Sunday, June 5, 2016

What are You Running from?

I remember fondly, riding down the elevator, stuffing a delicious egg sandwich in my mouth, as a friendly woman, sharing the elevator asked, "Are you running this morning?"
I practically spit the eggy deliciousness out of my mouth.  Ha!
"Nooooo. No, I don't run.  I'm here to support my friends who are running the half and full marathon today.  I'm just making my way to the finish line so I can cheer them on." And anyway, I thought, if I were running, I'd be probably doing that instead of eating this and talking to you. 
"Girl, say no more.  I hear ya.  The only time you'll catch me running is if somebody is chasing me!"
I have been an excellent cheerleader (I made signs...and SHIRTS) for friends who race a few times in my life, but my one pitiful attempt at running a 5K was a bit of a disaster when I was actually trying to be a runner.  I remember pleading my dear partners, my support team, that day,
"Please, go on without me! No, I can't make it.  Got to walk. Going to puke." It was like a scene in a melodramatic movie, when the tragic protagonist says, "I feel so coooold.  Cough, cough. Hold me for just awhile." 
Okay maybe not that bad, but it was a little hard for my ego to swallow.  I had been training for 2 months.  For a 5K.  Yeah. But, that's really beside the point. Because pathetic as that might sound, those 2 months of training really transformed me internally.  For the first time in my 33 years, I found pleasure in physical exertion.  I found joy in the discipline of exercising everyday and competing  That had never happened before.  Honestly, I was always the kid who would rather take a detention for ditching gym class than face the sweaty masses, eye balling me, as I was once again the last to be chosen for a team. My stomach actually turned and dread caused my skinny knees to shake and my hands to sweat at the thought of any sort of ball hurling toward my head.  My mom, lost all street cred with the gym teachers because she wore out her monogrammed note pad, writing me excuses to sit out.  I even pulled the "female problems" card too many times to count. Balls flying at high speeds in my direction resorted in me either ducking with both arms covering my face (must protect our best assets) or better still, leaping away from the ball while yelling, "Your ball!!" to a poor kid nowhere near the ball. You get the picture. The only gym class activity I delighted in was the parachute game, beloved by 3 year olds everywhere, that involved standing under a parachute while the class tossed balls into the air over your head, squealing with delight. Now THAT's a sport!! 
So being able to run a mile without puking, wheezing or wanting to lie down in the road, was HUGE for me.  Since then, I haven't run very much, but the feeling of strength, power, and tranquility that I experienced stuck with me. A couple of months ago, we hosted two friends of mine, who were running in the Tobacco Road Half Marathon.  As I watched them bravely cross the finish line, seeing just how much that distance cost them by the sweat pouring down their bodies and the pale cast to their faces, I thought, "I want that." 
I want that. Not the race. The races, while being such a high for the people who enjoy them, only create anxiety in me. Even the short ones fill me with the weight of expectation. But, I am in awe of the people who do them and push their bodies to the brink of exhaustion; to a place far past the initial pleas that the brain makes to "Please stop! We can't do this!!" 
What I desired was not weight loss or a better ass or nicer thighs. If those things consequently happen from my running then I'll be the first person to embrace the tighter buns and flaunt them in butt squeezing athletic wear. But really? I love my body; the width of my hips, the flattest of butts, the soft tummy, the slightly stooped shoulders. I don't take any of it for granted because all of the parts work beautifully. They get me where I need to go,  and allowed me to bring two babies into this world. Plus, I really enjoy the occasional cronut with my coffee. Cronuts are so necessary.
What I really crave is the feeling of being so connected to my body, so in the moment, that anything feels possible and within my reach. When I'm running the short distances that I can run, all of the worry, the what ifs, the negativity that hides in dark corners of my mind, disappear. I have a panic disorder. And I have learned to manage it very, very well but it still causes me to wake gasping for air sometimes. It still feels like a weight, resting on my chest some days. It's like leaving the house, knowing you've forgotten something, but not being able pinpoint what it is. You are filled with unease and wish you could figure out why. 
When I run, the self talk that so often can be critical and harsh, becomes as soft and encouraging as an elderly Sunday school teacher, full of grace, who reads to you and prays for you. "You can do this, Girl. Just a little further. I believe you can finish." 
Each bounce of my feet off the pavement, each time a hill becomes level again, each landmark I pass,  is an accomplishment. Something I couldn't do before. 
Running doesn't just make me stronger; it transcends the garbage that wants to make me small and out of control. There are so many people in this world who are trapped in the prisons of their own minds. Everyone knows someone like this or maybe you have been this person. Perpetually negative or worried; always suspicious and disapointed. It's why in 2013, The New York Times claimed that more than 30 million Americans were taking antidepressants.  Antidepressants can be a beautiful thing. They are my friend. But everyone should have ONE thing. One thing that they don't do because they have to but because they want to. Something that allows them to be in the moment, right where their hands and feet are. Something that tunes out the white noise and tunes in what's good and true. 
Its probably not running. But whatever it is for you, I hope it makes you feel safe and content. I hope it blocks out the bullshit and hones in on what's good and true about you! 
And if your ass gets a little bit tighter in the process, then give thanks and order some new yoga pants off Amazon to show that sucker off. 

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