I’ve never been a fan of running unless it was toward or away from something else, so after the competitive summer soccer tournaments ended and before my junior year of high school, I just took it easy. I think I tanned near a pool a lot.
I regretted my lack of training, though, when school tryouts started, particularly on the seventh lap around the track during the timed distance run on day two. My lungs were hot and my legs scoffed at my brain’s orders for graceful speed.
Yet, I don’t remember that moment for the pain or even for the outcome — but because something almost unbelievable happened: I transcended the discomfort. I didn’t make it to the end despite the feeling of bodily revolt. I escaped it. And finished with gusto (that’s what we’ll call the ugly sprint at the end).
My dad, a longtime distance swimmer and runner, had given me some advice the night before. He didn’t talk to me about breathing, hydrating or the aerodynamics of closely following another runner.
He talked to me about focus.
Clouds were what he recommended, but anything good would do. And he encouraged me to give my attention to that goodness — to be purposeful about it.
August morning clouds are good. It worked that time; I flew.
But it’s October 2020 now. The August clouds have come and gone. We’re days before a wildly contentious election during a global pandemic and the temperatures outside have begun to suggest we prepare for a darker season (that is not an election prediction).
I sense a collective girding of loins.
We’re all lined up on the track the morning after a grueling day of drills and training. Our bodies are tired. Sore. Our minds tell us we’re unready.
We’re staring down the hardest part.
I don’t wanna.
I really don’t wanna.
I’ve already checked into whether or not humans can hibernate (I feel like I’m already doing some strong caloric preparation), and I just can’t see that it’s possible. So, I guess we gotta. We just have to make it through these winter months.
It feels charged, though, this moment. Because we’re at a crossroads. We can retreat or curl inward like a neglected nail. We can fold.
Or we can do something else.
I don’t actually know what this something else is, because I’m in my own fog of defeat, but I know that we have a choice.
And choices, like clouds, are good.
We’ve lost any semblance of control, it feels like, and the opportunity to choose something (anything!) rather than be dealt a random hand is a luxury worthy of being wrapped in Tiffany blue.
We can fly. But it won’t be easy.
We’re going to be sweaty, weary and with too many parts that feel like jelly.
But we’re going to shine. Or we’re going to be dull and gritty. But we’re going to do this.
We’re going to get creative. Scrappy. And we’re going to honor the moments when we realize we’ve been in the same clothes for 48 hours after finishing a whole plate of cookies and we’re going to keep moving forward.
It’s who we are.
It might feel a lot like flailing. Or failing. And that’s OK. Because we can fail all the way to success when we keep at it.
We just have to keep at it. That’s our choice. That’s our focus.