Thanksgiving Week: Grateful Lessons from 2014

I love the last couple of months of each year. Not just because of the holidays, the time spent with the family or the special traditional food (heaven knows I love the food), but because it’s a time to reflect on the passing year. It’s a time to learn, resolve and move forward.

As I reflect upon this past year I think of the friendships that I have made, relationships I have strengthened and things that I have done. Not just running wise, but at work, in church and in my personal life. I am grateful for a number of things that even with an exhaustive list probably wouldn’t give any of them justice. I just try hard to live a life of gratitude in general.

But, this past year it seems like there are a number of things that I am grateful for, not necessarily monetarily, but little lessons that I have learned from here and there. A little story here or an example there has really helped expand my self-conscious of the world around me and right under my nose.

There are four of these kind of lessons I learned that I want to share with you. Showing gratitude for trials, hard lessons learned or changed perspective gives life a depth that meaning that is hard to learn if you bypass their lessons and presence. That is no way to grow in my book.

Anyways, here are my four lessons that I am thankful for learning in 2014 …

We can (and more often than not) be others’ ‘Compensatory Blessings’

Over the past few years my father has talked a lot about ‘compensatory blessings’ around our family. What exactly is a ‘compensatory blessing’ you might wonder? In a nutshell, it’s a secondary blessing or gift, or whatever you want to call it that compensates for a personal weakness. Thus, making that weakness moot.

My Dad usually points this concept out when I was a kid. I was born legally blind. I could see, but just mere inches from my face. It was expected that I would live a life with a seeing eye dog and with that disability the rest of my life. But, through many miracles and surgeries I gained my eye sight and actually had 20/20 by the time I entered Kindergarten.

Because of the extreme near sightedness that I dealt with as a kid I studied anything and everything I could get my hands on. I would examine whatever I had for hours and closely. I paid attention to every minute detail. Even as a toddler and when my eye sight still wasn’t 100% rectified I would sit for hours and draw. Not only did I draw, but I would get so close to the paper and pay attention to each little detail. At three years old I was drawing people and animals with detail that you’d see for a kid at a much older age.

That attention to detail hasn’t really left me since. It’s followed me in my handwriting, graphic design and other artistic ventures. I’ve had to learn a balance and somewhat compromise learning how to deal with that attention to detail. I can sometimes become a tad OBSESSIVE to a fault. But, I really believe that without that trial as a kid I wouldn’t have attention to detail in those areas. I am sure there are others blessings from that trial that still haven’t fully manifested themselves to me yet.

This past year the concept of compensatory blessings have come back into my life. Probably stronger than ever. Back in April I befriended one of the most awesome people I know, Elsha Stockseth. This girl is amazing. She has a heart of gold, looks to bless the lives of others over her own needs, has a great sense of humor, close friends with Bono from U2, is a well-renowned artist that makes Christmas cards for donations to non-profit organizations, is a marathoner and triathlete … AND … she has limited movement of her extremities and head due to musclar dystrophy.

But, this girl does it all. Here’s further proof.

Since she cannot physically run these races herself (to steal a line from The Beatles) “needs a little help from her friends.” Since I was introduced to her in April it’s been amazing to see how the running community has rallied around her to be her feet. But, these are not one way blessings. Not at all. Sure, the runners are pushing Elsha, but at times she’s the one pulling the runner forward. It’s not even close to a one-sided effort. It’s a team effort and each benefit from each other.

I could go on and on and on and on about Elsha and how pushing her has enriched my life. But, more than that she was introduced me to a whole new world of running. Because of her I was also introduced to Reese who is also wheelchair bound. He is a puller as well. He hides no emotion when he’s out on a run. You can tell when he’s enjoying the run, his feet get swinging and he enjoys the wind in his face. It’s those simple pleasures that have really given depth to my running experience.

I have benefited so much, but probably not as much as I have in gaining life long friends that I could never imagine not having in my life.

The Fruits of the Golden Rule

I am going to be EXTREMELY vague here, because I usually don’t talk about my work life. In fact, not at all. But, I learned a lesson from someone that has been a HUGE reminder that the best way to live is to adhere to the golden rule.

Basically this individual over the years has undermined other individuals in the workplace for their gain. They’ve done this over the years that now those individuals are in leadership positions over them they are now in constant worry that they are going to go after them as retribution.

The individual questions every move anyone takes in fear that they are trying to get back at them for what they did. It’s actually kind of sad to watch. It’s paranoia and it makes their reactions extremely irrational.

As I have watched this I have been reminded how important it is to … well … not be an ass for one thing. But, treat people using the golden rule as a guide. Treat others the way you want or expect to be treated. If you do this you won’t have to live in fear that everyone is conspiring against you because you did that to them.

This is a great rule to live by in general. I’ve seen the golden rule exhibited a lot within the running community, especially in my running groups. We all have general interest in each other’s successes, each other’s triumphs and are always there to lift up others if needed. All in the manner that we would want to be treated in those circumstances.

And, that circle keeps giving and going because it’s reciprocated often. It’s really been something that I’ve noticed and loved this past year. I’ve seen how it’s built others up and moved people forward. And, I am trying my best to apply that outside of running as well.

Because we all know that the world can benefit from a little bit more of the golden rule.

Well, actually A LOT more of it. Let’s be honest here.

Running is a gift to enjoy and give

I’ve ran A LOT this year. By the end of the month it will have been over 30 races over a half marathon for the year. Sprinkled into that are also some 5Ks, a 5 miler and countless training runs. I’ve ran over 1,100 miles so far this year and each Saturday except for maybe … two … I haven’t ran?

Basically, it’s a lot of running. And, a lot of races. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I started really running about four years ago I did so as a personal competition with myself. Each race I wanted to see improvement. And, if I didn’t I took it fairly hard on myself. Even though I was competing with myself, I also was competing against expectations based off others. Not always the best combination.

In 2012 each race and run led up to my marathons and that was the focus. I was faster in my half marathon times, but not where I really wanted to be. Training for marathons is much different for half marathons, at least for me. Marathon miles are slower than half marathons.

So the following year I focused on just running half marathons and I got faster. I worked towards getting a sub-two half marathon, which still eludes me. But, by not running marathons last year I got faster by just focusing on the half marathon.

Then this year I ended up running four more marathons and a couple back and back half marathons. Needless to say the training messed with my half marathon times and the speed eluded me. The fastest I ran was 2:15, but for most of this year I’ve been running between 2:30-2:50. I’ve also swept a number of races with +3 hour times.

At first it was frustrating for me, because of my need for speed and desire to hit my sub-two goal. Though that’s eluded me this year, I haven’t let that ruin my running experience this year. In fact, this past year I have fallen in love with running even deeper and it has nothing to do with my time or speed.

This past year I have had the privilege of sharing my love of running with others. In January I secretly started training for the Ogden Marathon to surprise my friend Becky. She was running her first marathon. I wanted to surprise her for a number of reasons. One, she needed the support of training with someone, but I felt she needed to go this on her own as well. And, I love surprises.

For over five months I kept my registration secret from her. I convinced her that I was DONE with marathons, but that training for one would be good fitness training. She had no idea until the morning of when I showed up at the starting queue. It was perfect. We even ran the last 3-4 miles together. It was really an awesome experience.

Even throughout the summer when I was pacing I had the opportunity to run Jill in for a new half marathon PR. And, I even ran with her every step of the way during her first marathon in September. It’s been a fun experience seeing the progression of first time marathoners and runners. The mentality, the training and the work they put in, it all reminds me of when I went through the same thing two years ago.

And, now I am paying that forward and being a support to others.

I have also had the same opportunity to run complete strangers in while pacing. I have really enjoyed pacing, because it’s another opportunity to share my love of running and story. Plus, hearing their stories and why they run reaffirms my love for running as well. It’s a win-win situation in my book.

But, just being a part of the running community as a whole has been enriching for me. My running group is a family and we share our love for running freely. I know without a doubt without these people and experiences that I’ve been able to share with others, I’d find running somewhat boring.

Running truly is a gift.

Focus on the task at hand, don’t get distracted by things that you have no reason to pay attention to

I learned this lesson in quite an usual way, but I am grateful for learning. Our family has a 12 year old German Shepard and he is somewhat of a spaz. He’s extremely protective of my mother and will try to attack any dog that comes across his path. For what reasons … I don’t know? He’s been that way for WAY TOO LONG.

Plus, he got lost in Provo for over two weeks. We think that might have something to do with it, like you would for anyone else in the same situation.

Anyways.

This past year as we take him outside to use the bathroom getting him to pay attention on the task at hand is quite impossible. Immediately once he is outside he looks directly at the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor’s have two really annoying schnauzers that when out will bark at anything as well. Our dog feeds off it as well.

It doesn’t matter whether the dogs are outside or not, he just focuses on the neighbor’s yard … obsessively. Even when you try to pull him along on his leash to work on his business he’ll always turn his head back to the yard and bark at any slight movement he detects.

Needless to say, it gets REALLY annoying.

It takes almost five minutes to finally get him to focus on what we came out for all along. And, usually it involves me blocking his view of the neighbor’s and yelling, “POTTY! JUST USE THE POTTY! THE DOGS ARE NOT OUTSIDE! JUST GO POTTY!”

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But, every time he just fixates on that yard and no matter what you do, he’ll just sit there and stare.

One of the times I went through this process it really dawned on me how I can relate this to real life. How often do we focus or become obsessed with things that don’t matter? How often do we pay attention to things that absolutely don’t matter to us? Or worry about things that are out of our control? I think we’re all guilty of that.

Sometimes it takes other people to point that out to us, but hopefully we can also prioritize our life where we can recognize these situations and avoid them. Avoid them by simply focusing on our yard. Sure, the dogs might come out and bark, but they are no danger to us. There’s a fence for a reason. So why worry?

We can gain a lot of peace by not letting other people’s business consume us from the view from our yard. It’s not our business so why even bother, right?

Now, just tell that to my dog.

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