It has been said that we learn from our experiences in life, but I think it is more accurate to say that we learn from the experiences we choose to learn from.
Our mistakes, our regrets and our injuries, are our greatest teachers — if we let them be.
If we are open to seeing what they have to show us, to owning our part in where our journey has taken us, to allowing the failures and the pain to help us grow.
A lot of us avoid it, because it hurts to open ourselves up to that.
But I think the same lessons keep showing up in our lives, in one way or another, until we finally surrender to them. They crack us open a little, maybe eventually they even break us.
I have felt that way. Broken. Shattered and unsure how to put myself back together.
For a long time, I thought the years that I chased my running dreams to qualify for Boston and beyond were the years that revealed to me my toughest, strongest and bravest self. That those years and accomplishments would be the things I would be most proud of as an athlete and really even as a person. It was hard work. I had to be disciplined with my workouts and with my diet. After having my third baby, I pushed myself to my limits and well passed them with my running. I wanted to know how far I could go, how strong I could be, how fast I could run. I wanted to show myself, and everyone else, that a mom of three in her late 30s who ran her first marathon in almost 6 hours could qualify for Boston, could win races, could become a competitive endurance athlete. And I did.
And maybe all of that was brave.
But it wasn’t the bravest thing.
It wasn’t the strongest thing.
And it sure isn’t what I am most proud of as a runner.
In some ways, I see it now as a pretty weak and cowardly time in my life. I had tunnel vision and I went to extremes to accomplish those goals because I really didn’t know of another way, and because it seemed to be working.
I no longer think of extremes as where courage lives. I think it takes a whole lot more bravery and self discipline for me, and probably for many of us in this sport, to choose moderation. That is what inspires me.
I’m discovering that my best self, my bravest and my strongest self, doesn’t involve being “all in” or “all out.” I have found that I can do those extremes very well, but so much is lost when I go there. I am not being completely true to who I am and to all that matters to me when I go there. I miss out on the real depth of my life when I stay on the edges.
Just like the deepest parts of the ocean aren’t on the shores, I think that the same is true for our hearts.
So that is where I am choosing to go now. Into the middle. No more extremes. No more staying on the edges of my shores.
Because that is where I am my most brave. Where I feel my strongest.
And that is where I am most proud.