It hurts, in so many ways. But it doesn’t change, no matter the willpower you deign to throw at it. Our bodies, our effort, our lives are on a direct path toward decay.
So, what do you do now? Do you fight the dying embers of reality? Do you acquiesce to the compulsive fear of the darkness beyond? Or, do you take a breath, accept the lack of power over fate, and carry on with a smile?
I’m not sure what you choose and, depending on the day, I’m not always certain which one I choose. I want it to always be the calm stoic who wins out, viewing my fate as one amongst many, an endless passage of life connected to its surroundings. But some days I feel like I should be special. Some days, I feel like I shouldn’t have to accept the downward trend of life into the absence of consciousness.
This ever-swaying pendulum is a constant in my training as well. The peaks and valleys glare at me from my Garmin and Strava accounts as I look back to find my progression flowing alongside my mental state. I’m sure it’s possible to separate the two, but for me, my running is a direct correlation to my outlook on life. When I first got into running cross country as a kid, it was to find my way onto a team in school. I hoped my participation among the other popular kids in sports would bring with it the ability to act as they did in the hallways and around our classmates.
It didn’t. Four letters from three sports and in academics at three different high schools offered nothing but trinkets to stare at from time to time and wonder what they were worth. There was no joy in my effort dispensed, only desire for something more, something unattainable – other people’s acceptance, as well as my own.
I was constantly in pursuit of finding my flaws. At that time, they were ever-present and it was a pervasive notion that if I broke myself down enough, eventually I would find a foundation worth building back anew from. If this sounds familiar to anyone reading it, then you probably know that you never reach that point. There’s always more of yourself to be broken down and ridiculed.
In life, and in running, my mental state didn’t begin to change for the better until I released the pressure cooker churning my emotions. There is a place for goals and desires in life and training. We need direction and purpose and these can be hard to focus on without the drive goal orientation offers. The times in which I can distinguish between emotions and running are my most productive because I can clearly state to myself my abilities and what my performance should accurately look like. In these moments I feel accomplished, and I feel like I can finally pursue the goals I’ve laid out.
But what is the final purpose of a goal? Is it truly just to reach a certain mileage? Is it just about shaving a couple of minutes off a marathon time? Or, is it about you, that face you see each day in the mirror, changing over time, but still desperate to find acceptance within yourself or from others, clinging on to an image of yourself long lost to time?
We don’t have much life left and a good goal based on bad reasoning can eat away at the pleasure we’re allotted before we drift away into the night. Break past the surface answer to your goals and find the foundation behind them. If it’s faulty, you’ll never be at peace with your progress. We all deserve peace.
One day we will be raising our parting glass, and saying our goodbyes. Take the time to find peace with yourself now, so you can say goodbye to your life with the reflection and hallowed remembrance it deserves.
But since it fell into my lot, that I should rise and you should not.
I’ll gently rise and softly call, good night and joy be to you all.