The paradox of breaks is that we both need them and, sometimes, feel as though they are a nuisance. A break in a period of great writing for me, for example, feels like an obstacle and a bother. Interrupting the flow of ideas is not great - especially when it’s taken so long to know when to expect them and how to harness that energy.
But, then, when the words have dried up and it feels like you’ve said everything you could possibly say for a given story and it’s not quite finished, well, a break is welcome. A respite, as it were, from the slight sense of failing at this craft. Which, coincidentally, is a daily endeavor for me. Lolsob.
The international break is not unlike that except, perhaps, stripped of all of the inner turmoil and ennui. It offers the opportunity for players like Naby Keita and Alisson Becker to recuperate from injury. It allows for players like Mohamed Salah to, hopefully, get a little bit of rest after a busy summer. And it allows those like Xherdan Shaqiri to put in some time to do the type of work that will get them back to their best before the next set of Premier League matches.
Breaks are good.
But the interruption can also slow momentum. And given that this last month saw Liverpool continue their stellar - if at times slightly nervy play at the back - play from the previous year, there’s a natural inclination in anxious types such as myself to just push forward. To go past the break. To forego a pause.
I’ve been having to unlearn a lot of my tendencies over the past 5 years. Tendencies built over the previous 31 years on this earth. That’s not a thing that happens overnight and I’m sitting in this very moment trying to remind myself that progress isn’t linear.
A small example of that is how I’ve constantly had to fight my interior anxiety over my physical health and well-being, often tied to the way my body looks and/or is shaped. I’ve never been an adonis in my life. And, for the most part, I’ve probably looked average to slim.
But everyone’s got their demons and one of mine has been a constant sense of dissatisfaction as it relates to the way my body looks. To that end, I decided to try my hand at various things to maintain my fitness. For a while, I ran obsessively, a thing I never knew I would ever do. I also turned to swim. Eventually, I found what felt like the missing piece by adding some weight training to the mix.
I’m not a gym rat, but given how often I go, my co-workers swear I am one. I’ve been very good about maintaining a general weight over the past year even with being less consistent. These are good things.
Because my mind is often rooted in a weird space where if I miss just one gym day, one work out, then I’ve lost all the work I’d done previously. That I will have undone all of the good that’s come before.
That’s obviously not true and part of my anxiety that I’ve been working on. I’m glad to say that I can hold up a lot of this year as a perfect example of how that interior narrative that speaks the fear of undoing it all with missing a day or a week is somehow going to be disastrous. That I’ve learned a little that the surest sign that being fit is a lifestyle for me is that I’ve managed to stay within a reasonable weight over this past year.
But it’s also still tough. This week in particular because I’ve fallen ill and haven’t been able to go to the gym. And that’s after a week where I only went twice and the week previous where I also had to miss. Cue mental spiral.
All isn’t lost, though. And I need to remember that.
That’s all a very long way of saying that I’m trying to talk myself out of being anxious about tomorrow’s match and the runs of results that comes next. It’s all a process, of course, and anxiety is clearly a condition I have to deal with.
But one of the gifts of following this particular iteration of Liverpool is that I often can just focus on the match at hand. Which is what anyone dealing with anxiety is often trained to do: to look at the immediate moment and try to stay locked in. Because we can’t control the actions that have passed us by and the future remains unwritten, our power only exists in now.
And, well, Liverpool’s ability to control their own destiny exists in the now. The quality in depth and across the squad is the power with which they can shape that present. Looking across football clubs in all of Europe, there are only a handful that could lay similar claim as builders of their own future.
So, even as I can feel the swirling noise turn over and over in my head. And the din of all the voices rush to crowd out the serenity. I’m going to choose instead to try and focus on now. Because this Liverpool squad is the best in the league. And the only thing that can undo that is Liverpool itself. Come on you glorious and mighty, top of the league Reds!