Thursday, March 22, 2012

Running Peace


It is so easy to be happy. And yet it's not.

Years ago I came up with the first part of the title. I was away on a trip and it really was easy to choose to be happy. I was surrounded by wonderful people who were tremendously smart and interesting. I was doing work I had long dreamed of doing. I was eating great foot and having good things to drink. It really was easy to be happy. But then life intrudes.

Over the past couple of weeks it hasn't been nearly as easy to be happy. For one thing, I had to go through a terrible day of staff development at my school. It was the kind of day that was clearly not well thought out and, even if it had been, was designed to deliver information to the teachers rather than invoke our expertise or engage our interests and strengths. The whole thing left me feeling drained all this week in my classroom. Each morning I have awakened with a feeling of dreading going to work. I would rather be anywhere else, aside from back at that staff development.

So it hasn't been all that easy to be happy this week and I have struggled. Things have been extra busy at home so I haven't gone out to run much either. That changed today. Soon as I got home, I stepped into my new pair of running shorts, and went out on the street for a short run.

My runs of late have all been miserable affairs. I have felt nothing but tired and uninspired. It's tough to get out running after runs like that and I was a bit nervous about it today. Besides, my knee has been sore for some reason or another (not running since it came on during a three-day break from running) and it could easily have been a terrible time out there.

But it wasn't. Instead, it was easy to be happy.

I started down the road feeling the strangeness in my knee, a blister on my left foot, and all the worry of the week. Then, as I took each step, and the knee got better instead of worse, the blister refused to bother me, and the worries started to fade away, I felt peaceful and the run became a thing of peace.

It turns out that happiness is good, but it's not that constant state of affairs I'm after. Peace is the feeling I want to have dominating my life. I suppose that's obvious to people, but it hasn't been to me. Peace, by the way, doesn't mean that I'm chilled out and disengaged. Rather it means that I'm accepting of what the world is but also restless to see what else I can do. Today's run was all about accepting what the world is and seeing what I could do.

After two miles I was torn. I had been thinking about stretching things and going for a six-miler that I enjoy. I was making plans. That's a bad habit I have. The good thing is that I let the plans slide. Instead of planning, I listened to my body. The knee felt better but not quite right. More important, the blister felt alright but fragile. I ran quietly, peacefully, listening to what was happening within. My foot told me to take the shorter route and my brain said that the longer route would be there when I needed it. I turned back toward home and it was great.

Along the way toward home I looked down a side street to where my daughters were having a play-date. My wife's car was down there so I turned and went that way. I met up with the girls (who were raking in the money on a sweet's stand where they sold chocolate popcorn and other treats), my wife (who kissed me though I was sweaty), and my friend Michael (who had graciously taken both our girls home with him and who thankfully refrained from kissing me perhaps because I was so sweaty).

There is joy in running. Leaving the house and going down the road is a blissful thing for me especially because I rarely plan where it is I'll be going. There is even more joy in returning to my family and feeling their love. Standing on the sidewalk at Michael's house it was the easiest thing in the world to feel happy. And I felt happy, at peace, and ready to go forward. It was all just so damn good. I want more.

Write on.