Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fear? Or fear not? Or both?

Today, I went to the St. Mary Magdalen Community anniversary mass and celebration. (More here about this church.)

The sermon was about ways that we need to transcend fear and how fear and love can't co-exist. Different examples of the way people had done this were cited, including the priests who spoke up in favor of Father Roy Bourgeois's stand in favor of women's ordination. Many great reflections. And I felt it was a good place for me to be today.

Yet something in me began asking questions.

Is fear necessarily always the enemy? I don't think we should base all our decisions on fear when there's so much of life to embrace and so much I know I've let pass by because of fear.

But if people had no fear, they'd jump out of buildings thinking that would be quicker than taking the elevator. Or put their hand in an open fire. If we didn't ever need to fear anything, would fear need to exist? But sometimes it protects us. Parents teach children not to play with electric outlets or put their hand on stoves. In my case, a hot radiator left a scar when I was a tot that I still have now--because I had no fear of touching that radiator.

So it's not so much that fear itself is a bad thing--any more than anger (at injustice, for instance). It's just like any feeling--useful in giving us cues about how to proceed or not proceed. Sometimes, yes, we can feel fear but move beyond it. But sometimes it can signal us that we need to back off or at least proceed carefully.

I wish it were not needed. And I wish people wouldn't exploit it.

I think of the man who shot at people in Norway. There was reason to be afraid. And he exploited people's fears--and trust. He pretended to be a cop, using people's ordinary trust in cops to lure people closer and then violated that trust by his horrible actions.

So very likely many will fear police officers, even though most are in fact conscientious and honest. This creation of fear when it didn't exist (or at least not to the same extent) is a secondary effect of his actions and possibly even further reaching than his shooting spree.

Really sad is that he not only posed as a cop but also claimed to be a Christian. If he were a Christian, he would not have acted as he did. But his actions will make people fear Christians and Christianity--as they often fear Muslims and Islam. "Christians are all right-wing fundies." "Muslims are terrorists." So people exploit fear, make it their tool. Very sad. And he's not alone, this shooter.

Childhood sex abusers use fear. Dictators do too. And so we come to distrust and fear all who represent any power or authority.

I'm not even sure where I'm going with this.

But maybe it's just that while we can't get rid of fear entirely--and it can sometimes be our ally--we just need to have the tools to respond to it.

Yes, it's normal to be afraid of fire. So we don't stop cooking, just use potholders when handling hot dishes and know how to put out kitchen fires.

Climbing a mountain is plenty scary. So it's wise to hold off climbing K-2 until you know how to climb smaller mountains. And some may never feel qualified to climb the 8000+ meter peaks in the Himalayas. But maybe they stretch their limits past their fears of climbing in the Catskills.

We each recognize with gratitude the fear we carry and that protects us--and then through love and wisdom know when to transcend that fear.

And through wisdom and love know when to fear a fake police officer or fake Christian--and discern when the police officer or Christian is genuine. This is hard--I'm not always sure I get it myself. Sometimes it's a matter of not jumping right in thinking to be brave (or in the case of the fake cop and other fake authorities) obedient--but heeding our intuitions, heeding that inner light whenever possible. Sometimes as we listen, we can move past the fear. Sometimes we need to walk more carefully or back off.

Just some Sunday thoughts.,..

Saturday, July 23, 2011

100+, 30, and me... and full disclosure

100+, 30, and me... and full disclosure

Okay, here’s the significance.

100+: That would be the temperature for the past few days in the Philly area and pretty much all around the country, except for those lucky people out west and they know who they are.

30: That’s how many miles I thought I “ran” this week, using the word in quotes because there were times when my forward movement, although it aspired to running could only charitably be called that.

Me: Well, duh—you no doubt know whose blog you’re reading. But okay, I’ll concede it’s not quite that simple.

Full disclosure? See below (and hinted at above after "30").

Whose idea was it to cling to a goal of reaching her highest summer mileage during the heat wave from Hades? Mine. I must admit, I reconsidered this goal several times. I’d face the prospect of running and think, “Why? It’s a hundred million degrees out there, and the newscasters are telling everyone to park themselves beside an air conditioner and STAY THERE. And, granted, the idea isn’t unattractive.

And let’s just say that when I thought I’d aim for a nice, even round number of miles, it seemed like a good idea at the time. These words are the undoing of many.

And really, it’s not that many miles over a week, relatively speaking. For instance, many elite runners will do well over 100 miles per week and would consider my 30 very paltry. And I would agree with them. As mileage goes, it’s not huge. It isn’t even as many miles per week as I’ve done on some occasions in the past.

And I expect no one to be impressed. I’m not even so sure I am. But there was another question bumping around in my mind with regard to this goal—and the way the weather played with it. When I asked myself why not take my easy recovery week this week, I found myself saying “NO WAY!” Sheer stubbornness, I suppose. I’d say to myself, this isn’t do or die. No one cares how many miles per week you run or don’t run. You won’t change the course of the world economy. We won’t be any closer to world peace. You won’t start winning Olympic medals—or for that matter even your age group in 5k’s. Your next door neighbors will still play their music too loud. What will change, except possibly the amount of water weight you might lose (and put back on with dinner and a beer).

And so I was as intrigued as any skeptic would be about my choice of this goal.

The classic statement by Mallory before he met an untimely death attempting Mt. Everest might apply here: Because it’s there. Fortunately, my ambition in both height and distance wasn’t nearly as lofty or as risky as his was. But then again, lofty, risky goals at least gain public attention and buy a bit of fame. I don’t expect more public attention or fame than I will get from the two or three of you reading this (although the number might go up to a half dozen if I put the link on Facebook).

If this heat wave hadn’t complicated matters, the mileage wouldn’t even feel all that much to me—a small step up from the 28 I did last week). I’m getting ready for fall racing, and want to have the endurance to run the longer (but not immensely long) races on my schedule—the Delaware Distance Classic (Oct.), the Philadelphia Half Marathon (Nov.) and maybe also do some quality shorter races: The Radnor Run (5 miles), the Franklin Bridge 10k. These are part of the USATF Mid-Atlantic Grand Prix series, and I find myself drawn into the goal setting—wanting to do well in my age group and in overall age grade points. At 60, I even wonder why I pursue this competition so intently. Why a heat wave won’t convince me to take a step-down week. After all it’s a normal thing for a runner to do at certain points in her training.

But I’d set my sights on 30, and I knew that if I changed course, I would find it too easy to do so in the future. Having set this goal and stayed with it, I felt the satisfaction that comes with not backing off something when it gets hard. I will take a recovery week this coming week, but that will be part of the plan, not something I felt forced into by circumstances.

It isn’t to say one shouldn’t be flexible. If I were injured or sick, I’d back off. But I’m healthy—and maybe stronger as a result of holding on through this crazy-hot week.

And as I walked home from the Y where I added some stretching/strengthening exercises to the five miles today (which included a light speed workout), I found myself (almost as if watching in wonder from outside me) thinking, “What a beautiful day!” This at noon in 100-degree heat? Okay, you can say I lost my mind. But I heard the “twt” of cardinals hidden in trees in Naylor’s Run Park and even felt a light breeze. And I’d set out to run 30 miles this week—and did it.

Or... not quite. A miscount of my miles reveals only 29. Now, the question: take that easy week anyway next week? Add in a 30th mile to even it, then take the easy week--or aim for 30 next week? Or wait for the following week (when no doubt the heat wave will be back taking my measure again. Stay tuned. Or not. Just where on the spectrum of totally committed--or commitable--am I? Do I celebrate the accomplishment of running every day through this overheated week (which I did manage to do) or feel the disappointment of realizing it wasn't quite enough? Or both? Where to go from here? Well, running would be one answer. On the way to the Polo Fields for this past Tuesday's workout, it crossed my mind, "why am I still doing this?"

And my answer was "I'll keep going until I figure that one out. And then probably will keep going once that happens. It's running--and it's keeping me healthy, if a bit crazy--and maybe even smart. Have a look at this: