a powerful place: running, faith, life lessons

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I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.  – Kurt Vonnegut

 

I’ve shared little snippets about my running injury over the last year or so, and even more about the upheaval to do with my eating disorder which came to the surface when I stopped running. My thinking about my body and my relationship to running was exceptionally anxious, fearful, obsessive, and controlling, and it took me a while to become aware, accept, and then work on that. At the same time, I feel less anxious and obsessive, and much more connected and active in my faith through running. This is a continuation of my processing, and I’ll share a summary at the end of this post:

 

Something changed one day. Or perhaps it was a gradual transition and one day it came into awareness. I was running in Alton Baker Park. It was mid-February and I was on the outer edge of Pre’s Trail and I had this thought: What if it all just doesn’t matter? What if all these things I’ve been worrying about and building up are not big deals? What if I set them down and walk away? What if this were my last run and tomorrow I go back to riding horses instead? Immediately, the response was there. It was a very noncommittal shoulder shrug saying, Sure, that would be fine. 

The manic part of my brain fired back, You’re thinking that because you’re in the middle of a long run, in your happy place. You won’t be so happy tomorrow when you’re not experiencing this. There was fear in that thought, the fear of the what-ifs related to my body and my desire to control it. Those fears have plagued me.

But over the next several weeks, I kept circling back to that shoulder shrug, that lets not give such a fuck attitude. And I think right there I set down a little of the load, the attachment to an outcome, and there has since been a little space between where I’m at in the moment and what I wish for the future with running.

I am a little less attached to it, and certainly less anxious. On days when my feet or legs or body hurts in ways that are unexplainable, I’m often able to set down the pain and feel it only in the moment, not worrying so much about whether it will be there in the next moment, in the next day, in the way of the things I want to accomplish out there. I’ve stopped printing my weekly training plan and some days I have no idea what the next day will bring, nor do I overly care so much. I used to know every detail of what the week ahead would hold. 

I really don’t know what led to the change in my relationship with running, but because it was important, I prayed about it. I prayed for well over a year, often desperately. In January and February of last year, when I was not running, I was at a low point. William tried to console me one evening, It’s just a little injury. Give it a couple of weeks and you’ll be back to normal. You’re fine. 

It’s not, though, I responded. This is major. This is going to take a very long time. I don’t know how but sometimes I just know things. I knew the ‘little’ injury no one could explain was not so little, that it went way beyond the physical, that it was going to change me. That I had a long climb down before I could start climbing back up. In my desperate conversations with Jesus, I asked him to make it obvious if the answer was no, if I needed to set down this running hobby. I asked him to slam the door shut in my face and please, oh please God, just take away my desire to run. Help me find other hobbies. Help me find balance that is healthy. Help me not trade one obsessive, addictive tendency for another, i.e. food for running and vice versa.

 

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He did not slam the door shut in my face. There was a crack, and I cautiously, fearfully tip-toed through it, all the while expecting it to still slam closed. Even so, I’d catch glimpses of affirmation, out of nowhere, often on days that were otherwise real downers. One came sometime in the fall. I was in the middle of a run, in pain, frustrated, and a little depressed about the situation. Even so, I was like an earthworm; I could feel the light at the end of the tunnel, even if I could not see it. That little gift of His affirmation was enough to keep me trudging upwards through the mud. 

At some point, months before that February run in ABP, I stopped praying about running or physical healing without even realizing it, and my conversations with Jesus were more friend-like, not so tied to an outcome, and more in line with asking for direction with the big-picture of life, and not some non-essential hobby.

It’s often hard to say where one story ends and another begins. I don’t know when I began identifying myself as perpetually injured, or not good enough, or not worthy enough to go after goals. Or when I decided to set down that story and begin another one. It probably doesn’t matter. And I can’t really explain it, not even to myself. Why running? And why share about it? Why write and have an often too-personal blog? During the past year of prayer, several things became clear: It’s not really about me and there’s a purpose here that I don’t get to understand right now. I have some unsettled, fuzzy, too-big-to-understand running dreams that won’t go away, no matter how much I try to make them. The door keeps quietly opening, little by little, and though I’m afraid to try, I hear Him asking me to keep walking with faith, a few steps each day.

Like that day in Alton Baker Park, more recently on another run that wasn’t going all that well, I had another flash of realization. I realized I feel in a very powerful place these days, truly as if there is an energy in my physical and spiritual self not entirely of me, as this unexplainable journey I’ve been on, with all its painful, difficult, individual traumas is part of the transition upwards, out of the mindset of I can’t, I don’t get to, and I’m not good enough that I’ve been carrying around during this lifetime. In that moment, the journey itself sparkled beautifully before me, with all its ups and downs. I realized then I want to explore a concept I haven’t explored in a while: What if I can? What if I get to? What if I am good enough? What if I stop worrying about whether the door will slam in my face and instead concentrate on finding out what’s on the other side of the door? 

 

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I want to find out what I’m capable of; I want to find out what He is capable of doing in me. I want to do His work. I want to walk to the edge where He leads and see what He has for me to see. Right now, for whatever reason, running is part of that. And even though I feel in a powerful place, there are still doubts. There are days and little moments where I take a step back, look at the bigger picture of how I currently feel physically and what quiet affirmations I feel in my heart, and tell myself, lady, you’re either really fucking crazy, or on to something. I prefer to believe I’m on to something.

 

Reflection: I want to make clear this is my journey, and I’ve had a whole slew of professionals advise me. I do not recommend running through an injury unless under the supervision of a professional. I also have explored, in depth, my relationship between running, my eating disorder, and other behaviors that allow me to gain control. Running has always been intricately linked to my eating disorder, as I began running shortly before I began controlling food, and it likely served as a catalyst for the ensuing food and body image problems to surface. With that being said, those problems were there long before I began running regularly, and running has become one of the ways I deeply connect with my faith, with where I learn about myself, with how I finally came to love and feel comfortable in my body, and where I let go of other life problems. Two great articles I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks include Gena’s reflection on How it Feels to Leave an Eating Disorder Behind and When Exercise Becomes an Addiction. I believe there is a place for endurance and/or competitive sports in the recovery process, and really enjoyed Julia’s podcast interview with Rich Roll on How to Take Ownership of Your Evolution, especially his thoughts on how athletic endeavors can fit into the recovery journey.

 

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