Redefine Possible

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday.  In fact, it’s my favorite.  We gather with family and friends to enjoy each other and take a moment to acknowledge what we are grateful for.  The act of experiencing gratitude can be very centering.  It’s almost impossible to be focused on gratitude and be anywhere but present in the moment. Gratitude helps level us and can lead to greater contentment and less anxiety if practiced regularly.  However, I’d like to draw attention to another facet of Thanksgiving’s origins that receives far less attention: bold choice and action.


The Pilgrims fled England to escape persecution and temporarily settled in Holland where they faced an almost equally aversive threat of assimilation.  They could have chosen to remain in Holland and lose their identity or return to the cozy familiarity of England and compromise their values.  Instead, they created a third, bold alternative that few before had considered.  They chose to cross the Atlantic and create their own haven in foreign, unfamiliar and untamed territory.  They chose to redefine what was possible.


The Pilgrims faced a difficult journey that lasted 65 days.  By the time they arrived at what we call Cape Cod, one passenger had died, one crewmember had died and one baby had been born.  They then wintered aboard the Mayflower where half of the passengers and crew died from disease and starvation.  Ultimately they left the ship and created what was to become the second successful British colony in North America.


I have come to like running marathons.  They hold special meaning for me and represent my own personal practice of gratitude for all that life offers.  I’ve written about this elsewhere.  However, I fell into a pattern of running two marathons a year: San Francisco and New York City.  For some arbitrary reason I decided this would be my ritual.  2012 was to be no different; I was signed up for San Francisco in July and New York in November.  Four days before the San Francisco marathon my father passed away and I did not participate.  Rather than not take advantage of my hard training I found another marathon to run two months later.  It turned out to be a beautiful event in the Adirondack Mountains.  What an eye opener!  And what fun!  I also beat my best time by 13 minutes.   Lightening struck twice this year as hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the New York City marathon.  Again, rather than lose my training I entered the Philadelphia marathon, which was just a few weeks later. It was another great, new experience and I ran it yet 10 minutes faster.  I also got to see the Liberty Bell for the first time!  The motto of the Philadelphia marathon is “Redefine Possible.” That really sank in. I am now aiming for two new marathons every year.


There is always unrecognized opportunity within reach.  Familiar routine and habitual choices can obscure what is truly possible.  The Pilgrims chose “Option C, none of the above.” It was not an easy or obvious choice yet the consequences of that choice still reverberate today.  They could not have foreseen the impact of that choice on their lives or those of subsequent generations yet their bold adventure in redefining what was possible serves as a great lesson for us in considering what is truly possible in our own lives.  Recognizing what is possible is most of what is needed for achieving it.  The possibilities are usually right in front of us.  All that is required is taking the moment to redefine possible. 


Take a moment at the table this Thanksgiving to be thankful not only for what you have but for the possibilities, yet unrecognized, available to you.  Have a great holiday!

(Other Thoughts and Essays)


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