impossible doesn’t get to make my acquaintance

One summer I read a book about a man who completed the first-ever solo and unsupported trek across Antartica. It was a strange book to read in the heat of summer. It was also strange that I didn’t get tired of reading a book about a man hauling 400 pounds on his sled across blinding snow with little visibility. He trekked for weeks, just a few days shy of two months. There wasn’t much to see; the days held the same goals; and he spent as much time in his head as he did traveling across vast Antartica. I was intrigued by the tension between a human’s extreme goal and the intense elements at the bottom of the world. Collin O’Brady crafted the story well in his memoir The Impossible First.

Impossible wasn’t just about a never-before-journey. Impossible was intimately acquainted with Collin when they first met in a hospital bed in Asia. While backpacking around the world, Collin was in a fire that burned most of his body and threatened that he’d never walk again. The expedition isn’t just about an unbelievable record; the journey is about not yielding to obstacles.

It’s a story that sticks with you and now anytime I spend time in snow I think of The Impossible First. And it makes me wonder what I’ve accepted as impossible in my life. What obstacles am I yielding? What dream have unintentionally let go? 

If we’re not careful, impossible sneaks into our lives. 

For his journalism class, Sam was given a snow day assignment to take some outdoor pictures. Sam set the scene of an arctic adventure. We were looking through his shots, and I felt impossible bullying its way into the forefront of my mind.

In the past few weeks I’ve been struggling to run because I’ve been exhausted. I was sick in December and thought it was lasting effects. Then I thought I should just ignore it and push through. Next I found myself completely wrecked after running. And finally I found my body simply shutting down in the late afternoons of ordinary days, insisting on sleep.

It is not a surprise to those who know me well that I am completely frustrated by this. I have a plan. I work the plan. I become a runner. This is how it is supposed to go. 

My friend Cathy sweetly nudged me to consider that it may be stress. There’s a lot going on in your life, she reminded me. I need these reminders. Adopting older kids from foster care has desensitized me to the stress of “a lot going on.”

Another friend reminded me that when we are new to something, we often don’t know what to pay attention to. Becoming a runner is about more than following a plan. In fact, it’s not completing the plan that makes me want to be a runner. I want to be a runner because I like knowing my body and heart are physically fit. I want to be a runner because then I’m motivated to make lots of other healthy choices. I want to be a runner so I can hike to captivating places. An experienced runner knows to pay attention to energy levels; he encouraged me to do the same.

I’m not sure what the root cause of my exhaustion is. I do know that I pull on my snow pants and boots and as I traipse around my backyard with my happy puppy I can decide that impossible doesn’t get to make my acquaintance. 

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  1. “If we’re not careful, impossible sneaks into our lives.”
    I love how you take an idea, and turn it, Ruth. But I am sorry to hear about your exhaustion.
    The concept of “impossible” for many is often a roadblock, and how to navigate through, an act of determination. It can be hard to see the other side of “impossible” in order to make the leap forward, possible.

  2. Yes – what often keeps me going is Emily Dickinson –

    I dwell in Possibility –
    A fairer House than Prose –
    More numerous of Windows –
    Superior – for Doors –

    Of Chambers as the Cedars –
    Impregnable of eye –
    And for an everlasting Roof
    The Gambrels of the Sky…

    I make sure I remember that. I have been reciting this poem quite a bit lately.

    Kids always bring me back to the realm of the possible (however, I have never
    had any at home to contend with!)

  3. This line really resonated with me: “I work the plan. I become a runner. This is how it is supposed to go.” It’s my approach to plans too. I’m glad you’re learning to listen to your body without releasing the dream while you figure it all out.

  4. “If we’re not careful, impossible sneaks into our lives.” This is speaking to me so much right now. Your words are a challenge wrapped up in vulnerability and strength. How do you do that?!?

  5. It’s hard for me to identify with your determination to be a runner. I’ve had two very brief periods of running – in college and early in our marriage when L wanted to make me to run with him. I’m perfectly happy to be a walker, although I must admit I’ve learned to pick up the pace during the past two years.
    Please be compassionate with yourself. There is a lot going on in your life

  6. I think you were the one who taught me that “When you learn to do nothing that’s when you learn to live.” Maybe you need some doing nothing days in between the sticking to plans and getting things done days. I am always at awe about runners. I have no doubt that you’ll be back to the running routine soon. I sense that your protective layer against impossible mindset is thicker than many other people have.

  7. I found this reminder so powerful: “When we are new to something, we often don’t know what to pay attention to.” Life is always a learning journey – I have often been in too much of a rush. Of late I am really learning to slow down. As in choosing to, not being forced to. I don’t believe in impossible either. This image of you traipsing in the snow is renewing; I hope you will find a balance soon, in overcoming the “tired.”

  8. “When we are new to something, we often don’t know what to pay attention to.” This resonates with me. Thank you for the reminder and for someone who has run all her life patience… rest… and celebrate small steps of learning.