This morning I woke up to a cool stiff breeze from the northwest, the tail end to some storms that pushed through North Texas last night.
I cue up a podcast to take me my 5-ish miles and about 4 minutes into it, I had to turn it off. The host was talking about how everyone feels and how the world and our country are doing. I spend a lot of time with words, splitting them, editing them, and thinking about them. And this morning when a dude from affluence started to try to relate with the feelings of the world en masse. I honestly just couldn't take it. No one knows how everyone feels, assumptions about everyone always reflect the individual opinions of the speaker. And while we can agree on opinions, the thoughts of everyone are at best ambiguous and most likely closer to absolute mystery. This got me thinking though, recently a number of people have reached out from the social medias to ask how they should get started on this path of running. And so while I will not speak for everyone I can be brutally honest about myself, and you the reader can determine if this applies to you.
I have a little motto that I write in places here and there. Places where I'll see it and think about it. The motto is Leisure is the Enemy. The very idea that there will be a time where you sit back and everything is done is a complete fallacy. The idea of something being done, finite, over, is one that in my mind leads to anxiety. I want to always be learning, always be striving, always be laughing, the very idea that there is a possibility that I could stop is like saying the world could stop rotating. Impossible. I thought about this a lot when I first started running seriously. I've always wanted to run Western States. But when I thought about it enough, I realized that when I hit that goal, when I reach that track and get that buckle, I'd probably immediately say "What's next." The fact that this thought would cross my mind puzzled me deeply, to lead up to something for years only to then say what's next after getting there. It cheapened the whole experience for me, even before I had it, cheapened my running as a means to an end. I knew that was not the path I wanted. These never good enough behaviors are paradoxical to my thought process that nothing ever ends. How could both of those exist without losing one's mind.
In my mind that is where living in the present moment comes in. I cannot control the events that happen 5 years from now, 3 weeks from now, or even 2 hours from now. I struggle with this concept because as a husband, father, worker, runner, I have to prepare, have to look ahead, and I have to provide. And that is where these two paradoxical concepts come together for me. How I can both look forward to the future but stay in the present.
Accept the work as the fun, and the fun never ends.
Accepting the things required to do the things I want, is really the only way I can operate. Acceptance is something that needs to happen daily, hourly sometimes. Acceptance at 4:00am on a Tuesday and its raining out but I need 8 miles. Acceptance that I feel like crap at mile 30 of 100. Acceptance that right now I'm not as fast as I would like to be. Acceptance that I probably need to cut sugar so I can be the runner I want to be. Acceptance get's a bad wrap, but accepting the current circumstances is almost always the best way to make a plan to achieve something in the future, at least in my circumstances. This has allowed me to drop the stuff that clouds my thoughts, allows me to give context to individual choices as they become evident, and to forgive people for transgressions. I accept that I need to wake the fuck up by 4:30 to get 6 miles in, I accept that after years of running it really isn't easier. Accepting the sometimes shittiness of any moment often makes it look a lot less shittier.
Then there is the big acceptance. The thing that brings this ramble all together. How to plan for the future yet enjoy every second of the now. I've had to accept that death is certainly a part of life, part of my specific life. Not in the abstract. But in the amazingly specific. I will die. This fact, when placed into the context of life gives every moment meaning. There is no "free" time. I want to spend every minute doing things I want to do. To live with intention. I get this impression from television and media, that I should work my ass off now and retire. To work towards a future point that supposedly makes all the time wasted worth it. Fuck that. Do I want my day job until I'm 75? No, but I'm sure as hell not going to sacrifice the things I really want to do simply for the things that I "need" to do. Sacrifice is bullshit, we can do it all. We can work hard. We can cut the excess. We can do it well. We can make mistakes and fuck shit up. We can apologize and move on. We can move to the woods and only front the essential truths of life. We can do fucking anything. So if you want to run a 10k, 50k, or a-god-damned 100 miles, just accept that it will only be the most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of your entire life, it will be terrible sometimes and no one and most certainly not everyone will give a quarter of a shit or even try to understand. I am a runner, and if you want to join me and the other Last Horses out there, accept that it is going to be hard, probably everyday, and it will be death before DNF.