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On the way out of the grocery store today with Brooke this afternoon, I watch a father trying to coax his 20-something year old, 6’2″ son with what appeared to be autism into the store – the father was gentle and obviously skilled after however many years of having to do what he was doing, but he was still having extreme difficulty convincing is son it was time to go in.

I could not help, but for a moment, feel anger – not toward the father or the son, but to the situation and whatever deity put them in that situation.

I know children seldom grow into the expectations parents have of them – Lord knows that A) in some ways, my life is completely different from what my dad envisioned for me and B) my own children have already changed (not for better or worse) what I envision for them as adults – but I can’t imagine that this father, some twenty plus years ago thought that he would be doing what was required of him today.  I imagine he foresaw his son leaving for school or taking a job and living independently.

Autism and other debilitating disorders do that – they don’t just change the dreams we have for our kids, they can crush them.

Brooke was brushed more lightly than others with autism.  She does not have Asperger’s, but she is verbal and she is socially motivated.  I see a kid that wants to be part of society, wants to contribute…someway, somehow.

Maybe my long-term expectations are high; maybe they are unrealistic…

…maybe part of the reason that I got a little angry this afternoon was that I was afraid that I was getting a glimpse of the future…

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Spring of 1992 was the last time I remember being Angry.

Yes, I’ve been mad about things many times since, but not since that Spring have I been truly, blindly, enraged.

I have a pretty long fuse – probably longer than most people’s (maybe too long).  I don’t tend to get Angry – I mean really Angry.  “angry” yes, “Angry” no.  When “angry Luau” makes an appearance, it can be unsettling, not just for me, but for those around me who, for the most part, never see that side of me.

After studying Kung-Fu as a youngster for over 10 years I learned a few things, but two things apropos to today’s post were 1.)the need to stay calm and 2.)fear of what would happen if I didn’t.  During those 10+ years, I got very good at what I did.  I have spent a lifetime since avoiding physical confrontation for fear that in the midst of anger, I would do something that I would regret for the rest of my life.  Twice in my early 20’s, things got out of hand, people got hurt, I swore to be more disciplined.

Recently, we (my family) have had to deal with some things, some people that have really tested my fuse.  There have been moments when I have come close to losing it, but the remnants of my training have prevailed.

What does this have to do with running?

Everything.

I have not actively practiced Kung-Fu in almost 20 years.  Any martial artist will tell you that when push comes to shove, the muscles remember, but I have not had the benefit of the daily workouts, the daily meditations, the daily focusing – that is, until I discovered running a little over two years ago.

Much like the martial arts, regular running is about discipline – whether you are a marathoner, a road racer or you run simply for the health benefits, running regularly is about focusing, achieving and getting the body to push its limits, to do something that you would not normally do in today’s society (a sad topic for another post someday).  When taking it up to the marathon level, running can also be about maintaining a certain level-headedness when every fiber in your being is telling you to stop.

As much as Kung-Fu helped me lengthen my fuse over the course of 10 years when I was younger, running has done the same over the last 2.  The discipline obtained from running 20+ miles many times over has carried over into my non-running life, the part that must remain calm when anger is trying to rear its ugly head.

I still fear anger, as I did when I was younger.

Though I do not like to run angry because of the heightened potential for injury, I do find that running is a great outlet for those negative feelings.  The rhythmic beat of running is conducive toward a meditative state that allows one to work through the anger without letting the anger grab hold of your core – much like the meditation sessions we would have in Kung-Fu class.  Running also provides a heightened physical state that allows one to have the physical reaction of anger in a controlled way, sweating away the negative energy.

I have been mad and angry these past couple of weeks, bordering on Angry – people do crappy things; but running has kept me grounded.  Running has kept me focused.

***

Sadly, running has not stopped me from feeling overwhelmed at times.  Running has not stopped the tears – in fact, there have been runs that ended in tears as the emotion of trying to understand why some people do what they do pours out with my sweat and eventually gets to me.  But the running I do has channeled the potential Anger, harnessed it and used it for the power of good (specifically and hopefully taking me to a BQ-5*).

***

Whether it is running or swimming or biking or boxing – hard, physical exertion can go a long way toward managing, channeling and potentially harnessing negative emotions like anger, much like Tai-Chi.  With the path our lives took over the past few years, Lord knows what kind of person I would have evolved into had I not discovered running.  The outlet that running has provided has been a Godsend.

I may not be a religious man, but Lord, I want You to know I am thankful.  Thank you for the gift of fleet feet, emotional running and cleansing sweat.

*A BQ-# is the new designation I have seen floating around due to the new rolling registration for the Boston Marathon – the different levels being BQ-20 (qualifying by more than 20 minutes), BQ-10, BQ-5 and BQ.  The higher the number, the more likely you will have the opportunity to register.  My goal this summer is to achieve a BQ-5 so that I may register for Boston on the 5th day of registration as opposed to the second week where there is the possibility that registration will already be closed.

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