This weekend, I am pacing a marathon in which I will be leading the 7:05/mile group through the first 13.1 miles of their journey.
This task has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I signed up, and it has been tough to navigate through the space of my good intentions and my deep fears. It is like anything in life – our destination is often littered with tests of the ego, the body, and the spirit, forcing us to reckon with our fears.
My fear is that I won’t be “enough”.
It is a fear of not being positive enough; not providing the right words, at the right time, instigating a change of heart and body in my group member. It is a fear of not being fast or fit enough; not hitting the paces correctly, not having the physical strength to finish, not being “good enough”. It is a fear of being not mentally tough enough; hitting a hard mile (that always comes in every run, ever, no matter what pace) and not having the mental stamina to push through.
It would seem that in my quest to be everything to everyone, I am once again hit with the fear of not being “enough” and therefore, nothing at all.
This fear transcends the pacing world, and can bleed into every part of our lives. Maybe you fear being not “enough” for your children, desperate to be the kind of parent that is on, all the time, providing nothing but a positive childhood for your kid. Maybe you fear not being “enough” in your job, and you walk in every day in fear you will be fired for a missed assignment, making a bad cup of coffee, or just not having the personality that jives with your boss. And maybe, you fear not being “enough” for your spouse, that you won’t be able to provide all the emotional, physical, and financial support you think you need to give.
I like to turn to my writer/spiritual/runner inspiration, Kristin Armstrong, for guidance on this one, as she too is driven by faith, sprinkled with a good running metaphor here and there. In her article “Resilience Realized“, she discusses the sentiment that our own compassion and giving cannot be determined by outcome or by “flipping the light on” for someone, but for simply being there. It is an article that to this day, brings me to tears. Here is my favorite part:
“I used to think that made me strong, or wise, or capable, when I flipped on the light for someone else. Now I see that act more akin to impatience, lacking true compassion, or the unwillingness to enter the apex of ache. You can flip the switch by standing at a safe distance, on the threshold, and simply reaching in the door, but to enter the dark you actually have to step inside. That may be real love, right there. The willingness to be present, knowing there isn’t a damn thing you can do to fix anything.
Some of my most profoundly raw and memorable human moments have been when I have summoned the courage to get over myself and step inside and sit with someone in the dark. When I have spooned a hiding friend in a bedroom with shades drawn, stroked their dirty hair and said not a word as they wept. When I have gone to the ICU and prayed with my friend instead of making small talk and pretending he wasn’t dying. When I wrapped Jena in a fleece blanket and brought her a cup of tea. When I have admitted to my children that I did not have an answer and just held them instead, soaking up their tears instead of telling them reasons not to cry. When I have run beside a shattered sister for many silent miles, matching stride.
Our own resilience is realized somewhere in the offering.”
The fear of not being “enough” coincides with this article, doesn’t it?
Being “enough” most often, involves being everything: the wisest, the most capable, always saying the right thing, being the fittest, being the most intelligent, making the most money. Enough really doesn’t mean “adequate” anymore when we use it to describe our relationships with people: it starts to mean “everything”.
But what Kristin describes is something deeper, something more difficult that being the sickly-sweet personality of “everything”. She describes being present, right there in the dark.
On Saturday, my new goal is to be present. To realize my resilience in the offering, giving exactly what I can that day. My resilience will lie in the fact that everything I need, is already inside of me, and in order to be my best for others, I simply need to be there, be present, and offer all I have to give. Perhaps that will involve coaxing a runner through the next mile. Perhaps it will involve feeling the ache of distance and effort, and transcending the “can’t” to “can” threshold with the runners around me. Perhaps it is offering a prayer for someone’s family member. Maybe it will involve laughing about the flavor of the Gatorade. Irregardless, this practice is more important that just for my pacing duties, but for my life as well.
I realize that breathing into this intention on race day, is good practice for the rest of life. For my daily runs, for my upcoming marriage, for my future children, for my family, for my faith, for my job, for all of it.
And, whether you feel “not enough” in your marriage, your child raising, your friendships, your faith, your job, remember that it is about the offering.
And the offering, is truly “enough”.