My daughter used to run on a track team every spring. She is naturally fast and coordinated. However, she is also quite independent and back then, difficult to coach. She had her own ideas about technique as well as what distance was best for her. Oh yes, she was also highly distractible. Whenever she ran, you didn’t know what would happen because the range of her performance was wide. One of of the meets had an 8th grade co-ed relay, with each student running 400 meters. Her team was small. They didn’t have two 8th grade boys and two 8th grade girls. So the coach put younger kids on the relay team, three younger girls and one 8th grade boy.

My daughter was one of the younger girls. They had not practiced prior to the meet. As I recall, she was second or third in the relay. The hand off to her was seamless; the hand off to the runner after her was seamless. She was ready to start when it was time to go and she absolutely flew down the track, passing all of the other teams by a rather large margin. The rest of the team ran well and held on to the lead she’d created. They tied the record time for the Archdiocese. The whole thing was really quite marvelous to watch.

In a relay race, speed obviously counts. But the most critical parts of the race are the hand offs. One has to hold on to the baton for exactly the right amount of time, not too long or too short. And the other part of it is taking the baton at just the right moment.

Much is written about painful feelings, especially those associated with grief. How long do we keep them. When do we let them go? When do we take them on. The relay race keeps coming into my mind. We can’t stay out of the race, altogether. We can’t deny or suppress painful feelings. To do so is a recipe for unhappiness and often leaves us alone. It is too hard to connect with others when one is coping by disconnecting with oneself.

Then there is the other problem, hanging on to the painful feelings too long. This is also a recipe for unhappiness and suffering, often alone. It is hard to connect with others if holding on to pain leaves no room in our hands to hold onto positives in our lives.

This all strikes me as rather complex. Sometimes I need to hang on longer than others want me to. Sometimes, I need to move on, at least temporarily to be functional in my life, to be good at my job, to be a good mother, to be a good friend, and to be a good wife. Sometimes I move on just to give myself a break.

It can all seem like one big game of trial and error. I know that practice helps and life provides frequent opportunities for holding on or letting go of painful emotions. I’m not keen on trial and error, though. I am a pattern maker, an observer.

I have taken on more work lately. My concentration and stamina are improved. I am happy to be able to participate more fully in my professional life, especially since my business operating costs have increased due to my new office’s significantly higher monthly rent. But this change has also made it harder for me to go walking everyday. I am still walking regularly, about five times per week.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a pattern. Overall, I am much more patient and less irritable with my family. But sometimes I get my feelings hurt, feel anxious, and get a little heated. My reaction is not huge but it is out of scale with the situation. This almost always happens on a day I have not gone for a walk.

Hold on.

Let go.

Put on the walking shoes.