Until I was stopped mid-“run” (pun intended) last fall by a “pre-stress fracture” in my foot, I think I’ve always been running in some way. Before I started physically running, looking back, it seems I was always running toward something- some goal or marker or idea of perfection. Or running from something- a thought, a fear, a memory or just time to think. Or running in circles sometimes- saying one thing, wanting another, doing something entirely different and not realizing why I couldn’t seem to get out of the “ruts” my circular running was causing.
I’ve learned so much in the last 2, 3, 5 years that sometimes I have this idea that I’m done learning, but that never seems to be the case as I “learned” in September when a little nagging pain in my foot just wouldn’t go away. The MRI showed swelling in one of the tiny foot bones and the doctor/husband said “no running for 4 weeks minimum” (verified by other doctor/non-husbands) and so I was left being still. It took me about a week of crying, quietly raging, rationalizing and dramatizing before I finally settled down my mind and heart enough to realize there was more learning to be had.
As I thought back over the last few weeks, no less than 5 people whom I trust and respect immensely had suggested I might be a little too busy- “running” too much perhaps- both literally and figuratively. Although my filled-to-the-hour calendar (that is always with me) supported their suggestions, I couldn’t understand why I would need to change something that was “working” so well so far (ha!) and so I decided they were ALL mistaken and I could handle it. (Insert text about bone swelling above). I decided since I had nothing to lose exactly (and I was limited to non-impact exercise anyway) I would try to create some space in my schedule and “cross-training” in my health- physical and otherwise.
I started doing Pilates twice a week and discovered (after a week of a bad attitude), that is a perfect addition to a runner’s routine. It is incredibly mental, immediately encouraging and provides a lot of additional benefits that allowed me to stop physical therapy, some medications AND see changes in my strength that I’d just given up on ever having. I started sleeping an extra hour, taking a bath most nights and taking at least 2 rest days a week from aerobic exercise. I started getting up earlier and spending time reading and praying/meditating. I started being more intentional about reading- both fun/fiction books and those that pertained to things I like or thought I did. I started having time to talk to people and to really listen because my mind wasn’t spinning on super-high speed at all times, reminding me of all I had left to do in a second-hand timer countdown that never stopped. I realized that as much as I loved seeing every hour with an activity planned, that in some ways I was using that to keep “running” and basically my body realized before my mind and heart did that I was just plain tired.
What I realized several weeks into this period was that if I was really honest with myself- which is still an evolving concept- I had no idea who I was. So many things I thought I knew and loved, I was finding maybe I didn’t like so much. And so many things I just knew I vehemently hated, I actually had never given appropriate thought and consideration. I discovered so many preconceived ideas, and weird associations that I couldn’t even logically trace back, and also discovered a lot of jealousy, envy, fear, pride and competition way down deep in myself that I hadn’t really been aware of on a conscious level for a long time- maybe ever.
When I really started thinking about it, I could trace things even back to childhood and high-school, where my confusion with myself started. (Recently posted facebook pictures- thanks Anna- made it pretty clear that my angst was being expressed in direct proportion to the height of my hair).
When I was with the “church friends” I was “church-y”. In the band, I tried to be the best, but even first chair saxophone I alternately shared with Jill and Cinnamon depending on the week. I tried being “fun” and “sporty” and “girly” and “hard-working”. I tried being the “best” resident and the “best” fellow (epic fail), the best doctor, the best pediatrician, the best military officer-the BEST whatever it is I was seeing someone else do at the moment, never quite reaching the bar I set for myself. Any time I was let in to the “cool” crowd, I tried my best to be “cool” but the truth is: Deep down- I’m just not that cool!! (Is that why I love that Will Hoge song so much?!).
What I realized during all this reflection is that all that trying to be the best is EXHAUSTING.
Oddly enough, running is the first thing in my life I have loved and have never felt the need to be the best at. I don’t run to race and I don’t race to win anything and in fact sometimes I go slower just so I’ll keep that ever-creeping competitive part of me out of my running. I don’t want it there. So maybe it’s no surprise that in losing my running for a period, I entered this state of figuring out what it is I really love- who it is I really am. And here’s what I found:
I am a writer.
I am a runner.
I am an encourager.
I am a teacher/educator.
I am a reader.
I am a thinker.
I am an empathizer.
I am a traveler.
I am an adventurer.
I am passionate.
I am all about “the moment”.
That list is short, there are a lot of things that aren’t on it and it is surprisingly refreshing and happy and makes me feel peaceful and free when I look at it.
(A recent trip with my friend Pam where I got to incorporate every one of those things above!).
So in the end, I’ve come to be more comfortable with who I am. More comfortable with really living out Hebrews 12:1b. It’s true- my yard always needs a little work, and that raised garden bed so far just has pretty flowers/weeds growing in it. My house always needs to be swept and the meals I cook are good not great. My blog posts are too long and too rambly and I write too infrequently. I don’t play the piano, guitar, violin or handbells. I don’t have any kids, and my birthday cards and gifts are always 2 days late, as I am always 4 minutes late. I don’t like big parties and I cry more than is probably normal for all kinds of reasons. I over-react and I apologize alot. I can’t take a good picture to save my life and when I play drawing games, I ALWAYS have to explain (“NO, it’s a cat!).
But I’m learning who I am and that I sort of like myself sometimes- a novel concept for me.
I’d love to hear who you are- and how you figured that out?