I was writing a letter to a friend and I used an allegory I haven’t used in years. I stopped and paused, and realized the power of the statement – what it meant to me. It startled me and it made me smile.
In my letter I mentioned that, for many years of my life, from college to a certain point in adulthood, I often felt like I was looking at people live life through a window. Somehow I had no idea how to get to the other side of that window – how to be a part of life instead of watching it. I was, in short, trapped. I did what I was supposed to do, but felt like I couldn’t participate in the joy and celebrations. I didn’t know how.
I remember walking out of the movie “Life is Beautiful” with a friend when I was an undergrad. I was sobbing. Why? Because I realized that so many people fought so hard to live, and there I sat with all the opportunity in the world but was minimizing my existence.
Once leaving graduate school I wouldn’t say I had that feeling often, but I also didn’t think about it. I did and felt a lot: traveled, met Carlos, fell in love, and married Carlos, lost relatives and friends, went to a few weddings, celebrated holidays. Yes, I enjoyed and mourned events in life. But, I still kept myself back. There was still a part of me behind that glass minimizing my existence.
I remember when I heard Steve Irwin died. He is the first who was a celebrity that I really mourned. To me he was someone so full of live and loved everything around him that it just tore me up he died. On the flip side, he died doing something he loved – exploring the world. Again, I felt guilt that a man so full of life died while I sat there not knowing how to move on, live life and participate. You wouldn’t think it’s a hard thing to do, but for me it was.
Carlos and I moved to Georgia. I would gander that about 90% of me was past the window stage, but I was still figuring out how to shake the last of my past, the last of my controlling what I eat; how to get past that window.
Two years ago I started with Team in Training. Apparently something clicked. I won’t get lost in the details, but I was in my second season when I realized what Team meant to me. I was running with Carolyn Hansen and she talked about throwing a party for her daughter Kate to celebrate her being cancer free – and that it was a HUGE blast. It kind of hit me as powerful (and unusual) to throw a party for that, but made complete sense…and I loved that they did it. Life is, after all, a celebration. And I started seeing it in so many places. A friend of mine was battling cancer and writing a blog. I waited for his blog to hear how he was doing but also to read his words. He was so full of life. He truly lived by the Livestrong mantra “Live for today, fight for tomorrow.” Hearing that mantra for the first time was a wake up call. And soon things were falling in to place, and I wasn’t thinking about things they just happened. I loved it. You can’t be around people fighting for life without learning something. You can’t be around people who embody the team spirit without learning to celebrate. You can’t run an endurance event without fueling (and fuel we did).
Fast forward to this morning and I was writing my letter. I used, for the first time in a long time, the allegory of the window – watching life happen. I realized it no longer applied to me. I was there. I am here!
Yes, I am not perfect about it. But, it’s not controlling me. I am not always behind the glass wondering how to get past. When I notice I am keeping myself back I can figure a way around and out. Ask me about my professional career and I know I need some chutzpah there – but I am working on it.
Meanwhile I am enjoying what I do. I am grateful for what I get to do, and I will continue to give to those who gave me life – who got me past watching life simply by living theirs – until I no longer can do so.