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Get tough…or not

Wednesday, May 30, 2012–My daughter Meredith completed her first marathon this past Sunday. I am one proud mom.

It is said that the last 6.2 miles of a 26.2-mile marathon are the “second half” of the race. It is in these last 6.2 miles that a runner’s grit, training, courage, and mental and physical toughness are really tested. At one point in those last couple of miles, Meredith ran past her uncle standing along the side of the course. “Get tough, Meredith!” he advised her, knowing of what he spoke, because he has not only run marathons himself, but coaches marathoners. Meredith did indeed “get tough” and dug deep, and finished the race, upright and beaming.

I’ve been an athlete all my life, certainly not an “elite”one, and only competing with others on swim teams up through high school. Still, I’ve always been active–swimming, dancing, walking, running for a brief while, cross-country skiing, yoga. I have experienced that point in a race or a practice where I did have to “get tough,” pushing on through weariness and the pain of exertion, and being glad I did–or could.

But now that I am in the “second half” of life (who knows our length of days?), I find that the real challenge is to know when to “get tough” and when to “soften up, let go.” I have battled judgmentalism for most of my life–of others and of myself. I find that I’ve loosened up considerably on my judgmentalism of others–I’ve heard enough life stories that have added depth and complexity and heartache to my initial impressions to know that most judgments are superficial, or at least incomplete.

But I’m still pretty tough on myself. I was never taught to learn from my mistakes, only to avoid them. So, when I forget a meeting, like I did this week, or fail to do a job the way I know it “should” be done, or make a stupid remark, I can be pretty ruthless with myself. Never mind that I, like almost everyone else I know, is juggling way too many things, trying to take care of too many other people, have had a number of losses to deal with. Get tough, I say, dig deep, shape up. And there’s certainly always deeper to dig.

But maybe, just maybe, way down deep are the Everlasting Arms, waiting to catch me when I fall and fail, ready to receive me when I finally let go, ready to hold me when my physical and emotional muscles give out. In this “second half” of life, may that be the Truth I strive to remember.

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