Balance. Do we ever truly find balance in life? The scales usually tip heavily to one side or the other. Work life. Finances. Justice. Romance. Even life and death (In the course of history we're dead a lot longer than we are alive. No balance there.) Just as the pendulum swings side to side it is difficult to find and maintain any sort of middle ground.
Balance. I have thought about "balance" a lot lately. My wife has addressed "balance" with me in the last few days. The balance between my "running" life and my life seems loaded overwhelmingly to the "running" side.
Balance. I started running in college. Long distance running for PE credit in my senior year. I also ran occasionally in the ten years after graduation. But I struggled to find the balance. Work and family and general malaise conspired to apply the breaks to my activity. It was physically painful. The physical pain led to mental exhaustion. And because of the pressures of "life" I usually retreated back to nothingness.
Wake. Work. Home. Sleep.
I do not mean to say those years were wasted. I married an incredibly beautiful and caring woman. She is an amazing mother. We have two daughters. They are smarter and prettier and sweeter than anything I could possibly deserve. I know every parent utters those words time to time, but I believe it. Watching them grow and develop into their distinct personalities is a daily awakening to the mysteries of life.
Balance. I have always struggled with balance. The tendency is to slide along till something grabs hold of me, then go full bore till the need, desire, or novelty of the "thing" wears off. Running was like that for ten or so years. Something I needed to do for health. I just never imagined the power or benefit for my mental health.
Before I took the running class in college my athletic life consisted of one year in Little League baseball, one summer morning of high school football practice and a couple of years of club rugby in college. I love baseball as a spectator sport. My limited hand-eye coordination prevented me from ever being a true athlete. I participated in 3rd grade and also began wearing prescription glasses the same year. Didn't help.
I thought football would be a great way to meet girls and talked a friend into going out to spring practice. Those two weeks left me totally unprepared for what was to come the following July. Spring football does not feature much running.
My first real practice started at 6pm on a Monday in July. If you ever spend time along coastal south Georgia you know how humid the area can be. The running was incessant. I ran some in the months prior. The head coach even worked with a few of us before classes the previous spring practicing technique. But I was not ready physically or emotionally for running in pads. The non-stop motion. The unrelenting pace.
After I got home and cried from the exhaustion, I bagged up my gear and rode my bike to Coach Willis' house. I knocked on his door and gave him the pads and helmet back. I figured seeing him face-to-face was better that returning to the practice field and quitting in front of the team. Tears streamed down my face as I rode home.
Club rugby was great fun with guys I truly enjoyed. But it was more of a drinking club than athletic endeavor. If you ever had opportunity to "shoot a boot" you know what I'm saying.
So for about thirty-six years my life was out of balance toward a sedentary life.
Balance. When you life long enough the personality traits get set. Expectations are established. An unexpected life tends to unfold on the tragic side. Marathon training became a way to shred the old unbalanced life. Time to get moving. Time to cease being still. Time to cease being silent. Time to stop hiding from myself and time to enjoy being "me".
It may appear that I am now living a life out of balance. Too much running. Too much time writing or talking or thinking about running and all things running. I have an online community of running friends, people that may not know the full scope of my life, but that know the side I most enjoy developing and sharing. And a few of these friends have been invited behind the curtain, exposed to more of me than most care to know. But the trade off is that I have friends now beyond running. I don't make friends easily and struggle to find common ground with strangers. Running has opened doors of opportunity to friendship that I have rarely experienced.
Balance. The concern is what level these new friendships rise to. Some may think my home life will suffer because of my immersion in this running life. I see the point. I share things will runners that non-runners seldom understand. That bond enables me to share deeper emotions and experiences beyond running. The fear is that running and the running community with supplant my family and cause me to disassociate myself from wife and children. Would not be first time a family was fractured due to a life seeking balance.
I don't see the unbalanced life in the now. The past year is too small a sample set to look for balance. I see the pendulum swinging for the past 37+ years. I existed for so long as nothing, not active, without physical or emotional purpose. Running provides the balance I need emotionally. The sense of worth and purpose I have with running never surfaced in school or at work. Despite injury or pain or disappointment, running has always been something to drive me to emotional heights no drug could induce.
Balance. This new balance (depending on your perspective) has thrown my life sadly out of balance. Through running and writing I have plumbed the depths of me, searching for what I am about. I have discovered that I am capable of pushing myself to crazy distances and what for me are unreal speeds. I have discovered I am capable of expressing raw emotion and an ability to bring a reader inside my head. The payoff is the feedback from the reader, from the online community.
I have so much to say. I have thoughts that need to be said out loud. I feel that someone needs to hear what I have to say. But there is a cost. The exposure I is beyond my control. Anyone can read this. Of course it is my choice to write and post my thoughts. Once I publish this post I lose the ability to control who reads it and how it is interpreted. So you won't know everything. I have to keep some things inside. And that is part of the anguish.
Balance. Life gets in the way so often. The online community provides something that I do not have elsewhere. If you don't run, maybe you read my words and aspire to run. Maybe do not run as far or as fast but aspire to something more based on my example. If I motivate one person to live a more balanced, active, fulfilled life then every word I write is worth the exposure. The raw nerves are soothed by the positive feedback and growing friendships.
The renewed sadness comes from learning the cost at home. Do you share with family the thoughts or emotions shared with runners. Does your family get it? Do they care? Do they feel left out or jealous or envious of your time and thought given to this other circle of friends?
Balance. The pain is from knowing I lived so long a life out of balance. An unhealthy life without joy for myself. No internal pleasure. Nothing about me to love. And I now suffer the knowledge that I have shut out people that need me more than ever. People that may no longer understand me but need the person I have become. A stronger me. A more compassionate me. A more confident me.
The realization is that I am now what I was meant to be. A husband. A father of two daughters. I have figure out how this "me" fits into the life I built with my family and my job, and how "me" fits with the people I brought into my life.
And what I discovered is I need every single one of you. Andria, my girls and my growing circle of friends. Balance is like running. Have to work at it every day.