Suffering is Optional

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.Haruki Murakami

Meditations in Motion

I have been a fan of Haruki Murakami ever since my son was assigned “The Wind Up Bird Chronicles” for an honors seminar class in college. My son gave me all the books he read for that class as he finished them, so I got the benefit of a lot of good reading and none of the stress that accompanied the copious assignments required of him. (Some of the other books he read included  “A House for Mr. Biswas” by V.S. Naipaul and “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk.)

When I heard that Murakami wrote a book about running I nearly jumped out of my skin. I found that I could not read the book without nodding along in agreement as I read. Everything he wrote struck a chord with me. I am sure I looked comical to my family sitting in my chair, reading and nodding vigorously.

The quote about pain and suffering is probably the most famous one attributed to Murakami since it is plastered all over runners’ T-shirts, posters and coffee mugs. It’s a good one, representative of his spare but powerful writing.

This is Murakami explaining his own quote: “Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore’. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.

Or herself. I finally got to the point where I had to say “No mas!

The good news is that I ran over 40 miles in the past week. 40 miles used to be my benchmark, the target I would shoot for every week of the year.

Meditations in Motion
Photo by


The bad news is that I ran every step of those 40 miles on the elliptical trainer, not the roads or trails I love.

Please allow me to recap. A year and a half ago, I first noticed a sharp pain in my left hip during a run while visiting my son and his family in Colorado. The pain diminished over time and by last spring, I was back to running races on the roads and trails, having a great time. My stride and speed were not quite normal, but at least I was having fun.

Meditations in Motion

Last summer, on a long training run for a marathon, disaster struck. The sharp pain I felt from the previous year was back, along with a deep ache that began in my gluteus region and traveled down the back of my leg whenever I sat in a car or on a hard surface, or when I ran more than, say, six or seven miles. I finished two marathons in that state.

I rested the hip. Sort of. I did the exercises prescribed by my physical therapist. I searched for yoga stretches for hips. I ran only short runs. The pain persisted. Then, during a run on a recent trip to Florida, I noticed weakness in my left leg.

Hubby and I were running downhill, less than one mile into our planned run when my left knee felt like it was going to buckle. I startled Hubby by yelling “Oh!“, thinking I was going to hit the pavement. After steadying myself I continued running, then it happened again. And again. Over and over while we ran an easy three miles, I felt like my leg was going to give out.

Meditations in Motion

I decided the time had finally come. I had to take another step (medically speaking) toward fixing my hip. My doctor recommended I see an orthopedist. The problem with that is most orthopedists in my area are scheduling appointments for six to eight weeks out.  Luckily, I’ve got connections.

A fellow blogger, who, by the way, is extremely talented, (if you have never visited the blog written by Jeff Cann titled The Other Stuff, you must), hooked me up with an orthopedist who also happens to be a kinesiologist and an Ironman. Triple score! My appointment is today. I have high hopes. I am nothing if not an incurable optimist.

Hope is my default response, my Plan A. Even though my hopes have been dashed many, many times and I have had to come up with Plans B, C, D, and even E, I still usually expect the best.

Meditations in Motion

My kids have pretty much the same attitude. Hubby used to tell the story of my youngest son, who learned to golf when he was quite young. He would drive a ball out of bounds, take a penalty stroke, land in a sand trap, and still tell his father “If I can hit it out of the trap and into the hole, I can still make par.” Ever the optimist.

Hope is a good thing, especially if you consider that the opposite of hope is fear or despair. Hope, I believe, comes from a place of confidence. It may be rooted in self-confidence, the feeling that you will be able to handle whatever comes along. It may be based on confidence about life, that the world can be managed with enough patience and determination.

Meditations in Motion

Or hope may be rooted in the belief in a Higher Power, the feeling that even if your hoped-for outcome does not come to fruition, God will be with you in good times and in bad. Hope connects the present to the future in a good way.

Some people perceive hope as naive, but there are real benefits of hopefulness and optimism. Feeling as though you will be able to overcome obstacles in order to reach your goal has been found to make achieving that goal more probable. Anxiety and depression are less likely to be found in hopeful individuals. Hopeful people don’t see a bad situation as being permanent. They know that it is transitory, and look for better times ahead.

That is what I am doing right now. Looking for better times ahead. I am not ready to sign up for any races. Yet. But I have made plans to go trail running with some friends in the near future. I will hope my trail running dreams work out, but if they don’t, there is always Plan B. Ever the optimist.

Suffering may not be optional, but the way we choose to view it, receive it, endure it, and be transformed by it are entirely up to us. – Kristin Armstrong


Linking up with Fairytales and Fitness for Friday 5, Raisie Bay for Word of the Week, Morgan’s Milieu for Post, Comment, Love, and The Blended Blog for Friday Loves.








  1. I’m *hopeful* that this works out for you. Fingers are crossed. BTW I always heard that suffering quote attributed to the Buddha. I’ll go find your book. It sounds perfect for me.


  2. This is beautiful! I’m a strong believer in always hoping instead of dwelling. Not everyone enjoys my optimism, and many probably think I’m in denial of my reality (remember that emergency knee surgery?), but I choose to see the sunny side. It’s never let me down 😉 Best wishes for a good prognosis at your appointment!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. ❤ I am so sorry for your injury. I also think a lot of runners, myself included, hang on way longer than is prudent when we start feeling pain or discomfort. We think we can just run through it, and sometimes, maybe we shouldn't.

    I'm glad you have a plan and that you're taking your time. Recovery is just as important in the journey. Best of luck to you as you make your way back.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I hope you get positive news from your consultation. I have had hip problems for several years and it looks like my recent surgery has failed. I am still hopeful of finding a solution though. I think it’s brilliant that you are still running, hopefully you will be on the open road again soon #pocolo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did get good news from the orthopedist. I think he has devised a way for me to heal. I am so sorry your surgery didn’t work. Hip problems are so persistent!


  5. I really hope you get good news today.

    I am actually in awe of your 40 miles a week. I don’t think I’ve ever run that much! Pretty much everything in life is about how we perceive it, and I tend to be a glass half full gal, although I’ll admit there are times that that is hard.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope your visit to the doc results in the perfect fix for your hip — but as you hint in your (as always) eloquent post, the key to hope is allowing for the possibility of what you wish for, without demanding it as a condition of your happiness or contentment. This came at the perfect time for me, by the way, as I realized earlier this week that I was choosing suffering when there was no good reason to do so!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have been there plenty of times, Jan. When I wake up to the fact that I am choosing suffering I am usually annoyed with myself. Then a cascade of negative emotions follows.

      The doctor visit was actually great. His diagnosis made so much sense to me and he mapped out a recovery plan which I will follow.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Laurie, what a great post. Hope is definitely something that strengthens us to keep going, isn’t it? I hope your appointment went well, and that you got some answers so you can get back to the trails again.

    Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jeanne. My appointment went very well. The doctor’s assessment of my situation made complete sense to me and his treatment plan did as well. Hope to be back on the trails very soon!


  8. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you Laurie that your quick connections yielded a good answer and a solution going forward … running is a big part of your life and you want to be able to enjoy that runner’s high for many years to come.

    Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great – I was happy to get a four-mile walk in today and that was a high for me. We have an ugly week of weather starting tomorrow afternoon, so likely off the trail again for awhile.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t know if I can “like” this post … ours started around 5:00 p.m. – they had wavered on the exact time of the same combo as you so I was reluctant to stray too far from home. It’s going great guns out there now and a repeat tomorrow. Nope, Benji will be like Shelley’s dog Copper. I can’t say that I blame him!

        Liked by 1 person

      • So far, we just got a wimpy 1 inch of wet snow. They say we are in for some ice tonight. My grandsons’ school was cancelled today, which threw a monkey wrench into the plans my son and I had to have a nice, quiet, adult breakfast at a new bakery!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s amazing they cancelled schools today – I would have thought tomorrow or Wednesday since your bad weather days are around the same as ours. They are already saying school may be closed at least one day this week – they haven’t designated Tuesday or Wednesday yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is funny Laurie – I’ll bet the grandsons were enjoying spending more time with you and Bill. We had all the schools closed yesterday for the ice as it was so treacherous and today only 100 of the 800 schools closed as it was an official “count day” – in the City of Detroit, they have all types of incentives to lure the kids to be present on this day because, as a former teacher, you know the count affects money from the government for the school system. They have big prizes the kids can win and pizza for lunch, otherwise they would have cancelled here as well. I believe only the rural schools were closed today. I did go outside and the only safe place to walk was in the glazed-over snow.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you are slowly returning to form! I haven’t read that book by Murakami, believe it or not. Last week when I was at CrossFit, it was in the pile of giveaway books. I took that as a sign and picked it up. I’ll be reading it later this year–I can’t believe how many running books I’ve got lined up already.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lovely quote and agree much better to have hope and be postivie. Although I believe it is ok to dwell and have time to grieve the change. But in the long term it is better to hold on to hope X #wotw

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pain is observational; suffering is perceptual!

    By that i mean pain is a real, occurring thing we experience (in varying intensities). It is generally a warning to stop what you are currently doing before you do more serious damage. (Like leaving your hand on a hot metal surface or in a flame) A curiosity is that sometimes pain is not felt at the instant the damage is done to the body. People can be shot for example, or break a bone in a sporting competition and not feel any pain until some time after the event itself?? (Does this mean we could learn to defer pain completely, i wonder??)

    Suffering however, is a mental construction dependent upon a number of factors that could be under our own control if we choose. The cause may be outside our control but how we experience it and think about it is much less so giving us choices as to the intensity and duration of our suffering.

    Some suffering can even be diminished in advance of the event! If we think of the possible causes of our suffering we could take some action now so that when an event occurs that may normally devastate us we can be in a better place to recover from it than if we had not considered the possible event that ’causes’ us to feel suffering.

    Hope: The central part of Faith, Hope and Charity/Love for our fellow man, of which the greatest is ‘Love’. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great thoughts on pain and suffering. So “suffering can even be diminished in advance of the event”? Not sure how this would work. Are we talking about suffering from physical pain here?

      Faith, hope and love. Why do I find the last 2 so easy and the first one to cause me so much anguish? I have written about hope and love far more than faith.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think Hope and Love are more ‘human’ emotions with which we can closely relate and write on or about while Faith ( as i understand the term) requires a higher, more spiritual side of our being that is not so easily compared or put down in words… well. that’s my excuse and you are welcome to borrow it if you wish! 😉

        As for your question on pain – good point! I was thinking more of the pain of loss that we could perhaps anticipate and so better prepare for if it happens/when it happens, but i think we could also learn to deal with physical pain – to ‘toughen ourselves’ or to learn how to limit our instinctive or previously learned responses to physical pain. I have seen examples of people undertaking extreme acts that would cause me unbearable pain with nothing more than a wince or rigid expression.

        If we understand the reason for and causes of our pain levels we should be able, in time, to practice better pain awareness and even pain reduction techniques. my preferred option would be pain avoidance in the first instance but sometimes that may not be possible. 🙂

        The earlier we start controlling our ability to feel pain the better our final outcome is likely to be!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I am a lot like Kim in that I try to stay positive ( to the point where I am in denial of my reality). I know that the thing I am hoping for will not come to fruition but I am praying for strength to get through it. That’s where I am right now.

    Thanks for linking up and sharing this at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Having hope and a positive attitude can make a huge amount of difference in difficult times. I’m sorry to hear that your hip has been causing you pain and making trail running so difficult. I hope that seeing the orthopedist will help. #WotW

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s