I know this place. I’ve been here before. There is no set plan, no guidance, no must do’s. The structure that led me to a sane life for the last six months vanished from one day to the next. Ironman Lake Placid is finished, the Camillus House Children’s Run Team project is complete, I’m in between goals. Whereas at first there was relief from being able to sleep in on weekdays, and no pressure to fit in too many things in the 24 hours the day gives me, now there’s just empty. Of course there is life to be lived: family, work, daily affairs. Yet the passion that drove me for so many months found it’s closure.
This happens every single time I reach a big goal for as long as I can remember. In previous cycles I saw that empty space as a negative; a menace to my sanity. What on Earth will I obsess about now? Who am I? Do I not know how to live without these extracurricular goals of mine? Was I running away from something and didn’t even know about it? If my thinking wasn’t directed to something I had to accomplish, I was afraid of where that thinking would take me. I’m no stranger to the blues, to that big word that people attach so much stigma to: depression. It’s been a long, long, time since I’ve been in that hole but I remember it vividly.
I was afraid if I stopped moving forward, I would just fall back into the abyss. That miserable hole where the effort of crawling back up makes an Ironman seem like a walk in the park. I didn’t want THAT to be my goal, it’s absolutely no fun at all. Movement, I thought, was the solution to my problems. Movement kept the endorphins coming, the smile on my face, the peace in my mind, the excitement in my actions, the modeling to my kids.
And here I am, once again, in the vacuum of activity that finishing projects leaves you in. I am not moving towards a big goal right now.
I told my husband Joe about it, and he bit his tongue with the inevitable desire to fix it. He knows this is an internal job that I must do. His role is to make sure I know he’s at my side and willing to walk with me wherever my feet go. He does his part well.
Here’s the thing though – I’ve had an epiphany.
It’s this exact vacuum that gives inspiration. Not knowing where you need to go may seem aimless at times, but it gives you space to observe more and do less. For the first time, I am not afraid of being still.
I’ve realized it is during this inactive phase of my life’s cycles when I am most inspired. This is the time creativity finds me, when a catalyst event triggers me to dream a little bigger, a little bolder.
The Camillus House Children’s Run Team with homeless children came about because my son threw a tantrum after visiting a bike shop. ThumbsUp came from watching a blind woman race at Ironman Florida and not understanding how she could be so brave. Running for Brianna at Ironman Arizona came from the courage of an eight year old losing the fight of her life. The spark for the projects that have meant the most to me in the past few years, have come about during this period of inactivity. They were lightening bolts that struck me and there was no turning back. I wonder how many other lightening bolts have struck me that I just didn’t pay attention to because I was too focused on something else?
But if I was in that in-between phase, not only did I have time to think about those ideas, I had time to develop them too. I wasn’t bogged down trying to schedule a 100-mile ride, and still make it to school pick up. Once those ideas had time to become cemented in my soul, then it was just about execution; much like training for a race. Then I was engaged, and now those century rides gave me the time to think strategy.
Why on Earth would I be scared if time and time again, positive things have come out of this period?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had plenty of bad ideas and projects that either never came to fruition or completely failed. But failure has never scared me; I know it’s a necessary step to get to where you want to go. Failure is not what I dreaded, depression was.
Right now, there is no Ironman in sight but I do have loose goals of the Miami Marathon and Sebring twelve-hour bike race. Yet those are so far away I have time to coast. And this time around, I am going to welcome that space and just see where it leads me. Chances are, it will be to a smile.