Saturday, June 09, 2007

the anguish of failed expectations

we undertake races with the greatest of expectations. we go in thinking of target times, target paces, and target finishes. we hold in our minds visions of achievement, of success, of glory. and we go into competition with dreams of victory.

for these dreams, we commit so much of ourselves. minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. sweat and toil, muscle and blood, energy and effort, mind and body, emotion and soul. we become distracted from work, we turn away from family, we lose touch with friends. everything in our lives becomes an all-consuming avalanche of training, training, training, and more training, with everything outside our lives becoming eating for training, resting for training, dreaming of training, living for training, and then returning to training for more training.

everything, for the sake of dreams that we seek to see made real. everything, for something we tell ourselves is a reward so great that it will justify our sacrifice. and the greater our sacrifice the greater our desire for reward.

but sometimes there is no such reward. sometimes, there is no victory, achievement, success, or glory. sometimes, you show up on race day, and you don't make your target time, you don't hold your target pace, and you don't make your target finish. sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, all you can do is fail, and find the dream you sought to see made real turn out instead to be the nightmare of supreme futility and the anguish of failed expectations.

that's when you'll find yourself thinking it was everything was for nothing.

everything. the time, the toil, the sacrifice, the training.

for nothing. for depleted energy, spent emotion, lost soul, weakened mind, broken body. devastation and desolation. and a hole inside you that you don't think will ever be filled.

so what do you do then?

there's always the usual slew of temptations, in various degrees some stronger than the others--the whispers to quit, the allure of fury, the seduction of self-pity, the call of sorrow, the loneliness of dejection, the companionship of bitterness, the embrace of despair. all of it laced with self-doubt and second-guesses and questions and confusion and fear.

it's easy to give in to these temptations. indeed, most everyone, at some time or another, always does.

but there's something you need to know: if you give in to them, and allow yourself to harbor them, they're going to grow. eventually, they'll feed the hole inside of you. and if you're not careful, that hole will ultimately consume you.

in which case, it truly will have been everything for nothing.

there is a better way, but it can be a difficult thing to do: let it go. the time, the toil, the sacrifice, the training. the depleted energy, the spent emotion, the lost soul, the weakened mind, the broken body. the devastation and desolation. you have to let them go. it's the only way you'll ever truly avoid the temptations of self-inflicted suffering and the hole of inevitable self-destruction. it's the only way you'll every truly be able to move on--free of the burdens that keep you from the dreams you seek to see made real.

and you must move on. because one of the mysterious truths of life is that it goes on. even when everything seems to be nothing, life goes on--and you are ultimately, fundamentally, quite simply, life.

this means that the one thing you must do is the one thing life was meant to do, and that is to let go of the suffering and self-destruction, move past the sense and state of failure, release the offerings of sacrifice and desires for reward, and just go dreams that are greater than any victory.

and only then will it become everything for something.


Trihardist said...

Reminds me of when I was watching the half marathon at Wildflower . . . one of the pros ran by, and he was probably 15th or 20th at the beginning of the run. And he just gave up. He knew he wasn't going to win, and so he just pulled over to the side, threw his hat on the ground, and proceeded to have a very long conversation with a woman whom I assume was his wife. I assume he dnf-ed.

Tim Dockins said...


Tim here. Give me a shout!