Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 120 - 4 months

Not quite a third of the way through the year (365/3 > 120) and once again I find myself reflecting back on why the hell I'm running every day and what good it's doing.

It brings to mind great runs and great days.

I also think of how miserable I was, and how much better I felt almost immediately, and how the difference is starting to fade. Not because I'm returning to miserable. Because "much better" has become normal.

In the first few weeks the excitement and empowerment I felt from taking charge of my own life and my own well being and my own happiness was palpable. It was like stepping out of the dark and the cold into the warm, and warmly lit, home of a friend.

If you stay in that warm home long enough, you start to forget how cold and unpleasant it was out there. You might start to take your comfort and happiness for granted. Or you might crave the rush you got from the huge change when you first felt the warmth on your cold skin.

The same can happen with running, or whatever you do to bring your mind and your attention back to what's important to you and to your happiness.

For 120 days I've pulled on my shoes, strapped on a watch, donned some manner of gear, and headed out of whatever door was between me and the world. And I've noticed recently that some of those runs have been mindless. I've been distracted, thinking about the past or the future, rather than staying present.

It's being present that breaks the hold that the outside world has on you and your attention. It frees the mind, and replenishes the soul, reminding you of who you are.

As new habits become, well, just habits, they still hold the same promise and value that they did when they were new. Sometimes we just need a little reminder, a nudge to say "Snap out of it. Pay attention."

In the beginning every run was special. Every run seemed to reveal something. Every run pulled back a layer of crud that I'd let build up.

Most of those layers are gone. The revelations are fewer and the magical nuggets of insight are farther between. And I think that's perfectly natural.

Still, I want to make the most of every run. I want each time out the door to be of value and to be special. But how do I do that?

And then...

Like a little karmic candy-gram, my friend Robin's blog post popped up in my reader. She talks about Intention, consciously pausing and dedicating your effort to a purpose. Doing so centers you, brings you face-to-face with what you are doing, and asks you why you are doing it. And that, boys and girls, is putting yourself smack-dab in the present.

I can't expect the universe to rain down insight and meaning on me every time I run around in her and sweat.
Like all relationships, the first part is easy. Easy, empty and mostly meaningless. But the first part whets your appetite, draws you in, makes you want more.

The meaningful, real, exciting, deep, enriching, wonderful part is a little harder, and takes a little work, but is way worth it. Still, you need the courage to step across that line between easy and hard, between safe and meaningful, between fun and real. Not everyone has that courage.

Four months into my new relationship with myself, I think the easy part is over.

Oh, sure, I could easily keep running every day, taking pictures of the dog and phallic symbols, or re-telling the jokes from the day's group run. But come December, I'd be pretty much where I am now.

The good stuff is going to be harder to find. The layers harder to peel back. If I want to keep moving forward, it's time for me to take some responsibility for the process.

For me, the next step, the first step in the "hard part" phase, is Intention. I started today.

As I pulled on my shoes, I set my intention; to try to make the run better for my cohorts.

The moment came and went without my noticing it, until later when I was reviewing the run to see how I'd done. It was just after the run had ended. We'd completed our usual cool down walking lap of the parking lot. Just as we approached the door, a big gust came up and all three of us Oooohed and Aaaaahed about how good it felt. Then we headed to the door. I could feel the disappointment, not only in myself, but the other two, too. So I turned and said, "It's too perfect out here. I'm walking another lap." As if I'd just given permission, the other two agreed heartily and followed.

Ok, it's not curing cancer or finding enlightenment, but it's a start.

Good running,

Numbers: 4.3 miles on the roads.