When I posted last week about the rough weekend we'd had, I had no idea that the week would turn out to be a rough one for the whole country. While the city of Boston shut down because of a bombing suspect on the loose, friends and family in the Chicago area were trapped inside as roads everywhere were flooded with many inches of water. There was an explosion in Texas, poisoned letters sent to DC, and natural disasters around the world.
Here, we were still dealing with grieving a beloved community member, not to mention the stress of the end of the semester erupting in every way possible.
This weekend I came across a phrase spotted on the T-shirt of a marathoner -- not one leading the pack, but one bringing up the rear: "Looks like walking, feels like running."
I felt that was an apt way to describe what it's like to make it through a physically or emotionally taxing week. Or month. You're focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and you feel exhausted even though you don't seem to have gone very far when you look back.
And I just want to say: It's OK.
Sometimes you have to go into what Jennifer Fulwiler calls Bare Minimum Mode. Life hands you so much at once that you have to ruthlessly cut back until you're just doing the minimum to get through each day. And that's perfectly understandable. Self-care sometimes means that your normal pace of life is not feasible for the moment. It may be because of illness, grieving a loved one, a new child, or simply having a lot of small but difficult things hit you at the same time.
From the outside, it may not seem like you're doing much. Maybe the only thing you've managed to "accomplish" that day is showering and eating. It doesn't seem like enough, yet it feels like all you can do.
That's why I think we have to be careful about using measuring sticks on other people's lives.
It probably looks to many people like I'm not trying very hard on my job search right now. I've been out of work for two months and have only applied to a few jobs. That could certainly look like walking, if not crawling.
Yet from the inside, I feel like I've been running nonstop. I put together a book manuscript and am waiting on feedback from my readers. I signed up to volunteer for a local organization and have had at least one meeting a week for some opportunity or other. I met with multiple staff members on campus to figure out my most and least likely opportunities for working here. I wrote up a consulting proposal that the associate provost appeared thrilled with and then never contacted me again. I led a presentation on Natural Family Planning for female students on campus. I'm spending my time doing things that are important to me, while still watching out for worthwhile job opportunities.
But all that anyone asks me is "How's your job search going? Any leads? Any interviews?"
I'm not running fast enough for it to show.
I know I'm guilty of looking at other people and thinking if they just tried a little harder, they wouldn't still be in that same job they've been in forever. They wouldn't be scraping by financially. They wouldn't be in that bad relationship. They wouldn't be gaining weight. But the truth is that I probably have no idea how hard they're trying, or what else is weighing on them at that moment.
Looks like walking, feels like running.
Maybe it's true. Maybe you do need a kick in the butt today to try a little harder, to re-focus or re-assess your priorities, or to make different decisions. Maybe you don't feel like you're running, or even walking, but just sitting on your butt on the couch. Bored.
But I can't know that by looking at you. Only you can know that.
I love the message that probably originated from Rev. John Watson but is usually attributed to Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." It's something I need to remind myself often as I'm tempted to whip out my measuring stick and judge how much other people are making of their lives.
So my message today is two-fold:
- Take care of yourself. Take a break when you need it. Cut out the things you can't handle, even if other people think you should be able to.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the same.
When have you gone through a time that felt like running to you but looked like walking to everyone else?