On my final leg of this weekend’s race, I found myself running perpetually uphill with no shade. It was unseasonably hot, and the autumn leaves mocked me with their false promise of cooler weather. After running thirteen miles through the night, I slept for approximately two hours on a gym floor, before my final run. It also needs to be said, I was hangry. One can not run on Reese’s peanut butter cups alone.
Three miles in, I started passing runners who stopped to walk. Four miles in, I started cursing the friend who put me up to this. Five miles in, I wanted to die. And then I thought it might be too embarrassing to die on a seven mile run in the middle of the day with hundreds of people cheering me on. Better to be mauled to death by a bear on a night run. That would be an interesting way to go.
When situations in life begin to feel truly unbearable, I like to pick a short mantra to repeat to myself. Nothing fancy or hyper-spiritual, just a few words to keep me focused. When I stood at the top of an impossible slope in Switzerland strapped in to a pair of skis, I repeated “You’ve got this, you’ve got this, you’ve got this” all the way down the slope. And I did, until a kid flew down the mountain and nearly knocked me senseless. I had to change my mantra after that.
When I feel fear over new paths or unexpected detours in life, I remind myself that I don’t face these fears alone. I repeat “Gather me now to you” to remember whose wings I find shelter under during the storm. When my kids go wild and my husband travels too much and I can’t take one more day of one more person wanting one more thing from me–Gather me now to you, Jesus. When I fear I missed out, or I lost an opportunity, or experienced a great loss, gather me now to you.
On this particular run, I found myself thinking of my son. My son who hiked these same mountains this summer, who can survive in the woods with nothing but some twine and a few matches (or so I’m led to believe), who burned, cut, bruised, and knocked himself about while roughing it at camp. He can do hard things, and because the child I gave birth to can do hard things, so can I. I repeated “I can do hard things” all the way to the finish.
Running twenty miles. Raising three kids. Staying married. Caring for the dying. Saving a life. Living abroad. Writing my heart out on a page.
I can do hard things.
Grieving a loss, telling the truth, asking forgiveness, extending forgiveness, trusting God, working out my salvation.
I can do hard things.
So often, my mind focuses on all of the places where I fall short. I can list the areas I need to improve with the speed of an auctioneer. Selfishmeanspiriteduntalentedjealousboringlazyintellectuallysluggishvainetc. I could ramble on for miles, running circles around all of my lack, all of the ways I don’t measure up to the woman I want to be in my head.
But, when I consult my heart, when I gaze deep into the dreams and desires that truly matter to me, I realize, I am working my way towards them. Not perfectly. Sometimes not even well, but I continue to strain for the finish line. It lay shimmering on the horizon, its hazy glow just within sight. I may get knocked down on my way there, but I get back up again.
I can do hard things. I can raise the family I’ve always wanted. I can be a faithful spouse. I can run hard and long. I can endure pain. I can face fear. I can, I can, I can.
And you can do hard things too. You’re doing them, right now, this very day. You are doing hard things. You are loving on your crazy kids, turning from anger, making tough choices, getting sober, working hard, remaining faithful, saving lives, facing fear dead in the face, and singing your friends and family home.
What hard things are you doing? Do you have a mantra you repeat to yourself? Share it in the comments.