We dodge the questions like two school kids playing tag, chirping “We’ll do it when we’re ready.”
“We’re saving up.”
“We’re not in a rush.”
But really, we’re just plain scared.
We see what happens when there’s nothing left to run from.
Sheltered behind my cubicle walls, I heard her voice above the typing of keys, the slurping of coffee, the early morning chatter, as she agonized over a breakfast spread set up just outside a neighboring conference room.
As others came by, grabbing scones or muffins or fruit cups or coffee–definitely coffee–she chatted them up. Hello’s and how-are-you’s and an occasional introduction.
But those little chats were just circles; they never ventured far from where they started. And they always came back to the bagels.
“I’m thinking about having a bagel,” she’d declare to no one in particular. “I ran this morning, so I think it’s okay.”
Minutes would go by. Others would come to stake their breakfast claim and again, she’d pipe up: “I already went for a run today, so I can probably have a bagel and it’ll be okay” or “Six miles is enough to cancel out a bagel, right?”
Part of me mentally smacked myself in the forehead each time I heard her seeking out justification for her food choice. We’re talking about a bagel for heaven’s sake, not deep-fried challah french toast. Not to mention it wasn’t even nine ‘o clock in the morning and the woman had already run half a half marathon.
Part of me wanted to stand up, peer my head over the wall of my cube and say, “YOU’RE GONNA BE FINE. EAT THE DAMN BAGEL ALREADY!!”
But part of me was all too familiar with the circuitous journey she was on. A roundabout road toward health and happiness and self-contentment with the occasional toll of sanity that must be paid along the way.
I’ve argued myself in and out of many a morning run, a tiramisu, and yes, even a fresh-baked bagel. I’ve measured out two tablespoons of hummus to accompany my carrots, just to make sure I didn’t accidentally overdo it. I’ve brought my own packed lunches to untrustworthy dinner parties, so I wouldn’t be trapped without a healthy option. I’ve sopped the grease off my pizza with a paper towel. I’ve had my fair share of low fat and no fat and low sugar and no taste.
I’ve fallen victim to the endless pinwheel of longing, indulging, guilt, and regret, and I’m acutely familiar with the same empty hole that waits in the middle . . . whether you eat the bagel, or you don’t.
Somehow, I found my way out of the loop. I’ve stopped running from bagels or running for bagels. I’ve stopped counting calories and fat grams and minutes until lunch.
But I still recognized the dread and doubt and indecision in that woman’s voice. And I hated every moment for her.
I’m not sure if she decided to eat that bagel or not. And really, it doesn’t matter. It would have plagued her either way.
I do hope one day she sees the justification she needs can’t come from her coworkers at the breakfast buffet. Or her husband. Or her children. Or parents. Or friends.
I hope one day she stops running in circles and makes peace with herself. And all the bagels she has yet to consume.
Photo credit: Pretzel Bread Bagels via Miss Munchie on Etsy
I used to run. Five or more times a week. Four to eight miles each day. Life used to happen while I was running.
I would drive out to Folly Beach. Park in an open lot near 2nd or 3rd streets and walk out through the dunes toward the water. I’d usually go right first, toward the pier. I’d run until the beach ended. Until there was nowhere left to go.
I’d stop there and just take in the view. All sea oats and foamy peaks and glittering water and nothing more. I’d give myself a minute, maybe two. Sometimes I’d even stop my iPod and just listen.
Then I’d turn around and go back. On good days I’d even go past where I parked, toward the water tower, picking up some extra miles along the way.
The last quarter-mile or so I’d gradually increase my pace until I was all out sprinting as I crossed a mental finish line. Hearing the voice of my old track coach in my head with every stride, “Finish strong, Shelnutt!”
On the way home, I’d ride with my windows down the whole way, no matter what temperature it was outside. It was the runner’s high. An incredible feeling. A euphoria. An overwhelming state of absolute satisfaction.
Somehow, the habit that I loved so much didn’t hold. I lost it along the way. I moved away from the beach. Tried running downtown, in gyms, in parking lots. I tried trails and bridges. I found partners and lost partners. I bought new sneakers. Ran 5k’s and 10k’s and half marathons. But I never could get back to that place.
Where running wasn’t exercise. It was just my time. A gift. It was a moment of therapy. A moment of glory. A moment of peace and pain at the same time. A moment where I just loved myself. I was strong and nothing else mattered.
Today, I haven’t run in months. My running shoes are old and filthy. My playlist, out of date. My sports bras and shorts hardly fit anymore. But today, I’m lacing up again. Today, I’m going to run. And again tomorrow. And again the day after that.
So hopefully, one day weeks or months from now, I’ll be able to find that place. And life will once again happen while I’m running.
“No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.”
I ran a half marathon in October (“run” being a strong word, really). The 13.1 miles wove in and out of an amusement park at night.
For the most part, we trucked along stretches of nothingness: trees and paved road and darkness and nothing more.
And then there were these short bursts of life. With lights and rides and attractions and animals. Blasts of color, excitement, animation.
As soon as you’d get to those brief moments of glitter, you’d immediately pick up the pace. Taking longer strides. Running faster. The sheer thrill of it all propelling you through. Without even thinking.
During that race I remember wondering, why don’t we slow down when we get to the good part? Why don’t we ease our pace and pause and breathe it all in?
It’s the same race we run each day. Sprinting through the best parts when we should’ve slowed down. When we should’ve been paying attention.