Crushed (Chapter 17)

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IMG_3493September and October came and went in 2010. I hadn’t given up on my intent to undertake the running stunt, but I also appreciated that time was slipping away through my fingers. Christmas was presenting an immovable bookend to the year at which stage snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere would impede my plans to run. I decided that the last window of opportunity I had would be to commence running in Sydney at the same times as the G20 Summit started in Seoul, and then run across the mapped course of countries I intended to visit, finishing in Seoul before the Christmas Eve.

I was really thankful of the support I had received from so many people, but I hadn’t raised enough money to continue the journey beyond a start, and thought it would have been irresponsible to begin under those circumstances. I was feeling downcast that my efforts have amounted to nothing, and questioned whether my performance during the 9 City Bridge Run the year before was an accurate representation of my ability.

I was not prepared to give up, but neither did I have the resources to meaningfully project when I might actually commence. At that time, I couldn’t comprehend that achieving what I wanted to do might have meant taking more time to set the conversation. There was a sense of urgency which mirrored the need for action, and I wanted to demonstrate this through my actions. In hindsight, I wouldn’t commence the running until four years later in 2014, and I would eventually be running across the Christmas period and through the snow. My own thinking created unnecessary limitations that did not help the bigger situation.

Ultimately, the decision to delay was not going to be mine. A few days before the last possible moment I had to commit to the journey in early November, I had been training so hard and for so long that I had pushed my body too hard. My legs were injured from overtraining, and I needed to rest. I was a crushing experience. I couldn’t even run to catch a bus on the street. I felt crippled and hopeless, but even at this time I look back with some unease that my concern was about whether I could run the distance more than the plight of people who were trapped in a situation that condemned them to experience the appalling travesty of child mortality wrecking their lives. Being crush is a relative state of mind. There is always someone worse off.

I was thinking that if I delayed, then that would be it. This of course revealed my obsession with running as a method, and my failure to consider how collaboration with a larger group might give a change in perspective that could help to make a better solution possible to what seemed like an impossible situation. Looking back, it is easy to see the many options that were actually open to me at the time, but from the position I was in then I couldn’t see these alternatives. Not seeing alternatives and the freedom of action that you have through exercising your imagination contributes towards Backswing. It doesn’t give you the best option to hit the ball hard.

What I did appreciate was that destroying myself in the process of trying to make some change happen was neither smart nor noble. I wasn’t far off bringing myself into a difficult situation where I was hamstrung from doing many things because of my obsession with seeking to make something work. When people say “never quit”, this advice must be heeded with respect to your own long term survivability. There is no point in not quitting of the consequence is that you are destroyed in the process.

I was about to enter the wilderness, but I didn’t know it yet. It does raise a question about failure: when is failure actually failure? Entering the wilderness is a terrible feeling, and feels like failure. At the time, when you set yourself into exile in the wilderness, it seems to be the same as entering into failure. But this is not so.

Failure is an essential part in a process of trying something difficult, not the end of the game. Being in the wilderness is part of the Hero’s Journey. It is only be entering the wilderness that we are able to leave the Ordinary World fully behind and encounter everything in the Special World  that we are destined to meet. I don’t think we should celebrate being in the wilderness, but when we find ourselves there or staring into the abyss that we will soon enter, we should take stock and examine what brought us to that point, what we are supposed to learn, and importantly how we will get ourselves out of that mess.

It is really important not to underestimate the value of failure, but to do this requires us to see it in context. Being held captive to Backswing is to give in to the fear of failure. We have to find the presence of mind to have the courage to keep turning up, to continually modify our swing, to learn from the last pitch, and to never give in to times of hardship. Backswing is an essential part of hitting the ball, but out game can never be All Backswing. When encountering failure, it is easy to get spooked into retreating to safety. From the comfortable place of Backswing, it feels like we are still taking to the plate, but actually we are resigning ourselves to mediocrity.

Audit yourself, especially when feeling crushed. This is where having a mentor and learning partner is helpful. Someone else who knows you well, someone you trust, and someone who understands your goals to work with you especially in the difficult times. Their role is not to do the batting for you. You can never abdicate this responsibility. It is not something to be sublimated to others.

Accept crushing defeat as the disciplining torch from the refiner’s fire. Survive. Come back stronger. Don’t take your wounds lightly. Be proud of your scars, even if no one else can ever see them.


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