My 13-year-old daughter told me recently that sometimes she feels like she’s just a “big ol’ sack of feelings,” with everything all swirling around inside wanting to get out at the same time. I told her that at 13 years old, this was a very normal way to feel and that part of growing up was learning how to manage that sack so that the feelings could be expressed without causing collateral damage on the way out. I promised her that it would get easier. She wanted to know when…specifically when it would get easier. Being a sack of feelings can be exhausting.
I went for a run the other morning. I haven’t run in the morning much lately, mainly because of the kids’ school schedules and because I don’t much like getting out of bed before 6am. But today, all three kids, including my youngest, who had orchestra practice, were secured within the walls of their respective jails…uh er…institutions of learning by 7:30am, so that meant I had a little time before work to work out a few miles around the neighborhood. I wasn’t feeling much like running that morning, but I knew that it would be several days before I would have another chance to run due to my schedule, so I shoe’d up and headed out.
The first thing I noticed as I stepped outside was the how heavy the air felt. It was like a blanket, woven from tiny, delicate beads of water I could actually see floating in front of my eyes, that draped its warm, wet, and surprisingly heavy weight about my shoulders soon as I stepped out the door onto the front porch. The clouds hovered about 5 feet off the ground, giving the street a dim and rather oppressive, mysterious Sherlock-Holmes look. The sun, obscured by the fog, seemed nothing more than a weak, translucent 20-watt light bulb that was hanging about 20 feet over my head, and those low-hanging clouds seemed to relish in her smothering.
The morning was quiet toothe typical bustling sounds of a town waking up seemed muted and distantthough when I shut my eyes and listened, I could hear the melancholy song of the mourning dove and I could smell the wet pine tree.
The morning matched my mood. It seemed sad…and I felt sad…I felt discontent…I felt like a big ol’ sack of swirling feelings…and as I dragged my hand across my forehead, I felt the beads of moisture that had already formed on my brow, and the dread of the day clouded my head like the humidity that was smothering my neighborhood. I rubbed my eyes. I sighed. I looked back at my front door. I wanted to go back inside to cheerful yellow lights and morning news and coffee and warm, happy doggies and Husband in PJs who absent-mindedly munched on bacon while simultaneously typing on his laptop and squinting over the top of his glasses at the tv. However, my inner warrior awoke. She never gives in. She’s a fighter. She snatched up that feeling sack that rustled and shifted from the conflict within, and with confident strength said, “Go for a run and you will feel better.” She then forced my legs to move from their stationary spot on the front porch and traipse across the front lawn to the street, soaking my Asics with dew in the process. As my feet hit the pavement, I turned and saw the dark trail of dejected, flattened grass that channeled through white morning dewdrops that coated the front yard.
“Three miles,” I said, “I am only doing three miles.”
“Then do three miles,” she said.
And so I did. Slow at first. Like that flattened grass, I felt smooshed down. My thoughts were both restless and heavy. But I have always found running to be a very here-and-now kind of experience. In other words, it often is difficult for me to think of anything else but what is happening at that moment while I runmy breathing, how my body feels, the scenery around meand soon, my restless-n-heavy thoughts were replaced by here-n-now moments: the way the fog caressed the trees; the way the air smelled like dirt, wet asphalt, and honeysuckle; the way the different bird calls layered over the sound of the mourning dove; my neighbor’s unusual yard project (seriously, what is he doing?); the way the pale orb of a sun slanted through the dense fog and cut across Massacre field; the way the kind, old man whom I always see walking his husky said hello to me like we were long-lost friends; that random fat brown hen who confidently strutted across the sidewalk and gave me a sidelong glance before angrily clucking off into the bushes (where on earth does she live?).
And as the here-n-now moments replaced the restless-n-heavy thoughts, my speed increased. My legs moved, my lungs quickly pushed the air around me in and out of my body, my brain gave in to the brief respite from nagging thoughts, my sack of feelings calmed their jumbled movement, and my inner warrior rejoiced.
I love my inner warrior…most of the time. She’s forced me to make some tough calls and do the right thing. She’s kept me from making bad decisions. I didn’t know she even existed until I started to run, but running makes her strong. I don’t always hear her, and sometimes I flat out ignore her (she can be an annoying bitch sometimes). Ah such is life, and I am human after allsometimes nothing more than a big ol’ sack of feelings and mistakes (but with elf ears!) Sometimes I don’t feel much different than a 13-year-old girl trying to navigate through the horrors of 7th grade. But I know enough now that when the inner warrior tells me I should run, then I better run…even if it is a hot, humid morning.
Once I got back home, even though it was just 3 miles, I felt…better, lighter, level-headed. As I stepped back into the warm yellow of the house, Husband, still munching on bacon, looked up and both grimaced and smiled as I dripped with sweat.
“Better?” he asked.
“Yes…I always think after a run in the morning that, hey, I should really always run in the morning,” I replied.
“See? I told you that you would feel better if you went for a run,” he said, eyes back on his computer screen.
Ok…so it’s not just my inner warrior who helps keeps me sane.