I ran for thirty minutes yesterday. Straight! That is the longest, continuous run I have ever done without being chased. Of course my husband, 'he-who-runs-twenty-miles-because-it's fun-, was slow to grasp the enormity of this accomplishment.
“Thirty minutes!” I announced for the fourth time, hands on hip and drenched in sweat. “And there weren’t even any dogs after me.”
"Oh, that's awesome babe. Congratulations." He finally said when he realized the remote clicker wasn’t going to work until I moved out of the way of the TV.
Truth be told, I hadn’t set out that morning with the intention of running. Exercise, in general, isn’t my thing. I would rather be sitting safely on the couch sipping Coke Zero and reading about nature than walking in it. I don’t get endorphins the way some people do. I get shin splints and plantar fasciitis. But recognizing that my body will eventually turn into the giant pile of mush an ex-boyfriend predicted, I get my wiggly butt out there and move. I dance. I walk. I will even skip on occasion if the sun hits me just right. But I don’t run. Running is for the blue ribbon kids on Field Day, not us ‘participants’.
While I may not be an athlete, I am competitive - especially with my husband. He had already lost two of his ‘holiday pounds’ while my own body stubbornly guarded the four I had gained since the great cookie decorating fiasco. He is walking around with his jeans buttoned and I’m breaking out the shoe horn to fit into mine. I knew I had to step up my game. So I loaded up on chocolate protein bars and went for a walk. Maybe, I thought, I run for just a few minutes just to help move the belly budge along and bring my pulse rate up to something beyond slovenly.
“Okay, body, run!” I commanded it, getting ready to move full steam ahead.
Run? Are you serious? Sounds horrible. My mind answered on behalf of my body. Let's just ditch this whole workout thing and watch last night's episode of The Soup instead.
“Bad Brain! Bad!” I scolded it. "You're supposed to be helping me. I’m going to ground you from all TV if you don’t behave." My brain simply shrugged knowing that I would give in as soon as the next episode of Dance Moms aired.
“Move it”, I said again.
But you’re afraid of running. It makes your heart and lungs hurt. People mock you from their cars. And you look ridiculous. The memory of a carload of adolescent boys laughing at me when I had tried to jog years before came up. My brain was offering me proof.
You have stumps for legs. It kept on. Your knees are bad. And I’m pretty sure you are developing flat feet. I did my best to ignore it, practicing the same zone-out technique I used on my mother when she was telling me about her lady problems. But my brain was relentless. In Junior High you used to invent illnesses to get out of running track. You were the only student in Clark Middle School to come down with the gym dyslexia. REMEMBER?
“Shut up!” I kicked my legs harder. “Why do you have to bring up the past?”
We’re linked, the past and I. Remember that time you passed out on the treadmill at the Senior Center? All those old people standing around gossiping. Didn’t you learn your lesson then?
“I’m not listening.” I pumped my arms and moved further ahead. If I ran fast enough maybe I could leave my brain behind. My brain didn’t rule me. Sure, it helped me with reading, and writing, and sometimes balancing my checkbook. But it was fallible. It had talked me into far too many bad relationships to tell me it couldn’t be wrong. “You don’t know everything.” I said, pulling up a picture of the trivia game I had recently lost because it gave me a series of incorrect answers. “Go away.”
And with that it shut up. Perhaps I had offended it. I’m not sure. But minute by minute, leg kick by leg kick, it stopped telling me what I couldn’t do. It found some quiet closet to wait in, a closet I never knew existed. And the quieter it became the more my body moved. Thirty minutes later I made it home.
“What?!” I said, looking at the clock. “I did it!” I had conquered my fear of running. And I had an epiphany. Without my brain there to tell me what I couldn’t do, I might be able to do just about anything.
Of course, my brain couldn’t remain quiet for long. It was like the co-worker who wouldn’t help you with a project but was there to share in your success. We were marvelous, weren’t we? Did you see the way I periodically offered up pictures of you in a bikini for inspiration? We’re a great team. Maybe we can enter a marathon or something. I’ve been coming up with some great visuals of you crossing a finish line if you need them.
“Yeah, we are a great team.” I agreed. But somewhere deep inside I learned a universal truth. There is a place deeper than thought; a place where the soul resides. We are more than a collection of thoughts and experiences. When the light shuts off in the brain another light turns on. A light that can guide us to do anything, because in that light there is no fear. It just is there…lighting the way.