Running Through the Seasons of Life
Spring is a spectacular time of year. As a teacher, I enjoy the summer because of the freedom and break it provides, but there is something bright and exciting about the spring. While the dramatic weather changes can be annoying, the shift to warmer temperatures and the visual display of the world waking up and blooming is welcome after a long winter. Everyone resumes the hustle and bustle of life as the trek towards the end of the school year speeds along.
And so it is with the seasons of life. There are changes and shifts and adjustments that seemingly none of us are exempt from. I was sharing with a friend about all of the things I felt like I was missing out on lately as a mom of two busy sons and a football coach’s wife and a novice school administrator. Oh, and an amatuer runner. I told her how I had serious FOMO: “fear of missing out” on some of the experiences my friends were engaging in that I just couldn’t do. Her words were simple, yet filled with the deepest weight and value. She said, “Maybe this is just your season to focus on what’s happening at home. The time will come when you can do those things.” She is SO right. By the way, she is always right when it comes to this type of perspective taking. I appreciate her for it.
So, I’ve sat with this thought for quite a while now and it has come back to me on many runs. Runs where I’ve just felt like I was moving in super slow motion--the exact opposite of where I was two years ago. Having the major medical event I experienced (Pulmonary Embolism) was life-changing. It shifted me, quickly, into a season of rest. I think that’s when I learned the most about myself and how seasons really work. I’d like to move through life with a better understanding of how to navigate seasons, and here are some thoughts on what this means.
1. Be where you are.
It can be insanely easy to slip into the comparison trap. I know, I’ve been there. What has helped me through this time of change is to reframe my thinking. I could spend an eternity comparing myself to others, and even myself from two to three years ago, but I’ve learned that that kind of behavior only makes me feel worse. I’ve gotten a lot of practice lately with telling myself a thing or two, and it’s helping me in other areas of life as well. Instead of relentlessly focusing on how much slower I am, I tell myself that I am rebuilding my strength. Instead of wishing for the Kim of yesteryear, I tell myself to be and soak in exactly where I am at this moment.
2. Acknowledge your feelings.
I think I’ve learned this from parenting the most, but owning your feelings and paying attention to them are important. It is OK to be sad about missed opportunities and having to adjust your expectations to your reality. There’s nothing wrong with mourning where you used to be. The important thing is how you move forward from it and the lessons you take with you. I’ve found that lingering for too long in my feelings makes it harder to come out of them. Acknowledging them and giving myself space to do so is freeing, and helps me to move forward.
3. Find the good.
I truly learned the art of enjoying the run at any pace, for any distance. I had no other choice when I was reduced to 10 minute walks a few times a week. When I was given the green light to run, I found that it became easy to be “all in” during the run. Instead of thinking about how long it would take, or what I needed to be doing, I could soak in every step. I could feel my heartbeat. I could watch the sun set and sometimes rise. I learned to really appreciate going slow and the beauty and healing that comes from trails. I found the good in learning my body again and appreciating knowing when to go and when to rest.
4. Always be grateful.
During the holidays, it can be easy to come up with a list of things to be grateful for, but I’ve learned to make gratitude a daily habit. From being trapped in schedule-breaking traffic to spilling coffee on your work clothes, I’ve learned that there’s always something to be for which I can be grateful. I see this fully with my running. There have been times where I wonder if I’ll ever feel strong again, but then I remind myself that I’m alive and that is what’s most important. I’ve found that having a list of things to focus on during my runs helps me to feel a sense of peace and calm. Gratitude is infectious.
While I’m in this season of rebuilding and reframing, I’m thankful for the lessons injury and illness have taught me. I’m thankful that I have been a student to myself on even the worst of days. On good days and on bad days, I remind myself that I get to run. That’s the real gift in all of this. I’m thankful for everything I’m learning in these seasons of life.
By Kim Van Acker