When Opportunity Knocks

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Is it just me, or does it seem like Opportunity always waits until the most inconvenient time to start knocking? I swear every time I am just getting out of the shower, or I’m sitting on the toilet, I hear ‘knock, knock, knock’ and then the door goes flying open…Oh, wait, that’s usually my kids.

But seriously, when I think back to when Opportunity came calling in regards to Ironman, I could not have been less prepared for his arrival. I didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t have a bike and I was just newly a single mom, working a retail schedule wondering how in the world I was going to make this happen. But, like I usually do, I took a leap of faith in the hopes that the details would work themselves out. And I have been ever since grateful that I did.

Well, once again, Opportunity has picked an interesting time to show up on my doorstep. A few months ago, I started a program with a book coach. It has been a long time dream of mine to write a book. If you come here often, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that I love doing this. So, when I was introduced to Nancy last fall and she proposed the timing of her group coaching for Module 1 to lay the foundation of writing my book, I thought, “Yeah, I’ll be flying pretty easy through the end of my MA externship, through the holidays and into my first semester of nursing.” To clarify, I have a light class schedule right now due to transferred credits and at the time I had no idea the first few months of this year would be so emotionally taxing.

A couple weeks ago, Nancy and I met via Skype to go over everything I had accomplished in our first 16 weeks of working together in preparation to write my book. She was thrilled with the work I had done and was excited for me to press on to the next part of the course where I will actually write my book. I hesitated. I was like, “Yeah, well, ya know, I’m about to start my second semester of nursing school, we’re rounding the corner into summer when my kids will be home and I just don’t have a clue how I’m going to do this…” I promised I would pick back up the next time this part of the course came around. Nancy responded in terms that I understood, “Lindsey, stopping now would be like doing a triathlon and taking a nap after the swim. You won’t start back up again. I’ve seen this too many times and I would hate for you to lose this momentum.” I knew she was right, but I just couldn’t see how any of this was going to work. She agreed to let me think about it and we would reconvene in a few days to discuss.

I pulled out my school handbook and looked at the heavy course load I’ll be starting in May. I looked at the calendar that hangs in the laundry room for the kids to have a quick easy view of the custody schedule (I’ve blocked off mom days in red and dad days in blue, so they always know where they’ll be…and lets be real here, it’s helpful for me to have that information at a glance, too). I considered how daunting a task it is to WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK. It’s a little different than sitting down for an hour every once in a while to write about whatever went through my head during a 45-minute run. Especially now that I use run time as study time. Yesterday I went out for an 8 mile run and spent most of it trying to recall the 12 pairs of Cranial Nerves and their functions. I’m pretty sure you’d all be really bored reading about Trochlear and Glossopharyngeal. (If not, let me know so we can start running together as study partners)

Anyway, yes, it’s daunting. And scary. And the fact that I am even considering it makes me quite nuts. But as I sit here looking at my Ironman Finisher coffee mug, that contains the sweet nectar that gets me through each day, I remember how I had no idea how I would tackle that dream at that specific time in my life. But I did it. And I can’t imagine if I hadn’t. Even better that I did it under the circumstances that I did. Since when do I not accept a challenge?

This morning I went off to the gym, Ironman backpack slung over my shoulder, containing my swimsuit, towel, swim cap and goggles. It has been months since I have been in the pool. Seriously, my last swim was the NEMO tri in September and I haven’t been in the water since. But for some reason I felt a draw to get in the pool today. After doing a workout on the elliptical, I didn’t end up with a whole lot of time, but I wanted to at least get wet and make sure I even remember how to swim. I couldn’t find a pool schedule posted anywhere so when I saw another woman, a little older than me, sitting on the edge of the pool putting on her swim cap, I asked if she knew the schedule. Typically, I have the entire pool all to myself, so the fact that anyone else was there was surprising. I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any classes that needed the lanes. She thought we were fine. And then we started chatting. My swim time was dwindling by the minute, but I was really enjoying our conversation. She was also a runner turned swimmer, due to loss of cartilage in her knees. She too loved the marathon like nothing else. But she said, “When you can’t run, you figure out what you can do, and do that.” She ran her first marathon in Chicago in ’86 and qualified for Boston. She didn’t realize at the time how special that was and since she had a young baby and life circumstances, she let the opportunity pass. I don’t recall her saying the word “regret” but I could feel it hanging there in the humidity.

As I swam my brief 600 meters, her words followed me like the blue line on the bottom of the pool. I couldn’t shake them. Anyone who knows me, knows that Boston is another of my dreams. I’ve been so close to a BQ, but it’s still just out of reach. Given the opportunity, we all know I would seize that one. I can’t fathom letting it slip from my grasp.

And that brings us back to the other dream in front of me. My book. How in the world am I going to undertake writing a book while I’m in the meat of nursing school? Well, how do I ever do anything? One thing, one day, one step at a time.

When Nancy and I reconvened last week, I had already made my decision. I said, “I was trying to decide if I was scared of how I would do this with my class schedule or if I was just scared of actually doing this at all.” I explained that my fear was more about tackling the dream of writing my book. There is a huge risk involved. What if I fail? What if I get stuck? What if I get behind and I can’t catch up? If I had let any of those things stop me with triathlon, I wouldn’t be able to call myself an Ironman.

So now, here I am, on the brink of another dream. And even though it’s scary, I’m ready to jump off that cliff and take a leap of faith that somehow it’s all going to work out. You probably won’t hear much from me around here for a while, but at the end of it, you might have a book to read.

Last week while I was in the middle of a workout, I pulled out my phone and went to my Evernote app. The following words just kind of came out of me:

Triathlons are hard. Ironmans are hard. Ya know what else is hard? Life.
The trials and turbulences of life take strength to endure. And if you don’t train up properly it can sometimes feel overwhelming, like you’re drowning. But if you push through, you’ll eventually find yourself back on solid ground, albeit sometimes shaky. You are likely to crash and burn once in a while, in between the moments when you think you are finding your rhythm. But perseverance is key. Ultimately through the mess that is life you will start to find your joy and even look back on the obstacles behind you with fondness and gratitude, for they brought you to where you are. There is beauty in the struggle and satisfaction at the finish when you hear the words, “You Are An Ironman.”

If that was on the back cover of a book, you’d buy it, right? (The correct answer is: Yes)

I may have only gotten in 600 meters in the pool today, but I got so much more by taking that step back out of my comfort zone and making the effort. Thanks to my new swim friend, I was reminded of something much more important.

I was reminded that Opportunity doesn’t always come back if you don’t answer the door. I don’t want to spend so long looking through the peep hole in the door trying to decide whether to invite Opportunity in or not. When Opportunity knocks, I won’t let fear stop me from answering. I will fling the door wide open! Even if I did just get out of the shower, and I’m only wearing a towel.  😉

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