Today, I was supposed to be running 13.1 miles, my first ever half-marathon.
It was a day I had trained for months for, booked hotels for, packed and planned and packed and planned for. It was a day I had been looking forward to for a very long time, a goal I had set to get my body “back” after a rather enormous fourth pregnancy.
But instead of running my race today, I spent the morning making waffles, eating bacon, and then moving and cleaning under my fridge for the first time in six years, a task I am still horrified by/trying to recover from, it was that disgusting.
The night before we were slated to leave to make the four-hour trek to the race location, complete with a water park hotel for the kiddos and a hot tub for Mom and Dad, our littlest started running a fever.
No biggie, we said, we’ll just see how she’s doing in the morning. And of course, by morning time and a sleepless night, she was still burning alive. The second child started acting cranky and one ear thermometer check later, she too was running a low-grade fever.
Still no biggie, we said. We’ll just cancel the hotel for tonight and go up in the morning, still plenty of time to catch the race!
Except by morning, it was raining, 3 out of 4 kids were running fevers, and the whole prospect, instead of sounding like a fun family adventure, sounded like pure and absolute torture.
My husband was feeling really badly for me, knowing how hard I worked and how important goals are to me, in general. It’s the way I’ve always been-set a goal, achieve that goal, move on to the next one.
But lately, I’ve been getting a little tired of the whole goal game. Not because I necessarily think goals are bad, mind you, and not because I will ever give up setting goals, but just because I am more aware, now then ever, how easily it is to use goals as a way to self-validate myself.
What I mean is simply this: I have always used setting-and achieving goals-to measure my self-worth.
As in, become Valedictorian of the new high school you transferred into to prove you did OK as the awkward new kid. As in, win a full scholarship to college to prove it’s OK you don’t know what the f you want to do with your life. As in, go to grad school and write a book and make more money to prove you didn’t mess up your life having kids too early. As in, run a half-marathon after your fourth baby to prove you’re not a fat ass who still looks six months pregnant.
As in, setting goals can swiftly become a trap of masking my own insecurities and inadequacies.
I didn’t run today and the past version of myself would have been devastated by this, because past Chaunie was the kind of person who set goals and achieved them to the bitter, bitter end, dammit.
Today I was fine.
I realized, simply that I had nothing to prove to anyone-even myself. The months of tracking my training on Facebook with my Nike running app, showing the world and myself how hard I was working didn’t matter. The fact that I had told all of my friends about my race and would now have to explain that I didn’t run it after all, didn’t matter. The fact that I had worked my butt off and maybe would never run a half-marathon didn’t matter. The fact that my mom planned a weekend up north to join us and would now be going without us didn’t matter. Even the fact that for the first time in my life, I was failing at a goal, didn’t even matter.
I had absolutely nothing to prove. I had learned a lot in the journey of training for a race I would never run. I had gained strength and clarity and peace and endurance and knowledge.
But most of all, I had learned acceptance.
That I am fine just the way I am. I set out to run 13.1 miles in an attempt to prove on some level that I was more, that I could be better by weighing less, that I could be a version of myself that I currently was not.
I set out to prove, to myself, that I was still relevant. That I still mattered. That I was strong, even as a mother.
But instead of crossing that finish line and getting my medal and feeling that runner’s high I so longed for, I realized that I never needed any of that to begin with.
Because all along along, it’s been the journey to the finish line that has mattered-
Not necessarily crossing it.