The power of a pity party

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When my youngest daughter was growing up, she had the usual amount of teenage angst and drama (although it seemed at the time it was more than the usual amount).  I didn’t have a lot of patience with self pity then, and still don’t.

I’ve always encouraged her to remember that we are embarrassingly blessed.  Not just our family, but most of us in the western world. We have more materially, but we also have the freedom to do things, to be who we are or want to be, to pursue things that interest us and ignite our passions, to worship as we like. We can choose our careers, our friends, how hard or how little we work, and we have a nearly unlimited ability to get food and soothe our creature comforts.  (I could go on in this vein, but this isn’t a political post, so I’m sure you get the picture).

What all that meant to her was that I didn’t allow her to have extended self pity sessions.  I would remind her of all that she has and all that she is, I might agree with her anger (or depression, or whatever she was experiencing), or I might tell her how silly she was being;  then, I put a time limit on it.  I told her I would give her XX amount of time to be sad, depending on the situation, then I would drag her out of bed, if needed,  and make her face the world again.  Head on. I only had to drag her out a couple of times.

It’s always been my philosophy that we need to remind ourselves of the silver linings.  To see the world in a positive light, even when the world doesn’t really deserve it.

I’ll admit that’s not really my nature.  My lineage is filled with  “Woe is me, the sky is falling, nobody likes me, I can’t catch a break” characters, including my own mother.  But, I determined early not to be that person; that I would always find the silver lining, and, for the most part, I’ve been successful.  I have to dig really deep sometimes, but it’s always there to be found, and I want to live a life of joy and hope, not one of despair and fear.

Running has been a lifeline to that for me for many, many years.  So, the struggles I’ve had for the last couple of years with injury and illness have subdued that spirit more than I’ve wanted to admit, even to myself.  My inner dialogues go something like, “I know this hurts, but remember that not everyone is able to run,” or, “Get over yourself, you have a life most people never even dream of,” or some variation on that theme.  And, all that is true.  I’m thankful each day that I have been able to have running as a part of my life; for every slow, painful mile; for every sunrise I’ve seen on the run; for every city I’ve explored on my feet; for every trail I’ve stumbled down; for every beautiful moment running has brought to my life, and there have been many.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken a run for granted.

Which brings me to now.  Because, as you’ve guessed if you’ve stayed with me this long, I am injured.  Again.

A few weeks ago, I went for a short, easy 4 miler, and somehow came away with a pulled hamstring.  I thought, okay, no worries, I’ll stretch, get a massage and take a week or so off, and be back to normal in no time.  Tried to run a week or so later, and limped for the next two days.  More days off, another massage, essential oil applications, diligent stretching and it was time to try again.  No dice.  A week of chiropractics, more of the above, and yesterday’s test run ended in tears.  I mean The Ugly Cry.  You know the one.

Drove straight to the doctor, went through my treatment, was short and cross with him, and left with more tears. It felt like the end.  No one said that to me; in fact, he (the doctor) told me he sees no reason that I can’t get back to running.  But, yesterday, I was afraid that my body was saying something entirely different.

Now, if you’re not a runner, you won’t understand this.  I don’t mean that to be condescending, I just know that before I was a runner, I didn’t get it either.  I never understood my husband’s need for motorcycles, never understood the pleasure people derived form hunting or fishing or whatever their passion was, how doing those things fed their souls.  I just never got it.

I had passions, sure, but they involved my faith, my family, my friends.  I never knew that the passion I felt in those areas could be intensified and fanned into flame by simply moving my body forward through time and space and allowing God to use that simple pleasure to make me whole.

I get it now.  And, yesterday, I thought that was over for me.  So, I threw myself a good old fashioned pity party.  Sorry I didn’t invite you, but I really didn’t want company.

After the doctor’s visit, I decided a pedicure would help, so headed to my favorite salon.  Who should plop into the chair beside me but a bubbly young mother donned in running clothes, gushing about the nine half marathons (yes, NINE) she completed last year, and how much she is looking forward to the Dopey challenge at Disney next year (Google it, it’s ridiculous – I’m not even going to give you a link).  I’m pretty sure I didn’t curse or throw lightening bolts from my eyes, but I wasn’t my usual chatty self.  The pedicure was a bust.

My toes look pretty, though.  (See?  Silver linings.)

I thought a little shopping would help, so I tried on a few things for the summer.   You know how that went, right?

I finally got home to get a little work done.  After completing the most urgent of my tasks, I gave in to it and had a good cry.  I didn’t try to tell myself how lucky I am, how blessed I’ve been, or how many people have issues much more serious than mine.  All true. Not helpful.

I could only think, if I’m not a runner, then who exactly am I?  I let the tears flow, I soaked in a lavender bath, then I let the tears flow some more.  I had a date with one of my best friends, and while I thoroughly enjoyed her company and the theater production we went to see, the two+ hours spent seated in the theater made my bottom/leg/groin hurt even more, and tears flowed freely on the journey home.  I stayed up much later than my typical 9:30 bedtime and used that time to wallow in self pity like a pig in slop.

Then, came the morning.  A beautiful, cool, sunny, spring morning as only my Mississippi can throw at you.  A perfect day for a run.  Sigh.

Oddly enough, I met the morning with a smile.  My heart and mind were clear, my joy and hope had returned, and I no longer had that dark little cloud attached to my back end.  I went to my doctor’s visit, where I was much nicer and he very diplomatically didn’t call me out on what a b**** I was yesterday.  We did some different therapies, and I left with much less pain, and in a more hopeful frame of mind. I realize I was being overly dramatic (who knew I could still be that at my age?), and that, of course I will run again.  It’s not like I’m trying to make the Olympic team or qualify for Boston, I just run to stay sane.

Making a plan always makes me feel better, so I’m working on that now.  It involves some time off running, but I’ll be filling that time with other good things.

The point of this post is that sometimes it’s okay to have a little pity party.  Limit it, don’t let it go on and on, and if it does, it’s not a pity party. It may be something more serious for which you need to seek help.  Don’t be afraid to do that.

This is one of my favorite quotes, and the truth of it is huge for me today:

I’ve have my tears, next week I have a short beach vacay with one of my dearest friends, and the week after I’m headed for a dive trip in the Dry Tortugas with my favorite person in the world, my man.

Life is good, salt is healing, God is full of grace and mercy.  I’m truly thankful.

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Running upstream

It’s a mixed metaphor kind of day.  

My running goal this year is very, very simple.  To run.  That’s it.  That’s all I want.  To put consistent miles on my legs each week.  

The jury is still out on the results of my efforts thus far.  

My foot issue is better.  More or less.  I’m working with a great PT (who runs!), so I’m making progress.  Slowly.  But slow is  the story of my life, after all.  

I’m making strength training more of a priority than ever, and if you’ve ever been around me, you’ll know that the only thing I hate more than strength training is Daylight Savings Time.  So, this spring brought a double whammy.  Well, a triple whammy when you factor in the pollen.  

I know, though, that if I’m going to get back to this thing, and continue to run for life, I’ve got to do it right.  So, I’m squatting, and lunging, and planking, and doing toe raises.    It ain’t pretty, but there it is.  

Today, I ran Front Beach in Ocean Springs, then meandered back up through town to our secret hotel (seriously, I’m not telling you where it is – it stays booked enough as it is, and I’m here once a month for business, so I need it.).  

Ocean Springs is one of Mississippi’s jewels, I highly recommend spending a few days here, especially in the spring.  Okay, fine, I’ll tell you the best place to stay.  But, if I need it and you’re in it, we’re going to have a problem.  

The Inn is a small, boutique hotel located right on the main stretch.  It’s quiet, clean and comfortable, easy to book, and very private.  They only have four rooms available (two in the main location downtown) so you see my reticence in telling you about it.  Don’t book it when I need it.  Fair warning.  

  
Anyway, back to today’s run.  I love running Front Beach to the bridge, then up and over that big, bad thing.  Today, I didn’t have steam for the bridge.   It made me sad, but more determined than ever to get the steam back.  

That bridge, though.

It’s been a weird year, so far.  I’ve been working more than ever, but am squeezing in runs when I can.  We were in north Mississippi for a couple weeks, so I got some wonderful hikes in, and a few quality runs.  

My body is only participating in my return to running about 50 percent, so I’m retraining my mind to pick up the slack.  Today’s run involved a LOT of mental gymnastics.  The run to the bridge was relatively easy, but there wasn’t a lot left for that up and over, so I turned around.  That put me running into a really strong wind, so it was slooooooow going.  Even for me, whose middle name appears to be “Slow Old Broad”.  It truly felt like I was running upstream through rushing waves, hence the mixed metaphor title of this post.  

My self talk today involved a lot of reminders that it will come back, that I’m grateful for every step, that I can’t take ANY run for granted, and that I’m still lapping everyone who slept in this morning.  It also included many prayers for peace and patience.  

Heading back into town, I purposely changed gears and put my mind to taking in all the beauty that is this sweet town.  The azaleas blooming, the wisteria hanging like fat grapes, the majestic oak trees.  And, of course, the architecture.  I turned down Ocean Drive because, well, this:

  
And, I stopped a few moments to lift some folks in prayer.  

There was a very angry dog across the road who was less than thrilled with my presence, so I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked.  

I returned to my room, did my strength exercises, showered and changed, and headed up the road to French Kiss Pastries for coffee and a cannoli.  I stopped at one cannoli, although there is another peeking out of my bag that I’m trying to save for Gary.  Hope it makes it.  😏

Running, injury, humility, and wisdom

When you become a runner, you make your peace with the inevitability of injuries, and the attending inconvenience, frustration, and expense associated with each one.  You acknowledge that you’ll need to keep an orthopedist on retainer, bow to the knowledge that you’re going to have to pay a bone doctor or an internist eventually, anyway, and make your choice accordingly.  

You find a good one early on, and stick with him or her for life (and help them build expensive new surgery centers and clinics with your $$.  But, I digress).  It rattles your chain; therefore, when you’ve been with said Doctor long enough for him (or her) to semi-retire and then pass you off to an associate young enough to completely solidify your Old Broad status. You may not grin and bear it, but you bear it, knowing that running is so life affirming, so integral to your mental health, nearly as necessary to your life as air and food; that it makes it all worthwhile. 

So, yes, once again, I’m sidelined with an injury.  A smallish injury, which may or may not require surgery in a few weeks; aggravating more than painful, but painful enough to take me off my feet for a while.  I’ve been here before, way too many times, it seems; but secure in the knowledge that I’ll eventually be running again, and dreaming that I’ll run faster and longer than ever.  Hey, a girl can dream.  Especially when her foot hurts.  

There are probably people who run their entire lives injury free.  I don’t personally know any (and I’m not sure that I want to),  but there are some.  There are certainly people whose bodies seem made for running, who run fast and long, who resemble cheetahs more than humans, without the wear and tear on their bodies. I’m not one of them, and I’ve come to grips with that.  More or less.  

 I’m becoming reacquainted with my sweet little bike, and am remembering how much I love her.  I’m walking some, or limping, as the case may be, but moving nonetheless.  When I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, I reflect on the amazing keynote speaker I was privileged to hear at Imaging USA earlier this month, Amy Purdy, and I have the perspective I need.  If you don’t know who she is, listen to her TED talk here.  Wow, just wow.  So, I can’t run or wear heels for a bit.  I’ll live.

  

    

Humility seems to be a lesson God wants me well versed in. 2015 brought my first DNF, a training plan that revealed all my flaws, and the realization that I’m actually getting older. Seems like an Old Broad would have already made her peace with that; but, when faced with the reality, it kind of kicked my butt. Turns out, I have an aging body that resists my attempts to keep it healthy with anger and vengeance;  one that requires more and more effort to make bend to my will. I’m sporting legs and feet that demand lower and more comfortable shoes, forcing the abandonment of all those exquisite, expensive heels, sitting forlornly in their boxes in my closet. 

 Sigh. Maybe I’ll have a fire sale. Or, a “my feet hurt” sale. Whichever, if you have young, size 7 feet, I may have a deal for you soon.  

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

  Proverbs 11:2

I’m waiting anxiously for the wisdom.  

Digging In

It’s going to take a little longer than I thought.

I’m struggling.  There’s nothing like a good training plan to let you see with crystal clarity just how far you are from your goals. Week 9 finds me stumping along; making the mileage (mostly), if not my pace times; and feeling like I’m pulling a 10,000 pound weight along behind me. Sigh…

There’s a fine line between transparency and whining, so I’ll try to toe the line on the side of truth. Forgive me if it occasionally sounds like whining. I’m tired. And, I have to run 9 miles in a few days. AND, I have a lot of doubt about my ability to do that.

Turns out, all that foundation I thought I was pouring during the six months leading up to this training plan wasn’t building my base after all. It was the excavation under the base. Just the digging. Not the footings, even.

When I asked God to help me rebuild, He just handed me a shovel and said, “Start digging. I’ll be over here watching. I’ll let you know when you’re there.”

I have to know, is that the way He teaches everyone? Or, is it just me? Hmmph. It’s like He thinks I’m a little hardheaded or something.  As though He knows that I have to put in the work if it’s going to have any lasting impact on my life. Maybe He’s onto something.  Still, after two weeks of epically bad runs, I sure wish He would come down from the peanut gallery and grab a shovel to help me dig.

This I know about myself.  I won’t quit digging. I still haven’t even gotten to the foundation part of my base, and won’t before my fall half. But, one thing He has taught me through running is that persistence always trumps talent and ability. That’s why He handed me the shovel.

But, it’s going to take a little longer than I thought.

The “D” word

Today’s run was one of those ugly, demoralizing events that made me question whether I should just throw in the towel, quit trying to rebuild my running base and take up competitive eating. I think I would be really good at that. I’m not that great at running.

Yes, it was ugly.  If you live in the south, you know that it’s hot.  No, I said that wrong.  IT’S.  HOT.  Insanely hot. Even for me, who really likes to sweat.  Especially if, through your own laziness and forgetfulness, you get up late, forget there’s a 5k at your usual running spot, and have to drive 15 minutes to another one.  No one to blame but me.  I know I need to be running no later that 6:15, so when I don’t get up until then, I’m already in a deficit.  Anyway, enough complaining.  It was hot, I was late, it was hard, it was ugly, but I got it done.  Four miles, even.  You did not want to be downwind from me when it was done.  And, if there’s any cell phone video of it while it was happening, I’m going to be needing that.  No one else needs to see just how ugly it really was.

Today’s run (and other recent doozies) was a reminder to me that nothing worthwhile (like good health) is easy to obtain.  I’ve managed to let me health decline, while allowing my weight to creep up, and it’s just going to take awhile to get back to the starting line.  As my wise daughter texted me the other day, “I wish getting fat hurt as much as getting fit.”  Ain’t it the truth.  (She’s so far from fat that’s almost laughable, but she knows the struggle is real, so she’s putting the effort in early.)  If getting fat hurt as much as getting fit did, I know for a fact I would be a size 2.  Running hurts.  Pizza feels good.  Not eating bread sucks.  I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to really say that.  

It’s physically and mentally painful to get fit.  It often requires more effort than I’m willing to give it, and this time of year, in South Mississippi, it takes 10 times the amount of effort it took just three short weeks ago.

I know why I do it.  I want to be healthy. I love to live life; scuba diving, hiking, exploring, letting my feet and lungs take me places others never get to go.  I have a hunger to experience life that it seems only my feet can fill.  I like the way the world looks from the trail.  And, I can’t run that trail, hike that hill, dive that reef, even walk all day in a new city, if I don’t keep chasing that running dream.  For me, it’s that simple.  

The reality of that 5 am wake up call is something else altogether.

Which brings me to that “D” word.

2Tim1-7

That verse is the first one I ever committed to memory as an adult out of need. It’s meant various things to me over the years. I’ve called it forth when I was fearful of something, whether it was as simple as singing a solo in church, or as monumental as trying to mend relationships that seemed broken beyond repair. At this point in my life, the “D” word is the one that jumps out. Yes, Discipline. Yuk. There are several translations of the words “self-discipline”, some translate it as “sound mind”, others as “self-control”. This is my favorite translation.

As I’ve pulled it into my heart this week in a daily reminder, I realized something that I don’t think I ever thought of before. This is a gift God has given me. The ability to discipline myself. Discipline as a gift? That had to settle in awhile before I grasped the absolute loveliness of it.

As with all His gifts, He’s given me the choice of whether to receive it or not. I can continue in my life as I have: sleeping in, eating/drinking too much, not allowing this gift of discipline to take hold in my life and set me on the path towards my goals; or I can embrace it with open arms and let it fill me with determination (another “D” word). I choose the latter.

Sigh. I really miss pizza.

warm up

Turtle Days

It seems like every run lately has involved a turtle sighting.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that I live in the boggy South, where heat and humidity have a summer long competition to see which one can make me the most uncomfortable (humidity won today).  Still, I run a lot, and to see turtles as often as I have lately feels a little like a message.  

Even the trail I often run is sending me the turtle message:

  

As I plunked along this morning, cycles whizzing past me at Tour de France speeds, runners easily lapping me, it seemed even the wildlife mocked me.  I thought of all the turtles I’ve seen over the past months, and it dawned on me:  these are Turtle Days.  

Now, this isn’t really a thing.  I realize that.  But, I have a particular affinity with the tortoise of fable.   I, too, am strong and steady.  And, slow.  

 I may not be fast, but I plod along, solving the world’s problems  in my mind, writing the great American Novel, plunking along until I get to the end.  Then, I go home, shower, live my life, and do it again the next day.  Slow, steady, true.  

Most days, I’m fine being the slow, steady one.  But, I’ll admit, it plays with my psyche.  I mean, will I ever be fast? Or, just faster?  Doubt creeps in and does its ugly number on my mind, and, if I’m not careful, soon I’m thinking, “Why bother?  I’ll always be the slow one.  Why keep on keeping on? ” I’ll admit, it sometimes discourages, even defeats me.  I mean, am I just not built for speed?

Then, I think of those turtles that I’ve seen.  Hmmm…  they don’t allow the fact that they are the slow, chunky kids on the playground to stop them from coming out to play.  Seriously, if my runs of the last few months are any indication, they are the most active kids on the playground.  Turtles are everywhere.  Coming and going, hither and yon.  They don’t allow their lack of speed to stop their progress. 

 There’s a lesson there.  

   
    
 

Most of the time I have no problem being the tortoise and not the hare.  I’m accepting of my lack of speed and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll be faster.  Until then, I’ll plod along, getting stronger, solving world crises, and writing the great American novel in my head.  I’m winning all the races in my mind, as well, so there’s that.    

  

I’m in this running game for the long haul, so I’ll keep on moving forward.  Plunking one foot in front of the other, reminding myself that it’s not about speed for me, but endurance.  I want to be running when I’m 90, after all, so for me that means slow and steady now, and maybe always.  

I have a lot of admiration for this little guy though:

  
He’s giving it his all, and what more can we do than that?  
  
I’m running on faith at this point.  It’s gotten me this far, I’m sure it’ll get me where I’m going.  

Salty sanity

    The coming of summer has found me plodding along; wiping sweat from my eyes; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my running base. The older I get, the longer that seems to take. Race season will be here soon enough, though; so, build I must.

    For me, spring and early summer are my favorite times to run.  The “dog days” aren’t quite here yet, but the warm, sticky air brings on a salty sweat that gives me a feeling of accomplishment I just don’t get at the end of a cold weather run.  I like to sweat.  It makes me feel like I’ve done something with my day, and makes even a bad run feel like it was a job well done.  It couldn’t have been a bad run, see how the sweat is pouring off me?  

    The sweat of a summer run cleanses my soul.  It feels like all those winter toxins I built up are pouring out of me and I’m leaving them behind in a puddle on the ground.  That winter coat of depression that I wore like  a crown of thorns melts away the sweatier I get.  My feet move faster, my mind feels clearer, and life just feels good.  Call me weird (you wouldn’t be the first); but give me a hot June morning over a cold February afternoon anytime.  I’ll know just what to do with it.  

    I’m running trails this weekend.  On my own.  They aren’t long, and they all circle back to the campground my man and I are staying at (also deliciously on our own), so there’s no danger of getting lost.  My man is working a race (motorcycle, not foot), and enjoying his Father’s Day happy of a new dirt bike –  his first since “the Broken Leg Incident of 2012”. 

    I’m mostly laid back about the whole dirt bike racing thing.  It makes him happy, just as running makes me happy, so I don’t complain.  Or worry.  That sounded believable,  right?  Anyway, I could wish for a less dangerous hobby that would make him smile, but that’s not who he is.  And, probably any hobby has its pitfalls.  I mean, even growing hothouse orchids could lead to… I don’t know, maybe being taken hostage by an orchid bandit?  At least, with dirt biking, my man takes me to some very serene places to run trails.  And, for that I’m thankful.   

      Already muddy.  

     I needed serenity today.  I don’t live a particularly chaotic life, but, sometimes I allow the voices on the Interwebs to drown out the voices in my head and fill me with despair for the human condition.  This has been a week like that.  Even with a minor miracle that my youngest daughter had at school this week, seeing God work in her life, and then hearing from a beloved nephew about how God is working in his, I allowed the screaming voices online to disturb my peace.  To wonder why God abandoned us to such a place as this, and to wonder if He is ever going to come get us.  

    So, today and tomorrow, I’m running back to sanity and away from chaos.   Not fast (am I ever fast?), but along woodsy trails that have been carved out by strong men like my man.  Paths that run wide and deep in some places, and trickle off to a pig trail in others.  Trails that are filled with ruts and roots and slippery orange clay.  Trails that make me pay attention to where I place my foot, and look extra carefully at that root to ensure it’s not a snake.  

    On my first two mile loop, sweat soaks my hat and slides into my eyes and stings.  My winter white legs are shiny and slick over the salty layer of grass and leaves; my shoes, so pristinely clean when I started, have gained two pounds of Mississippi mud.  I stagger back to camp, fix myself a snack, and sit under the dripping trees to refuel. My skirt, shirt,  and sports bra are damp and clammy and my hair, pulled into a sloppy ponytail and shoved through the back of my hat, makes a steady drip down the center of my back.  I’m sure if you came upon me, you would have to stay downwind, but I don’t smell myself yet, so it can’t be that bad.     

    After a short rest, I head out again.  A soft, warm rain begins to fall when I am about midway.  No thunder or lightening, just  the splash of sweet, clean raindrops that gather on the brim of my hat and drip off in a steady patter.  The smell of clean, woodsy rain fills my senses and relaxes my mind.  I trudge on, carefully manuevering around slippery clay, listening to the sound of unseen critters scurrying around me.  My mind is calm.  My heart is full.   Sanity, or at least my version of it, has returned.  

    After another rest, I head out for my final loop.  I often listen to podcasts when I run, but this loop, my last of the day, was just between me and God.  We talked the entire time, and I won’t share with you all of what we said, but I will say this.  I prayed for our nation in a way that I never have. Humbly, and with full knowledge that I’m part of the problem.  I prayed that we, as Christians, and particularly I, will step away from our keyboards, get down off our soapboxes, get up off our comfy pews, and walk out into the world.  I prayed that we would find people who don’t look like us, act like us, or believe like us and love on them like they’ve never been loved on before.  I prayed that we would begin to be light in the world, because, my friends, we have dropped the ball on that.  I prayed that God would close my mouth and open my heart, teach me to listen more that I speak, and remind me every day of the huge plank in my eye that prevents me from pulling out someone else’s splinter.  I prayed that He would teach me how to love like He does, because that’s the only thing that’s going to save us.  

    Then, I got a shower.