As humans, it is easy to be lulled into complacency about what the future looks like based on the patterns of the past.
Woke up at 6:15, went to work, sent all the emails and did all the to-do’s, arrived to group run with one minute to spare, went home to melt skin with scalding shower necessary for raising core temperature, ate food, brushed teeth, read one page of book, fell asleep… repeat.
It’s like we live according to the gambler’s fallacy – the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. As a culture, we like to exclaim YOLO!, but how many of us have really internalized that notion and carry out our daily lives accordingly? We know in our heads that life can turn on a dime – but how many regrets would we have over the things we didn’t do if it did?
I have lived long enough to understand the swiftness and stealthiness of change. So when I reflect on the gigantic portion of my life that I have wasted by living in my head rather than in the moment, it can be crushing. Why has it felt impossible to ignore the running commentary in my head in favor of living wholeheartedly? All the typical answers come to mind – perfectionism, worrying about what others think, anxiety, etc. – but the real answer at the heart of this question is simple – fear of the seemingly unbearable emotional pain of rejection and loss. This fear causes me to limit my life in all kinds of ways and play it safe.
How many stories have you heard about people who waited to join a running group until they were already “in shape”, for fear of being judged, rejected or ridiculed? We all fail to show up, both literally and figuratively, because of this fear and I’m here to say, fuck that – let’s show up. Let’s stop wasting time playing it safe because impermanence is real.
There is no way to avoid pain in this life, and I believe I’ve tried all the ways. Instead, I keep coming back to this quote from The Painted Drum, by Louise Erdrich.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
You can not prevent pain. Don’t let fear limit what you do with your one wild and precious life. Grab life by the apples and live the absolute fuck out of it. That doesn’t mean you have to start running ultramarathons or base jumping to fully experience life, it means you owe it to yourself to live truthfully, and with your whole heart.
What to do with the fear, then? Fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin. The physical sensation is the same – butterflies, increased heart rate and respiration, heightened awareness… maybe you’re afraid to look like an out of shape oaf who rides her hover-round everywhere and has a sleeve of Oreos in her belt-holster for 24/7 snacking. Guess what, you’re the only one who thinks this …and even if you’re not, who cares, grab life by the apples and do it anyway!
Confession: I have avoided joining the Rocky Mountain Runners group runs here in Boulder because they are notoriously faster, stronger (younger and probably way more awesome and attractive) than I could ever hope to be. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and make you a promise. I will join one of their runs this year for every comment describing the action you will take to show up, trade fear for excitement and taste the apples.