Sunday, March 20, 2011

Running Lessons: Our complicated hearts

As I headed out for my long run this morning (a relaxed 12 km through Shubie Park), I was thinking that it felt like the whole world paused in fear and horror this week as workers struggled to respond to the damage at Japan's nuclear power plants. There was awe at the sheer power of nature too - and quiet reflection on the fragility of life.

You could see it on Facebook - in the way friends stopped posting about the more mundane aspects of their day-to-day lives, opting instead to post links to news stories about the disaster, inspirational quotations, and prayers for those affected.

As more stories emerged, many of us were moved and inspired by the resolve of the Japanese people to support one another, learn lessons from what's transpired, and rebuild their country. This morning on the CBC, I heard one commentator describe what's happening on the ground - where communities are working together to help those who've lost so much - as "fleeting moments of utopia in the midst of disaster". 

All of this was in my mind as I made my way into Shubie Park for the first time this season. The sun shone brightly but a bitter north wind stung my face and made my nose and fingers numb.  As I circled the park, running through an urban forest of spruce, white birch and pine trees, memories flooded back - of childhood visits with my family, of running and laughing with a dear friend, and of the dozens of times I've visited on my own over the past decade.

The park has changed since I was there last. A large section of it is now designated as an "off-leash area" where dogs are allowed to run free, and new paths have been added to enable larger doggy gatherings on the lakeshore. It was heart-warming to witness the camraderie of dozens of dogs and their human companions as they met and played there this morning. There was so much joy in their faces, I couldn't help but laugh out loud watching them.

It's astonishing really that our hearts are capable of experiencing so many different emotions at once - or at least in quick succession. All week, I've felt almost nothing but anxiety and sadness like a hard, heavy lump in my chest. But running through the park this morning memories of other visits brought feelings of "sad-happiness" and longing for the past, which were quickly followed by intense joy as I watched those dogs playing in the sunshine.

I guess it's good that we can feel so many different emotions at essentially the same time, but it's unsettling too. What right have I to my joy, happiness, sadness and regret in light of the tragedies in Japan and elsewhere? How do I know what I truly feel about anything when my complicated heart is capable of feeling so many apparently incompatible emotions at once?


  1. ou are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. - Desiderata

    Healing comes in many forms :)

  2. Thanks, Gail. It's good to be reminded of that.