A new way

The November sky was a winter sky – painted every shade of gray with the wind’s brushstrokes leaving interesting patterns. The huge white stones in the pasture looked like sheep resting in field,  a scene from Ballykissangel. Three dogs pulled at their leashes, happily bouncing along the pasture trail.  But I was missing so much of it because I kept glancing at my Garmin.  My pace was too slow. I was frustrated as the dogs kept stopping  to sniff…or to pee…or listen for rabbits…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe struggle to control the run was overwhelming…and was just a reflection of how I try to control every aspect of my life.  This is what drowning might feel like. Fighting the current never helps. You have to let go and just float. I’ve never been a fan of floating – always afraid of that loss of control.  But the old ways aren’t working any longer so I need to find a new way.  I’m going float more and race less.

My knee is giving me problems again so my running is suffering. Instead of getting angry with my body, I’m allowing myself to run slowly or not run at all.  I’m allowing myself to walk when I need to.  And I’m leaving my Garmin watch at home. I’m not tracking pace or mileage. I’m just moving.  I’m not posting miles on MapMyRun and I don’t know if I’ll ever enter another race.

Shifting away from all these measures, scales, watches and clocks, I have to a chance to float freely…no guides, no maps, no public input. Just me.  I eat when I’m hungry. I run when I want to run.  I smile when I feel like smiling…and cry when I feel like crying. Floating along in my simple river…

This is my river…my beautiful, mossy, messy river.

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It’s all in your head

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I haven’t been running. I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been doing much of anything. I injured my knee somewhere along the line and  gave up.  I could have stayed positive and rode my bike or rowed or …something…but no, I sat on my butt, mind filled with negativity, believing all was lost… and gained 20 lbs.

But even though I sound like the original Negative Nelly (no offense to Nellies everywhere) I believe that something positive can be gleaned from any experience and this knee thing is no exception.  I just finished six weeks of physical therapy and that was quite the learning experience.

Further along in the PT process we started working on balance. The first day of balance work, I was frustrated. I could not stand on that darn leg. So per the therapist’s instructions, I turned so I could hold onto the table if necessary. Well, suddenly I found perfect balance. I never had to touch the table. Just knowing it was there was enough for me.

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So we control our bodies…..

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep, .I decided there was absolutely no reason my mind couldn’t make my body sleep. My mind controlled the most sophisticated bodily functions. Why couldn’t it just put me to sleep for a few hours? And boom…I was asleep. This doesn’t ALWAYS work, mind you, but I no longer take Benadryl nightly.

Then this weekend while running, I realized that I focused my right knee and it’s lack of function during these run/walk training sessions. So I focused on my left knee and it’s ability. I moved on to noticing the birds, the flowers, Cupcake’s wagging tail. And I ended up running the whole three miles without any walking  – longest and fastest solid run since surgery. And best of all, completely pain-free!

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Sparky just hanging out.

It’s all in my head…

I believed I would fall, until I believed I was safe. I believed I would feel pain, until I just shut up about it.

So I’m going to focus on happy endings and possibilities and I’ll strap Negative Nelly to the railroad tracks.

 

 

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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Because Ordinary is Extra-ordinary

ellenDogs recognize the exceptional in everybody because they take the time to sniff them out.  Dogs don’t worry about your social standing, where you live or work, what kind of clothes you wear. They’re more concerned with who you REALLY ARE (or if you have treats in your pockets). Because I’ve been taking the time to sniff out the people around me, I’ve been blessed to meet some extra-ordinary folks

Today I’m going to introduce you to Ellen, a friend I met through running.  I wasn’t sure how to write this so I conducted an email interview. Her words are in bold, mine in italics.

Ellen is a runner, fitness fanatic, mother, wife, ex-cop…and what else…(as if that isn’t enough).  

So where to start on this interview. Of course, looking at your Facebook page, two things really jump out – your love for your children and your love of running.
I’m sure everybody reading will want to know “How does she do it?” But I think the answer is obvious “With love”
So let’s get started with you…

You were a law enforcement officer. Is that what started you on your fitness journey? What motivated you to join the force.

I guess I secretly wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid.  I loved the show Dragnet and then moved on to Hawaii Five-O because they always got the bad guy.  I was pretty focused, even as a young kid on trying to make the world a better place even if it was one bad guy at a time.  Of course, as I got older, the line between “bad guy and good guy” got blurrier and more obscure.  It was then that I learned of a thing called “situational ethics” (would you steal to feed your starving child?) and police work became more about social work based on personal morals.  I liked that well enough, but laws and personal perspectives sometimes clash.

Over the past…how many years…you’ve lost quite a bit of weight and gained quite a bit of fitness…
Tell me a little bit about that.

Well, the long and short of it is that I was always a jock in high school.  I was always a bit more athletic than most girls and competed mostly with boys.  I did medical missions for years through a non profit I started.  We brought 250 kids from 16 different third worlds countries to the USA for live-saving FREE medical care.  That is a tale all its own.  But while I was doing that, and traveling, I got lost somewhere and woke up with a whole lot of weight, which in turn, depressed me, which in turn, exacerbated into more weight gain and that cycle was born.  When I realized that I had 2 kids, both age 5 who needed me I decided I needed to get my health back.  Sooooo, 86 pounds later and a whole lot more healthier, here I am.  I am trying to learn to be a runner because running is the total package for me.

You’re a foster mother to quite a few children with special needs. That takes a special person. What made and your husband decide to dedicate yourselves to these children? (I did learn Ellen is not a “foster” but read on…)

I am a Mom to 2 bio adult boys, both with children (3 grand daughters between them) of their own. As they were growing up, I did foster care for “the system” for a while, but again, got quite dismayed with the real purpose behind foster care (it is a numbers game) and how little “services” were actually provided.  The pendulum swings from “you are a bad mother, let’s take your kids away because you feed them poor food” all the way to “ let’s put your 6 month old baby in a foster home for the 18th time and give you a break—oh and stop using drugs”.  In other words..you can half kill your kids and still not lose them or you can be poor and be penalized for it.  The system is broken.

Our ELEVEN adopted children are not foster children.  They know the joy of permanency.  I need to emphasize that because of our 11 children, SIX of them were adopted by other families who were unable to parent them.  They ALL came from third world nations where they knew poverty, abuse neglect and lived a constant state of never knowing what was next.  Permanency is a HUGE need for them. They are not foster children; they are all children who have a family and belong.

When people adopt children, there are challenges that not many talk about.  International kids can be a challenge not only for the obvious reasons (they don’t speak the language, they are accustomed to the food, smells, even skin color of their new family.  But they also can be a challenge because they had no say in the deal.  There they were…in an orphanage which is the only home they ever knew and suddenly they are a million mile away, in a new culture with strangers who expect the child to immediately love them.  These kids can be full of rage, sorrow and confusion.  It really can throw a family for a loop.  And usually, the mother is the target of that rage.  Running helps nullify some of that agony from watching your child grieve. 

I have 11 special needs kids.  I love, adore and am smitten with them.  They taught me more than any books, lectures or even ideas I have ever encountered.  But not everyone feels that way about my kids.  For school systems, they are a financial burden and we have struggled and fought with schools for services.  Advocacy is not always a popular position.  Educational advocacy can pit school against parent and I have to tell you, of all the tough things I have done in life, this is one of the toughest.  I know my kids need me to fight for what they rightfully deserve, but there is a certain vindictiveness that happens when you force big entities to do their job.  We have fallen victim to that vicious retaliation more than once.  Running helps me clear my head and turn my anger around.

So, if I were to tell you that I run to keep the weight off, that would be true.  But more so, I run to keep my head and heart balanced. The reason I hated running so much was that I KNEW I was fit, but I could not find that balance.  I could not defeat that inner voice of anger and contempt.  The real challenge of running for me, was learning how to be ok with not being my best or with feeling tired and waiting to quit and being ok knowing that some days are just like that. When I could give myself permission to just run and let my run be just that..a time to just “be”, I started liking running and now, it is the best medicine.  It took great friends and real support for me to get there and I am still shaky with it all. Always a work in progress but it teaches me the value of friendship, too!

My first race was a 10K.  I am proud of that but truthfully, I should have done a 5K.  I did a 10K because I wanted to prove that I could do more.  In a way, that is good.  But in a way, that was the EXACT barricade that I was facing with my running.  Needing to be the best without fail.  The 10K taught me that I could prevail, but it also taught me a bit about arrogance.  That is the dichotomy of running…it teaches you about your strengths, but it also flashes your weaknesses and lights them in bold marquee lights. Mostly, it teaches me about balance.  We all need balance.

Another thing I love about running is the “brotherhood”.  When I read yet one more story about how someone, without care and concern, stopped their own personal marathon to help a stranger meet their goal it lights my heart on fire with hope.  When I read stories about kids who can’t even walk, hoisting themselves over a finish line named courage and determination, what does THAT tell you about the human spirit?  When I read about a woman with stage 4 brain cancer, not only running her final marathon, but running it to make others aware of a cause, what does that sayleaf about self-sacrifice?  I have found the camaraderie of runners is unique, inspiring and universal. I love belonging to such a cohesive  community of hope  in times of worldly division and degradation.

Slow is the only way to go

downthetunnelWisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.  ~ William Shakespeare

 I was  born three weeks late and I’ve been in a hurry ever since.   I eat fast, talk fast, take short fast showers….and when I started running, I thought I had to run fast.

But running fast wasn’t just about my innate impatience. It also had a lot to do with a competitive spirit. (We’ve talked about that before)

Then I ran my second marathon at a nice, easy pace (because it was the only way I could) and I realized that slow was the way to go. Running is so much more enjoyable when you’re not breaking your neck and checking your watch.

I’ve been running with Cupcake Annie a lot more lately.  We’re not setting any PR’s.  But we get out to see the beauty of the morning. I carry my phone and snap photos along they way. We stop and sniff and investigate the world. Runs are adventures.

There is no real reason to hurry.

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I will never go to the Olympics. I’ll never win a marathon. I’ll never break a 7 minute mile.  But if I run slow and do my thing, I’ll keep running for many more years…running long trails and taking photos.

 

 

“Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.” ~ Jimmy Buffett

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