With everything going on in the world it has been tough to find a moment of peace. Sitting down to write has been my goal for weeks. Maybe months. Without peace, words are stifled. Distractions are everywhere. My go to cure for the disease of distraction is nature. Deciding to shun distraction requires effort and resolve which unfortunately are qualities I have been lacking lately.
What does one do when the get up and go gets up and leaves? Looking around for sources of inspiration can be difficult when you find yourself sitting in the blank spaces. Most of us have two speeds. Full throttle and park. Well, I do anyway.
If you are like me, the middle gears are challenging. The intermediate gears are more sustainable and better for the engine in the long term. Resisting the temptation to push the pedal to the metal after shifting from park is an opportunity to learn the lesson the wise turtle taught the rabbit in the race. Slow and steady seems counterproductive when running a race against distractions.
The all or nothing thought process is appropriate in certain instances, but it is unsustainable in the long term when maintaining balance and peace in our lives is the goal. None of my offspring inherited long distance running skills. Their father and I lacked the genes necessary to produce marathon capable children.
However, they are fast. Youth sports in our house included baseball, flag football, street hockey, and two of the three preferred to be soccer goaltenders over running for 45 minutes on the pitch. My youngest, who is now 17, recently decided to join the high school track team this spring. Wait. What?
This is the same child who while playing soccer as a three-year-old stood in the middle of the field and declared “it’s too far” when we told him to run to the ball. This is also the same child who, when in goal during the same game, saw someone coming towards him, walked to the edge of the goal, crossed his arms and let the other team score a goal to spite his father who was cheering him on.
The consensus is that our third born would have been an only child had he been born first. As the textbook strong-willed child, his determination cannot be disputed. But track? This was uncharted territory. While we all scratched our heads, he was practicing. When we asked what events he wanted to run, he said he did not know.
Who does that? He does. The coach decided for him. The day before his first meet he told us he did not want us to be there. He was nervous, but undeterred. We had no idea what he would be doing so we waited for him to come home to find out. As a planner, I had a difficult time comprehending his thought process. Willingly entering a situation without defined parameters is my definition of insanity.
Minimizing and removing distractions is the first step to any sane persons planning process right? Full throttle or park? He walked through the door with a smile on his face and announced that he had a story to tell. Of course he did. The coach put him in the 200m sprint.
Made sense. Okay, we were listening. He was expecting starting blocks, yet there were none. The gun sounded and when he took off his left shoe flew off. Of course it did. He laughed as he explained what was going on in his head when that happened. “What do I do? Do I stop and get the shoe, or keep going?” In that split second his choice was to keep running. Missing a shoe.
He went from park to full throttle with only one shoe. The middle gears in this scenario was his decision to continue despite only having one shoe. Impressive if you ask me. The result was a huge blister, holes in his sock, and finishing fifth. The reminder to keep going even if things do no go as planned, and sometimes with one shoe, was a welcome lesson.
Distractions are like the shoe that flew off his foot. Often unexpected, they can rob our sense of peace if we let it. Focusing on what was lost would have ended his debut. Instead, he pressed on. How many of us can say we would make the same choice in a similar circumstance?
While wrestling with the idea of balance and learning to utilize the middle gears we must be patient with ourselves and trust our instincts. Momentum is the gap between park and full throttle. Momentum allowed him to keep going. We all struggle with days when a shoe is missing and would rather stay motionless than move ahead.
Bottom line is when our get up and go has left the building we have a choice to sit shoe less or to go forward. Going forward looks different for everyone. There are no right ways to move ahead when inspiration, determination, or motivation are nowhere to be found. If we choose to view park as the place where we allow peace to exist, rather than an empty, motionless place, our spirit heals and becomes re-energized.
If you want to understand this, just watch birds. Nature is the greatest teacher of balance. Birds take off and land at varying speeds and directions. They are just as content to sit perched on a branch as they are when flying or looking for worms in the ground. Their instincts are free from distraction.
Moving through life requires the use of every gear available. Learning to embrace the unexpected is an unavoidable lesson if you have a pulse. Taking stock and adjusting our speed is one way to mitigate the impact of all or nothing thinking. As distractions and fear grows, peace diminishes. Panic drains the tank and renders the engine useless. In order to refuel, you have to shut the engine off.
You cannot refuel a car if it is motion. Gassing up for the journey requires moments of being in park. Revving the engine to the max serves a purpose if we are fleeing from the police or merging on to a highway, but it taxes the engine. The middle ground is where meaning and balance is achieved.
This week become aware of the moments when the quiet space becomes chaotic and filled with fear. Instead of shrinking or going full throttle, put it in second gear and do one thing to move forward. Resist the urge to let distractions become the focus of your day and the urge to shut down. Chaos and peace are equally contagious. Search for the voice within that recognizes the chaos but chooses peace.
Moving Through…Lessons in Grief, Love, Courage, and Making Peace with the Past by Author Dawn Elizabeth Waters
Switching Teams: What Coming Out Later in Life Taught Me About Love, Conquering Fear, and Accepting Change by Author Dawn Elizabeth Waters