As an introduction to this piece, I have to publically slap myself on the wrist and admit how ashamed I feel for the gigantic lapse of time since my previous blog post....4 months!!! Ahhh! Horrible! And also because this blog covers a similar topic I've opened up about before. Ahhh! So nothing really new here. TWO STRIKES!!! Ouch.
But I have a warm feeling this prose passage I've written can make up for time lost.
My friend Madeleine is gunning for her first ultramarathon in Iceland this summer and has created a blog about her journey. She asked me to write a guest piece for her and I accepted. Below is a heartfelt revelation about 'discomfort', a pillar to my relationship with the sport of ultramarathon running ... and the sport of life. This is the first of a series of written prose.
(For a more enjoyable reading experience, please simultaneously listen to https://soundcloud.com/max-richter/5m20)
“He or she that holds the highest capacity for discomfort will rise fastest.”
- Brene Brown
Discomfort has and always will be my most impactful teacher. Discomfort has taught me more than any teacher, professor, friend, or family member.
Discomfort can enslave. It can bring out the weakest in all of us. But if used as a tool, if it can be understood and seen as an opportunity, it can bring out the strongest in all of us. Discomfort can therefore empower.
My relationship with discomfort is rooted deeply with a disease that afflicts 15% of Canadians and over 30 million Americans. Atopic Dermatitis, also known as Eczema, is an incurable skin disease that torments the physical body with painful rashes, cuts, and wounds, uncontrollable itchiness, and embarrassing redness, dryness, and flaking. Throughout my childhood I was enslaved by eczema. Throughout my young adulthood, I endured eczema. But now in my adulthood, I am learning to embrace it.
My relationship with eczema was a never-ending battle. Whenever I fought with it, it fought back harder. Every day it brought me discomfort not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. It challenged my self-esteem. It questioned my confidence. I faced embarrassment daily. I experienced learned helplessness. At the lowest of times, I questioned my self-worth.
It is in these moments of despair that we discover discomfort as more than just a feeling. We realize that discomfort is in fact a mindset. When our values, morals, and beliefs are challenged so intensely, when our authentic selves are put in question, as a result, new perspectives, attitude, and actions ensue. It is simply our responsibility to listen, engage, and respond accordingly and carefully.
Martin Seligman says “the skills of becoming happy turn out to be entirely different from the skills of not being sad, not being anxious, and not being angry.”
This quote exemplifies my paradigm shift on the discomfort of eczema. Instead of not being sad about the incurable fate of eczema, instead of not being anxious when facing social situations, instead of not being angry at something I couldn’t change, I shifted to acceptance, management, and opportunity.
The change is in the challenge.
The sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour.
The negatives fuel our positives.
Adversity paves way for authenticity.
Today, I look at discomfort in a profoundly different way. I no longer fight with it. I no longer endure it. I now manage it. I use it as a tool. I embrace it. And now I need to share it.
To me, ultra marathon running is so much more than just extreme endurance running, it is a reflection of a life lived honouring discomfort and the unrelenting passion for self-empowerment.