Friday, September 25, 2009

The Birthday Blog

I'll apologize ahead of time for being distracted while writing by Pandora playing the greatest hits of my junior and senior hits (see?) years in high school. How does it do that?

So, yup, another year gone by. I'm perversely pleased to inhabit a year that's divisible by 11, but haunted for probably the first time by the perception that I might really be getting old. Heck.

An infinitely cuter period of my life.

 I do my best to over-celebrate my birthday, extending the events (and presents!) throughout at least the month of September, and if I feel like it, all the way through the 25th of the next month.  (Forgot to send me a present?  There's still time!  No hard feelings!)  I like to think of this as a magnanimous gesture to folks like my dad who has yet to call me, on my birthday, since I moved out of the house. 

Anyway, and slightly more seriously...  While I might be feeling a bit more sympathetic these days to the folks who cringe at the mention of an(other) upcoming birthday, I like to think of the day (or month, in my case) as a more personalized occasion than say New Year's to contemplate this particular moment of my little chunk of existence.  More specifically, what do I want for myself, for my birthday this year?  Despite my penchant for presents, that's not what this is about. 

This year I made a list while sunning myself at Breitenbush:
  • To be more honest with others. And with myself, when I can see it.
  • To expend less energy in tension.
  • To be kinder still to my body, and better anticipate its needs.
  • To allow myself to enjoy and experience a moment, instead of perpetually imagining how it could be better.
  • To recognize the value of spending time by myself, and find ways to be so.
  • To invest in things I've always wanted to do, or envisioned for myself.
So much of my time in Bend has been a gradual unwinding, a taffy-like untangling of my high-strungness.  Only now, 8 months in, can I realize and release some of the poverty mentality that led me to living the above's opposites.  I hope you all are smarter/more enlightened than I.  (If not, take heart.  It only took me 33 years to get to this place.  A mere third of a lifetime!)

In any case, I'm kind of excited for myself.  Writing these things down makes it my job to do them, and has often worked in the past.  It's rewarding to plot my own evolution.  Right now, I'm researching writing workshops and programs.  Imagine!  Something I've wanted to do since I was 8!

Happy Evolution to Me!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The next step.

Perhaps there's something to be said for unbridled idleness.

I went down to the park to float our little section of the Deschutes and had a wonderful experience of empty-headedness. I think I tend to run from such a thing, into pseudo-productivity on the web or elsewhere, because I feel guilty or lazy, or because I think I should be wisely using the time/space continuum of my mental real estate.

Today I didn't direct my little craft, but let the swift riffles and eddies take me where they would. I saw a water snake resting on the river bed, and noted which of the many pools is the deepest. I drifted back upstream in an eddy and became a captive of river-time; then I was amused that the tiniest of whorls set me free again.

It was when I was becalmed on a boulder that I thought - this is the next step of my healing. Allowing myself a lack of movement, mental quiet, in which to become observant and wholly present to the present of the moment.

I'd been looking outside myself for an answer to the congestion in my head. Somehow, though, it makes sense that mental nourishment would come in the form of undirected thoughts, and the occasional quiet space between them.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Trail running

Suffice it to say that we had a lot of visitors, and I became obsessed with school. Oh yes, and my computer crashed. Moving on...

Jim and I recently decided to start trail running. I'd been inspired by a poster advertising a women's trail running group, which I of course saw about 2 months after the group started running together. Given that I'm nowhere near my normal fitness level, and that we've moved to a place where altitude is indeed a factor in oxygen-suckage while working out, I wasn't willing to drop in on this group and ask them to wait for my slow ass.

I wanted to bolster my cardio fitness in a way only running (and rowing) can, and the 'trail' part? Ah yes. Someone's fasciitis-prone feet appreciate not running on pavement. Besides, it's prettier.

We took ourselves down to Shevlin Park and (accidentally) ran such a long portion of the loop trail that it necessitated our walking part of the way back. What's this? Walking in a post about trail running, in Bend?!

Here's the thing. My fitness Weltanschauung has shifted greatly in the months since we've moved here. I was so aware of this the other morning, my feet and breathing on cruise control, listening to birdies and the creek below, and wait, what's that! A little bit of endorphin? Yum! We weren't out to beat anyone, achieve a particular heart rate, or push through the wall, man! We carried water, and when we got tired, we walked. I wasn't in desperate need of a nap the moment we finished. That little endorphin rush fueled the rest of my day, and I was perfectly pleased with myself.

Somewhere along the line it's occured to me that working out is about building up, not breaking down. (I'll leave the speculation about how I could have ever come to the opposite conclusion to another post.) During that run, I enjoyed the act of running. I felt strong. I can't wait to do it again.

Perhaps the magic is in this - we were mindful about our run. We didn't run too fast or too long, we chatted throughout, we adjusted our pace as necessary, we took care of our bodies in the aftermath with a good stretch and breakfast. We were fully within our bodies as we ran, and afterward.

Recently our local tai chi instructor provided some background on one of the many purposes of tai chi. Apparently the ancients considered that each of us has a given amount of chi, and that most anything we do reduces our chi. The focused, graceful movements of body and energy while practicing are intended to rebuild chi.

I don't know how those fellows would feel about running as a means of rebuilding chi, but I hope that they'd agree that any activity undertaken with a modicum of mindfulness can be nourishing, even if it requires an expenditure of sweat.

Perhaps many of our problems, personally and otherwise, arise from a failure to approach our lives mindfully. We run too fast, carry inadequate water, flail headlong into the bitterbrush...

I'm going to keep trail running as long as the weather holds out, increasing time and pace as it feels right. And perhaps, from this new vantage point, I'll again let the lessons of my workouts inform my life.