Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mile 24

Yesterday, I faced a difficult non-running challenge.  As president of the PTA at my children's school, I needed to present an unpopular view to our families, facilitate a discussion on the topic, and do it on my own without support from the administration.  To say that I was stressed about this task is to say that a marathon is a little run.

I wasted time and mental energy feeling frustrated about the situation and wanting to know why I was forced to defend a decision that I had no role in making and that, quite frankly, I didn't agree with.  I couldn't eat.  I had little patience for my kids.  I twisted my hair into oblivion.  Exhausted from the stress, I finally found a new framework in which to face the situation.  I couldn't control the circumstances, but I had total control over my outlook, my approach, and my attitude.

With this realization, I noticed that the meeting was exactly like mile 24 of my marathon: an uphill battle with the wind in my face and a body and brain fatigued beyond all imagining.  But just as I put my head down and survived mile 24, I knew I could grin and bear it to make it through my tough evening.

Renewed in spirit, I approached the meeting and the dreaded topic with optimism.  I strove to find a silver lining (small though it was) amidst the hurt feelings, and I encouraged the rest of the families to do the same.  I asked them to use this frustrating situation as an opportunity to teach our children how to be strong in the face of adversity, to face the future with courage, and to stand together as a united front when the going gets tough.  The message was received better than I could have hoped, and though nothing is resolved, I hope that the spirit of optimism will overpower the anger and frustration.

The discussion took every drop of my energy, and when it was finally over, I felt like I'd been run over by a Mack truck.  Not unlike how I felt at the end of mile 24.

When I set out to train for a marathon, I expected to gain strong quads, chiseled calves, and lungs of steel.  What I attained instead is infinitely more powerful.  Though I'm pleased with my strong legs and spacious lungs, I'm amazed at the mental strength I honed over the last 5 months.  Before marathon training, I couldn't have faced the unhappy crowd last night with the calm and poise that I did.  My marathon taught me that I can do hard things.  Really hard things.  I can persevere through difficult moments - the mile 24's of life - by sheer force of will.

Thanks to months of training, I am strong.  Inside and out.