When I was in high school I did not like science. I had zero interest. The flip side of that was I wanted good grades. So I had to care enough to get a good grade and move on. My dad, trained as a chemical engineer, loves science. Specifically, the periodic table of elements. He’s a smart man all around, and I was lucky to have him help me with my homework. He would read the chapter of my book we were working on to refresh his memory, then the light bulb would go on, “Oh this!! This is so great! See, Christie, this is how it works…” And he would expertly and enthusiastically explain how it all worked with much more detail than I was interested in. I’d get the entire background as to how it all came together. In his mind, nothing was better! Though I knew how fortunate I was to have my amazing dad, I was like, all I wanted to know was how to answer number 4!
Even so, I thoroughly admired his enthusiasm and excitement and that part was contagious. Though I never shared his full enthusiasm for the periodic table, it inspired me enough to get a surface level understanding of the subject that I would have likely never conjured on my own. However, the deep underlying workings of this science never stuck. It was like there was this wall inside of me, and I really needed a deep care about science to break it down. Whatever it did to light a fire in my dad, was not compatible for me.
Many years later, I’m still that way with science. I get excited about the things I need to know, such as my interest in science in terms of running a marathon because I care enough not to hit the proverbial wall. I’ve hit them before and they are not fun. That is motivation in itself. I do love to know how the body works, and that has helped me a lot as a coach. However, what is most important to me, that fills me with the excitement and enthusiasm my dad shared, is the power of the mind.
I’m thinking of getting Wil into CrossFit. It would be a beneficial workout for his low muscle tone. I was talking to a local CrossFit gym owner who is a very dedicated and knowledgeable man. I really enjoyed talking to him as we clearly both share a passion for fitness. He was telling me how runners are the hardest population to train in CrossFit. Runners love to run. CrossFit breaks things down and that is very challenging mentally for runner. He said he used to be a runner, and though running is satisfying, you really need more.
Scientifically, you do. I do not disagree. We runners need cross-training to stay muscularly balanced to avoid injury. But what I love most about running is what rises above science. It’s how you feel. And you need that big, open space in front of you to do it. Surely, you can try to break down the feeling runners get to endorphins, and all of that. But only partially. I would challenge any scientist to take even one person, measure what they have going on in life, how they individually process those personal events, then after going for a run, how the trajectory of their thoughts change after said run and how exactly they now will behave different because of said run. While some predications may be made, an experience like that could never be accurately measured even with large margin of error. I love that piece of mystery in our lives that is all controlled by our minds.
When I talk about this piece of running to non-runners, I see the same look in their eyes I must have given my dad. They see my enthusiasm, they even absorb it, but inside there is this wall inside that just doesn’t really care enough to break it down. They hear what I’m saying, but it’s just not getting through. That’s ok, just like myself and my dad, we have some interests that just don’t mesh. What’s important is, having something powerful enough in our lives that rises above science. To share our enthusiasms about things so we can at least have an understanding between one another.
Right now, on few recent occasions, I have felt this wall between me and explaining some of Wil’s limitations. We all have our limitations, though some of his limitations are different from what the general public experiences. He has a high sensitivity to noise. Any loud place, like the movie theater, a stadium, an auditorium, a sporting event and anywhere animals are, he needs to have his ear protectors on. It’s very unsettling to him. This sensitivity requires forethought to where we are going and what we might encounter. There are extra steps required, extra patience, extra explaining that must be done to people who do not understand because this is not their norm. Like my dad did for me, I share my knowledge that I didn’t have before, my exuberance, and explain why this is hard for him. But there are times I see that same look in their eyes…the wall is there. Like my dad did with me and science, I’m not looking for a full convert, just a surface understanding. Which I don’t feel is too much to ask. So, when I encounter this wall it is incredibly frustrating to see a blankness and unwillingness to understand and have compassion for his current limits. Because deep inside all of us we have these walls, and they are never broken down unless we make ourselves care enough to make a change.
I can’t make other people change and see things the way I do just like my dad couldn’t make me love the periodic table and the CrossFitter will never convert me from running. Likewise my enthusiasm about running may not to turn the non-runner into a runner. I do firmly believe, however, that we learn from and absorb one another’s shared enthusiasms and passions. That above the specific quantifiable mechanics of the periodic table, above the long, beautiful streets to run, above the heavy barbells, and the loud noises my son is sensitive to, there is something we can all share. Our enthusiasm and passion for what we love is contagious and can be powerful enough to open us up to a certain level of understanding if we allow it to. Though this may not be enough to break a wall inside, it does allow us to meet in a place where we can work together. To get through to make the grade, to be compassionate, to try to understand where the other person is coming from.
Even though I still don’t give much thought to the periodic table, when I look back I still smile from the memory of my dad’s enthusiasm surrounding it. Though my memory of how all those elements fit together has long disappeared, the feeling of that time still remains. I didn’t have to understand it like he did to benefit from what he taught me. He taught me to love something, and love it a lot. And share that love even if the person receiving it doesn’t fully understand at the time. It’s not really about the elements, but a love that we hold inside that can be shared. That is something that can never be measured, quantified or encapsulated.
Magic lives in our minds and how we think about events and how we open or close our minds to them. How we change our thoughts and break down our own walls or simply by taking on a new surface level understanding. Magic grows and expands on how we feed and share our passions and enthusiasms. Passions and enthusiasms have the ability to continuously expand, change, and evolve depending on how they are felt, shared and willingly received in an unquantifiable way. Oh how I love the unpredictable, unmeasurable magic of that.