“There’s no secret to it. It’s just a lot of years of getting up, putting on the shoes and getting out the door on those days when it doesn’t feel good and when it’s not all that fun and still putting in the work.” –Jenny Simpson
(1500M gold medal winner at the 2011 IAAF Championships in South Korea).
So often, we don’t want to believe that this is true.
We put a lot of time and energy into time management systems and reading about how other people are doing it, and comparisons–oh, the comparisons are killing. If there is one thing I have learned after six years of life coaching, it’s that everyone has a secret inner world, and in that inner world, there is some little nugget of pain somewhere. The right circumstances will bring it out, in anyone.
We were driving home after a speaking event this past weekend. It was late at night and we were close to home in wine country. The world was an empty black punctuated by stars and headlights from oncoming traffic.
Andy said, “You know–you just do the work until you find a way to make it work. Not everyone can do that.”
And I responded, “It’s not that other people can’t do it. It’s just that they see the snake, while I see the rope.”
I was referencing the talk I’d just given, in which I’d shared an anecdote from Byron Katie–when you’re walking along a trail and see a snake coiled on the path, you jump away in fear. But once you look closer and realize that it’s just a rope, you can’t go back to seeing a snake, again. It’s impossible. You know that it’s really just a rope. The story falls away. The reason not to continue along the path dissolves.
The rope that I see is that fear is just along for the ride, and it’s no reason not to continue along your path, because as bad as it feels, it can’t really hurt you. You’re just with it.
I spent the day leading up to my talk feeling nervous, anxious, unable to concentrate. Total fear. And I just kept on keeping on. I tried reading, meditating, relaxing. I reached out for support. I was honest about what I was feeling. I knew on some level that what I really wanted to do was just break down and cry a bit, because that was what would release the tension, but the tears didn’t come until late in the day. When they did, I let them fall. I snuggled against Andy’s chest and cried, and he knows me well enough to have expected it.
Then I took a shower, put on my makeup and an outfit and a truly fabulous pair of heels, and headed to the event.
I showed up, I did my very best.
This, of course, is all any of us can ever do.
This is life–the anxiety, the fear, the worry, the tears, the being held, the shower, the makeup, the outfit, the feeling afraid, diving in anyway, and transforming. The doing our best, letting that be enough, trusting that we will be loved, anyway.
There is no secret. It is years of getting up, stepping forward, moving even when the fear gets so intense that everything in life skews sideways and feels wrong, and it’s not fun so it’s easy to think, “What’s the point?” and –still putting in the work.
The work to love.
The work to forgive.
The work to start a business.
The work to write a novel.
The work to tell someone your truth.
The work to remain optimistic in the face of pessimism and fear.
The work to shed the tears that are waiting to be shed.
The work to feed one another, clothe one another, help one another.
The work of having patience and compassion.