So Very Cold

An allegory for the addicted

so coldYou’re cold.  And you look down at that radiator heater nearby.  It’s the one with the oil inside that heats up so nicely and puts out strong heat.  It’s on, but far away.  So you pull the radiator heater closer.  It doesn’t really help because it’s still too far away.  You could get up and run around to warm up or make something warm to drink or maybe even, you know, put on some more clothes.  Or heck, your family is upstairs with a cozy fire in the fireplace.  But you’re lazy.  And you’re still cold, so, even though that little voice in your head says it’s not a good idea, you pull that heater even closer.

That does feel better, now.  You’re warming up a bit.  But in time, you feel like it’s just not enough.  You can’t really get it any closer, but you need that heat because now you’re feeling colder than you were before, even though it’s obvious that the heater is warming you up more than ever.  But never mind that.  You’re cold.  So, you pull it even closer, ignoring that stupid voice.   The one saying how stupid you’re being and why don’t you just go upstairs and be with people near the fireplace.  You’re just going to end up even colder later, you know, when the heater stops working or you have to leave the room.  But you don’t care about that.

The heater is nearly touching your leg now and that little voice keeps chirping.  So annoying.  Who put that voice there?  And again, the heater works for a bit as you bring it perilously closer.  You were feeling ok for a moment. But now you’re cold again even though you could swear your leg is burning. So, you try to take the heat a different way thinking this will make all the difference.  You push the radiator heater away a few inches – there, that means I’m not being so irresponsible.  I’m thinking about this, controlling it.  But part of the new idea is that you’re going to pull a blanket over the heater and over your lap to trap more heat.  Ok, this is good.  This is working.  Now you’re getting the heat in a rapid, deep pipeline and you’re warm all over.  And you’re not letting the heat get too close to your leg!

This new rapid heat idea is brilliant.  You wonder, though, what’s going to happen when you have to get up and be away from the heater?  That little voice is telling you that you’re going to be even colder than before and you’ll probably have burns on your leg.  So silly, that voice.  And you hear other voices – that would be your family having a grand old time without you.  So, you pull the blanket away to think about maybe leaving the heater and joining your family.  But sure enough, you’re immediately freezing!  Colder than you were before you even looked at the heater.  Ok. So, you can’t take the blanket away or the heater, that much is established now.

And…you’re still not perfectly heated.  Your family looks in, sees you all alone, wrapped up in a blanket tented over a heater, and they look at you funny.  Jealous, no doubt.  And, of course, that stupid voice is saying, this is not such a good idea.  You’re going to overheat you dummy, or something’s going to catch fire. But screw that stupid voice.  This is what heaters are for!  I mean seriously.  Let’s use this heater, get warm, be happy.  So, you tent the blanket so the air can pool inside.  This is lovely.  Holy smokes…you’re hot now.

This is really working.  But wow, is it working too well?  Wait, what’s happening here?  You pull the blanket away and you get a little relief for a second.  But wow, now it’s really really cold.  You can’t believe how cold it is out there without the blanket and heater. So, you put the blanket back on and just turn the heat down a bit.  Maybe if you do a little bit less, you’ll be ok. But that doesn’t work either, because of course without the heater on constantly, you’re getting cold.  Ok, so screw it.  You turn the heat up and just pledge not to move.  At all.  If you move, you will get hot.  Of course, you’re getting really hot anyway.  So hot that you’re getting sleepy.  Well, maybe a little sleep won’t be such a bad thing.  It’s better than being cold.  And if you turn off the heater, you’re going to freeze.  You can’t live without that damn heater now.  Who the hell gave you this heater?  It’s going to be the death of you.  This is, of course, the last thing you really think as you pass out from your core body temperature climbing so fast.

The fire is what brought them to you.  It’s small, thankfully, and you had smoke detectors.  So, your family — who had wondered why you were isolating yourself with the heater and blanket when they had a perfectly warm fire burning in the fireplace upstairs with hot chocolate — find you on the ground, unconscious, with second degree burns from the heater on your leg and third degree burns from the oil that burst out when you fell on the heater.  And the fire, it’s just a little fire from the cord that you bent.  So, not a lot of damage.

But as you come to, you’re cold.  You’re so damn cold.  And the family tells you, no more heaters.  You can’t be trusted.  And that is terrifying.  But you know that with enough work, you can make it. But right now, it is so very cold.

Accept the Invitation

Going out in the rain that night was not something I wanted to do.  Even before I went looking for my shoes (still wet from last night’s run), I could hear the wind trying to tear down the cedar trees out back.  Kodiak, my 25 pound cat, was hunkered down in my favorite chair and the two dogs had sought refuge in the den.  The rest of the mammals in my house, my wife and kids, had all gone to bed, too.  I couldn’t help but think that this was the loneliness of the long distance runner I once read about.

It would have been so easy to join the warm and slumbering bodies and gently fall asleep to the storm’s noises outside.  Noises softened by the warm walls holding the heat inside my house.  Why I didn’t do so, is a mystery, but then so is why we run at all.

As I stepped outside the house and drew my hat further down my face, the wind picked up in one huge gust and threw the door back at me.  “Really,” I thought, “the elements really are against me tonight.”…..Or were they?

MyBrynners running first steps into that cold dark run were not fun.  But as my body warmed to the task at hand, a brisk 4 miler, I began to reflect on my surroundings.  Sure, the wind and the rain and the cold and the dark could be considered enemies.  These most wintry of elements bring dread to even the most fanatical of us.

But that night, the elements gave me something else.  Something which has stuck with me longer than the bad weather and darkness ever will.  Those very things which conspired to turn me back to the hearth instead handed me an invitation to discover my own courage, which I gratefully accepted…

To this day, I believe accepting that invitation has made all the difference.