I don’t know about you, but 2021 has brought hope and the realization that this has been a long long haul so far. I’m not someone who tires easily or gets discouraged quickly. And 10 months into this pandemic, I now feel it more than ever. While January 2021 brought hope as many started the vaccine process, it also is a reminder of how long we have been doing “THIS.” This virtual work, this home-bound living, this online schooling, this limited life, and this pandemic. It feels like mile 20 of a marathon when you hit The WALL, and you don’t feel that you can take another step.
As a family and couples therapist in Washington DC, I often think of The WALL when I’m in the middle of a course of therapy with my clients. It’s that moment when you feel stuck, and can’t see your way out–that same old fight, that entrenched pattern, that weight that won’t lift, or that problem that seems unsolvable. Yet after working with thousands of clients in my lifetime, I know that this is such a pivotal time in our path forward. Once we see our way through, we are able to craft better solutions and exit on the other side with the feeling of, “I did it! I overcame it! I solved it! I made it!”
I remember the only time I ever ran a marathon (very slowly, I might add!). We planned for my mile 20. My sister was going to meet me at the 14th street bridge so that we could run the final 6.2 miles together. We missed each other, but she caught me at mile 23. I can’t tell you how much I was anticipating seeing her on the bridge.
That mile 20 felt like mile 16 of 26.2 without her running beside me. And when she met me and ran beside me on the other side of the bridge, I felt truly accomplished and immensely grateful for the support. I think this episode of the pandemic in some ways feels like that stretch. We are anticipating the end, yet can’t fathom how we will get there anytime soon.
What helped me the most during those few miles alone until I saw her in sight was letting the sun shine on my face, hearing the fans cheer everyone on, watching each runner’s determination and inspiration, and focusing on only one step at a time–one breath at a time. Each step of the way in that one and only marathon, I refocused again and again on what was important to me–my WHY for doing this. At first, it was for health and a personal goal. In time, it was fueled by the many friends I made while training. In that moment, it was for the sake of finishing and showing up as best as I can each step of the way. And, at mile 26.2, I did finish–that was enough. I learned then and during many other times in my life about the lesson that Glennon Doyle repeats, “We can do hard things.”
I’ve been trying to think of what will help us now in our mile 20 that feels like mile 16–our clients, our kids, ourselves. Here’s what I can offer. Get outside and let the sun shine on your face. Feel the cold air on a snowy walk today. Read inspiring stories. Slice away at your expectations to make them smaller and more bite-size each step of the way. Keep focused on your WHY. Let others cheer you on. Our therapists at TSG are here for you and thinking of you.