This is my view when I run.
I prefer running at night.
(Warning: In the dark, everywhere is deer crossing–including you.)
In fact, I sometimes just get in my car and go for long drives at night. I like what I see in the dark: Nothing.
Doesn’t sound too sensible, I know, but I’ll explain:
Life Is About Fear
When you were just a little kid, you were afraid of the dark. At least a little bit. You were afraid because you honestly didn’t know if there were monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed. The stories were pretty real to you anyway. The shadows made you hide under the covers.
When you were a kid, you lived in that reality. A reality of monsters and heroes, fairy tales, fantasies. Your imagination was an amazing thing. You created your reality by what you chose to think.
Then you grew up. And life hit you hard. Reality set in. You learned how the real world works.
There are no monsters under your bed, and the chance of being bitten by a deadly snake or spider–well in the grand scheme of things, you just don’t have to worry about it anymore. There are more important things to worry about.
(I get why some grown ups stay afraid of clowns, though.)
The fear that crept up now and then in your childhood is replaced by an even darker, broader pessimism, until it demands all your focus and energy.
You know more now. What do grown ups fear? Just as deeply as children (we just learn how to hide it)?
Rejection. Failure. Age. Death. Relationships. Divorce. Bills. Taxes. Crowds. Meetings. Bosses. Work. Customers. Conversations. Criticism. Confrontation. Politics. Government. Terrorists. Responsibility. Disappointment. Hurt. Awkwardness. Wrinkles. Fat. Arthritis. Cancer. Injury. Accidents. Lawsuits. Salespeople.
Life. Reality. It’s all too scary.
But somewhere along the way, for a reason too deep to explore in any less than a book, we lost our childlike optimism.
We lost our ability to think almost anything besides stressful, discouraging, fearful thoughts.
We’re less scared of the dark. But we can’t trust our parents to protect us anymore.
We’re not worried about monsters. But we can’t stop thinking about growing old and frail.
We’re not scared of strangers kidnapping us. But we can’t meet strangers without fearing rejection.
We’re not terrified by legends of ghosts and goblins. We’re terrified of being late to another meeting.
Sharing our toys doesn’t scare us. Monthly payments do.
Movies don’t scare us anymore. But we can’t watch a movie without stressing about the homework we could be doing instead.
And now, as adults, we rarely stop worrying. All we see around us is scary. Relationships, money, age, stress, work. They might not make us cry (in public), but they still scare the hell out of us.
They sap the energy out of us. We’re tired, because with all our worrying, we have no mental room left for genuine excitement.
The Grand Canyon and Almonds
It’s not that we’ve lost our imagination entirely. It’s not that we don’t believe in good and beautiful anymore.
It’s that we’re drowning in the stress and fear surrounding us. Constantly, unrelentingly screaming at us.
You never get too old to appreciate. You never get too hardened to be amazed.
I remember the first time I ever walked up to the edge of the Grand Canyon.
I could not believe my eyes. My jaw dropped. It was … bigger than I could have ever imagined.
To this day, I can still feel that childish feeling of awe.
Beautiful. We adults can still feel beauty. We just usually have to wait for a vacation.
I wonder, though, if we tried tuning out a little of the fear that directs our daily life, if even a little almond might not just taste amazing, too.
In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn both humorously and sincerely explores the sensations offered simply by biting into an almond.
Why don’t we explore, anymore?
Why don’t we think of everything in life the way we did as kids?
Why don’t glass elevators in fancy hotels still blow our minds?
Why don’t we live with as much and as intense excitement as we do fear?
Why I Love Running at Night
I will argue from the bottom of my heart and to the end of my days that one of the biggest reasons our lives are missing happiness is that we are paying too much attention to the things that scare us.
You CAN stop thinking about money, work, and relationships sometimes.
We have forgotten that as little kids we created our own happiness by drawing a picture of a beautiful idea or by choosing to wander in the woods.
We have been educated, book-learned, and advertised into a non-stop focus on the exact things that cause us stress.
Who reads novels anymore?
Who thinks happy thoughts anymore?
Who hopes anymore?
Everything around us is filled with stress and pressure. Everything around us is too much to handle.
It’s not that there’s no beauty left to see.
It’s that you can’t pay as much attention as 1st world, 21st century humanity does to fear and sadness–to the stressful things trying to take over our lives–without the negativity drowning out the positivity.
And that’s why I like walking, running, driving, exploring at night. Because there’s nothing there.
There are no businesses to remind us of work.
There are no people to remind us of social pressures.
There are no billboards to remind us of what we can’t afford.
There are no banks to remind us of our budget.
There is no traffic to remind us of the daily grind.
There is no noise to attend to.
No things to look at.
Then, just like a child, your imagination is freed to create something good.
Why does growing up mean reality no longer consists of the thoughts you have, but the things you have to get done in a week?
There is more to reality than to-do lists. A lot more. Go look outside.
It’s hard to attend to something happy when your entire mind has already been monopolized by fearful thoughts, sounds, and images.
What’s Around You Doesn’t Matter Nearly as Much as You’ve Been Told.
That all sounded a little dramatic, didn’t it?
I could have been more short and to the point. Saved time.
I kind of rambled like I liked the sound of my own voice, I guess.
Well alone in the dark, without a judging world, there’s nothing wrong with liking the sound of your own voice.
Alone in the dark, you can think and talk about whatever you need and want, without even a thought of the scary, judging, stressful, demanding pressures around us in the adulthood we’ve learned.
I like to run in the dark, far away from everyone else, because it lets me think and feel.
No distractions, no projects to work on at home, no computer to stare at, no people to watch me, no bustling streets to watch.
Just a perfect darkness to help me let go of the noisy world of fear and get in touch with myself.
It doesn’t have to be dark out–less to distract just makes it easier.
But the bottom line is this: Whatever it takes, we all really need to take some time and get away from the stresses that have swallowed up our lives and dreams in fear.
There can be more to your life.