The end of this week marks the official end to my first half of marathon training. I am smack-dab in the middle of it.
“In the middle of it”: usually not a phrase associated with positive feelings, right? We say “in the middle of it,” “in the thick of things,” “surrounded,” sometimes “past the point of no return,” all to mean the same thing. And they all tend to generate the same reaction: Yikes!
But they don’t have to. Being in the middle means we can choose any side, any perspective we like. Right now, I’m setting my focus on the good side of the middle: the calm, steady side; the non-skittish side; the quietly determined side. Maybe the Switzerland side?
Think of all the examples of sublime middleness that life has to offer. When we’re little, where do we feel safe and secure? With a parent on either side of us – in the middle. On a roller coaster or aboard a ship, where is the most stable ride? In the middle. Amidst a raging hurricane, where does the calm lie? You got it.
The middle doesn’t have to bring stress or despair. Take this week, for example. Lent started with Ash Wednesday. First of all, whoever came up with the idea of Ash Wednesday as opposed to, say, Ash Monday or Ash Saturday, was positively brilliant. To place one of the holiest days on the Church’s calendar directly in the middle of the week, thereby giving people reason to pause their busy schedules for a little bit of quiet reflection before continuing on? The concept isn’t just holy; it’s healthy.
[Side note: Huge kudos to the minister from St. Chad’s Episcopal Church who stood along a pedestrian path on Wednesday, distributing ashes to interested runners, walkers, and cyclists passing by].
Second of all, this year’s Ash Wednesday happened to not just be flanked by its usual neighbor, Fat Tuesday, but also by Valentine’s Day. Ahhh…lovely feasts of indulgence, both of them. And not that I have anything whatsoever against chocolate, King Cake, chocolate, wine, or chocolate, but it was kind of nice to have the cushion of Ash Wednesday there in the middle. Again: a little bit of quiet reflection. Pausing. Breathing. Letting everything digest. And then moving on to the next phase.
What I’m aiming for right now is to be in the middle not only physically, but mentally. Some use the expression getting “centered” – I suppose they’re the same. As various parts of my life spin and swirl, as pressure systems both internally and externally-created rise and fall away, I want to find the “eye” within myself – and live there. Able to see all perspectives and remain calm, remain quietly determined, in my marathon training and in everything else.
In Stephen Ambrose’s book Band of Brothers, there’s a passage in which Lieutenant (eventually Major) Richard Winters informs his soldiers, “Men, there’s nothing to get excited about. The situation is normal; we are surrounded.”
And Happy Valentine’s Day!