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Once, I gave up drinking alcohol for forty days.
Then I wrote about it, because that’s what I do. 60 more days passed, and I found myself 100 days sober. Something I had not once done before in my adult life. I liked how I felt, so another 100 days of no drinking passed. It wasn’t easy, of course. Almost daily I had to turn down offers of drinks from friends, or ignore the delicious looking IPA staring at me from the back of the fridge. But each day it got a little easier. Each day the bigger picture of why I needed to be on this journey began to become more clear.
Then Dad died, and self imposed “rules” went out the window as I sat in the airport bar drinking a Jack and Coke, calming my nerves enough to have the courage board a plane to say goodbye. Much to my surprise, Dad’s death did not send me spiraling into endless bottles of wine, as my sober streak had surprisingly made a lasting impact.
These days, my drinking is sporadic and without the concern I once had (other than the extra weight that my new love of Ginger Beer & Bourbon has certainly contributed to over the winter). I no longer feel the need to use alcohol as a coping mechanism, and can just as easily say “no” to a drink as I can say “yes”. I truly attribute that to the eye opening and transformative experience of spending the majority of a year without alcohol.
Point being: breaks can be good. Really, really good.
Today marks 41 days without running. Other than the fact that I’m starting to bore myself in this space, I’m surprisingly doing really well. I’ve found that there is a lot to do – so much – when I’m not cramming all of my non-running responsibilities into a tiny window so that I can spend multiple hours a day training.
I won’t lie: it’s slightly uncomfortable not running. Not as uncomfortable – literally – as running right now, due to the prolapse. But uncomfortable in the sense that my body is feeling puffy, I’m feeling more tired, and my anxiety is creeping due to a serious lack in normal energy expenditure.
I’m like a fidgety kindergardener who wasn’t given recess.
But, just like my sober streak, each day without running seems to make the bigger picture become more clear. Each day I appreciate more and more that I’ve found myself on this unexpected journey. You see, when I stopped drinking, I realized how often I would drink to ignore feelings. I didn’t know how to experience or process discomfort, so I just drank instead. When I was sober, I was forced to learn a new way of life – learning how to sit with my discomfort.
It changed me.
With my running, I ignored so many other things in my life. Not on purpose of course (well, mostly), it’s simply that there is only so much time in any given day, and running (or thinking about running, or planning to go running, you get the idea) consumed much of it. I’d like to say that the things I was “ignoring” by filling my time with running wasn’t necessarily on purpose…but I’m not sure that would be entirely true.
This most recent bout of “not running” has opened up my eyes to so many other things that make me, me, as well as so many things I’ve been missing out on. I’m reading actual books (not about running) again, voraciously at that. I’m planning adventures that do not involve running, that could have never happened with the race schedule I had initially had planned for 2020. I’m getting things done around the house that have been put off forever, because we are always running. I’m sitting still at my kids basketball practice, actually watching, rather than thinking I should be utilizing that hour of practice by running on the indoor track right above the court.
You get the idea.
I’m sure at this point, this blog reads as though running is the enemy. I can wholeheartedly assure you that is NOT the case. I’m counting down the days until I’m given the go-ahead to run again (appointment with the prolapse specialist – a urogynocologist, incase you were wondering – is Feb 10th.)
But, here’s what’s been on my mind:
We often hear the term “step out of your comfort zone”. But what happens when the uncomfortable becomes your comfort zone? When suddenly the mundane, “normal” stuff is what makes you uncomfortable? When the thought of NOT constantly having extreme goals makes your blood pressure rise and brings sweat to your brow?
The answer is: you learn how to do the mundane again. Making yourself uncomfortable is how you grow. And growth is messy, and doesn’t always make a ton of sense while you’re in the middle of it.
I know for many, the idea that “comfort” can be “uncomfortable” may seem far fetched. Especially those of you who are quite content with the safety of your routine (and, kudos to you, I’m not one to judge anyone else’s lifestyle or choices here). But I look around at the world I’ve immersed myself into, a community that I absolutely love with all of my heart, and I think a claim that “we don’t know how not to be extreme” isn’t such a stretch. Everyone is seemingly always looking for the next big thing, the next opportunity to push their preconceived limits. We jump from one thing to the next, rarely letting our bodies – never mind our minds – rest. On one hand, I appreciate it. Life is too short to not put it all out there.
On the other hand, I’m learning there is a lot of peace in learning to just “be”.
I’m learning that there is just as much satisfaction in sitting still and listening to the birds and the wind blow through the trees, as there is barreling down a trail for 24 + hours straight. I’m learning it’s OK to not have a calendar full of race plans, or an answer when someone says “what are you currently training for?”. I’m learning that there is joy and magic in NOT having a plan at all, rather than constantly counting down the days between things I want to do.
Last weekend was the 2020 Frozen Hell Hole Hundred. I went, of course, as my husband and friends were racing. But for the first time in my last 6 visits to this trail, I was not racing. Or even running. I did, however, set out on the trail for a casual hour long mountain bike ride. As I peddled along, I couldn’t believe how many new things I noticed about the trail. Roughly calculated, I have covered this 19 mile trail loop approximately 15 times (around 250 miles) in a very short amount of time. Day, night, sunshine, rain, you name it. I thought I KNEW this trail like the back of my hand. Yet, there were all of these things, these sights, that I had never seen before.
Because all of this time, I’ve never bothered looking up.
Of course, that’s because I was trying not to trip as I ran across the root covered, ankle twisting, muddy trail. But I suppose you could take that metaphorically as well.
The point of today’s rambling: I cannot wait to get back to one of my favorite things on earth – running. More than you can even imagine. I am not meant to sit still. But I’m fairly certain that this break, for whatever reason, has changed my outlook on a lot of things. Namely, running (literally and figuratively) myself into the ground, chasing finish line after finish line, and consistently ignoring this awesome thing in life I’m slowly discovering:
Love what you do. Love it with ceaseless passion that cannot be extinguished. But don’t forget to occasionally look up.