I’ve been listening to the wonderful Cortex podcast since it’s very first episode, a show that I’ve enjoyed in different ways as time has passed. At the beginning I listened vicariously – wondering what it must be like to be organised, to run a business, to have purpose; later studiously – as I tried applying the lessons and learnings discussed on the show to my efforts in university; and most recently I’ve been listening earnestly, and I feel like I can relate to and find actual practical advice in the episodes in an entirely new way.
One thing that has never stuck with me, despite it being perhaps the most important topic of the Cortex calendar year, is the idea of Yearly Themes.
I copied the above from the notes app on my phone. I wrote it at the start of the year when I was toying with the idea of starting this very blog. At the time I had begun to visit the gym again, the world was opening up slowly but surely so holiday plans were coming together (I am deathly afraid of flying), my career was beginning to take off in challenging but extremely rewarding ways, and the idea of ‘no pain, no gain’ was solidifying for me in a way that it never had before.
For context, I am allergic to most anything related to self-help. Self-help experts, books, linkedIn posts, bathroom stall graffiti etc. Motivational posters bother me in a way that I can never fully explain. Hence, my surprise when the thought of having a Yearly Theme started to gain traction inside my head.
The Year of Discomfort.
Maybe it started as some kind of masochistic joke inside my head. I have a bad knee, I believe the medical term is fucked. What started as pain radiating from underneath my left knee quickly turned into a week on crutches unable to support my own weight on good old lefty. Doctor trip, MRI, consult with a orthopaedic surgeon, and the answer is.. arthritis.
Arthritis! At 32 I was as disgusted with my bad luck as I was embarrassed by the thoughts of complaining about “feeling the cold in my bones” at such a young age. A knee replacement is an absolute certainty in my future, it’s just a matter of whether it comes before or after my 50th birthday. Ironically, the best way to reduce further extreme pain according to my doctors is short bouts of scheduled, sweaty and very public pain in the form of regular exercise. Cycling and swimming are especially good. Great.
So, in order to stave off future pain, I had to engage in discomfort. I have always wanted to get fit again, the diagnosis just put a very sharply painful reminder in my mind that I had been putting it off for too long now. This would be the year I suppose.
A Year of Discomfort, to kickstart habits that would prevent many years of pain. The nucleus of a yearly theme was formed.