I went running this afternoon. I was tired from not enough sleep, feeling down and even a little lonely, but I pushed myself to put on my running shoes, some running clothes and my hat, which, incidentally, reads, "Sweet Tooth," which is just my own funny little ironic joke. I grabbed my cell phone and pepper spray and headed out.
It was the sort of winter day that, in my book, couldn't be more perfect for running. Big, fluffy clouds floated in a crystalline blue sky with a crisp chill that wasn't too cold, but instead made my skin and my brain wake up. The grass (and weeds) were brilliant green and a few fruit trees were hesitantly beginning to bloom. We live in the country so my route takes me by fields with cows grazing in them, a horse here and there and even a flock of lovely dark grey goats that seem to have more babies among them this year than I remember. The animals all turned to look at me as I ran by and I had to slow down to a walk to savor it all, several times.
My route also takes me through a few neighborhoods, behind the high school, over the main street and past the acres and acres of bare grape vines. I live in the Central Valley of California, a place sometimes referred to as The Breadbasket of the World, so there are orchards, vines and fields everywhere around our little town. In the 110-degree heat of summer when everything that isn't irrigated artificially turns a gross brown color, living here seems dreary. But the end of winter, leading into an always-quick Spring is a lovely time to live here.
Today everything felt right, from the weather to a surprising new strength in my muscles. I've been running 2-3 times most weeks for a couple months now after a long hiatus of almost a full year. Today was the first day when I felt the very familiar "grab" of my abdominal muscles in a way I had totally forgotten about. As soon as I felt it, I remembered it from my running-an-hour-every-day stretch during a big chunk of 2009. It felt...wonderful. I don't feel the need to lose pounds and in fact am trying not to, but the feeling of muscles getting strong enough to engage in a way that haven't in a long time made me feel that much more alive as I ran along.
After my run today, I came back and sat down on the floor of the shower for awhile and just thought. I let the hot water pound on my aching neck and upper-back muscles. I let some tears fall that I'd been holding in. I decided not to shave my legs because I didn't want to. I thought about my life and some of the things I've been grappling with. And I felt really proud of myself.
Now don't get me wrong. I know I'm not perfect. Not even close. I'm screwing up, as usual, as I write this, I'm sure. I'm not going to get today right, or tomorrow, for that matter. I'm going to spread myself too thin. I'm going to stop short of insisting on what I really want. I'm going to swallow some truth that I'm still afraid of speaking, even to myself. I'm going to speak sharply to one of my children. I'm going to say something to a friend that I probably should have left unsaid. I'm going to make a food choice based on fear rather than nutrition or appetite. I'm going to take my loved ones for granted. I'm going to send a child out of my studio that I should instead invite in and fold into a big, lovely hug. I'm going to be selfish. I'm going to think of myself first. I'm going to stay up too late. I'm going to leave the lights on when I leave the room.
All that is true. It means I have a long way to go in the "perfect human being" department. And yet. I'm proud of myself. I'm proud that I went running through a town I was afraid to show my face in a year ago. I'm proud that I was honest with someone close to me last night in a moment when it would have been much easier to gloss over the truth of my feelings. I'm proud that I did the amount of laundry that I did. I'm proud that I'm keeping a couple promises I made myself the other day, even though it's challenging. I'm proud that I am moving forward, one step at a time, into the career of my dreams. I'm proud of the mothering I have done today (mostly). I'm proud of the fear I've overcome and the healthy boundaries I've erected. I'm proud that I've learned to see people (most of the time) as the real people they are underneath, rather than defining them based on their behaviors. I'm proud that I've forgiven people I would have though it impossible to forgive. I'm proud of myself for writing this.
The sun is disappearing and my little studio is getting dark. It's a bit chilly. Dinner-noises are coming from the kitchen and my children are pretending to be playing in a band which consists of the piano, a xylophone and an empty oatmeal container. I am wishing my heating pad would magically float from the other room into this one so that I don't have to drag my tired self out of my comfy blue chair to get it. I'll wrap this up, I guess.
I guess before I go, I just want to say that I really, really hope that, whoever you are, you can walk away with the permission to see the beauty in yourself, even for a moment. You're magnificent. You really are. I hope you can feel the strength that is yours. I really want you to think for a minute about how hard you are trying to do your best at so many, many things. I want you to consider the courage you've demonstrated in this life. Think about all the things you have overcome in your life, the things you rose above and the things you refused to be knocked down by; feel how much those weigh and how that weight would have changed you had you not acted with such courage. Think about the people who depend upon you and the people that you've made life a little better for. Think about how many hugs you've given. Think about how much you have loved every single person you have ever loved. Feel the weight of all that love. That weight is the amount that you have affected those people's lives in a positive way. Think about what you're good at and the way that the people you know would be altered if you didn't throw your muscle in the way you do. You are good. You are strong. You are brave. And I'm proud of you.