Thursday, October 25, 2012

The 18th Mile

I feel like I'm running a marathon. And I'm (slowly) passing the 18th mile marker.

I used to roll my eyes when people would talk about "trials and tribulations" (usually in religious circles), as if life were so difficult and unbearable. I would think, "Buck up! It's really not that bad. Get over it. Life is grand! Be positive...blah, blah blah." Clearly I had never faced a real trial of any kind.

I've always been generally aware of how good my life has been, of how easy a road I've traveled through my 28 years. I used to think that I was due for a circumstance or situation to knock me off of my pedestal where I was living high and happy above the masses, with no real cares or concerns or hardships. But I thought that scenario would be something of a physical nature—like cancer or a major car accident (my mind is so optimistic, no?).

Well recently my life took a turn, and I fell flat on my face at the bottom of the damn pedestal. I'm happy to say that my cardiovascular and respiratory systems are still intact, although my nervous system has taken quite a beating... 

However, as much as life is hard, life is also very good. Which is why I feel like I'm running a marathon.

The past 3 months have felt like a 26.2-mile trekk to a yet-unseen finish line. I've enjoyed some exteme highs—moments when the endorphins are coursing through my veins, my breathing is steady, I'm mentally in the zone, my body is buzzing with adrenaline, and I feel as if I could run forever. And then there have been some pretty awful lows—times when I'm not sure I can take another step, when every muscle in my body is cramping and my IT band is throbbing, when I feel nauseous and defeated and wonder why the hell I ever started running.

But that's when the endurance kicks in. That's when I muster up the little strength I have left, tap into the encouragement from those slogging beside me and the energy of those cheering from the sidelines, and ultimately, seek the source of divine strength to keep...on...running.

So. I think I'm at mile 18. I'm getting quite tired. And I'm realizing there's a good chunk of this race left to go, which makes me feel even more exhausted mentally. But I'm over halfway fact, I'm almost three-quarters of the way to the finish line. I'm just not sure what's waiting for me on the other side...

I'll let you know once I get there.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Art of the Walk

Running is my first love. Has been since I was a freshman in high school who ran the 1600-meter track event and finished in last place every single meet. (To this day being on an outdoor track evokes feelings of pure dread.) So while I quickly realized 14 years ago that speed isn't my thing (have you seen the length of my legs?) I discovered that this little body can keep moving for a while. And that's where I thrive—in the distance.

While running will always have my heart, lately I've discovered a newfound appreciation for the art of the walk. I used to view walking as an activity for the elderly, the injured, or the breast cancer aware. But these days I've enjoyed walking for walking's sake. I may not be working up a sweat or burning a maximum amount of calories or feeling that pure euphoria that running provides, but walking has a few perks that running—and most other forms of exercise—do not.

1. Real reflection. I have used many a run to pray and think and talk to myself (and even scream and cry), but I have yet to master steadfast and deep reflection while on a run. For me, running allows a spurt of ephiphanies, quick revelations, and bursts of cognitive and emotional release. On the other hand, walking provides the space to relax my mind. I can practice deep breathing. I can release pent-up energy and anxiety through movement while simultaneously exploring the thoughts and feelings I am experiencing in that moment. There are no breaks in my meditative flow because of a particularly steep hill, belabored breathing, or a cramp in my piriformis (seriously, what is with that?) After most walks, I find myself dashing to my journal to record the fruit of my reflections.

2. Sensory engagement. I like to think that I'm very in tune with my senses. I've been told that I have a keen sense of smell (not always a good thing). Eating is one of my favorite things to do (really). I relish in the beauty of nature and the sights and sounds it spins. And touch is my love language (hold me!). I find that walking engages each of my senses separately, yet simultaneously. I can focus on breathing in the crisp fall air and listening to the leaves crunch under my feet. I can feel the sun shining on my face and hear the children playing down the street. And I can taste the pumpkin bread waiting for me on my kitchen counter (OK, that was a stretch). But there truly is something spiritual that happens to me when I walk and allow my senses to soar.

3. Social time. Last weekend I went on two walks that were especially meaningful. The first was with my dad, and the second with my parents and brother. Conversation flourished. Laughs ensued. Questions were asked and thoughts provoked. To me, regular physical movement is essential for a positive mood, productivity, and overall well-being. I am also a social person and thrive when spending quality time with the people I love (and like). So put those two together, and I am at my best.

Maybe I'm just getting older and lame. Or maybe I'm getting older and wiser. (Or maybe both.) But I'm not a walking hater anymore. It has its place, and lately it's been very good to me.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Living in the Now

Three years ago I wrote this post.

Yesterday I took the same walk to the same marina, sat on the same dock, and looked at the same trees. In a few weeks their leaves will be a rainbow of reds, oranges, and yellows.

While I have fond memories of that young 25-year-old version of me, she seems a little unfamiliar now, and very distant. She's naive and innocent, trusting and full of anticipation.

One thing I've been learning lately is how to live in the present. I'm a planner, and deft at trying to control my future. I'm also given to frequent bouts of nostalgia for the good times had. But this month, instead of fixating on the past or worrying about the future, I'm going to live in the now. I'm going to take life one day at a time, and give each day my all. I'm going to enjoy the people I see, the places I go, and the happenings I experience today. (For once) I'm not planning ahead, and I'm committing to very little that will occur beyond this week. I'm not thinking about Thanksgiving or Christmas...hell, I'm not even concerned with Halloween. The holidays will come - and go - in their time.

This is not an easy way for me to live, but I'm finding greater freedom in this perspective. I'm focusing on personal growth, which requires me to create space in new ways. I'm learning to say no, to unapologetically speak my mind, and to be nothing less than honest.

So today is new, and I am different, and that is OK. In fact, it's good. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is my life's purpose, which I realized has remained the same regardless of the year or season or month. This goal has guided my yesterdays, will lead my tomorrows, and is my reason for living today. As 25-year-old me said years ago:

"I realized that my purpose in this ever-changing life is to simply join Him in glorifying Himself. To love Him and love others with wild abandon. THAT feels so fulfilling, so satisfying, so right."