Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Letting Yourself Off The Hook

I was all excited yesterday. I finished work early and was enjoying the drive home when it hit me. What a beautiful day. Maybe I'll go for a jog. This was a rare luxury to have time to do this in the middle of the day. The sun was shining and I was psyched at the idea of running along Lake Michigan.

I have started to excersize again. It's been awhile. The first week was just walking on a treadmill. Yah....I'm in that bad a shape. But I figure if I am going to tell my patient's to excersize...I better do the same. All I have to do, I told myself, is start out slowly. Thirty minutes a day on the treadmill translates into roughly a 2 mile walk. A little sweat. A little increased heart rate. No big deal.

But yesterday was different. I had to take advantage of the beautiful day. So I ran into the house. Put on some shorts and a log sleave T shirt and headed out. It took less then 2 minutes to realize how painful this was going to be. First my chest started to hurt. Then my lungs felt like they were going to fall out of my chest. And last my legs and knees ached.

I could have given up. I could have quite. But I told myself that I was going to jog for 30 minutes regardless. So when my body, after five minutes, warned of near death I ignored it. Instead I psyched myself up for the pain. I vividly imagined other times in my life when I was met with harsh realities. In childhood when I had a learning disability...I didn't give up then did I? In residency when I worked 40 hours in a row without sleep....I didn't give up then did I?

As pathetic as it sounds I do this all the time when confronted with difficult situations both physically and emotionally. I turn a basic challenge into a referrendum of my previous successes and failures....a referendum of my character. It's not just getting a workout, it's an epic battle between good and evil. Between success and failure. What if my whole family was kidnapped and held at gunpoint and the only way I could save them was to run a marathon without stopping? Even in my current poor physical condition? Could I do it?

And as funny as it was these thoughts carried me. My breadthing became less labored. My stride became more secure. Although I was in immense pain I made it to the lake and enjoyed the stunning view. As I looked at my watch I realized that I had been running for only fifteen minutes. So I turned course to head back home. The terrain was more up hill and I began to struggle. But as I reached the twenty five minute mark I knew I would make it. I said that nothing would stop me from running the full thirty minutes and I meant it. I would conquer this challenge and live to fight another day.

And that's when it happened. A little girl rode passed me on the sidewalk on her bike. She must have been about ten. I watched as her figure slowly peddled in front of me. About 100 feet ahead she hit an uneven area in the pavement and fell. I looked down at my watch. A few minutes to go. Then I looked over at the girl....tears streaming down her face. As I came to her figure lying on the ground I stopped. I would not accomplish my task. I helped lift her up. She was not hurt. I bent over and picked up her bike as she wiped a tear from her eye. She let out a small embarrased giggle. I laughed. She took her bike and climbed back on. "Thanks," she said as she rode off.

I looked again at my watch and saw my thirty minutes had expired. Strangely and unexpectedly I had not reached my goal. I had not jogged for thirty minutes. I still had a good workout. I still would ache in the morning. But, by no fault of my own, I had fallen short.

As I walked the rest of the way home I thought again about my actions. Maybe life isn't always as black and white as I make it out to be. Maybe sometimes no matter how hard you try to succeed you fail. Maybe failure is not something to flog oneself over but a choice that we often have to make. And that choice can be beautiful and enrich us as opposed to leaving a stain on our character.

Maybe I haven't been feeling as good lately as I want to admit

Maybe it's time I stopped being so damn hard on myself


Cathy said...

I would not call that a failure at all. I think it was a great success. It would have been a human failure if you had jogged right past that little girl without stopping to help.

You did good!

Jordan Grumet said...

Thanks Cathy for reading. It did feel good to help the girl and that's my point. I need to reasses how I define success and failure!

Anonymous said...

I don't really think you need to redefine. If you'd actually thought about it, you knew that helping another person would be the thing to stop your workout.

BTW, I really liked this:

"It's not just getting a workout, it's an epic battle between good and evil."

Sometimes the story takes a twist.