Simple pleasures

Today I’m thankful.  I try to live my life in a constant state of gratitude, but some days, God just fills me up.  Today was one of those.  Nothing huge happened.  I didn’t win a million dollars or suddenly drop fifty pounds.  It was just a simple spring day, filled with God’s goodness.  Beautiful, cool sunshine on a brightly colored canvas of a world.  A dental visit that removed two years of coffee and red wine stains from my teeth.  A lunch with ladies that I’ve come to know and love over the last few months, shared with some remarkably beautiful women from the ministry at the Fieldhouse for the Homeless.  A new calling on my life?  An afternoon portrait session with one year old and two and a half year old sisters that made my heart smile and reminded me how much I love photography.  The anticipation of an early morning run tomorrow in this sinfully spectacular weather.  Life is good.

And now, at day’s end, the simple enjoyment of my lake, my dog, a container of flowers,  a glass of red wine (got to restain those teeth, right?), today’s New York Times crossword, and a good book.  No supper to cook, no house to clean.  Yes, it’s all still there and dirty, but it’ll be there tomorrow, and I’ll clean it then.

I’m often too busy or too stressed to just sit and enjoy the simple beauty of life.  My man has been a good teacher over the years, simple pleasures are his speciality.  He’s taught and encouraged me to slow down, sip the wine, smell the roses, eat dessert.  So, I do.  And life is better because of it.  Listening to my fat, lazy dog snore at my feet makes me smile.

One of the things no one warned me about becoming an old broad is that sleep becomes a long lost friend.  I often awaken in the night after a few hours of fitful sleep and lay awake until just before my alarm goes off the next morning.  That’s the time of day I take back all those things I’ve so carefully laid on God’s shoulders, because, you know, He really needs my help in solving them.  I suddenly remember the form I forgot to fill out, the bill I forgot to pay, the worries of and for my kids, the friend(s) whose needs are urgent and dire.  I call it “The Midnight Hour” and it has become a time I dread.

A few weeks ago, I started counting my blessings during that time.  You remember, like your grandmother told you to do every day?  I just start saying (in my head, not aloud – the old man next to me has no trouble sleeping) I am grateful for _________________.  Some nights, all I can think of is that I’m grateful for my exquisitely soft sheets and perfect mattress, so I start there.  That leads me to that man softly snoring beside me, my healthy and mostly happy kids, work I enjoy, the ability to pay my bills, and on and on.  Usually, I only get to about 10 things, and then I remember no more until the sun comes up and a new day starts.

So, I’m particularly thankful for the blessings of this day.  Not a perfect day.  Just one filled with simple pleasures.

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I run because I know

conteffortRunners often ponder deep thoughts as we pound along, and, I guess, I’m no exception, although some thoughts are deeper than others. Some days my mind simply chases its tail as I plunk along, others it busily solves the world’s problems. Mostly, though, it just sits there in a receptive state, eager to grasp whatever little bit God may offer me, and chew on it thoughtfully.

Today’s run was one of those that I did only because I knew what it would do for me, not out of any innate desire to jump out of bed and meet the cold world head on.

So, I got to thinking about the reasons that I run, and I kept circling back to the realization that I run because I know. I guess having been a runner for several years, I have internalized some truths that keep me lacing up and heading out, even when I’m not particularly in the mood to do so.

I know:

* that on a quiet, cool morning, when the only sounds I hear are the animals rustling the dry leaves around me and my feet pounding along, is when God’s whisper in my ear becomes audible. God speaks to me often, but I hear Him most clearly when I run.

* that running detaches that little black cloud that hitches itself to my posterior all too often, and dispels the gloom it often leaves behind.

* that, even though my running won’t detach anyone else’s black cloud, it may make me a little more capable of dealing with them, give me some insight into their clouds, and help me to know what to say (or not say) that will perhaps shine a little light into their darkness.

* that perseverance trumps talent, discipline trumps genetics. I’ll never be that speedy old broad who sets world age group records, but I’ll be dogging her heels until they put me in the ground. Then, I’ll dog her heels on streets lined with gold. Maybe I’ll catch her then. An Old Broad can dream, can’t she?

* that the only way to combat the deterioration that age inevitably brings is to meet it head on, chase it down, and wrestle it to the ground.

* that my day will go better, my relationships/work/life will flow more easily on days that begin with the quiet contemplation of a run.

* that my interactions with strangers and the world at large, the one that is filled with evil and selfishness; will be kinder and gentler if I start my day off at a trot. Somehow, I like people more after I’ve sweated and gasped for air a while. Strange how that works out.

* that in the long term, my health (mental and physical) will be improved by incorporating movement into my days.

* that in the short term, I just plain feel better when I run consistently.

* that running keeps me moving forward, on the trail and in life.

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Love the one you’re with

To be honest, I never liked that song. If you can’t have the one that you want, love the one you’re with? Really? No, get over yourself and go for the one you want and let the one you’re with go find someone who appreciates how amazing they are.

…Anyway…

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This past weekend, my man took me to NYC. You may remember, this blog started during my training for the 2011 NYC marathon. The first Sunday of November each year in NYC finds thousands of runners of various abilities pounding the pavement through the five boroughs of NYC, aiming to win, hit a personal best, or to simply finish. I was one of those brave souls then, and I’m proud of my less than illustrious finish, even if it wasn’t the time goal that I had originally sought. For me, it was about setting a goal and finding the mental strength and the determination to see it through to the end.  I did that.

This year, when I learned that Meb would be running NYC after his historic Boston finish, I knew I wanted to go watch him run. So, my man and I booked our trip, and last Friday , we headed to one of my favorite places to watch one of my favorite races and try to chase Meb through the boroughs. We had a blast running around Brooklyn, trying to find the best spot to see the elite men and women, then hopping back on the R train and heading back uptown to try to catch them again.

What on earth does that have to do with loving the one you’re with? Let me explain.

I love NYC. Since my very first trip there in 2006, it’s been my favorite city to visit and explore, and I’ve made trips there at least once a year since then. Each trip has various goals, but some goals are the same every time. I always want to: see at least one Broadway/off Broadway show; run a new route; visit at least one new historical icon; run in Central Park; eat lobster ravioli in Little Italy, a hot pretzel, and a Nathan’s hotdog at least once each; go to a new museum; and simply walk the city as much as possible. We achieved each of these goals (some more than once), except the Nathan’s hotdog. That’s ok. I’ll eat two on my next trip. 🙂 And, I’ll spare you a pic of the half dollar size blister on my heel from walking around the city.  You’re welcome.

New York City was one of the first trips I made when I began running again. I visited with my sister and got up early (while she talked business on the phone and blew cigarette smoke out the window of our No Smoking room) to run in Central Park, by myself, with no fear and tons of amazement. I ran a bit, took a few pictures, and dreamed. I dreamed of being a faster runner, of running new paths, of exploring the world through running, and of becoming the woman that I envisioned – one who pursued her dreams while raising her family and being the woman that God wanted her to be. Big city, big goals. I’m still working on those goals, all these years later, but one of those goals I met in 2011 – to run the NYC marathon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun, and I finished with a smile on my face.

This year, as I watched the amazing athletes (elite and real people) run the boroughs and reach for the stars, I was awed and humbled. We made the journey to see Meb run (hey, you have your celebrity crushes, I have mine), and were able to catch him at the beginning of the race (around mile 2 in Brooklyn), and close to the finish (around mile 24 in Central Park – geez, those dudes are fast). We were able to see some of my other celebrity crushes, Deena Kastor and Kara Goucher among them, as we waited for the elite men to zoom through.

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite women in Brooklyn (around mile 2)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair as I shot with my GoPro)

Elite men in Brooklyn (pic by my man since my phone was dead; and yes, that is my Medusa hair on the bottom left – the wind was brutal!)

Deena Kastor, mile 24.  God bless the Old Broads.  Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Deena Kastor, mile 24. God bless the Old Broads. Although, at 41, she barely qualifies.

Kara Goucher

Kara Goucher

Then, came my favorites, the real people. The ones like you and me, the ones whose eyes aren’t set on winning, but on a dream, a goal. One that’s personal and private. One that makes them feel like they’ve accomplished something, one that makes them believe in themselves. One that reminds them that, as bad as life can sometimes be, there’s always hope. These are the people I love. The ones who know that life really only has the limits that you allow it to have. The ones who understand that nothing is a given; life isn’t always easy; that a life worth living is filled with dreams and hopes, even when it’s hard; and the only person who can fix it/achieve it/fulfill it is themselves. I love these people. Watching them race on Sunday; some with grins, some with grimaces; all different body types – some looking like runners, others looking like me; some in obvious pain, others with a smile of wonder on their faces; some fast, some slow; some walking, some running;, some crying, some laughing; some singing, some barely hobbling along: these people are my people. The ones who know that dreams are achievable, borne to us on the wings of hope, faith, and pain. The real people. The ones who make marathons sing with joy and hope, overcoming pain and sorrow, disease and trouble. My inspiration.

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

Real people, the ones who really deserve our applause

And, that brings me back to loving the one you’re with. One day, several years ago, this old broad decided it was time. Time to reclaim my life, my health, my sanity. Time to reach for the stars. In a life only marked by mediocrity, it was time to reach for my own personal definition of success. To embrace the body I was in and begin to seek good health, sanity, a life lived well. If I had waited to start running when I was thin enough, or fit enough; if I had waited for that perfect moment in time when it all came together, I would never have started.

It’s still a struggle. I have good days, weeks, months when running seems effortless; then a long, long string of bad ones. I struggle with injury, with losing weight, with finding time. I struggle with speed, with endurance, with motivation. I just struggle.

Still, I run. I’m taking the body I have and I’m moving it forward in pursuit of the body I want. It’s an ongoing pursuit, a never ending battle. But, I love the one I’m with. I’m content in my pursuit.

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A few images of our fun weekend in NYC:

I love Brooklyn

I love Brooklyn

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Finally walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. My man has NEVER been able to walk the line.

Central Park run -  the Reservoir

Central Park run – the Reservoir

The skyline as I left the MOMA

The skyline as I left the MOMA

Central Park in the fall

Central Park in the fall

9/11 memorial

9/11 memorial

And me, keeping the faith and learning to love the one I’m with.

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

Central Park, Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis reservoir; Fall, 2014

A Little Bit Stronger Now

Last time you heard from me, I was in the process of getting my groove back. I’m happy to report that my groove has arrived, and is polishing itself to become at least a reflection of better days.

I spent many, many days walking; slowly, slowly, slowly rebuilding my strength in order to fight (or race) another day. I’m not there yet. I’m still building. I’m sure I always will be. But, now, finally, running feels good again. I’m actually running (and I’m using the term loosely here), and it feels spectacular. The weather is good, all the trails are calling me; the flora and fauna are changing and morphing into their autumn selves. The colors are amazing, the fall critters are moving, and God is really showing out. Fall is one of my favorite times to run.

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Starting over is a thing I guess I’m getting used to. I know that in running, as in life, new beginnings are part of the process, and I’m learning to embrace that. While it is frustrating and annoying, I am filled with joy and thankfulness that new starts are still available to me.

As the fall racing season builds to full pitch, I’m excited about racing again. I’ve taken a year off from racing and I find myself pawing at the starting line, anxious to be at it again. Next weekend will find me in New York City; not running the marathon, but watching some of my heroes run (Go, Meb!!). That is inspiration at its finest. I absolutely cannot wait.

Renewal has come to me in a combination of spiritual revival, physical exertion, and mental discipline. Mind, body, and spirit must unite to push me forward, strengthen my resolve, and get my rear in gear. It’s fine to determine to pursue a goal, but until my body responds, it’s just a mental exercise. It’s fine to push myself physically, but until my mind kicks into gear and cooperates, it’s just empty movement. The unifying force is my spirit, which communes with my maker and reminds me that prayer and contemplation are wonderful, but unless they are combined with a body that provides “boots on the ground” for Jesus, they are useless. I want that body to be the best that it can be, whatever stage of life I’m in. So, I run. That’s the bottom line of motivation for me. Not to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way. To have the ability to use my body to glorify the kingdom, whatever that means, physically or spiritually.

So, I find myself a little bit stronger now. A weekend at the beach spent with a dear friend (who, at 54, had never been to the beach before, so I got to see it anew through her eyes!), an eight mile long run with an additional mile for warm up/cool down, last weekend spent underwater (renewal at its best), the prospect of a trip with my man for next weekend, and the spectacular weather and color that fall brings have all contributed to the renewed strength I feel.

I’m looking forward to what the upcoming, busy months have to offer. I’m learning to be fearless, embrace the slow road back to strength, and take each day as it comes. Thank you, sweet Jesus.

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Getting my groove back

grace_weaknessInfinite. That’s the word that kept pushing itself into my consciousness this morning as I walked. We returned from vacation over three weeks ago; tan, but not well rested, and my body immediately decided it would rebel. Here’s some travel advice (FWIW). When traveling to Hawaii, spend the extra $ to fly first class (we didn’t). Or, don’t take the red-eye on your return journey (we did). I probably could have gotten away with that twenty years ago; but, no more. So, as a result, I’ve spent the last couple weeks fighting a stubborn infection (3 antibiotics down!), and trying to get caught up on my sleep. I’m not blaming the vacation, I’m blaming the 36 hour trip home. If I was still in Kona, I’m sure I would be right as rain. 😉

Anyway. My fall training plan for a Thanksgiving half marathon lies crashed and broken at my feet. Sigh. Which brings me back to that word, infinity. The Webster definition is “extending indefinitely” or “subject to no limitation”. I think that perfectly describes my question as I rebuild, “How many times am I going to have to start over?”.   Indefinitely, subject to no limitation.  Over and over again.  Forever and ever, amen.

So, here I am again. At the starting line, feeling like I need to go back to bed. Sheesh. There are moments that I think, why bother? But, bother I do. Quitting is never an option for me. My brother in law commented to me the other day that he doesn’t see how I continue to run. I replied that I don’t know either, and it ain’t pretty.

After spending the last couple of weeks rising late, napping every day, getting the bare minimum of work done, and being in bed again by 8 for a 10 hour rest, I’ve had enough. So, this week I set my alarm, dared myself to turn it off, and went to the trail to walk. There is no running yet, but I hope to add it back next week. Even then, it will be run/walk. I plan to run that Thanksgiving half, but I won’t be racing it. I have my eyes set on a spring half to race, and am just trying to get my groove back until then.

I’m thankful that running has taught me a few things over the years. I know that forward motion ALWAYS heals, and the energy and strength I need will follow if I’ll be faithful to move every day. I’m using the walking time to catch up on some of my favorite podcasts, and Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Community Church tops that list. As I listened this morning to a series from August entitled In the Meantime, I was reminded that my pigheadedness perseverance serves me well in times like these. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m treading water in the meantime, and keeping the faith. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. His perfection should be shining through in 3, 2, 1… Well, soon, anyway.

Having been to the doctor more in the last three weeks than in the last three years, I discovered a few things.  All my bad numbers are up: weight, sugar, cholesterol, etc.  So, it’s past time for some changes.  I’m not a big “diet” person, but I’m making some changes in my nutrition which already have me feeling better.  And, I’m moving again.  Slowly. Oh, SO slowly.  But, I’m moving forward, so that’s what counts.

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I’m counting on God to do what He does so well, and bless this effort immeasurably. With His version of infinity. Forever and ever, amen.

If you don’t already, I would love for you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am trying to be more faithful to a social media presence, and am not too ashamed to beg would love to count you among my friends/followers. 😉 My twitter is @old_broads_run; Instagram is jaynerich; and Facebook is Old Broads Run. Hope to see you there!

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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