Sunday, March 23, 2014

Betty & The Lake

I felt a little sorry for Betty and I could relate to her ordeal somewhat. I knew what it felt like to be misunderstood, to be judged too quickly. She had a history she could not share with me but it was what was inside that counted and I knew from the moment we met that she had more to her than her appearance.
17 years younger than I, her skin made her seem so much older than she really was.  Anyone would think she was at the end of her days.  She looked damaged and beaten up. Tired, used and neglected. The truth was, her heart was younger than her years.

Betty offered freedom and reliability and most of all, new opportunities. I cherished that she gave this to me. And I loved her for it. For this, I took great care of her.

She was only 14 and had hardly seen the world.  She’d travelled as far as the edge of her village perhaps once every few days and no further.

Today was our furthest adventure to date.  The drive was supposed to be easy.  Mostly just one road for miles and then a turn to the left, another turn and you were there. 

I liked how Betty had old school charm, boasting a cassette player that made me want to try and find all my cassettes from when I was a kid.  She was offering to make old things new and exciting again and this made me smile.

Alas, she didn’t have a Sat Nav though…

So we got lost.  I hadn’t really driven in years and when I did drive, I used to have a Satnav. This was old school and Betty, my beloved and newly acquired 1997 Excel didn’t have anything more than her cassette player let alone navigational assistance.  Hell, her windows are even manual.

It is true that when I was younger, I was nick named ‘sniffs’ by at least one friend, because I had no apparent sense of direction and it was said that I must just follow my nose, like a dog. Seeking out numerous paths before finally finding my destination.

So between Betty and I, we both perhaps lacked the technology and skill to adequately navigate to our final destination. Yet with perseverance, a few wrong turns will always eventually lead to the right direction.

It was my day off so I didn’t mind so much that the 25 minute drive had turned into an hour. Betty and I were content in each other’s company. The sun was shining and we were both humming along to “The Hits of Summer 88” on the cassette player.

This day was not only Betty and my longest drive together, but it was also going to be my longest run.  Yes, we were heading out to Lysterfield Lake, somewhere neither of us had ever been before so that I might attempt my longest run.

You see, I knew the roads and tracks around my house like a black ops military operative. The corner of Patty and Balcombe was the half-way point on a 2.5k run, the big tree at Charman was the 3 quarter mark and the railway was just about cool down time. Do it all twice and you came close to passing the 5k mark.

Knowing these way points so emphatically was perhaps not going to help me break any records.  I’d considered that knowing how far I had to go and the complete transparency on the run of what obstacles and challenges lay ahead might not be such a good thing.

So, I had decided to take my challenge to a path I’d never run before. Where all I could do is listen to the queues on my iPhone and run until it told me I could stop. 

The lake seemed enormous. It was like a sprawling sheet of glass and the early morning sun made it flicker a very dark green metallic colour, not unlike Betty’s skin when she might have been new.

Signs seemed to indicate varying distances around the lake which seemed odd.  Odder still was the time indicted to complete one lap seemed longer than your usual 5.5km walk which I couldn’t understand at first.

So, I started my warm up, walking past a few other walkers, the start of this track wasn’t quite what I had expected.  I’d assumed the track would run along the lake’s shore line yet from the onset, it had travelled off through the woods. 

As I started to run, about five minutes in, it occurred to me that the lake was no where to be seen. My legs were only just coming awake and shaking off their initial complaining as they warmed up.  I must have been turning the tail end of the lake by now and I had thought it was probably a very good thing that at this moment, I could not see the lake stretch out to my left.

Ten minutes in, the flat path started to gently rise and the gentle rise eased into a series of hills that came to punctuate the entire far side of the lake.  I’d not seen this when I arrived as the path is obscured by woods. 
These woods kept the lake hidden still.  What must have been half way around the lake, there had only been the rarest glimpse of water. This reminded me of times where I had run around Albert Park Lake and how I’d loathed it, because I could always see how far I still had to run.

For the first time in a long time, I was grateful for having no orientation, no sense of distance and a finish line that was completely out of sight. I had no choice but to let go of where the end might be and what might lie between this moment and the success I ran towards.

All I had was the next step, then the next and I could only give this my attention.  The path surprised me with hills and slopes I’d never have made myself face had I’d known they were there before I set out on my run.  The not knowing and uncertainty had become my greatest weapons in conquering this course.

There was a strength and a power that could be found in uncertainty and not knowing. I was immersed with an appreciation in this realisation and it brought about such relief and calmness for me.  I’d needed to feel this.

As I ran (shuffled) up yet another hill, I considered how perhaps where I’d spent so much energy on worrying about the unknown in life and the uncertainty, perhaps I’d been underestimating it’s place in ensuring success?

If we always knew where we had to end up, if the path before us was completely clear and we knew every obstacle and challenge we might have to face, would we still embark on that journey? If I think back over my life about all the journeys to success I have had, faced with them again, knowing what I was in for, I’d probably take Betty for a long drive off a short cliff.

‘The not knowing’ demands the best from us and allows us success on the hardest and longest of journeys as if forces us to focus not on the entirety of that journey but just today and this moment of it.

There is a power in uncertainty that, should you embrace it and come to know it, will fuel your success like nothing else can.

As I ran on, I felt a freedom and that new found power.  My theory which I had applied to this run, I realised can be carried over into all other journeys in life. Let uncertainty be your friend not your fear.

As I reached the dam in the lake, my IPhone sounded the end of my run and the beginning of my cool down.  My legs were burning.  I’d worked my backside off and I realised I’d just run further and certainly harder than ever before.  I was smiling like an idiot and I even got a little teary.

From the Dam, the lake finally had revealed its entirety.  It was huge and amazing. Little sailing boats looked like tiny butterflies kissing its surface far away.

Sure I’d be on a journey around that lake, but it was more than running.  I’d come to learn something so much more. Uncertainty is not what stops you, it’s what keeps you going.

As I made my way back to Betty, I considered the journeys I have made in life, even our journey to the lake.  Not knowing where I was going had never stopped me. 

Betty and I drove away from the lake and the cassette clicked and cackled into life. Bobby McFerin’s “Don’t worry, be happy” hit from 1988 came on and I knew exactly what he was singing about.  

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