Midlife is aptly named. We are, in fact, in the middle of life. We know a lot about a lot. But at the same time we are often drowning in uncharted waters. Menopause shows up to reak havoc and leave our bodies unrecognizable. Our parents need our help in a new world of caring for them. And did I mention we are launching kids into adulthood. Help! We need inspiration! But I’m slowly finding that here in my middle years, I may be the midlife inspiration (inadvertently) to those coming behind me.
This thought is scary as I feel totally incompetent most days.
I remembered an encounter from the past……………………….
Six years ago I jumped back into the running world! The last 5K I had run was several years before that, in another country in fact. Since then my body ‘revolted’ with thyroid and menopause issues and most of that last year I spent getting all of me back under control! I slowly dipped my toes into my Asics again, and was finally back up to 5K speed.
The Honey and I, and our friend Mike, arrived together on a November Sunday in Louisiana. It was 6:30 a.m. and we showed up in downtown Shreveport to run the first annual Logjammer Half Marathon and 5K. The men, and 600 of their likeminded friends, ran the ‘half’ (my husband’s first) but I just stuck with the 5k.
By the way, all of our Louisiana ‘cold snap’ (defined in the South as a few days of chilly temps – probably in the 50s or 60s) had dissipated. The AC was back on and the weather on that morning was a ‘crisp’ 75 and about 100% humidity…….at 7:30 in the morning……. in November. The word of the day was sticky.
I should also tell you that we awoke ready and refreshed from a wonderful night’s sleep after a filling, nutritious meal the night before.
Ummm. Not so much.
Our evening meal at a not-so-noteworthy Mexican restaurant the night before left us ‘yucky’. I can tell you there were groans and grimaces with stomach complaints soon after we got home.
We finally made our way to bed, and then, the smaller four-legged canine friend who somehow found a home with us 7 months ago, decided 2 a.m. was the time to get up and out of her kennel. The barks began and continued every half hour or so till 5-ish. Ugh.
Again, refreshed and ‘ready to go’ we were not!!!
Time to suck it up!
After a groggy morning with lots of coffee and water, we waited for our ‘go’ times at the starting line. We were numbered up and ‘chipped up’, and the 7:30 start time for the ‘half’ finally came and most of the crowd were off and running! Those of us who were not worthy of the longer race hung out for our 7:45 start time for the 5K.
Let me just add here that if you have never raced, or even just started a race, the feeling is incredible. ‘Adrenaline pumping’ is an understatement. Even if you’re not running or if you don’t care at all about what place you finish, the start of a race is invigorating.
After a whistle or gunshot at the beginning of a race that shoots adrenaline thoughout your body, the pace slows and runners fall into their own rhythms. I know I just fall into my own world of music and the faint sound of my pounding feet.
Running itself is a monotonous feat for the feet. Without music or words to carry my mind away, I have problems with sticking with it. I need diversion. Today the Shreveport scenery was beautiful (and sticky) in the early morning sun.
We ran the route through the downtown area along the Red River, that is, as we cut our way through the thick, wet air. Did I mention it was humid?
Typically, around the halfway point, the mental battle begins.
Around the halfway point, the adrenaline from the start has worn off and, at least in my case, the pain and weariness begins to emerge. It is here the head game begins. I must train my brain to override my body to will it to keep going.
At this point, it’s time to pick out someone to catch, or aim to catch, and push through. Then finally, when the finish line is in sight, cheers from strangers bring us all home.
Those cheers have a way of overriding whatever is in my head. I’m never sure how that is possible, but running home to applause and acclamation is indescribable. It reinforces the importance of our own words of encouragement for those that surround us in our lives everyday.
Wet and sweaty, and wet…..the finish line came into view where volunteers doled out towels, and bottles of chocolate milk. Ahhhh….perfect.
Who’s your inspiration?
Later, after I’d finished, and cooled down, and dried off somewhat, a random lady caught my arm and my eyes. I hadn’t seen her running in the race. She said, “You didn’t know it, but I was a little bit behind you, watching you. You were my inspiration!”
What? Me? I was a ‘nothing runner’. I was barely up to race status at all. I certainly didn’t feel like an inspiration…..to anyone.
But, I pondered long about what she said, equating her words to my whole life.
Aren’t we always a few steps ahead of those coming up just behind us? I know I am always looking for advice as I encounter my life’s stuggles. When I was a young mommy and had no clue how to do this mom gig, I was always looking for the more experienced moms to help me.
“What do I do about (insert any given daily scenario)?”
Raising babies and toddlers found us reaching out for help often, struggling to survive the long days. I think the simple exhaustion during those years humbled us so that when those same babies reached the teenage years, we knew how to find help. Lol. I found my mentors that help me even now. You know those friends. The ones that you can ask anything – and they’ll tell you the truth.
And now with today’s messes in the middle of my life, I need midlife inspiration!
On that race day years ago, I walked away feeling great and mulling what she said. I didn’t even know I had inspired someone. All I did was kept going. Despite my lack of sleep. And not-so-easy-Mexican-food-recovering tummy.
I kept going…….somehow.
I learned that day that my ‘keeping on’ was important for someone else.
It may be that your people just need to to see you going. Putting one foot in front of the other. You. Still running. Still going.
If I remember that race, I didn’t run the whole time. I walked for a while too. And that’s ok. I just kept moving forward.
Now that our lives are calming down from the daily busyness and business of launching babies, it may be time to turn around and help those friends coming up behind us.
Whether we like it or not, we are always inspiring those just behind us. Maybe some of our problems and even tragedies are encountered so that we can turn around to cheer on those just coming in? We know how to help them! We know the rocks and curves in the road.
We are natually equipped to help. We’ve lived through our own mistakes.
During these midlife years, its very easy to ‘take it easy’ and distance ourselves from commitment and responsibilities. But here’s the thing my sisters, this may also lead to more emptiness. Helping those ‘behind’ us takes us out of ourselves and helps us to focus on giving, the source of true happiness.
I love the passage in Hebrews 11-12 that talks about the race and our ‘cloud of witnesses’. What an incredible day that will be.
Think of it, Moses and Abraham, and yes especially Jesus, cheering and clapping as we cross the finish line. Brings a smile just imagining!
Our empty nesting lives are perfectly suited to find ways to help and cheer and care about those both inside and outside our circles. We know things. We’ve endured things.
We have kept on, and somehow made it through.
We know how to encourage!!
Who can you help?
If your newly empty nest is feeling too quiet or lonesome, now is the time to step outside yourself and find someone to help. You can be the midlife inspiration for someone who needs you.
Pray about it and see what happens. The Lord may bring you someone totally unexpected. He loves our willingness to be His hands and feet.
No matter what you do, you’ve been in ‘it’ longer than someone else. That someone needs encouragement. Find your person(s) behind you! Add your kind words and maybe even a little cheering and applause and bring them across the finish line with you!
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