Saturday, January 18, 2014

Running for Meg

I ran five miles today, nothing out of the ordinary. But today I ran that five miles for Meg, a woman who was struck by a drunk driver on her morning run this past Monday. We runners have all had close calls, we have all jumped out of the way just in time to avoid the distracted driver barreling toward us. But this week we lost one of our own. I do not know Meg, but I know a little about her.

I am her: I am a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a runner. I know what it feels like at the end of a run, when all of my limbs are tingling. I know what it feels like to reach a goal, to shave a few minutes off a race time, or to meet a new mileage goal. I know what it feels like to have something to work toward. I know what it is like to stand at the start line with thousands of others, with one purpose, to run. I know what it is like to run through the finish, with bystanders and faster runners cheering me on. Today, I, along with a whole lot of other people ran for a woman we don't know, and will never meet. We ran because that is what we do when we are sad, when we are anxious or when we need to work through a problem. Runners run. We ran after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. And we will run the next time we lose someone.

Today I also ran for those who have never experienced the silence of a country road after snow. I ran for those who don't pay attention, who have never noticed the bluebirds sitting atop swaying stalks of milkweed, or great blue heron waiting patiently for a fish. I ran for those who have never stretched out sore muscles, who have never felt truly alive as their bodies moved in time with breath down a back road. I ran for those who don't understand. 

Today I attempted to find compassion for those who value their destination or their text messages over my life. I tried to forgive those who find it amusing to scare me by swerving into my path or those who just don't care. I thought of Meg, and of Jim, and of all the others who have been killed or injured doing what they love to do, run. Today I am grateful, I am grateful to have been given the gift of this day, to run, without my headphones on the back roads of Berkshire County, with snow silently falling. I ran past rabbit tracks and a family of deer. I ran because that is what I do. My thoughts go out to family and friends of Meg today and it is an honor to be part of an amazing, supportive community.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Resolutions, after all, it is a new year

I am going to lose twenty pounds, meditate everyday and work out five times a week. I will give up sugar and caffeine and feel great. It will be a fresh start. The gym? Here I come. 

Wait a minute...this is a set up for failure. I used to teach fitness classes at our local gym and the new year would mean crowded cardio equipment and full classes. But as regulars, a small core group of us would just sigh and say, just wait three weeks and it will be clear again. Why have some of my resolutions stuck while others have gloriously failed? It comes down to execution. Am I reaching for the mighty goal or have I kept it small? Do I overload myself with a huge list of inadequacies I resolve to change as the calendar changes? For me, only baby steps work. My brain will put the breaks on if it thinks the goal is too large. Instead of eliminating all sugar from my diet (huge fail) I instead need to eliminate one thing that I eat on a regular basis, say peanut butter cups (ok bad example, the peanut cups are here to stay.) 

Take my oboe fiasco for example; I decided to teach myself how to play one of the most difficult instruments. I ordered it, bought books, (all classical solos) a plethora of reeds and greedily opened the box when my new shiny instrument arrived. I would practice for an hour everyday, I would be playing "Gabriel's Oboe" by Christmas. I placed the reed in my mouth and blew. It was the most horrible sound, my dog started howling, the cats took off and I tried again. The squawk...well, it wasn't pretty, words do not describe. I had set myself up yet again for failure. Unreasonable expectations of myself. Why? Do I need to make sure I fail so that I don't have to try anything risky or difficult? Possibly. Finally, after three months went by, the shiny instrument sitting inside its cushy box, I asked for help. I took an oboe lesson from a local music teacher. After some pointers on a double reed instrument and warnings about tongue placement etc, he gave me the best piece of advice: start by practicing 5 minutes every day. I did, after all it was only five minutes. Now five minutes is a long time when you find out that your cheeks have weird muscles and your lungs, although you run five miles a day, have some training to do. But those five minutes turned into ten and fifteen and now forty - five. Once I began to have some small successes, playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb," for example, my motivation grew and I was able to carve out more time from my day. I was even able to take another lesson. I am still squawking occasionally, but I have now moved on to work on rhythm and training my fingers to make crisper sounds. 

My "five minutes a day" lesson transfers onto all areas of my life and most of my resolutions. Am I going to meditate for an hour everyday or can I just start with ten full breathes when I am in the shower? Am I going to go to yoga class everyday or is it possible to fit one pose in every morning while I brush my teeth? I need realistic expectations of myself. Once I can hold a half of a tree pose while brushing, everyday, once it becomes automatic, I can add a bit to the routine. Bit by bit, "inch by inch, row by row" I can assimilate healthy behaviors into my day. So although my resolutions might not be great feats, they are attainable.  I kept last years' now it time to start fresh, with ten breaths everyday, thirty seconds of my time. I can do it...