For most people, endurance sports are bucket list items. New Year’s resolutions often include that marathon or triathlon that someone hasn’t had the chance to check off yet. 2020 sidelined many of those resolutions, at least temporarily. In August, I met one extraordinary woman who refused to let her goals be sidelined.
Since I didn’t ask her permission to share her name, I’ll call her Emily. She visited Bear Lake for a marathon series I helped to organize. Run Bear Lake puts on a Trifecta – three marathons over three states in three days. Emily came to finish those marathons on her way to completing marathons in all 50 states.
Most people never accomplish that goal. Others take their time — years or even decades. Emily’s timeline is accelerated. Due to a degenerative disease, she has 3-5 years left to live. She’ll probably only have good use of her body for another year or two.
Emily contacted me before the event to make sure she could safely compete in her recumbent tricycle. We had to modify the course for her, but that was easily and happily done. She had already completed twenty-some marathons on her recumbent. Since so many of her planned marathons had been canceled due to COVID-19, she was pleased to find our races still on.
She and her husband drove from North Carolina to attend. She completed all three marathons and she went home, sore, tired, and with a chest full of medals. I’ll most likely never see or hear from her again, but she left an unforgettable impression on me. Despite her trials, or some would call them her limitations, she set herself up to succeed. Even the pandemic could only slow her progress. Relentless as the tide, she found a way to overcome; to endure.
What a year it has been for enduring.
It’s painful to write about and recount the incalculable losses that have stricken our community. This year has hastened the passing of 44 community members in the Bear River Health District. It has seen some 500 people hospitalized and over 14,000 people become sick. Thousands more have experienced disruptions in their lives which are too numerous to name.
Some have been as small as the child who can no longer play at the playground for the safety of his relatives. Some have been as vast as the sweeping social protective orders that have challenged the global economy.
Through it all, our community has found ways to grieve, adapt, recover, and move forward. Endure.
In his poem “A Servant to Servants,” Robert Frost wrote, “The best way out is always through. And I agree to that or in so far as that I can see no other way out but through.”
The experts are telling us that the enduring is far from over. Vaccination will take months to make a difference for the masses, perhaps even years. To recapitulate Frost, we have miles to go before we sleep. He penned those words when he was a Vermont egg farmer and before fame discovered him. But in Frost’s lines about resting to contemplate snow filling the woods, I find comfort in his quiet determination to endure well.
There is a difference between enduring and enduring well.
The first is enduring from necessity; because we must. There is no way but through, so we go through. At times, I find myself enduring the pandemic with this mindset. I allow the daily drag to drain my soul.
Enduring well is different. It takes more mental effort and physical preparation. It takes focus, conviction, and more than a little faith. I often fail in the attempt to endure without complaint to become an active participant in the process of going through trial and allowing it to refine me.
But when I do, I feel the difference.
If I have learned anything in the past year, it is that I still have power over my life. There are things I cannot control, but focusing on the things I can has been a revelation in my own strength.
I wonder if you can feel that too? I hope you can. I imagine looking over the past months you can see where hard things have built you, broadened you, and made you more powerful, perhaps in quiet ways.
While organizing the Trifecta, a Bear Lake County councilman remarked that we are living in a new world. He’s right.
Even if 2021 allows us to return to “normal,” whatever that is, we will have changed. There will be new work to do and new trials to overcome. The beautiful thing about it is that we can meet those challenges girded up by the past year of tough experience. As a community, we have done some remarkable things together. We are capable of much, much more.
Robert Frost would remind us that taking the less-trodden road will make all the difference going forward. Maybe the less-trodden path is to look back with gratitude and look forward with confidence. Or maybe it just means changing the way we endure. Personally, my resolve is to endure well.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at email@example.com