Sunday, August 19, 2012

Joylessness, Joyfulness and Turtles

I've had my share of joyless times of late. Injuries, illness, feelings of being overworked while problem after problem mounts at my job, and so on......

The truth is I have a lot of good things going on for me....a great wife and young adult daughters that are turning out to be good women, a good job that has provided me with a respected position and has me doing exciting things within my chosen occupation and last, but far from least, the drive and ability to have changed my life and chose to participate in activities in which most people would dream participating--if they even dared to dream boldly.

In the last week, my troubles felt like they continued on.

However, I began to realize the joyless moments did not minimize the joyful moments. We all have periods of of darkness in our lives, but what matters is how we deal with them. This past week I was swimming at the pool when I was asked to split a lane by a friend and coach with my training group. However, in this case the coach was no ordinary coach, but was professional triathlete Sarah Gray. As I swam back and forth having a better than average swim for myself, I got to see Sarah blow by me time and again, leaving me feeling like I was a turtle (in fact I logged this turtle reference in my personal log). However, in this case I took joy from having a good swim and did not feel down at all just because I was not as fast as another athlete, in this case a professional athlete who can swim circles around most people.

As the week went on I saw other bright spots spots being revealed in the midst of darker spots. These spots stood out to me in stark contrast to the darkness that surrounded them. The more I noticed this, the more I realized the good things around me. In fact it is the days with little joy in them that have reminded me how blessed I am normally and how much joyfulness usually is present in my life. In a strange way it has been the joyless moments that have allowed me to have a greater appreciation for the better moments of my life, which in turn allows my to better appreciate those moments which contain less joy.

Due to circumstances in my weekend I was unable to conduct my normal bike training workout and I replaced this with an extra run. I ran almost 8 miles on Saturday and then I also ran 8 miles on Sunday for my normal bike workout. Saturday's workout was late in the afternoon as storms had come by and narrowly missed the area, which helped cool things a bit. As I was a several miles into the run I came across a pond with several turtles along the edge. As I stopped for a closer look, several of the turtles came out to look at me.

As the turtles came closer I took a step forward. This caused all but the closest one to return to the relative safety of the water. However, the closest turtle kept coming until we were within a foot of each other, and then we stared at each other for a moment. It seemed that my turtle comparison earlier in the week was not accident and I felt that I was just fine with the turtle comparison. As a great friend told me when I recounted this story, turtles are strong and long-lived. While they are also cautious, they are not as slow as many believe them to be--particularly in their natural surroundings. After a moment I left the turtle and continued with my run. This was just a long slow run but it was faster than expected while I maintained an appropriate training heart rate for a long, slow run.

In the course of training, most of my advances have come from the judicious application of long, slow training to improve my body systems. In this case, the turtle may be the perfect symbolism for me and my advances.

As I came into my run this morning, I expected a slower run due to it being a back to back daily run. I was wrong in this case as it proved to be a very good run while staying low in my heart rate zones. Not only that, today but I was also feeling great! A little more than halfway through this run I realized that, for the first time since returning to an active lifestyle, I had felt the feelings of complete joy and serenity while running in a way that felt it was a natural run that I could maintain all day. I've know for some time that I could run all day--in fact I did it in February--but this was the first time that I had reclaimed those feelings from my runs while I was in my 20's.

That felt truly joyful!

No comments: