Be careful what you wish for. Rather, concentrate on what you want. Do it consciously. Prepare for the outcome - whatever the outcome. Understand that what you are seeking is also seeking you - but your definition of it and your expectations may not be the same as its definition of itself.
Or perhaps you seek appearance: what you see on the surface, without understanding what exists beneath it. When you achieve your goal it may be an iceberg with more beneath the obvious than you were prepared to handle.
I’ve shipwrecked on this iceberg several times in my life. New capability brought with it ambition that refused to be easily satisfied, and what I did to feed that came with more unforeseen costs. I changed on my way to achieving what I wanted and with that changed my peers, changed my friends, finding new and sometimes becoming unrecognizable to old. Social order shifts as our values evolve. And that cuts both ways.
In the physical I seek what’s unseen. I use it as a lens to see deeper, as a shovel to dig, as a knife to cut away. Sometimes writing this or describing it in conversation makes me realize how distant my use of the tool is from that of those around me. Still, I can only hold it by the same grip it has on me, and only wield it the way I understand it. Over the years what I was seeking also found its way to me.
Each of us has a different relationship to training and physical activity. I’ve often written about the difference between who can “hurt” and who can “suffer”. I understand the difference and I embrace it but I resonate with the latter. It’s not so much intensity vs. duration as it is the external contrasted to the internal. Recently on my IG feed I posted the following:
“We value duration over intensity because the long route insists on introspection and self-analysis. For ourselves, success on the short intense route left too much down time to start believing our own bullshit. So we went long. When 24 hours non-stop wasn't enough we went longer. When 40 hours non-stop only hinted at lessons available to those who would invest more we went longer again. Finally, after 63 hours on the go we realized that we had found what we were looking for.”
I found the truth of Self in those hours, with prejudice and pretense beaten out of me by effort and risk and deep physical and mental fatigue. Who I was and could be to others - according to their expectations - disappeared and true self stood up instead. This man could not be unearthed by intensity alone. The clarity I found at the end of long, expensive effort changed who I had learned to be from and for the people around me.
That was years ago. And I’ve always believed it would take incredible effort, and risk, and difficulty to experience my self in such a way again. I’ve searched for it in the mountains, on my bike, in the gym, in the A-zone up close or the small ring in the distance - concentrating so damn hard that the only thing left was an undistracted me - and I thought it needed to be hard, that the tighter I held on the clearer my vision would become. Sometimes I found myself in the crash of weights hitting the floor, or saw myself through the tunnel vision of 98% max heart rate. Once or twice I knew precisely who I was by way of the pain in my legs and the copper penny taste in my mouth. Usually though, the clarity came in the aftermath of effort, in knowing I held nothing back, in the glow of spent muscles, and an emptied tank, in realizing that no further effort would be required.
Slowly, I began to understand that - after so many years of practice - I didn’t need the effort or the danger to experience the relaxed acuity of the aftermath. Maybe I don’t need to hold on until exhaustion forces me to let go. Maybe I can simply let go. And watch the half-truths and pretense drift away. I can sit, and breathe, and think/not think, and simply be.
I know the years of pushing and thrashing myself were not wasted, that I needed that experience beforehand to allow me to learn a different means of reaching the same objective. I won’t ever give up on effort. I won’t stop using the physical to access the psychological depth I want to plumb but I do finally realize that “hurt” and “suffer” aren’t the only tools available to shape a deeper understanding.