What keeps you going when life throws a challenge in your path? Some days, the challenge is small, like an alarm clock that didn’t sound or a lunchbox strap that breaks just as you walk out the door. Other days, the challenge is daunting, like the phone call from your best friend telling you that her marriage is ending, or learning that your friend has just found out that breast cancer has returned after 10 years. No matter what it is you face, it’s important to have a way to manage in challenging times.
A mantra gleaned from my first 3Day keeps me going when life’s challenges get tough.
My first 3Day Walk was in Boston in 2001. I was walking to honor a brave friend. Mary Kaye was enduring chemo, surgery and radiation - all within one short year after she had lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. Every few weeks, I was driving the four hours to south Jersey to hold Mary Kaye’s hands and help care for her kids during and following her treatments. I helped by sweeping her floors and holding what was left of her hair away from her face while she vomited. I offered rides to her kids and worked to distract them from their fears and confusion. I sat with Mar and watched movies and read books aloud. Generally speaking, I did whatever I could to be a friend.
Meanwhile, I was training my body and raising money. I was feeling well prepared for my first event. I had trained to the specific parameters of the training guidelines. I had walked at least twenty or thirty miles every week. I had walked the requisite back-to-back training walk a few weeks before the event. I was physically ready for this walk.
So there I was on the first day of my first event, and over the course of that first 20-mile day, my left knee - despite miles and miles of training - became inflamed. By the end of the day, I wondered whether I would be able to finish all three days. I spent the evening nursing my knee and visiting the Medical Tent. With the help of a gifted Physical Therapist, and plenty of pain medication, I was able to get up and walk the next day.
Not long into that second day, the swelling in my knee returned, and along with the inflammation came a jarring pain with each step that I took. I really felt like giving in and giving up. And then I turned to the woman I was walking with and said, “It’s not really that bad. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. It’s just a walk.”
That day on the Walk, I was ready to give up. Then I thought of Mar (and all those other fighters and survivors) who didn't have the choice to just give in. Those words came into my head and became a mantra that kept me walking to complete all sixty miles. Those words and that memory have nurtured me since in all my tough times.
"It’s just a walk."
It isn’t chemo. It isn’t losing your hair or losing parts of your body. It isn’t looking at the fear of loss in your childrens' eyes.
It’s just a walk.
It isn’t sleepless nights wondering whether to try chemo or radiation or surgery. It isn’t spending day after day thankful just to be able to get out of bed. It isn’t worrying about who will care for your kids if you don’t make it.
It’s just a walk.
Those words, “it’s just a walk,” have carried me through some of the biggest and most frightening challenges in life. I am reminded that we each carry within us the strength to do more than we think we can. And I am reminded that whatever we are challenged to do, we can definitely do it. Whatever it is isn’t really as scary or as difficult as we think it is. In so many ways, it’s just walk.
So whatever it is - get up, get out there and face it. Just start with the first step. Once you get started, it’s really just a walk.