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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Marathon Of Life: Don't Look Back, But Don't Move Too Fast

Today is the New York City Marathon.  The TV coverage may be ending to make room for football, but I know from experience that the race is still going strong.

DON'T LOOK BACK

This weekend, I visited a close friend of mine.  This person is a regular reader of my blog, and a fan.  However, she also belongs to that "we don't care" crowd I've been talking about recently -- those people who think that nobody should react to bullying, or even mention that it might have occurred if it happened more than two seconds ago.  Whenever they hear that someone's being wronged, their reaction is always "why are you obsessing over it, it doesn't bother me, let it go, you can't change people, who cares, etc., etc."

As you may have seen, I don't agree with this worldview in the slightest.  However, I have great respect for those who have this opinion, because they seem to be much happier and live much more satisfying lives.

During one of our many lively (but respectful) debates, she brought up an analogy that got me to step back and think a little bit.  She believed that when people talk about bullying, that they're fixated on something that happened in the past.  By way of analogy, she discussed the marathon.  She reminded me that I've run the marathon before, and that my goal was to come away with the fastest time that I could.  However, if I kept stopping along the way to say, "But this happened at Mile 2, and this happened at Mile 5, I forgot this and I forgot that," I'd come away with a very slow and unsatisfactory time.

She does have a point.  I certainly would never run a race that way.  Moreover, if I thought only about the past, and spent no time thinking about what was in front of me or which way I was going, I'd be stunted.  I'd be unable to move, unable to think, and unable to grow or learn in any way.

Earlier in this blog, I've discussed the 24-Hour Statute of Limitations.  Believe it or not, my friend's advice is completely congruent with that concept.  The 24-Hour Rule prevents us from looking backwards out of necessity.  It forces us to confront those who wrong us promptly, and forces us not to nurse grudges or hold onto unfinished business.  It's basically a "now or never" rule of dealing with life.

(of course, it is a 24-Hour rule, not a 24-Second rule, there is a small amount of time to deal with these things, but my point is, you don't hold onto it indefinitely)

But let me expound upon this rule a bit.  Life only goes in one direction, much like today's marathon.  You can't run it backwards or sideways.  If you have wounds from the past, you must let them heal, but once they've started healing, stop picking at them!  They'll get infected, and infect your outlook on life!

That being said, a top female runner in today's marathon taught us all a lesson about going too fast when you move forward. 

DON'T MOVE TOO FAST

Right from the start of the race, she led.  I mean she put at least a mile between herself and the rest of the pack.  It was unreal!  But, as the sportscasters noticed, she got slower as she got closer to the finish line.  This allowed two other runners to close in on her, and for the both to pass her with one mile left!

Meanwhile, on the men's side, a pack of about 8 runners stuck close to each other until mile 20.  At that point, someone decided to break away from the pack and made the play for the finish line.  Since he had stayed patient, he had stored up enough energy to make it a 6-mile race more than a marathon!

My friend still has the idea that just forgetting about it solves all issues.  Only problem is, even if you do want to move on and get past things, you can't just sprint for it without a second thought. 

Maybe she can, because she's a real tough one.  But the rest of us, as a matter of fact, can't just let it go that fast.  Sometimes, our problems and feelings are so deeply ingrained, that it could take months or longer to just "let it go."  Sometimes people are not ready to just "get over it" cold turkey.  Maybe they shouldn't do it lickety-split if they're not ready to do so.  If they try it, the pain and hurt might catch up to them and beat them.

So how can we get past prior harms, and achieve the same level of satisfaction as our counterparts, if we're not at that level yet?  You go at your own pace, as long as you keep going.

Every day, reposition your thoughts and your attitude away from the horror stories of the past.  Focus them on what's in front of you and ahead of you.  If you have to take baby steps instead of giant steps, so be it.  Just don't stop moving forward.  If you start out doing it slowly, you'll eventually get faster, just like the men's winner of the marathon.  If you commit the unpardonable sin of "going out too fast," however, you might not have enough "juice" left for the end of the race to make it really count.

THE MESSAGE

Today's marathon can teach us a lot about increasing or repairing our self-esteem.  Although I've blogged at length about the scourge of bullying and how we need to impose consequences against the offenders, the blog is intended for those who are being victimized now, and not in the past.  If someone wronged you long ago, you are responsible for healing your own pain, not for continuing to hurt yourself.  If you need to heal it slowly and easily, then that's what you do.  Give yourself a nice, comfortable pace, and then when you're ready to do so, start racing!  Just as long as you keep moving towards the finish line, and not back towards the starting line, you will win!

I EXIST.  I MATTER.  I BELONG.  I DESERVE.

Please feel free to comment!