Best laid plans

Racing is easy, the path and way forward are clear (well, generally at least!) Photo by Let's Wander Photography

Racing is easy, the path and way forward are clear (well, generally at least!) Photo by Let's Wander Photography

It's easy to trust the process when the process is easy, when the path and progress are clear, when the plan is set out in front of you. It's not so easy when you have to feel your way through the dark, back track and have courage to keep plowing forward without guarantee that you are going the right way. I have been injured now for almost 10 weeks, which is more than twice as long as I've ever been injured before. But it is not the injure that has frustrated me, in fact, for the most part I have felt extremely grateful to have had such a healthy career. The thing that has frustrated me is the lack of answers, the lack of a plan. I have seen countless doctors, therapists, practitioners of all sorts and none of them have agreed on a diagnosis and none have given me a prescription for how to navigate the injury. And that lack of plan has driven me insane, I want to scream, "just tell me what to do!". But that's the thing, do I? Do I really want to completely give up on my own ability to contribute, set aside all of my thoughts and feelings? Of course I don't. What I've realized is that plans are comforting, plans provide a sense of security and safety, the risk, the fear is low. And that is not where I live, I am not guided by playing it safe or living scared. I don't thrive taking the easy path. Then my frustration must come from somewhere else. But where? What I've realized the frustration, perhaps discomfort is a better descriptor, is from having to lean in to uncertainty, wade deep into the dark.

I was sitting across from my friend and amazing human, Jenn Pattee, I could feel the tears trying to make an escape, my chest tightening. "Get up, switch seats with me", she commanded. I had been talking about the injury and my uncertainty with it, the feeling was crushing me and my resilience felt completely tapped. "Tell me about a time in your life when you did something you didn't know if you could do, when you felt truly powerful." I scanned my mind for memories and the first thing that came to mind was moving to London. In 2005, after finishing grad school in Pittsburgh, I moved to London. I had $200, my suitcase and a work permit for 6 months. I had no job, no where to live, no friends and knew no one. I threw myself into a daunting, terrifying situation with no plan and no guidance, and yet, I survived, I thrived. In fact, I look back on that time in my life as one of the best. I saw my own capacity to be resilient, to work the problem, to create my life however I desired. It was there that I began my true love affair with running and learned things about myself that guide me to this day. I can be scared and still press on, I can sit in the darkness and survive, my capacity for suffering is great, I can be pushed and bend, but I will not break. I finished telling Jenn my story and she said, "how do you feel now?". "Better. Like myself. Like a badass.".

And still I rise like the phoenix, again and again.

And still I rise like the phoenix, again and again.

I realized that in my injury that I was just giving away all of my power, that I was failing at every opportunity to give myself credit for my own incredible resilience. And then I realized that I do in fact have a very bad habit of doing just that. I do my best work when there is the most uncertainty, the most risk, when life is its most unscripted and yet, I have not been able to unlearn the self doubt I default to. How many times do I have to rise from the ashes, get out of the chair or come out of the darkness to finally start believing it?

A few weeks ago, Billy Yang premiered his film, Life in a Day, here in Marin. His film followed Magda, Kaci, Anna Mae and I during our WS 100 journey, and much like the conversation with Jenn, the film mirrored back to me my own resilience, my own capacity to endure. I watched myself up there struggle and doubt and cry when things fell apart. I could see the me of 6 months ago, filled with the same doubt I was at that very moment. I don't know what to do, I don't know how to work the problem. Billy also simultaneously told the story of my basketball days and the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my select basketball coach. What Billy could see in me, as I could not, is that I have been fighting my way back, clawing my way out of the deepest darkness places my whole life. He showed me in his story telling, Devon you know how to do this. And I do. Recovery from that abuse took many years of hard work, with no plan, with no guidance, by myself. It took weeks, months, years and even now I have lessons to continue to learn, maybe this chief among them. I know how to rise, I know how to come back. I just have to believe it for myself.

As I return to running and look towards a new year, I am reflecting on my 2016 goal of "cultivating badassery". I think despite all the highs and lows, the successes and failures, I realize that I have done that. I cultivated it, I have grown it, I have found a way back to myself this year and that is what I wanted. And so now, the goal becomes to own it, believe it. To let go of trying to make everything plan perfect, because that is safe, that is scared and that is not where I live. I want to take chances, test limits, exercise my resilience and BE the person I have worked so hard to become.