The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

A Long, Strange Trip pt. 5

with 2 comments

I might have this 40 thing figured out. Just in time for my 40th birthday, which is today. In the least, I have a better understanding of it. I think it’s a reckoning with mortality. But why at 40? Why not 37 or 42 or 48? 40 is a nice round number, a plump target that roughly signals the 1/2 way point in life. We’ve learned plenty about ourselves, gotten punched in the nose a few times, had our disappointments, and perhaps realized that we’re not all that. The sun will rise tomorrow with or without us.

If it’s the 1/2 way point, approximately, then here’s the chance to make things right. And if not right, then at least a little more correct. Some of us don’t want to go on or march towards retirement carrying the burden of memories of those we’ve wronged or left behind or those we didn’t appreciate when our lives intersected with theirs. That would explain in part some of the unusual and unexpected contact I’ve received in the past year.

And I’m still not sure if that applies to me. I’ve called the old friends, kept the family ties (kinda) tight, spoken with the ex-girlfriends, thanked the professors and coworkers, all that stuff. It’s become habitual to me in the last fifteen years. I’ve found it necessary for my personal peace of mind. This isn’t to say that I have all my friends and everything is as hunky-dory as a David Bowie album. It’s not. There are people you let go gradually as you grow apart, and others you severe ties with because there are heated disagreements and blow-ups and insults for which an apology is never made. But where I’ve done wrong, I have tried to make as right as possible. Funny thing, that… once I learned how important it is to apologize, and how to do it, I’ve not had to do it so much.

This started with me wanting to talk more about physical mortality, which is something I have experience with. The body is going to break down. You have no choice. Death comes to us all, even in small doses. There have 2 periods in my life when I have fallen out of physical condition, and it’s been a monumental task to get that condition back. One was in my mid-20s, after college and into my first year of teaching. Once I started to work on getting in shape, it took forever. I started by trying to run two miles on a track on my 26th birthday. I made it, but it wasn’t easy. It had been about 4 years since I had run, and I forgot how hard it was. But I had done it at one time; I had figured it out and did a decent enough job at it. Those 2 miles killed for days afterwards. I spent the rest of the summer trying to run 20 minutes without stopping. It took a long time, but I made it. I built up from there to where I could run a 5K, and haven’t really done much beyond that.

What I relearned, that which was most important, was how running builds mental toughness. My high school Cross Country coach always preached that it would; I just didn’t think he was talking to me when he was saying it. Most of the discipline and determination I have (read: jackass stubbornness, and cockiness [as I was recently reminded]) has its roots in being a runner.

So imagine how I felt 2 years ago when I started to think I wouldn’t be able to run anymore. I suffered an Achilles injury that put me out for almost 2 years. And I suffered it because I thought I was immortal. I thought that regardless of what I did, I would always be able to run. So I ate all I wanted whenever I wanted, ran just to get some exercise, and even ran through pain that was signalling me that something was wrong. When I was 37 and tried to run like I was 27, I got a rude awakening when I almost ruptured my Achilles. My determination to be tough and run through it only made the situation worse, and kept it from healing for well over a year.

So that all came to me the morning of May 8 this year when I was running a 5K, the same one that I had run the previous 2 years on the same weekend. The same one that the last 2 years had ended my running for the summer because I thought I could run through pain and everything would be fine. But not this time. Because I finally learned how to slow down and let myself heal and do what my doctor told me to do all along.

On May 8, I ran strong and consistent 9-minute miles, finishing in 27:26, pain-free and with a strong kick at the end (I couldn’t help it… there were 3 women in front of me coming into the last 1/8 mile, one of whom I had seen walking at one point, and I’ll still be damned if I’ll let myself get beat by someone who I saw walking).

The race is a symbol, though, and a pretty important one for me. I’ve never run so consistently. My first mile was a 9:05, then an 18:02, then the 27:26 after 3 miles and change. That’s consistency; tangible evidence of it that I created and maintained.

That’s normalcy. That’s what I’ve been striving for in my mind.

So here’s 40.  I’ve been anxious about it for 7 months now.  But why?  I’m running better than I have for 10 years or so.  I’ve lost significant weight.  I just had my finest year as a teacher.  I’m having more success with my writing than ever before.  It sounds like I should stop worrying and start celebrating.

Written by seeker70

July 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. I wanted to stop by and say happy birthday. I haven’t even had a chance to read this blog yet. Any other year, a text or an email might do, but this blog is the perfect spot this year. And I had little doubt that this blog would be up shortly after the stroke of midnight.

    Congratulations. If this mid-life crisis thing doesn’t pan out for you, just remember this… by making it to 40, you at least beat Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Lou Gehrig, Anna Nicole Smith, Harry Chapin, JFK Jr., and Bobby Darin in at least one category.

    Stranger Danger

    July 1, 2010 at 12:53 am

  2. Hello, Jeff Burd:

    Happy Birthday! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you over these past five years and not only call you a classmate, but a friend. To me, as we grow older, one of the hardest things to do is make friends. We tend to be more selective, have less patience, care a lot about the quality time we spend with others, and look for flaws in people (in ourselves?) to keep those not already in our inner circle at arm’s length.

    Truthfully, when I first met you, I thought, “Man, this guy is WAY OUT THERE.” But it’s that quirkiness, that colorfull personality that I’ve grown fond of and find unique about Jeff Burd.

    What I also think is a great characteristic of Jeff Burd is your loyalty to people. Not only have I let you into my inner circle, but you (I think) have let me (and Cyndi, and my kids, and my brothers) into yours. For that, I say “thanks.”

    I hope you get to enjoy your day as you may have already pre-planned. Have a great bottle of beer, drink some great Rum, eat your favorite meal, run a few miles, write (not necessarily in that order, I guess).

    Happy 40th Birthday, Jeff Burd!

    Your friend,


    Cory Fosco

    July 1, 2010 at 7:37 am

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