If anyone had suggested that I’d be running a 5k, let alone trying to run a half marathon as my ultimate goal, I would have laughed and told them they were crazy! The last time I ran a mile of any kind was when I was in middle school (15 years ago) and they used to do those fitness tests that everyone hated. I dreaded the mile runs, knowing that my sides would hurt and I’d be exhausted and most likely lagging behind all my more athletic classmates. I never really thought about why I was never “good” at sports, but in all probability I think it has something to do with the fact that my dad always told me, “You’ll never be athletic like me and Dakota.” Dakota, my younger brother by 4 1/2 years, always played every sport in the book. He started off in baseball, and continued that throughout high school. He also participated in basketball, soccer and golf, and I’m sure he would have attempted football had our school had a team on which to participate. I, on the other hand, was never “good enough” for my father. I desperately wanted his attention and for him to be proud of me, and felt the only way to do this was to participate in sports that he didn’t consider ‘girly.’ (Note: being on the dance team did not qualify me for this). So I busted my butt in volleyball practice, martial arts, basketball, only to quit when it didn’t work out for me the way I’d hoped. My father always told me I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be a high school athlete or play on varsity teams, so my mentality was, why even try? If I wasn’t going to make it anyway, why put forth the effort? Therein lies the issue that so many people grapple with daily.
Most of us want something for nothing. We want to be thin without exercising or dieting, successful without taking risks, and loved without losing anything or risking disappointment. This idea of having ‘something for nothing’ in life is classic American Dream style. America is the only culture in the world that expects life to be comfortable and relatively pain free. Come here, kick up your heels, work a little, retire wealthy, live the rest of your life having fun and traveling. That’s the expectation; the reality is much different.
Alan Watts, a philosopher, said, “Good without evil is like up without down, and…to make an ideal of pursuing the good is like trying to get rid of the left by constantly turning right.”
The first time I considered the possibility that I might actually be able to accomplish something I was proud of in the field of athletics was last year (2013), when I decided that I should start working out. “Should” always being the operative word. Everyone “should” work out, everyone “should” be healthy, but “should” doesn’t always translate into will. I figured because I wasn’t fat and had no danger of gaining a lot of weight that I was fine. This didn’t change the fact that, like many other Americans, I couldn’t walk up three flights of stairs to my apartment without breathing hard. It was this, along with an education I had recently been receiving in the benefits of detoxing and eating clean that caused me to motivate my couch potato self enough to run a few miles. That only lasted a few weeks though, as inevitably, I got bored. Then I went on a cruise, and it was all downhill from there. I told myself I’d run while on the ship, but let’s face it, most people don’t work out while on vacation. I was no exception to this rule. Basically, I ran a few times over the summer, decided that it wasn’t getting any easier for me (read: I was still out of breath and sweaty and it was too ‘hard’ to keep going) that I thought it was pointless to continue. Since when was I ever ‘good’ at any sport? What crazy idea had made me believe I could be ‘good’ at running? So, like many other times in my life, I gave up. Gave up on detoxing, gave up on running, and fell back into my bad habits. Frequently, it is our own brains that stop us from accomplishing the greatest things we are capable of in life. “Head trash” as it was once referred to in my presence, is the ultimate killer of ideals.
We are so captivated by our collective myth of the happy ending that we rarely acknowledge the amount of work that has to go into getting to that point. We see the runner crossing the finish line with a record time, the couple on television having an everlasting romance full of passion and promise, the family that is perfect…2.5 kids, white picket fence, dog, money…etc. The truth is, each gain in life represents the loss of something else. We never move forward in life without losing something else. The Chinese symbol of yin and yang perfectly describes what the Western culture has trouble grasping or understanding…that for every light there is dark, for every positive there is a negative, for every day there is night. We can’t have one without the other, for how would you know you are happy if you never knew what it was like to be sad? How would you be able to appreciate love if you never knew what loss was? How would you be able to fully live and appreciate your life if you never knew what death was?
Many people, myself included, are afraid of loss. We are resistant to change, even when those changes promise to be positive. Surrendering to change means letting go of being in control. As much as we want our lives to be different, the truth is, we don’t like it much when our illusion of being in control is being challenged. Being in charge of our lives gives us the ability to attempt to avoid the experience of loss. Yet these efforts to circumvent loss are the very foundation of our stress and worry. No matter how much we profess to wanting change, the truth is, many of us would secretly rather stay the same, even if that means we continue to suffer. My thought process was that if I wasn’t getting fat and had very slim chances of actually gaining any large amount of weight, what need was there to work out? I was fine, slender, relatively healthy (or so I thought) and didn’t need to diet or work out. That was for overweight people. However, when we refuse to move forwards, it becomes clear in a relatively short time period that we are actually moving backwards. Refusing to take the next step, we actually suffer a loss of vitality. We become uninspired, depressed and resigned to continue living a life that is not extraordinary, but just there. This, my friends, is the death of us all. Going through life without really living, without committing to something bigger than yourself…you’ll end up at the end of your life saying, “What did I truly accomplish?”
I decided that I would accomplish something. I decided I wasn’t going to let life control me and just go about my daily routine the same way millions of others did. I’m determined to find my passion in this life, and do things I love. Even if I’m not sure what those are yet, for me, running is something that I can be proud of. When I cross the finish line of my first race, whether I’m in third place or 300th place, I will have accomplished something I’ve set out to do. It will be remarkable to me that I’ve done it and it will give me inspiration and something to work for. And that is my ultimate goal.