Friday, June 1, 2012

Part of the Story

A few weeks ago, a repainting project was started at the old theater I pass on my way to work.  They were stripping paint off all of the window frames and doors on the outside of the building to remove the lead paint, and then repainting all of them.  About halfway through the project, they painted everything with this horrible shade of light gray.  I was hoping it was just primer, but the longer it stayed there, the more nervous I got, because it looked terrible.  At long last I noticed them painting part of it with a light beige, and then the other day the doors had finally been painted a nice cranberry color like they used to be, with a two-color effect on the trim. 

What's the moral of this story?  Well, I guess I just don't know why I was worrying about that darn gray color, because I should have known without a doubt that that color was definitely an interim step, not a finished product.  But for a few days, it bugged me anyway.  And now, in the end, everything looks beautiful and turned out just as it should have.  I should never assume that I know where anything is going, because inevitably there's a bigger picture I'm just not seeing.

I've learned that lesson a lot in the past few weeks.  I've come to understand that there's more to each moment than meets the eye, that there's more to the story than what I see in my current situation.  Each moment we live is a building block for a greater story, and far be it from me to assume the story's ending in the middle of it all.  And shame on me for assuming a moment is the end, when it may just be the beginning.  Thinking of things from this angle gives a whole new perspective to the challenges we face.

The most vivid example of this was the Knighthawks championship game.  At the end of the first half, the Knighthawks were down 5-1 and seemed to have absolutely no momentum on their side.  It seemed like it was the end of the road.  The thought crossed my mind, however, that if they could come back, it would be a heck of a story.  Instead of being a final chapter in a sad tale, that painful first half would be just another incredible circumstance in an improbable championship run.  Sure enough, it happened.  I'm not sure that win would have been quite as sweet or as memorable without the second half comeback.  In the end, it was just another twist and turn in a great story, but in the moment it seemed like a terrible hand to be dealt.

For the past few months I've been training myself to run in the Chase Corporate Challenge, which took place last night.  The race is 3.5 miles, a bit longer than a 5K, and quite a bit further than I generally run on my own.  I'd run in it two of the last three years, and always working to improve my time.  The first time I ran it I had never run much for distance before but figured I'd give it a try and see how it went.  Sure enough, despite hardcore rain, I ran the whole thing.  Slowly, perhaps, but I ran it nonetheless.  I wasn't able to register in time the next year, which was just as well as it was another stormy day.  I ran the same distance on the treadmill at the gym, though, and improved on my time just a bit.  Last year I had been running more consistently and I was aiming for a 10-minute mile pace.  I had a running buddy from the gym to help pace me, and ended up running a bit over a 9.5-minute mile pace, which was awesome. 

This year I'd been taking running a lot more seriously, and over the past few months I've been religiously running twice a week at least, always aiming for a high intensity run to increase my speed.  I was trying to run intervals and run at faster speeds for longer periods of time, if only to trick my body into getting used to that higher speed for when I no longer had a treadmill to pace me.  I was doing well, even running the 3.5 miles within the 30-minute goal I set for myself (about 3:30 quicker than last year) multiple times.  I was still unsure if I could do it outside without the treadmill to push me, and weather conditions are always a wildcard, but it was nice to know I could do it. 

But over the last two weeks, it all fell apart.  No matter what I did, I couldn't do what I had been doing.  I'd have to stop and walk after a couple miles, or slow down so much that my pace was no better than last year.  I wondered if it was our big night out after the Knighthawks championship that tired my body out, or if hormones were messing with me.  I just felt tired.  I gained a couple pounds over Memorial Day weekend, and by then I was sure that I was going to crap out in the middle of the race like I had done in recent workouts.  On the bright side, I'd been praying for a cool but pleasant day for weeks, and sure enough, God delivered.  It was a gloriously sunny evening in the low 60s, perfect running weather.  I fueled myself up before the race and hoped adrenaline would do the rest.  And you know what?  I hit my goal.  I didn't quite do it under 30 minutes like I wanted to.  I ended up at 30:11.  However, I was held up quite a bit by the crowd at the start of the race and couldn't get to the pace I wanted until after the first mile.  That one took about 9:15, and I was aiming for 8:30.  However, I must have killed the last mile and a half in particular, because I made up most of the lost time there.  Were it not for the traffic, I would have certainly been under 30 minutes.  And what's better?  I felt really good doing it.  I didn't get tired until after the 2-mile mark, and I didn't have any sort of pain in the middle of it like I did last year.  I was exhausted by the end, yes, but my recovery was far quicker and I feel more or less normal today which is a far cry from past runs.  It's great to see how far I've come, and the challenge I faced in the past couple weeks made my success that much sweeter. 

When it comes to applying this philosophy to current, unresolved things in my life, I especially hope it applies to three things: Jacob's behavior, my anosmia, and our quest for baby #2.  I obviously hope all of the work we put in to being consistent with Jacob, to having structure, to trying to teach him how to be a good boy, all turn out in the end and give us a sweet, loving, well-adjusted son for years to come.  My anosmia (lack of smell) is still a very difficult, very frustrating part of my life.  One of these days I'll do a post about the good and bad of having no sense of smell as a parent, but suffice it to say it feels like part of the puzzle is missing when I can't smell or taste anything.  I keep hoping that someday we'll figure out how to fix it, and at that point, I will certainly have a new appreciation for how things taste and smell!  And, of course, the wait we're enduring while trying for another baby has been a challenge.  In all three cases, I hope that the difficulties we've gone through are just a part of the journey, another chapter of our story.  Right now in the midst of them, it feels like the challenges will never end.  Hopefully someday they will be the battle scars that make us appreciate the good we have and how far we've come.  I'm hoping they're just a learning experience we have to endure for a greater purpose.

It's not always easy in the middle of a story to trust that there will be a happy ending...and maybe there won't always be one.  But remembering it is the middle and the possibilities are endless is something that should get us through the tough times.  God's got this way or another.

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