For many, New Year's Eve is a time of reflection.
Three years ago, I was curled up on my couch, waiting for 2009 to end and 2010 to start. It was a low point in my life. I had just lost my father and my grandmother. A four-year relationship with the person I thought was "the one" had just ended. Little did I know at that moment that I would experience a life-changing, spiritual journey in 2010, write a book about it in 2011, and spend 2012 sharing my story in so many memorable ways.
My spiritual journey began a larger life journey. After My 52 Weeks of Worship, I caught the bug. I had experienced the "Power of 52" -- of doing something BIG by breaking it down into little, weekly pieces. I was curious how that power might play out in other areas of my life.
So, when 2011 started, I began My 52 Weeks of Dating. I was single and ready to mingle! I decided I would try to go on a date per week until I found love.
Little did I know what I was getting into! Just a few months included dates with:
• One too many men who revealed mid-date that they were "almost divorced" (I don't play that.);
• A man who talked incessantly about his enjoyable dates with midgets (no judgment, but what in the world? And is midgets still a word we use in this day and age?); and
• A man who shared that he would really like me to wear a French Maid outfit "as often as I felt comfortable." (Seriously?)
As a result, I closed down all my online dating profiles, reveled in the comedy of the experiences I'd had, lit some candles, and did my best to focus on truly internalizing all of the lessons learned on my spiritual journey -- many of which encouraged me to have faith, love God, learn how to love myself, and let my good come to me.
As 2011 came to an end, I also faced the end of my 30s. To commemorate this, I started a project called Running Towards 40. And, yes, my goal was to run one race every week, starting on the week of my 39th birthday and ending on the week of my 40th. I wanted to wake up on my 40th birthday happy, healthier, and having concrete evidence of doing something in my 39th year besides stressing about my impending birthday.
I ran, blogged, and posted pictures on Facebook. I survived numerous 5Ks in Chicago's insanely cold winter -- which was a huge victory, since I do not like to be cold. As the year passed, I realized that, although the race experiences I was having were memorable, I wasn't getting in better shape; I was just tired. Pacing myself with senior citizens and running just in front of the police escort vehicle is fun once or twice, but not every week. I completed 26 races -- then, I stopped running almost entirely. I asked myself -- why was I running toward 40 anyway? Maybe I should just walk, or saunter, or let it come to me.
That change in perspective made all the difference. I re-formulated my commitment, changed my focus from completing weekly runs to overhauling my nutrition, and in the end, lost 40 pounds and accomplished my goal of waking up on my 40th birthday full of hope for the future.
And I learned.
I learned more about the power of making change one manageable step at a time. I experienced the wonder of looking back after time passes, celebrating the progress made toward a goal, or finding that my perspective has changed entirely for the better.
I learned that sometimes when you start a journey-even with a specific goal -- you have very little idea where you are actually going to end up. But, with a little faith, you can have a more amazing experience than you ever imagined. Sometimes, you learn important lessons that you need to learn about yourself. Sometimes, you learn the importance of running your own race rather than comparing yourself to others and where they are on their journeys -- and that it takes courage to change course mid-race if you need to. And, sometimes, everything changes in every way, and your life ends up being better and more blessed than you ever had the capacity to imagine.
To be clear: My 52 Weeks of Worship was the most powerful of the three journeys shared here. I believe it is more than worth it to take the time to determine the source of your strength -- to truly know what you believe from a religious and spiritual perspective. Making a real and unyielding commitment to have an authentic, functional, powerful connection to God is a gift that can provide you with the strength to face life with grace and conviction -- no matter what happens. If 2012 has not been so great, maybe spending some time focusing on the Source of your strength can help. There are so many who are willing to help you on your journey.
I have a dear friend who often tells me, "You have the power." And, really, that is the truth. You have the power -- to make your life however you want it to be, to be "your best you," to connect to the true Source of your strength -- and let it guide you towards the life you are meant to live. Even when you are at your lowest, you still have the power. And, sometimes, you claim it with a whimper; sometimes, you claim it with a shout. But, if you claim it -- even one small chunk at a time -- you can experience transformation like you would not believe.
One of my favorite quotes comes from "The Penguin," John Bingham, a proponent for running your own race, at your own pace, whatever that may be:
"The miracle isn't that I finished, the miracle is that I had the courage to start."
What BIG thing will you attempt in 2013, one step at a time, one week at a time?
How will you harness the "Power of 52"?
I wish you all a fantastic new year. I wish you courage, miracles, and a mighty 2013.