“I know it might sound weird, but empathy is one of the greatest creators of energy. It’s counterintuitive because it’s selfless.”~ Angela Ahrendts.
My father came from an athletic family. He was the youngest of three boys, all of whom had trophies and awards for their accomplishments. In his 40’s and 50’s he would shine during the annual students vs teachers football (aka soccer) match. I have written before about the unforgettable goal he sent flying past the goalie, leaving him dazed and confused. My father’s explanation for the ferocity of the shot was that he played without his glasses, and thought the goal was much further away than it actually was!
I was not particularly athletic as a child. I had plenty of heart, not so much talent. On teams I was usually the next to last one chosen, no one could completely ignore my desire to play, but I would usually be given a safe position to play, one where I couldn’t do too much damage. In netball I couldn’t shoot the ball through the hoops, but I would ‘mark’ my opponent, sticking to them like glue and taking them out of the game. There was the famous time that I volunteered to run the 100m dash. We were getting ready for Sports day, and my ‘house’ was lacking participants, so I started training. Unfortunately, my effort and heart and desire did not give me a Hollywood ending. The story goes that on the day of the race I led the pack for the first 50m, then proceeded to backpedal as everyone passed me, and I came in somewhere near (I’m sure I wasn’t actually) dead last.
There is something satisfying about pushing yourself past your best, especially when you get older and realize that the best competition is against yourself. This has to be balanced though, as some people don’t recognize when they have reached the outer limits of their ability and keep pushing through until they get injured. But it is interesting to see what we are capable of.
I heard the best story the other day. For the first time in 33 years, the winner of the Boston Marathon was a woman. She is an athlete, an Olympian, a serious runner. In the interview she spoke of the life of a long-distance runner: some days you are in the zone and can go forever, but some days it is hard work, and it is pure determination that gets you through. The day of the Marathon was gloomy, windy and wet, a miserable day to run. She said that starting out she knew she would not have a good race; her muscles were stiff, the weather was miserable, and so her focus was on getting through. She was running with her team and had told one of her teammates that she would give her support, so when the teammate needed to stop for a ‘porter-pottie break’, Desiree slowed down to wait for her then ran with her for them to catch up with team. She ran slightly ahead of her to block the worst of the weather. As she did so, she realized that she was catching her stride and she got back into her zone. She ended up coming in first! The mantra that kept her going throughout the race was ‘Just show up for one more mile’. And for the record, I am very proud to report that the person who came in second in the Marathon was a nurse!
There are times in life when we are so caught up in the long list of things to do, that we get nothing done. We look so far ahead to the possible obstacles and challenges, that we guarantee failure by not getting started. Human beings are blessed with an amazing capacity to create vivid mental images. Sometimes those stories take up more of our waking hours than our actual life. Nursing students have frequent tests and exams to evaluate learning, they must read NCLEX style questions that require them to apply big concepts to human scenarios. But often the biggest stumbling block is the student’s anxiety, or self-doubt. Instead of focusing on each question and reasoning it out, their mind races ahead, anticipating failure and thereby almost certainly guaranteeing it. How do you quiet the chattering mind, the overstimulated (and probably sleep deprived) brain, to help it to calmly eliminate and choose, to stay focused?
It requires discipline and desire to succeed at things we fear are beyond our ability. And sometimes it is as simple as ‘just showing up.’ Too often we may be present in body, but our minds are elsewhere, and we miss opportunities that are at our feet. It is always easier said than done to be a better person, to correct those bad patterns and create new ones. As a procrastinator of the highest order (I swear I should have been named Procrastinator Jones at birth) I can always find something to do other than the task at hand. In fact, sometimes I have to motivate myself by thinking of a task I would like to do less, in order to get started. My Friday Morning Messages are often aimed first at myself, a challenge to be a better person. Of course, I have plenty of people around me to throw my words back at me when I fall short!
If you find yourself in a rut, feeling as if you cannot succeed, first just show up. Pay attention to the present and forgive yourself for not being further along the path. Sometimes it is good to remember that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Beating up on yourself for not having saved enough money for retirement, or been able to give your kids a better college education, or for not completing that degree does not get you anywhere. Start with where you are now and move forward. As a friend of mine used to say, some days coffee, some days tea. Just show up!
Have a great weekend Family!