Running


I wrote about a month ago about running and again I make the distinction that it isn’t physical running. Just to put things in context I wrote about running toward things or away from them. I bring this up because I went through an exercise with a couple of friends where they critiqued me. The criticism lead me to realize something fundamental about how I function or view things.  

I have always thought that I am an away person because I had nothing to run to. My goal setting skills were never their best growing up. But reflecting back, and through other people’s eyes, I have become more aware of how goal oriented I am, and how driven. In fact what I usually attribute to luck and destiny could only happen through the hard work and effort I put in to achieve the things I have. 

This year also saw my first conscious long term decision go from concept to implementation. I am becoming more aware of the fact that I move towards aspirations rather than away from matters. It’s very empowering to realize this and fulfilling. I very much like this state of affairs than the oblivious random floating through time and space that I had done before, even though it was not oblivious or random in hindsight. 

Self awareness is so powerful if it is used to better one’s self. That is the state I am in, and have been for about a year now. I have allowed myself to be human, I have allowed my self to consciously grow in directions I had feared before, and I have tried to align who I am with who I aspire to be. The journey is ever so much sweeter with all the introspection and inward reflection.  

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Last week I started and ended the week at the airport, but alas I went nowhere. I was however treated to the best of government runarounds and boy were they great trips. 

My first destination was customs. I had a shipment come in and I had to go get it. We started downstairs and then went upstairs back down a different set of stairs to another location, up stairs again to two different offices and finally back downstairs to collect the shipment and exit from another door. Are you dizzy yet?

The funny thing is even with all the running around we did, I am still unable to define the process or describe it. One reason for that is the help of a wonderful friend and his college whom we met randomly in the customs holding area. After running into him, he took our papers and there we were no longer headless chickens looking for the next step but rather harmless sheep following where we were led. Quite laughable in retrospect. In the end what would have taken three hours was an hour and a half ordeal. What would have been painful became effortless and successful with minimum damage.

Little did I know that later that week I would be back for yet another trip down government lane. This time it was at the ministry of interior and putting the stairs aside, it took me four hours, six signatures, three memos and fax to get nowhere.  I did get a case number and armed with that I headed to the airport for my mission which was to get the approval from the ministry to let someone who had been detained overnight into the country. Upon arrival at the airport it took me 30 minutes to find someone to talk to me, over the phone, because you know God forbid you actually see someone and interact with them face to face. After the phone runaround it was evident that the mission was not going to succeed and our dear friend was to be deported on the next plane out back to where he came from!

In both instances I was struck by how unclear, unstreamlined and unfriendly the process is, and this is after all the “improvements” undertaken by the government to help us with the processes. Please don’t get me wrong, there is an improvement, what I did in one day would have taken a week a few years ago, and there is a system, it is not an arbitrary process. However, I was never able to understand what the whole process was, where I was supposed to go when and what the end result is (other than what I desired that is). The next step was always provided at the end of the current one, no one gives you the full picture. Communication with the public and information dissemination is at best dismal. The other observation I had was what a man’s world it is. At customs my friend and I were the only women in the whole area. At the ministry any women I saw were either there to get paperwork done or were stuck in back offices away from the public and behind the scenes. 

I can honestly say it was not the best way to start or end a week. The days in between were only slightly better. I am happy that that week is over and a new one is starting. Hopefully I wont have to deal with any bureaucracy then.  

This was written in June and posted elsewhere… I’m reposting it here as I reference it in my other post Running.

Enjoy… 

Five years ago I planned to run in the Dead Sea Marathon. I trained and trained and trained to do the relay. I could run up to 8 KM at a stretch without getting tired. But could I do the full haul? It’s funny what you can train yourself to endure; the aches, the pains, the physical and mental stresses that are necessary to achieve a goal.

You can train for something and be completely ready for it, but fate throws a wrench in your plans and you never realize your goal. Other times you are caught completely unaware and off guard, with no training, no experience and you are asked to perform. I think in both situations you are being tested. A different set of tests, with different skill sets required. Training requires discipline, dedication, goal setting, evaluation and assessment and of course patience and endurance among other skills.

When something is thrown at you out of the blue do you need the same skills? Maybe some of them, but I think others are required too: flexibility, openness to new ideas, patience, evaluation and of course endurance. I think that in new situations it’s important to remain open to the new experience, and learn and grow from it. But it is equally important to evaluate yourself within this new context and assess whether you have what it takes or not. Whether it’s worth the long haul and if you can endure the stresses needed to reach the goal. If not ask for help, if that doesn’t work cut your losses and move on. You will have, at least, learned what you can and can’t do.

In both cases you need endurance. To endure, is to persist, to accept and tolerate the long path, to suffer even. But to what end, I ask you? Does the end justify the endurance? What if you can’t see the end and the goal is unclear do you continue down the path? How do you decide to make it to the finish line or not?

I never found out if I could endure the race, I traveled that year for about two months and missed the Marathon. I haven’t gone back to training since.

I used to run, I think I mentioned that in a previous post (The Finish Line June 13, 07 I’ll repost after this one). And when I ran it was such an exhilarating experience. In the past few months I have had a need to run sometimes it has been a physical need at others it was an emotional one and yet others it was mental. But looking back at another conversation I had with a friend, he and I spoke of running in a slightly different context.

He proposed the idea that came from some behavioral theory or other. He said that in life our motivations are either driven by our desire to run towards something or run away from something. His example, money, you either run away from poverty or run towards wealth. I pondered that for a long time and then we both reflected on our lives.

The discussion was triggered by a question I had asked him. It was Why do you want to be a _______. After some back and forth he conceded that he was working towards that goal because he was running away from something, but he will now work on making that ambition a desire rather than an escape. 

I have always hated the question of where do you see yourself in five years. It means I have ambitions and goals that I need to work towards but after our discussion I truly understood my dislike to the question. Most of my life I have been running away from things and not towards things. I especially look back at my last 10 – 15 years, all my life choices, my decisions were made to escape one situation or another. Even today I recognize that pattern. 

Knowing this, knowing who I am, and what I am capable of, I think that trend needs to change. I think it’s about time I started to run towards things than away from them. To want things because of a desire for them, not a desire to escape something else. I think it is difficult to change 15 years of escapism to become ambition. But I think it is a challenge that I am up for. Now to try and figure out what things I want to run to.