The anxiety was with me all week.
And yet, when I stepped up to the black, 450-pound tire, everything I’d been feeling melted away. I’d been all nerves just a few moments ago. I could bee seen pacing around the perimeter of the closed-off area, trying to bring myself down when I’m usually so calm. This was the moment when the anxiety hit its peak. It was cold outside, and I was nervous that with the first lift, my back would snap like a dry twig.
Anxiety makes me believe that I’m frail, and that my body can’t handle much. I’ve had to convince myself more than once that my wrists won’t snap when I try to do something like a pull-up. There has always been this worry that pushing myself harder would lead to serious problems, that I’d slip a disk or tear a muscle. No matter how many times you don’t do something, anxiety leads you to believe that it’ll happen that very next time. I could push myself hard, and yet, there would always be that self-imposed limitation in my mind.
Standing next to the tire, the countdown began, and a strange sense of tranquility came over me. The four-minute flipping period began, and I crouched low, gripped the tire, and pulled it up. With the aid of my knee, I was able to get the tire to a perpendicular position, and with one final shove, it tipped over (I had a teammate helping me). With that first flip, I realized that I’d be okay, and the anxiety I’d been feeling disappeared like the grilled cheese I’d eat shortly thereafter. I was relaxed and at ease, maybe even at peace. My nerves no longer an issue, I went for it. Every rep was amazing. I had fun with it, and for those four minutes, I didn’t think. I was a kid once again, enjoying the fact that I was living my life in the moment, not worried about anything at all.
Last week, I ran the Manchester Road Race. It’s a 4.75-mile race that features over 15,000 runners, and it takes place every Thanksgiving. I’ve run it five times, and as always, the conditions are unpredictable. I’ve run it when the weather was cold, and the snow had fallen heavy the night before. I’ve run when it was almost 60 degrees outside. I’ve run the race right after I ran the marathon, when I felt great and posted a personal best. I also ran it last year, when I wasn’t in running shape at all. The time showed.
I resolved to enjoy myself last year, to not push it too hard. I spent the days leading up to the race worrying about how the morning run would go, and I capped off an anxious week with only a few hours of sleep. I wondered if I should just sleep in, but when the morning came, I knew I couldn’t skip it. Surrounded by other runners, I was just excited to be alive, excited to get out and run, no matter the results. There are live bands, shots being offered along the course, so many spectators, it’s so much fun. The whole town gets into the act, and even though it’s not my town, it’s hard not to love the energy and enthusiasm that hits you at every turn.
It’s a long wait for the race to begin, but once I cross the starting line, a switch flips in my head. From that moment on, I’m going full-tilt, and I love every minute of it. I love the climb on the first and second hill, when my lungs are screaming and I’m struggling to take each step. I love the downhill part of the course because you can make up some time while you slalom other runners in an attempt to find some open space. It’s become something to look forward to, and even though it will never be as thrilling as it was that first year, it’s an amazing experience.
Whether I’m lifting a tire, or running a race in 15-degree weather, it’s during those moments that I’m most truly myself. I’m not thinking about my anxiety, the obligations I have to meet, or the work that has no end. These moments, despite the accompanying anxiety, they become their own form of escape, their own form of meditation. I’m able to do something without thinking or worrying about it, the way I used to do when I was young.
We grow up, and the child we were gets left behind. There’s nothing anyone can do about it, and it’s only when we achieve that young adult or adult status that we realize what it is we’ve lost. Injuries don’t heal as quickly. We lose speed and strength, and our minds start to think about other things we want in life, things that are more complex and that require effort and planning. There’s so much learning to be done, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all.
You used to have the mindset of a kid, but at some point you grew out of it. When you’re young, all you want to do is grow up, and it seems like no matter what point you are at in your life, you want to be further or along, or you want to go back to when it was all much simpler. The key is to want where you are at this very moment, but also to collect wisdom along the way. Every stage of your life has something to teach you, and no matter what age you are, there’s fun and enjoyment to be had in abundance.
We were all young once, and we can’t forget that. Life can get so serious and so troubling that we need moments in our lives when the objective is clear, when we don’t have to concern ourselves with anything else, when we don’t have to worry about the costs and benefits. We all need to work on taking ourselves less seriously, and while it’s important to grow and to mature, staying young at heart is just as important. Thanks for reading.