After my Friday morning run I was shocked and elated to hear my running app announce: “Congratulations!…” I had just run my fastest mile EVER. We didn’t have fitness apps in the 80’s, but I know I couldn’t run as fast as I do now. During the elementary gym class one mile run, I would be on my second lap of the track clutching my sides while watching my other classmates complete their fourth and finishing lap. At age 32, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come from those embarrassing mile runs, yet I still recognize the part of me that’s nine years old and wondering how the hell I’m ever going to finish another lap around that track. I wish I could tell her what I know now.
I want to tell her: Don’t look over there. Don’t watch the people at the finish line. Where they are in comparison to you doesn’t matter. I know some people look at you and tease you. What they think doesn’t matter. If you need to walk, walk. Slow down until you can catch your breath. Just do what you can do because it’s all that’s going to happen anyway. Don’t feel insecure that your body jiggles and your clothes ride up and fall down. That happens to everyone, and it’s not because your body is wrong. Don’t be ashamed.
Quit for a time if you need. Just come back. Everyone will say don’t quit, but “don’t quit” isn’t the whole picture. Every well-adjusted person has to quit at some point. We get injured, we take rest, we move on, and we quit. What they really mean when they say, “don’t quit,” is: “Keep coming back.” Get out of your head, the past, the future, and the nightmare of your own thinking, and come back to the present moment. Every time you put one foot in front of the other, take a breath in and out, and stop listening to the voices that say you have failed already, you choose to come back to this moment. Come back to what is happening right now: not what you wish you could be, not how you expected it to turn out, not to what once was. Come back to here and now. Take one step. Take another. Keep coming back.
You are going to finish this, and it won’t be the end for you. You will learn that success isn’t about finishing on top. It’s about the return after the failure. It’s about showing up again and again: showing up when you don’t feel like it, showing up when you feel you have nothing to give, and especially showing up when you feel ashamed, embarrassed, and unworthy. Just come back. It’s the scariest thing to do, but it’s the bravest thing to do. Showing up is brave. Finishing is brave. Quitting is brave. Coming back is brave. Do what you can, little gal; it’s enough. No matter what you do in life, whether it’s running, working, creating, or loving: There’s no way to do this wrong as long as you just keep choosing…over and over again, to come back.