My Chrysalis Self

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ― Steve Maraboli

I woke up this morning with a sore throat. That is something that would ordinarily freak me the hell out, having me drowning myself in orange juice, and pounding vitamin C because I have a tendency towards strep throat that is so awful and unrelenting that I popped a Ricola as a preventative measure just for typing those words into this sentence. Not kidding. It was honey-herb flavored and so far it’s working.

I wasn’t as worried this morning however because I was really letting shit get to me yesterday and I also know that sore throats are how my body responds to me being overly stressed. I know it sounds weird. But when I get stressed out, I get a sore throat. It’s usually the undeniable sign that I need to make some adjustments, whether they be in attitude or behavior.

I think everyone already knows that stress is bad for us. It inhibits the immune system, negatively affects our ability to achieve quality sleep, reduces the body’s capacity to regulate inflammation, and even affects how the body metabolizes food or responds to exercise. You have to love the fact that insufficient or low quality sleep increases your stress levels, and increased stress levels make it harder to achieve deep regenerative sleep. In short, stress sucks.

My back has been bothering me for almost a week now too and I’m starting to wonder if that is not stress related as well. I’m falling apart dammit.

Not really. I’m just annoyed. But eventually those two things start to feel about the same.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

What’s stressing me out? The same shit that stresses everyone else out. I’m not special. Work, finances, general dissatisfaction with any number of things in my life. The details are unimportant. I’ve been a little busier at work lately. I’ve got a few too many financial and/or schedule obligations coming together at the same time. And because so few of these things are particularly fulfilling to me personally, I’m under-motivated to deal with them. They’re all just chores. I hate chores. I’ve got goals I want to achieve and plans to accomplish them, but I have to get through this current bog of inconvenience first. And I’m impatient.

It’s all selfish and self-inflicted. Because I’m seeing too much energy and expense being spent in directions unfulfilling to me, I’m letting that dissatisfaction stress me out. But none of it is insurmountable or infinite, and I should be focusing on the path beyond these hurdles and how eager I am to run down it. It’s all about perspective. And mine is clearly a little askew right now.

“Running made me free. It rid me of concern for the opinion of others. Dispensed me from rules and regulations imposed from the outside. Running let me start from scratch. It stripped off those layers of programmed activity and thinking. Developed new priorities about eating and sleeping and what to do with leisure time. Running changed my attitude about work and play. About whom I really liked and who really liked me. Running let me see my twenty-four-our day in a new light and my lifestyle from a different point of view, from the inside instead of out.” – Dr. George Sheehan.

I saw the above quote in the current issue of Runner’s World and it immediately spoke to me. I felt like it summed up so many of the things I’ve expressed less eloquently both in private and in this blog. It’s full of the enthusiasm, strength, and self confidence that come with personal growth. But it is also essentially about what can be one of the most difficult and daunting parts of that development; change.

I’m not sure that it should be, but I believe that change is sometimes the scariest thing each of us has to experience in our lives. Reluctance to it has almost become an accepted, or at least understood, part of the current idea of human nature. I’ve done no research on this, but it seems that so many people strive for some sort of norm; a static condition that can be adjusted to and made comfortable. How many people are working jobs that they hate while making no effort to find another one? How many people are dissatisfied with their health but make no effort to improve it? How many people simply accept a dissatisfying situation because changing it seems too difficult or just plain scary?

I work with people that will complain about someone else getting a promotion that they wanted, only to later let it slip that they didn’t even apply for that position. What? How can someone complain about not getting a job that they didn’t apply for? Was the job they wanted supposed to come ask them to come aboard? Has the world ever worked that way? Maybe complaining itself has become that static world they’ve found comfort in. I’m not interested in that world.

But I have been guilty of similar inactions. I’ve owned cars with such ridiculous mechanical quirks that only I knew how to drive them. Sometimes that was due to a lack of funds to fix the issue. Sometimes it was laziness. Most of the time it was a dream team of the two together.

But I am in no way stressed out in anxiety or apprehension towards any of the changes that I’ve made in the last several months. On the contrary, I’m eager and excited to continue on the path I’m on. I’m stressed at the things I view as standing in my way. The longer I travel in the direction I’m moving, the faster I want to go. The more I learn about myself and my potential, the more I want to discover. I may have spent decades building the world’s strongest and most impenetrable wall around my chrysalis self, but I want to spread my wings and free myself of that cocoon. And having to spend so much time and resources fulfilling legal (taxes, bills, etc.) and previously made personal obligations just frustrates me. And this week, I let it get to me way too much. It’s just another battle to be won. No biggie. I know I can do anything.

“But I think that at the most basic level, every one of us who runs does so because, deep down, we crave that little daily battle — against busyness, distraction, adversity, self-doubt — that every time we lace up our shoes, push ourselves out the door, and run, we win.” – Matt Frazier

Over the next couple of months, as I get through this temporary time of annoyance, I know my appreciation of running will be reinforced and strengthened. It is still that one thing that I know will always make me feel better and give me the meditative release I need when I feel overwhelmed.

I was talking with a friend recently and explaining to her how I knew I had changing even more than I might have realized. There was a time not very long ago when a stressful day at work would have elicited a comment similar to “Ugh, I’m definitely going to need a beer after this day.” It was just something I would say. Sometimes I would actually meet some friends after work for a beer (or six), sometimes I’d pop a top at my house, and sometimes I wouldn’t even bother.

Last week while getting increasingly frustrated at work and desperately wanting to get the hell out of there, I put my face firmly in the palms of my hands, pressed my fingers into my temples, and simply grumbled “fuck, I cannot wait to go run.” As soon as I said it, I felt better. Obviously I already knew that I loved running. And I was totally aware of its therapeutic affect on me. But in the same way that I sometimes forget that I’ve lost weight until I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I hadn’t quite realized how unconscious and truly ingrained in me it has become. And that realization really reinforced the feeling that I’m on a good path, even if that path still has the occasional mud puddle or downed tree limb.

I may not necessarily be happy all the time. I might have some shitty days. And I may vent my frustration in unconstructive and juvenile ways sometimes. But I’m happy with who I am and what I’m doing. And I truly cannot wait to see what other changes are to come. If I’m smart, I’ll accept that I have to wait and realize that there just might be something to learn in that too. We’ll see.