Thursday, November 01, 2007

Screw Band Aids

There's something about myself that I don't really like to talk about a lot. Some of you who have scoured the outer-recesses of my blog may have noticed a different tone to some of the earlier posts, so this will explain it to some extent. Anyway, enough wind-up. My dad died when I was 11. He committed suicide and it's always been one of those things that I don't want to talk about, not because I can't handle it, but because it seems other people can't and I hate the looks they give me and the feeling like I dropped a 9billion pound bomb in the room. Yeah, that's mostly in my head, but it does make people uncomfortable and I generally like to avoid being around uncomfortableness.

The reason I am telling you this is because I see a therapist about once a month to discuss my dad. Seeing therapists was not on the radar screen of my blue collar family in the 80's. Basically, they didn't know what the hell to do with me and my sister, so they pretended it never happened. So, I never really knew how to grieve for my dad and I can tell you that not grieving is not good. (When you lose something or someone you love, let yourself feel and go with it! Don't fight it.) But now 20+ years later, I see a therapist to teach me how to do that. It's counterintuitive, but with the wedding the timing couldn't be better. There are so many father/daughter roles in the script for the average wedding that the absence is more or less thrust upon me every five minutes. So, it forces me to deal with it honestly and openly and really feel and accept the absence. I wanted to give you the background so when I told you about my therapist you wouldn't think I was all soft and unable to cope, not that I think people who see therapists are soft and unable to cope necessarily. Plus, it's just part of who I am as a person generally and even shapes who I am as a runner.

Anyway, last night mrp and I were driving home from work and we started discussing running. We actually haven't talked about it all that much in the last few days, if you can believe it. Sometimes he just humors me as I prattle on about this or that thought I have about running (kind of like you guys :) and sometimes we actually get into a great conversation that results in some or another new meaningful insight about running and life (again, similar to our little blogosphere). Last night I was telling him about this notion of cheating the marathon running learning curve and he generally agreed with the idea. He added to the fray, "the one thing marathoning experience can teach us is what our weaknesses are as runners. Weaknesses are so particular to each of us that no amount of advice can reveal them. We need to discover them in our own experiences and then learn to work with them, fix them, etc."

So, this naturally led me to ask the question, "what do you think my weaknesses as a marathoner?"

Mrp thought for a minute and he said, "well stitches, obviously." "But more importantly, I think you are afraid to experience pain," he said.

"Hmm. I am? I guess I am. Interesting."

Later that night I had my October therapist appointment. We were discussing how I was feeling about walking down the aisle alone. I feel very strongly that for our wedding ceremony that where the script calls for a dad, I must leave a hole because that is the truth and I accept that and it's me. At the same time, I am afraid of getting to the wedding and being sad. I explained this all to my therapist and she said, "you know, when I first met you last year you seemed like someone who was afraid to experience pain. It was as if you thought that if you experienced pain you would never come out of it, like it was some sort of abyss that you would get lost in." Ding!Ding!Ding! Holy crap. It all makes sense.

My fear of experiencing pain is a weakness as a person and not just as a runner. It keeps me from completely committing to a race sometimes. It keeps me from being completely honest with myself sometimes. As I work and face the loss of my dad it's hard and I feel sad for a while but then the funniest thing happens. I start to feel much happier the rest of the time. When I ran the marathon a couple of weeks ago my goal was to feel pain at the end and to keep pushing through and I was so upset when that didn't happen because of the stitch. I wanted to face the pain and overcome it in running just like I'm doing in life. I wasn't aware at the time of the significance that this was overcoming a weakness and improving myself, but now that I am aware I am even more determined to get out there and attempt that confrontation in every race.

Pain is part of running. It's part of life. Overcoming it is what makes both things great.


joe positive said...

I am the last person in the world who would post "OMG!" but, well, OMG! I reached the same conclusion about being afraid of pain (in races and otherwise) just this very week during the self-flagellation period after the half. I'd be interested to hear how you hope to get through this, if you felt like talking about it (and I'd understand if you don't). And if you wanted to discuss this offline instead of in front of G and everyone, my email address is k collin 5 @ tampabay dot rr dot com (all that smushed together).

The Salty One said...
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The Salty One said...

When I posted that post I thought to myself, "I wonder how people are going to feel commenting to this one. Perhaps they will never return. The 9billion pound bomb dropped on the blog party" :) At the same time, I felt compelled. I am getting to a point in my life in which I have no need to dance around things. So, what the hell? Plus, by talking about it I feel better and the discussion gets going and maybe I'll learn something more about the whole thing and maybe someone else will too. Sure, now everyone knows this about me, but so what? It's not like I'm talking about the time I murdered that slew of people in Kansas City. Oops. Heh. Um, you know that was a joke, right?

How do I plan to get through it... Hmmm. Do you mean running or my dad? I think with both things it's a matter of confronting the fear head on. With running I notice sometimes I get really nervous before a tempo run or interval workout and I frantically try to figure out a way to make it more pleasant: switch locations, run with a garmin, run without a garmin, get mrp to run it with me, adjust the pace, run in the morning, run in the evening etc. I get all panicky and micromanagey about it. Instead, I can see approaching it this way: accepting it will be uncomfortable and just run the proper pace at the time and place that is convenient. period. Suck it up and accept the pain and discomfort. Just do it, for lack of a better phrase. I've been doing that with my dad. When I have to list my parents' names on a form I include his name because he is/was my parent. Besides my mom, I don't have another. If it makes me sad, I am sad. I accept the loss and the accompanying sadness. I think it will take time to work it out in running for sure. I'll stay conscious of the problem and hopefully practice in my workouts and races over the winter and spring and by marathon time I should be much better able to handle it and less afraid to go after it.

And OMG, OMG! Heheheh.

(I hate not being able to edit comments!)

Joseph P. Wood said...

Jesus fucking Christ. The parallels and timing of our posts are downright eerie and yet, somehow, appropriate as we struggle with our respective running/selves (like the clever "/"?).

I, too, grew up working poor. I remember, in a Junot Diaz reading I went to once, he described the working class experience as "Christ could be bleeding on your coffee table and no one would say a fucking word about it". There's something very poisonous about that silence, as it renders its victims mute and makes you swallow your guilt.

I, too, go to psychotherapy, and it has taught me not that there is a certain chasm between intellectual acceptance and emotinal acceptance of trauma--a marathon, a death, a break-up--all the big shit and the little shit.

I believe intellect searches for cause and effect, whereas emotion requires a faith in untidiness and mystery--and a cessation of control. You see, I can control the numbers of miles I run in a week or the type of workouts I do or what I choose to eat. But I can't control how my body will react to pain. You have to trust and love it (and I don't mean solely running here).

I have wrestled with congruent--though not equal--experiences with mental illness and self-destruction in family and close, close friends. It's hard not to be swallowed by that. But it's in that struggle we define our compassion and empathy. It's not a fight; it's process of peace.

May your wedding be beautiful as your life with w/ MRP.

The Salty One said...

"Christ could be bleeding on your coffee table and no one would say a fucking word about it".

No shit? This was more or less my experience. Within my nuclear family all hell was breaking loose, but when I was with my extended family everything was suddenly fine? I know people thought they were helping but really all that does is make a kid think that their feelings of loss and sadness are something bad and peculiar to only him or her.

It's hard not to be swallowed by that.

Definitely, especially when it's your parent. I think that my fear of pain is fear of getting dragged down and being like my dad. Pain ends up killing you is more or less the message I got there. It seemed like it was not something you could overcome. So I've always avoided pain.

I guess I always thought if my dad couldn't do it, how could I? But I've realized, and it's sad, but I am a much much much stronger person than my dad. I mean, who wants to admit that about their own parent? But it's the truth and finally knowing this and understanding this I actually look forward to finding more of this happiness that comes from overcoming pain.

That's not to say this will be so easy. It will be quite a struggle, but I love running for providing me this little sliver of life in which I can test these things out before releasing them upon the rest of my life.

The Salty One said...

May your wedding be beautiful as your life with w/ MRP.

Yeah. You know what. As hard as it's all been, when you get to a place like this with a guy like mrp it truly, utterly, absolutely, is all well worth it.

Viper said...

Wow. I'm a newcomer to your blog and these last two posts are so incredibly poignant. Dealing with disappointment and pain, both in personal and running experiences, can feel so solitary. But you're right, overcoming those experiences, facing them head on and learning from them are what makes life (and running) wonderful. Good luck in your next race and best wishes in your marriage.

Quinto Sol said...

As you know, I have read every single post in your blog(s). There were a couple of times I wanted to ask you for more info but refrained... realizing it's none of my business...

The one thing I can say about pain is that I do not enjoy the physical kind; in fact I avoid it, and thus my inability to 'really' push it during training. I know I can work my way to a sub-three, but the pain of training consistently for several months is not a priority- at least not right now.

Now, emotional pain has been non- existent in most of my life as I have built a wall around myself that 'protects' me from being 'hurt.' IOW, I avoid it as well :-)

Meghan said...


I've been lurking around your blog (not all stalker like, I promise :) now and then because you've commented on other blogs I enjoy.

I just want to say that this post rang about a million "Me Too!" bells in my head, especially from the angle in that I also lost my father. Your post was seriously like therapy, so thanks for that.

The one thing I've learned through coping with tragedy is that you've just gotta own whatever is deep down inside you. You can, of course, move past that which you don't like about yourself, but change comes after acceptance. And, further, the good people of the world will stand by you no matter what.

Alright, I've rambled on a stranger's blog. Thanks for the post and I'm pleased I stopped through. Good luck with dealing with all the forms of pain in your life and congratulations on your approaching nupitals!


Mindi Giftos said...
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Joseph P. Wood said...

I think it may be the era we grew up in too though - not necessarily just a class thing. Very interesting. I could go on all day about that, but I will spare you! :)

Actually, if Salty doesn't feel like it would hijack her blog, I very much would be interested in elaboration...

The Salty One said...

Hijack away! I am so happy to host a discussion on this topic :)

The Salty One said...

viper Thanks! I heart your blog. Very funny and a nice change of pace from all us uberserious runner blogger types.

qs When I wrote "those of you that have scoured the outer recesses of my blog" I should have just wrote "qs" instead. Heh. I am glad my prattle interests somebody out there!

Meghan When I was second-guessing posting this I thought about what it would have been like to have found something like this written by someone else--to read that others have gone through what I have. It would have helped so much to know I wasn't alone. And it certainly helps now. Thank you! You are always welcome to stop by anytime. I am excited to check out your blog and add it to my rotation. Preliminarily, I love the marmot!!!!

Mindi Yeah, I feel like I've lost a few pounds :) It really helps to just let go and as Meghan said accept myself, no dad and all. I hope I can get to the point where I put it all out there. That IS the goal for sure!!

Really, thanks everyone! I can't tell you how wonderful this has been. I had no idea what to expect and I have to say this has far and away exceeded even my most hopeful and optimistic expectations! THANKS!

Mindi said...
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Ted said...
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