Running: A Love Story

I started running eight months ago, not because I needed to lose weight or had gotten a diagnosis from the doctor, but because I turned 39 in February and was feeling a little lethargic. As a work-from-home mom of three teenagers, I spend a lot of time putting out fires while sitting at the computer or driving a kid to rehearsal. I knew I needed to do something to clear the cobwebs in my head and get my blood pumping, or I’d slip into middle age with declining energy and increasing girth. So when my sisters challenged me to train for a 10K this year, something I’d never considered before, I took them up on it. I ran my first race in April and I’m training for another one in the Fall. At this point, as far as running goes, I’m all in.

17632388_864136047057934_113315586145036448_o (1)

But, as wonderful as running is (my sisters and I refer to it as “fun-pain”), it isn’t a panacea. In the last eight months, I’ve sustained personal loss and experienced struggles both in my job and in my parenting. Running, as great as it is, hasn’t solved my problems. But it’s helped me keep going.

When my beloved grandmother lost a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer this past Spring, I ran as tears slid underneath my sunglasses and dripped off my chin. I ran through anger and listlessness and fatigue. I ran like a bear was after me. I was surprised to find that, while I can’t outrun my sorrow, grieving while moving feels better to me than grieving standing still. I’ve discovered I like the wind to dry my tears.

fullsizeoutput_b47As well as being a homeschooling mom, I’m a writer whose current manuscript sits in a (seemingly endless) editing phase. I often fight frustration and, let’s be real, shall we? total despair as I try to coax what’s in my head to reappear on paper for the sixty-seventh time. Running does not give me “ideas” like it seems to for other writers. It does not untwist plot problems or unlock inspiration. On the other hand, the grit and consistency I’m developing in my runs seem to be helping me stay the course in my work, too. When I’m tempted to procrastinate, or to make excuses when I’m stuck in a literary quandary, I remember that I’ve learned to run when I feel like it—and when I don’t. This means I can work when I don’t feel like it, too. Feet on pavement, butt in chair. One kind of showing up helps the other.

 

fullsizeoutput_b4eHave I mentioned I’m a mom of three teenagers? Parenting is hard. Parenting wannabe adults is, arguably, hardest of all. I find myself short on patience and long on irritation, these days. Running does not produce in me a Zen-like serenity that remains unruffled in the face of my kids’ less adorable tendencies. It doesn’t offer ‘aha’ moments when I suddenly see where we all went wrong (see above). Then again, running gives me time to myself, to be quiet and breathe, to pound out adrenaline and fear, to pray. And it must be helping because, if we’ve all had a particularly trying day, or I get a certain look in my eye, my kids’ll say, “Hey, Mom. Maybe you should go for a run.”

And I do.

Advertisements

Hope and the O.D.D

I am beginning to think of this blog as my Occasional Death Diary since it seems all I do is wait for someone dear to me to pass away and then blog about it. At the end of May, my last living grandparent went to be with Jesus. To say her going left a hole in my center is an understatement. She took my childhood with her.

And yet. Life plods on, intrepid, slow, determined. I have three teenagers and a best friend for a husband. I have my parents and my sisters, and, well, stuff keeps me here. I’m still running in my neighborhood, still reading big books, and writing. It may seem dramatic to say, but I’m a little surprised and offended by my survival instinct. We keep going, most of us, with bloodied hearts. It turns out, that’s normal. Jesus had a bloodied heart, too, once. Someday he will make all things new. Until then, he is with us, and we press on.

Doc

My grandfather died this week. It seems all I write about these days is death and more death.

I’ve lost both grandparents, husband and wife, in the last seven months, and I’ve heard it often happens this way–the wife dies, the husband follows soon after. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and didn’t realize my grandmother had died back in the summer, but he deteriorated at warp speed afterward. Like he did know, somehow.

He was a jazz musician, a complicated genius, a laid-back optimist with the ability to tune things out. He was 92 when he died, but we all felt shocked when the nurses called and said he was gone for real.

He’s not here. We are. I’m still running, but with weights on my heart. That’s all I know right now.

16831110_1848816688690522_2115445932325824390_n16807411_10212371760070341_6465305243284874402_n

The Social Animal

psx_20160511_204002

I want to keep a quiet heart like Elisabeth Elliot did

but

to keep one I have to have one first, I gather.

It’s not easy.

(I add to the noise in the world, sometimes,

while wishing I hadn’t.

And sometimes I just soak in the static because

Breaking!

You won’t believe it!

Outrageous!

Fools!

Idiots!

Look over here!

Click, click, click on it.

Oh! and

please, pay

no attention to the Man behind the curtain

unless you mean to buy

something

from him).

 

 

The Other

psx_20170121_214017

Tonight, I sink in memory foam

but I remember the mattress on which I used to ease myself in India–the thin, dirty one I came to love.

Other travelers, with their own obedient dreams, had slept on it before me, and so I didn’t mind resting my sooty, unsandaled feet on it at the end of a long day.

Now forced air hurries through my bedroom vents like an American promise, and I listen.

I do listen.

But I remember that wall-mounted AC that cost so much to run right before monsoon in that other life when the air swirled like steam in my lungs and I prayed earnest prayers about the electricity staying on all night.

That mattress, that AC, those prayers still live somewhere

though I soak in tubs of endless hot water now

and have cut off all my hair.

Grace

psx_20160607_131406

I miss this blog. I can’t commit to it and I can’t abandon it, which everyone says is the worst thing if you’re a writer. Commit or let go. Don’t waste your time or, on second thought, waste it over here, in this way, on this platform. Post pictures.

I throw things away. It gives me pleasure to fill bags with things to toss, things to donate, things to pass on to friends. I like empty spaces where my eyes can rest and blur. I have a very few items I keep without secret plans of ridding the house of them one day: my grandmother’s diamond studs, my cello, the photo albums I’ve put together over the years, the journal I kept in college (written in German and full of foolish things).

I tried to toss the blog, but I couldn’t. There are things that persist past their evident usefulness, things that collect dust and grow obsolete, you know? But I find as I get older I’m less inclined to scoop every, single thing into a bag at the first sign it isn’t earning its keep. I tell myself I need a few curled up, uncategorized placeholders in my life, that it’s OK if I don’t come back to sit with them except once in a long while, and then only because I want to.

On Running

dsc_0613-2I started training for a 10K a month ago because my sisters asked me to run one with them. But now I’m running because I’m hooked. Turns out I love the oxygen blasts, the racing blood, the endorphin breaker waves after. I like how my legs are firming up and how I sleep better at night. I like the extra time outdoors, too, since I suffer from SAD this time of year.

But also, I hurt.

I don’t mean in an I’ve-sustained-an-injury kind of way. More of a someone-whipped-me-with-a-baseball-bat-while-I-was-in-a-coma-but-now-I’m-awake-again-and-have-to-live thing.

If someone were to look at the search history on my laptop, they might find:

Normal to hurt all over after running?

Groin pain common new runners?

Running bad for knees?

Old running

39-year-old women running for the first time. Bad?

But I already know I’ll keep running no matter what because I’ve decided it’s worth it. The good, ultimately, far outweighs the bad, even though I feel achy almost every dang day.

I’m reminded that running is a lot like life–especially the life of faith. It’s hard and painful, sometimes for long periods of time, but there are good things in store for those who persevere. So often we need people to keep pace beside us to remind us that better times are ahead, especially when our lungs burn with exhaustion.

In the end, I want to be like Paul, who said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I want to run and not give up.