Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Birthday, A year of Promise!

Well, it came and it went. I am now 29 years old and I think I had the best birthday I have ever had... no fanfare, nothing huge and exciting, no giant totally notable presents. Yet, it was perfect in every way imaginable. I passed from my 28th year of life into my 29th year of life much like a duck flies awkwardly and feverishly through the sky, without an ounce of grace, just to land perfectly poised in the water, suddenly smooth and peaceful. That is how I would describe my birthday weekend. I feel like I have suddenly landed in the water and I am gliding..... at least for now.

I have been pondering an idea, a thought, a challenge for a few weeks now. I want something to commemorate this next year of life, something that represents growth in every aspect of my life. And so, I have decided to conquer 12 challenges in the 12 months ahead. To embark on 12 adventures that will challenge my heart, my soul, my body, my mind, and my spirit. I want challenges that further me as a human, an athlete, a leader, a woman. I have started to plan out these adventures and I would be lying if I didn't say that some of them scare the crap out of me! But, here we go... 12 months, 12 adventures. The beginning starts this Friday. Stay tuned....

Friday, October 23, 2009

A friend of mine posted this video on his Facebook page. Curious, I clicked play and I watched. And then, I cried. I cannot imagine what this young lady feels inside, the dark places she must visit in her head in moments of despair. But I feel like I relate to her in one way, running. In the video, as she runs her body morphs and she can control her movement. She can speak clearly, focus, and enjoy everything around her without burden. It's amazing!

This woman whom I have never met, yet respect with every ounce of my soul, is the physical representation of what my mind and emotions go through every single day. Just as her body shakes and jumps and flails, my thoughts zip across the synapses of my brain never lending me for a moment even a sliver of peace and quiet. Except when I run.

I tried once to describe the chaos in my head to a friend. "Imagine," I told her, "That 500 middle school boys are in a concrete room. They are armed with as many racquetballs as they could ever want and a racquet in each hand. Some moron has instructed these young lads to hit the racquetballs as hard and fast as they can without stopping. And, just to make it more fun, if they actually hit another person in the room, they get double points. 1-2-3-GO!" What ensues is mass confusion, lots of fun, and complete ridiculousness......

Welcome to my world.

Most of the time, my mental chaos doesn't bother me. It's like an old friend that is slightly annoying but you keep him around anyways just because..... well, who knows why, but you do. There are times when I wish this dear friend would just shut up, just stop, just quit getting on my last nerve. Perhaps I am certifably insane, who knows? But I think insanity is pretty much a requirement for greatness, so I am in a good place, right? Anyways, there are some nights where sleep will not come because this annoying friend of mine just will not lie down and rest, even for a second. No matter how much I cry or beg or plead or promise, he is relentless. He is oblivious. And he does not ever seem to tire.

But I can outrun him.

Within a mile, I am far enough ahead that his screams have faded into silence and I am safe, free from chaos. It is the only time I am in the present, in THIS moment right now, the moment that matters. The only moment that I am guaranteed. I love that feeling. I enjoy the sensation in my body, the screaming of my muscles, the mind-numbing cadence of my footfall, the soft wheeze of my breathing. I am free to notice the world around me in a vivid detail that escapes me at any other time of day.

Sometimes if I am lucky, my dear friend Mental Chaos, is so hurt that I have left him behind that he will not join me again for an hour or two. But, more often than not, he is standing by the truck waiting to climb in and talk my ear off as we drive home. I am more patient now, the moments of calm still resonating in my heart. We can be friends again in these moments, my good buddy directing the middle schoolers in his loud booming voice, "1-2-3-Gooooo!" Chaos ensues.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Running Blind

Two weeks ago I flew out to Calabasas, California to do some really exciting work in the Health and Fitness industry. I flew out Sunday afternoon after waking up super early to crew some of my runners at their very first 10K race (HUGE accomplishment for these ladies, by the way, since they just STARTED running in late spring of 2009! I was so proud!). I arrived in Los Angeles, did all the annoying but necessary car rentals and blah, blah, blah and headed out to Clabasas excited to get to run in a new place in the morning.

Monday morning I woke up super early, even earlier than I do here and without an alarm (ugh. Stupid time difference). The weather was bee-ay-oo-tee-ful, and I even got to wear a mock turtle neck and thin tights! I rarely get to put those to use here in Florida. Anyways, the hotel was in a sort of deserted area and it was plenty dark (4:30 am) and I didn't really have any idea or plan of where to run. So, I took a right.

Now, I have been fortunate enough to run in a lot of places and in a lot of conditions. When I studied in France, I ran through the streets of Reims and past the cathedral where they signed the Treaty of Versailles. I could picture the men of that time sitting around discussing poiltics and the tense, palpable air. In Paris, I ran past the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, enjoying the sweet smell of coffee, cigarettes and pastries (for some reason cigarettes smell better in Paris... it's weird). In London, I ran through the red light district and past the soldiers with the fuzzy hats. I ran in Sweden and Denmark. I ran in Toronto and Quebec. I ran in New Orleans--- of course, that was a different kind of run and we will try to forget that one :D-- and I ran in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is nearly impossible for a native Floridian. I wouldn't even call that one a run, as a matter of fact. I've run through the streets of Vegas, around Central Park, through Washington DC. I'v run on rocks and trails and sand, through mud, and snow, and rain, and even once, in the midst of a hurricane. I am always amazed at how different it is to run in a new place. It's exciting and scary and even a little silly, sometimes, but it is always the first thing I do. It is how I "become one" with my new surroundings for lack of a better explanation.

Often times, when I run in a new place, I imagine that the people there have never seen a runner before, like I am some new oddity, a strange and exotic creature. "Oh my!" They exclaim. "Just look at that graceful being dancing through the streets." In my mind, I can hear the background music that would be playing if it was a scene in a movie and I picture the bystanders pausing at their work, for just an instance, to experience my joy and freedom as I introduce myself to this new place. Clearly, I live in a fantasy world....

I am never afraid when I run in a new place, though. No matter what type of places I run through or what time of day it is, I never feel afraid.

So, I took a right into the blackness. Not a light in sight, except for the hotel which I quickly left behind. I was literally running blind and the silence of this run was deafening. I have never heard anything so thick with silence in my life. The stars were perhaps some of the brightest I have seen, but were still of little use in the lighting of my path. As my eyes began to adjust, I could sense a massive form to my right and I glanced over to see a mountain rising up to the heavens, darker even than the sky. I imagined coyotes and other creatures crouching behind the rocks waiting to see if I was predator or prey. The cold air nipped at my fingers and for the first time ever, I felt the beginnings of something that might have been fear (though I would never admit that, of course). I was weak, vulnerable, slow, and compared to the creatures around me, completely blind and directionless.

Running Blind... huh. What a thought. No direction, no input from your surroundings, no visual cues of which direction to go or what to look out for... A complete and utter sensory deficit. I often feel like I am running blind through life, no idea where I am heading. "Forward and Upwards," I say to people who ask me where I see my life heading. And that's it. That's the only direction I have. If my life is moving forward and my spirit is moving upwards, can I really ask for more than that? I don't think so. Often, I don't know the path is going to turn until I have already run into the tree because I missed it. Ouch! I wonder, on occassion, if at (nearly) 29 yrs old, I should have more answers. Should I have a more fixed destination? Should I have figured out how to use a map and stick to a plan? I don't know. I had a plan once. It didn't look anything like what my life looks like now. What if I had stuck to it? Just plowed right through the trees, determined that this was the only path for me... would I be happy now?

I think I view life differently than a lot of people. I view it as this big maze (like in Alice and Wonderland) with lots of doors. When a door opens, you might as well walk through it. You have no idea where the hell you're really going anyways, right? So, when a door opens, I walk through it. Sometimes, I love what I find on the other side. But, sometimes, I quickly search for another door. Maybe I am getting there, or maybe I am not. In reality, none of us ever know if we are any closer to the end, the final destination, right? We can't see over the high walls, there are no peep holes to know what is on the other side. So, what difference does it make?

And so goes the life of a blind runner, I suppose. You run and you just keep running, moving forwards and upwards. And that's what I do.

I got safely back up the hill to the hotel and wiped the sweat from my brow. I swiped a warm cup of coffee with a shot of cream from the table and let it warm my whole body on the way down. I thought, for a moment, of the crouching coyotes and the invisible snakes, and I shuddered in spite of it. Safe....... for now.