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Oct162013

What Anchors You?

On a beautiful early autumn morning run through the Morton Arboretum, I marveled at the way the sun made its way through the tree canopy to the ground below. The smell of fallen leaves moistened by the night’s dew, and the earth welcoming the leaves back into the nutritional fold for the next generation of tree growth. The sweet fragrance of the fading summer grasses of the prairie; the brilliant red of the Virginia Creeper on the trees, the sounds of the animals and the insects going about their daily routines, and the peace it provides to my soul as I follow the undulating path of the road. This is what recharges me. This is where I go when I lose my direction in life, or to gain perspective, or to just be. Stress, demands, perfectionism, family, writer’s block, loneliness, overstimulated, elated, happy…all are reasons to come here to walk, hike, or run.

This particular course would have me run past my late husband’s memorial tree. As I ran the path towards that beautiful tree, I wondered, is this an anchor? As I continued, I mused on what an anchor is or could be. Not having a dictionary handy, I figured some definitions for myself. Is it something that tethers me when I am scattered; keeping me in one place, safe, and able to get my bearings? Or is it something that holds me down and prevents me from being free, to explore; staying fixed in once place and not experiencing life? Pretty heady stuff to ponder as my feet kept up the pace.

Then I looked deeper to find what was and still is holding me down and what makes me free. Excuses hold me down. I didn’t write, exercise, call, (you fill in the blank) because I’m afraid, too busy, didn’t think (fill in the blank). Wow—could I fill in those blanks—and they weren’t very pretty. Run, run, run. Is it important? What am I going to do about it? Run, run, run. The answers came to me, and I placed them in my mental list of things that I needed to change about me to get where I needed to be.

This process works very well while I run, while the blood courses through the body and my brain is high on oxygen, endorphins, and answers. How about afterward? The work that was so simple then is harder to put in practice when the brain and body don’t have the food for thought action. Hmm…seems I’m still clinging to that which is weighing me down. How to wrest free and fly?

Okay, what makes me free? I look at my other anchors, the ones that just hold onto me until can gather myself so I am free to move into the direction I’m meant to find. Friends, family, exercise, me, and a thinking tree. The list is very short, simple, and succinct.

I’ve now reached the only tree of its kind amongst many pines. I smile, give it a high five, catch my breath, closed my eyes and listened for the inner wisdom to guide me. A few minutes later, I ran down the grassy hill to the car with a new spring in my step. I’ve got work to do!

What anchors you?

This week I am at the Gay Romance Literature (GRL) Retreat in Atlanta as a Supporting Author. Those of you that are attending, come on by and see me and let me know what anchors you. Those of you that are with us at GRL in spirit, leave a comment on my blog.

 

 

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Sep232013

All Are Welcome Here

Welcome to my new website and my very first blog post!

I pondered on what to write for my very first blog post, and it came to me as I was in my first 10k race this weekend.  I am an unabashed, middle of the road triathlete.  Running, however, kicks my ass every single time. Swimming is my best event, with biking second.  Actually, dancing in front of my mirror, while singing off-key  in the privacy of my own home is my favorite and best activity, but alas, there is no open competition in this event.  Unless you count You-tube, which I do not.

See, I’m a sprinter. Any run over 100 yards is a distance race for me.  Lured by the name ‘Sprint Distance Triathlon’ I was dismayed that the running ‘sprint’ was 5k (or 3.1 miles for the metrically perplexed).  Training for a 5k was a challenge.  I joined a Triathlon training club.  The run club motto was ‘where everyone is welcome and no one runs alone.’ Nice motto to have, but in actuality, I did run alone many times.  Good thing about the group, there is some one waiting to make sure all runners are accounted for at the end.  On one such run, one of my ‘long’ runs, I was going to run 3.5 miles (just a little extra to have the energy to sprint over the finish line). I read the map incorrectly, and the tour took me 7 miles. I ran for SEVEN miles.  Well, I thought, if I could go seven miles, I could do a 10k (6.2 miles).

Okay, back to this year, and the 10k I was presently running.  My training had been a bit lax lately.  My longest run this year was four and a half miles. I went into race day with the hope that the one point seven miles wouldn’t be an issue.  My strategy was to treat the first 5k as a warmup, then run the second portion as a 5k pace. I looked around me.  There were all shapes, sizes, and ages here. When the race began, my motto was to keep my pace, it was my race.

There were many amazing people I met during the race. I ran to the t-shirts that intrigued me or made me laugh.

Ask your doctor if getting off your ass is good for you.

…let us throw off everything that hinders us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Hebrews 12:1

I’m hauling ass. If you can read this, I dare you to pass me.

Runs for wine. A bottle is waiting for me at the finish line. I share.

The people wearing these shirts were good pacers, had a sense of humor, and helped keep the race in perspective. At one point, I was surrounded by the plugged in (ear buds firmly ensconced in their ears), and I yelled, ‘All those unplugged, unite!” There came a cheer from two women just in front of me.  We talked, laughed, and they made me pick up my pace.  There were people of all colors, shapes, and sizes, waiting to cheer on the racers, who were all colors, shapes, abilities, and sizes. These people made the next mile easier to run.  People quite a bit heavier than me passed me. We cheered for the people that were on the way back when we were not even half way done, and encouraged those who looked like they were going to give up.

Coming into the last part of the race, a the girl with a cow bell cheered us on, saying we only had less than a mile to go, and the people I was running with were psyched–and began to run faster–too fast for me.  See, I have been duped by ‘You’re almost there’ before. I turned on the gas, and started run, only to discover, it was farther than anticipated, and ran out of steam. So I found another person to pace with me. A 82 -year-old woman.  We chatted a bit, commented that the last mile is the hardest and the sweetest, then she left me in her dust.  Another woman whom I ran alongside, told me her BFFF (Best Fag Friend Forever) was there to cheer her on. They were friends since childhood. He approved of her hubby, and she approved of his partner.  Sure enough, as we approached the finish line, he called out “THE Best Hag Friend Foreva!” He even hi-fived me.

Later, when I got home, the email with my time was waiting for me.  I finished in the middle of my age class. I passed 111 people, and was passed by 173 (I am sure that was in the last mile).  Was the time my personal record? Yes. Could I have done better? Sure. Did I run every step of the race. Yes. Did I have a blast, meet new people (and a few new running partners?), admire the view of the lakefront? Yes.  Insert your favorite life metaphors here.

One thing resonated with me from the race, was overheard by a first time runner at the after party. “Nobody cared if I had cellulite, or my arms jiggled, or that I was flat chested, or that I had tattoos, or that I didn’t have the latest running gear, or that I’m a married to a woman.  They welcomed me and cheered me as if I was the first place finisher. I’ll continue to run and be back next year, because no matter who I am, I was welcomed here.”

Have a story about feeling welcome, no matter who you were?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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