Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year in Review

It is not uncommon to do some serious reflecting at the end of a year. As I thought back over 2015, I saw success and failure, but more than anything I sought to learn, to draw a road map of my life because no matter how deeply I think things out in advance, it is only in hindsight that I truly understand my own experience. As I looked back, I have categorized things under the headings of Spiritual, Academic, Athletic, Mom, and Influence.

My spiritual life hasn't been the best. When we were pastoring, I was forced to read, study, and pray just to do my job. Now it is really easy to be lazy. I'm lazy. In every area of my life, I feel like walking, talking oxymoron. I have great bursts of creative and athletic energy followed by lethargy, apathy, and lack of focus. This runs through everything I do. Maybe 2016 will be better, but only if I make it so.

By reflecting on my job performance, I now see how I failed in several ways. One is on unfocused writing. I often start Comp I with a period of unstructured writing. I enjoy this and it gets my brain into writing mode. It appears to do the same for some of the students, but weaker students, who are usually the majority, don't do well being told to write without being told what to write about. Unfortunately, they also don't do well when given broad topics. Maybe I should spend some time attempting to teach them how to write on broad topics. Not only that, but I need to spend some time on teaching them how to be students. They don't know how. Being a student and writing on broad topics seems self-evident to me, but whenever something is easy to someone, that someone has trouble teaching that same thing to people who struggle with that something. Is that clear? That's why I'm a good teacher; I make things clear.

Since this is primarily what this blog is about, this section is the longest. It was a good year athletically. At the end of 2014, I was doing a lot of adventure runs. By "adventure run," I mean a run for fun that explores new areas and approaches or exceeds the marathon distance. I broke down early in 2015 and that pretty much ended the adventure running until this fall when I resumed the practice with vigor. I explored the Holcomb area and learned a whole host of new roads.

Although my swimming totals were down for the year, the Chicot Challenge, my pet project, was up. With the help of a good and dedicated crew, I swam 19 miles, and we raised a bit over $1,700 for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. Besides the crew, who was with me all day, the Centerville Baptist Church showed up at the finish. That was a huge honor, and it touched me deeply.

Besides the Challenge, I performed better in a couple of races than I have in the recent past and did a new one. My times in the 300 Oaks had been slowing for several years. Finally, I actually did some of the things needed to improve, and I dropped my 10K time there by over three minutes. I was also faster at the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, although I was still slower than my goal time. In addition to all of that, Forrest and I did a new race this year, the Gateway to the Delta Ten Miler in Batesville. I was a good run for me, I placed in my age group, and I hope we do this one again next year. I liked the course, got to spend time with my son, and we got a really neat hoodie for signing up. What's not to like.

Finally, I completed the long planned Noxapater Journey Run. This one had been on my list for about a decade. When I was a boy, I made the trip on a 90cc Honda. It was an epic adventure for me and one that fueled my imagination for years. As a young adult, Howard Collins and I made the journey on bicycles. Years later I rode it alone two years in a row, mapping routes and dreaming of a journey run. But year after year I was too unfit or injured and unable to even make the effort. In 2013 I tried and failed on the first attempt on the first day. This year I did it and I can't describe how satisfying it feels to finally get this off my list. I had a good time, explored my limits, and learned more about life and myself than I ever thought I could.

My totals for the year are:

Run - 1,212.77 miles
Walk - 343.81 miles
Bike - 234.66 miles and almost seven hours on the bike trainer
Swim - 530,615 meters (329.7 miles)
Weights - lifted 84 times.

Since her health has been so bad for so long, every time she had a crises, I always thought, this is it. But Mom keeps bouncing back. She doesn't bounce high, but she bounces. For most of my life, I have recognized my dad's toughness. He was a runner, among other things, and his tenacity and toughness has long been a trait I have sought to emulate. Over the last couple of years, however, I have come to realize that Mom, the gentle soul she has always been, has her own brand of toughness and endurance. Since January of 2012, she has endured things that Dad could not nor would not have lived through. She keeps enduring illness and maintains a happiness that belies her circumstances. Now I hope to emulate them both, to imbibe the positive qualities of each parent. They were like a coin: each one a side, the opposite of the other in many ways. I hope to be more of the whole coin. I think that is a noble goal. God help me accomplish it.