Those of you who read 168 Hours know that I used the HARO (Help a Reporter Out) email list for finding some of my more random subjects. HARO was founded by Peter Shankman, who went on to sell the service and in what seems to be a growing trend among entrepreneurs who cash out, did an Ironman triathlon.
I really enjoyed reading his account of the race, because it shows, clearly, that many things in life that are ultimately meaningful are not fun in the moment. Being stung by jellyfish during the swim component? Not fun. Headwinds during a 112 mile bike ride? Also not fun. And, as I can attest from doing Big Sur in April, running a marathon is not exactly fun either (though at least I didn’t do it after swimming and biking!) But as I told myself as I was sitting on the bus to the start line at 4:30AM, in a few hours this will all be over. It has to be, because they’ll open the roads up again. Most likely I will be at the finish line when they do that. And so it’s just a matter of getting there, one mile or even one minute at a time.
Often, when we think about time, we think about saving a few minutes here, seizing time, or what have you. But sometimes, time becomes about pushing through and hoping it goes quickly. Its ephemeral nature can be a blessing. I have felt that way sometimes on flights with my small children. A flight cannot last forever. Even if it’s a 10-hour flight, it is only 10 hours. Probably, the baby won’t scream for all of it. So enjoy the few minutes where he isn’t, and that old German man who keeps coming back to shake his fist at you in anger goes back to his seat. Even the worst bouts of norovirus seldom last more than a few days. Labor? I’ve maxed out at 8 hours. A pregnancy won’t last more than 41-42 weeks (and the middle chunk of that is not so bad). I once willed myself through a zip-line tour of the rainforest canopy in Nicaragua even though I am deathly afraid of heights by noting that in 90 minutes I’d be eating lunch. Did I make it through this minute? Yep? Then only 89 more to go.
Ultimately, you learn that you can view something that is currently unpleasant with a bit of detachment. Yes, I feel awful now. But I can see through to the other side, and I will not feel awful forever. Time will keep going. It never stops. Sometimes that is alarming. But sometimes, it’s a relief.