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.

Wintertime Blues

There comes a time in most relationships when passion wanes and you begin to operate on autopilot.  You forget what drew you to each other in the first place, your mind starts to wander, you may even seek a diversion outside your partnership.  No, I’m not talking about marriage (even though I’m sure that’s true of some), I’m talking about running.

Over the last year, my passion for running has cooled.  I’ve struggled for motivation, dealt with injury, looked forward to tapers and time off with a little too much relish.  But, because I’m no stranger to long term relationships, I know that this, too, will pass.  That eventually the passion will return and I’ll remember why I fell in love with running.  I’ve learned that the secret to overcoming that lack of passion is to “fake it til you make it.”  In other words, keep moving forward.  Find your motivation anywhere you can, race a new distance or location, set new goals, maybe find a running partner.  Run even when you don’t feel like it, when you see no discernible difference in your speed or endurance, or when your mind screams,  “Stop!”  Just keep running.  Maybe throw in some cross training, but if running is your heart’s desire, then you just have to run.

An enduring relationship with running is just like any other relationship.  It takes work, discipline, mental toughness, and sometimes, creativity.  Why keep going?  The same reason you stick it out in any relationship.  It’s part of who you are.

Running for me has been a dream maker, a companion, a comfort, a cathartic release, a creativity boost, a way to iron out problems in my mind, a time to grow closer to God.  It’s carried me through the illness and death of my parents, family struggles, financial woes, the sting of criticism and rejection, and the ongoing journey to discover my way.  It feeds me, nourishes me, punishes me, disciplines me, humbles me.  It allows me quality time with God, a time to hear God’s voice and meditate on His promises.  It threatens revolt when I don’t eat well and kicks my butt accordingly. It makes stair climbing easier, gives life to my legs and lungs, and enables me to live a life filled with adventure.  It gives me strength and makes me stronger, it strips away all pretense and reminds me that I’m not Superwoman, I’m just an old broad who runs who can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.

I’ve been watching the Olympics along with the rest of the world, and even though I like the summer games better (with its track and field events), I’ve really enjoyed watching the athletes as they compete in their disciplines.  It takes a great deal of mental toughness to make it to that level and I want to soak up as much of that by osmosis as I can.  Watching Noelle Pikus-Pace’s silver medal skeleton run and her heart warming reaction at the end reminded me of the other bonus in my life that keeps me running and helps with mental toughness.  My family.  I’ve watched the video multiple times now and I’m not ashamed to admit that tears flowed each time.  Knowing that others believe in us and are willing to sacrifice to help us accomplish our dreams helps give wings to our feet and brush the cobwebs from our minds. Knowing that the legacy I want to leave for my girls is one of strength and fitness keeps me lacing up those shoes, even on hard days.

I know running and I will get through this relationship crisis.  We’ve gone too many miles together to stop now.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

 Isaiah 40:13

challenge

Sometimes, it just ain’t pretty

Sometimes running is amazing. My legs and lungs feel strong, the miles fly by in a blur, the sun shines softly, the breeze caresses me. Creative thoughts flow into my mind and stay with me as I go about my day, getting everything on my to do list accomplished. I love those runs.

They are very, very rare.

Some runs are real dogs. Not the cute, cuddly kind that you snuggle with on a cold afternoon. No, the big, drooly kind that flings himself on you for a hug and a sloppy kiss right after he rolls in roadkill. Or, the snarly, vicious one who runs at you out of nowhere when you’re minding your own business, and causes you to have an unintentional and life-threatening PR on a training run.

Today’s long run was a dog. I finished it, but it wasn’t pretty. Everything hurt, my tummy wasn’t happy we were running eight miles, and everybody I saw was making it look easy and effortless. Yep, this one just sucked.

I posted this quote by Marko Cheseto on my Old Broads Run Facebook page this morning:

“Running is the easiest thing in the world. You just put one foot in front of the other and make sure you are moving forward.”

What I love about that quote, what makes it amazing and repeatable is that Marko was a world class track athlete at the University of Alaska, when after a series of sad events in his life, he lost both his legs. After quite a struggle, mentally and physically, he was fitted with running blades, and is, once again, on the rise in the world of running. His story is in the February, 2014 edition of Runner’s World, and is a must read.

I’ve never been a world class athlete. Truth is, I never will be. And that’s okay. My goal in running (and in life) is to be the absolute best that I can be, to find that elusive mental toughness I seek. I don’t run to win races. If that was all I sought, I would have quit a long time ago. I also don’t run to impress anyone. I run because there is a deep-seated need in me to find my best, and I’ve learned that running is one of the pieces of my puzzle.

Even bad runs offer me answers. I guess I should say especially the bad ones. Because those amazing runs, the ones that are effortless and easy, really just soothe my soul, they don’t teach me anything. Sometimes a good soul soother is exactly what I need, and I know that I’ll have those runs again. But, mostly, I need lessons. Lessons in mental toughness, lessons in enduring. Lessons in making the best of a bad situation, lessons in problem solving. Running teaches me all those things, and more.

I’m not mentally tough. I look at Marko Cheseto, and I shake my head at how soft I really am. This man has no legs. Yet, he runs with grace and perseverance. He puts one foot in front of the other and makes sure he is moving forward.

Life is full of challenges. Some big, some small. The way we handle those challenges defines us. It tells the world (and ourselves) who we are and where we’re going.

Sometimes, like on today’s dog of a run, we just have to take a deep breath, put our head down, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because running is easy. It’s life that’s tough.

challenge_defeat

Are you an Old Broad?

You may or may not have noticed a recent name change on the blog.  For the last several years, this blog has been titled “Faith and Fitness at 50”.  I started this blog several years ago as an accountability journal when I was training for the NYC marathon, and quickly realized that writing was as much a part of me as running, so I continued after the race.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I realized that eventually Faith and Fitness would be 60, so I decided to rename the blog now, and do the upgrades required.  I’ve called myself an “old broad” since before I was actually one chronologically, so that was the obvious choice.  The new blog address is oldbroadsrun.net, but never fear, you can still get there from the old url, as well. If you’re a follower (and if you’re not, what’s wrong with you?), you followed me right on over to the new web address (thanks to an extended phone call with my friend and mentor, Steve Kozak).

I thought I would give a little characterization of who exactly qualifies as “Old Broads,” because you may be one and not even know it.

Old Broads…

… are not defined by a chronological age.  You may be a 30 year old and celebrate many of these qualities.

 don’t take themselves too seriously.  I realized a few months ago that I had truly achieved “Old Broad” status after cooking a meal of lamb chops for my family for the first time.  Lamb chops really aren’t Southern staples.  After carefully cleaning his plate, my man brought it to me in the kitchen where I was cleaning and said, “Thank you for supper, I enjoyed it.  Now, please never cook that again.”  A comment that, in my youth,  would have inspired gallons of tears, multiple slamming doors, broken dishes, and a three day sulk.  This time it just cracked me up.  And, I haven’t fixed them again. Although,  he may get them for Valentine’s Day.  😉

… don’t care if you see them without their “face” on.  I ran in the rain this drizzly morning with no hat and no make-up, then went into the bank and the grocery store unashamed.  I am who I am, and I know that when I do clean up, I clean up well.  I don’t really care if you know it or not.

… are active. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, as well.  We’re always seeking our best life, for ourselves and our loved ones.

… are good listeners.  Okay, I’m working on that one.

… accept the inevitable signs of aging with grace and equanimity.  I sometimes look in the mirror in the morning and see my grandmother.  Not her 52 year old self, whose skin rivaled any 20 year old’s, but her 80 year old self.  With Medusa hair.  But, with a little work, my Fleur de vie skin care, and some imagination, I tame the beasts and go about my day.  I remind myself that all those wrinkles, sags, and bags represent a life well lived.

… use their life experiences to learn.  I pray that every trial I face, every time I stumble and fall, each triumph over loss enables me to file away a little nugget of truth.  That I use all my years of experiences to fill me with wit and wisdom, and that I’m unafraid to share that wisdom with those who need it.  I pray that God brings people in my path who can teach me and who are willing to learn from me.  People who will inspire and encourage me, and those that I can motivate, as well.

I pray that I become an Old Broad who leaves the world a little better than she found it.   I’m humbly thankful for the opportunity to become that old broad.

age of heart