Moving is healing

I have Fridays off now. I always thought I could manage a traditional full-time work schedule, but I am learning that I really can’t. What I really crave is flexibility with my time. I want to be able to make scones and tea on a Friday morning and watch the rain fall with my cat. I want to go to yoga or the gym in the middle of the day to boost my mood. And above all, I want human connection to be at the center of my work.  I learned all this and more while running my half marathon on Saturday.

Last week, I ran 13.1 miles across the foothills of the Sisters mountain range in twenty-degree weather. I was undertrained and mentally underprepared. However, I gave myself permission to surprise myself. And I did. I set a new personal record, didn’t get injured, and did not run the whole race alone. In the last few miles, when the pain started to set in, I began throwing around mantras in my mind. I tried Robin Arzon’s classic: I am. Didn’t help. I tried adding something to it: I am strong, beautiful, here. Still no mental relief from my throbbing right calf. I rounded a boulder and it came to me: Moving is healing. I whispered it in rhythm with my stride for maybe a minute before my eyes started glazing over with tears. I realized then that I had been struggling to stay static and I had been impossibly hard on myself. But I wanted all along was movement, because that’s where I thrive. Moving is healing.

I have never been good at being an employee or student, although I enjoy working and studying. I haven’t stuck to training regime ever and I have only recently gotten more disciplined about finishing monthly challenges. My point is, I do best in transition. I have struggled with that part of me for most of my life. It feels good to finally celebrate the fact that I always have new things I’m into, I like being a beginner, I like learning new skills at different jobs, I like not having a plan, I like going new place, and I like moving my body in new ways.

I knew that running my race would be transformative in some way, but it truly left me vulnerable and raw. This whole week, I have felt some amazing things happening inside of me and I have a fresh outlook on my future. I have movement to thank for that and I am eternally grateful.

Thank you for participating in this journey. I started this blog to help document my training for a race that I ended up missing completely and share my search for a sense of faith that I continued to lose.

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Currently: not running

I was out with my friend Kammie the other night and I mentioned this blog and she said “Oh, I haven’t read it because I’m not a runner.” I felt a little surprised and then I realized, I need to make running more relatable to other parts of life! Or maybe I need to write less about running? Anyway, if you are here and you are not a runner, welcome.  Thanks for making it this far. I promise my posts are not always completely about running. I also promise that most of them are one hundred percent nonsensical and unedited thoughts.

As of when I am sitting down to write this, I haven’t run in two weeks. Two weeks! That is the longest break I have taken in a long time. I felt a little niggle in my knee about a month ago. I thought it would go away, but it persisted. I kind of trapped myself into having to take time off and, let me tell you, not running has provided me with more challenges than I thought.

The first challenge I expected: mental breakdown. I know that sounds so dramatic (even for me), but the mental game that goes into running step after step is supremely difficult. The reward of endorphins and catharsis is worth it. However, when that rush was stripped away, I felt anxious. I felt restless and unfocused in all of my other practices. I stopped wanting to write. I stopped trying to meditate. I became helpless and a little hopeless. That story is probably not news to you and it certainly wasn’t to me.

The second thing I have experienced: an identity crisis. I have found myself challenging my identity as a strong and healthy person. Remember when I finally was at peace with calling myself a “runner?” When I had to stop running, I asked so many questions about who I was:

If I’m not running, who am I? If running is where my power, individuality, strength, health, etc. lies, then what happens when running is stripped away. Do I become a powerless, nameless, weak, unhealthy woman? I openly talk about running, does this make me an imposter without it? Have I been faking it the whole time? Am I letting myself get too wrapped up in running? Will I be injured forever? Should I just decide to quit?

I harbored all of those thoughts (and more) in my mind for over a week without knowing they were there. When they came to the surface, I was ashamed. I was ashamed for thinking thoughts that seemed so silly and I was ashamed at letting myself get so stressed out about something so privileged and trivial as running. I spent the better part of yesterday working out what fighting that shame looks like.

 I have found that, for me, the best opponent to that shame is play. Someone who is playful is not concerned about always fulfilling expectations. Playfulness lets plans be malleable and identities be fluid. Playfulness looks at not running and says “Oh bummer, I can’t run! What new thing do I get to try?” Play is so full of joy, hope, and lightness. It seems like when I am choosing to be playful with my plans, nothing can get me down.

As of when I get post this and leave, I am going on my first run in two weeks. My knee is feeling a little better and I am chomping at the bit to get back on the trails. However, I am approaching the whole thing with a playful spirit. If I can’t run the whole distance, I’ll walk. If I need to stop early, I’ll do it. If I get to the trailhead and don’t feel good about the whole thing, I’ll skip it altogether. I am a powerful, individual, strong, and healthy person without it. And so are you! Whatever that “one thing” that’s yours is, let it go for a while. Abandon your practices and see what playfulness comes out in your life. There might be a few moment of darkness, but there will also be lightness and healing.