“To tell the truth, I feel a good deal younger…” – George MacDonald.
Appropriate words to start the first day of my fortieth year.
When I was a kid I approached birthdays with a wariness, much like that moment when you are cranking the arm of a Jack-In-The-Box – you know something’s coming that might just thrill you but it also will give that uneasy jolt of fear. I never knew what to expect on birthdays because I was so unsure of my place in the world I suspected no one would notice. But living changes us, and Life has done its share of changes in me.
By all statistical standards I am into the second half of my life, now. When I consider all that is behind me I know I have lived a very full and rich first half. And, yet, I still feel like I am just starting out, probably because I am more aware than ever that I have so much to learn, and see, and experience.
Yesterday, while running up Sunshine Canyon and up the steep Anemone Trail, it hit me that I’ve been distance running for over 25 years. I am not as fast as I once was, nor do I bounce back like I used to. But I still look for new trails and try to get lost far from home so I can enjoy the adventure of finding my way back. When I ran my first official marathon in the 90’s, I remember the darkness I felt in miles 22-24. A body depleted and already past my furthest distance, I questioned my sanity. It was like getting a bucket of depression dumped on me. But I kept running to the finish line.
I didn’t run marathons for a few years after that because I was bothered, almost afraid of that darkness. Rohr says, “In the first of half of life, the negative, the mysterious, the scary, and the problematic are always exported elsewhere.”
One day, though, in no official race capacity I crossed more than that distance and I wasn’t aware until later that I also crossed that wasteland of darkness without batting an eye. What changed?
My best guess is that by this later point in my life I learned there are worse things than feeling depressed and depleted, that there are harder wastelands to cross and that the sun does rise each day, no matter how dark it may seem.
When I was running up Anemone Trail I was also listening to Ivan & Alyosha, “Don’t You Fold:”
Don't you fold
When the mountain is high
When the river is wide
Don't you fold
When you're out of your mind
When you're walking the line
An oasis in the desert
Where the waters run clear
And the only way to see it
Is to believe that it's there
Aside from the in-the-moment-inspiration to keep running that huge vertical gain, the song carries a bit more meaning at forty than it would have earlier. I have seen so many men give up, defeated, resigned or checked out by the time they are my age. Don’t you fold… because you know there is plenty of good ahead.
On the eve of my birthday, I had this eager, boy-like giddiness. It wasn't about presents. I was excited to start a new year and see what Life has in store. After only a few hours of sleep I woke at 4:45 energized, much like I used to be come Christmas day or at the start of trip or even how I feel on a race day. Instead of fearing the anticipatory surprise, I feel a good deal younger, excited for the laughter that comes on the backside of the unexpected as I follow Life into the second half of living…
The Sky at 5:00AM June 13, 2013