I don’t know why I said “Yes.” I am overweight. And I mean it. I have lost 24 pounds (woo hoo for me), but that doesn’t mean that I’m where I want to be. Please, don’t think that I’m writing this to curry pity, sympathetic responses, or reassuring messages. I’m overweight and I know it and I’m changing myself.
And I feel really, really good about those decisions.
But in the process of choosing not to eat that extra mini candy bar or go for a second portion of last night’s spaghetti dinner, I confront demons that have been silent for a decade, possibly more. Choices made twenty years ago have slithered out of the back of the closet where they were quietly sleeping while curled up in a rib cage. And I keep on sweeping my hands over them, look at the tarot patterns on their backs, and then try and shove them back into the closet.
See that fibula? Curl around that, nestle it close to you. Just leave me alone.
But those choices and those demons are there. And I know they are there and I sometimes find a way to stop the shoving and the denial and just let them rest.
The sleeping dogs are lying on the carpet at my feet. Just step around them.
A month ago, I was invited to participate in a half-marathon. And I agreed. The woman whose running footsteps sound like the clomping of a clydesdale horse is going to run a half-marathon. But as the spring play approaches and rehearsals eat in to my time, I also know that I need to find a way to force myself to exercise so that next summer’s Appalachian Trail adventure will not be compromised by my weight or lack of physical preparedness.
I do not regret my decision to participate in the half-marathon. It’s not until mid-March and I have time to train. Time to prepare my body for thirteen miles of running that I have never done before and don’t know that I’m really ready to do anyhow. Regardless, I agreed.
I said “yes.”
Every week, I add a mile to my total. And I started at 2…maybe 3. I put on my running shoes and tripped around the neighborhood across the street or clomped on the treadmill and pretended that all this exercise is not causing me to fart.
Those were just sound effects coming from the modern music playing over the speakers.
Sunday, my goal was six miles. 6. Just under half of the 13 miles I am supposed to be preparing for. I didn’t want to run. I was exhausted. The Girl and I had walked 13.3 miles the day before. I wanted us to walk no more than 9. But I got lost. 4 times. Yay for the broken Compass Rose.
Friday, I went to my doctor and received a prescription for an inhaler to relax my lungs from their cold-air inspired asthma constrictions. Sunday, the temperature was in the upper 30’s and I was nervous about going outside and running 6 miles in the cold which might cause me to have an asthma attack. And I was tired which made me feel weak and apathetic.
It would be so much easier just to give myself a “pass” for the day. Not run. Not do anything but sit on my butt and play stupid computer games and maybe even grade.
But I had made a promise. To my partner, Owl Singer. To my body and myself. To the demons that have been quiet recently. I had made a promise to the trail and to everyone and no one and to the quiet reminders that I have always wanted to drop the weight.
I pulled on my warmest running shirt, wool socks, a polar fleece overskirt. I tucked my iPod in one pocket, my inhaler in the other. Went to the bathroom at least five times so I wouldn’t feel the urge to pee halfway through the run and end up running with my knees pinned together.
I went through the first third of a mile, pretending that I was enjoying my music, pretending that I wasn’t wanting to turn around with every step. I turned the corner, ran along the side of the main road, crossed the main road, went into the neighborhood across the street.
And I was absolutely miserable.
I didn’t want to run and nothing I could do was making my body decide that my decision to run was the right one. And in spite of my best efforts, I finally found a beautiful shadow and stopped. On the side of the road.
I drank some water. Caught my breath. Stared at the road and thought about how much shorter it was to go home than to run forward. But, I shoved myself forward and ran and ran and ran.
I ran down hills that only resulted in me having to clomp uphill. And as my pulse raced and my music pounded into my ears, I prayed.
I am a terrible Christian. I sin way too often and way too well. But I still try. I still try to have an honest faith (that has a tendency to flop around like a suffocating fish) and I hinge my most troubled moments on prayer.
I prayed. I prayed for strength. I prayed for perseverance. I surrendered to God and to His will. I know that this might sound weak and ridiculous to you. And I understand. I get it. But, at the same time, this is who I am.
I’m not ashamed of my faith. I worry about sounding inauthentic with Christian-Catch-Phrases. I don’t want to come across as someone trying to shove her faith down the throats of others. So as I ran up the hills and each breath came in quick succession and I surrendered. To faith. To healing. To God and the fact that I have run from Him and have run to Him and now just want to….live.
I sang in my head to songs that had no words. I wrapped my faith into my footsteps and still paused, every now and then, and finally found my way to my 6 mile mark. I stopped in another beautiful shadow and drank a little more water before realizing that I had the strength to keep on running.
I only ran another half mile. But my total was 6.5. My goal was 6. But my goal was exceeded, even if modestly.
I spent the morning meditating on each step. Running through obstacles and shadows and dreams that fell into the quiet contrails rippling in my wake. I ran through songs and prayers and finally found my way home.
I entered my house, drank a cup of coffee, and felt my lungs slowly squeeze not-quite-shut. My breath whistled and I knew that it was time. I pulled out my inhaler, shook it, and took a long, cleansing breath.