I am truly ashamed to admit that just days after declaring to the world (or at least the 35ish people that might read my blog) that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I wasted much of it totally preoccupied with thoughts of those I miss in my life instead being properly grateful for the loved ones still in it. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was spiritually damaging. And even worse, I knew it was completely fucking pointless. But I just could not pull my mind out of the hole it seemed so determined to crawl into. And I hated myself for it.
I had the best intentions. I was up and out early that morning to meet a friend for some pre-feast rounds of disc golf (Shut up. It’s fun and it’s free) and to enjoy my favorite holiday morning at my favorite local park. It was a gorgeous day with fantastic weather. The sun was out with temperatures in the low 50′s. The trees were so many shades of autumn. The water was calm as it slowly flowed out with the north wind pushing a slow parade of sailboats south for the season. Hell, there were even a few squirrels still scurrying around.
I knew why. My mind was a complete mess, and I couldn’t concentrate on a damn thing. But I figured playing like shit is still better than not playing. And anything is better than sitting around doing nothing on such a pretty day. Now, if I could only pull my head out of the ground and focus, maybe I could salvage the second round.
Nope. Couldn’t do it.
After two rounds, my friend left for his turkey-day festivities and I had a little time to kill before mine, so I wandered around the park to try and snap a new background photo for my ever more neglected facebook page.
I really just wanted to be alone, soak up more of the sun’s vitamin D, and see if I could get my head straight. It was Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving. Why couldn’t I be grateful without lamenting things totally out of my control? Sometimes stuff just happens. Life doesn’t always have to make sense. And to try to make sense of it is sometimes a huge waste of time.
Jerry Springer has been on TV for over 20 years. That doesn’t make any sense at all, but I don’t waste a second of my life trying to figure that out (Even though I am extremely embarrassed as an American that my country produces such an ignorant product for the whole world to see. Ugh).
Sometimes I’m just a glutton for punishment. And on Thanksgiving morn, I apparently wanted to waste my day dwelling on what I didn’t have instead of all that I do have. I was really starting to irk the shit out of myself. And part of me wished that I had skipped the disc golf rounds and just gone for a really long morning run instead. But it was too late for that.
Playing with my camera was a good plan B though. It had been a really long time and it was nice to make myself look at such a beautiful park through that more focused eye and really appreciate just how lucky I am to be able to enjoy it as much as I do. And after taking a bunch of pictures from every corner of the place and feeling a little bit more holiday ready, it was time to go meet everyone for lunch.
Other obligations meant that many members of my extended family were not able to make the trip this year, so we were going to scale it back a bit. Basically we just didn’t make a ham in addition to the turkey, but there was no shortage of food AT ALL. And because no one should ever spend Thanksgiving Day alone, my cousin invited an elderly widow from down the street to join us, as she had no more family in the area.
I had never met the woman, but watching her struggle unsuccessfully to stand and walk up the front steps before reluctantly letting us carry her wheelchair (with her sitting in it) up onto the porch and into the house helped me begin to regain proper perspective, and realize just how fortunate I am. And while at the dinner table, listening to her describe her late husband and just how much she missed him during the holidays solidified it (albeit only temporarily). She had truly lost someone forever. She was literally alone. And the holidays were a stark reminder.
(I’ll forgive the fact that she also called my whole family crazy at least once. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean you just get to blurt it out at the table. She was a pistol for sure.)
I was being so incredibly selfish. I’m healthy. I have a wonderful family that loves me. I have an amazing family of friends that love me. I am only alone when I choose to be, which is admittedly often. And only have to feel alone when I allow myself to be distracted from these facts.
None of this is news to me. And that is why I was so completely frustrated with my inability to shake myself from the dark place I seemed so determined to go earlier in the day.
The holiday season is widely recognized for increased bouts of depression. It’s supposed to be a joyous time to be shared with loved ones. But it is difficult, if not impossible, not to miss those loved ones that we’re no longer able to share these times with. Whether someone has passed on or moved on, the result is the same. You’re left with only memories. You can either celebrate the good times and be grateful for the time you were able to share, or you can selfishly wonder why you have been forced to adjust to such unpleasant changes. Memories are a blessing and a curse in this way. If we couldn’t remember all of the great times shared in life, we would never have to miss anyone. But why would anyone want to forget happy times? They can be so hard to come by.
I spent my entire Thanksgiving Day battling back and forth with myself and really hadn’t settled the issue when I got up Friday morning and left for work. When my mind wants to be in a bad mood, it can be stubborn son of a bitch. But at least I had a plan to win this one.
After an incredibly frustrating day, I left work, raced home, changed clothes and stepped out into the unseasonably warm late afternoon sun for a much needed session of run-therapy. I hadn’t run since Tuesday and I could not have needed it more. I’m actually starting to worry a little about how important it seems to have become to my mental health. I’m half kidding. But only half. If I ever suffer some kind of injury that prevents me from being able to run, then I will truly start to worry. Cross your fingers.
It was fantastic. Five miles later, I felt totally renewed. Before I run, all of the stress and frustration I create for myself can build up inside of me and poison everything I see and every thought I have. After a run, all of that self inflicted stress has been pushed out through my pores and is now just weighing down my t-shirt instead. That weight stays with the shirt when I take it off, and gets rinsed away in the washing machine.
Yep. Those dark spots on my shirt aren’t sweat stains. They’re stress stains. And they wash right out. And today, the 24th day of November, just two days after trying to ruin my own favorite holiday, I’m very thankful for that truth…It washes right out.
RUNNING UPDATE again.
Yesterday’s run was great. It was my longest single run to date and my body felt great afterwards. Calves were a little tight but everything else felt loose. And my energy was off the charts, which lead to a pretty nice post-run workout.
I felt like I regulated my pace much more evenly than I have been. I maintained a continuous run for over two miles, took very few and very short walking breaks, and averaged about a nine minute mile overall. That’s good for me. I’m a newbie.
I’ve got my first 5K in two weeks and I’m getting pretty comfortable with my initial goal of finishing in less than 30 minutes. That should be more than attainable now, but I don’t want to readjust my goal. I’ll just run it and use whatever time I finish as my benchmark for future races.
For the last two months, I’ve been recording very basic information about my runs on a calendar, but I’m starting a run journal this week to allow me to keep better records of my progress (time of day, weather, miles, times, aches, pains, etc.). I’ve also been considering buying a GPS watch to track my runs and times and I would LOVE any suggestions. I’ve been researching them for a week and it’s a pretty crazy market.
I’m still working on my music playlist for my upcoming runs, but I listened to This Will Destroy You’s “Young Mountain” EP on my run yesterday, and it was kind of perfect. The instrumental songs are kind of quiet and moody but all with a nice layering of sounds. And a few tracks build up nicely into pretty driving crescendo type endings. It was a great record to run to. I could push it to the back of my mind when I needed to concentrate on setting my pace and form, but once I was on rhythm I could just zone out and listen to it while I ran. I like that.
No matter how my playlists works out, I’m pretty sure that this will be the last song on it. If I can pace myself correctly, it should be rocking out just as I approach the finish. We’ll see. Enjoy.