When What Motivates You Also Breaks Your Heart

This morning was packed with an accomplishment and a letdown. I decided to run downtown, a route I don’t take often. Maybe 20 times a year, and I usually run every day. About four years ago, it was a part of my running routine, and I ran there at least one day every week.

Stretching out alongside the river and finding a stride is one of the best feelings. I even enjoy climbing the stairs up the bridge, skipping them two at a time. Crossing over traffic on the pedestrian bridge, I noticed a homeless person sleeping under a blanket on the corner of the bridge.

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I climbed the next hill, skipping steps, and ran in front of and behind the city offices, the police station, across an old train trestle to view the courthouse rising up on the hill to my left and the river rolling along between the fields and forests to my right. Up Dog Hill, where I lived as a college student, and that old 1840s house where my boyfriend camped out in the vines was razed a decade ago–I reminisce and run faster. See a feather on the sidewalk and pick it up.

At the end of another train trestle, the trees are tall and thick as I look out over what was once called “Gallows Hollow” and, though I can’t see them, I listen for an instant to children laugh and play on the playground in the distance. I’m happy about how time changes some places. I turn back and cover the same route.

When I pass the homeless person, I see a woman, and she’s skinny. I run harder and faster than ever before. I do the whole route one more time, to see if she’s breathing. I hone in on her as I pass by. She sleeps and the blanket rises and falls slightly. I run faster and harder– my brain working and pushing me. I make a decision: I will get her some food and leave it beside her.

I stop at the car, check my time and distance. First realization–amazed! Shock. I have set a personal record and ran faster than I ever believed possible for myself. I call my husband. Ask him the time. He asks, “Did you already finish your run?” I always call him before I begin. Confirmation.

Almost forgot why I ran so fast as I drive away from the river. When I see the Arby’s, I remember and pull into the drive thru. With the food and drink, I return to the river and park close to the bridge. I run very lightly up the stairs and across the bridge, but she is gone. I look around on the other side, down along the road, to see if she’s walking close by, and I don’t see her anywhere. She is gone. I return to the parking area, cover the route again, but I don’t find her. Due to a meat allergy, I can’t eat the food myself. Second realization–devastated.

The woman was my motivation to run so much faster than usual and as a result, I received a huge realization about how hard I have trained my body to run. But, and this trumped everything, I didn’t get to accomplish my mission, and that felt devastating. I will go back, and if she’s still on the streets, I hope to help her, but my biggest hope is that she won’t be on the street anymore.

There is an effort to open a homeless shelter in the town where I live. Please, help Manna Cafe to accomplish the goal of giving people a safe place to go and rest their bodies.

P.S. (Adding this as an afterthought): I usually keep care packets in my car (ziplock bags of toiletries, food gift certificates, etc.), but I ran out of them about three weeks ago when it was so hot, and that was one reason for my dilemma about how to help her. 

Playfulness is Mindfulness is Enchantment

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I play every day. I like unstructured play–no particular rules or strategies, nothing to win or lose, no set goal except to play and see what happens and allow my playfulness to evolve. Play = motion + discovery, for me. Summer always reminds me again & offers a chance to regain any playfulness I’ve lost or forgotten.

The forest is an essential playmate since it’s always changing, yet always there. Not only does it change for the seasonal shifts, but changes happen every day in the forest to offer a different type of play. As if a hot blanket were thrown over me during humid days, I stumble and fall and wrestle with the trails until I’m a puddle of sweat. I’m reminded of wrestling with my brother as a child, of trying to slip away and falling in spite of thinking I had the advantage.
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Slipping on shiny stones and splashing up the mud, I dance out a rhythm and partner perfectly with the bird song and drumming of the branches. I’m reminded of dancing in the yard in the sunshine with wild abandon as my mother’s radio blared the Rolling Stones or Huey Lewis & the News from the windows of the house.
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The rain splashes down through the tree canopy and running is like swimming and flying and freeing all at once, like when an aunt or grandmother or some relative we begged would drive us to the pool or the lake in the summer and we lost track of time and dove and floated in the water until it felt like we swam in our sleep.

As I was running last week, two young brothers (maybe 8 and 6 years old) began following me on the trails after I passed their family. They laughed and ran behind me. They giggled and bounded, and I felt a pang of nostalgia for the trails from my childhood.

When I run in the forest, on trails, I play the most. It doesn’t feel difficult to my body when I approach it as play–jumping over roots, slowing when necessary, gaining momentum downhill and bounding through the creek, across a bridge, sometimes leaping and other times tip toeing. I get lost in this playfulness. I start writing stories in my head, making up scenarios, laughing aloud as the story plays like a movie for me. When a character does something I don’t like, I rewrite it, try another scene, another lover, give her a different bicycle to ride to work.

For me, writing and running create the perfect mixture of playfulness. The summertime intensifies the combination with enchantment.

Reverence for Roots

image Roots are symbols of anchoring and messaging. They hold on, even as they send information and stretch out. The metaphors for roots go on and on…There’s a reason people focus on “roots”– from novelists to conceptual artists and musicians. Returning to our roots honors our history and the foundations of the past–where we come from–our nourishment from the nutrients we absorb and the genetic code we received through these lines. We want to be rooted in some ways, whether that’s to a literal place (home) or support system (like plant roots) as well as a food system for survival (and enjoyment). We want to learn from the roots of music, literature, and the arts. We develop appreciation for the paths.
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Roots are worthy of our attention, study, and reverence. The roots force me to watch where I’m running on the trails. Getting out of the flickering and streaming of media and consumption and into my own focus and creativity requires just being–where I am at that exact moment–on a trail.
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For these reasons, I am in awe of the lifeline of the trees–their ability to form trails, to move the earth with gentle force. I also like the way that their impact remains even if the tree dies or is removed.

In fact, the roots themselves stay in tact after the tree no longer towers above. The anchors remain. They whittle themselves down to little knobs, and on a well-traveled trail, they’re polished and shine in the sunlight.

They share and entertain (intertwine) themselves with stones, moss, and plants. They yield to entryways for animals. They work with water. They’re in motion even if you think they’re sedentary.
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The great blue heron is a source of inspiration. I see the heron’s legs as stable and rooted while it fishes along the shoreline. I view the heron as a running totem, even if it is very still at times.

Don’t be Afraid–No one is Chasing You: You are Free to Run

Almost Springtime. Everyone who used to be a runner, wants to be a runner again or from a fresh start, and/or who made a resolution to do the couch to 5K or more is out trying to run. Some of you are on the trails. You are getting beat up. I hear you say, “I hate the trails,” to your friends who agreed to help you run again or to run anew. I heard one friend respond, “Just pretend like someone is chasing you. That will help you keep running.”

Ah! As a person who has suffered from various anxiety issues since the age of 13 (panic attacks, hyperventilating, vomiting in stressful social situations–all PTSD-related reactions), I definitely do not need to imagine someone chasing me through the forest. I’ve worked relentlessly to overcome my anxiety, but it never completely goes away (so I run). And as a person who feels at home in the forest, I want others to love the trails as much as I do. I want new runners to continue running the trails. I’ve been on them for 6 years. I lost 70+ pounds after my first child was born. I completely changed my diet. Running trails freed me, but I needed the correct thoughts to guide me.

Running is peaceful to me–alleviating all my stresses. I practice mantras while running and put myself in a meditative state so that I can run up to 25K on the trails if I feel like it. I learn from nature’s never ending classroom.

My best friend suggested I record videos about the meditations and mantras I use when I run. She also wanted to hear the sounds of the birds, the snow crunching under my feet in the winter, my breath, the creaking of the trees–all the sounds I describe to her (obviously, I don’t listen to music when I run). Even though Christy is a yogi, and she doesn’t run trails, she wanted to know what that meditative state could be like–she wanted to see and hear as if she were running with me. She also thought these could be helpful to others who want to run and need good thoughts to guide them.

These are the first videos I recorded for her and for my husband. I needed a specific audience to begin. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy.

These are the first good thoughts you should tell yourself when you run:
I am safe. I am free to run.