I never got to run on this track in college
That angers me
I got to run on it now
But that didn’t lessen the pain at all
At first I pretended it didn’t hurt
But really it made it hurt even more
It made me face the facts
And in doing so I felt helpless
Because my opportunity has passed
I will never compete on that track in college
I was not worthy then and so I never will be
But to whom?
In whose eyes was I trying to validate my worthiness?
And for what?
What was I trying to prove?
Those are the questions I’m asking now
Running Across the Country: Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA
I always talk about all the enjoyment running has brought me. But running has also brought me FRUSTRATION. Last year I voiced that frustration on paper. Now I’m sharing it with you.
“My struggles all started when I got sick at the end of indoor track my Junior year in High School. From outdoor track my sophomore year until then I was on fire. I Ran 4:25 for the mile outdoors my sophomore year – I remember that race like It was yesterday. Exploding around the last turn and unleashing a fury of a kick. (I beat one of my best buds who has gone onto run 4:01 (now 3:58) – hence why I believe I can be that good) All the way until Indoors junior year when before every race I used to do strides and just feel like I was floating through the air. I just always had that pop and explosion in my legs. Could get off the line faster than anyone (well, the average hs kids I was racing at the time ). Towards the end of the season I won a mile in 4:22. I led that whole race from wire to wire and ran 422 all by myself negative splitting (running the 2nd half faster) and feeling like I had more to give. I got the flu that following week. I got blood work done and looking back I tested positive for Lyme Disease. It went undiagnosed at the time. Barring an extremely rare race or two I have never felt good like that again – training wise or racing wise. Senior year in cross country I ran roughly the same times as my junior year and college has just been a shit show. Training wise I always felt wiped. Then comes all the exhausted achy legs, winded walking around campus/ up stairs, and the myriad of other symptoms (cant sleep, night sweats, constipation, cold hands/feet, brain fog, headaches, indigestion, etc.). When I would run a mile race in college I would go out in 2:10 or 2:11 for the first half mile or and just hit a wall and rig the rest of the way until I ran a 4:25 or 4:26. Makes no sense why I could float to a 4:22 in high school or run a 425 my sophomore year and now I feel like I’m running through a wall to run 426. Been that way the whole time.”
Thank You. I’ve been holding that in for a long time. It feels good to express my Frustration.
As I sit down to write I notice the elegant beauty of my scripted handwriting. Each letter with just enough room to bask in its own glory. All the while, lending itself to the next letter to aid in the announcement of its beauty. Together, they complete the peaceful transition.
Ever flowing as pen strokes paper, I wonder how I’ve assembled each word so perfectly?
In disbelieving awe, I peer in closer to the page. Upon further examination, the myriad of blemishes present themselves. Some words more skewed than others, but I cannot find one letter penned without imperfection.
Stepping back, I re-examine the work as whole. From this perspective I am able to once again bathe in the beautiful cohesiveness of the assembled words. It is only upon intense scrutiny of each individual word or letter during which I find imperfection or fault.
Taking a break from my notebook, I look up and gaze at the mountainside. I notice the perfect arrangement of wildlife that decorates the slope of the mountain. Not one blade of grass out of place, it’s a perfection greater than anything attainable by human design. Hence the awe in which we stand to admire these alluring sceneries. The ones Nature so commonly provides across the Earth. They captivate us in a way that calls us to draw pictures of the untouched forests, take photos of the flowing rivers, and paint the sprawling mountains.
If I were to venture up the mountainside though, in an effort to scrutinize the landscape I had just been surveying from afar, the imperfections would be abundant. Fallen tree branches, ripped flower petals, and decaying leaves would litter the forest floor. Dissecting each individual part to the masterpiece would make it seem as though something has gone terribly wrong amidst Nature’s creation.
By simply allowing everything to be, I realize everything is perfect as is. Right where it should be. Only when looking at the system as a whole – untouched – can this perfection can be observed.
The truth emanating from this viewpoint of a perfectly laid environment can be applied to our own environment as humans – a species of collective beings. Every individual is filled with impurities and imperfections. But each being brings its own unique energy to the collective consciousness of the whole. Each contributing to the expression of humanity.
Being able to accept these flaws, our own flaws as well as the flaws of others, will allow us to see the beauty of the whole. Only acceptance with no reservations – true acceptance – can bring about this awareness. To first see humanity as a whole will then allow us to be aware that humanity IS whole.
With this acceptance of each individual as they are, ceasing to judge, criticize, or blame others or ourselves, we can move beyond our egos. We can connect with each other from a deeper place. A place beyond the fearful interactions of our false identities, in which we are always attempting to cover up our own flaws, or expose them in others, when in reality the only flaw is not being our self.
The seeming chaos of our world may actually be orderly and represent itself in a unique design created and supported by an innate intelligence greater than that of ourselves. Hidden beyond the veil of our clouded mind, this intelligence emanates from the beauty of every creation in nature. It’s the underlying presence that is sensible in all living manifestations.
When we’re in tune with the most high, we can get in touch with this underlying presence. It is inside of us. It is the pure energy which flows through us, all around us, and between us – from one being to another.
We can allow the energy to lead us in life. To guide us in all the right directions and take us to all the right places at the right time. To give us the wisdom and confidence to make all the right choices – the ones that are the best for us and in the highest good of humanity as a whole. Because that is one in the same.
The energy that gives Life to everything. To the plants. The animals. Nature. The energy that created that perfectly arranged wilderness upon the mountain. This is the same energy gave life to US – Humanity – an equally perfect creation.
We can know this energy, this Life. And when we do, we will be able to see the beauty emanating from all consciousness, connect with one another, and be a part of nature. We can ALL experience life from a happy, blissful state of being through the pure emotions of Peace, Love, and Joy.
As Humanity. As Consciousness. As a Perfect Whole.
Life is simple. Salsa. Music. Rum. Nothing more is needed to relish in the beauty of the Cuban lifestyle. To see the love produced, for themselves and others, through the simplicity of dance and laughter is awe-inspiring.
To love and enjoy life, the people of Cuba don’t need anything else – and they prove that. But forbidden from being allowed to have anything else creates a void that they yearn to fill. This longing eats at their souls.
The government has trapped them within the confines of the sea wall. Physically and Ideologically. If they were free, some may never want to leave. But this lack of freedom locks up their heart and now they do feel a sense of emotional despair.
Amongst the streets of Havana they routinely get lost in one another. Whether it be through sharing the rhythm of music or a bottle of rum, they find solace in each other. Unfortunately, this peace is short-lived. Upon returning to solitude, they are still faced with the reality of living within an oppressive regime.
This reality goes beyond the inability to explore outside the arbitrary boundaries outlined by the ocean. Boundaries tirelessly solidified by the ruling power. The average Cuban government worker makes 25CUC/month (1CUC = $1). It is possible to survive on ration cards and domestically grown food but there is no way to lessen the cost of imported necessities. Shoes are 50CUC. Jeans are 30CUC. Shampoo is 4.50CUC. Toothpaste is 2CUC. 1 hour of Internet is 1CUC. Toilet Paper, so coveted, is rarely provided by restaurants at the prospect of it being stolen. I called these necessities. Cubans call them luxuries.
Money does not bring happiness. But one’s basic needs must be met before you are able to escape the daily struggle for comfort that will consume your life’s attention. No energy is left to focus on cultivating friendships, searching for love, or self-actualization if you have no sense of security when it comes to food, shelter, and health. The Cuban government does not provide its people with enough to obtain this minimum level of comfort.
“I Love My Life. I Love My Family. “ An eerily common Cuban response when queried about the Cuban regime – unwilling to directly broach the subject. This appreciation for their life and what they DO have is fascinating. Something we should all strive for. Unfortunately, for some Cubans the commitment to their immediate surrounding presence is not by choice, it is because they can’t bear not to. It is a coping mechanism utilized to evade confrontation with the emotional resistance to their circumstances and the dim prospect of a better future. A sign of lost hope for change.
Simple gifts were met with unbridled enthusiasm – a stunning mixture of bliss and gratitude. Nike Flip-Flops, MLB Jerseys, toothpaste, Band-Aids. It was as if these objects represented something greater than their material worth. A step outside the boundary set so hard in place by the Cuban government. A taste in the ability to go beyond these circumstances to which they have no escape. An ode to a world unknown in which they are constrained from exploring. An offering of hope.
But what I had to offer the people of Cuba pales in comparison to what they offered me. With so little, they give so much. In a life of scarcity, they live in abundance. The rest of the world has much to learn from observing the delicacies of the Cuban people.
My last night in Cuba I was taught that Salsa requires no music. It is through becoming one with the movements of your partner that creates the art. The government may have taken away their music, but the Cuban people continue to dance.
To all those who are saddened and disheartened by what this election has indicated about the state of this country:
It seemed like we had come so far. Moving towards unity as a whole. From being divided to being one. One nation, one culture, one species, one being.
So many walls between people had been torn down. Racism, women’s rights, gay rights, sexism, bigotry, prejudice. We were far from perfect but we were making progress. We were moving from seeing others as different to seeing ourselves in others
All that progress is being questioned right now. Is the outcome of this election indicative of our state of being right now? Who are these people who voted for a divisive bully who feeds on fears and insecurities through racism and elitism?
These people were my classmates and coworkers. My friends and neighbors. My brothers and sisters. I thought I knew these people, but do I?
This is OK though. All that progress that has been made has not been lost. All those people who helped us tear down those walls are still out there. They still see the good in the people. The question is – do you?
Fears and emotions that have been long suppressed are being felt. The only way to heal is to recognize those pains. To bring the suffering to light. To feel not only our pain, but the pain of others as well. It is through this recognition and suffering that we can become free. Free of the fears and insecurities that drive the divisive hate between us.
Trump is exposing wounds that have been covered up for years. Just like most wounds need oxygen to heal, these wounds need our attention. We now have the opportunity to treat them with Love and Acceptance.
Hilary Clinton would have just been a bandage. It’s in the darkest times that we need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now is the time reach out to those who need it most. Be a shoulder someone can lean on. Lean on someone else’s when you need to. But most of all, realize we are all in this together.
Do not let rhetoric divides us. Allow our feelings to bring us closer together. For the sun still shines even when the clouds cover it. Take this time to get to know each other as humans, heal these wounds rather than allow them to be dug deeper, and let’s move closer to humanity.
If you’re reading this, you’re alive, just like everyone else. But are you Living?
To Live is to be aware of what’s going on in the present moment. To be aware of our senses. To see, hear, and smell what is around us. We have eyes and ears but often don’t see or hear.
To Live also means to be aware of our feelings and emotions – what’s going on inside of us right now. To feel our presence and the presence of those around us.
As humans we have a tremendous ability to feel. An essential part of living is feeling. Most of us, though, are afraid to feel. Feelings are strong and powerful. They can be overwhelming, especially when invoked by our emotions – consciously or unconsciously.
We are afraid to Live because we are afraid to feel. So we use to distractions to prevent us from being aware of what is going on inside of us. They also prevent us from being aware of what is going on around us.
We are afraid to just BE, alone or with others, because we would be forced to deal with what we feel. Feel what’s going on inside of us. Feel the presence of others.
Whether we remove ourselves from being aware of what’s going on in the present by thinking about the past or future, clinging to short lived pleasures such as sex, drugs and alcohol, or merely distract ourselves by checking Instagram or Twitter, we are denying ourselves the ability to Live.
We don’t have to give up all of these things. We just need to know that we can live our life with more balance. If we just step away from the distractions/pleasures, stop living in the past, and quit hoping for the future – we will live a fuller life. In fact, we won’t be giving up anything. We will be gaining the ability to be aware and feel what is going on in and around us.