Rain, Sleet and Joy

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“How can you tell somebody has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll TELL YOU!”  

On March 1st, I did it.  I finished my second marathon and beat my previous time by more than 30 minutes.  A few days before the race the National Weather Service predicted a start temperature of 40 and a daily high of 55. Sounded like perfect running weather. As the race neared, the predictions grew gloomier. At 6:30 a.m. the morning of the race, the current conditions were freezing rain, 30 degrees and a wind chill of 23. Now for some people this isn’t a big deal, but I’m a true Texan. I love sunshine and prefer sweat to chill bumps any day of the year. As sleet pelted the windshield, I honestly considered leaving – – – nobody would blame me, right? But I knew I’d regret it the rest of my life, so I stepped out, shivering and muttering obscenities under my breath.

I shuffled off into the sleet, determined to make my goal time and prove to myself I could do better than I did in October.

PACING

One of the problems I had with my first marathon was pacing. I was so concerned with the finish line, that I didn’t run a steady, slow pace.  During a recent yoga class, my instructor explained that one of the problems beginners have with yoga is trying to hurry into the final pose.  Instead of concentrating on creating a strong base for a headstand, they start kicking their feet into the air,wanting to get UP…NOW.  It doesn’t work out well.  So I focused on my base…I concentrated on my steady pace.

COURAGE

Around mile 6 I saw a sign on the back of a man’s shirt so I ran a little faster to catch up and read it.  The sign read “Running off the chemo one mile at a time:  26.2” I ask him about the chemo. Last year he ran the Army Marathon. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed and had been receiving chemo all year. And there he was  – out in the icy rain – running.  His courage took away every excuse I had for not finishing. In Harker Heights the sidewalks were crowded with Harker Heights firefighters cheering him on. I remarked that he had quite the fan club and he told me he was a firefighter.  What a motivation!!!

SELF-CARE

I trotted along, still at my pace (give or take).  I rewarded myself at certain points by eating gels and drinking sports drinks. I had failed to take adequate nutrition at the first marathon. The lesson here is that self-care is vital! We can try to be brave and tough and unselfish but the bottom line is unless we feed our bodies and souls, we’ll end up pretty useless to everybody around us (and we’ll post a terrible performance).

MINDFULNESS

I also focused on running one mile at a time. I didn’t think about how far I had to go or how far I’d gone. I tried to concentrate on that single mile under my feet. Step…step…step…focus on the step. Live in the moment. I reminded myself I can’t go back and run the last mile any differently and I can’t be at the finish until I’m at the finish. I tried to be mindful, living the race foot by foot, mile by mile.

ATTITUDE

Smiling…I smiled as much as possible. I thanked volunteers along the way. I made a game out of trying not to miss a single volunteer. Of course, when there were 15 folks at a water stop, I had to yell out a general THANK YOU.  But I wanted my heart filled with gratitude and joy on this run.  As I remarked to some of the law enforcement officers, I chose to be out there running in the ice. I’d actually even paid money to participate.  But these men and women were there out of duty. I felt gratitude and compassion.

I was affected by the positive attitude of those around me too. Somewhere between mile 18 and 20, I ran with a wonderful woman from Killeen. She was so full of energy that I felt revived talking to her. We laughed and shared for several miles.  I thought about how such exuberant energy is contagious…what a gift to the universe!

PURPOSE and REAL HEROES

Then I hit my wall…it started on the dam when the cold wind picked up and slapped me in the face. By mile 22 I was doing a lot of walking. Then I remembered why I was running . . .

When I signed up for the marathon, I was given the option of setting up a fundraiser page for one of several designated charities. After reading and studying, I chose Team Red White and Blue.  Team RWB works with veterans to reintegrate them into the civilian world. From the website:  “Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.”

Every day 22 veterans commit suicide…that’s one human life lost every 65 minutes.  Involvement in sports and physical activities has been shown to alleviate the despair in which these veterans find themselves hopelessly lost.

(A good article to read:  http://teamrwb.org/in-the-media/two-teams-unite-to-better-veteran-community)

As I ran, I started thinking about how so many of our veterans are living in darkness – in sadness, grief and despair so thick I can’t even imagine.  I was just running 26.2 miles. I was smiling and happy.  I felt some pain but it would be over in a few hours.  These men and women can’t see an end to their pain so they opt for the most radical of solutions.

I could endure for them…I only raised $1,420 on my fundraising page, but just maybe that would change the life of even one veteran somewhere. Just maybe he or she would wear the Eagle (the Team RWB logo) and find hope.

Thinking of these heroes, I finished my race….I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t decide if I wanted to laugh or cry so I did both.

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I was laughing and crying simultaneously.

And just as the Army Marathon promises, I did run with heroes…and I ran for heroes.  May God bless them ALL!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peaceful Places

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Llano River, Mason County

I’m looking for my peaceful places…both inside and out.

On the home front I’m clearing clutter. I started purging closets, bookshelves, and cupboards.  I hauled off two carloads of clothing, books, and kitchen “stuff”. I didn’t need three coffee pots, two blenders, an array of clothing two sizes too big, and magazines from the last decade. Incredibly I’ve only made a small dent. Why do I hang onto “things”? I’m sure there are reasons – some rewards I hope to gain.

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Of course not everybody can achieve the peace these two can.

I know sometimes I buy things hoping for some magical result. I look for the outfit that will make me beautiful, the self-help book that will dramatically repair my life, the trinket that will inspire, the kitchen gadget that turns me into Julia Child. Unfortunately, “stuff” seems to have the opposite effect. It only tends to constrict me and prevent me from growing.

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Dry Hole Creek in front of the house.

Funny how that goes for the “inside” too. The more stuff I have crammed inside my little head, the harder it is to grow or find any sliver of bliss

So I’m integrating meditation into my evenings and I’m considering a short meditation in the mornings as well. I know most of my suffering is self-imposed and beyond that,  any pain is usually imagined.  I can dream up horrific scenarios that agonize me. I can focus on physical and emotional pain, reliving it over and over. I can remind myself of resentments that had almost cleared up. (* interesting little tidbit:  I heard in a meeting once that resent comes from re-sentir or re-feel)

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So many leaves – I couldn’t focus on just one. Instead of being beautiful, they look a little “junky”

Meditation cures that craziness. I can focus on the only moment that is actually real – the current moment. In that space, I can’t get too carried away with torrents of thoughts.

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Focusing on one leaf at a time changes the whole picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I do decide to veer from the present, I can make a point to be positive though.  The past is gone and unless it’s happy memories, I don’t need to re-feel any of that stuff. The future is just a prediction, so why not predict happy endings.

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Simplicity . . .

 

Peaceful places are right here – right now.

The Nose Knows

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The NOSY cat, Charlie. According to one source, they can pick up scents 14 times better than we can.

Running with the dogs a few days ago was quite the little adventure. Noses to the ground, my two running buddies led me straight through bramble, brush and your usual collection of stickery, spiny Texas vegetation. We were following deer trails…and cow trails..and maybe even the scent of a few hogs.

I started thinking about how keen dogs’ noses are….they can smell 100 times better than we can. I think we’d probably go crazy if we could smell everything they smell.

 

I wonder if running through the pasture is like reading a book or watching a movie for a dog.

Running in town the other day with a friend, we talked about the various fragrances (and stenches) along the road. Some things are yucky – road kill, exhaust fumes. But early in the morning you can pick up the the aroma of bacon sizzling and pancakes on the griddle.  On Saturdays, people do laundry and the clean, crisp smell of laundry detergent floats in the air. And there is NOTHING like fresh mowed grass. Ahhhh! Or bee brush before the rain….or honeysuckle…or a fireplace.

What can you smell this moment? I smell my shampoo and the oil in the diffuser.  I cleaned house today with an eco-friendly cleaner and I can still pick up the faint geranium perfume.

What smells do you love? Rain? Rosemary? Dog? Curry?

Smells are memories too. Does the smell of a chocolate cupcake bring back the memory of a birthday party 40 years ago?  Does the hint of a certain cologne remind you of the guy you dated back in the 80’s?

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Lisa had an “eraser” nose.

Try to notice smells for a few days. Pause and inhale and pay attention. Maybe it’s the mindfulness of sniffing that contributes to the peace dogs and cats seem to sometimes possess.

 

BREATHE…