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Keeping the Joy.

24 July 2015

I see a lot of people in the world invested in being unhappy. This is true in relationships, careers, and personal goals and activities. As an alcoholic, my investment in my addiction was an investment in unhappiness. In exchange for the momentary flood of intoxication that I thought I needed, I surrendered my joy and desire and success and contentment. I use to lament that I just wanted to be happy. And yet I sabotaged myself at every turn.

Much of my unhappiness was associated with trying to get what I wanted and control the outcome of my circumstances. I was terrible at recognizing what I could control and what I couldn’t. I felt victimized by random events going against me. And I externalized my own mistakes onto the actions of others, so that I wouldn’t be to blame for my own failings. This is a seductive trap. Feeling like a victim excuses so much. It obviates the need to actually work to change my circumstances.

A few things I’ve learned, now, as a sober person in life have helped me move out of that shadow of self-enforcing despair. The past is the past. No one can ever control the past. But we can let it be in the past. One of my favorite movies, Magnolia, has a refrain that “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” And that’s definitely true. But we can choose to set it down, and stop engaging with it, actively. Decide to move on instead of living there and trying to correct it.

Obsession is another source of self-arranged misery. I can get deeply interested in topics, and that’s a strength of mine. It helps me learn and grow. But I can also take things far overboard, and become entrenched in detail and minutia. I am avoiding this with my fitness. I don’t have a heart rate monitor. I don’t count calories much. I know that I could get lost in the quantification of my fitness, and that that would lead me to stop enjoying it.

I read a number of running blogs, and I find so many people obsessing about their time and distance and pulse rate and VO2 Max or something and then talking about how their last three runs were awful because they didn’t make a specific goal or mark. I guess that’s fine if that’s where your goals lie. Personally, I resist making goals that require that. My runs might be hard or easy or fun or awful. But I never really feel like I wasted my run, or had a terrible week running, or whatever. Every time I run, it’s a time I ran. I did something good for myself. I’m happy.

I have decided to try to live without investing in my own unhappiness. I’m not going to participate in things that I can’t influence in positive ways. I’m try to avoid outcome-based assessments of my performance at work and on the running path. I measure what I put in, not what I get out. Sometimes, if I put in more than zero, it’s too much. Sometimes, I need to put in all I can repeatedly, and be grateful I have that opportunity.

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