From discussions with Shane and Mike, it seems possible to cleave the masses into two general categories, those who seek out pain and those who retreat from it. Of course this is a completely unfair and arbitrary distinction, with no meaning or value associated with it, but one which seems to ring true at least to those of us who, in our own head, seem to seek some sort of suffering.
Ensconse is such a bold word, it wreaks of strength and fortification, and yet in my mind it seems to be the ultimate trap to avoid. Of course there's a Phish song that brings all of this up, "Nothing" off Undermind. All alliteration aside, when I examine the lyrics, they speak to me in the language that I crave. Shane calls it "seeking out a deep sensation". Mike calls it "racing heroically". The Goddess prefers the adjective, "baller". Hillary calls it "sufferfest" and even had special shirts made.
When we attempt Ironman or ultra, a sub 65 minute half marathon (good luck on Sunday, Paul!) or our first experience at 26.2, we open ourselves up in ways we haven't imagined. Paddling out at Waimea or Sunset beach, the first time lips meet with someone new, or calling an old friend to ask for help, these moments of vulnerability display our marrow, and all of its associated insecurities and inadequacies. When we ensconse ourselves for our own protection and longevity, in a foolish attempt to protect those vulnerabilities, we miss the point of living.
I'm not advocating ignoring sunscreen or nutritional needs like I have a tendency to do sometimes, although I do find extreme hunger and sunburn to be very vivid reminders of just how delicate we are and how precious each moment should be. And I'm not passing judgement on anyone who takes a safe path through life. I've certainly played it safe in so many ways and I continue to do so. But I am glorifying, with all of the enthusiasm of misguided youth which has long since passed me by, the joy of seeking out that which brings us pain. It feels so incredible to shock the senses, when we reach well beyond what we know we are capable of and fail in brilliant and explosive glory. Pain leads to humility, humility spurs effort and effort seeds growth and accomplishment.
Embrace the pain.