Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life as a Marathon

Photo of the Month
March 2001, Calle Ocho 5k, Miami
Quote of the month:
A journey of a thousand miles 
begins with a single step.
- Lao-tzu

Usually I like to use beautiful or inspiring photos as the photo of the month. This one may not be beautiful, but hopefully by the end of this post, it will be inspiring. I am using this photo this month because it is me, crossing the finish of my first run. It wasn't pretty.... but I completed the race. Thank you to my friend, Israel, for taking this photo of me back in 2001! I am just to the left of the orange cone wearing a white t-shirt. After this came other runs and longer runs.... but this was the first!

Although I had done some running when I was younger, it was never more than a few miles at a time. During a difficult and challenging time in my life, I took up long distance running, starting with a few 5k's, then a 7 mile and then a half marathon. The running became a metaphor for my life.... in that I could not always see the finish line, but I could always take one more step. All I needed to focus my attention on, was the step I was taking right here, right now, and trust that the finish line was still out there..... I couldn't see it and certainly did not know what it would look like.... but I knew that it was there.... at about mile 11 of the half marathon... that became really important!! 

I'll share with you what I learned.... see if any of it might apply to challenges you might face in your own life!

Life is like a marathon!

1 - There may come a time that we decide to do, or have to do something we never thought we would do.... or could do.

I never thought I could run 13.1 miles without stopping! That's for sure! I also never thought I would move across the country one time.... let alone 3 times in 5 1/2 years! Now, I've done both!

The lesson here - Don't decide you cannot do something until you at least try!  

2 - You may not be able to see the finish line but you can always take one more step.

As the quote above says, the journey starts with a single step. In a run, it begins with the crack of the gun going off to signal the start of the race. An average person takes 2000 steps/mile - so that would be  at least 6200 steps for a 5k!

With a long distance move, there are a lot of steps - showing the house, selling the house, inspections, repairs, signing papers, packing boxes, saying goodbye to dear friends, driving across country with kids and crying cats, buying a house, signing more papers, more inspections, unpacking boxes, changing the car registration, first day at a new school/job, setting up new doctors..... and on and on.... whew... I am getting tired all over again just thinking about it. Looking at all of these steps together may seem overwhelming. Piled on top of each other, it seems like a mountain. It seem insurmountable. Much as the finish line seems VERY far away in a marathon (or half marathon.) Breaking things down into bite size pieces makes them more manageable.

Once you get started, there may come times when you feel like you may not be able to make it to the end. This happened both in life and in running - but I could always take one more step. At step 5124, all you need to do is take step 5125! Don't think about the distance remaining!

The lesson hereAs the quote above says, even something that seems insurmountable cannot be completed without starting! No matter how long and complicated an endeavor may be, simply start with the first step and keep taking whatever step you are on.... which leads to #3. 

3 - Be Present in the step you are taking - only this step.

I have written before about being Present or Mindful. In Taking Stock/Mindfulness, from July 2009, I wrote, being mindful simply means that we are paying attention. I used the example of a tight rope walker and how when walking on a high wire, one's attention can be no where else. The walker's full attention is on the step they are taking at that moment, the placement of the foot and where the weight is placed in the foot. In running, I focused on my foot hitting the pavement and stretching my leg for the next step. In moving - I knew I was getting too far ahead of myself when I started to get anxious about what teachers the kids might have or would there be a Target nearby? I knew it was time to bring my attention back to where I currently was.

The lesson here - I suggest Presence as often as possible in all aspects of life, challenge or not! 

4 - Even though you can't see the finish line - that is ok - Trust that it is out there.

At the beginning of a 13 mile run, the finish line is no where in sight, nor at the beginning of 1063 mile drive or the packing of the first box. It is natural to want to see it... but accept that you cannot.  Trust! Trust! Trust!  Even if things do not go as planned, Trust that you will find a way to fix it or work it out.  There are very few things in life that cannot be fixed.  

The lesson here - It is ok not to know how everything will turn out! Things usually do work out. I often ask.... "What is the alternative? That they won't work out?"  Usually not!

As always, I would love to hear your comments in the section below.
Until next month....
Keep it simple!


Michael said...

I love this post. It is such a crucial lesson. I have had more than one friend give me this advice during trying times in my life. And I believe I was the first person to hear from you, Penelope, "What's the alternative? It won't work out?" Keep up the good work.

kristin said...

I needed this post this month! It reminded me that to finish something I must first start. And when I start to look for the finish line and get nervous because I can't see it ... I must bring myself back to the step I'm on and do that step well. The nervous feelings disappear and my confidence returns on that one step.
Thank you for reminding us of this very important life lesson!

Penelope said...

So pleased the post could be your reminder this month! You included a good point not mentioned in the post - coming back to the Present Moment will take you out of the future. There is no nervousness or anxiety in the Present! Only in the future! AND - going into the future might create more challenges with the current step that needs your attention!
Thank you very much for your comment! Is it time for some porch chat?!