Today was interesting.
In 2010 I posted a link to a blog entry of a "poem" I had written back in 1995. I was in therapy trying to undo a lot of the knots of my childhood and this "poem" was exactly where I was--trying to get through this raging river of memory and mess to get to what I perceived would be a better place. I so clearly remember writing that "poem". I remember the feeling triumph over the fear of confronting all those past feelings and disappointments and hurts. I felt powerful and strong. I felt fearless. I felt hopeful for things to come.
Fast forward two years. I posted a link to a blog entry about a bike race I was entered in. It was all about about how terrified I was. Why was I so scared? I was going to have to ride my bike UP A HILL (gasp!). That sounds silly, but some fears really are a little silly. I'm going to say ALL irrational fears are silly. There is no SOLID basis in reality when dealing with irrational fears. They are usually a distortion or over generalization of some real thing; that honest fear has morphed into some new (silly) thing. In the case of this race, a fear of failure had given way to a fear of riding up a hill!!
For what it's worth, I did that race and I made it up that "gargantuan" climb. I don't even think of it as a major climb anymore. Not that I could even begin to go ride it today, but I don't think I'm scared of the thought of riding it. It's hard to know for sure since it's completely out of the question for me right now. It's hard to muster fear when there's no doubt the thing isn't going to come to pass!!
Fast forward another year. I posted a link to a blog entry about staying focused on where I'm currently at, honoring the present rather than looking back or looking ahead. It was 2013. I was battling a shoulder injury and wanting to begin training for my first Ironman that fall. I had so much pain in that shoulder. (It turned out that I had a torn bicep tendon that was cut out the following January--after I had completed IMLT.) I said in part:
It's too easy to get caught up in thinking about anything other than where I'm at on this journey RIGHT NOW, mainly because it's usually not where I WANT to be!! But...man...that's a GREAT thing. That edge of discontentment means I'm driven. It means I want more than to stay put. ...The thing I'm coming to realize is I don't have to give up my drive and my desire to do better in order to appreciate where I'm at right now. In fact, honoring this moment in time is part of the way I will be able to get better. I look at what I'm doing now. This day. This workout. This moment. If I'm giving all I have to give to make the training session what it needs to be, I can say, "YES!! That's great..." When I can stay focused on the task at hand I am able to give it all I have. If I'm distracted-thinking about anything else other than what I'm doing-I'm NOT giving all I have. It's as simple as that.
It's easy to get caught up in what I want...to be too tightly entangled with what I think I'm working toward-the GOAL. When that happens, I lose track of the task at hand. I lose focus on where I'm currently at and what the current need truly is.
I see it with the athletes I coach all the time. They work hard and get a little "injury" that's not an injury, it's just a little "thing". They don't pay attention to that thing, but instead stay too tightly transfixed on the future GOAL. They don't take the necessary steps to care for that "thing" properly. That little thing that's not an injury becomes an injury and it stops them from reaching their goal.
A lot of people do this but in different ways. I had a friend whose wife became addicted to gambling. She literally lost everything they had-all their life savings, their house, and eventually their marriage. She kept thinking she would be able to win it all back if she could just hit well "one time". The father of another friend had never taken a real vacation from work. His plan was to retire and then travel. He worked hard EVERY DAY and saved a lot of money for his future. ...he died the week after he retired. We can get so ensnared by the goal, by the plan, that we lose track of where we are right now.
Allow me to tell you a story about someone we'll call Sally. Sally had fallen into a hole. She could see the light of the "outside world" but she was pretty far down below the surface. She wasn't shaken by this, she knew what she needed to do-just climb up and get out of that hole. But every time she tried to grab the wall of that hole, it just crumbled under her hand. Sally tried everything...she called for help, she looked for anything that could be used as a tool, she even tried meditation thinking she just needed to relax her way out of the hole. She took a little time trying to become more at home in the hole, but that was NOT going to happen, she knew that hole was NOT where she belonged. But every time she tried to climb up and out to get back to the surface, she stumbled. At times she even fell a little further from the surface. Other times it would rain and with every attempt to get out she made that hole bigger and bigger as she slid on the muddy prison walls. Some days she was so exhausted all she could do was to wait for rain to wet her mouth so she could try again.
One day Sally decided that she was going to change the goal. Up until then the goal was to GET OUT OF THE HOLE and get BACK TO THE SURFACE. She decided while that was a really good long-term goal, the short term had to be something else because she wasn't seeing any progress being made. (Truth be told, she was actually getting further from her goal every day.) It also couldn't be about making "interim goals" because if she was being brutally honest with herself, she knew she might not ever make it to the surface.) She decided to make the goal all about what she was doing in the moment to move TOWARD that goal. Those actions might not produce the result of getting her closer to the surface, but that wasn't going to be the metric of success anymore. The metric was going to be "am I doing something that I think will move me closer, even if it doesn't?".
Sally had realized that she didn't have control of the hole. She knew she was not content to stay there, but she didn't know if she'd ever actually see the surface ever again. If the metric of success was about meeting that long term goal of being out, she might not ever make it. She might become very frustrated and give up on that goal. But if the metric became making attempts to move toward that goal, then ANY attempt was a win, even if it didn't actually produce measurable progress. She might move up a few feet, only to be knocked back down but she knew she would never stop trying to get out of that hole.
When we are looking ahead, we might have this vast expanse in front of us-we can see for MILES and MILES. It's an open road just begging to be traveled. But there are other times when we are trapped by circumstance. We always have a choice. Do we focus on the horizon, or do we focus on where we are in the moment? Both perspectives have advantages and are necessary for different reasons. But I believe you need the ability to do both. More that than, you need the wisdom to know which one will serve you best in the moment.
Because, we don't have the advantage of being all knowing.
Thanks for stopping in and for sticking around.