I've been meditating a lot lately on perspective. Specifically, the difference between the effortless way that greatness looks casual. And the way that we often view struggling as weakness rather than character.
It presents itself probably most-evidently in sports. The way the Blackhawks skate up the ice in the Stanley Cup Finals. The way that hitting a 100 mph fastball looks easy when a good hitter smacks it 400 ft. The way the top triathletes cut through the air on aerodynamic bikes. Yes, these people have worked hard for their achievements. But the flip side of that equation is don't let the natural talents of insanely gifted athletes convince you that difficult things aren't difficult.
But this relates back to parenting. To relationships. To your job. Which is what has had me thinking so much. Really, the spinning wheel incident crystallized it for me. Kelly can effortlessly turn a chunk of wool into yarn while I sat down at the wheel to try to learn--hey, it looks fun!--and within 30 seconds realized 3 things. 1) it was very hard 2) it was not for me without a great deal more effort than I was willing to give 3) when Kelly went on to a style that she said was difficult that means it is so far out of my league of expertise that there would be no hope.
Now, I can do many things. Run a marathon. Roast you the best cup of coffee you've ever tasted. Bake a cake--Kelly hates to bake. I have a natural talent for understanding complicated theological concepts. I can change a tire. I can build a campfire. But I cannot spin yarn. Or do math without a calculator. Or pole vault...though I sure did try.
Anyway, where was I? Parenting. Oh yes. Parenting is easy. There, I said it. Not always and it isn't always fun. But I can easily sit with my kid and read a story or explain how cloud formation works or kiss a scraped knee. Here's the rub...that doesn't mean it's easy for everybody. Or even most people. And this isn't meant as a kind of backdoor brag. What I intend is more about support and encouragement for the struggling. It's a lesson for our kids. It's a lesson for our society.
The things that are easy for us we shouldn't look down on others if it isn't so easy. And we need to have patience with ourselves when not everything in life is naturally effortless from talent and innate skill. My ability to run a marathon says nothing about your struggle to run a 5k. That's why it's my race and your race. My kids and your kids. That's why some people are aerospace engineers and some people are bike mechanics. I wouldn't trust a rocket scientist to put a new cassette on my bike no matter how genius they may be with engineering.
The point of this all is that it's race weekend for me and I'm nervous because I'm doing something I've never done before. Not necessarily about being good or bad. Training and natural ability will take care of that. I'm more nervous about the finding out which it is. Not even the judgment of other people. Even if I finish dead last, at least I tried (pardon the pun). That's why I love endurance sports so much. So much of the real race is going on away from the "winner." It's also about the struggle in the back of the pack with the annual Ironman telecast covers so well. Our sport celebrates the midnight finisher as well as the podium.
Long story short...my race plan for Sunday is to have fun. Don't push it too hard. Focus on finishing. Try to enjoy the atmosphere. Soak it in. Don't get swept away in anybody else's race.
We'll be getting up about 3am to make the hour drive to Wisconsin. Transition opens at 4:30am and the race begins at 6:30am with my wave as one of the first. So my goal is to be early and prepared. Find my way around. Try to relax. Don't get jittery on the swim. Just get in the water, move forward, and come back to shore. Don't go too hard on the bike. Ride fast but comfortable. Keep the run pace manageable for a pleasant finish that I can smile about. Forecast calls for isolated storms and high of 85. We'll see what the morning brings. And good luck to Kelly trying to manage the kids while I'm on my journey. We think they'll find dad exciting for about 60 seconds then want to find the playground. I don't blame them.