Choosing My Battles

Tomorrow will mark three weeks since I ran the Bear Chase 50. I am still tired and my legs still do not feel 100%, but I am enjoying getting out and running very slowly with my husband and my friends. The first couple of weeks after I run a big goal race, I get into a little funk. I miss the mood enhancing effects I get from running in and of itself. I also miss seeing all of my running friends while I am forced into taking time to heal. There is often a big emotional let down that comes after a big event passes, because I have spent so much time and energy preparing and focusing on that event. I am left thinking’ “Yes, I am happy I just achieved X, but now what?”

Oddly enough, I have found my battle with pancreatic cancer this year has left me in the same place emotionally. I do battle well. When I got my diagnosis confirmed, I focused on exactly what I needed to do to get through the fight. I did experience fear, of course, but I had a goal in mind. I knew what the enemy was and I was at peace with fighting that enemy. When I was engaged actively in the fight, I felt a sense of emotional clarity. I knew what was important. I never doubted my priorities. I experienced the emotional and psychological calmness that comes with absolute focus and certainty that what you are doing is the right and necessary thing.

Now that the cancer battle and my comeback race are over, my goal directed inner voice keeps pushing me to figure out what is next. People keep telling me to “just enjoy” life right now. But part of enjoying life for me is having goals. It gives me a sense of purpose to focus on something. I love the thrill of a challenge. I have a bit of a sensation seeking personality, and channeling that sensation seeking into positive risk is a psychologically healthy thing for me to do. People think running long distances makes me crazy. I think running long distances keeps me sane.

My dilemma is, I am having trouble clarifying what I really want to do next. I am three weeks out from my last race. My body and my mind and still in rest and relaxation mode. I do not want to make a decision about what is next until I am good and ready. However, registration opened up for a race this week that I had planned to do in 2014. The race took place the weekend after I finished chemotherapy, so I did not run it. My intent had been to make it my big goal race for 2015. It is a 100 mile race, so this is not a commitment I can afford to take lightly.

The day it opened, I felt compelled to sign up. I have wanted to run this race. It means something to me. I have friends who plan to be there. My husband gave me his blessing. But for some reason, I just am not ready to make the commitment. I am not afraid of the distance. I have done it once before and it was challenging but I had a great experience. Rather, I am just not sure if I am ready to take on that big of a commitment right now. I am tired. I am emotional. The answer is not clear to me and I cannot make the decision. If I don’t make the decision soon, it will be made for me because these crazy races fill very quickly. Maybe my indecision means something and I should listen to those doubts. However, I also know that a month from now, I may feel fabulous and then be kicking myself if I did not sign up.

As I was talking to a friend during a run yesterday, we talked about doing something because you want to do it or because you used to want to do it. I am not sure right now which camp I fall into. I like running 50 miles. I think that is my favorite race distance. Running 50 miles is a big time and training commitment, but running a hundred is a completely different animal. I loved the challenge in 2013 and am so thankful I did it, but do I want to do it now? Or is it just something I used to want to do?

Of course, in the back of my mind, I keep telling myself not to put off doing things I really want to do. I have no guarantees that I will be healthy in 2016. I think I will be, but no one knows for sure. If I really want to do something, I need to make it happen. I hate the saying “Live every day like it is your last”, because I think people use that to justify selfish and wreckless behavior. However, I prompt people in my life to think about what they would choose to do if they only had one year left on the planet. Who would you spend that time with? What would you choose to learn? Where would you go? What would you do? Those are questions that we should be asking ourselves routinely, because the answers will change depending on our life circumstances. My life circumstances have certainly changed over the last year and I am still trying to figure out what the lasting impact will be for my own priorities and values.

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