I have to be honest. When I prepared to start this week’s blog I wrote the opening sentence ten times. TEN. Maybe to some of you this sounds perfectly normal, but I mentally create and edit each post over and over before putting it to paper, so it is very excessive for me. 

I just couldn’t decide exactly how to start to put my thoughts down about this year. Put lightly, the circumstances of 2020 have provided many opportunities to think about distracting, or hiding… or adapting.

We often believe that it is more productive to control and seek to blame others or circumstances when things don’t go exactly as planned. So, this pandemic has unraveled many of us. I have fallen under it’s angry spell many times. 

At one point I picked up a nugget of thought altering information that changed my perspective on the year: 

Who is to say that this isn’t exactly where we are supposed to be right now, at this time, in these exact circumstances? 

This is most certainly not a popular thought, and it doesn’t give me a warm, fuzzy feeling. But, it has helped me to give in to adapting to the circumstances rather than try to control or blame them for my suffering. We don’t deserve to have a deadly disease take over our lives, kill people, steal our joy, and create a widespread fear and panic. We also don’t deserve for it not to. 

Life doesn’t care what we think we deserve. 

Life is not about deserving happiness. Life is amazing and awful and everything in between. Arguably, it is 50% positive, and 50% negative. Once you learn and believe this you will stop being surprised and feeling victimized when bad things happen, even to good people. Even to you. You will learn to grow from negative experiences and walk directly through tough circumstances to come out on the other side. You will learn that even the bad can be used for good and that negative emotion doesn’t last forever. 

Navigating this pandemic has been full of confusion, frustration, fear, uncertainty, and grief. But, once I decided to roll with the 50/50 of life rather than fight it, I have settled in and settled down (more, not always). I still don’t like it and if I were in charge of the world planning I would make it go away. But, by accepting it I have still been able to find the good in it. Daily and as a season of life. 

Accepting and adapting is not always easy. But in time, it is better than resisting.  According to the Japanese scholar Kakuzo Okakaura, “ The art of life is the constant readjustment to our surroundings.” 

As athletes we will always perform better versus our peers when able to adapt in real time. Measured intervals at prescribed paces on perfect weather days are nice for building confidence and creating measurable physical gains. But, there is a solid argument that more mental adaptations can be made through random, unstructured “fartlek” training. And nothing builds mental toughness more than that “one time I got caught in a downpour on my bike and still finished my ride” or “it was extremely hot and I pulled out a personal record (PR).” 

Each opportunity, big or small, to adapt builds real resilience. Being resilient helps you to better navigate all of life’s storms. 

How do we do practice?

  • Live in an honest assessment of your current circumstances. 
  • Focus on being in the moment and react to that reality. 
  • Stop seeking to blame or define. There is no good and bad, only how you perceive it. 
  • Grieve losses. Accept negative emotion as part of your life. Make a plan to move forward. 
  • Learn to pivot when it is clear that life is not going in the direction you expected. Don’t settle.

In April of 2008 I decided to avenge my first half marathon, the South Shore Half Marathon in Milwaukee. Jamie and my friend Erin planned to join me with the hopes of pushing me to a PR. I was ready and excited. 

Roughly one mile into the race it started to sprinkle. And then it started to downpour. We could still see, but over time our shoes became heavy and small puddles turned into mini lakes on the course. I had to make a decision- would I adapt to the conditions and still find a way to have an enjoyable race? Or would I continue to angry run, letting the frustration of a dashed PR hopes ruin my day? 

I decided to pivot- to focus on having fun with two of my favorite people. We hopped through puddles, giving in to the wet, filthy mess. We still ran but we laughed and made memories. We crossed the finish line hand in hand. 

It was small, but I adapted

And I am sure it makes me smile more today than doing all I could for a PR.