Fear: “Stop at 1 mile, this is too much.”
Me: “We’ll see.”
I like to run. I like to exercise. Both of these saved my life, but it is also what killed me. I haven’t exercised since I arrived in Arizona in July and, now that I have my own place, I started exercising again. I am weakened with the lack of exercise, but I know it is essential to my mental and physical well being.
I used to be very healthy. I used to run 3 miles in 18 minutes and hardly be winded. I was once 170 lbs of lean muscle due to my working out for strength and stamina. I play sports, even when I am not good at them. The ones I do poorly in, I put more effort into being a disruptive presence trying to force turn-overs.
I am not in that condition anymore and it is hard for me. I look in the mirror and see the gaunt, sickly self I was when I got out of the hospital in 2012 after I died. I was 148 lbs and I still see that person. I see the trauma made memory of what I was, not who I am now.
I remind myself that I am not my past. I don’t have to be the weakened, gaunt, and sickly man I had become out of no fault of my own.
And I have a choice: stay that way and mourn who I was or bust my butt and get back there.
It sounds easy, maybe even trite to say “I choose,” but isn’t, I still have fear. When I was that fit, working out to exhaustion and feeling good, I died. It was working out with a blood clot forming in my heart that killed me. My animal self tells me “Exercise killed you. Stop.” but my soul tells me “It was being that fit that saved you. Go.”
We have these choices in life. We have all had severe trauma. Some have had serious medical conditions, some have had devastating loses, some have had horrific marriages. We have these traumatic experiences and all new experiences are colored by them. Serious medical conditions frighten us into avoiding those things we believe were the cause. Devastating losses lead us into rejecting closeness to the new. Horrific marriages make us fear commitment and emotional closeness.
This pattern carries over into our relationship with God. He tells us to have faith and to not fear. Humanity is cursed with fear, because it is fear that helps us protect ourselves from serious harm. However, we were given free agency. Free agency means we have the capacity for reason. Heavenly Father never expects, nor desires us, to be fearless blindly. Instead, He asks us to not fear thoughtfully. He expects us to face our fears, reason them, make a choice that is healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically. He expects us to make these choices knowing fear, but choosing despite it. That knowledge is available through the spirit. Making those choices is courage.
But where do you start? You start by facing your fear directly. Strap on shoes and take the first step. It is terrifying, but it is necessary. It is a fact that if I chose to not exercise, I increase the likelihood I will die again, but this time from my own complacency, and assuredly more permanent.
Fear: “OK, you did a mile, you can stop.”
Me: “Nope, I will run to the next corner.”
I started running again, but I am easily winded – I am out of shape, after all. I start running and can feel my mind looking for any indication that I am going to die again. My mind is constantly monitoring, looking for a reason to call a halt. Unfortunately, it is looking for the slightest discomfort as an indicator. So I have to push through. I have to recalibrate my brain to accept that this is the new “OK.”
The first mile was hard, but my mind witnessed that I was not anywhere near being in danger. It wants to avoid even the remote possibility that I could be, so it starts telling me to quit, before I even see danger. I am winded, I am strained, I have muscle aches – it is hard. But I can’t strengthen without resistance. My heart won’t get stronger, my lungs won’t develop more capacity, and my muscles won’t become leaner without pushing past the first indications of stress.
As I seek to align my will with Heavenly Father’s will, I will meet resistance. I will have difficulty, I will feel “This is too much.” It isn’t. Heavenly Father knows our limits, we don’t. We only believe we know our limits, but those limits are self imposed. We have to push through the discomfort, we have to resist the urge to quit at the first sign of hardship. We cannot strengthen and endure unless our endurance and strength is increased. Increase only comes through pushing through the fear of failure and pain of effort.
Fear: “The corner is coming. You can stop. You’re winded, you’re sore, you’re breathing hard and you’re chest hurts.”
Me: “No, I am ignoring the pain, it is temporary. The pain is my getting stronger. I will push on.”
As we push through, our minds begin to panic. However, it is panicking based off of a completely different experience, at a completely different time, with a completely different person. We are not our past experiences. They should be informative, but they shouldn’t be the deciding factor. There will always be commonality with something in our past – it is impossible to have a completely new and unique experience more than once. Yes, there are signs to watch for, but are they identical to the previous experience or are they similar? We all look for patterns – it is basic survival. Where survival turns to fear is when we take specific experiences and generalize them to every experience. A general application will always find similarity when tied to a unique experience. We have to be mindful of that.
Heavenly Father doesn’t give us general rules. He has specific ordinances, specific processes, but we are allowed our unique path to those things. Baptism is a general concept, but the ordinance is very specific, and every baptism is unique in its performance. Such is every experience in our lives. Working out is a general concept, running is a specific activity, yet every run is different. And, in reality, running didn’t kill me, it was a clot. But my mind of fear associates the fact that I had been running, felt pain, and died with every running experience now.
That is the adversary’s way. To take a specific bad experience and turn it into a generalized fear, that causes us to avoid all things that may remotely cross into the generalized fear. All men are jerks, all women are psychos, all dating experiences are bad, because we had a few very specific bad experiences dating, so we quit dating. Or we close off. Or we reject someone because 2 things out 200 were similar to a bad relationship in our past, ignoring or diminishing the importance of the other 198.
I look at my run app: 1.45 miles.
Fear: “Stop now! Stop at 1.5 miles. You hurt, if you don’t, you will DIE!”
I look forward with determination. I begin to sprint.
I think about how I will push until my body stops on its own. I will not allow my fear to dictate my distance. I will sprint through this fear until I have nothing left. I trust the quiet, small voice of my actual body, the one that I know will tell me what is right. Just like the spirit, I will be well informed beyond my mind.
I do so with my spiritual fear as well. I see the hardships – I push through. I feel the emotional pain and loneliness – I push through. I do not fear because I know in whom I trust. And if God isn’t done with me, then I cannot allow myself to be done.
I push harder.
I stop when I have nothing left and look at my app: 1.75 miles. I walk in peace the last quarter mile. Fear silenced and I think to myself:
“I am not dead yet.”