Running with Joy

“C’mon Amy H!” Her voice was loud, clear and deep. The words came from deep in her belly as she shouted to me while I ran around the track. “All you! All you! All you!” I could hear her as if she were standing on the infield. Only of course she wasn’t. How long ago was it that my friend, Joy, passed away? I’ve lost track. But today, for some reason, she decided to visit me. Call it her spirit or call it the power of my own memory, but Joy was with me during my 400 meter repeats this morning. And I couldn’t have asked for a better training partner today.

I’ve written about my friend, Joy Kwasniak, in the past. We met at St. Bonaventure. She was on the women’s basketball team and I was a manager. She always had my back. She always encouraged me. She was one of those people who bolster you up, but you forget to thank them while they’re still with you. We drifted apart as our adult lives and early careers took off, but those experiences with her were never far from my memory bank. Cancer took her way too soon. I don’t think of her every day. Heck, I don’t even think of her every two weeks. But every so often, her voice drowns out all the bullshit racing through my mind. Every so often, she visits to remind me that life is not about living in comparison. It’s about living with my arms wide open.

Today’s workout featured 12 400-meter repeats. That’s 12 times around the track. That’s three miles. All at a speedy pace. I broke it up into three sets of four moving my start position around the track to offer some variety and save me from boredom. The actual workout, on paper, was difficult but not grueling. Yet I woke up anxious. Anxious? About what? There’s a lot on my schedule: writing and interviews to do, workouts to complete, logistics to plan. There’s a nagging hole in my social life. There’s concern about energy and time and money. Not the best frame of mind to start off my track workout.

So I took 10 minutes before I left the house for a guided meditation. The theme was aliveness, taking you to the space around everything. That empty space which is vast and calm. And for me, I found, filled with joy. Yes, I thought to myself. Instead of trying to negate fear let’s reach for a positive mantra. Let’s reach for joy.

So I guess it isn’t a stretch that in reaching for joy, I thought about Joy once I reached the halfway mark of my workout. So instead of trying to channel my inner Sanya Richards-Ross, I thought about Joy. I heard her voice, her encouragement as I checked my watch at the 200-meter mark to gauge my timing. “You’ve got this Amy H. That’s it!” I made every single interval. Those last four? They hurt, but I made them hurt, pushing just a bit faster than my prescribed range. Just a tad. Just because I could and I felt good. I was running in joy. I was running with Joy.

By the time I reached my last interval, I realized how very lucky I was that I had someone in my life named Joy. A woman who embodied everything I feel about living and being and yes, even running, in joy. I don’t have to wander far mentally to find my image, to hear a voice, that brings back to what I love about what I do. What a blessing. That anxiety? It’s still there a little bit. But it’s been overpowered by joy.

Note: It’s a very long and not-so-interesting story how my St. Bonaventure women’s basketball friends got to call me “Amy H” during my undergrad days. Suffice it to say I was playing around with my college byline and “Helene” is my confirmation name. “Amy H” stuck as my nickname with my Bona hoopster peeps. I still answer to it.

2 Comments on “Running with Joy

  1. You’ve put tears in my eyes this morning. Beautiful post Amy H. I miss her so much and I hear her voice often. I’m happy she was there to push you this morning!

  2. How inspiring to read this and hear how our Aliveness Meditation affected you and brought joy into your day. Also very heart-warming to read about your friend, Joy. You described so beautifully “that empty space [around everything] that is vast and calm”, and how when you paid attention to it you found joy. We tend to focus on what is in the foreground and forget the background of all of our experiences. We tend to focus on the sorrow, not the joy. It’s all there! In some of my guided meditations, for example some for anxiety, I encourage people to feel the pleasure that is present simply in being alive. It can be found when we put our attention on it, along with anxiety and any other experience, and what we put our attention on grows in our life!

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