My breathing was off. I couldn’t get it under control. My running gait seemed off too. The irritation on my foot that had started out as an annoyance was now a raging blister that made a squishing sound every time I stepped.
I was running my first marathon. If I was honest with myself though, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to finish what I had started. The early miles had been great, the middle so-so, but now I wasn’t sure how much further I could go. I was losing focus and my body was starting to rebel. Crowds lined the street and shouted encouragement, but I could barely focus on them, I simply wanted the pain to stop.
I was at my lowest point. I was considering quitting, and then, I turned a corner and saw a large traffic sign. I strained to read the words: finish line, one mile. I couldn’t believe it. If I could just keep up my “wobble,” I would make it. I would complete my first marathon – all 26.2 miles.
My emotions the entire day had been all over the place, from nervous excitement at the start of the race to joy, fear, and even anger. When I passed the sign, I was surprised to see myself break out into tears. I looked like a sweaty rat, so I doubt anyone could tell, but I had tears streaming down my face. Later when I stepped gingerly across the finish line, my body let out a final spasm of tears mixed with joy and relief.
All these years later, my memory of that race is strong. I find that I still have to wipe away a tear in the corner of my eye. I was at a breaking point, I could have gone either way. The race came at a tough time. I was worried about my wife’s health and my kids too. The tears were a way to let off the tension that filled up inside of me.
Maintain your composure
Guys tend to keep our emotions close to the vest. We’re often told subconsciously to be strong, to be stoic. At least that’s what I was told as a kid. I long viewed being sensitive as a bad thing, but I’ve come a long way. I know now that tears help to relieve pain; release toxins and relieve stress; and has a soothing effect. I’ve been thinking about the times I’ve cried in my life:
–I cried as a young kid when my uncle died in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t really understood what was happening, but I remember the tears wouldn’t stop. They just kept coming and coming. One of my cousins sat with me on a bench in a waiting area and the tears still kept coming.
–I cried when I walked out of my last final exam in college and walked back to my room. I was sad to leave college, but I had been so worried the past four years on doing well and finding a way to pay for college that the relief of taking my last final crept up and floored me.
–I cried when my father died. My father’s health was not well, but the evening call after work still caught me by surprise. I cried even harder when I looked up and saw two of my kids staring back at me, confused and even a little scared to see their dad so emotional.
I’ve had good cries too.
–I cried when my wife said yes to my marriage proposal. I cried when my wife gave birth to each of our kids. Those were tears of joy and excitement and pure craziness. What were we doing? What crazy fate awaited us? And what had I done to deserve these perfect little angels?
–And three years ago, I cried when I left my long-term employer to start a new job. I cried as I started my commute home. I had thought at one point that I would work at that job until I retired. It wasn’t to be and I felt the emotions rise to the surface. In the end, moving on was the best thing for me. But I still felt the mix of emotions well up inside of me.
Dealing with emotions
I’ve cried at other moments. I watch the news and see bombed-out apartment building in the Ukraine and refugee kids on the side of the road and I let out a small sigh. I see my son get excited about college and my wife and I becoming empty nesters and I let out another sigh.
I’ve taught my kids that crying is okay, but I worry about how society drills us to be tough and keep your emotions under control. I get it, but I’m not sure society has it right. I’m with legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano who said in his 1993 ESPY Awards speech: “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
I’m looking for a few more “full days!”