During my runs, of late, I’ve been forgoing the usual angst I carry around on my shoulder like a badge of some unholy honor, and casting my gaze – and my thoughts – around at the rest of the world.
In the past few years, the obsession I’ve gained for fitness and health has been a remarkable triumph for me. Other folks will point out many of the great things it has instilled. And I guess if you’re going to have an obsession, one that promotes a standard of living that far exceeds the one you had previously been living for the past umpteen years, this isn’t a bad one to have.
Still there are things that you can overlook, that can be neglected (or maybe have been still neglected for far longer than you knew.) It’s pretty simple to rediscover these things but it certainly isn’t easy. Everyone most likely has their own path into it but I think I’ve discovered that, for me, running is the demon that wants to grow angel’s wings.
It’s been said before, and I don’t know if you’d call it a cliche (I don’t really care), that as we get older, as we walk that path of adulthood – an incredible journey that is both miraculous and mundane – sometimes that little kid inside gets lost. Most people think, when you hear a phrase like that, you’re talking about innocence or naivety. I think it goes beyond that. I think it takes one step further to that greatness of human emotion.
Joy is simple. It’s wonderful. It’s perfect. It’s captivating. And it’s contagious.
As we plod through our adult lives, many of us find the need to criticize and correct. To change and adapt. Some, like myself, are even harder on ourselves than on others – a fact which often amazes people when they think we’ve been hard on them and then they see what hard really is when we do it to ourselves. But the fact remains that we often forget one small simple thing.
It’s not just enough to stop and smell the roses. You’ve got to find the simple joy in stopping to smell those damn flowers.
Three weeks ago I had a very important converstation which began to boil and bubble thoughts in my head. My skin began to leak this new idea and I started to roll around with this concept that somewhere along the journey of life – and it started a long, long time ago just ask my old neighbors – I’d forgotten what real joy is.
Sure, I’d had the occasional glimpse. Like when my buddy Marcus and I were going on our three week backpacking trip through England, Scotland and Ireland and we got drunk on the top of a mountain in an old Irish pub watching the Simpsons in Gaelic and listening to a local go on and on about ‘that Jooo Mantaana.” Or the moment of total and utter elation after I finished my very first triathlon. Or when CJ (the dillwad formerly known as Mindcrime) told me he wanted me to be the Godfather of sweet little Molly (a fact that continues to disturb his wife, I’m sure.) Or the best of all, the day my wife Krista came out to meet me in the old Colonial Inn and we said our vows before a hundred friends and relatives.
But nothing of the simple things in life have really kept me joyful. And I had no clue as to why.
So, for these last three weeks as those thoughts have been ponderously laboring around in my noodle, I’ve promised myself that I’m not just going to look around. I’m going to ENJOY looking around.
It’s becoming more and more prominent during my training. Especially my runs. Today it is drizzling outside. It’s a bit cool but nothing that will freeze your boogers to your nose or anything. It’s overcast, but you can tell the sun wants to bust up the clouds and shine. I grabbed my shoes and my iPod Shuffle and headed out the door for a quick run before my race tomorrow. The light drizzle quickly beaded up on my eyelashes and I could feel it running down the back of my neck as I ran.
I warmed up lightly, circling the neighborhood before widening my distance to the subdivision behind the one we currently live in. The hills are fairly prominent, some steep, some long, but always constant and it’s the sort of homes that look like they were cut from the same plastic brick mold. Cars would pass me by and I could see in the window the folks that were heading for a late breakfast or off to class or maybe to work. Some would smile and wave. Other’s wouldn’t even look at me. I always smiled, wondering what was going through each of their minds. A little girl in a passenger seat stared at me the whole time we were approaching each other and as I ran past I could see here whirl quickly to her mother and rattle of a hundred questions. “I want a piece of cake when we get home.” “How long is it going to rain?” “Is Daddy coming home tomorrow or the next day, I can’t remember?” “Why is that man running in the rain?” “Ms. Beasley wants to play tea when we get home, k?”
A cat, sitting along the road hunkers down when she sees me coming. Her tail twitches a few times and I’d swear she’s giving good consideration to whether she thinks she can swat me and use me for a snack. I can see the moment she decides I’m way too big for that, her eyes get just ever so slightly larger, and she starts to back away. I meow at her gently, slowing to a walk, and she hesitates, shakes the rain from her head and then rubs against my leg. I reach down, pet her gently once or twice, scratch behind her ears and then head off again.
Home comes in sight. I look at my watch. 35 minutes. Time for cool-down. I slow to a veritable crawl and walk for a few minutes, gazing at the green trees and budding flowers around me. I love the vibrant colors and my wife’s garden is a wonder to behold. You could spot it a mile away if our neighborhood was flat.
I’m wet, slightly cold, and loving ever minute it of it.
What a joy it is to see the world.