feel a little sluggish — I’d made pigs in a blanket for my son for breakfast, and maybe-just-maybe helped myself to a few of them — but I actually felt really strong and swift on my run; my legs felt more energized than they have in a while.
As I ran, my stream-of-consciousness mind brought back a snippet of an interview I heard Martin Short give, on one of the many podcasts he’s given interviews to over the past year to promote Only Murders in the Building, the murder-mystery show he stars in alongside Steve Martin and Selena Gomez.
He was asked how he came to choose this project to work on, as well as how he chooses any project, given that he’s worked in television, movies and on Broadway.
“It’s all about the ‘hang,’” he told the interviewer, pointing out that as an actor, he has no control over how the scenes in which he appears will be edited, or whether they’ll appear in the final cut of the movie at all. Early in his career, he added, he realized he can’t control what ends up in front of an audience — so he decided to focus on what goes into making a movie, rather than what comes out of it.
Ever since then, he said, he’s focused on getting the best out of himself and having fun with his fellow actors — that’s “the hang” part, simply hanging out and being onset with them, brainstorming creatively about what they might do with scenes.
That got me thinking. In the first week of the year, I shared with you a goal I thought might be a stretch for me, but was reachable: running a thousand miles by the end of the year.
It wasn’t until this morning, though, that I realized how little thought I’d given to the input for how to achieve that goal; I was focused entirely on the outcome, the final product and how I’d feel once I saw “1,000 miles” in my Strava profile. Because of that, I made overly-rosy predictions about what I’d be able to do on a daily basis to achieve it, neglecting whether it was realistic or not.
Now, I realize I need to focus only on today’s run, today. The ones that came before are in the past, and the ones after today I’m not promised. And I need to focus only on putting my best energy and effort into this one, today, and then let the goal take care of itself — I’ll either have reached it or I won’t by December 31. But obsessing about that number isn’t going to make today’s run any easier.
In the 2000 movie 28 Days, Sandra Bullock enters a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility for her character’s years of excessive drinking. While there, she meets Viggo Mortensen, who plays an aging major league baseball player addicted to alcohol, drugs and sex.
There’s much more to the movie than I’ve described, but there’s a scene the two share that I’ve always remembered, one that drives home so well the thought Martin Short put in my head. While walking through the woods of the rehab retreat, Bullock comes across Mortensen, who is practicing some pitches against a mattress, set up as a backstop against a tree.
After Mortensen throws a few pitches, Bullock picks up a ball to give it a try. She throws it, weakly, missing the strike zone by a mile, and then starts to walk away in a huff.
“Hold on,” Mortensen’s character Eddie pleads. “What were you thinking about? When you threw the ball, what were you thinking about?”
“I don’t know… the ‘throw thing’,” she replies.
“The mattress,” he says. “You were thinking about the mattress, right? Well, it might sound funny to you, but that’s all wrong.
“You get all locked in on the strike zone,” he adds, “the next thing you know, it’s looking about the size of a peanut. And you’re thinking, ‘Damn, I gotta get that little ball in there?’ You’ll psych yourself right out of the game. The strike zone, the call, the count, the batter — forget all that.
“You have to think about the little things. The things you can control. You can control your stance, your balance, your release, your follow-through” he says, demonstrating the pitching motion to Bullock. “I think about those little things, and only those little things.”
He demonstrates by throwing a strike, right in the heart of the strike zone drawn on the mattress.
“When you let go of the ball, it’s over,” he adds. “You don’t have any say in what happens down there,” pointing to the strike zone. “That’s somebody else’s job.”
I love that line; the first time I saw this scene, it was as if scales fell from my eyes. I saw in a new way — however, I forget those realizations and have to learn them over and over again throughout life. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it?
Those a-ha moments helped me today, and helped me see that the goal isn’t worth focusing on as much as the effort I put into it, and what I get from today’s run — how much better I feel. (Especially getting it done in the morning, which makes the entire day better.)
What about you? What helps you overcome a mental hurdle like this? I’d love to hear your thoughts — as always, keep in touch and let me know how your week is going!