We sat at Cafe 21 in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp district and watched the marathon finishers file past, one small group at a time.
I pushed my omelette around on my plate and sipped my coffee.
“That was supposed to be me,” I said to Sheila, watching yet another gaggle of runners stroll past the sidewalk cafe. Some looked less beaten down by the miles and the California heat than others, but they all shared a similar expression.
They all looked satisfied. I saw it in their faces, in the finishers medal around their necks, and the way they all seemed to carry the lightness of the day ahead. Whatever they did for the rest of the day, they’d be wearing the satisfaction of having completed a goal.
“There’s always next year,” Sheila said, and I cringed.
Those words are meant to comfort but they've always felt hollow to me.
I pushed away from the table and leaned back in my chair, sipping my coffee.
What’s the difference between giving up on something I’ve always wanted and letting go of something I’ve always wanted?
Both of them are attitudes.
But one of those attitudes is throwing in the towel. It’s a mindset that says I’m never going to do this, I’m never going to get there, I’m never going to achieve my goal. I’m never going to meet someone, I’m never going to have a job I like, I’m never going to have a body I can appreciate.
Screw it. If what I’ve been pursuing is never going to happen, then why bother?
So you quit.
That’s giving up.
Letting go - ah that’s more complicated, isn’t it? Because letting go is also a mindset and an attitude. But letting go is more about embracing the circumstances. Accepting your situation for what it is and making peace with yourself.
Making peace with yourself.
Letting go means trusting that you are enough as you are, right here in this moment, and that the pursuit of whatever goal you’re chasing does not define you. I don’t believe that pursuing a goal and embracing yourself as you are, right now in this moment - are separate from one another.
I haven’t given up on the possibility of running a marathon. But I spent the better part of these past few days in San Diego trying to let go of my own expectations. I spent time on the beach, at a baseball game, reconnecting with my partner, of whom I’ve seen so very little lately.
Had I come out here to run the marathon, we’d have had some time together. But the pace would have been different. Less exploring, less walking, less connecting.
Yes, I still moped around a bit on Sunday - mostly out of the frustration that my body can't always do what I ask of it anymore.
But, as we walked around San Diego and I looked at the marathon signs and banners hanging in the streets I tried to shift my self-talk from "that should be me" and "why can't I stay healthy for anything" to "I'm grateful for this time away with my partner."
I tried to shift the soundtrack. Sometimes that's enough.