Just now, tying my running shoes felt like some sacred rite. I did it slowly and carefully; hyperaware of the whole process, struggling to remember how I ever could have tied them mindlessly – over, under, pull, loop, over, under, pull, double knot – a quick process, a habit done without thinking -- with no mental fanfare.
But today? I haven’t put on a pair of running shoes in . . . months. It’s still probably far too soon. Simply tying them I felt more excitement – and more trepidation – than I have over any big race. Three miles. That’s all I’m hoping for. A distance that, on past occasions, might hardly have seemed worth leaving the house for. And yet . . . excitement. Fear.
I’ve had some nerve problems in my left foot. Then surgery. Then an infection – far worse in pain and in recovery than the surgery itself ever was. And, mostly, I’ve had a lot of fear. I’ve been on constant “silencing” patrol to a little voice deep in my gut (I know . . . gut is kind of weird . . . but it feels like it originates there) that has been sending pulses of panic and little jolts of despair up and outward – where they wrap strangling little fingers of thought tightly about my throat and whisper, “You won’t run again. You can’t be a runner now.”
I know. It’s running. Surely, should the worst case scenario be realized: should the surgery have left me worse-off than I was before and altogether unrepairable, I will find other things to fill the hole. Life won’t lose all meaning. . . .
It’s just I’ve had some of my most spiritual moments out running; I’ve composed blog posts and talks, Relief Society lessons and Primary sharing times out running; I’ve worked through what to say, or what to do about difficult or awkward situations; I’ve prayed my most sincere prayers over loved-ones in need, I’ve made mental notes and whispered breathy thank yous up to the heavens over taken-for-granted blessings; I’ve had soul-strengthening conversation and developed close friendships; I’ve tried to start labor, wrestled out frustrations, and committed to lofty goals out running. I’ve experienced nature with a completeness and awareness I’m sure I never otherwise would have: I’ve run near blind into pelting rain and near-blizzard like snow, curved my lips tightly over teeth that threatened to crack in the cold, tucked my chin down snug to avoid having my breath completely taken away by giant gusts of wind, or been pushed near to sprinting by those same gusts at my back; I’ve nearly passed out – dripping and flushed – in temperatures far too hot for strenuous exercise; and . . . ohh, weep, I’ve felt the first real hopeful bits of spring – bare arms and legs finally not stung by cold, nostalgia sweeping over me as I catch a hint of Russian Olive or Lilac in the air; and, the first hints of autumn! . . . I might be able to fill a lot of these holes . . . but can life really ever be quite what it should be without getting to run with the sun filtering through orange and yellow leaves – feet crunching over the fallen ones that have blown their way across a trail or collected to the side of a road? Sigh. I don’t want to have to find out.
If I’ve romanticized an exhausting and miserable activity; if I’ve made it into poetry, it’s because . . . it is to me. Every run is like a tiny, little mini metaphor for life. I’ve grasped all kinds of things about what it means to have a physical body – even with it’s limits and pains and problems; I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be living here at all.
My life has always been full, somehow, of ability (and what feels like a promise from long before) to figuratively “run” as needed. As I’ve gone without tying my running shoes these past months, I’ve realized that even if I can’t run in the technical foot pounding/arm pumping sort of way; my greater blessing is in being able to do and accomplish and cope with the demands and stresses, obligations, and good and necessary calls for attention that make up my life. If “run and not be weary” only ever applies to an ability to keep doing the things that need doing, that will be more than enough. . . .
But, perhaps selfishly, I hope it doesn’t have to be.
So . . . wish a little luck to come swirling down on me as I head out on this run today, and, if you’re the praying kind, . . . I wouldn’t mind you sending up one or two of those for me as well.