Lessons learned along the way…

Recently I took stock of where my life has been for the last 20 years or so. During these past 2 decades, there has been 2 or 3 noticable “tough patches”; long periods of time when things were very difficult. As I looked back, I discovered something interesting: During each of these tough periods, the way I coped with life was to develop a new hobby/interest. And each of those hobbies taught me philosophical lessons that made me grow as a person. I thought this may be a good place to share some of those with you…

In the early nineties, I was dealing with a painful situation in my own family. During those days, as a way of escaping the stress, I picked up marathon running. There are a lot of ways in which running a marathon mirrors life. But the one lesson that has stayed with me and is helping me to this day is this: a race, no matter how long, can only be run one step at a time.

A marathon measures 26 miles, 385 yards or 41.195 km. That is roughly the distance between the East end of Scarborough and the West end of Mississauga. That’s a long way to run. There are times during the late stages of a marathon when you body is completely out of fuel. Runners call it ‘hitting the wall’. When that happens, you cannot think of how many miles is left to the finish line. The only thing you can do is to focus all your mental and physical energies to the most important task at hand: taking the next step. You pick up your foot, move it forward, and put it down. When you have done that, you do it again with your other foot.

One step at a time. These days, it is that training and experience that is getting me through the days. There are days when I wake up and I feel completely spent. I wanted to look back at the past and feel angry. I look ahead to the future and feel fearful and uncertain. On those days, I draw from my marathon running days and remind myself to just focus on one step, one task at a time…

“don’t think about the past which you can’t change”

“don’t think about the future which you can’t control”

“don’t think about what others say and do which you can’t dictate”

“focus on doing this one thing….for now.”

I cannot tell you how many times that routine has gotten me through a day. One task at a time, one step at a time.

PS: After I finished blogging this entry, it hit me why the imagery of running has always connected with me as a metaphor for my life. Beyond the obvious physical benefits, the one thing that has always drawn me to running is the loneliness of the sport. As a distance runner, you log mile after mile, hour after hour, day after day, running alone. Even in a major marathon race with more than 10,000 participants, you are really running alone. I guess that is how I have always felt – alone.

PS-1: May be that’s why the story of ‘Footprints” has never resonnated with me…I have never seen that ‘second pair’ of footprints…

PS-2: If you happen to be running down my street…I’d love to run with you. Please…

4 thoughts on “Lessons learned along the way…

  1. I see life as a series of marathons. Yes, maybe we’re running alone during the course, but there’s always family and friends waiting for you at the finish line.

    Then recharge and prepare for the next one.

    I’d love to run with you, literally.

  2. Thank you for your sharing, I totally agreed with what you said, life is make up of one step at a time.

    The key is not whether we are taking one step at a time but are we heading in the right direction.

    Time is moving forward but time has no direction. Life is moving forward but life needs a direction.

    There are people who are like you and me, facing loneliness (intentionally and unintentionally), facing hardship (in our lives and in other’s lives), facing disappointment (about ourselves and about others). The question is not whether we have these in our lives or not but how do we face them in our lives that will make the difference in life.

    You are facing yourself and your life and I just pray that you are taking the steps in the right direction, at least in the direction that you know or you think is right.

  3. Dear Sibling Wannabe:

    Thank you for your encouraging and insightful comment…when you talked about a “longing that needs to be satisfied through abstract art form…” that really resonnated with me. I am not sure why it is, but these days I often experience a “frustration” in not being able to find words to express what I am feeling/seeing. But there are times when I am playing a song or out shooting with my camera, I would come across a musical phrase or an image that seem to spring from the depths of my soul and I say: “THERE! That’s what I am talking about!”

    Trouble with finding expression of your heart through the abstract art forms is the inherent lonliness of the process: people often do not hear/see what you do.

  4. Dear Alfred,

    How appropriate to compare life to a running marathon! You were so wise in saying that the past cannot be changed, the future cannot be controlled, and we’ll just live life one step at a time. Isn’t that essentially what we’re called to do as the people of God, to take life one step at a time, to give our worries to God and to have faith in Him knowing that He’s still in control no matter what! I totally echo the part of being “lonely” in the race. I have been hurt by my “best friends” in the past, and I can never build the same friendship with anybody anymore. I no longer put my trust in people the same way I naively did. Instead, I’ve looked up to God and He has sent me “guardian angels” whenever circumstances seemed a little rough! Mind you, these “guardian angels” don’t necessarily stay but they have certainly helped me to stand on my own two feet before they leave. It’s amazing!

    Perhaps you’re a musician/artist/philosopher who tends to see deeper in life having seen the limitations of people and things. There is the “longing” that needs to be satisfied through abstract art form whether it’s music or poetry in the making (the aesthetics)!

    Alfred, you have never seen the second set of footprints in the “Footprints”. Could it be that God had carried you all along the whole time …..?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Sibling Wannabe

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