I am not a runner.
When I was in middle school my deepest anxiety was saved for the day we were required to run the mile in P.E. I was an active kid who spent a lot of time outside, on the trampoline, riding bikes. However, any organized sport or running caused a strange reaction I liken to hyperventilating.
You may laugh and have in mind that I’m exaggerating. Stop imagining 32yr old Shilo. Picture with me 12yr old Shilo with braces, perm, and a decently round face that caused my eyes to disappear when I smiled… oh wait. That may happen regardless of cheek size.
I was last in the mile. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes thinking, “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad” but let me tell you- my fear over failing would turn into a side ache by lap one. By lap two I was dreaming up excuses I could use. By lap three every cute guy in the class was lapping me and I was praying they didn’t notice it was my frizzy hair and neatly folded socks falling behind. By lap four the rest of the class was waiting… and waiting… and dear God, am ISTILL doing this?! My run turned into a walk and I resigned myself to acting like I don’t care.
“Your time was 12 min and 45 sec.”
I shrugged. ”I had a side ache. My knees are bothering me. I’ve had this headache. I stayed behind with that slow kid so he wouldn’t feel bad. I ate too much for breakfast.”
Inwardly, “12:45? Sweet! My best time ever!”
The same year I discovered that I’m amazing at the high jump. Best girl in the class. Who knew?! The P.E. teacher said, “We’d love to have you join track.”
“I’m sorry… I feel hives coming on. I can’t breathe. Don’t you have to run in track?” No way. I had resigned myself to not being a runner.
Three months before my wedding my sister assumed the role of personal trainer and got me into the best shape of my life. Still- I made her promise no long distances. I got up to 2 miles of interval running but even in great shape dismissed the running option. ”I suck at running.” I refused to set goals in this area and when I hoped to break through a plateau, I certainly wouldn’t dare say it out loud.
I always told myself, “I’m comfortable not being a runner. So what? I do what I can do. What is safe to do… what I won’t fail to do. Two miles on the treadmill in the quiet of the morning. Done.”
I’ve been realizing running isn’t the only area of my life that this thinking of being safe and sticking to what I know has permeated. Apparently “good enough” sneaks in when anything more risks failure or uncomfortable vulnerability.
I am not a writer.
Since I could form letters I loved writing stories. They were in private notebooks because I knew they probably weren’t great. I threw them away when the notebook was full but it was therapeutic for me.
When I was ten years old I discovered the youngest published author was nine years old. I was crushed even though I had never told a soul my dream to be the youngest published author. I had convinced the “rational” part of myself that I wasn’t a writer but that rational part failed to convince a passionate (yet fearful) kid.
In 8th grade my best friend presented me with a journal. I filled it in a matter of months. I got another one. And another. In 19 years this “non-writer” managed to fill 42 journals.
(Excessive? Yeah… maybe a bit.)
I rolled my eyes when my husband suggested I start a blog. My string of excuses were ready; “My writing is between me and God. Who wants to hear about a day in the life of a mom?” Then resigning to, “Alright. At least my mom will read it.”
A couple weeks ago I had two messages on facebook. One was from my highly competitive family members starting a 200 Mile Challenge. We have until August 1st. Ten miles a week. Immediately my non-runner excuses started. When I stopped to realize it wouldn’t be impossible and would get me into gear after an inconsistent year, I realized I was hesitant because it is a public commitment in an area I lack confidence.
I was going to pass on the challenge until I remembered a few days prior I had asked God to show me fears and areas I was lacking confidence instead of believing God’s strength in me. It seemed a little silly but I knew the opportunity to break through mental block was more providence than irony. I committed.
The second facebook message was from a friend who is a professional writer, urging me to push myself in writing. As in making goals, getting disciplined, and… gulp… turning it into a book. ”Aw, that was nice of her to say.”
Her persistence continued and I mentioned it to Sean as we folded laundry a couple nights later.
He asked, “Would you want to do more writing? Do you think you should pursue it and see if there’s a book there?”
Nonchalant shrug, “If I have time for new commitments I should be earning money, finishing projects, teaching Everett to read-”
“We’ve always said we’d rather be penniless and pursue the dreams and passions God gives us.”
Oh. I guess we did say that. Oh. I guess I thought that applied to my fearless, big dreaming husband. Oh. I guess I never considered there might be room in that for me. Oh. That was a nice ideal but did we add that might be scary?
He proceeded to give me a Sean Taylor speech that encouraged me to respond to God when He nudges (even if it’s outside of the box in a way I wasn’t expecting), recognize God’s provision in providing a writing mentor, to accept that God might want to use me through giving me a book to write, and other inspirational things that caused me to feel like I should raise my hand at the altar call when he ended. I agreed to meet with our writer friend, which I suppose was the altar call equivalent.
When I met with her my rehearsed excuses bubbled out yet again. ”Blog snippets are different than writing a book. My grammar is bad. I’m not sure I even like my writing. Does anyone really want to hear about laundry and ministry and skinned knees? Because it’s the only thing I know.”
She asked, “Shilo, are you a runner?”
She then talked about setting incremental goals to reach a larger goal and other parallels between writing and running that were beginning to seem comical.
Two hours later I was encouraged, challenged, somehow managed to fit in some tears, and starting to set goals out of my comfort zone.
I don’t know where the stirring will lead. It could lead to manuscripts that gather dust on a shelf or a pulled hamstring. But I’ve had worse failures. It could also lead to a real book (someday I’ll say that without a disbelieving smile) or a real marathon (someday I’ll say that without feeling twelve and awkward).
I am coming to a quiet realization that whether I fail or succeed- in anything- my life points to God’s character, not my own awesomeness (or lack thereof). If He is capable of using failures and successes to glorify Himself then I can let go of some of my tight fisted comfort and ask God with a deep breath, “What are our dreams?”
I’ve committed to write an hour a day and this week I find myself giddy as the hour approaches.
I ran three and a half miles this morning and each mile was under ten minutes. Middle school Shilo would have an eye disappearing, wide mouthed metal grin at that.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...