September 29, 2014

Falling forward

Continuing the trend of one foot in front of another, baby steps and all that, I have gone out for a walk most nights. With summer in the rear view mirror and days getting shorter, it is usually after dark. I have lived in this town for a year and a half, but every time I head out I find something new. Be it a British Pub that a friend told me about a year ago, or a new shop that the paint doesn't seem dry on yet, every corner seems new at this slower pace. Of course the world looks new in a different light, sometimes more so in low light.

A few of the nightly walks have been in the rain, and that changed the world as well after our summer break. Like the reacquainted Seattleite that I am, I walked in a rain jacket and shorts. Still don't own an umbrella, and can't quite let go of the feeling that it is shorts-weather until probably Halloween. Maybe Thanksgiving. 

It has felt good to get outside and moving again, even at a slower pace. Beyond clearing my head and stretching my tense body, the simple habit feels good after drifting lately. Just following through on something so simple - you have to start somewhere. 

On Saturday I decided to try my first run in two months. I have been surprisingly sore in the mornings over the past few months, even though I have been doing very little physically. The walks were a slow ramp up to get my body moving again, but I felt just as sore each morning. I figured if I was going to hurt anyway, I might as well burn a few extra calories.

I tried to go in without any expectations. Leave pride at the door, not concern myself with what I could do six months or a year ago. Just get out there. 

I did my best to take it easy. It wasn't painful, and not really humbling either, but it was uncomfortable. My body was not only more out of shape than where I left off, but it felt like a different shape altogether. My stomach (beer belly beginnings) felt like it was some foreign object strapped around me like a diving belt. It actually felt like it was in my way, making it harder to stride or breathe. 

I ran along the river path with all the other Saturday people. Fall is beginning to show itself, and the temperature was on the cool side of warm before I got moving, but I was glad I was in short sleeves a mile in. The trees are not alight with color everywhere, but leaves have already fallen, so my crunching steps announced my presence. Those without headphones heard me coming and turned as I passed by. I didn't have a turnaround point in mind, and just let the whims and traffic lights dictate where I turned. I ended up running a bit under three miles. Like every run before, I was glad to have gone out. 

Every Saturday this summer, a calendar reminder would pop up telling me how far I was supposed to run that weekend. Every Saturday, the mileage would be a bit farther, and every Saturday I would dismiss that reminder. Every week a marker of how far behind I was. The day after my first run in months, I was supposed to have been running the Bellingham marathon. I was four months and twenty-something miles from where I was hoping to be, but the three miles still felt good. A line drawn. 

Not a finish line, but maybe a starting line.

September 23, 2014

Walking path

"In the city, Harold's thoughts had stopped. Now that he was back in the open land, he was once again between places, and pictures ran freely through his mind. In walking, he freed the past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering."
 ~ from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Work has been crazy lately. This was not unforeseen, as we have very defined deadlines we can mark out on the calendar at the start of the year. No matter how much we try to prepare, there is always a mad rush at the end. We can be seen skidding through then narrow opening as the heavy door comes crashing down a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, and we can only hope to have made it with hat and head intact.

Monday September 15th was the latest deadline, and we finished the last project around 9:00 at night, three hours before the midnight deadline. After a couple of weeks of long hours and working weekends, I was offered a random Tuesday off to recover and recharge. The clock has already started ticking on the next deadline, but sometimes you need to take a break to avoid breaking.

I slept in a bit, but my fried brain still had enough energy to chatter me awake too soon. I decided to go out for breakfast, and made it that much better by walking there. I have found that I need to get outside to balance out the desk time, but let that knowledge slip away as deadlines loom overhead like a guillotine. A walk in the sun would do more for me than the coffee waiting at the diner counter.

I slipped on some headphones and fired up the latest U2 album. The album had been given away free to all iTunes users as a promotional stunt at the latest Apple launch. I won't be buying an iPhone any time soon, but was happy to walk away with a little bystander swag.

Though I have been doing a bit of hiking and biking lately, I have really lost touch with my active self. A bout of Plantar Fasciitis in May kept me from running, and then the round of shingles forced me to pull back further to allow my body to heal. The shingles are gone, but the heal pain lingers. That has been discouraging, but more troubling is the loss of drive to recover my former self.

I have had a couple of anchors the last few years that have kept me (relatively) sane, and I have let them both slip away. Both writing and running help to keep my mind and soul clean. I have turned away from both, and I am dealing with the consequences. Netflix binges have pushed out time to write, and I have been filling in empty spaces with too much food and drink. I am fifteen pounds heavier than I was at the beginning of the year, but it is more than just a physical weight that I feel. I have known the solution, but at times those first few steps or words are the most difficult.

So instead of trying to run, I walked.

Forward motion. Music. Lyrics. A gift of a day unexpected. Sunshine. Fresh air. All had their part in shaking loose some of the jangled thoughts and emotions that had built up over the summer. Breakfast was served with a friendly face, and coffee and bacon did their own trick of service. Afterward, I wandered down to the river path and stood and watched the ducks preen and swim in lazy circles.

In the afternoon I would meet a friend for an impromptu hike, conversation and climbing peeling back another layer. In the evening, I would meet my two brothers for a drink, and find further connection and renewal there. We did not find the meaning of life as the subject line of the coordinating email implied we might, but we did find life at our booth on a random Tuesday.

I can get lost so easily on such a familiar path, especially in the busiest times when my head is down, just working to make it through the next real or imagined gateway. Running and writing have been my compass in the past. They don't always point me in a specific direction, but they definitely mark the path away from a place I shouldn't be.

Baby steps.