I had a dream that I am running along a trail and see a man up ahead.  He is coming down this big hill, and when he reaches the bottom, he starts to push a large boulder up the steep incline.  I immediately realize this must be Sisyphus.  I approach him and say, “Excuse me, but I wonder if I might have a few words with you.”

He looks up and says “Sure, but you know I can’t stop.”

“Yes, I know you have been condemned to pushing it all the way up only to have it roll down.  And you must keep repeating it.  You’ve been doing this, I guess, since the beginning of time.  I would like to do one trip up with you while we talk.  Is that alright?”

“Ok, what do you want to know?”

“I watched you coming down the mountain before I started speaking to you and I was surprised, shocked actually, that you were smiling.  I thought your face would look like you were in utter agony.  Then I figured that perhaps the downhill section gave you a little breather and that was why you were smiling.  But low and behold, you are smiling even more broadly now as you are pushing that giant boulder straight up this steep incline.  I don’t understand.”

He glanced at me and said, “When I first started doing this, I hated it. I felt angry that I had to keep doing the same damn thing for all eternity. It wasn’t fair. It was hard, boring, and unfulfilling.  The damn thing just kept rolling down, so what was I accomplishing.  Nothing.  Then one day, it was like I woke up and the scales fell off my eyes. I realized that the hatred had gradually gone away and was replaced with a genuine liking of what I was doing.   I was astonished at the transformation.  I know pushing this boulder up the hill doesn’t really amount to anything in the end, but then what does.  It’s my life now and I like it.   I hope this corrects the misconception everyone had about me.”

I was speechless for a while, then I replied, “All this time we thought you were miserable.  We felt sorry for you.  None of us wanted to ever get stuck in your predicament. Now it turns out you are not miserable at all; in fact, you somehow turned things around in your mind and found a way to be happy.  Wow!  It’s so hard thinking of you this way.”

Trying to help me understand, he added, “Remember when you were preparing for that marathon, and you started doing hill repeats?”

“Yes sure.  I ran up hard for one minute and jogged down for a total of an hour.”

“You hated it at first, but as the weeks went by you started to like it and even looked forward to it.  Same with me.  I know I am getting stronger with each trip.  I’ll bet I am getting faster too, but I don’t have a stopwatch since they haven’t been invented yet.  And my body is probably making lots of nice chemicals.”

“Yes, you make beta-endorphins to kill pain and dopamine to make you feel happy.”

“Well, I don’t know about those fancy chemical names. But I just know I feel good doing what I am doing.  If they told me I served my sentence and could stop, I would keep doing it anyway because I love it so much.”

“You really don’t want to ever quit, even if you could?”

“No, I don’t.  Let’s face it.  I’m what you call an exercise addict.  I’m sure you know plenty of runners in the same boat.  Remember that famous runner who said all he ever wanted to do was to run and drink beer.  He had a double addiction. The beer part isn’t so great, but the running part is terrific. But it isn’t just with running.  There are plenty of things in folk’s lives that feel like my situation.   They can either hate it or turn it around and find a way to feel good about it.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Well, here we are at the top. This boulder is like a friend, but now it is about to leave me for a while and start rolling down, so you better watch out.”

“I will.  Thanks for the conversation and for opening my mind to a new way of thinking about so many things in my life.  I will do my best to remember all of this.  Thanks again.”

The last thing he said before I woke up was “Remember, it’s just what you make of it, so enjoy the journey.”