Lost in the tree balls.
On a whim, I signed up for a 5K this week. It was a night run in the dark and freezing cold, but the allure of running under the lights of the Canterbury tree balls during my most favorite season was just too much for me to pass up!
I try not to talk too much about my running habits. People have a lot of opinions, and I need my running to be something I truly do for myself. I run to stay mentally and physically well. I run to blow off the crazies that reside in my head. I run to eat carbs. I run because it's a portable exercise and doesn't require a membership. I work to avoid the competitive side of running because I know my personality will turn it into something I don't need for it to be. I don't need another failure in my life by not running fast enough to please myself and others.
The race was small and a school fundraiser, so there wasn't a lot of the rah rah that comes from a larger event. However, it was fairly organized and I was ready for the rush of adrenaline from crossing the start line. And, I really just wanted to see all the tree balls in their floating-in-the-air glory.
The race started and it was fun! My friends live in the neighborhood and they were outside cheering us on and the very, very dark streets were magical with the tree balls. I was feeling good and making my way past the "here for a leisurely stroll" runners and the people who like to stop and take selfies and got myself in the front half of the group. We were told there would be two loops for the course (returning to the starting area halfway through in front of the school) and because it was dark there were volunteers stationed at each turn to direct the runners. I was glad for these people because while my good friends live in the neighborhood, I don't know street names or the layout of the entire neighborhood.
I found myself with a pack of runners who were all running at a good speed. We turned a few times and I wasn't quite sure where we were in the neighborhood, but I was too busy admiring the tree balls and working on keeping my personal run steady.
We got to another turn and noticed that one person ran to the right, but the volunteer stationed at the intersection motioned us all to the left. Several people inquired and were all told the same thing, so we just kept running towards the left as directed. I wasn't exactly sure where I was, but because it was a new race to me, I just kept running with the pack. It felt wrong for some reason, so we kept asking each other if we were headed the right way. One little boy running next to me assured me that the volunteers were there to help us and they knew which way we needed to run and we could trust them.
At this point I started to recognize the tree balls, but I wasn't sure if it was because I have driven the neighborhood so many times on the way to my friends' house, or if it was because I had run that way already. I had a sinking feeling the whole time that I was going the wrong way and really wanted to quit and head back to my friends' house--but I had no idea where I was in relation to their house or the starting line. As we approached the intersection again and saw people running towards the right, I knew we had been sent the wrong direction.
Luckily, the race director met the misdirected group of us on the road and quickly gave us directions on how to complete the race with correct mileage. Even then, I wasn't quite sure about the directions and where to turn and how to finish correctly but I just kept running and following the others in the pack who had been sent the wrong way. I was ready for the race to be over, but I also wanted to run the true distance before I crossed the finish line.
Afterwards, I walked back to my friends' house to get my car and say goodbye and they indicated they had seen me a second time during the race. I was so lost due to the wrong turn that I didn't even know I was running in the most familiar part of the neighborhood and I certainly had not seen them. I even told them that it wasn't me that had run past them because I truly thought I had been sent a completely different way on a completely different street.
I wasn't upset about the race because that's just how things go sometimes in a small race and in life. You can be running along and doing everything right and following directions and still end up lost and confused. You can work hard and perfect things and do everything in your power and still fall short and even send people the wrong way.
As a Enneagram 6, I seek to avoid the worst case scenario and keep everyone safe, happy, and ok at all times. I like order and predictability. I plan because it's safe and lets me preprocess what could happen at any moment of any day, and I make decisions based on what I believe is the best choice out of all of the options that I have carefully considered. I don't like to make rash decisions because I will ruminate afterwards on the many ways I could have made a better choice. It kills me when I feel like I've made the wrong decisions or let people down.
It's interesting that I was quick to forgive the volunteer because I would not have the same grace for myself. I am learning that a big reason I don't like letting people down is because I will have to face my inner criticism party and they can be ruthless. I will lose sleep. I will worry myself to stomach ache and dizzy spells at times. I will ask for reassurance from trusted people that I've handled things correctly. I will turn myself inside out to avoid failure.
Last Christmas, my plans, obligations, and the need to make everyone happy gave me a lovely case of shingles. In the last few weeks I've experienced the loss of my grandmother, a lot of sadness in my friends and community, and constant reminders that life is too short and moves so quickly. My niece is getting married in a week and my Molly is a senior. Last night I hugged a twin at his brother's visitation and someone else we love received a cancer diagnosis this week.
We can plan all we want, but we can't stop life from happening.
And sometimes we make the wrong turns and find ourselves lost in the tree balls.
My hope for all of us is that we extend kindness and a lot of grace to others and ourselves--especially right now in this season. We don't have it all figured out. We will mess it up. We will get it wrong. We will let others down. We will do everything we can and still fall short sometimes. We will face disappointment and heartache and troubles.
Take heart, friends, and keep going even when it all feels crazy and wrong.
And let it be another reminder to us this Christmas season about our desperate need for a Savior.