In school, I was a passionate middle distant runner, particularly the 400 metres. That gruelling race is ingrained in my psyche. I liken every challenging life event to it. I seem to always compare the final weeks of pregnancy and birth as the homestraight of a 400……where you are trying to keep your mind and body straight and strong, but you are faced with lactic acid building up in your legs so much that you feel like you are going in slow motion. It takes all your discipline to keep your eyes on your lane, off the position of the other runners and keep an even and strong stride. Where you place your focus in this time becomes your weakness or your strength. You may have a whole crowd cheering for you, but it’s your inner dialogue that dictates your success.
I remember one race, in particular, where I was lined up in lane 1 as always, and my arch enemy was in lane 4. We had a rivalry that spanned our schooling. My strength was the 400, and hers the 800. I had just come second to her in the 800 and it had rattled me as she only just pipped me in the homestraight. So I really didn’t want to give her the honour in the 400. The unique thing about the 400 metres is you have to stick to your lane for the entire race, around the two bends of the track. No other race like it. It also has a staggered start so if you are in lane 1 you start a long way back, but I loved it because it was empowering to be making ground as long as you kept discouragement at bay. This particular race however, my focus was on lane 4 and not lane 1. Generally if you aren’t keeping your eyes fixed on your destination, your body follows….. which results in you losing your gait, stride and effectiveness of your arms empowering each step. My start was clunky and awkward. It felt all wrong. Thankfully by the last bend I had refocused, and my body came into alignment and managed to claw my way back to win by a hair.
My coach scolded me. I should have had it in the bag. My time exposed my lack of focus. Lesson learnt. This lesson has followed me into adult life.
Lately the words “Eyes on your lane” have been bouncing around in my mind. I think it’s because in the past couple of years my eyes have slipped off my lane and it hasn’t been pretty. In today’s media dominated world this is easier to do than ever. We are constantly bombarded with images, instastories, feeds, posts and news reports of everyone else’s lane……. and they look good. Even starting this blogging journey and only joining Instagram a year ago, I lost my focus for a short time. My original aim with starting a blog was just to create a forum in which I could share my challenges and lessons I had learnt to whoever’s lap they organically fell into. Leaving it up to God’s hands where it went. Then I got distracted with the enormity of social media marketing….. the influencers, the mummy bloggers and all the different strategies for gaining traffic to your site. It felt heavy. My mind became full with it and I became distracted with those who were doing it successfully. The result was me losing my focus, my gait and ultimately my joy in the journey. My kids were craving my attention but I was distracted on other people’s lanes.
This can happen to the strongest of us, especially women, who seem to be more prone to comparing ourselves to each other. It happens in the work place, in the school environment, in comparing our marriages and kids, our bodies and even our birth stories! It can be all consuming. Social media has taken it to a whole new level. Now this is not a social media bash, I actually think social media can be wonderful when used well. I used to resent it, calling it “Fakebook….. Whingebook” etc. However, since being in a healthier place, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity or place to celebrate the beautiful things in life, and celebrate the beautiful things in others’.
However, it really does take a lot of control to celebrate other people’s wins whilst keeping your eyes on your lane, and not wish it looked different.
I had a wobbly moment a few weeks ago when I fell on a few comments written by trawlers about a large family article in the Herald Sun. The venom behind the comments shocked me, calling the family “selfish” “irresponsible” and “resource sponges”. I began to question whether it truly was selfish to have a large family. It made me feel discouraged and self-conscious. Maybe most people who looked at me in public with my brood were thinking the same thing?! My eyes were slipping. The sacrifices we have made and the sheer amount of energy it has taken to birth, raise and provide for our clan negates all of these comments but it did remind me that where we place our focus certainly does become our inner dialogue. It is this dialogue that shapes our identity……..and our identity shapes our purpose, which ultimately dictates our joy and sense of fulfillment.
So I suppose I want to encourage anyone out there who is feeling a ‘bit wobbly’ today that your lane is mapped out just for you. It’s to look like no one else’s. If other people’s lanes are looking more attractive than yours, it may be time to shift your focus. It may mean a social media break. Or a break from some relationships that, intentionally or not, look down on your lane. It’s time to identify the beauty of the lane that is uniquely yours….. whether that is many children or none. Career or “at home duties”. Married or single. Material wealth or not. Many friends or a special few. Kids who are high achievers or those with outwardly immeasurable qualities. There is such beauty in everyone’s lane. Run in yours and run it well. Celebrate the runners around you without comparing, whilst constantly reminding yourself that the runners who seem to be the strongest have their struggles too. People were never created to be worshipped.
So as I line up for my “labour race”, trying to focus on birthing this little gift well, I thank you for indulging me on my ponderings. I will see you on the other side of the finish line with our last babe (yes I said last!).
Much love, Greta….. The Butchers Wife xx