How I Ate An Elephant

I Know Where You’ve Been-Queen Latifah


I started walking in January of this year. My friend said he would meet me for coffee at the Starbucks if I walked there. I considered his offer with a lot of fear and self-doubt. I was uncertain if I could walk 1.5 miles. With one foot in front of the other I did it. One day led to the next day.  One week led to the next week.

I continued to walk, and then I started to jog.  In reality it wasn’t really a jog, just a faster walk.  I would move forward a few feet, only to collapse inward with tachycardia and shortness of breath.  I would stumble along for a bit, and then attempt a few feet more.  This accomplishment, trivial for most, but momentous for a person who became visibly weak climbing a single flight of stairs.

It is difficult for me to do things for myself.  It is easier for me to do things for others.  I know this about myself, and I chose to use this information to push myself forward.  You see there was a little church that was just over the river from my house.  The church on Jefferson Avenue was exactly one-half mile away.  I pondered if I would ever be able to jog all the way to that little church.  I thought it impossible, but something drove me forward.  A few steps, then a few more.  The interval between walking and jogging becoming shorter.

I motivated myself by imagining that I would do an inspirational video for others.  The man who could barely walk, now able to jog a half of a mile!  Like many of my grandiose ideas it started simply with me wearing a GoPro to film the event.  Soon my imagination included my son with a camera behind me.  Then my daughter would have a camera in front, and so it went. I even thought about the dramatic finale with several people clapping for me as I ran into the church parking lot, panting and near total exhaustion.  The thought of doing something creative drove me forward.  The thought that someone could watch the video and be inspired to improve their health drove me forward. I was jogging more and walking less.  Never easy, but less difficult.

I selected a soundtrack for my proposed inspirational video. Strangely, it was a quasi spiritual from the play “Hairspray.” A song triumphing the strength of a group discriminated against. A song of hope and commitment. A song of a better life. The song resonated with me and the discrimination that I had felt.  I would listen to the song when I would attempt to jog, and it pushed me forward.

All of the ideas, all of the planning, and then it happened. I’m not sure how it happened.  I was jogging past the little church.  I was jogging the 1.5 miles to Starbucks.  Each 100 feet that had seemed so incredibly difficult in the beginning, now joined together. The creation of my inspirational video had become meaningless, as I was now running three times the distance. The purpose of my video was to inspire. The thought of making it was inspirational.  I guess that the inspiration was intended only for me.

This morning I was jogging, not to Starbucks, but on a motorized and rubberized mat in an almost empty gym.  Next to me was my Starbuck’s friend who was jogging on his own treadmill. Earbuds in my ears, iPhone playing “I Know Where You’ve Been.”  Still not effortless, but less of an effort.  I wondered… should attempt a 5K in the spring?  One foot in front of the other.  Right, left, right, left… one foot in front of the other.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  Today my goal is to remember this.