Being Present during the Tough Times to Live Profoundly during the Joyful Times
I’ve been trying to figure out how to process this all. Over the past year I have learned various lessons that remind me to be present during the tough times. Here’s the most recent and benign example. Yesterday, I set out for a 12 mile run. I had been sick the day before because I tried a new energy drink mix after eating all day that did not sit well with my stomach. I texted my running sister and told her I couldn’t make Saturday’s run. We went back and forth and in the end we were going! I was good up until about mile 9, my previous week’s peak. We continued to run and then started encountering a few rolling hills. My legs felt like tree trunks and did not want to lift themselves. My running sister literally had to hold my hand to make me keep up the pace during these times. People were staring and I know I was making the ugliest “I can’t” face ever, but I kept moving. I wanted to accomplish this goal. She believed in me, I had to believe in me. I started thinking I no longer wanted to be a runner. Screw the half marathon coming up in 2 weeks. Then it kicked in, I hadn’t fully understood the notion that running is mental until this moment. When you THINK your body wants to give out the mind truly has to take control and keep you moving. As my sis pointed out…my breathing was fine so I was fine. Honestly, my lungs felt pretty darn good. By mile 10.5/11 I was good again!
Here’s the real point I’m trying to make though. The run might be over now, but this was a huge accomplishment for me that I deserve to relish in and brag about for however long I want. I couldn’t fully recognize its value if I wasn’t present and in tune with myself, all of the emotions, negative self talk, positive self talk, physical pain in various areas of my body that was happening at that moment. Now, I’m home writing this blog, chatting with a friend, and watching a sermon online and I’m fine. In retrospect, yeah, I can do 12 miles again. It’s done, it’s accomplished, and I can rave about it. The adrenaline rush has worn off, but I sit with so many lessons. If I wasn’t present in that moment, I couldn’t fully appreciate having accomplished it. This helps me better understand the Buddhist notion that struggle and joy need each other. Running has become the analogy for so many other things in life for me now. Below are a few examples of how this idea transfers to additional scenarios.
Family: Without seeing my family ill, struggling through the process of not being the one in control, praying for their improvement and just experiencing overall vulnerability and uncertainty, I would not have this deep appreciation for their present recovery and roles they have played and continue to play in my life. Even when we are not facing tough times with family, we need to be present and not take them for granted.
Relationships: I have been single for a while. There are times I relish in this single-hood and times when I wonder when I’ll meet a companion who just feels right. I know the moment is going to come when I’m in a loving relationship and things are “blissful.” Ha! Well, not always. I also realize that these relationships can easily lose their meaning when it just becomes a routine or a given. Being reflective these years, months, days and counting leading up to this point (to come) can help me engage this relationship (to come) with fervor and value the journey.
Work, School, Finance: Right now I am able to live a decent life. Though I may complain about all of the work and wanting more money for vacations, I’m good. I know there will be a day when I am done with school. I know there will be a day when I may have a bit more financial security and control over my work. Again, being present throughout the process helps me recognize my needs in these areas, why I deserve certain wants, and how to use what I have attained for the benefits of others.
I guess the underlying message that I am struggling with putting into words is that once we have what we want it can often lose its zest. If we remember the process it took to get where we want to be, it allows us to enjoy these moments profoundly and continue to strive for increased joy. Sankofa.