There’s No “There” There
Recently, there was a meme floating around that I found to be hilarious. Probably because it’s something I’ve actually said: “If you see me running, you’d better run, too; there’s probably something chasing me.”
I used to be a runner. You’re probably picturing someone wearing a merino base-layer with compression tights. Maybe a light shell and the latest running shoes with energy-return technology? Perhaps a look of sheer joy and freedom on my face? No. Wrong. Not me.
Though I ran for many years, I never experienced that unicorn referred to as “runner’s high.” Instead of euphoria, I experienced nausea; feeling like I was going to die the entire time, every time. I was committed to it, but I hated it. I was absolutely a telephone-pole-to-telephone-pole kind of girl.
Four years ago, post-MRI, I was told “no more running.” My knees were done. They had used up all of their cushion and could no longer handle any impact. While I grieved the loss of my cartilage and the diagnosis of severe osteoarthritis, I was secretly relieved that I wasn’t allowed to run anymore. No more hustling. No more turning up the music to drown out my gasping. No more dragging my butt to the next telephone pole. I needed to find a new way to exercise.
As it turns out, the telephone-pole-to-telephone-pole technique wasn’t unique to my running. For years, it was how I did life. I was convinced that if I could just make it to the next driveway, stop sign, end of the street, I’d be okay.
In real terms, if I could endure this busy weekend, if I could meet this deadline, if I could annihilate my list of things to do, then I’d be able to rest. I would be happy once I met the right person, once I paid off debt, once this dispute was settled. I’d be less tired once the kids were in bed, once hockey season was over, once the summer came. I’d be happy once I owned my own house, once I got a new car, once I had more time.
But as I heard someone quote recently, “there’s no there there.” It’s a moving target. A dangling carrot. A hazy oasis on the horizon.
Just as the knee issue necessitated a change that forced me to slow down, so the terrifying nightmare of a potentially missed life scared me awake. Changes needed to be made. My soul had used up all of its cushion and could no longer handle any impact. I was sick to death of bracing myself, of limping along, of just trying to make it through alive.
In my journal, I wrote:
I’m perpetually waiting for something. Waiting to get through this part. waiting for the next thing. Waiting to finish school. Waiting for resolution. Waiting for job security. Waiting for the kids to stop fighting. Waiting until debts are paid. Waiting to get on with my life. Waiting to be meaningful. Waiting for less stress. Waiting to live. Waiting to be myself. Waiting for joy. Waiting to fully engage. Waiting to lock in with my life. Waiting for the hard part to be over. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. And in the process of trying to endure; just trying to make it—I’m missing it! I’m missing the life that I have!”
The fear gave way to intentionality. I chose to accept that this is what life looks like; because if I didn’t embrace it and appreciate it for what it was, I was going to miss it. What if I suddenly woke up at 100 years old? I would be filled with the worst kind of regret! A life unnoticed and unappreciated. A life endured rather than a life lived.
And so, I learned (and have had to re-learn, innumerable times) to practice gratitude in the midst of my busy, chaotic, sometimes heart-wrenching life. No more wasting it on waiting. No more plugging my ears and singing “la, la, la” to drown out the noise.
And this is how we get there; to that elusive place we’re straining toward. That finish line that doesn’t actually exist. THIS is where true peace comes:
By being thankful in the middle.
Not by reaching the next telephone pole. And certainly not by making it across the finish line.
Instead of gasping and enduring and hanging on until it’s over, let us respond to the invitation to stop. Let’s exchange laboured running for intentional walking and frenzied hustling for thankfulness. Let’s shift our gaze from the hard things—worry, pain, mis-guided attempts at controlling our lives—and thoughtfully consider all that is good. Not only there on the other side, but right here, right now.
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