This is a story about how I was manipulated by an iPhone app. You see, I've been thinking about taking up running for a while. I was never a particularly athletic person growing up (i.e. not athletic AT ALL); my crowning achievement in gym class was breaking my finger on the first day of our basketball unit and getting to sit out for the rest of that unit and volleyball. But in the last few years I have gotten, while not athletic, at least somewhat interested in working out, particularly if it makes me feel stronger and better able to beat someone up. Motivating myself to start may be hard, but once I get started I find I quite enjoy it and that it brings me to an almost meditative state. I have a few workouts in my rotation but my best friend started running last year and swears by it. So I figured, why not? The park is beautiful early in the morning, it won't be too hot yet, and I have to start sometime. So I downloaded a running app and set my alarm for half an hour earlier than usual.
Predictably, when my alarm went off in the morning, I hit the snooze button and began mentally tallying the reasons not to get out of bed. It was way too early. It's supposed to hit 90º today, did I really want to run if it was going to be hot out and, worse, humid? I'm starting a new class tonight, and the day was already going to be so long. Why tire myself out early? Armed with a million excuses, I decided I should at least take a look at the app so I knew what I was bailing on. I opened it, and there it was in the center of my screen. The Lionheart Badge.
Apparently this app has a rewards system that awards little digital badges to mark your accomplishments. The Lionheart Badge is the one you get for having the courage to start at all. It is unbelievably cheesy. But I have a thing about lions, and the phrase "Lionheart"? Well, let's just say they were speaking my language. They couldn't have reached me any better if they'd showed up in person and shouted, "Hey, Anna, get your butt out of bed!" in my ear.
It's not that lions are my favorite animals (that title belongs solely to lemurs, no question about it). But I guess you could say they're a bit of a power animal for me. That whole corny "lion = strength & courage" notion has gotten me through some dark days, and the song King & Lionheart by Of Monsters & Men is my go-to music when I need a little help to bolster my confidence. I even have the phrase, "I'm a Lionheart" tacked up on my bulletin board as a reminder. I am a dork, and sometimes we all need a reminder of our strength.
I collect symbols of lions, tokens and reminders of my own inner strength. I get my friends and family to take pictures of me beside every lion statue I see. The first time I visited Patience and Fortitude, the monolithic guardians of the Stephen A. Schwarzman library building in New York, I was ecstatic because they were every bit as magnificent as I had imagined. I wear a necklace made out of a Finnish coin depicting a sword-wielding rampant lion, a symbol of my heritage and a reminder to be courageous. When I was in high school, I made a sculptural ring with a sprawling lion on top of it. I didn't hollow the wax model out enough before casting it in silver, so it's far too heavy and bulky to wear, but it looks cool and makes a nice decoration for my dresser. I have two statues of winged lions in a glass case guarding my fancy edition of The Hobbit: one is a tiny replica of the Winged Lion of Saint Mark's that a friend of mine got for me after scouring touristy shops in Venice for an entire day, the other is a resin gargoyle from one of my many trips to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin. There is also a relief of the Saint Mark's lion on my keyring, and I have a brooch of a gothic-styled winged lion as well.
It's a strange little quirk of mine, this jumbled, eclectic collection of symbols. I suppose I do it to remind myself of how far I've come and how far I am able to go. I am no longer the shy, anxious girl reading in the back of my high school class. I have strode out into the world and staked my claim on the life I've always dreamed of. But I think we all feel like our insecure teenage selves at times, and in those moments I am surrounded by these talismans, tiny messages to myself. "You are strong. Look how far you have come. Look at the life you have made. You can get through anything."
So as I stared at that silly graphic glowing on my screen, the promise of what basically amounts to a participation trophy, I felt my resolve hardening. I dragged myself out of my cocoon of blankets, pulled on a pair of leggings and a sports bra, laced up my sneakers, and put in my headphones to better hear the tinny directions and words of encouragement that the app offers, and took off. And you know what? It felt awesome. The air was fresh, the park was quiet and beautiful, full of my neighbors also out for their early morning walk/jog/bike ride,. And, yes, in some small way, I DID feel like a lionheart. I call that a win.
The moral of this story is probably something like, "If you want to motivate yourself to do something, find rewards that truly speak to you on a personal level." But if all you get out of this is, "calling Anna a lionheart will make her more likely to agree to something," well, that's probably not wrong either.