endurance

Non-Negotiables and Gatoraide

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This last couple of months has been about transition and a great deal of change. Good changes! Exciting stuff transpiring over here in Aisle 3! In the event that you’ve been under a rock and have not heard I’ve finally rented my house and have relocated to Los Angeles. I’m back to maintenance-free apartment living and the glorious city.

Los Angeles and Southern California require a whole new grid work for thought process. It’s nothing like North Carolina or the Midwest or even Michigan where I grew up. And so a new season begins. Interesting fact: we will always find ourselves at the start of a season in one aspect of our lives, mid-season in another aspect and bringing something else in our life to a close. I don’t know why that is. I just find it to be universally true.

I’ve started more households than I have fingers to count on. I love filling out the forms that want the last five addresses. I have to keep a log. I’m starting to look like a fugitive. Being mid-season with things … no matter how I add it up, I am mid-career. I’m a senior analyst whether I asked for the title or not. Knowing how to gracefully end a season in our lives is just as important as knowing how to get into stride and stay there, how to endure. I recently brought a five year tenure with my last employer to a close. Ending well requires liberal doses of graciousness.

The metaphor of a marathon or long distance bike (bicycle) ride is refreshing when I apply it to the changes that I’ve been facing. I suppose the 100 yard dash is the most accurate with all the hurdles I’ve been jumping these last weeks and months. Whenever I had a long ride planned, 80 or 100 miles, I made a lot of decisions ahead of time. I knew when I would leave, and I was prepared for the blazing sun to make the sweat run in my eyes and nearly blind me with salt. I would squirt orange Gatoraide in my eyes for relief. I was ready for a rain shower in the afternoon that would wash away that same dried sweat on my face but it would blind me as the water would pelt my face. I knew that I would arrive back home with a wicked headache but I’d go out again and again. Once the decisions are made the disciplined athlete does not revisit the issues. Let.it.rain.

What areas of your life have non-negotiables? In what ways have you made up your mind, and you are sticking with your decision, no matter what it costs you?

I am reminded of a couple of Olympic athletes. You are waiting for me to mention Lance Armstrong, but I was thinking of Mary Decker. A ferociously  talented runner, but in the 1984 Olympics Decker collided with Zola Budd. She was carried off the field by her boyfriend. I cried. I’ll never forget it because I was in high school rehabilitating my knee after a orthopedic surgery at 15 years old. I was a lovesick ballet dancer. I knew that I’d never really make a future out of it, but certainly not after that surgery.

No matter the things that beset us, the rides where we’ve eaten dirt or the hurdles we’ve taco’d … or even the pointe shoes we’ll never don again … I’d like to do this season well. Reader, we’ve both got a bit of road behind us but there is plenty of road ahead. We have finally learned how to dream big dreams with our giant God, and we have much to become. We are no longer afraid of our own shadow nor walk in shame over our mistakes.

Let’s run this one in such a way that we might win.

Rethinking Endurance

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You could see it in their eyes, mainly, a look of endurance. It was the toll that poverty, drought and sheer exhaustion had taken on a nation. I was on a mission trip to Mozambique in 2002, and in that moment I rocked a baby boy named Tivo. Tivo was part of the forming generation of boys and girls, many born to HIV and AIDS-infected parents. Stricken by war, overcome by poverty and grief at their losses, women turned to desperate measures in order to feed their children. At 18 months Tivo bore all the signs of malnutrition and starvation. Abandoned by his mother, he refused to be held close. So angry at the pain and hunger that would not subside, he held himself away from me rigidly for hours until he collapsed, exhausted into a fitful sleep.

In 2002 the country of Mozambique had not yet recovered from the numerous assaults against its infrastructure: civil war, floods, drought, all amid unbelievable poverty. Nearly 15 years of fighting had temporarily displaced nearly five million people, and one million people lost their lives.

Statistically this appears as sterile numbers on a page. As I walked the streets and visited the families, I was completely undone.

Endless mountains of burning tires and garbage created a haze of smoke that made it feel as if the city itself was on fire. So many homeless. So many with HIV and AIDS. The gaunt, aimless look in their eyes tore at my soul. Since the war had claimed an entire generation or two of men, most of the families were comprised of widowed women. With a disease so rampant and destructive as AIDS, many women lost hope and dropped their children off at an orphanage, then returned to their hovel to die. The young boy that I carried on my back and rocked in my arms for hours on end would never know that I cared. At least, not this side of Heaven.