On Halloween, 1980 I swam the best 500 freestyle of my life. I was blessed with a coach that kept records of every swim at every meet, and when I looked up my times throughout high school, I was surprised to discover that my best 500 freestyle happened in my sophomore year. If you look at the times, you can even see how it happened. I was Debbie Saunders back then and Lainie Galland swam it with me and paced me.
It wouldn’t make sense to put both of us in the same race, but I am sure my coach, Dennis Dale, was teaching my 15-year-old self how to swim faster. There is no record of me ever swimming under 6 minutes again in my career. I didn’t realize that until today, although I am sure I struggled with it at the time.
In the summer of 2009 I ran the best race of my life. I didn’t start running until 2004 and to be fair, I did a half-assed job of it for a long time. But that year I came out of the Danskin triathlon and decided to train for a race called the Bix 7, a seven mile race in Iowa littered with long hills, the kind of which you don’t find here in Florida. I got help from veteran runner, Trish Horel, developed a training plan, and stuck to it. There were a lot of runs on treadmills creating incline and a couple weeks of training in the hills of Georgia and the mountains of North Carolina. In the end it was so very hard. I raced exactly as fast as I thought I might and when I finished, I never wanted to do it again. Four years later I realize it was the best race I ever ran, not because of how fast I was, but because of what it meant for me.
My point? Our perspective changes. How we interpret and remember the past is always altered by the intervening days and experiences. What must have been a tough time for me in high school slid away over the years, forgotten and unimportant. What certainly was a tough time for me three summers ago is replaced by a longer view of the value of experiences in my life.The toughness of the present has turned my head for quite a while. I’ve had long year of not running well or at all, a painful and slow recovery from knee surgery with no resolution in sight, and an endless week of respiratory infection that has drained my strength and my sense of humor. Each of these has contributed to my longing for glory days, for times past when things were “easier.” But the reality is, they weren’t. The past is nothing more than simply that, past. The longer I spend there, the less time I have here. By hanging out in the past, I imagine I’ve been missing some things here lately.
And there’s no solace in living in the future. We all have dreams and worries, hopes and fears. And every minute spent worrying about what might be is one less minute spent creating what will be. Every moment spent hoping for the best is one less for planning and doing and being the best right now.I am not 15. I am not even 43. I am 47, and I am here and now and doing whatever I can do today. And if I’m smart I will do it joyfully, mindfully, and perfectly present. Today’s pain will become tomorrow’s glory days. Today is the gift. It’s time I stopped wasting it.
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present." -- Lao Tzu
Want more? Read 10 Tips to Live in the Present
Love this video, especially the woman at the end. Amazing!