Stacey Margaret Jones: Embrace the Suffering


I’ve got the “mean reds,” as Holly Golightly would say.

Because of a knee problem, I’ve had to curtail my workouts, drop out of races and scale back plans for 2014. Now, with a neck and shoulder cramp that’s going on 48 hours of misery, I can’t do anything.

It’s gotten so bad, my husband had to make my latte this morning. If he’s making my multi-step frou-frou coffee when he doesn’t even drink it, he must feel really sorry for me.

The truth is that though I was a reluctant athlete, I do think of myself as athletic, and I just don’t feel good—or like my real self—when I can’t do something active almost every day. In the past month, I’ve probably walked a total of 10 miles and gone to Jazzercise four or five times. Forget running or biking. Exercise: I miss us! And I don’t know how things will go when we get back together.

But I realize that just as there are many life lessons to be had from running, there are also things to learn from recuperation—and from the future rebuilding I hope to do soon.

Haruki Murakami, in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, quotes a Buddhist proverb: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Of course, forRecuperation copy the active athlete this has obvious applications. On a ten-miler, up hills, in bad weather, you won’t always be comfortable and sometimes you’ll hurt, but you don’t have to suffer through it; you’re an athlete and you’re here by choice. In fact, you’re only here because you have worked up to being here. You can suffer with the discomfort and the aches and soreness, or you take it in as part of the whole experience.

Now, I’m an inactive athlete, struggling to keep off the inevitable weight gain, to feel strong, to restore the good mood that comes from exertion and the right kind of fatigue. According to Murakami, I don’t have to suffer through this neck and knee pain.

And when it’s time to start again, I’ll have to face the facts of the abilities, stamina and strength I’ve lost during this literal and physical winter.

I don’t have to suffer because I can embrace the pain, according to the DailyOm Website: “The ocean of suffering is immense, but if you turn around, you can see the land. The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy. When one tree in the garden is sick, you have to care for it. But don’t overlook all the healthy trees. Even while you have pain in your heart, you can enjoy the many wonders of life…”

This morning, Sunday, instead of going out for a two-hour run, I’m icing my neck, uploading photos to Snapfish, and sitting with my cavalier King Charles spaniel, Beatrice, curled up next to me. My body hurts, but my puppy is warm and sweet, and she is so happy to be near me. During the holidays, I won’t be spending hours out alone on the path like I did last year as I prepared for the Little Rock marathon. Instead, I’ll be couchin’ it, watching movies with my husband, trying to make sure our borzoi puppy doesn’t chew any more television cords or computer chargers.

I’ll get to spend more time with my husband, soaking up the holiday feeling (and, yes, the flavors!), starting my days off slowly, sipping my coffee, snuggling our cat, and getting hugs from our collie. And when I return to working out, it won’t be at punishing marathon intensity, but with a humane and restorative mindset.

I am sorry I am injured, but there is a lot of good to embrace because of the pain.

Tags: , ,