One of the challenges of writing a daily blog that has any sort of relevance to a larger audience is coming up with material that’s actually interesting to more than just its author. Don’t laugh; this is hard stuff! But once in a while you land on a topic where you just say, “Yes. This is exactly what I wanted to say today, because I think a lot of people can relate to it.”
And so it was after my half-marathon in Victoria in October. There was the elation of a race well-run, and the knowledge that that happiness comes at something of a bittersweet price: thinking of all the times in life when I didn’t take care of myself and couldn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve. That’s where the post below came from, and on this Throwback Thursday, I’m happy to share it with you once again.
Mining, and Mourning, the “Lost Years”
[Originally published on October 15, 2014]
Yesterday I wrote about a great race this past weekend in Victoria, B.C., where I basically solidified the notion in my head that I now have a “new normal” when it comes to fitness and health. It used to be that something like a two-hour half-marathon was a pipe dream. Then after good training and a solid weight loss, it became attainable, and then it became – pow! – a barrier to crash through. These days, my “new normal” in the half-marathon is almost ten minutes faster than that original goal.
But there is a downside to the new normal, and here it is: It’s hard not to feel sad for “the lost years.”
When you start taking care of yourself and figuring out what you’re capable of, there is the ever so slightly small possibility that you might just think of all the times in life you didn’t take care of yourself…didn’t fulfill your promise…didn’t do the things you were capable of doing.
That time is now water under the bridge. We can’t get it back. And as much as we can celebrate the awesomeness of the here-and-now, there’s a possibility that we’ll also start mourning a loss: a loss we didn’t even know we had until we got healthy.
That’s where I was yesterday, two days after that solid 13.1 miles in Victoria. I was in a place where I suddenly remembered the times when I didn’t do what was healthiest and best, when I decided not to go for big goals (in fitness, and in life), when I decided that what I couldn’t do (a limit that I, of course, decided for myself) was going to be a barrier to what I might be able to do if I just went for it.
And that meant it was all a little bit sad.
What I’ve learned, time and time again, is that everything is material. Everything is relevant. Everything is here and now. There is no “lost time.” There are all of the experiences that got us from there to here. And without those experiences, we wouldn’t be “here.”
We could spend our lives comparing our insides to other people’s outsides. I know several stunningly successful people, when you look at them from the outside. The cars, the houses, the vacations. What a life! But honestly, do I know what they struggle with? Not at all. And everyone – everyone – struggles with something.
It’s at times like this, when I want to fall down the rabbit hole of wishing I had gotten my health together earlier in life and mourning the lost years, that it’s crucial to remember we are the sum of all of our experiences. We have learned all that we have learned in life precisely because of those experiences.
So, how about turning “mourning” into “mining”?
I admit it: I got this idea when I couldn’t sleep last night. What if we turn it all around and say, what lessons can I “mine” from those years I’ve been dubbing “the lost years” all of this time? What lessons have I learned? What’s really been going on?
Well, I’ve learned that my body takes instructions well. If I feed it healthfully and exercise once every 48 hours or so, making sure to really work hard most of the time (while still taking time for yoga and stretching and meditation and quietness, too), my body will generally respond very well. As long as I’m being completely, honestly authentic and real with myself about what I’m doing. I spent a bit of time back in late 2008 and early 2009 thinking I was doing all the right things but I still wasn’t losing weight, for example. But it turned out I really did need to learn to fine-tune my food portions, and my food groups. (No, ice cream is not a food group. Bummer.) I had to learn how to cook vegetables so that I would actually want to eat them. I had to learn that this was not a fix-it-quick operation, that a lifetime of eating not so very well couldn’t be undone with a one-week menu plan and an exercise set from a fitness magazine. It was going to take work.
But oh, how it’s been worth it. Even when things go haywire, I can rely on my habits to more or less get me through.
So that’s the work of today, and maybe for a few more days too: Mining lessons learned, instead of mourning the lost years. They’re not lost. They were there for a reason. I hope this idea helps you today.