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:

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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.

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A few of my least favorite things.

A few weeks ago, I posted some of my favorite things.  I’m a person who likes to see the bright side, and I have long held the belief that ranting and raving about things is not a productive enterprise.   You know, if you can’t say anything good,  yada, yada, yada.

But, sometimes… Well, sometimes, a gal just needs to rant. Maybe it builds character. Or not. In any case, as I’m feeling a little punchy from not running for too many days in a row,  I thought today would be a good day to give my least favorite things some equal time.

So, with no further ado, here are some of my least favorite things (random and in no particular order):

– Cold weather. Not. A. Fan. Give me triple digit temps with crushing humidity any day of the week. That’s why God dropped me into the South. I really think he was aiming for Kona, Hawaii, and something was lost in transit. Maybe His aim was off that day.

I need spring.  Soon.

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– Traffic, lines, and crowds. Age has made me much less sanguine about lots of bodies in one place who don’t respect personal space.

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– People who don’t purchase official race photos, but still use them on their blogs/social media. Truly one of the things that makes me nuts. When the photo on your blog has the word PROOF labeled across it, you’ve branded yourself a thief for all the world to see. You wouldn’t walk into a grocery store and slip a steak into your pants, then walk out without paying, would you? Same thing. Although I think you should support the small business that is trying to make a living by photographing your race, if you can’t afford to buy your (usually reasonably priced) race photos, have a friend come to the race and take pictures with your iPhone.

I could go on and on about this one, it really hits close to home.

– The comments I read online on news stories and social media threads. Truly, I weep for humanity. Keyboard courage has made idiots of us all. Step away from your computer. Seriously. There are some things you can just let ride.

– Social media shares by people who don’t realize they’re a hoax. I don’t know, though. This one sometimes makes me laugh. But, due diligence, people. Do your research. And, if it’s an article from “The Onion”, chances are it’s tongue in cheek.

– And, while I’m ranting about social media… inappropriate oversharing and poor grammar and spelling on social media.  This includes status updates that make us cringe; racy photos in your underwear (or bikini, or barely there dress); and the misuse of “your and you’re”, “their, there, and they’re”, and “to, too, and two”.  Proofread, people.  It only takes a moment. And, if you wouldn’t want your grandmother (or preacher, or Sunday school teacher, or whoever you greatly respect) to see your status/picture, don’t make me look at it.

– The fitness lost after only a few days off. It seems really unfair how fast fitness fades when you’re injured or just taking some time off. Bleh.

After reviewing this list, I’m kind of proud that it’s much shorter than my favorite things list.  I hope I always see more good than bad in the world.

And, I hope it’s warm enough for my long run tomorrow.  I’m sure my family does, too.  Not that I’m grouchy or anything.

Some (belated) goals for the new year

I’m a person who tries to focus on the positive.  My life is good, my glass is half full, every cloud has a silver lining, and the grass is greener on my side of the fence.  I see good in everyone, and I generally give people the benefit of the doubt.

For some reason, though, 2013 found me walking around with that nasty, proverbial cloud following me.  No silver lining, just a dark, ugly cloud.  I often let anxiety take control of my emotions, and forgot to release my worries to God a lot more than I care to admit.  I think I achieved full hermit status – staying at home, working alone, going to bed by 8 and sleeping in, hiding behind my computer and not reaching out to anyone.  I intend to change that this year.

I’ve set some goals for this year – write something every single day, run a spring and a fall half marathon, lose this pesky weight, give my liver some breathing room by cutting my wine intake, reconnect with old friends, and make new friends. I’m excited and terrified all at once.

How do you even go about making friends at 52?  I want some friends who share my interests.  As much as I love my old friends and as much fun as we have together, not many of them are runners, and few seem to be readers, either.  I want to join (or start) a book club, and find some women my age who enjoy running so we can encourage and motivate each other.

It amuses me that so many of the women who share my interests are either the “crunchy granola”, super nerdy, or over the top competitive types.  Hmmm… maybe I’m not as cool as I thought, and maybe I’m more competitive than I realized.  Food for thought…

Another goal I’ve set is to read more and watch TV/mindlessly browse social media less.  Not batting a thousand on this one yet, but I’m better than I was, so I consider that a small victory.  I have so many books on my “to read” list that I’ll never get them all read if that insidious box (my TV) doesn’t stop squawking constantly.  Lately, I’ve enjoyed sitting beside my man late into the night (at least 9 pm), reading while he watches XYZ on the tube.  Yes, I’m trying to push past 9 pm, I realize how completely lame that hour is.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

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