Personal Writing

When halfway isn’t nearly far enough

Dr Marry and I go to spin class 3-4 times/week. I often gripe about it because I’d always much rather be sitting somewhere comfortable, reading or these days writing. But he’s totally committed to it, which is ultimately great because it’s good for me to actually exercise a little now and again, and there was a time not all that long ago that he wouldn’t do anything like this…but that’s for another blog post.

When class starts, the instructors often tell us to “set an intention.” It’s usually in that moment that I tell myself to stop being such a jerk about spin class: I have a healthy body that can actually do it, there was a long stretch in my life where this simply would not have been feasible financially and, oh yeah, it’s good for my health and longevity. So shut up, move your legs and be grateful! And by the time I’m done yelling at myself, I usually am grateful—I guess it’s my little exercise “schtick.”

About 35 minutes into class, we have a connect song; it’s a mental break period, not to slow down but to move our focus away from our legs and arms and on to our minds. The music shifts to something uplifting or inviting, and it’s 3-4 minutes to simply “be.”

On Sunday, Bri, this rock hard instructor who could topple me with the flick of her wrist, which lives at the end of her exquisitely toned arm, asked us to think about where we were only going halfway in our lives. Where were we giving 50% but nothing more. And why?

I’m spinning, trying to add another mile to my odometer, but really I’m unpacking those questions.

Where do I only go halfway in my life?

I have this sinking feeling that it’s almost everywhere outside of a few key areas. I can say with certainty that I actively parented and currently attend to my marriage with way closer to 100%, but what about my own self?

I think I have maybe never brought more than 50% to much of my own life, my desires and my goals. And I can’t articulate it right there, but as Dr Marry and I are talking about it on the car ride home, I realize that it’s because I am actually scared of success.

Backstory: When I was growing up, my mom instilled in me a belief that I could be anything. It sounds insane in today’s world, and I never did, nor did she encourage me to do, a single thing to actually make this even the remotest reality, but she used to tell me that I could be Miss America (can you even imagine being more off the mark about ME???). I never entered or desired to enter a single pageant, but I think she perhaps thought I would just be walking down a street in the small town in North Dakota where I grew up one day and someone would bequeath the title on to me. I would wave and cry all the way down Main Street as “There She is…Miss America…” blared out from some hidden community-wide speakers.

It’s funny to think about today, but actually what she meant was that I could reach high and hit the mark. And even as I looked at her with some serious level of incredulity anytime she said it, I also kind of understood that she was not saying I was literally going to be Miss America—that was just a metaphorical example of success. So I believed her.

Except that, in rare moments where she felt anxious, like when I started talking about going off to college, she would turn on me and say, “Who do you think you are to go anywhere better than (the college) down the street?”

And I would look at her, confused, because…well because I was Miss America, and Miss America strode confidently down that long runway and off into the great big world.

But maybe it wasn’t a metaphor, and I certainly wasn’t in training to be Miss America, so if I couldn’t be her, then maybe I couldn’t really be anything.

So I have internally waffled back and forth my entire life. I have confidence coming out of my earlobes. You better believe that I am not joking when I say I’m Mary Poppins, and I’m practically perfect in every way.

But I’m also consumed with self doubt: I’m not as thin as I want/need to be. I’m aging poorly. I can’t play the piano. I’m too opinionated for most people’s comfort-level. I can’t close the powerful work deals I need to close. I’ve failed as a Bush Fellowship finalist…twice. I didn’t get cast in way more commercials than I ever did get cast in. I never made it to Hollywood. Hell, I never made it further than 5 miles from the house I lived in when I graduated from high school…

So of course I only bring 50% to the table. My balance is way out of balance because I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m probably perfectly imperfect. The part of me that always lives outside my body, looking down on this funny journey known as my life, is saying, “Huh. Get in line on this one, sweetheart. It’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back there.

I had this moment in spin class that I unpacked in the car on the way home, and now I’m wondering what to do with it. I’m wondering where to show up with 65%, 75% maybe 83%.

I’ve decided that it’s here…it’s in the blog, in my writing and hopefully in my presenting. That’s why I named it extraordinary. I am absolutely at the intersection of amazing and so, so ordinary (extra ordinary. Get it?). This realization is not why I named it extraordinary when I did it, but it makes perfect sense now.

Gosh, aren’t we all at that intersection? Aren’t we all accomplishing and failing, sometimes simultaneously, all the time? Rising and falling, ebbing and flowing?

So I’m here…bringing way more than 50% to this blog. I’m committed to sharing my vulnerabilities, my fears, my neuroses AND my joys and successes where it makes sense. Because I think we are all on this journey together, and I’d rather get to know the people I am standing around in a real, authentic way.

I’m looking forward to seeing you in the line.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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