The best part about running in Nebraska is that it’s flat. And the worst part about running in Nebraska is that it’s flat. Often I can see a mile or more down the trail, the concrete path unspooling like an endless grey ribbon all the way to the horizon. And inevitably, when I look at all that unspooling trail, I think, “I’m not going to make it.”I’ve been feeling a little bit like that with this 50 Christian Women book project lately. When mom-friends at school drop-off ask me how the book is going, I say, “Great! But relentless.” At home, sitting at my desk in the sunroom, I look at the list, at two pages of names lined up one after the other in a column of black ink, tiny check marks penciled next to the ones I’ve written, and I think, “I’m not going to make it.”
I say this to Brad at least once or twice a week. It’s become a joke. Yesterday he came home from work to find me curled on the sunroom rug, my head next to a pile of books with titles like Sisters of the Spirit and Secretaries of God and Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World. “I have to say, it really does look like you’re not going to make it this time,” Brad said, laughing as he bent low to kiss me.When I feel like I’m not going to make it out on the running trail, I rarely stop and walk. Instead, I set a manageable goal for myself, like running to the next telephone pole or to the tree with the red berries, and I tell myself that if I reach that milestone and I still want to quit, then I’ll allow myself to walk. Inevitably, I get to the telephone pole or the tree with the red berries, and I don't walk. I set another goal -- the stop sign at the cross street or the green park bench. And I keep going that way, taking the next step and then the next, until I’ve traversed the entire endlessly unspooling concrete trail and have landed breathless and sweaty and exhilarated at the end of my driveway.
This, I believe, is the key to surviving the days that make you feel like you’re not going to make it. Simply taking the next step.So today, I scoot my chair close to the desk, place my water bottle and a bowl of salted almonds nearby and pull the 50 women list from beneath the stack of books. I look at the next name in the column, and I tell myself I will write 500 words. I don't think about the thirty more names on the list or the 2,000 words that will comprise this essay or the 100,000 words that will eventually, God willing, comprise the book. I only take the next step, because I know it will probably lead to a next and a next and a next step after that.
Do you have a strategy for getting through the times when you feel like you’re not going to make it?
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