Your Perfect Effort

As I watched the ball drop with my family (from the comfort of my couch of course), I felt grateful for the toasts, hugs, and kisses that came with the stroke of midnight. The promise of a New Year.  A better year I hoped.  Sure, I knew what I wanted for myself; some good races lined up, more time being ‘present’ with my family and friends, getting my books done and published on line.  Having an emotions workshop for kids that would have Shel Silverstein shaking his ‘Giving Tree’ in envy.   But what my main goal was, well… that would be a challenge.  A real test of my tolerance.  My fortitude.

In past years I would set my eye on the target (whatever my goal) and if I went off the tracks in the ‘slightest,’ I was just as happy give myself as many mental body-shots as needed to finally cry ‘uncle’ and scrap whatever goal I was reaching for. Of course I wasn’t honest about it!  I would just mentally pull the rug out from under myself, and limp along half-heartedly.  Not expecting to succeed, I wasn’t too disappointed when it didn’t work out.

This year my singular goal over all others is to be accepting and honest with myself. To be gentle with myself when my efforts are ‘true’ and a target is missed, and to move forward with my efforts regardless.  To ‘bring myself to court’ and look at all the facts before throwing in the towel mentally after a bad beat.  To keep in my mind that mistakes aren’t just forgivable, they’re teachers, and that most likely anyone who accomplished anything worth accomplishing was probably fluent in them.

As you consider your hopes, goals, and the promises you make to yourself this year, consider that your goals are less about the unyielding linear successes you’ll make, and more about your unwavering resolution to have your own back during your efforts. Like a potter who throws clay on the wheel, the molding, shaping, and sculpting of your goals is not a clean act.  There is no perfect action to get it all right the first time.  The wheel spins while you’re creating, spitting the mud and water of your doubts and fears.

You must be comfortable with getting your hands dirty. For form to fail.  For setbacks.  To start over, even when the changes you make are applauded by others, if they weren’t the changes you were looking for.  Your resilience will give you the strength to push through temporary setbacks, but it will be your faith in yourself that will keep your efforts honest and moving forward.  Even with all of this, pain and uncertainty will be your companions.  And Thank God.  Because pain and uncertainty are unavoidable and necessary for lasting change.  Without them, you would miss out on the greatest fruit of all of your efforts: Gratitude.  Your ability to fully focus on what goals you truly find important, beautiful, and critical to your life, while identifying all the superficial glazes, finishes, and textures that have taken up space in your thoughts too long, and discarding them.

My New Year’s Resolution? This year, I hope to clearly see my imperfections, and to have faith in myself anyway.  To accept my setbacks, learn from them, and to stay the path no matter how many times it falls out from under me.  To not shy away from the pain and uncertainty that is required for me to reach my goals, and to keep a vigilant eye out for even the most minuscule, beautiful moments in my life.  Because it will be those moments that will keep the fire of gratitude stoked in my heart when dealing with my failures along the way to my successes.

Happy New Year!

Part 2 – the places you’ll go

So after a wonderful trip down Dr. Seuss’s memory lane, a couple days later my back goes out on me, of course. Really? Come on! I have running to do, work to do, did I mention running to do? I found myself not running, having to re-schedule patients, laid up on my own treatment table, quite uncomfortably taking a bit of residence in my very own special “waiting place.” I could feel my sticky mental stuckiness begin to crowd my mind with ‘What if’s!’

I’m sure we have all met these mental ‘critters’ before. They come in all different shapes and sizes, affecting everyone differently. Mine are a tricky lot, because my mind treats my little special ‘What ifs’ no differently than if they were unquestionable, UNDENIABLE truths about my unpleasant situation, even though they are completely fictional and have no basis in what actually took place. My ‘What if’s’ craft stories, completely believable to me (after all I created them, and I wouldn’t lie to myself… would I?). They come gift wrapped in pretty mental visual imagery that I create, strung tightly with my own self-doubts and fears. “What if I’m not able to train anymore?” Or another slippery ‘What if’er,’ “What if I lose all of my fitness and can’t run my race in a few weeks?”

Now what tools from my mental-emotional tool box could I tinker with that would send these ‘What if’ pests running back to the creepy, crawlyish recesses of my mind? (Because, after all, they’re always there… waaay in the back… just waiting to come out any time a whiff of my self-doubt or distress hits their little nostrils.) I pull out my first and foremostish important tool for when the ‘What ifs’ are visiting —

I ask myself how I am feeling and try to figure out why.

“I am frustrated and upset because my back is zinging me, and my mobility is that of the Tinman (un-oiled).”

Ohhh! ‘What’s ifs’ dislike this very much! It adds perspective to my current situation, bringing about self-awareness, and throws a big ol’ spot light right on them! My ‘What ifs’ are quite comfortable keeping me in in the dark about why they might be there so they can run their fictional fearful story on my mind’s reel. Next step…

I ask myself what do I want?

“I want to feel better and have thoughts that help me think and feel differently about my situation!”

I can almost hear the ‘What if’s’ screaming in unison, “Oh, no, not that!” I can feel these mental bottom-feeders hanging onto my brain with their fears, fictional stories, and poor assumptions begin to unwillingly lose their grip on my thoughts. They know what’s coming… I’m about to “bring my mind to court,” and that is the last thing they want! Just the facts, ma’am (or mister).

I begin to explore the TRUTHS I already know of my situation… sometimes I just need to remind myself.

“I’ve had this pain before and it usually only lasts a few days.”

“STOP IT!” Scream the ‘What if’s.’

“I can swim when my back goes out, and it actually helps to relieve the pain and keeps me fit.”

“La la lalala!” ‘What ifs’ holding their ears cringing.

“This is a temporary situation, and some time off will only add some much needed recovery after a very successful 50 mile race only a couple months ago.”

“AAAAAHHHHH!!!!” scream my ‘What ifs’ as they fall away and back into the recesses of my brain… at least until the next time.



The places you’ll go

One of my favorite authors growing up as a kid was Dr. Seuss. I remember my mother reading me just about every Seuss book she could get her hands on. Seeing all the amazing illustrations as she slowly turned the pages; the Cat in a Hat balancing a fish-bowl on a cane, the Lorax preaching from his stump, and the Grinch growing his heart three sizes…in one day, no less! I was totally immersed in the rich and vibrant world that was created from the mind of Dr. Seuss. How he put his imagination on paper through words, colors, and characters, inviting all of us to come inside…if we were willing.

As I grew up, the one book I found myself pulling from the bookshelf, whether at a quaint book store, a bustling Barnes and Noble, or in my own kids’ bedroom (of course we have a house copy) was “The Places You’ll Go.” Whether reading it with my kids, or just thumbing through to a favorite drawing or sentence during a tough day, looking for a bit of inspiration, I was always amazed that I could catch something different each time I ‘visited’. A different piece of wisdom, a different vantage point—similar to the way a painting or old favorite movie that you’ve seen a gazillion times seems to hit you differently at different times in your life.

Then there was “the waiting place.” God, I didn’t want to be in there as a kid. Who would? I remember the drawings being a bit darker, as if inked with regret. This always evoked a feeling of being ‘stuck’ in my own self-doubts and insecurities. The good Doctor made sure not to leave us there long, though. His words, “…and somehow you will get out…” allowed us all to exhale. Gave us a sense of relief knowing that whatever the obstacle, well…it was temporary. Our difficult situations and our uncomfortable emotions around them were not permanent. The twists, turns and the speed bumps of life are all real, but the assurance that Dr. Seuss gave was, and still is, priceless.

I believe each and every one of us are capable of finding our way out of our own waiting places. Capable of developing our own mental tools, ladders, and “what’s its” to help us move through our own muddy, boot filled, leg heavy doubts, fears, and sticky, stucky emotional trip-ups. Sometimes with more grit than grace, but whatever the problem before us, the solution can always be found within us. I believe this. I have faith in this…and think of all the places you’ll go!

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