Saturday, February 1, 2014

Running Hurdles

I belong to a Facebook group that is for alumni of my high school.  As luck would have it, most of the people who post graduated about the time I did, and it can be pretty interesting.  This week, someone posted the yearbook photo of one of the girls PE teachers.  It instantly brought a flood of memories to me, none of them good (judging by the comments, it did that for a lot of people).  Decades later, I can still see her muscular calves flexing as she rocked back and forth on the curb at the entrance to the showers, making sure we didn't cheat.  I can still see her striding across the gym with her whistle in her mouth on a rainy day when we sat in a circle and prepared to play "giant ball of death".  (My first pair of really cute glasses was smashed within a week of getting them in a game of "giant ball of death".)  I was a good student and wanted to do what was expected of me, but I was scared of her, and I was unlucky enough to have her for PE several times.

One day she announced in the locker room that we were to get dressed and meet at the track.  My gut knotted.  You see, I was not a sleek gazelle by any means; I was more like one of those shaggy miniature donkeys - round, compact, with kind honest eyes and built low to the ground.  I hated running and was terrible at it.

When I arrived at the track it got worse, because I saw that the hurdles were set up at intervals.  I told myself they were just left from the boys, that they had nothing to do with us.  I was wrong.  We were instructed to run the track, alternating between crawling under, and jumping over, the hurdles.  My heart sank.  Running was bad enough, and I knew I could crawl under the hurdles (even though it was a little bit muddy that day), but there was no way I would be able to jump over them.

I had no choice but to do as instructed and deal with the results.  I crawled on my belly under the first hurdle, streaking my fresh gym suit with mud, and gamely got up and propelled myself toward the next one, which I missed jumping over by at least half (to this day, I have no idea if they were 3 inches or 3 feet tall), knocked it straight over and fell flat on my face on top of it.  The other girls raced past me while I sat it up, and made a momentous decision:  I limped around the rest of the track, ignoring the hurdles altogether, and arrived back to where she and everyone else stood waiting.  I was humiliated, and thankfully, she just shook her head and sent us off to the showers.

Life contains a series of hurdles.  Sometimes they come in quick succession, and sometimes we get a flat spot in between to give us a chance to catch our breath.  In real life, we often have to tackle multiple hurdles at a time.  Sometimes they are individual hurdles that we can rely on only ourselves for, where we can use our strengths and skills to succeed; sometimes they require collaboration with others, and sometimes they are completely out of our control.  There are some hurdles that are extremely satisfying to clear - pronouncing every single Samoan name correctly in a public presentation and gaining respect and a few friends.  Some are necessary - finally getting that aching wisdom tooth pulled out of your head.  Some are maybe not necessary - ignoring those actual hurdles and walking the track on my own terms.

The ones we have no control over are often the toughest.  This week, a giant hurdle in the sale of the house was successfully cleared...the buyers completed the home inspection, reviewed the report and signed off their acceptance, asking for no repairs to be done.  Now, I prepared myself for this by doing all I could to maintain the house to the best of my ability, but I knew there might be some things that were beyond my scope or budget that would give the buyers an opportunity to back out if that is what they wanted.  They didn't.  So now we go on to the next in the series of home selling hurdles, which are also out of my control but will happen in (relatively) quick succession since escrow is scheduled to close in 20 days.  20 days!  It's like seeing the first glorious colors of sunrise peek above the horizon after almost three years of continual dusk.

Selling the house is a huge hurdle, and will set me free from a situation where the entire infrastructure of my life was yanked away from me and in the aftermath, I had to focus on clearing every hurdle in front of me.  I did it - some cleanly, some like a bull in a china closet, and some on my belly.  I would have preferred to never have been put in this situation, but since I was, I dealt with it and while it wasn't without a great deal of pain and difficulty, I can look back and be proud of what I have accomplished.

The day escrow closes, I will sniff the air of a new life and leap forward like a metaphorical sleek gazelle, because I know that those next few hurdles are mine and mine alone, and relatively speaking, they will be a piece of cake.  I've got this.  I hope life gives me a little flat spot to catch my breath then, and time to take a few long mindless walks on that cool, firm stretch of sand right beyond where the waves reach.

After that, life, I'm ready.  Bring it on.


  1. Ah, hurdles... brings back memories from track practice. As in, I was running past them and very glad I wasn't one of the suckers who signed up to try to jump over them but instead ended up crashing into them more often than not.

    We may be having to sell our house and move soon, and I am just dreading the whole process... I like your attitude towards the process though, that it will bring you to a better place in life. Good luck!

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Selling a house and moving is so stressful! Trying to take it one step at a time (easier said than done) makes it seem a little more manageable.

  2. i love this. i also find that with every hurdle we surpass, we come out stronger.

    Vodka and Soda

    1. Exactly! And some hurdles become so second nature that we don't even notice them anymore!