Friday, January 25, 2008

Talking to Myself

"Whatever happend to that whole pain thing you were talking about a few months ago?" you may have wondered. I dropped the lead balloon and seemingly forgot about it. But, I didn't.

No. It's definitely still there. The wedding made it acutely there and it turned out great and it was definitely a big step for me on my way to dealing with pain. The big stuff is easy, I'm finding. It's the everyday consequences of that fateful event in my life that insidiously hold me back. Just like a wounded veteran, I suffer from constant anxiety that bad things are going to happen to me. When your 31 year old parent can just die in such a gruesome and tragic way, what can't happen? The anxiety completely makes sense for the 11 year old me, but the 32 year old me has nothing to fear. Yet, I worry about the big stuff. What if we return to the great depression? What if I lose mrp? What if I lose my family or friends? And even worse, I worry about the minutia too. What if dinner turns out bad? What if this run sucks? What if there's hydrogenated oil in that? What if someone doesn't like this last post and thinks I'm dumb?

I actually expend energy constantly worrying about this small stuff. My brain is so used to expecting bad things happening that I see things that happen as bad even when they are just things that happen: when a workout doesn't go well it's not necessarily bad, it's just a workout that didn't go well or if I accidentally put cloves in the chili instead of chili powder it's not necessarily bad, it's just weird tasting chili (and it was). So what?

So, I'm at mile 19.5 in a marathon and I make a turn and bam the wind and bam a stitch. Such a bad horrible thing! Or is it? It's a stitch, a bodily response to the environment and itself. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with me. It doesn't mean anything other than it's a stitch. I am beginning to think that my low level anxiety, worrying that something like a stitch might happen, contributed to the very thing I was worryied might happen. The point is, putting a value on these valueless things and worrying about them so much does not guarantee a good outcome. In fact, the opposite is true.

Why don't I just relax then and quit all this worrying? Well, this may sound ridiculous but I honestly do not know how to relax. Since I've started working through the whole dad thing in therapy I have occasionally caught myself living in a moment and relaxing. I know I can do it, but worry is my default and relaxing is a very occasional, almost accidental occurrence. To replace the low level anxiety with relaxing as my default state takes a lot of work. Every time I have a worrisome thought I have to counter it. So when I think, "Oh god it's so cold out there that my run is going to suck," I have to consciously counter with, "you have had plenty of nice runs in the cold, you have the appropriate clothing, and you have no evidence that even if you feel cold that the run will suck." It is very tiring to have to do this all the time.

The good news is that it doesn't take a whole lot of time to see improvements. I've been doing this for just a couple of days now. I am really exhausted, but I feel much better and much more hopeful. I'm not on the edge of my seat as much. I don't instantaneously lash out at a driver who cuts me off. I am smiling more for no reason. I am appreciative of all the things I have and noticing what I don't less and less.

My spring plan of running shorter races will provide me a concrete area of my life to practice this new way of thinking. Of course, by default I worry that there's no way in hell I can run fast races right now on my puny mileage, but I am actually looking forward to racing and not worrying that I'll run a slow time or get beat by this or that person. Instead, whatever time I run is just the time I run. If I did my best, then great. If I screwed up, it'll be a lesson for next time. Hopefully with each race I'll get better and better about letting go and just running.


E-Speed said...

I'm a constant worrier too, but not about the same things as you, funny huh.

You are going to have a blast training for the short stuff this year and I can't see you doing anything but excelling on whatever training you choose. Slacking just isn't in your ways!

Miss Adventurous said...

That's so weird...I accidentally put cloves in my chili once too! It was with chili powder though. It tasted very strange...a little like eating potpourri.

And I totally get it about the relaxing thing too, and probably for the same reason. I can't remember the last time I wasn't on edge about something or other! I feel like there's hope though, and that it's somewhere around the corner. There has to be! And it sounds like you're taking little, but very significant, steps toward it. Keep in mind all the things that you tell me--you're always telling me these wonderful, optimistic things about life. Don't forget though, that they apply to you too!

Mindi said...

Heh. I love your image. You find some of the best ones! Yeah, it sounds like you are making great progress. And if it makes you feel any better, I think most of your worries are pretty normal. Especially right after getting married. At least I felt the same way.

And doesn't it feel great when you catch yourself truly enjoying a moment? That is the good stuff. My kids have helped me with that a lot. We start taking everyting for granted. When you see a child in awe, it makes you stop and realize how terrific some things that we have allowed to become routine can be.

Same with running. It just takes one frustrating and nagging injury to remind you of all the incredible runs you had that you just did not properly appreciate at the time.

We all do it. It is good to try to overcome it. We all should try to.

Jim said...

Sage advice Salty. Something we all can take to heart.