Mondays

“Words are things, I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use or the words you allow to be used in your house.”  Maya Angelou

Sheez.  Today was Monday all over.  Seems like everyone I know had a “Monday” today.  From work issues to family problems to shark infestations on the beach; from people tending to someone else’s business to school issues to painful self realizations. It was well and truly Monday in every negative sense of the word.  Of course, those are the days that I’m always taught a lesson, and, unfortunately, the “painful self realization” was mine.  Or, maybe, fortunately.  I guess it depends on how you look at it.

The truth is, I reacted badly to a situation that I could have diffused with a few simple, easy going words.  I was confronted rudely and with anger, and I responded in kind.  I felt quite justified until the words I spoke in haste trickled into a sticky situation for someone I love.  That’s the thing about words.  They have such power.  Good and bad.  And, we should always use our powers for good.

I hope it’s “lesson learned” for me, but I’ve been notoriously thick skulled and unable to learn from my mistakes in the past, so I’m calling on God for this one.  He’s the only One who has ever been able to make my “lessons learned” stick, and I’m sure there have been many times He shook His head in frustration at my inability to remember them.  Like today.

As always happens, there was good strewn among the bad. I had an impromptu lunch with an old friend who was also having a “Monday,” and we laughed our Mondays away.  That’s the awesome thing about true friends.  You may not see each other or even talk to each other often, but when you do reconnect, you pick up right where you left off. I’m thankful to have several such friendships in my life and I hold them close to my heart. The true treasure of life – the “anti-Monday,” people that you love.

So, I’m offering a prayer that I’ll learn from my Monday mistakes, and remember to temper my words.  Our words, written or spoken, have so much power that we should always weigh and measure them carefully before they’re poured out on a wounded world.

peace

 

And, tomorrow I get to run. The week is already looking up.

Searching for sanity

After taking a few months off from running following my last race in November, I found myself about mid-March mired in a pit of depression, which I blogged about a few weeks ago.  I’ve always known that running does more for my mental health than anything else I do.  So, I pulled myself up by my shoestrings, threw on my favorite running skirt, and started the long journey back.  And, it’s been a journey.  Until I stopped running for a while, I had forgotten just how much it helps alleviate anxiety, reminds me of the beauty of my life, raises my mood, and makes me feel invincible.  Truly, after a good, hard run, I feel bulletproof.  Work flows more easily, creative thoughts fight with each other to express themselves, the little aggravations of life (like the restaurant that over billed my debit card by $40 and won’t acknowledge the mistake), even the real problems of life lose their power to turn my tummy into a pit of burning anxiety and my mind into a swirling vortex of crazy.

My weekly mileage is still low, my pace is absurdly slow, and until today, every run has felt like a job.  Not a fun job.  More like a “clean the toilet” kind of job.  After it’s been used by men.  Still, I’ve continued to plug away.  I mean, someone has to clean the toilet, right?  I knew that at some point, it would feel a little easier and I would be reminded of why I love to run.

Today was that day.

I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of running.  It’s hard,  it’s hot, it hurts.  Almost always.  And, I don’t want you to think that I’m some gracefully gifted runner who flies along the path like a cheetah, feet barely making contact with the ground, hair flowing out behind me.  I know some of those runners, but I’m not one.  I plod along, scraggly ponytail tucked into the hole of my tattered, smelly running cap.  I’m carrying an extra burden of 15 pounds or so that the short hiatus from running and the food trough I fell into packed onto my short frame.  Sweat runs down my face in rivers and turns my pale (not creamy) skin into a blotch of red spots that make me look like I have a contagious disease.  I’ve never been fast; now I’m positively glacial.

Still, I plod.  Then, sometimes, like today, the plodding rewards me and reminds me why I continue to make this journey.  A run that had some aggravating factors before and during (not going to expound on that, just think “crazy people” – if you’re in business for yourself, you immediately thought of someone) turned into the soul soothing, sanity producing, anxiety eliminating run that I so desperately needed.  I  wasn’t running some fun, new route; the earth didn’t move; I didn’t have a celebrity sighting (and, by celebrity, I mean like Meb or Ryan Hall or Shalane Flanagan); I was only marginally faster than Thursday’s run; I didn’t even see any of the cool critters which often brighten my runs.

Even so, my soul was soothed.  My mind was comforted.  God showed up with His Asics on and ran beside me.  Love it when that happens.

If you never want to run, I get that.  I would never tell anyone (especially another old broad) that they need to become a runner.  What I would tell you is this:  If you’re searching for sanity; trying to pull yourself out of the pit; or looking for goals and trying to decide what the next phase of your life holds,  you will almost always find the answers on the trail.  Walk it, run it, or do some creative combination of the two. Just put one foot in front of the other and move.

Sanity lies just over the next hill.

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Determination

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve been steadily moving forward, mile by mile, some days inch by inch.  I’m slower than ever, my legs don’t seem to remember that they can run long, and motivation is ever a fickle friend.   The slowness I can live with; I know the endurance will return; but, motivation is sometimes that mean girl whose a** I want to kick.  I know her well enough now to understand that her ebbs and flows are just part of the plan, and I try not to let it keep me from my task.  I learned long ago that discipline is more important in running than motivation, so I’m calling on all my reserves to remind me every morning as I get up to go about my day.  The mornings that she joins me on my run are inspired and beautiful; but I know I can run without her; and, it seems, I often do.  One way I entice her to run with me is to change up my routes, find new running paths, and look for fresh inspiration on every run.

Today was one of those days that motivation deserted me, turning over in bed at the time I needed to rise, and informing me that she was going back to sleep, so I was on my own.  I gave her a vicious shove and headed out without her.  I headed to our local rails to trails, my go-to trail when I have to run with no motivation.  It’s an easy run; very flat and shady; a run I can do on auto pilot.  At the stage my training is in right now, that’s often what I need.  Runs that remind my legs we can do this, but that don’t require a lot of mind games to accomplish.  

I headed out at my usual starting place (Jackson Road station), mind still not on board, and just ran.  I love our local rails to trails (Longleaf Trace): no dogs, no traffic, just people like me, intent on getting their workout in.  One of the really cool things I discovered about this route last year is that there are numerous trails that lead off the path through the woods that are well marked and easy to follow.  I LOVE trail running, but don’t go to many of our trails often, as they are quite a distance to drive, and my man doesn’t really like me to run them by myself.  The trails off the Trace, however, are a different story.  I’m never far from the main path, so running the trails isn’t quite the lone experience it is in the national forests that surround the other trail runs that are within my reach.  On a whim, I darted onto the first trail I came to, Turtle Loop.  It is a short one (1.5 miles) and that was just what I needed for today.

This is what greeted me:

turtle loop

It was at that moment that motivation decided she would join me. I smiled and welcomed her, and on we ran. The smell of a Mississippi spring is almost indescribable. More talented scribes than I have attempted it. The odor of spring honeysuckle takes me back to my childhood, carrying me back to simpler, sweeter times. Yes, the sweet smell of spring brings my allergies into screaming awareness, but I love it, all the same. The path melted away under my feet, taking me up several fairly steep inclines, but giving in return the promise of renewed strength and determination. Glorious, spectacular day. Motivation was running right beside me, drinking it all in. I was happy to have her along for the ride.

At the end of my run, as I returned to the Trace, I encountered a little guy who was, perhaps, a little too on point (I was running Turtle Loop, after all). This very determined turtle was climbing up one of the steepest inclines on the trail. I stopped and marveled at him a few moments, taking a photo and realizing how much alike we were, then I headed on down to the path to complete my run.
turtle_determination I’m quite sure that he made it to the top.

I’m thankful that I know that persistence trumps talent, because, as running goes, I have very little talent. I am, however, one very determined old broad who knows that determination can bring about results that talent can only dream about.

Keep moving forward, my friends.

Starting over… again

I was fishing for compliments the other day, and I flippantly asked my man why he loves me.  He looked at me very seriously and replied, “Because you can do anything.”  Never one to accept a compliment graciously, I rolled my eyes and said, “Well, I can’t sew.”  He squinted at me curiously and said, “You could if you wanted to.”  I was touched to my soul.

Once you come out of your sugar coma, set aside the cheesiness of that interchange and look at the truth behind it.  I’ve been blessed my entire life to have people around me who believe in me (often more than I believe in myself), who encourage me, and who tell me the truth when the truth is hard to hear.  This particular truth, that I can do anything that I truly want to,  has been spoken to me, sometimes aloud, sometimes through actions, for most of my life.  I fully believe that if there is something in life that I want, and am willing to put in the work necessary to achieve it, it can be mine.

When I became interested in photography, I tried to learn everything I could about how to become a better photographer.  I dug deep to find classes that would teach me the basics, found people who mentored me, shot rolls and rolls of film, learned how to process film in the darkroom, then had the rug snatched from under me and had to learn digital and all that goes with this new age of computers.   I eventually went on to become a professional photographer, and even opened a studio and worked full time in that industry for a while.  It was (and still is, to some extent) something that was important to me, so I gave it my all, and succeeded to the degree that I wanted. I wanted it, so I worked for it.

My last post was about the drop into depression that I experienced this year.  It was one of the worst bouts I’ve experienced in a number of years, for many reasons, most of which I’ve identified.  I’m FINALLY better; it helps that spring is peeking around the corner and that my world, which was dark and drab over the weekend, became green and colorful overnight.  Even though I sneeze through spring, I love it for its reminder that, while the dark seasons of our lives are inevitable, renewal is always right around the corner.  For now, that demon of depression seems to be bound, and although he escapes his bindings occasionally, God is keeping him at bay for me.  I’m humbly grateful.

My world is brighter and more colorful, with the dogwoods and cherry blossoms blooming right outside my bedroom window.  I’m setting new goals, and asking myself some tough questions about where I’m heading.  Gary and I are running together some, and the slow rebuilding of base miles has begun.  I’m reaching for new goals in life and reminding myself that, if I want it, and am willing to put in the work for it, it can indeed be mine.

Life is ever about starting over, it seems.

dogwoods_weary

 

 

Quicksand

A few weeks ago, I made the decision not to race at all this spring and work on a slow build up of miles and a stronger core.  And, just like that, my motivation, inspiration, and drive vanished in a puff of smoke, and I landed, face down,  in the middle of a quagmire of quick sand.  It slowly pulled me in until all I saw was darkness, doubt, and fear.  The cold and dreary weather combined with my lack of a tangible goal to make me doubt all my abilities, to fear reaching out of my comfort zone, to wonder if there would be any more big goals in my future, and to sink into the abyss of inactivity.  During times of darkness like these, I tend to lose contact with my friends, only get the bare basics of living accomplished,  turn into myself and away from all those who can help pull me out, and figuratively(sometimes literally) curl up into the fetal position.

If you’ve never dealt with depression, this post will probably not strike a chord with you.  But as one who has fallen into the quicksand before, I know first hand how difficult it is to pull yourself out.  I learned many years ago the things that help me get back onto the path with the light, and running has always been a key ingredient in that mix.  Take away the running, and BAM, I’m soon stuck in the mire.  Throw in a cold, dark winter; changes and challenges in life that I don’t feel equipped to handle; very poor eating/drinking habits; and too much TV, and I’m embedded so deeply it seems I’ll never find the path again.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your outlook) I’ve been here before.  I’m no stranger to the dark, I’ve just learned to combat it well over the years.  The coming of spring is much anticipated, and I think I’m finally seeing the light.  It always helps me to have a plan, so I’ve been busy laying it all out in my head.  I figured it was time I put it down in black and white, it seems much more real and doable that way.

The first thing has been really simple.  I’m reading the New Testament from beginning to end.  I’ve done this before during dark times, and the beauty of those words, the hope of those promises, the reminder that there’s something much bigger than me helps get my head back on straight.

I’ve begun moving again.  Slower.  Than.  Ever.   But, it’s forward movement, so it all counts.

I’m working on my nutrition, and thinking about everything I put into my body.

I’m monitoring my self talk more.  You know, those voices in my head that make me doubt who I am and try to convince me that I’m not really a runner, I’m too old to think I can run endurance races, I’m an untalented hack, I’m not a good person, and that I’ll never be who God wants me to be.  I was honored this week to be included in a blog post by a UK Old Broad who runs, along with several other Old Broad runner blogs.  I showed the post to my man this morning and I caught myself saying to him, “All the others included are real runners.”  I stopped myself and shut that thought down as quickly as possible.  I am a real runner.  I’m not fast, don’t look like a runner, and running doesn’t come easily or naturally to me; but, as Bart Yasso says, “I’ve never met a fake runner.”

I’ve been listening to some very inspirational podcasts, reading some great articles about people who have overcome much greater hardships than the dark pit of depression, and am reminding myself daily that I can, and will do this.  It always helps to know you’re not in something alone, and I know that many others have struggled with or are struggling with this demon of depression.  I’m always happy to lend an ear to anyone who needs to vent or whine.  I don’t really have any answers, except that which has worked for me.  Sometimes it helps to just say things aloud to someone that you know cares. For me, it helps to write about it.

This verse was in my Bible reading this morning:

What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes.

What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!  

Matthew 10:27

Sometimes, Jesus whispers directly in my ear.  I think maybe the darkness makes it easier to hear Him.  And, being face down in the quicksand will really focus your attention on His words.

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Body Conscious

 I was in a never ending checkout line recently, and in a shopping cart a couple of people ahead of me was a young child, being entertained by his mother.  He was having none of it, though, so she lifted him out of the cart and he snuggled into her shoulder with a sigh of contentment.  I marveled, not at the beauty of the child (even though he was absolutely delicious), but at how wondrously designed our bodies are.  The curve of the mother’s neck was perfectly proportioned to accommodate the baby’s sleepy head, her shoulder nicely rounded to accept his fat little arm, her shoulder blade smooth and flat to feel the tap, tap, tap of the baby’s gentle pats.

The beauty of that moment made me forget the impatience of the checkout, my long list of errands, the pile of work waiting on my desk. I remembered with a smile the long ago days of my daughter’s childhood, the feel of her sweet head curved into my neck, the pat of her fat little hand on my back.  And, I remembered with regret that I didn’t truly appreciate the divine design that made those moments possible.  Instead, I wished I were ten (or thirty) pounds lighter; that the cushioning that had nurtured her into being would fade away and leave me with a “perfect” body.

 Why did it take me a half-century to understand the absolute perfection of the woman’s body?  Why have I taken my own amazingly designed body for granted, not appreciated the divine plan of the temple God created in me?  This woman’s body, the one sculpted to nurture a baby, then toddler, then child is also designed to respond to her husband’s touch; to feel joy, pain, grief, and desire; to feel powerful; to feel fatigued.

 The human body is truly a marvel.  It is designed to alert us to impending danger, whether from a bear chasing us, or an illness overtaking us.  When did we stop listening?  When did we stop marveling?  Why is it so easy to spot the flaws and overlook the perfection?

 We live in a world that judges beauty by harsh and unrealistic standards.  We see images of women that have been altered by technology to the point that they’re often unrecognizable, and we think that’s how we should look.  Never mind that the subject of the photo doesn’t even look that way, or that it is usually physically impossible to achieve that look.

We live in a world that’s conditioned us to accept fast food as an acceptable eating plan. A world that’s designed to keep us imprisoned in a chair facing a computer screen or desk for hours on end.  One that encourages us to give too much of ourselves to mindless entertainment, zoning out and allowing our minds to deteriorate along with our bodies.  One that discourages intimacy and allows relationships to be technology based.

 Was it the world that caused all this, though?  Wasn’t it our choices and decisions that brought us to this place?

It’s time for a change.  It’s time to take back our lives, our health, our bodies, our minds.  It’s time to remember that our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed to last us a lifetime.

 It’s time to marvel at the beauty of a baby perfectly curved around his mother’s body.

embrace your body

Birthdays

My oldest child turns 38 today.  Geez.  How can that be?  Now, before you do the math, she’s actually my stepdaughter.  She’s the one who didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.  I love her unreservedly; she’s taught me a great deal about who I am.  So, she’s my oldest child.  The one who started it all.

Our relationship hasn’t always been easy.  Until I had a child of my blood, I didn’t realize that this was normal.  There are many things I wish I could redo, but, as with biological children, you only get the one shot.  Fortunately, through the grace of God, we have a wonderful relationship today that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I’m always a little nostalgic on my daughters’ birthdays.  I remember our pasts, good and bad, and I’m thankful for our futures, good and bad.  I learned long ago that there is much truth in the old axiom that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child.  When they hurt, we hurt.  When they’re happy, our spirits soar.  I guess it’s God’s way.

As a mother of adults, we want to think our work is done.  Truth is, it’s not.  It’s actually never done.  I look at posts on social media of young mothers and smile in remembrance of those simple times.  Enjoy them, ladies.  One day your babies will be grown, and you’ll still find yourselves on your knees at 4 in the morning, asking God to bring your child joy and peace.  Much, much more than you are now.  You think that the raising will one day come to an end.  It doesn’t.  Mothers never get a quitting time.  We’re on for life.

I really don’t know how women who don’t have a strong relationship with God make it through.  God and I have wrestled many, many hours over our girls, and I know that we have many more hours of combat ahead.  I’m just thankful that, not only do I have that team effort with God, my spectacular girls do as well.  I have many regrets, but showing my girls how to interact with their Creator isn’t one of them.

So, Happy Birthday to my oldest child, the beautiful and incomparable, Misty.  I love you and am so thankful that you are a part of my life.  You paved the way for your sister, but more than that, you became a part of who I am.  I love you, child.  May your future be filled with joy.