UPCOMING EVENTS for 2016: Puerto Rico Marathon (March), Virginia/Pennsylvania Marathon Double (April), Cedro Peak Ultra 45k (April), Quicksilver 50k (May) NUT 50k (June) Lake Tahoe Trail 50K (July), Cloudsplitter 55K (October)

It's never too late to be what you might have been. --George Eliot

Athena is the Goddess of wisdom and war. In 2005, I declared war on my own bad tendencies: sloth, being fat, compacency, and being too old for adventure. This is the story of how I went from being someone who never stood when she could sit, to being an ultrarunner, marathoner, and triathlete. Along the way I've cried, laughed, fallen, gotten up, lost, won, hallucinated, been dehydrated, DNF'ed, and been DFL.
I also swear. Alot.
"You're never too old to be what you might have been" --George Eliot

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

On waiting.


It's here, finally. My new job. The first new job I've had since getting my new teacher's job about 9 years ago, and I start on Monday.

I've waited a long time to really do the things that I've been trained to do, in a place where I'm not forced to compete for resources with other professionals, or treated like a k12 student.

I waited for this: waited until my children were grown and (mostly) gone. Then I waited some more to get cleared, and the waiting about drove me crazy, even though I filled that time, I think, well. because, in the end, I always knew this day would come.

Which reminds me of ultra-running. But I'll get to that.

I asked one of the Interns who was waiting in line to use the computer at the counseling center if he had checked with DVR about getting a laptop. Department of Vocational Rehab(DVR) helps provide people with certain disabilities the means to continue working or get to work. They provided me with a hearing aid. Matt the Intern has Cerebral Palsy and can't write, and on this particular day he was waiting his turn to use the one computer in the counseling center for all of the dozen or so counselors have to share.

So I asked Matt the Intern and he mumbled something like, oh, yeah, I'll get around to that one of these days and wheeled slowly out of the room. One of the other counselors, meanwhile, found the need to explain to me how DVR works despite the fact that I've been one of their customers and am working on my MSW. This counselor needs canes, but she goes without, and here's why:

So she said, "It's just that it takes so long."

I was puzzled. Takes so long? Of course it does. My hearing aid took 6 months. It's government, and it's underfunded, so it's slow. But in the end, I got my hearing aid. So?

So that's what I said. "So?"

"Wel, I mean, Gosh, Misty. It might take 6 months to get that request through. What's the point?"

I tried to say this as carefully as possible. "But wouldn't you agree, Audrey, that the six months will go by whether you are waiting for a laptop or not?"

"Yes," she replied, "but it takes so long. Waiting is such a pain."

How is waiting for something a 'pain'? it's not like you have to actually hang out in the DVR waiting room for 6 months while someone whips you and throws feces at you.
No, instead, your life stays exactly the same, and then one day they call you or write and say, "yes" or "no." Meanwhile, all you've done is spent maybe one or two sessions in their office filling out some paperwork.
True, a lottery ticket is less trouble. But this is more of a sure thing.

I guess maybe it's the endurance athlete in me now. To me, most things with a payoff are worth waiting for, and time isn't as big a deal to me as it used to be. The finish line will get here, eventually. I'll work my way to it. Eight or ten or sixteen hours is going to go by whether I'm moving or sitting still, so I might as well move.

Huh. I remember when I was 26 and filling out the paperwork to go to college my former husband snickered, "you're gonna be in your thirties when you finish" which prompted his sister to smack him in the head and say, "she's gonna be in her thirties whether she goes to college or not" At the time, I thought that was plenty profound. But now it's much more meaningful. Losing weight is like that, too. You're going to be whatever age you become regardless of how long it takes to lose the weight. So why not spend the time in between doing something that makes you healthy.

Which brings me back to ultra-running.

"It's just that it takes so long"

Hell, the finish line is there whether you cross it or not, so why not work your way towards it. But make sure that the finish line is where you want to be, for you. All for you. It shouldn't be for anything other than the knowledge of what you did.

I mean, when you finish an Ironman, particularly an MDOT race, there is an enormous amount of fanfare. You hear your name boom on a loudspeaker, there are screaming spectators who want to slap hands with you. At the end, there is usually a heavy, solid finisher's medal, maybe a finisher's shirt, pizza, lights (if, like me, you finish at night), loud rocking music, cowbells, action, and for a day, you are a celebrity of sorts in whatever strange town you find yourself in. People in the town ask you all that day, and the next, if you're "one of those Ironman athletes".
Then, well, then all that fades, and what you're left with is making some meaning of what you've done. Some people become a bit depressed but don't know why.

Trail runs are different. When you finish a trail run, well, there may be a small smattering of applause. The finish line, if there is one, might just be a chalk line drawn on the the path, and you cross it, and you're done, and then you wonder over to see if there's some food.
In fact, it's entirely possible that someone might look away for a moment not notice when you finish, and then you walk up to the person with the clipboard and say something like, "I'm number 38, and I'm done."

There are frequently no finisher's awards. One race I've done states on their website that the finisher's award is that you get to stop running. Sometimes you get something to eat, if there happens to be an aid station at the finish/start line. There might be a clock there ticking off to tell you your time. Trail runs are often in public recreation areas and most of the people around may not even know there's a race going on and stare at you as you come into the finish, not thinking to move out of your way, because they are still trying to figure out what's going on.

What I'm saying is, that in any race, or endeavor, you really have to finish for yourself, because other than your name in a list of finishers there may never be any proof that you ever did it.

And actually, anything worth waiting for should be for you, after all, because you believe that you're worth it.

Now, I realize that waiting for a letter or phone call is only tangentally related to running a trail marathon. I'm just saying, well, I guess I don't know what I'm saying. Except that maybe time has a different meaning for me than it used to. Maybe one time I would have said something like "Oh my gosh, that takes so long, so why bother?"

I now measure time in the distance between aid stations and training time between races and the stuff I get to do some day that's cool, like getting age 55-discounts.

All the other stuff is a pleasant journey in between.

...

14 comments:

  1. Very well put. At almost 54 I'm thinking of going back to school to get a masters so I can change careers. Why not? I'm going to be working until I'm about 90 so I might as well enjoy the journey, right?

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  2. Congrats on finally finding out that Homeland Security has declared you SAFE. I feel a whole lot better about reading your blog now. ;)

    Very profound way of thinking about having patience. I needed that!

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  3. Thank you for writing that! I needed to hear it!

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  4. Congrats! They didn't even have to contact me to vouch for you!! That is awesome misty-sounds kinda like waiting for the first day of school or something.

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  5. I'm in the same boat as 21st century mom above (although not 54 - go you). I want to go back to school and change my career too, but it's going to take so long and I'm grumpy about that - thanks for the post, it spoke VERY LOUDLY to me and gave me some good stuff to think about.

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  6. Misty~
    Some days certain things speak to you. This was one of those things for me. You have no idea how what you just wrote changed my outlook on things.

    Thank you so so much.

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  7. Yeah, I love what you say at the end--essentially, you do it for yourself. You run for yourself. You suffer for yourself. You work through it for yourself. And you finish for yourself.

    I'm still very young, but I think that being involved in endurance sports at this point in life (and not speedy endurance sports like college cross country) has given me an older perspective on waiting and suffering through things. Although part of that might be due to association with older, more patient athletes ;-)

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  8. I love the post. Best post ever. Life is how we choose to live it.

    Kara

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  9. I know every once in a blue moon I write a little comment on your blog and you don't know me or anything, but I continually find moments of profound inspiration on your blog and Baboo's. So, thanks.

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  10. Good things come to those who wait!

    Hey....I haven't tried the "I'm 55, do I get a discount?" yet.
    Guess I forgot I was! Thanks for the reminder! :-)

    The runs I completed with just a handful of friends waiting and no music, no applause...they were the BEST! (and most remembered!)

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  11. you are so right! I love reading your blog! To me it is the idea that we can do these events and finish and not give up! We are athletes we put in the hard training and miles and it is all so worth it! keep up the great work!

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  12. This is a very well written post. Trying to figure out how to condense it into one sentence, so when people ask me why I do this stuff, I can say all this that you said. I like the new blog look. See you in Huntsville! oh wait, I'll see you Arizona! Aaaaah - 4 weeks away. Since Baboo will probably be finishing 4 hours before me, I'll hope you'll wait around to see me at the finish.

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  13. De-lurking to say...this post really struck a chord with me! We waited YEARS for my son (who has CP and other issues) a communication device so he can express his wants and needs. Since our health insurance lists such equipment as 'an item for comfort and convenience'....along with things like 'haircuts' and 'televisions'. It doesn't always make sense that the important things in life are hard to come by, but with a little patience and perseverence, good things come to those who wait.

    Thanks for posting this perspective!

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  14. What an amazing post. I'll share this with my 7th graders, in many different ways. I'll remind myself of this tomorrow (Marine Corps marathon!). Thanks for being a constant source of inspiration. By the way, I bought Race Ready shorts and Injinji shorts at your recommendation! I love them.

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