Have you ever done this smart thing where since you ran a strong 10k you signed up for a marathon, thinking “six miles or 26 miles, it’s all the same”? If so, we are kind of kindred spirits. I am sitting in my new apartment in China gazing now not at the Andes, but many high rise apartment complexes. Six months ago I made that assumption … “Hey, I’ve rocked Ecuador, so China, no problem.” Oh boy.
I am hoping some writing now will thaw out my frozen brain. And I speak not of brain freeze from gulping down a slurpee, but rather the kind that comes from being in 90 degree humid heat, in a place where you have acquired two words of the language, you vaguely understand how to traverse 800 square meters of the city of 19 million people with all the stimulation of a weekend visit to Ikea has simply fried your senses.
Yes, I am experiencing sensory overload and culture shock and homesickness. Daily I have had to consciously remind myself to unclench my jaw. The first couple of days here my heart was beating as if I was indeed running a marathon. In some moments, like when the taxi driver took me to the wrong international school on the first day of school, I have wanted simply to be 4 years old so that a first-class meltdown would be a bit more acceptable. And so in the midst of what has felt quite chaotic and overwhelming, I found myself thinking, “I wish it was Christmas.” “I wish it was the weekend.” And even “I wish it was next summer.” Really, I have been wishing it was any time but now.
Deep breaths, I am now coaching myself as I sit in silence and look up at the plant I purchased yesterday, hoping it would bring some zen energy into my abode. It is indeed time to get gritty and tap into my toughness. This is mile 20 out of 26. The mile when your legs are far from fresh and you’ve got a long way to go. Indeed the mile when you can recognize that you’ve accomplished a great deal, but you have reached fatigue. But it is an important mile all the same, because it will get you to 21 and then 22 and then 23 when you start to feel the runner’s high, which you can only reach by breathing into every mile that came before.
It takes a certain poise and a good deal of inner strength to accept the uncomfortable and utterly challenging moments. But if you’ve chosen to run a marathon or compete in an Ironman, if you’ve chosen to switch careers to explore your passion or move very, very far away, you’ve done it because you’ve wanted a challenge, one that pushes your boundaries, your comfort zone and your spirit to expand. You … you have done it, signed up for what makes your heart race, your soul temporarily a little shaky, but so importantly, what makes your core rock-solid. It is now that you’re entitled to introduce yourself with the following: I’m a badass. What’s your superpower?
So it’s time to shift … to shift from wishing moments to pass, to shift from checking things off the list – lesson planning, grocery shopping, 10 mile run, check, check, check – to shift from living through a moment to living in the moment. Even the moments when my throat is tight with tension, my thoughts are cloudy and my words are lost in translation. Still, these are precious moments. If we sit in these moments, breath into it all, the tension, the fear, the frustration … it does not simply go away, but we will feel the fibers of our being growing even more fierce.
Every moment in our lives is the most precious, because it is the moment we have. Wisdom is not realizing the preciousness of something when it is gone. Wisdom is recognizing the preciousness of what we have.