This morning, I returned to running (I will use the word running, even though less kindly other people might use words like "slow jogging," "lumbering," "slogging," "shuffling"). It's been almost 2 months since I ran down the Broadwalk at the beach. Again, I wonder, why have I denied myself this pleasure?
Well, for the better part of December, I didn't run because I couldn't inhale without coughing. And then there was travelling and then there was my eye infection.
And then there was laziness.
I had perfect conditions for running this morning: a light breeze, 68 degrees, the moon setting to my west, the sunrise settling in to the east. I settled in and ran 4 miles fairly effortlessly--a run I did not deserve, to be sure.
I have returned to running before and not always with such lovely weather conditions. This summer I started running again after a multi-year pause. It was hot and humid, even before sunrise. I wasn't in the better shape I'm in today. And as I ran, I thought, why have I denied myself this pleasure?
It's a lesson I learn again and again, both in exercise and in other areas of my life (see this post about yoga, writing, and marriage, for example). I bake bread, and I think, why don't I do this more often? I return to writing short stories after a long absence, and I'm overwhelmed with joy to be doing it--and again, the question, why don't I write more fiction, if it brings me such joy? I phone or meet an old friend again, and I'm thrilled that we can pick up our friendship again as if there had been no absence.
I am glad that I can return, again and again, to the people and the activities I love. I am glad that I am not punished by having them taken away from me.
It's a good lesson to remember, as many of us return to regular life. Those of us who live on the academic calendar are likely starting classes this week or settling in to the classes we started last week. Those of us who spent December eating cookies for breakfast (but they were homemade!) must now return to vegetables. Those of us who haven't exercised in awhile must now limber up those muscles.
Here are two poems to inspire you to have faith in your muse, in your muscles, in your priorities, in the belief that it will all work out alright. The first appeared in Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature and the second in Emrys.
One Fast, One Slow
The muscles remember what the mind forgets.
The brain replays every decision, each move.
The muscles waste no time on useless regrets.
They keep an even speed, moving in the groove.
They do not lose a beat, always keeping the pace.
The muscles know only one way towards what they have to prove.
With the mind mired in time, the muscles move through space.
The body leaves the mind alone to second guessing.
The mind, unlike the body, knows there’s more than just one race.
The mind spends time wondering what is missing,
That abandoned job, the trip we never took,
The other people we could have been kissing.
The mind knows any decision is worth a second look,
Even choices made years ago.
The brain decides there’s no such thing as a closed book.
The muscles focus on their task, to strengthen and to grow,
The mind might say it does the same,
Two processes, one fast, one slow.
The Muse to Her Poet
You worry that I am some Ulysses,
headed off to distant lands the moment you turn
your back, easily seduced by goddesses,
and ever needful of new adventures.
You are the one who sets sail
for the distant island of your novel, sidetracked
from your true vocation by thoughts of the fruits
of fame, the warmth of characters
to put through their paces.
You are the one who often strands
herself on the dry, dusty shores
of academic writing, pursuing the metaphors
and symbols of other poets
while neglecting your own.
I am your muse, your Penelope, waiting
ever, always patient. I weave
even when you’re unaware, distracted
by those undeterred suitors of easier pleasures than mine.
I pluck out the threads that don’t match,
keep the tapestries safe,
keep my faith in your return.
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