In late 2011, I decided to run a marathon. I researched shoes, planned routes, and found a training plan I liked. I talked to a friend who was into competitive triathlon about ways to train safely and got some excellent pointers. I picked a race to give myself a deadline.
And I started running. And running. And running.
I’ve never enjoyed running. It’s always been something I did because I had to, whether for track or cross country or the Army. But something interesting started to happen as I pushed myself toward my marathon, as running became a habit and each run became the farthest I had ever run before: I started enjoying it. I started having fun.
I made it all the way to the sixteen-mile mark in my training. But I never made it to the marathon. About a year ago, I gave up. I developed plantar fasciitis, a condition that makes running and walking painful–not excruciating, just painful–and I stopped running. Just stopped, figuring I would pick it back up in six months or so. But I still haven’t started training again.
I’ve written five novels, but I’ve only put one out for sale. I’ve abandoned all the others, telling myself I would come back to them later. I did come back to one, polished it until I almost thought it was good enough, even started work on an expanded story–but I let it go. I didn’t finish.
There’s always something more urgent to do. Life always gets in the way. There’s always an excuse–a good excuse–not to finish.
I’m a long way from failure. I have pushed myself to reach some impressive goals. But sometimes I feel as if my life is nothing but a string of almosts. Part of living with courage is setting goals I can accomplish, then following through with them. Finishing my marathon. Putting my books out there where people who don’t know me can enjoy them. Not just starting, but finishing.
Cancer has made these goals, and others like them, seem more urgent. It’s time to make sure my priorities include those things that will help me have the life I want, those things that are just for me. Not at the expense of my family, of course. Not to the exclusion of the things I have to do. But there’s a lot of space between just doing what I have to and making my personal goals a priority.
So far, it seems like I’ve been lucky with cancer; we caught it early enough that surgery may have taken care of it, and we’re optimistic. It may turn out to have been just the kick in the pants I needed. Life is too short–literally, it turns out–to live without the courage to finish the things that are important to me.