Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forward Motion

Lots of writers find inspiration in personal tragedy, whether real or perceived. They are most introspective and creative when they’re in a dark place.

I’m not one of those writers. I don’t enjoy the dark. I’ll pick a sunrise over a sunset any day. When life feels wrong, I suddenly have absolutely nothing to say. Luckily for my livelihood (and, um, sanity), despite its share of challenges, life has almost always felt right, or at least how it is meant to be.

But all the thoughts and words I’ve wanted to pour out over the last few months have been locked inside my mind the way water gets stuck deep in your ear after a day of swimming. You feel it in there and it’s agitating. No matter which way you move or how hard you shake your head, it won’t come out. Every day, I sit down to write, settling myself to work in the very place that has triggered more imagination than I’ve ever known what to do with, and I’ve got nothing. It hasn’t simply been a case of writer’s block. It’s been a case of stagnation and self pity. And I’m done with it.

I started out a run yesterday on what I’ve dubbed my “comeback trail”—during the ongoing healing and rehab of my hamstring injury, it’s a place that ensures I stay on flat terrain and take it easy. And as I take my first few steps, content to keep jogging a dreadfully slow, but exceedingly safe pace, I start to finally feel a gush of emotions. And I take off at a speed that my horribly unfit body and my left leg have no business sustaining for the next 60 minutes.

The sensation of moving ahead as fast as possible feels glorious after months of feeling like I was all but standing still. I begin to realize that it has nothing to do with the act of running itself—it’s almost as if my body’s motion is on autopilot, forcefully showing my intellect that I have the ability to press forward, that nobody except me is holding me back. Rationally I know that what I am doing is wrong, that I could hurt myself all over again. But my heart pleads for a run that isn’t measured in minutes or miles. It wants one measured in faith and conviction and confidence and passion—all the parts of me that I had gradually lost along the way, so slowly that I didn’t even know they were gone.

I think about where I am and know that it’s not where I belong. I think about what’s keeping me here and come up with no answer. I think about the gifts that I’ve been given, and know with every ounce of my being that I’m not honoring them or using them for the greater good. I think about how beautiful my surroundings are and how I haven’t appreciated them in far too long. And the truth makes me angry, because that’s never been who I am. I don’t need an office or a boss or a dream job to make a difference. I don’t allow life to be dictated by fear. I don’t shy away from love or risk or adventure because I’m afraid of getting hurt.

It makes me run faster, that outrage. But with every gasp for air, I feel a stronger sense of the person I am more familiar with: she’s the one who can concoct a plan out of nothing and make a good idea work. She has purpose. She has direction and discipline and an appreciation for mischief. She loves to work hard when she believes in the work being done. Most importantly, she has a sense of humor and embraces fun. She laughs. All the time. She knows that the life she dreams of can be hers, if only she keeps moving forward.

I smile.

For the first time in a while, I know I’m running toward something, instead of away from everything. My face is caked in salt from sweat, instead of tears. I will feel a sleepiness at night that I have craved for months—the kind induced by physical exhaustion and a productive day, instead of the lethargy that is the result of ongoing procrastination and anxiety.

I relax my pace as the end of the trail nears, and my cadence slows to a walk. I turned back to look at my Comeback Trail and know that the pounding I just gave my legs may have been one big mistake. But I’ll own it and take responsibility for it.

It’s then that I realize that I don’t run because it’s a hobby. I don’t run because I’ll ever be the fastest. I don’t run to compete. I don’t run to bring home another cheap medal with a 2-cent ribbon strung through it. I don’t run for pride or ego or a certificate to hang on the refrigerator.

I run because it makes me who I am.