Life Ain't a Track Meet; It's a Marathon
When I was living in New York City, one of my favorite days of the year was Marathon Sunday. It happens the first Sunday in November each year and the energy that pulses through the city on that day is simply electric! The marathon starts in Staten Island at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge, and then makes its way through each of the 5 boroughs. Along the route, you’ll find bands playing, people cheering and holding signs offering free hugs, as well as water and fruit stations.
I, myself, have never run a marathon, but I have supported a number of friends who have- both on the day and throughout their training. Running a marathon is a serious commitment. It takes dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice. My friends would spend half of their days going on training runs, as well as make sure they were fueling their body with the right nutrition.
There is so much excitement leading up to marathon day. Months of hard work all build up to this one event- and there are so many factors outside of one’s control that can affect how the day goes. In the best of scenarios, the runners are healthy, the weather is perfect, and the crowds are excited. The runners burst across the finish line, get their medals, a massage, meet their friends and family for a celebratory lunch, rest for a few days, and then put the sneakers back on and are back at it.
Most people who run marathons have personal goals around time and pacing. Unfortunately, things like bad weather or an injury can negatively impact a person’s experience with their marathon. What I have heard from my friends who have run marathons, is that even in the best of conditions, when you hit somewhere between miles 18 and 23, the challenge becomes more mental than physical. You’re exhausted, in pain, and can’t imagine that you STILL have another 3-8 miles to go! At this point, some people continue to talk themselves into continuing to achieve that personal best time. For many others, the self talk is all about pushing themselves just to finish.
I would say we are at about mile 23 of our school year- and it has been a doozy! If it were an actual marathon, I would say imagining running in the typhoon we experienced earlier this year could be a close comparison to how this school year has turned out. No one could have predicted we would be in the midst of a global pandemic and finishing up the school year online.
So, this is what I would like to say: forget about achieving your best time and just cross the finish line. We are so close! Do whatever it is you need to do to finish and receive credit for the year. Now is not the time to be worried about grades. When school ends, have a celebratory lunch with your family and friends, maybe get a massage, and come August, you can lace up those sneakers and try for your personal best again!
When we compare ourselves to others, we’re not making an accurate comparison because we’re only going off the information we have access to
It is important to understand that grief is not a linear process. We do not start at one stage and then progress through to the final stage. Instead, grief is cyclical. It is entirely possible that one will reach acceptance, and then one of life’s milestones occurs like a wedding or graduation, and suddenly we are angry or sad again.
Last week I reached out to parents to ask how they were coping with the current global situation. Overwhelmingly I heard, "I'm doing fine, I just am not sure how to help my child".
Trying to maintain your "normal" routine right now is unhealthy, because what we are experiencing is not normal. Trying to go on as if nothing has changed is invalidating and can actually invite trauma to manifest in alternate ways.
I cannot think of a great opportunity for learning than what we are all experiencing right now. We are all learning new ways to teach and learn. We are all learning new ways to connect with others without physical contact. We are all learning new ways to be alone or be with our partner or be with our family.
Talking through the “what if”s is validating because you are creating space to listen. Using reflective listening, you are able to convey empathy. Another reason this strategy is effective is because it allows the person to think about the tools she or he already possesses and how she/he can use those tools to get through whatever they are fearing.
As I was cycling around my neighborhood yesterday, I noticed two of the sakura trees had bloomed. So of course I stopped, got off my bike, and snapped a picture. And it was a great reminder of how even when the world feels like it is in chaos, we can still count on nature to reassure us
There is a famous line in Francis Ford Coppolla's, 1972 Academy Award winning film "The Godfather", that says, "We go the mattresses". This line was made famous again in Nora Ephron's 1998 romantic comedy, "You've Got Mail". Essentially, "go to the mattresses" is an expression that means to prepare for battle.