The joy of running

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I’m learning to like running.

“How?”, you ask.

By not making any plans.

Saturday afternoon I set out to run at least two miles. Two miles marked the full extent of my planning. I had no set route. No GPS to measure my progress. No phone or clock to keep time. Nothing but a beautiful day and time. My feet hit the end of the driveway and I turned right, but within less than twenty strides I’d decided to explore. Another twenty strides and I turned left onto a street I’d never taken before.

Abercrombie sported a few people up and down the street and I zigzagged back and forth in an effort at mobile social-distancing. By this time I had already started to breathe a little harder. I’m no six minute miler. More like a ten minute miler. I pushed a little, but I settled into a pace I could keep without stopping. I ran until what amounted to a dead end before retracing my steps and heading back home. I felt great as I pushed myself all the way to the driveway and, slowing to a walk, walked right past. Over the next mile I strolled, sprinted and punched my way into a cooldown before finding my driveway again and turning in.

I felt great! And I felt appreciation for the freedom I’d had to simply be.

No real goals.

No timer.

No schedule.

Just me and the open road.

And I loved every minute of it.

So much so, in fact, that every run since has turned out the same way. I run until I don’t want to run. Strangely, I find I’m running faster, longer and harder than I did when I had goals, timers and a schedule. It leads me to wonder what other places in my life would benefit from such freedom? Something to explore another day.

So, like I said, I’m learning to love running by not making any plans.

What about you? Care to give it a try?

A little inspiration at the end of a rope

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I am tired, and wondering if I’ve bit off more than I can chew again. But tonight as I sit here, I am also irritated. I want to be able to handle more. I feel weak.

Last night, I started running again. That single mile reminded me muscles ache and lungs burn. That single mile also begin purging my lungs. It hurt a little, but it also felt great. Furthermore, it reminded me that building stamina, strength, and wind is going to take time. It won’t happen overnight.

So I sit here tired, but I am writing this post. Thankful to have found a moment’s inspiration to share. I have to trust that, as I find my path, I will get stronger and then I will be able to handle more. I will feel a little less weak. I will get a little closer to living the life I want to live.

In the meantime, I know I need to give myself grace to figure it out. And honestly, I probably need to rest. Resting is something I’m not good at, but I’m fairly certain I’m experiencing weariness right now because I have been pushing myself too hard. I need to give the well time to recover.

My thoughts are many and scattered, but I’ll write a few of them here anyway. It’s a way of sharing some of what’s running about in my mind.

I am not sure whether daily haikus are a good idea or not. On the upside, they challenge me to regularly flex my creative muscles, but I hate it when I feel like I’m phoning it in for lack of inspiration or energy. I don’t want to cop out, but I don’t want to wear out either. And this week, I’ve done nothing. By the time I got home I have been drained emotionally, spiritually and physically. There has been nothing left to give. (I am also spending more time writing songs, which is what I set out to do with the haikus in the first place. That may be enough.)

Mornings are my most valuable time. I need to get them back. That means taking control of my nights again.

I love the people who have given me a place to stay while I am selling my house. They are dear and generous friends. At the same time, I am ready to be back in my own space again. Change can be good, but I certainly feel it as it’s wreaked havoc on my routines. Making new routines is exhausting. Necessary, but exhausting.

And lastly, my thoughts have brought me full circle to an earlier conversation. It’s the reason I won’t give up on all of this even as it wears me out and forces me to figure out this chaos. I don’t remember exactly what my friend and I were talking about, but it came back to the sheer numbers of our culture who are busy watching other people live their lives. I won’t say it’s all bad. It probably isn’t. You know, all things in moderation. But as I limit the shows I watch, the media I interact with, the social media I consume, I find I’m living a little more. It’s harder to live that way. Mostly because I’m having to learn new, more valuable things to fill my time. The vacuum created by giving something up is the greatest danger. It begs for that easy habit to step back in. And going back to the start of this post, new habits don’t come quickly or easily. But I guess, even as tired as I feel, I don’t want easy. Easy won’t get me where I want to go.

In the end, I want adventure and excitement. I just want to make sure it’s my own.

Dairy is Everywhere (and other things)

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This past week saw the beginning of a fast from dairy. A grand experiment in pursuing a healthier and more mucus free lifestyle. And, as of today I have a perfect record of failure.

While someone, somewhere is sitting in judgment, I am laughing and preparing for my next attempt. This has been an incredible learning experience. I had no idea dairy had such a prominent place in my life. When I’ve tried to relate it to others, I tell them dairy flies under the radar. Sometimes, like this morning, it is the bedfellow of habit. “With cheese” fell so smoothly from my lips that my conscious self only became aware once the creamy melt settled onto my tongue. Most times, I am simply unaware. Having never considered it before, I know nothing of its hideaways. Cereal and lattes are easy to avoid. Yogurt and cottage cheese only slightly more troublesome. But I never saw butter chicken curry coming, and only barely dodged Tira Misu. If any lesson is to be learned, it is this – dairy is everywhere!

Or maybe there is something more. It’s been refreshing to engage in battle with something I can laugh about, and I hope it will translate to other, more sensitive places in my life because failure is a great teacher.

So I guess what I’m saying is this. Go forth and fail. Laugh at yourself and learn all you can.

Oh, and dairy is everywhere!

Moving on

Three years ago I bought a house. I believed it to be the best decision for me, and at that time it was probably true. Today, however, I am moving out of that house and preparing to sell. Time have changed, and I with them.

Preparations for today have stirred up memories like sediment in a stream, and my mucking about has only brought up more. In some ways, it was an act of desperation. I’d enjoyed exceptionally low rent for several years, but the house I’d lived in would soon sell. I had to move, and nothing on the market could match my budget. Oddly enough, here in Memphis a mortgage payment could be far less than rent, and it didn’t hurt to know I would ultimately be investing money in my own pocket rather than a landlord’s.

As for other reasons, I was seeking a more “normal” life. My life has never exactly conformed to the status quo. Sometimes I see that as an amazing gift. Others, I wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. At that point in time, I knew the life I had been living needed to change. For the me of three years ago, change meant more stability and more money. So I began pursuing a management career at Starbucks and bought a house. I know I hoped it would bring some legitimacy in the eyes of others, and maybe a wife.

You may wonder, how did that work out for me? Well… not bad. And not in any way like I planned.

For one, I never saw the money I hoped for. Turns out management is not something I’m well suited for. And the house, while quickly paid off due to an inheritance, became a time and money sink. I never had enough to make it the house I’d hoped it would become, and I realized 1,600 square feet with a front and back yard is a lot of real estate to manage for one person.

That said, these past few years it has been a gift. Paid off, it gave me the freedom to leave Starbucks, and after the chaos of my experience there I needed to leave if only for my mental health. In the interim between my sister selling her house and purchasing a new one, it provided a home for her, my niece and my nephew. And when a friend needed a new place to stay, I had an extra room for him. But most of all, this house has been part of a process of learning about the world and myself. I better understand the value of my time and mental well being. I had to learn that lesson through imbalance of a job, a life and a home.

All in all, it served its purpose and I am grateful I made the decision. But as I mentioned before, times have changed and so have I. I’ve rediscovered my long lost dream. I’ve found peace in who I am, and I am not trying so hard to match up to what others think is normal. (Note, if you happen to be looking for a life partner, it might do well to find someone as crazy as yourself.) And I am free. Free from most of the obligations of my peers. It is startling to realize I have the same freedom I did the day I first braved the world and left for college.

Thankfully, I also have a little more experience and, I hope, wisdom. And soon, once the house is sold, I will also have a fair starting point for this next stage of life.

All in all, I guess life is still life. I made the best call I could at the moment. I ran it for all it was worth, and now it’s time to move on. I don’t regret the struggle. I certainly don’t regret the blessings that shined linings of silver on sullen, grey clouds. They made me who I am, and have laid and are laying the foundation for what comes next.

& what’s next?

Well, I’ll save that for another day.

2020 Vision

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2019 was a special year for me. It opened the door on dreams I had locked away. Hope awakened belief, and I began to listen to voices that had, in all likelihood, always been there. Voices daring me to embrace the dream. A dream I had never been able to completely do away with no matter how broken or battered I became. And last year, I took my first steps as I started writing songs and played my first solo show.

Now, it is 2020 and the dream continues as I take up a new challenge. I find it interesting that this is 2020, the scrip for perfect vision, especially as this is a year of clear vision for me. Over the next year, I will be documenting my journey via social media. When I chose to accept the challenge, I knew I would have a lot to learn. But that was the point of the challenge. To live openly in hopes that someone else might find inspiration and begin a journey of their own. Maybe, in chasing my own dream, I can help someone else also embrace who they are and what they hope for.

What is that going to look like? Well, the big picture goals for the year are to share the story and to write enough music to record my first EP. In order to reach those goals, countless smaller ones await me. One, selling my house to open the door for more time and financial freedom. In a word, simplify. Two, write the first song. It’s in the works as I refine my aforementioned ugly, little baby. Three, begin the social media journey that will hopefully inspire and encourage while building a platform for my music to come. Today marks my first steps here as, in a short while, I will record a short video on Instagram much like this post –  a declaration of intent and an invitation to join the ride. Once I have it ready, I’ll post it here so you can join me there as well.

This may well be the first year I have ever began with such a sense of purpose, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. Already the wheels are spinning, and it looks like its going to be a wild ride!

To the End of Self

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Yesterday was a bad day. I struggled from start to finish. I doubt those looking on from the outside could tell, but my insides roiled in storms of doubt and fear. I ended my night as I always do, in prayer and an exercise of gratitude. I am grateful to have learned the importance of such things, especially when I feel like running away.

As I prayed, I uttered these words. “Thank you for bringing me to the end of myself.” The dam broke and for one brilliant moment all the weight of the days worries lifted. I saw, with clarity, the light of possibility again. You may wonder why. Simply put, it allowed me to let go of all the things I wanted to control and cannot. I came face to face with my limitations, and had to acknowledge them.

Today has been much better. I’ve entrusted my mystery, the unknown, into the hand of another and let yesterday’s lesson guide my actions. Today I chose to take on only this day’s tasks. And I believe I am a little closer to my goals than I was yesterday. That is a gift!

As to the things I cannot control, I feel fortunate to believe in a God who loves me. A God who does have control and is far more adept than I ever could be. That knowledge gives me hope that even if the future doesn’t turn out the way I expect, it will turn out for my good. Right now I can rest in knowing that when I come to the end of myself, He picks up where I leave off.

Something good

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“If you smash into something good, you should hold on until it’s time to let go.”

-Marcello, Under the Tuscan Sun

These words are one of several ideas to remain with me after watching Under the Tuscan Sun. To me, they represent the acceptance of a gift and the willingness to live in the present. So I felt sadness to find they were uttered as a precursor to an affair. Heavy with the weight of inevitability. All affairs must end.

At another point our lead declares her fears aloud. With tears she lays out her hopes for a home, a wedding and full rooms. Hopes she doubts she’ll ever see. And the man who is quite possibly my favorite character in the film tells her the story of a train from Vienna to the Alps, a train whose tracks were built before they had a train that could make the trip.

Finally, from the lips of a care free and enigmatic actress comes a story from her childhood. She spent the entire day searching for ladybugs. She found none. In the end, she fell asleep on the grass only to awaken covered in ladybugs.

Each of these moments is a lesson in itself. But I think each of these moments is a part of the picture that it took an entire story to paint. Juxtaposed they gain a greater meaning.

It is a gift to live in the present, to take hold of good things and hold on until it is time to let them go. But a life lived in the present without care for the future is dangerous, both to ourselves and others. It is in looking to the future that we build the foundation capable of holding and manifesting our dreams. And if we are willing to commit to the tracks, trusting in the train to come, it sets our present on a set of tracks that will lead us toward our dreams. But this too is something to be wary of. In looking too closely for one particular future – one job, one relationship, one mission, we may find that we miss it entirely. Maybe by returning to the present, even at times having fallen asleep, we will awaken to find we have found the very thing we’ve been seeking.

To be honest, this is a path I am learning to walk. It is messy, and full of as much pain and hurt as it is comfort and joy. And as much as I feared it in the past, I think it’s supposed to be that way. I’ve come to realize that I don’t regret mistakes nearly as much as I regret chances not taken. I suppose we’ll see how that turns out.