As someone who runs marathons, I know that running is 98% mental. If I’ve trained consistently and put in the miles, the body knows what to do. If any obstacles arise, either during training or the last miles of a race, I’m almost always assured that it’s my mind getting in the way. This holds true for everyday life as well. I’m ready to turn these obstacles into words and take the sting out of them.
I noticed last year that certain things kept coming up in my writing, words that I wrote over and over. Probably the most frequent thing that came to the forefront was the idea of acceptance, especially acceptance of things as they are, not as I want them to be. This is also tied in with no control, awareness, and not judging. I went through a short phase where I tried to meditate every day after yoga, and those three concepts kept coming up each day. The actual words would appear in front of my eyes out of the darkness, unbidden and nagging, since I was trying to clear my mind. Eventually, when I got up to 20 minutes of meditation and it became harder to focus for so long, I turned them into a mantra, saying the concepts aloud in my head on each out breath. Acceptance . . . awareness . . . not judging . . . no control . . .
We all know how our minds can mess with us, how we can turn the smallest obstacle into something huge. I have a memory from childhood that stands out as a symbol of the word FEAR. My family had gone to Six Flags and we were high above the ground on a wooden deck in the trees. To get to the other side we had to walk over a suspended bridge. I remember being petrified of walking across that swaying, unstable bridge, and I refused. I threw a hysterical fit. I don’t even remember what it was that scared me, because I’ve never been afraid of heights. In the end, I think my dad had to take me down a spiral tree slide to get back to the ground below.
I still don’t like bridges that bounce, but not to the extent I did as a child, when irrational fears are somewhat more acceptable. Nowadays my fears tend to be more based on something that could happen, which might be the silliest fears of all. For instance, a few months ago Michael and I spent a day in Ft. Worth filming the race course for the Cowtown Marathon. Michael wanted to get some footage of downtown Ft. Worth, so we drove to the Trinity River levee and parked the car. Michael lugged the camera equipment to the top of the levee to film. I had visions of dead bodies in the river and gangs of homeless people attacking him. In the meantime, I sat alone in the car, in an empty parking lot behind a ballpark, watching some construction nearby. As a woman, I was afraid. I felt out of place and alone, like I shouldn’t be there, and was convinced someone would show up and hassle me.
Of course nothing happened. The construction guys didn’t pay me the slightest bit of attention and Michael didn’t see one single dead body or dangerous homeless person on the levee. It was the fear of what could have happened that caused more stress than anything that did–or didn’t–happen.
Last year I had a lot of lessons on acceptance, one of them due to training through an extremely hot summer. In the end, I had no choice but to accept I had no control over the weather. Either I accepted it, and ran anyway, or I got angry and stayed home. My training was therefore inconsistent and led to two nagging injuries. I’m sure I still have more lessons on acceptance headed my way, but at least now I recognize it when it shows up.
This year’s obstacle to be turned into a word is fear. I never would have called myself a fearful person in the past, but I think in many ways I am. I don’t like being pushed out of my comfort zone, and prefer to dip one toe in slowly until I get used to a situation. In a more literal sense, I’ve never been one of those people who runs screaming into a cold body of water. I go in slowly, inch by inch, at my own speed. I’m going to work more on being a screaming jumper, not letting fear hold me back.
I’m ready to turn these mental obstacles into nothing more than words. By doing so, I think I take away some of their power. Words can be turned off, left unspoken and therefore unacknowledged. As long as the concepts take up space in my head, in the form of obstacles, they can do damage. If I turn them into words only, with no experiences to back them up, they remain meaningless.