The Crossroads

crossroadsDestinationY_O_U

Where will you be in five years?

You will be somewhere.  Alive or dead, in five years you will be somewhere.   Hopefully, you will be alive, and then the question becomes; will your destination be a well-designed destination, or will it have no design at all?

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Today.  You are at a crossroads.   Crossroads are powerful things; they are religious and full of meaning.  They are spiritual and can signify calamity, uncertainty, and risk but they can also signify choice, freedom, and hope.   And today – you are at a crossroads.

You have a choice to make.

Just by showing up today, you have made a choice.   You did something today you’ve never done before and that led you here, to this new place with these new people.  That’s not easy.  It’s not as comfortable as many other things you could probably think of.   I imagine eating ice-cream and watching Netflix might feel more comfortable than this.   I imagine doing some quasi-work to excuse myself from not doing what I said I was going to do might feel better than this in the short-run.  I imagine there are worse places I could have chosen too, but I made a choice – I came to the crossroads and I made a choice to be right here, with you all.

And you made that same choice so here you all are.

You will encounter many crossroads along the way, and this might surprise you but, whatever direction you decide to take when you get to that point, you will always end up at some version of yourself – in five years, no matter which way you turn.   It is inevitable.

The version of yourself that you will encounter in five years will be the result of the direction you went when you made the choices you made today, and the choices you will make tomorrow.   The YOU! that you will discover in five years will be the result of all the excuses and justifications or the sum of all the hard-work and hard-choices you made to get there.

This program really is that important.  You really are that important.   The stakes are high, and you have some hard choices to make if you really want to be the best version of yourself; Destination YOU!

But for yourself

Getting over the fear that I have of making a call to someone who could create a situation where I either fail or succeed, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t even have to be something so dire; it could be the thumbs up or down for a preliminary decision or even more simple.

It could just be that I’m afraid to ask for what I want.

That.  That is really hard for me to do.

Fear of failure is strong with this one.   And this one.. and this one.. and so on, on and on. We’re all afraid of failing, of looking bad, of being less, of losing the respect of our friends and families and even worse sometimes – complete strangers.   We want to be loved – not pitied.   We want to be heroes, not villains.  We want to be good.

I hit that crossroads in junior high school and I remember clearly the turn I took and the path I travelled when I realized I wasn’t doing so hot with quick, zingy come-backs or just standing up for myself, so I decided to just shut up.   It was deliberate.   I remember deciding to play it safe – that if I didn’t say anything and just kept my mouth shut, I would disappear into the noise of a 7th grade existence.   That’s what I did, and it worked.. kinda.

We can’t go back.  We can’t undo that turn like flipping through a choose-your-own-adventure book and explore an alternate reality.  We can’t rewind.  No mulligans, no take-backs.. nothing.  And just as an aside – this is one of those life lessons that stings a bit; You don’t get second chances.   I’m not even going to argue this point here – you know what I mean.   You don’t get do-overs – period.   Once something’s out there, it’s out there. Employ all the damage control you want, a bad first impression, a drunken tirade, a hasty decision in the heat of the moment – they all have consequences and that’s life. Whatever happened might not destroy what you have, but it won’t ever be completely forgotten and it will defnitely add a shade of color to your relationships moving forward.

But even that’s not always a bad thing.

I tried out for the speech team in Junior High.   Looking back now, I feel like I should have been a shoe-in.   I’m fairly comfortable in front of crowds (now), I’ve spoken and spoken well at times, sticking to an outline – when leading my 5k groups or talking to a group of friends or even adult Sunday School in my twenties; sure!  I was nervous, but I wasn’t horrbile.   No!  I’m not really that bad, but when I tried out for the speech team, I had no idea what I was doing.  I don’t think I even told my parents.   They handed me something, I read it extremely nervously, and that was it – I didn’t get in. The only reason I mention this is because I want you to know that I wasn’t happy being a wall-flower. Despite playing it safe, I didn’t want to be relegated to the background.   I wanted to matter.   I wanted to be on the speech team; a place that I earned and a place that I belonged to.   They didn’t want me.

When I tried to matter – I didn’t get picked.

And  I still remember this thirty-five years later- I don’t really remember moping around about not getting on the team.   Maybe because it was confirmation of what I already knew about myself – I can’t be ‘that guy’.   You know the one.  The guy who has a ready answer in any situation.  The guy who all the girls like to be around.  The guy who has earned the admiration of the other guys – he’s the Guy of all Guys!

I guess I’m just writing all of this to say that I’ve always tried to be whatever everyone else wants me to be – or what society thinks I should be, or so I think.   Sure!  I’ve gotten WAY better at just ‘being myself’, but a lot of the things I do, I still do for other people – and I catch myself all the time.   It all sounds so trite, doesn’t it?   It does to me – but I ask myself a few questions and it becomes a little less weird –

Am I really living out MY life, unfettered from the expectations I percieve others have in me?

Guys!   That kind of self-reflexive questioning is NOT a bad thing.   When you add the word ‘really’ to any question, it not only casts doubt on what you have taken for granted for so long, it really forces you to examine why you did so in the first place.   And again, if you’re first response is to defend that position at all costs without really thinking about it, reflexively beating your chest – you lose.  Period.

Am I REALLY living up to my full potential?

How much of my life and how many of my daily actions are purely to curry the favor of someone else?

Or, what does a life look like – what does MY life look like – if it were acted purely from my own self-interest?  

Is that (really) a bad thing?

 

How to say this..?

Lately, I’ve really been struggling with a topic that I wanted to write about.  This is probably the fifth time I’ve sat down and started banging out a piece.

How to talk about missed opportunities and taking chances?  Meeting people and climbing out of our shells to do something we have no business doing.  Thinking of all these angles to look at it – the marketing standpoint; that we’re all selling something and our reputation is our “brand” so we have to watch what we say and to whom and strike the right balance of knowing the situation we’re in and what’s appropriate to that given situation – at least, in the context of what it is we want to accomplish or whether we even care.   (“Not caring” is still a kind of advertising message).   For that matter, living ‘authentically’ and being ‘in the moment’ is, in a disgustingly cynical sense, still a chosen modus operendi.

Think about the serendipity of how a seemingly inauspacious encounter might turn someone’s life around in a good way, or completely destroy one’s future.

When driving around, it’s easy to miss all of these side streets and alley-ways.  We’re going at a good clip and they just slip by.  But these are all crossroads and choices that lead to places we haven’t been before, people we haven’t met before or taken the time to engage.  We’re so accustomed and focused on where we’re going, we just don’t consider the possibilities of where life might lead us next if we were to recognize the cascading effect of a timely turn of the wheel, an introduction and smile or word of encouragement to a complete stranger.

Sometimes those turns, insignificant as they seem at first, become major headings in our lives – we trace everything back to meeting a person, moving across town, quitting a job, trying out a new hobby, taking a trip, taking a class, saying “hello”, or any number of things, or people, or turns that we had not previously taken – and now look at where they have led.

And while it is habit that keeps us running along in our familiar routines, it is also the comfort that comes along with it and the fear of losing it if we do something we don’t know.  Fear of being new at it and looking like we’re new at it.   Fear that noone is going to like you or that you won’t belong.   So I avoid.   I buffer with delicious food, games and distractions, religious fervor, political rage – I fill my life with useless things that consume my time and displace that immortal asset with the empty promise of tomorrows, regretful todays, and wasted yesterdays.

It is escapism.  I escape.  Then I escape again from the shame of escapism.   The crossroads slip by and I am aware, but they are new and terrifying and my normalcy is killing me slowly and comfortably.

Sometimes, it’s that nagging “Who do you think you are!” voice inside of our heads that makes us shy away from the blaze of that campfire confession, that stage light, or the plain realization that you will either act in life at a given point and in a given situation – or you will not.

So, I turn and discover how wonderful it is to be alive and to know you all.  To be human with you all and being in this thing together.   To offer what help I can give and to meet those wonderful people who help me out with their hearts full of love.

For me, that little turn was downloading a fitness app.   Little did I know it would lead me here and lead me to you all – “And that has made all the difference”.

 

All the “No’s” that led me here

NO.NO

My life is actually pretty awesome.   I don’t always feel that way, but when I stop and really think about it, I realize that I have so much to be grateful for.   I’ve always had a sense that I was going to do great things and, I don’t think I’m alone in this.   As I get older, the idea that I’m going to be remarkable, in any specific and tangible way, grows more and more distant; ever more remote.   It might even be a kind of hubris, but entirely human all the same.

“We all think we’re going to be great. And we feel a little bit robbed when our expectations aren’t met.” Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy

I want to say real quick too, that I actually like myself.   At least, most of the time, even when I mess up, I’m learning to laugh at myself and not take things so seriously.. not all the time, anyway.   What I’m trying to say here is that I can say nice things about myself without thinking too hard about it – and for some people, that’s a big accomplishment.

But..

I’m not perfect.   I haven’t reached some special state that has elevated me above the masses.  I’m not really all that special, after all.   I’m just a guy who has some ‘yes’s’ under his belt.   And, at the same time, I’m just a guy who still hasn’t let go of all the NO’s!

There are a lot of NO’s.

My big think is that I’m afraid.  I’m afraid to interview with ‘important people’ so I say no.   I’m afraid to climb out on that rock with my friends, so I say no.   I’m afraid to apply for that job because I don’t think they’ll take me seriously, so I say no.   I’m afraid to sign up for that race because I’ve never run that far, so I say no.   I’m afraid of working out that hard so I can get to Boston, no.

So I was going to write this blog about all the NO’s, and sure, they exist BUT..  I’m not really feeling the “No’s” right now.  I can think of yes’s for every no, right now.   Right now I know that the road to greatness is mundane, persistent and consistent action; never giving up, letting go of the things that are hurting you, and being your own champion.

If I DID  want to wallow in my miseries, then I’m sure I could look back and see a series of fear-laden “No’s”.  No to myself, no to offers and invitations from others, no to flights of fancy that weren’t so flighty after all.

The Running Shop (Pt 2)

Running with MS

Francisco had ordered a pair of the New Balance Minimus trail shoes; the T10 v4.  We joked a little about how popular this release was because it finally went back to the original design everyone loved.  That shoe created quite a following.

 

Francisco has MS and he’s a runner.  Someday, that won’t be the case, but for now he can still find joy there and he does.  His gait is such, that his left foot swings through a little low and the tread beneath that toe wears out really fast – even with the Vibram outsole. He wondered if there was anything he could do about that and we kicked around some ideas.

After he left, I went to the running subreddit and asked the same question he had asked me, and I wanted to share some of the responses here;

“I like the trail shoe idea. My suggestion is if the shoes are not worn out find a product like Shoe-Goo to build up the tread so it takes longer to wear down. I used to build up my treads with this to get longer life from my shoes.” ~ /u/amh_library

That’s a really great suggestion that I’ll remember.

“This may sound like a stupid idea, but here goes. Occasionally companies will help out people with special needs, perhaps such as needing more left shoes. Maybe you could reach out to the suppliers, explain the situation and see if maybe they can either sell single left shoes for him or even provide them? It’s probably a stretch, but if it makes them look good then they might consider it.” ~ /u/CatLadyTheSecond

This will require some follow up but if the worse they can say is “No”, then it’s totally worth it.  I should have the contact information to actually get this request to the right person.

“Somewhat of a side note, you should look up Kayla Montgomery. MS pt with amazing running story, though I’m not sure about what shoes she used, might be worth looking into” ~ /u/YogiMooseTX

This one got me choked up a bit.  I’ve seen it before, but it really hits hard each time. I was pretty much blown away by Francisco and Kayla’s story broke my heart in a good way.  It’s the spirit that gets this huge setback and doesn’t quit.. that has a certain demise on the horizon, a degenerative disease like MS where people slowly lose functionality going from wheel-chairs, to beds, ventilators, feeding tubes and finally death… all of this staring a person in the face and still they run.  Right up to the edge, each time.

I really loved one phrase that I think sums up a lot of this tenacity;

“As time goes on, I get back up” ~ Kayla

No matter what, get back up and try again to push against the impossible.

The Running Shop

Part I: Mark

I want to tell you about two different customers.   They illustrate only one facet of why I love working at a specialty shoe store; the new- or non-runners that come in for shoes, and the stories they tell.

The first one is Mark.   He and his wife (it was actually his sister) came in not long after lunch. He was overweight and seemed  to be almost defensive being in a ‘running’ store.   He needed a wide shoe, a walking shoe, and a high-volume shoe.  Now, I like my customers. Almost as a rule, I really enjoy helping people.  My M.O. is that everyone has a story and when they step into the Running Shop, their story has somehow over-lapped with running/walking shoes; and with me.  I want to hear all about it.

As I talked to Mark, I found out that he was diabetic.  While his fore-foot needed lots of space for his toes and metatarcels to splay out naturally, he also wanted his heel to lock on and not slip.  Those were his criteria.   Of course, one could just be aggressive with a heel-lock to fasten the shoe to his heel, but if you went too tight, you could restrict already poor circulation in the foot.

As we tried on shoes, we got closer and closer to something that met his criteria and was also comfortable.  I learned from his feedback and was able to get a better idea of what  he was looking for in the categories that we were working in.  He tried on the last shoe I brought out and he did something with it that I hadn’t seen him do before.  He actually jogged across the floor.  All the rest of the shoes only got a walking treatment, but these? He actually moved forward in a jogging fashion – and it effected me profoundly.

Why it didn’t cross my mind that he might want to tackle his diabetes through dieting or losing weight, I have no idea, but it shames me to admit that he might actually be willing to exercise, grasping at something foreign and unfamiliar like purposeful exercise, to push back the clock a little bit.   For a brief moment, I weighed what it might mean to my group (“Destination YOU!” – facebook group) if he were to join.  Would there be anyone that he could run with?  Was week 3 too late for him? Would he even be interested?

Then,  I decided to ask him.

Mark is one of those people who have taken a principled stand against Facebook.  When I asked him if he had an account, he responded, “Facebook will steal your soul”.  While I wasn’t going to argue that point, it’s fair to say that my first attempt to bring him in to Destination YOU! was shot down and stomped on.

Still, I told him all about it and I swear he even seemed interested.

It occurs to me that running a 5k might be a suggestion for some that would otherwise NEVER cross their mind.  That was certainly the case with me – I remember being elated after running a solid mile for the first time since high-school.  Running a 5k, for some people, is literally the effort-equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest, breaking the world record for the mile, or swimming from the Florida Keys to Cuba.

This isn’t hyperbole.  For a brief moment, I think Mark was confronted with something completely outside of who he knows himself to be and, in the space between, he considered it for the first time in his life before the waves of doubt and habit drowned the light of opportunity and dreams in the usual, comfortable darkness.

Do not be so quick to dismiss the great thoughts that occur to you; life, the present and tomorrow are ripe and full of promise – but you have to think bigger.

What’s good for the Gander..

I’m probably the worst person at taking my own advice, except, I’m not.

Fact is, we all seem to be born with the innate ability to give free advice for any number of situations, whether we have experience with it, or not.   I think men are worse at this in that we don’t necessarily want to discuss things all the time or just listen; we just want to fix it.   Then there’s a whole new level of misogyny where men feel the need to explain things in simple language to women – ‘mansplaining’ – because they otherwise ‘wouldn’t understand’.   That’s dumb, but not really where I’m going with this blog post.

What I’m talking about is how easily I slip into lifting-someone-up mode; trying to high-light positives, thinking through all the strategies to suppress negative thoughts – even true ones – and focus on the positive thoughts, but then I go on a run today and it’s a torrent of negative, frustrated, self-critical thoughts that seem to win the day.

Maybe seeing the positive when you’re in a hard place or doing a hard workout – when you have some big event coming up that scares the hell out of you – maybe when you’re in that, you can’t really find the positive all that easy.  When you’re in it.  When you’re knee-deep in it, maybe you just have to keep hearing it from the outside as you build that muscle through practicing a way of thinking that doesn’t come very naturally.

Maybe we can get better at it through practice – but until then, relying on your friends for the positive reinforcement you refuse to give yourself?  Well, maybe that’s not such a horrible band-aid in the meantime.