Racing Toward the Finish Line

Dear Clients and Friends, 


At the end of every trip to Jewel, there comes a moment of reflection. I'll be waiting at the conveyor belt, wondering if I should defect to a new line with a less chatty checker, and my eyes will scan down to my cart. It's usually filled with some contrary heap of leafy greens and bacon, Greek yogurt and dark chocolate. Sometimes a bottle of fish oil. Then my focus will shift and I'll see in the background, rising up behind this heap, several sinewy, well-dressed bodies. 


They strike poses on People and OK!, these smiley stars who are not so different in age from me but whose eyes remain unlined and whose skin stretches taut and smooth like Saran Wrap around their well-toned limbs. However do they do it? Surely not by popping a daily fish oil. I'm captive anyway, I remember thinking on one such occasion. I may as well find out. 


The magazine I picked up featured an interview with Madeline Stowe, who at 55, looks like she's never encountered a free radical or UV ray in her life. It's not Botox keeping her cells plump, either, says Stowe, crinkling her forehead to prove it. Her secret? Sleeping more, working out less. "I'm a big believer in not overexercising," she said. "The strain wears your skin down and ages you."


 What was this? My mind flicked back to all the race photos ever taken of me, the lens jutting intrusively into my haze of pain. She's right, I thought. On every photo, I look half dead. Why do we do this to ourselves? We're constantly prodding our bodies to do more. It's not enough to just run. We have to race a 5K, and once that's done, then a 10K or a triathalon. I've even heard of Ironmen lamenting their performance while crossing the finish! Next year, they'll train harder. 


 Are we, in effect, racing toward our own finish line? If our goal is to stay young and healthy, would we be better off, as Madeleine Stowe suggests, just taking a nap? 


 Since I first read that interview, I've often thought about her comments and the ripple effect of what she was saying. If every society has its club of malcontents, lately, our membership has grown. People once satisfied with a half-hour of Jane Fonda aerobics now get their kicks running marathons. Over the past 20 years the number of runners finishing marathons in the U.S. has doubled, according to Runner's World. 


Nor are we as likely to stay satisfied with our jobs. At one time, it didn't seem at all odd for an employee to gainfully go about his day at the same desk for a quarter century and  bring home a gold watch. Now it's almost incomprehensible. Even a couple years ago, Forbes was reporting that job hopping is the "new normal" for millennials.  


Maybe we've always harbored this curiosity-the need to find out if you could be happier "IF". If only you could get that job or run a marathon or drop 20 pounds so you looked more like the skinny stars on magazines. We were just waiting for permission to indulge it. Then some brilliant person at Nike's ad agency gave it to us... and we pounced. Just Do It. All right, I think I will! 


But the decision comes with risks. In one of my favorite children's series, Anne of Green Gables, Marilla worries about Anne leaving Avonlea to go chase the "Handsome Unknown." Rightly so! Even if she does catch him, she could find out he's not so hot after all. Worse than that, she'd realize just how much she missed while hurrying in the wrong direction.


This year, instead of taking on any overly ambitious goal, I decided to just spend as much time as I can with my Maggie, who heads off to college soon. We cook together, go on walks, browse around the mall. And when I do need to go to Jewel, I no longer try to avoid the chatty checker. I've discovered I can always use that extra moment of reflection, which probably delivers way more health benefits than my bottle of fish oil.


"Reealize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have."

- Eckhart Tolle




Barbara J. Provost, MS EdD

Certified Coach, ACC



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