“When we numb the dark, we numb the light….there’s no such thing as selective emotional numbing….when we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy.”  Brene Brown, from The Gifts Of Imperfection.

If you read my last post Next Chapter, then you know that I said that I was going to change direction…that I was going to post less, be less structured, be free.  I made a promise to myself that I would not write another blog post until I had written at least a first draft of the essay on my son’s question.  Well, the day after posting Next Chapter, I went for a run, and it really was as if I had been set free.  What happened on this set free run…at least 3 different running related writing ideas came to me.  I came home and just jotted down the ideas without writing about them.  (By the way, this post is not based on any of those 3 ideas.)  The day after, I started the first draft of my “non-running” story of my son’s question.  Now that that essay is done, let’s get back to this blog.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching reading and podcast listening in the last few months.  I know that I’m very late to the Brene Brown party, but I finally read her book The Gifts of Imperfection, and I had a little light-bulb moment.  In it, she says that we can’t selectively numb negative emotions without simultaneously numbing positive ones.  When we suppress and ignore pain, we also don’t feel love and joy as deeply.  When we numb the bad emotions, we also are not able to fully feel the good ones….ding ding ding ding ding….. she had just put into words exactly what I have experienced over the last 2-3 years.

For most of my life, I have been a happy girl.  I have had family, friends, health, security…I have always been aware of how fortunate I have been.  When I started running, I began to realize that there was a certain amount of pain that I had always suppressed and numbed… that I had never allowed myself to fully feel.  I’m talking about both emotional pain and physical pain which I’ll get to later.  Through running, I stopped numbing pain….and when I stopped numbing pain, this happy girl started to feel a whole other level of joy that she didn’t know was there.  It was like my happy side went to the eye doctor and suddenly put on glasses and became aware that she wasn’t seeing clearly before…that what she thought was clear was actually blurry and could be so much more colorful and vibrant.

The same goes for the physical aspect of running.  I have easy runs and those feel great.  And then I have hard runs where I feel pain, exhaustion, depletion…..and the runner’s high after the depleting runs is so much greater.  I’ve also experienced this in Jake’s yoga class.  His power yoga class is generally hard, but there are definitely days that are harder than others.  Last week, I went to one of his classes after he was gone for 2 weeks, and it was particularly difficult.  It was like he came back from vacation with a vengeance…..it was one of those classes that you plead for child’s pose, when you are watching the sweat dripping off your nose into a puddle during half-moon, and every muscle fiber you have is quivering in an attempt to keep you in balance.  I call these classes “Death by Jake.”  When you lie in savasana after a “Death by Jake” session, you feel gratitude in every single cell of your body… much more so than you do after an easier class.

This idea of feeling and not numbing also reminds me of Allie’s “This Is Living” post.… that to feel your heart in your throat in a workout is not dying but living.  It brings back a quote from young breast cancer survivor mom who while training for a 200 mile bike ride to raise money for breast cancer wrote on her Facebook, “I’ve realized that I never truly feel as in the moment, as strong, as grateful of my health, or as alive as when I can barely breathe and feel as though I could keel over during an intense work out.  I am in constant awe of the human body.”  (She wrote this a few months ago…yes, I am constantly writing down and making note of things people say or write or do that make me pause and think.)

After that last “Death by Jake” class I told him what I’m naming the class.  His response was that he wouldn’t call it “Death by Jake.”  He said that is “Love by Jake.”  I guess he has already realized that to make you feel is actually a good thing…to make you feel is why he’s got other groupies like me who keep going back.  Are you walking through life numbing certain emotions?  Suppressing them?  If you are, I’d like to invite you to take a chance and feel them.  Feel the pain and see what happens to your joy.  Take yourself to the eye doctor and just try on some glasses and see what a world through clear eyes really looks like.  Yes, when you have 20/20 vision, you won’t be able to ignore all the hate, fear, and misfortune; but if you don’t allow yourself to see that, you won’t be able to see the many more beautiful people coming together to combat the tragedy and injustice in the world.

“If you can’t fly, then run.  If you can’t run, then walk.  If you can’t walk, then crawl.  But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

**In running news, I just did my second 20 miler (I’ve got 20/20 vision…ok that was terrible) and am officially in tapering miles mode until marathon day.  In blogging news, if you missed Next Chapter a couple of weeks ago, you may want to go back and read that:  Next Chapter.



My second 20 miler…I would think that maybe I could hope for a sub-4:30 instead of a sub 5 marathon based on this, but I feel like miles 20-26.2 are going to be slow…..


A little wall art close to Venice Beach.

About Paria

Runner, mother, pediatrician, blogger

18 comments on “Feel

  1. It’s like you knew I needed this today. I’d give anything not to feel the pain that I”m experiencing after the loss of my beloved dog this morning. I know it was the right thing for her, and that prolonging anything would be for me. Who wants to feel like this? But yep, running has taught me that pain is part of life, and that there are rewards after the pain goes away. I’m not quite sure what the rewards are after such a big loss. Time will tell.

    Thank you.

    • Wendy…I can’t imagine….after over 6 months of feeding our stray cat Ash who used to spend over 50% of his/her time in our yard, we haven’t seen him/her in one week, and I didn’t ever even get to pet him/her….and I come downstairs and hope he/she will be behind the window every day, but can only imagine that it has either been run over by a car or captured and taken to a shelter…not sure. Anyway, I’m so glad you connected with this post…. that’s what happens…I decide to write less and then what I write touches even just one person and I’m happy I did it…because we bloggers are all just about connecting with others… I’ll be thinking of you…and thank you!!

  2. Really interesting about numbing negative pain and not being able to feel good emotions. I have to think about that some more. Sometimes i have to tune out the negative so I am able to feel the positive. I saw that same MLK quote a few times today and I really like it. You’ve given me lots to think about today

    • Well, Deborah, I think there is a difference between tuning out pain, which is feeling it and choosing to move on from it, and completely suppressing it. You can acknowledge the presence of pain and then decide to focus on moving on towards positive (sort of a tuning out), which is different from not wanting to accept that there will sometimes be pain, and that it has a purpose.

  3. Wendy, I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. I feel that dogs are closer to God than people and so I cannot imagine such a loss. I hope that with time you and your family can heal. On some level, I do not believe anything completely ceases to exist, but only changes form and the spirit and love is forever. I cannot imagine though that this is any consolation and again I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    Paria jaan, this is such a deep and beautiful post. When we numb the pain in so many ways (in overworking, over eating, in self judgment, in anger, in war with ourselves or with others) we numb our ability to love. I was listening to a talk on this today. It’s like you knew.

    Congrats on your second 20mi run!! So proud of you and so fast!!

    Thank you for sharing this very deep and thought provoking post and linking it to the beautiful quote by Martin Luther King. You write so beautifully about ideas which are counterintuitive and different from what our mainstream culture tells us, or which we haven’t thought of in that way. Thank you, I love your posts and your wisdom stays with me and transforms me.

  4. I absolutely love your analogy of taking your happy side to the eye doctor – YES!! And, Love by Jake for sure. That guy totally gets it…and so do YOU! Running has a way of changing every single aspect of your life in such amazing and unpredictable ways. I often think that if I could give into my pain in life the way I do in runs, things would go a lot smoother.
    Thank you for including my post here and congratulations on your second 20 miler!!! Wow!!! As for a time goal, I would just see what happens. You can never really predict marathon day…:-)

  5. Paria jaan. Loved Brene Brown’s talk. Thank you so much, want to get her book.
    I think you would enjoy talks by Tara Brach… Such as :
    I follow her website (www.tarabrach.com). She is a PhD in psychology, a well published author, and a Buddhist teacher in DC. Following her for teachings for years. I think you would love her website and talks like the one above

  6. Congrats on the second 20! I was thinking it was last weekend, and was going to text, but forgot! The marathon is just a little over 3 weeks away. Reflecting over this past year through this posts, I think you’ve paced yourself well, even through your minor injury.

    Feb 14 – LA marathon – here you come! You will be valentine this year as I will be thinking of you that day and sending you positive vibes and lots of light! 🙂

    I’ve always thought that some emotions are a part of the same relative scale (one is at one end, and the other at the other end), and so the emotions you feel fall somewhere on that scale. I see 3 emotional scale types at this point in my life.

    I’ll go over the one emotional scale type that applies to the quote that I shared at our yoga retreat we did together (by the way, it’s a major highlight for me from 2015!): treat fear as curiosity.

    Emotional scale type of Fear to Joy: If you have fear and/or anxiety at the bottom of a scale, and joy at the top of the scale, somewhere in the middle of that emotional scale is wonder. Knowing that Fear and Joy are relatives of a similar emotional type or flavor, you know the treatment. If you’re experiencing fear/anxiety about something, have a sense of wonder, a playful spirit that can dance, a curiosity to help move you towards joy on the emotional scale.

    • I love wonder….btw, mile 8, you are not my first Asian love… One of my very first friends in life was a little Japanese boy who was our neighbor in NYC..we have a bunch of pics together as toddlers. I’ll have to find one and send you it… it is perhaps when my thing for Asians began;)

  7. I just completed my last really long run on Sunday (22!) and the last 2 miles, maybe even 3-4 I felt exactly what Allie was describing. When I got done and met up with my group they asked how I felt and I said “I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I feel like dying but at the same time, feel the most alive I ever have!”

    Also congrats on finishing out your longest runs! I was hoping for a similar pace but based on these last runs I think I’ll land somewhere between 4:40 and 5. I’m sure the energy of race day (and the taper) will give you a good boost come the day of too! Can’t wait to hear all about it!

    • Congrats on 22…. I did not go past 20.5 but hoping I’ll just have marathon day excitement to pull me through. I’ll be happy with anything under 5 hours…and yes, there will be a recap, and I look forward to yours as well. I think the Austin course is supposed to be harder/more hilly than LA.

  8. I love Brene Brown and Gifts of Imperfection really changed my perspective on so many things. And how you describe Jake’s class – yes! I totally get that, to feel like that. Growing up, I went through life similar to you – happy and grateful but also protecting myself from really feeling. Running and yoga really have helped me tap into that in a more authentic way now. Congrats on your 2nd 20 miler!! So excited for you to run!

    • Thanks Christine….. You’ve probably already listened to Brene’s Ted Talk on vulnerability…that was amazing as well and just really reinforced the importance of the lessons that I am learning through really feeling.

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