"There is no joy without gratitude"
Two Sundays ago I crashed after running 18 miles as part of my Marines Corps Marathon training and was trying to nap.
I limped downstairs into the kitchen and told Bob my legs were twitchy.
"I'm so exhausted but can't fall asleep."
"Have a shot of Old Bushmills," Bob said.
"A real shot."
It was 2 o'clock.
I poured myself a glass of whiskey and drank it. In one shot.
I slept until nearly 7 pm. But even then I was wiped.
"Maybe running isn't such a good idea if it ruins your entire day," Bob said.
It's not like this hasn't occurred to me.
As I'm piling on the miles on Sundays it's taking me until Wednesday or even Thursday before I can even contemplate doing a 2- or 3-mile run. My legs are so stiff I can barely unfold out of my desk chair. My body craves extra sleep and I'm pushing myself hard to sneak in a swim before work because it's the quickest workout I can think of.
So if running is my main form of exercise but I'm not able to do it for days after a long run on Sundays, not to mention how smashed I feel, what's the point?
It was my running partner Micki who recommended listening to Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul Sunday podcast interview with Brené Brown after we finished 8 miles together and I was about to do 10 more. Brown is a widely known author and speaker on the power of vulnerability. Yes, "power," which is not a word we tend to associate with being vulnerable.
During the interview Brown covers a lot of ground on the idea of embracing vulnerability but what stood out for me were her comments about the connection between experiencing joy and practicing gratitude. You cannot experience real joy without gratitude, she said.
For example she pointed out that many parents will walk into their children's rooms at night and watch them sleep. One minute they're filled with love and pure happiness and in the next instant they're haunted by what bad things could happen to their babies. Or what about when it's a beautiful day, you've made all your connections on your commute, your boss likes your ideas, and you're up to date on emails. Then you think - this is too good, something's bound to go wrong.
We're programmed to prepare for the worst, she said. She told about a man she knew who always said he never wanted to be too high or too low, he wanted to stay even-keel. Then his wife died suddenly and he regretted not grabbing on to every teeny tiny moment of joy with her.
In fact Brown said when people lose a loved one often what they miss most are the small things - like the sound of a screen door opening, for example.
But in order to experience joy - really experience joy - we have to be grateful for what is, in that moment. We can't get caught up in what was in the past or what could be in the future. And Brown says practicing gratitude takes practice. We have to work at it, consciously.
So ok. Training for Marines Corps doesn't make any sense in terms of meeting my exercise goals, I get that. It might even be sabotaging them.
But here it is.
I am so crazy grateful that my body can do any of this, that I have the discipline to see it through. That I'm strategic and purposeful about my nutrition and my hydration, and I'm paying attention.
That I am supported and lifted up by the people who love me and care about me and by the people in the running community who barely know me. And the emails I get from Coach Michael Hammond from RunnersConnect and the incredible daily pearls of wisdom in the 7- or 8-minute RunnersConnect Extra Kick podcast.
And I'm filled with incredible joy.
Every step, every mile, every twitch.
I can do this.
Here's a link to the Sunday Soul podcast interview with Brown. It's part one of a two-part interview. This one is called "Daring Greatly."