Suffering for a Purpose

Another fight.  Not with anyone really, with myself, or should I say my fear.  I am at the tail-end of yet another weekend consisting of a 50k ‘training run’ (just feels weird to say that, I’ve raced this distance before and there’s really nothing ‘just a training run’ about it), and a 10 mile ‘easy’ run (that’s the spirit).  I can feel my crankiness starting to set in.  Somehow this is causing embarrassment for me.  I find myself ‘glazing’ when I get home with my family (a term I use to describe when I’m actually uncomfortable acknowledging my emotions to myself, or showing them to others, and instead just ‘paste’ on a smile).  Why?  Simple. Because I don’t want to admit to myself and my family that I’m actually tired.  I  may need a little bit of understanding if I seem off.  I’m afraid of the pain this would cause.  Not for them, if I’m honest, but the pain it would cause me. 

The emotional exposure.  How about if they’re not receptive to what I needed?  How about if they use my honest expression of how I’m feeling against me later during a disagreement and tell me, “You’re just exhausted and making a thing of it!”  There’s also a smidge of unfounded self-shaming involved because I’m tired and self-questioning, does that mean I’m doing something wrong? (Fairly sure that, when I’m not exhausted, I believe running 42 miles in a weekend is a real reason to be tired). 

All of the things my emotions are signalling to me that I need (rest, letting others know where I’m at emotionally, letting go of the self-judgment, and acknowledging the merits of my fatigue) feels very painful at the moment. Actually a bit too painful to do.  But the truth of the matter is, I’m suffering anyway by not doing it.

All life is suffering.  Yet we try to avoid it in all its forms.  Emotional exposure to ourselves and others.  Situations that require trusting people, or allowing potentially difficult situations to naturally unfold and trusting that we are capable of handling our own vulnerability.  Yet, even when we are at our ‘glazing best’–when we are trying to be intellectual and emotional ‘jedis’, plotting, navigating, and scripting all of our answers to the best of our abilities…we still suffer.

We suffer with self-disappointment. We suffer with that nagging, achy pain in our gut that wrenches on us about something we wanted to try but we’re afraid of failure, so never went ahead.  But at least the pain of that fear is private, so we think it’s better than a public display of pain: physical, mental, or emotional.  We suffer through apathy.  The “woulda’, shoulda’, coulda’s” that pile up in the trenches of our minds and erode our self confidence.  As a result, we try to numb that shame through substance use or abuse in its many forms, or we just act out on others: our friends, our loved ones, anything to vent that disappointment and anger within us which of course…causes us more shame. To put it plainly, when we try to avoid our suffering we still feel pain.  Instead of feeling the confidence and self affirmation, even in a complete ‘belly flop’ of a public set back, we choose the silence and privacy of growing fearful and smaller by ourselves.

If we must suffer, we should choose our suffering.  We could exert our will over that which we can.  Those things that only we have control over, that live within us, that cause us discomfort.  Only then do we truly live a life that’s ours.  A life where we’re not wasting our intellect and emotional savvy to ‘read’ all of the situations before they come up, ducking and weaving all of the uncomfortable people, places, and things that occur in our lives and then patting ourselves on our back for being clever.  

Being vulnerable, feeling all of our emotions, and meeting situations and people where they are is truly living.  We have a choice. We can accept the pain that comes with conformity and fear of emotional vulnerability, or we can choose to think, feel and act in ways in our life that may have us uncomfortable, but then we’re in the driver’s seat.  It is only when we stretch and strive, only when we grow do we truly live.  

So I choose to continue to pursue difficult endeavors that challenge me physically, mentally, and emotionally.  These are the choices that will provide me with the opportunity to grow, as long as I honor my effort…and my fatigue.  So, I’m going to let my family know where I’m at and go take a much-needed nap… I hope they’ll join me.