My sweet friend said to me, “You’re good.”
Sometimes I don’t think I am good. Sometimes I think I should be working harder, smarter, longer. Sometimes I think everyone has much more good going on than I do. And that they are braver, more talented, more tenacious. More capable.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and think,
“So girl, what of any importance have you accomplished today? What have you contributed to making this world better? What have you done to ease the suffering of any aspect of humanity? In your own little universe, have you attempted to organize the many disorganized niches that so boldly stare you in the face every single day? Have you decided, finally, what you want to be when you do grow up?”
(Grow up? I still skip and twirl across the living room floor.)
I think about how much work I have to do. To be good.
And then I think about my friend. About words spoken sincerely with no thought of anything needing to be offered back.
I don’t think I even replied to,
So, in my head, I reply now to my friend.
Two words. You’re good. Your belief about me. Not asked for. Not expected. But I think back and spread wide my arms to hold and embrace what you believe. In whatever way you believe it, I accept it and make it my own. Because I know if there is a little goodness about me, some small thing, I can definitely grow that into bigger things and be my own kind of good. And I think that this is why you must be my friend; you know who I am and you have the courage to tell me.
And I believe you.
The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race; it’s to test the limits of the human heart. Bill Bowerman, Co-founder of Nike, Inc.
Why do people enter races? Whether 5K , half or full marathon, triathlon-reasons are as diverse as the individuals moving on their particular paths. Recently, I ran a local 5K. Though I might have been curious to see if my time was better than in ’03, my real reason, the one closest to my heart, was to put myself through the paces of getting out of my comfort zone. Each day’s rituals become similar and familiar after a while with the body moving through routines, rising to challenges, growing stronger and more resilient. I wanted a tangible way to affirm what I thought I knew.
Standing with the other runners and awaiting the race’s start, I felt all at once wobbly-kneed, nauseous and pretty uncertain of what seemed a fair challenge just yesterday. I shared with a friend who had run the Marine Corps Marathon that I was pretty sure I’d throw up. Clearly, he had a hard time concealing his amusement. The route loomed large, the runners at the front of the pack clearly accustomed to their coveted line order and the only thing really offering me some confirmation that I did indeed belong to this effort was my race t-shirt and number. And so I was in it. No turning back. I shake off any clinging doubt and ready myself to move.
The huddle of bodies provide comfort, encouragement and a sense that we’re all in this together, for better or worse. And we move, all at once, this mass of humanity with each person here for a reason all their own or perhaps no reason at all. The day, warm and slightly overcast, is comfortable in the way that a November 5K might not be. I move, remembering to pace myself at the beginning and before long I am in this comfortable rhythm, out of my head and one with the feel of the hard street meeting my running shoes. For every step I take I am blissed beyond words that I am here. The blocks quickly follow one after another, with the steepest hills at the end in some sort of rite of passage. And then, it’s over.
The numbers over my head tell me that I am 4 minutes faster than my previous time. But the best was yet to come. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I watched as every last runner came in. There were girlfriends moving on legs that were not-so-fast anymore, parents running with young children, lone runners doing a sort of exhausted run/walk and those who were crossing the finish line with every ounce of breath and forward movement they could muster. It takes a whole different brand of courage to be willing to stay the course when the staying is hard and painful, not pretty, elegant and practiced. After all, it’s easy when it’s easy. But stay they did. And those cheers they were brought in with resounded the length of the street.
Theirs is the courage I draw on now when I am having a day where the weight of the world seems to be on my shoulders, when a slight ping slows my legs, when I allow that shadow of a doubt to enter my consciousness that this might not be forever… And then, I remember each one of those faces, I feel their hard-fought battle and strength and I am whole again. All I need is the courage and tenacity to do this moment.
Everything that needs to, will follow.
Work lunches are one of my most favorite things because they challenge me to create sustaining, beautifully simple food that moves me through my day feeling strong and satiated. So today, here’s what we had … and it hit all the comfort places for me. Great lunches have a transformative power!
Nothin’ Like a Sandwich:
2 slices of toasted bread ( I love a good nine grain from my local deli)
hummus to schmear
roasted red pepper
salt, pepper, oregano, red onion
drizzle of x virgin olive oil
vinegar (I used red wine. You make your own choice.)
Layer it up
With a butter knife, give each slice of bread a schmear of hummus
Layer: tomato slices, red pepper,red onion, romaine, spices, on one slice of bread.
Sprinkle: oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano
Wrap it up
Use your wrapping of choice…foil, etc. and you are good to go. No low energy today!
Nuke a sweet potato. Let it rest 3 minutes. Spread the inside with either your favorite hummus or refried beans. Done and good!
We define our lives by how we spend our time. The hours, the minutes, the moments in between it all create the life we wake up to and close our eyes to each day.
And as the days roll on, one into another, you get deeper into that life. For better or worse.
I like to think of my life as something to be lived wide awake with intentions that are purposeful and true to my sense of who I am. To that end, having work that I love, work that allows me to make a difference, ignites a spark that keeps me seeking, learning, wondering, persevering and growing is pretty central to how I choose to spend my time. This career choice was hard fought and hard one, having been pursued while living a typically busy, slightly frayed life.
Because…there is never a perfect time to pursue anything. Excuses run rampant through your head and if you stay tuned long enough, you will find something else to occupy your brain and take you off of the path. Those are the thoughts I call “discards” …hear it, and toss it.
And that is a great directive to live life by
This is why I run alone in the dark.
I have the full moon all to myself. Surrounded by a free form circle of cumulus clouds tonight, it was breathtaking, heart stopping and it pulled me in completely. The blue-black sky, autumn-like breeze and my need for a place to put myself meshed perfectly for my night run. I see the pattern of consistent headlights- one car after another- and hear my feet, always a bit more fleet after dark, propelling forward. It goes deep into my brain that to run makes me the luckiest girl on the planet. To have a choice to move my legs, experience the night and have that moon placing me in its limelight brings a joy that it is hard to put words to. I think this is something to be felt, perhaps not articulated.
Sometimes people question my safety, the same as they do when I walk my dog in the neighborhood when dark has come. And all I can think is how those people three blocks away from me leave their homes, get in their cars and go to work, same as I do. In other words, we’re all in this neighborhood together. I am no more trepidatious in front of their homes than mine. I know who will be out on their porch, which dogs are in the yard for the last time, which houses are lit and where the dark spots are.
And in knowing, I am perfectly, happily more than willing to bask in that light.
Bountiful Black Beans…
2 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained
1 large garden tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (in oil, drained)
1 cup of corn (frozen -defrost-, or fresh)
1 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon of: oregano, basil, chopped red onion
salt and pepper to taste
Just do this:
Put the black beans in a large bowl. Add everything, and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate a couple of hours. Serve on top of chopped romaine.
The JOY of it:
If you throw this together the night before (mornings can be rough, but if that works, fine…) you are all ready with a great post-run supper or post late day at work supper. In any event, it’s there when you need it, at the ready.
You may toss in: chopped fresh avocado, or celery, or olives, or garlic, or any veggie you roasted on the grill and happen to have in the fridge. This is a basic recipe that can morph any which way you like!
I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far. I AM A RUNNER because I say I am. And no one can tell me I’m not. John Bingham, author and runner
What makes a runner? Talk to some and you discover that it is those who enter 5Ks and half-marathons, 26.2s and do “long distances” who are real runners. Their conversation revolves around all things running. There is a desire to go faster, harder, farther and sometimes (shhh) a disdain for those recreational slowpokes cluttering up the road.
Sadly (or not so much) I am not in that crowded little canoe.
Rather, I look at running a bit differently. Running is that thing that I do because I can’t not do it.
It makes me feel happy, accomplished, healthy and young.
I don’t do it to be cool, part of a group, part of a trend, engage in runnertalk, or think myself better than anybody else. I do it because it connects me with me, me with the world and me with all of those athletic spirits (yes, we are) who get out there with little fanfare and a lot of heart. Running brings logic and sense to my life and my world. It helps me to steady myself on that life tightrope, breathe a little deeper, endure and sustain a little longer and smile a little wider. It keeps me from being a statistic…but mostly,
Running leaves me with the sense that I can do anything. After all,
if flying over pavement is possible, everything is.
That belief, for me, defines being a runner.
Hills hurt. My lungs burn and so do my thighs. My heart pounds hard and sometimes I feel like I am sucking mouthfuls of air as the sweat streams off of me. But they are necessary. The world, it turns out, is not flat. And neither is my running life. I was thinking long and hard about hills as I ran tonight. Thinking about how I seek them out and overcome them. And in the midst of my hill-scaling reverie, there was a voice…
The hoodied teenager walked toward me under streetlight, cigarette in his left hand. No more than seventeen. In my head I am laughing because I am many things, but the literal “fast” is not one of them. I say, “Hey, thanks,” and move on down the road. And I wonder about that cigarette but not so much that I don’t wonder about the perception of what fast looks like from outside of my head. He caught me on the third mile and that is where I am the power of my legs, my breath is rhythmic and I feel as though I can go on forever. Maybe it is the night and the dark. Maybe it is getting deeper in. No matter.
This is why I keep my running solitary. It is my time out from the everything-ness of the day. My time to run through the film of my days, wrap-up, reflect and move on. And decide about ways to attack the next hill.
Because, it is, after all, about the hills.
With complete transparency, I share that I cannot sit for extended periods of time. Physically, mentally, I can NOT sit. The thing that happens is that my brain turns off, my head is all over the place and whatever it is that I was supposed to be attending to is totally off of my mental horizon. Every last part of it. I need to be mixing moving with sitting. Even when I write, I write, then I am up walking, doing, thinking out loud or in my head over a sink full of dishes. It is powerful and it works.
I tell my tale of being sitting challenged because several beloveds seem to think that travelling in a fancy motor home would be a great way to go. To see and experience things. Apparently these behemoths are all the rage with the comforts of home and far more. I am thinking celebrity caravan. And all I think is no, no , no because what happens to my life in that Plaza Hotel on wheels? Where will I go on my way to getting there? What is it that so repels me from the idea of traveling this way?
Time for self-examination and reflection…
To begin, I like to ramble about a home. Small home, larger home, doesn’t matter. I like yard stuff, basement stuff, a variety of spaces, the ability to not always be arm’s length from someone else, an outdoor picnic table, some Adirondack chairs where I drink red wine and sky gaze, a real shower, city streets feet from the door, trains to everywhere a breath away, known neighborhoods and people, dogs (several) and small spaces to plant things, the solidity of roots, and the ability to go. That is completely it, there is the ability to go at any given time anywhere. The Supermarket. Venice. The park. The Guggenheim.
And there is also the ability to stay, to be rooted whether for an hour or a year…
For now, I have this burning fire in my belly that lets me know I still have dragons to slay and worlds to conquer. I get to say when and where I go…or not. I cannot honestly say if there will ever come a time when I am content to be a passenger enroute to the next grand adventure…as enticing as that may sound.
…you’re losing strength.
I think about a friend of mine, a former college athlete, who continues to play the game on weekends and has added running to the mix during the work week. Strength, conditioning and endurance are being built and maintained. The athletic physique, heart and mindset are ever-present, a testimony to the power of mindful intention.
Then my mind wanders to a certain seventy-something I know and love. Having worked hard physically as a carpenter for an entire lifetime, day in and out, the chapter has turned to a life with far less physicality. The arms that were once firm with defined muscles are now thinner, so much thinner, with muscles not nearly as evident. Skin that was stretched taut is now flaccid. His current level of activity does not hold a candle to pre-retirement life. The myth of movement, or “I did a lot of running around today,” prevails in conversation. As a matter of fact, the busy-ness is offered as a reason why treadmill time is not necessary. And I worry. Again, carving time out in the morning for strength training and in the evening for a walk is entirely, effortlessly doable. Like many things in life, you have to want to do it before you can actually do it.
On Sundays in my local park, soccer players gather for their games. I stay, sit and watch because I am in awe of them. Many have five or six decades (some more) to the good and are a beautiful reminder that, running back and forth after a ball in those colorful team uniforms, you can do all things at all times. The twenty-something player does not have the wisdom, finesse or mastery of these skilled and passionate men. I look at them and see a lifetime of the love of this game, the steady pursuit of requisite skills and joy…and I, a non-player, get it. I get them.
Strength of body, mind, spirit, heart, intellect…all are cultivated, there is no magic. There is, however, the relentless pursuit and the inexhaustible effort that creates the reality.
I reflect on the efforts of those men on the field and in my heart, I know they have chosen wisely and well. When I am feeling defeated, or my energy is not where I would like it to be, I close my eyes and there they are. Role models, each and every one of them.