Big dreams. Big goals.
2015 was going to be my year.
Summit a volcano. (Ok, technically this goal came late in the year but absolutely took on a life of its own.)
See my own byline in a print magazine (or even a digital one).
And… run my fifth marathon in less than 5 hours at the 40th Marine Corps Marathon.
Except that here is the thing. So far – with only two months left to go in this year…none of my dreams have come true.
My byline dreams are at bit of a standstill with “thanks, but no thanks” responses from editors (this is actually ahead of where I was this time last year, so I can almost count this in the “win” column).
My volcano summit was thwarted by Pachamama (the Andean Mother Nature) deciding to grace us with a zero visibility day.
And my marathon? Six days shy of my 26.2 mile journey, I am preparing for a “long, leisurely day” in my running shoes thanks to a lackluster end of training season and head cold and cough that makes me wonder how many Kleenex I could stuff in my pockets.
You’d think I would be frustrated about my progress. You’d be right. I am.
Except that I haven’t given up. Or rather…I should say, I am not giving up.
Even if…I thought seriously about doing just that.
Instead, I am giving in.
I started to wonder whether or not I should cancel my Marine Corps Marathon plans (or at the very least postpone them for another race later in the year). But as I set out to attempt one last 15-mile run, to salvage what motivation and muscle memory was left in my brain – I realized something.
Just because I know I won’t achieve my race day goal of a sub-5-hour run does not mean that I should not show up at the start line. Because sometimes, just like my other dreams, each stride puts me one step closer. It might take a lot of little steps – and sometimes even a fall – but persevering (and learning as I go) are the only ways to ever transform dreams into reality.
This is true for marathon running and just about every other scenario I can think of.
I have always been a goal setter. And in most cases, I have always achieved what I’ve set out to accomplish. Maybe it comes from years of writing SMART goals as a teacher. Maybe it comes from overthinking all the what-ifs, so that I’ve basically worked through the obstacles before even starting.
But the truth is that some goals are harder than others.
There are no shortcuts, no free passes. I am not even sure there is luck, because I would like to believe that hard work wins out in the end. But sometimes, there are external variables that play a role – no matter how much determination you can muster. Sometimes there are instances that you simply “do” – for pleasure or for practice. Or just because.
Maybe this is supposed to be how my year played out. Maybe this was my lesson in learning that sometimes you have to set aside goals and dreams and just “be.” In the moment, in the beauty – and in the mindset of gratitude. As a Type A personality – always setting goals- sort of person, this isn’t always easy for me.
But when I do give in…there is magic and light.
There are no scenarios where I will run my marathon in under five hours this weekend, unless you count the one where the running gods shine a special go-fast laser beam on me, giving me wings to propel my steps toward the finish line. There isn’t a good probability that my first big byline is going to magically land on my desk. There is no chance that I am going to get myself back to Chile right away to summit the Osorno Volcano. But that is ok.
I am not giving up, I am giving in. For the moment.
What does that mean exactly? Giving in?
It means being present. Mindful. Grateful. Compassionate. It means allowing myself to do my best without judgement. Without criticism. Without voices taunting me in my head. In my marathon and in the rest of my life.
I will line up at the start, thankful for my health, grateful for the journey that has gotten me there and in appreciation of what is to come. I will count my steps when the miles get tough. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and then again – over and over. I will focus on breathing when my heart starts to race. I will walk if I need to. And I will run when I can.
Granted, this is all pre-race.. There is a strong likelihood that I will cross the finish line in pain or drained of all mental strength. There is the distinct possibility that I will be sad or even worse, mad at myself for not giving more. But there is also a chance that I will be smiling, proud that I chose to honor the journey without being so focused on the goal that I forgot to be compassionate – with myself.
Maybe, just maybe, a “just because” marathon is exactly what I needed.
(Or maybe I am just telling myself this to feel better.)
Whatever the case, I know that my dreams do not end just because it is taking me a bit longer than I’d like to achieve my goals.