Birthday Reflections and A Holy Big Goal

Since I was born late in the evening, this is my first full day as a 41 year old, FORTY-ONE. That sounds old, to me at least. And lest I forget, my body is quick to remind me of my middle-age-ness. As I’ve spent the last week celebrating - and by celebrating I simply mean living out life like usual, with as much fullness as I can - it’s occurred to me how much our culture shapes us and steers us to do things a certain way, unless we are intentional about bucking culture, doing it another way. Culture tells us that our birthdays are supposed to be these huge celebrations with lots of people, the bigger the better, in every respect. Or at least that’s how it feels to me. But as I recently wrote about here, I am an introvert, and while I love people, big parties are definitely not my scene. So, in effort to live a little more authentically into who I am rather than who I think culture or people want me to be, I celebrated my birthday with a whole string of one-on-one fun experiences with people near and dear to me, as well as with my family. It was perfect. It was me. And it felt good to choose to do it that way.

Another way in which I think culture dictates our choices, if allowed to do so, is in the goals we set and the things we go after. I think our culture tells us to go after big dreams, but do-able things, dreams that are a reality - out of reach but not out of sight. Why? Because no one wants to fail. So we often set our goals big, but not so big that we might actually fail. We play it safe.

Well, at 41, I think I might be done with playing it safe. I’ve been talking quite a bit with both my kids and my clients about failure, the fear of it as well as the benefits of failing. I’ve also questioned what failure really is? And I’ve concluded that maybe the biggest way we fail is by not trying in the first place. If we try and we fall short, we feel vulnerable, we get up, we learn from it, we try again, and none of that sounds like failure to me. Not to mention that we often feel more connected to other people in our shortcomings than we do in our successes. 

So, I began asking myself, what are the things that I could go after or live into that I might very well fall short in? I’m ready to really go after the HOLY BIG things in life, to lay it out there, with the risk that I might very well fall flat on my face. As many of you know, I often set physical goals that parallel my every day life and hopes. And you may also know that this last year has been, shall we say, a rough year physically. Between my fractured hip and the miscarriage, my body feels beat up and out of shape. 

So, never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be the year that I’d attempt to chase one of my bucket list, holy big, I-truly-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-it running goals: The Imogene Pass Run. But I let my husband convince me to do the unthinkable, to sign up for the IPR and to talk me into believing that I could actually it. And by it I mean a 17.1 mile trail race that starts in Ouray, Colorado and climbs over 5,000 feet in 10 miles to the summit of Imogene pass at 13,114 ft. before descending 7 more miles into the town of Telluride. I know, crazy right? I mean, I think it’s crazy for someone who’s in shape, let alone someone coming off of the year I’ve had. But what was it that I proclaimed a few paragraphs up? At 41, I think I might be done with playing it safe. Well, there is nothing that feels safe about this goal. It is an absolute possibility that I might not make the cut-off times necessary to continue on in the race. My body may not even make it to the starting line. But I darn well am going to try.  And maybe success will look like listening to my body and pulling myself out of the race. And maybe it will look like running through fatigue and pain, feeling more alive because of it. So I’m going to train. I’m going to lay it all out there. I needed a fire under my behind and this is a rager. So, here goes nothing. Here goes everything.

Imogene Pass. Image courtesy of Chad Essex.

I also love that this is a point-to-point race, meaning that it starts in one place and finishes in another, with a really really large mountain in between. It’s pretty symbolic for where I have been emotionally this last year and for where I desire to be - not going backwards to where I was before, but going forward to a new, unimaginable place with new meaning - climbing the obstacles that stand in the way, looking for the beauty as I go, and embracing it all.

As I was second-guessing what I just signed myself up for, err, reading the course description on the race page, I came across this advice:

As you contemplate the journey ahead, remember: "To get to where you want to go, you have to start from where you are"; and think IFM: "Incessant forward motion". It is up to you to get yourself, by your own two feet, from Ouray to Telluride. Only through continuous forward motion, even at a walk if necessary, at low or high elevations, on steep or moderate terrain, and in good or bad weather will you arrive at the finish line goal. Then too, one must not forget to "Smell the roses along the way", and to appreciate the natural and human history through which you will pass, along the way.

Holy big goal. Incessant forward motion. No more playing it safe. Happy 41st to me. Let’s go.

Where are you letting culture or people dictate the choices you’re making? What is one thing that you want to go after but that you run the risk of falling short? I’d love to hear from you.