There is something comforting about the training schedules that many runners follow to prepare for a race. While some might be physically exhausting, they demand nothing of you other than running, a physical behavior. I know that I have to run hill repeats tonight. There is nothing that says that I have to enjoy it.
Looking at me externally, one might get a sense that I take my religion seriously. I generally make an effort to follow the laws, at least the physical ones. The emotional ones are another matter. Take the holiday of Purim. I gave food to friends and gave as much money as I could to the poor. The obligation to be happy? That was another matter.
I tried. I really did. I even tried dressing up in costume for a while, something I have rarely done, at least consciously. It didn’t feel real. Feeling self conscious, I went back to my regular clothes, still trying to be happy, or at the very least feel happy. I tried intellectualizing it, thinking about the good that G-d has done, both generally as well as to me personally. That led me to once again realize that the distance from head to heart is mush further than any race I have run.
Towards the end of the day we joined up with another family for the festive meal. There, at least for a while, I found a measure of happiness. The husband, who is both a scholar and one of the most kindhearted and genuine people I know, showed without trying, what real happiness is about. I’d love to tell you just how, but it’s not something I can put into words. His father, the kind of man who I wonder whether our generation can ever produce, regaled us with stories from a bygone era. The discussions around the table alternated between deep and meaningful, and light yet joyous. I even felt a sense of connection in being with our oldest son, something that has not been easy recently.
I’d love to say that I learned something that day that has changed things for me. At the very least, how the past two days have been more joyous than usual. I can’t. Nonetheless, I am not giving up. I felt something real the other day, something I want to make part of my life.