I am experimenting with something. The foot infection got me down, both physically and mentally. Now that I'm over the worst of it, I have been thinking about these mental effects of not running; or more precisely, of not doing something that brings you joy. That joy is hard to explain to people who don't do it, but I think that most of us - runners and non-runners alike - have things in life that calm our soul and make us feel centred, safe, and alive... possibly even playful.
If running is what does it for you and you can't run for whatever reason, I think part of what we miss are these feelings and the sense of centredness. Things seem to go off kilter and that makes us grumpy. No one likes to feel messed up.
Then I had this thought. I wondered what would happen if I turned it all on its head and, while acknowledging the grumpiness, think deeply about what is going RIGHT with my training.
Suddenly the thoughts started to tumble forth:
1) I'm strong. For my size and frame, I can lift a fair amount of weight in the gym. And I see the results of this strength training in my every day life. A few days ago at the grocery store the cashier asked if I wanted a hand out with my groceries. I said no, thanks, I'd be OK. "With all that?" She asked. I said, "I was carrying it around in a basket, so it's OK." She replied, "That's pretty heavy for a basket." Whatever. It hadn't really occurred to me. I love it when these little encounters happen and take me by surprise. It reminds me that I have worked hard and I am strong.
2) My knees are good. This is partly due to having strong legs, but who cares what the reason is? They're good!
3) My last VO2 max text put me in the highest category possible for women my age. And that was BEFORE I started running half marathons last year.
4) I'm flexible. I do yoga and it's good for my soul and my body. As my yoga teacher likes to say, "Flexibility is something that happens by accident when you do yoga." It's a good accident.
5) My weight is stable. Even though I'm in this incredibly stressful program, which would have led to excessive eating and weight gain in the past, that has not happened this time.
6) I'm still thinking about future races... focussing on what is possible, with time.
7) I have a really wonderful support network around me from bloggers, to friends and family, to medical and fitness professionals who help me get from one goal to the next, sometimes from one day to the next and even at times, from one moment to the next.
8) I really like the gym I go to. The staff there are wonderful and it's a good place to be.
9) I enjoy my training. Whether it's weights or cardio or yoga, this is a part of my day I look forward to. In fact, on rest days I often push away thoughts of going for "just a quick workout". I know I need to rest. But the joy I feel when I train is something I cherish.
This led to thoughts about what is going right in my life in general. These thoughts have occupied my mind and come rushing forth, one after another, like they're craving recognition. There are too many to cite there, but among them are the many good relationships I have in my life. Really, I am surrounded by quality people. If I'm in a bind, there's always someone there, ready to help. That's pretty wonderful.
I'm studying something I love and I have a fantastic supervisor to guide me along this path I'm on and help me through the rough spots. There is no question that it is hard. And there is no question that I love it.
I'm doing work I enjoy and that feels meaningful. Heck, when I was out of work and had no idea how I was going to make ends meet, I was seriously freaking out. I was floored when people started calling and wanting to meet, go for coffee or chat about possible work. I went from being completely unemployed with no prospects of work to having to make some choices about what would be best for my current situation. The result? I'm getting paid the same hourly rate I was before, with more flexibility and the potential for some international travel in the next few months. Really, life's pretty good.
I'm not saying that nothing's wrong. There are still lots of things that are far from perfect. But when I decided to experiment and instead of thinking about those things, start to think about all the things going right, the result was a remarkable reduction in my feelings of grumpiness, anxiety and not being good enough. They have been replaced by a feeling of joy that bubbles up somewhere from deep within and rises to the top of my soul in an effervescent lightness.
I don't know how long it will last. And I don't really care at this point. For now I'm going to enjoy it. Oh yeah, and the next time I freak out, you all have permission to remind me that I wrote this post.
"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes." - Mohandas Ghandi.