“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.