It’s been awhile – 3 months in fact, an absence that has provided its own insights and lessons. After healing from a foot injury and taking time off from running as long or far as I usually do, I’ve come to a point where I’m back at it. I know I know you’re probably thinking to yourself why does she always write about running and writing?
Confession: Running teaches me about life.
In one of my previous posts featured on Substance, Style, Soul I talked about running to respect the bodies we have, running to calm me when I need mental space and clarity. Now that I’m training for my 5th half-marathon running still provides me much needed clarity and reflection. Recently in a conversation with a friend of mine he said that at least once a week he probes to see how far he can run, he just goes how far his body will take him in the moment. Immediately this grabbed my attention. He doesn’t plan it out??? Doesn’t plan out how far he’s going to run or how fast??? No, he just goes.
If you know me (or if you’ve been reading the blog) I’m sure you have a sense of how I observe things, what my personality is. If not, I’ll tell you this one thing – probing just to see how far I can go (just going with the flow)….is not me.
I plan everything. It probably makes me sound crazy but an example is when I first started my current job I made a 5 year plan. (Kind of ridiculous, I know) I came up with different permutations if I stayed at the job, how long it would take me to get certified as a counselor, if I studied for the LSAT and went to law school, or PhD programs, how old would I be when I finished, etc. In 5 years, where would I be? I even plan in running (my first 4 half-marathons anyway) I planned out a playlist. The first 15 minutes of songs were slower beats per minute, ones I know I’d run at a comfortable conversational pace. I even planned where I knew I’d probably want to give in, give up, and I’d purposefully put in songs I knew would pump me up.
In my time away from you dear Reader, away from writing these letters from a young poet, I’ve come to realize just how young I am indeed. While I’m certainly no longer a teenager anymore and the years do seem to keep coming faster and faster, I still know that when it comes to things like love, I am still a young, flailing, learner.
Last month I received a letter (old school in the postal mail) from a friend of mine. She was starting a new self-improvement project where (at least once a week) she would write a letter to a friend and reflect on the friendship, i.e. what she learned from being friends with that particular person. Surprising to me, this friend said that out of all the things I taught her, I taught her most about love. For someone who is constantly searching, yearning, falling (maybe not for real) too fast, and stretching out my hands ready to catch anything that looks even a little like love, I was shocked.
Maybe you’re wondering how any of these relate. But this is part of Why I Write, to help myself (and those who care to read) make connections in my own life and hopefully your own. It’s true, timing is everything. The timing of the letter’s arrival, my reemergence into running, my friend’s running comment, and where I am now on my own personal journey to be better, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
I love running, perhaps mostly because it is when I feel most alive. My heart pounds in my chest, my chest heaves for breath, and I am absolutely present in my body. A few days ago I was running and as I ran, my body wanted to give in, I wanted to quit, and give up. Then it hit me. I treat relationships like I run. When I run I always know how far I’m going to run, unlike my friend who just goes with it, I set my distance and go for it. Perhaps in this way I don’t have to be vulnerable. I don’t ever push myself as hard as I probably could. In relationships, it’s the same. Before something even fully becomes grounded in definitions I think of all the things that could go wrong, I think of all the things that are wrong with the guy I’m seeing, his faults. I assess the route. I find all the places, values, situations where he and I would trip up. I don’t ever just ‘go with it’ in a relationship or in a run. I think this is part of my problem perhaps with both things in my life. I am uncomfortable in the unknowing of it all.
So I’ve been making changes, small ones here and there. I no longer run with my pre-programmed playlist set in specific order to the times I want to run to. I am embracing the shuffle. While this may not sound like anything major, for the control freak like me, it’s a significant step and hopefully one that can filter into other realms of my life.
As writers we sometimes can get so caught up in our heads and imaginative realms that experiences, like the kind I get from running, can be grounding. Maybe that’s what love is like. Something grounding with someone who allows you to feel absolutely present and I’m hoping with a little work and a little letting go, I’ll get there. My writer self knows all it takes to start is putting down the words, the first messy, shitty, unorganized draft is the first step, and to be ok with that unknowing what form or shape or direction the writing will take you. I think a lesson I need (and maybe you do too) is that love is the same, relationships are the same, and life… is the same, and I need to be ok with that. As I sit here and type I can’t help but feel hopeful as I think these thoughts as the setting sun comes through the clouds and fills my window with light.