Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 13, 2009: It's Okay to Stop and Walk

I can remember so vividly the days of cross country and track practice and meets where I wanted so badly to just stop and walk.  Just for a few seconds.  To catch my breath, give my legs a rest, regroup myself, get my pace in order.  I can remember slowing down and watching others pass me by, each person with each step coasting by would take a breath away from me, make me want to stop even more.  But I couldn't.  I couldn't stop and walk. At least I didn't think I could.  What would my coach think if I quit? Gave up? Took a breather and walked a second?  Surely, they would think less of me.  Surely, they would pay less attention to me and spend more time with that person who passed me by and showed more effort, had more stamina.  So I didn't stop to walk.  That pressure was good at the time - whatever drove me to keep running, keep trying was good then.  But is that same pressure good now?

Yesterday I was running on the track and I began to think about those days where stopping to walk was just unacceptable - even if in my own mind.  Although yesterday I was feeling good, keeping a comfortable pace, I did think about stopping to walk.  It happened right after someone passed me on the track.  All of the sudden I felt somewhat defeated and breathless, and I was running in a track meet all over again.  But then I was overcome with great relief.  I was not running in a track meet, in a cross-country meet. There was no coach or teammates or parents watching my performance.  There was no one judging my running that day or comparing me to anyone else.  I COULD stop and walk if I wanted to!  So I did.

So after I decided to stop and walk, I began to think about life.  Surprise, surprise!  I get way to deep when I am running... Anyway, I was thinking about how life gets so busy, so full of errands and appointments and social obligations.  How I used to feel so compelled to be perfect and on time and efficient and how I felt like I hadn't accomplished anything if I hadn't checked off everything on my to-do list that day.  But I realized that the past few months I have slowly moved away from that pressure to keep going and going and going.  Maybe it's because I knew that I might implode if I didn't stop going and going and going.  Maybe it's because once I quit working and I knew what 30 free minutes was like, it gave me the added incentive to relax and figure out how to relax.  I honestly think it's a combination of many things in life.  

I typically make myself a to-do list every day.  It's a habit that I cannot break after 10 years of doing this at work.  I also record every appointment or reminder on my iPhone (formerly my Blackberry) as a matter of habit.  But the difference now is that if I don't get all the to-do's marked off, who cares?  There is always tomorrow!   And if I didn't get it done today like I had wanted, maybe it wasn't all that important anyway?  The pressure to get it all done has been somewhat relieved.  And the guilt that used to accompany a missed to-do is pretty much obsolete.  

Now don't get me wrong.  I like to be efficient.  I like looking at a completed to-do list and the sense of accomplishment when it is all crossed off.  But I also don't mind taking a little time for myself now if it's needed and putting something off until tomorrow or the next day.  I can stop and walk if I need to.  If I want to.

We all have different lives, different obligations, different to-do lists.  But I don't think we all stop to consider that despite all these things you really do have permission to stop and walk if you need to.  And I highly encourage you to do it every now and again.  And don't worry. You will still finish the race - who really cares whether first or last. Just finish!

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