Tag Archives: enjoying the process

The Untapped Power of 1 Hour, 3 Minutes and 55 Seconds

So, I ran my 10K on Sunday.

It was so much better than I thought it would be. Although let me just say that I still hate running, I still felt like puking and I still am not good at it.

But I did have one intense moment as I started up a hill nearing mile three. And I started to cry.

Yes, cry.

I, Kristin, who did not cry when saying goodbye to my best childhood friend as she moved away, or at my graduation, when I left for college, when I got engaged or married, or at the birth of any of my children, cried in the middle of a 6.2 mile race called The Chocoholic Frolic.

Photo by Amy Brand
Photo by Amy Brand

As I pushed up the hill before the 3 mile mark, I could hear a growing cheer from the runners in front of me. It rippled back toward me, swallowed me up and rolled on back to the runners behind me. Lagging slightly behind the cheers were the forerunners of the 10K (you know, those people who finished in half my time). They slammed into our cheers and flew past us, focused intently on the end goal. At that moment, a single sentence burst into my thoughts:

Feel the power of humanity striving toward a common goal.

And I let out a sob. A legitimate, audible sob.

Yeah, I don’t know what happened. That has never happened to me before, and it caught me completely off guard. Perhaps I could blame it on the perfectly timed crescendo of the refrain of Kryptonite from my Live Pandora station with the crescendo of the cheering crowd of runners. Or perhaps, the physical and emotional fatigue of preparing for something challenging made me particularly vulnerable.

But really, I think it was the thrill of feeling the power of 1000 people working hard to accomplish something personally challenging all together, and cheering each other on rather than fighting for notariety. And then, the profoundly sad realization that this power remains largely untapped.

The rest of the run, I couldn’t help wondering what our world would be like if the collective we approached injustice, suffering, conflict and pain with that same fervor, excitement and willingness to run together. What if we all recognized the naturally gifted leaders, and cheering, followed them despite the hard work it is for those of us less gifted? What if, instead of fighting to be the winner and garner our own followers, we put aside our egos and were willing to work together, albeit imperfectly and messily, toward a common, challenging goal?

Think of the impact. Think of the beauty. Think of the change we could bring about. The potential was suffocating to think about.

As an extreme introvert, it was a humbling run to realize how much I need community. I can’t do it myself. And why should I, after witnessing the power of many? We let so many unimportant details hinder the bigger, more important work. And in the name of being right (or at least making sure others know we think they are wrong) we lose the potential to make a real, tangible difference: to bring the healing and reconciliation we are called – and created – to bring.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

One hour, 3 minutes and 55 seconds after I started my race, as I dry heaved across the finish line, trying desperately not to throw up all over the volunteers passing out chocolate bars, I made a promise.

I will listen more, enter into the messy work of community more, and watch intensely for ways open up my arms and ask others to join me.

Advertisements

When the Worst is the Best

I have this habit of trying to do it all and be it all, seeking frantically to find the way to exist in that magical, elusive state called The Best.

But this year, I have discovered that while this mythical-seeming state actually does exist, it is nestled in the more hostile country of The Worst. As much as I’d like to pretend The Best is a sovereign nation, the two are inextricably entwined. And, for the first time ever, I am realizing that this is okay. As I alluded to last week, I see how the common and the fabulous coexist in my life, nearly always in the same thing, and this juxtaposition is part of what makes life real and, sometimes, what makes it beautiful.

The reality has sunk in, as it usually does, while muddling through this parenting thing. As the girls mature, we have started to include them in decisions other than what to wear and how to do their hair. You know, things that have more permanent, influential and visibile consequences than being cold, mismatched or uncomfortable for a day. While we will have the final say at this phase in their life, we have found (through lots of trial and error) that on many decision, it is important to ask for their input and acutally seriously consider what they say.

Iowa has this fantastic dual enrollment option, which allows kids to attend between 2 and 5 hours of public school per day and be homeschooled for the rest. This year, after much deliberation and for a variety of reasons, we (Nick and Nora and I) decided to dually enroll Nora in 2nd grade. She goes to school with everyone in the morning and leaves two hours early.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

We all (mostly) love it. Nora loves having extra time at home. But, because she misses the end of the day, that means she often misses the fun stuff, too – birthday celebrations, class parties, costume parades, fun projects.

Nora was dually enrolled in kindergarten, for a different set of reasons. And we would always let her stay till the end of the day when there were special events.

This year was different. Nick and I decided at the beginning of the year that we wouldn’t be making exceptions. We wanted to teach her that there are consequences to all choices, even the best ones. We told her that the privilege of having extra time at home meant that she would be missing things at school. She agreed.

The first time there was something special, I braced myself for a torrent of whining. But to my surprise, she said, “Mom, I’m feeling disappointed that I am missing it. But, I know that I get to go home and have tea outside and do fun things with you guys. So I’m okay.”

What??!?

Maybe it’s just me, but I hear this unspoken message everywhere to find the best, and be the best, and to never settle for anything less. And so I embark on the noble quest for the best, discarding anything that is less. I confuse trying my best with being the best and consequently never learn the important lessons that come through working hard at something for which you may never be the best.

I can see how this mindset has permeated my parenting. Much like I have a deep desire to protect the girls from all pain, I want them to experience the best. All the time. In everything.

But not the worst.

And really, I’m finding it’s pretty easy to do that while they are young like this, and I can control so much. I can manipulate circumstances to enhance the best and minimize or even eliminate the worst. And I am realizing that I am walking a fine line between responsible parenting that strives to create a safe environment for kids to grow and mature, and dangerous parenting that strives to create the perfect environment. When we talk about choices and decisions, I find myself discussing all the benefits of each possibility. Rarely (unless I’m trying to sway a decision), do I talk honestly and openly about both the best and the worst.

Recently, I was chatting with my sister about the popular critique of her millennial generation, namely, their collective repulsion at taking a good job (or any job, really) instead of the best job. And it made me wonder. In our nobly intentioned desire to have our kids find their passion and become the best that they can be, have we set them up for a never-ending quest for the mythical, sovereign country of The Best? Have we actually succeeded in creating people who won’t settle for less? Ever?

Property of Kristin Giuliani

So much like I’m feeling challenged to prepare my children for the reality of suffering, I’m realizing I need to do a better job of discussing The Worst as a inevitable and necessary part of life. I am a naturally (and usually, unrealistically) optimistic person, so this is not easy for me. But, I’m working to train myself to see the worst parts as evidence of the best parts.

The tricky part is trying to teach them to recognize the (often subtle) difference between The Worst that is simply a byproduct of a particular option and The Worst that is destructive, damaging and divisive. I don’t want to raise apathetic kids. I want to raise kids who can and want to recognize and address problems.

I am hoping that the experience with Nora will extend to the rest of life – that by giving them a realistic view of what life is they will have

The serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.

Shifting My Perspective

Property of Kristin Giuliani

September was an exhausting month. It was enlightening and beautiful. It was tedious and draining. I was challenged and stretched and asked to step out of my comfort zone. And I somehow feel simultaneously refreshed and depleted. I have a sense that I just closed a chapter in my life and am stepping into a new one. Although it’s early, I think this new chapter will be defined by unique perspectives – shifting out of autopilot and being willing to look at everything that defines me in a completely different way. I am redefining my work, how I use my skills, and how I spend my time. I can feel it. Change is coming.

 Property of Kristin Giuliani

I am someone who thrives on change – external change. I like to be a participant in changing locations, changing weather, changing activities, changing routines.

image

However, I am realizing that it’s a lot less fun when I have to initiate the change by changing something internal first. And the clear message of September is that I can start a new, exciting chapter in my life, BUT, not by first changing my circumstances. I have to change how I see my circumstances first, and look at the same old mundane things in a new way.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
That is infinitely less exciting and infinitely more challenging for me.  And even though that is the entire point of this blog, internal change in the absence of external change is hard, and I’m lazy. And unlike my sister, I still haven’t quite mastered the art of being disciplined.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
After spilling out some deep, soul-searching posts this past month, I feel myself at a bit of a loss this week.

Property of Kristin Giuliani
I am an introspective, internal-processing introvert, and much like I reach my saturation point with people, I also arrive at a point where my external words have run out. I’m sure as this new chapter inches forward, the words will come. But for now, they are hibernating.


So instead, as I step into October, I thought I could share the essence of what I feel I need to be doing through images.


You know, trying to see dishes, laundry, and onion chopping (and the tears they inevitably produce) as art rather than drudgery.

Maybe using my camera to look at my life from a different perspective will help me begin the internal shift.

Then maybe I can see the art hiding in the process of internal change, too.

And embrace it as the exciting journey toward the external change I crave.

Property of Kristin Giuliani