In 2001, a friend and I decided to run the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon. We’d never run anywhere near 26.2 miles before, so we decided we were going to be PRE-PARED!
We bought “the” official marathon training book that covered everything from the ideal running schedule to thigh chafe solutions. For months, we logged miles and miles 6 to 7 days per week.
As race day neared, we studied the course map, locating the energy gel way-stations and (more importantly) the Porta Potties – we were paranoid of runner’s trots. ?
We mentally prepared for the dreaded “wall” around mile 20 and debated what we would do if we hit it…Push through? Allow for walking? Lie down on the pavement until moved by race officials??
In the end, we both proudly crossed the finish line in one piece, wrapped ourselves in a foil blanket, and limped back to our hotel.
Looking back, the experience was tough but positive. Our intense preparation and careful planning paid off. Our bodies and minds were ready. We knew the distance we’d be running, down to the tenth of a mile, and exactly what to expect.
◼️◼️◼️ But what about a marathon where you don’t know the course, how far you’ll be running, or when it will end? Folks, we’re in it. ◼️◼️◼️
Several weeks into the pandemic and life on lockdown, it become apparent this would not be a quick 4- to 6-week sprint toward a return to normal life.
As 4 weeks of staying at home became 8, and as 8 became indefinite (as least here in the Bay Area), I realized this was turning into a marathon. But not any normal marathon.
As the wonderful women in my Soul Digger community said on our weekly call, this whole experience is like a marathon that mid-race turned into an ultramarathon that then morphed into a triathlon, with some Parkour thrown in just for good measure. ?
This is not comfortable. We are tired of this uncharted territory we find ourselves in. Our human brains, wired to equate predictability and control with our very survival, are going nuts.
Even those of us who see the silver linings and opportunities that may come from this pandemic are not entirely immune to the stress of uncertainty. As Pollyanna as we want to be about the virus and the economy and all of the things, we are still largely on coronatime time for now.
◼️◼️◼️ So how do you stay in a race of indefinite length and duration? How do you create the resilience and stamina to go the distance? ◼️◼️◼️
Of course you’ve got your basics of good mental, emotional, and spiritual hygiene (i.e., manage that monkey mind, feel all those feels, and actually practice your practice).
But what about the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward when time seems to be standing still?
In times like these, setting specific goals and expectations may lead to frustration and disappointment.
“My furlough will end on May 31 and I’ll be back at work by June” becomes “Holy crap…my furlough just became a layoff…”
“I am taking every precaution possible and I will not get this virus” becomes “Wow..a positive COVID test? How did that happen…”
“By the time Fall rolls around, we’ll definitely be back in the classroom” becomes “Damn…looks like next semester will be happening online…”
So how do we keep from becoming totally disoriented and directionless, even when we aren’t quite sure where we’re ultimately headed in all of this?
One of the best solutions I’ve found is to create an intention practice (h/t Kim Stanwood Terranova and her simple yet brilliant new book, “The Technology of Intention”).
◼️◼️◼️ Unlike goals that usually have a super-specific outcome attached to them, intentions are more about selecting qualities of experience that point you and your attention in a general direction. ◼️◼️◼️
Check out the examples below to see what I mean…
“My goal is to complete the entire manuscript for my book while we’re on lockdown.”
“My intention is to write from a place of joy and inspiration.”
“My goal is to keep my kids on the same schedule and learning pace they would have experienced in the classroom.”
“My intention is to stay as patient and present as possible with my kids while we navigate homeschooling for the first time.”
“My goal is to lose 20lbs during quarantine.”
“My intent is to lovingly support my body and my immune system by making healthy choices around what I consume.”
Try it out for yourself. Think of a goal or expectation you are holding right now. Consider attempting to achieve it as the pandemic continues to unfold and the ground is not so solid under your feet – how do you feel? A little pressured, stressed, and constricted, perhaps?
Now try rephrasing that goal as a more gentle and general intention, as something that, even if the virus numbers go up and the economy tanks, you know you have the capacity to honor it. Let that intention rest in your awareness. Now how do you feel? Maybe a little more peaceful, hopeful, and less constricted?
And you know the coolest thing about intentions?? They leave a bit of wiggle room for the Universe to work its magic.
◼️◼️◼️ Cause sometimes, when our human grasps mightily to a certain outcome (e.g., dating that one person, making that specific dollar amount, landing that particular job), it doesn’t allow our soul the space to bring us something even better that we hadn’t even considered. ◼️◼️◼️
So take a deep breath, set some intentions, and continue this marathon.
You may need to take a break or walk for a bit, and that’s okay. Unlike the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, no one gave you map or told you how long you’d be running.
And make sure your intentions are gentle and doable, so even if you hit the wall, you can find the stamina and resilience to keep going.
See you at the finish line, wherever and whenever it is!
p.s. If you want to know more about intentions or need a little help creating an intention practice, I really recommend Kim’s book!