I guess I never really intended to have a hiatus from my blog since the middle of January, yet here we are. If I am being perfectly honest, life issues have gotten in the way in terms of transitioning from one role to another at work, and some personal struggles. So, here I am emerging with new transcript just in time to usher in Spring, in what I hope to soon be a post COVID world. Last year with the world shut down, my annual spring trip to Florida was cancelled just like everything else. No trips to the Gulf of Mexico like I had grown accustomed to on an annual basis for the 21 years that preceded. So, admittedly last week could not have come fast enough. It was time to go back. For the weeks leading in I dreamt of warm breezes and sun on my face and salt in the air. The ocean is where I always find my center and hit reset to come back to a life that generally is a bit too crazy most of the time.
Yes, I had all the breezes and sun, but what I was not prepared for after a two year absence from here, was the grief. The grief of visiting a place I last saw my mom alive. I would look at the bench where we had one of our last talks, or the section of beach where she told me all about her latest whacked out political theories, oh yes, she was chock full of those, which was always amusing. I even sat at the restaurant where we had one of our last meals together. What was meant to be comforting wasn't in that her death had been sudden, the circumstances unkind and this trip the grief turned itself into an almost unbearable fire of a monster with it's own fury. Maybe not being in the ocean last year wasn't so bad.
Add this to the little matter of my running as of late. This has been quite lack luster. Paces are slow which was a mystery to me when I can tear it up on the stepper with 8 minute miles for 9 miles. What the actual hell? Why can't I run any faster? Clearly my body can. What's wrong with my head? I came to understand it's simple really. It's years of gym class bullying during the dreaded mile runs towards my former morbidly obese childhood self. Running precipitates heavy breathing, which precipitates anxiety, because as a child I would wheeze for days after. Slowing down meant name calling and heckling as I was always the last one done. So a mild elevation in heartrate during a jog shuts my body down. Well, that's super annoying. Seven years into my fitness journey, fourteen Spartan Races and two Savages later, this still exists.
As an overthinker from way back, I have been ruminating on all of this for some time. Then, a simple children's movie would provide the answers. Friday night, in a rare turn of events, I had opportunity to have movie night with my 10 and 11 year old. They piled in my bed and we watched,"Soul." A line in that movie has stuck with me for days.
"One fish says to another,'I'm looking for the ocean.'
The other responds,'you're in it.'
'No, this is the water. I'm looking for the OCEAN.'"
Looking back, that's pretty spot on looking at my past running. I have always treaded along the proverbial feeder river hoping to one day be launched into the glorious running ocean where the times are fast and the high is amazing. Yet somehow, it always just seemed like plain old water. Today, armed with new mental sports psychology techniques to overcome previous demons, I set out on a beautiful trail. The sun was bright, the temps cool and my running more comfortable with my new technique. As I finished, in usual fashion, the musical timing of my play list would hit just right:
"We can live beside the ocean,
Leave the fire behind,
Swim out past the breakers,
Watch the world die."
- Everclear,"Santa Monica"
In that moment I was running beside the fresh waters of the Mohawk tasting the salt in my mouth from the sweat of a great run. I began to realize I truly was not in the feeder rivers, but in the ocean and probably always have been. Nope, my times were not any faster, nope I wasn't winning any medals, but I was 51 years old running nearly six miles without a ton of anxiety, thanks to some effective sports psychology, possibly for the first time in my life, and calling it "Sunday." That's no measly river, that's full on great white infested badass ocean territory. Oh yes, Everclear, I was way out past the breakers drowning my childhood bullies and extinguishing the grief fire all on a simple Sunday afternoon.
This whole experience has me wondering how often we let the trials of life keep us within the imaginary confines of small waters, not realizing we were never in the small waters at all. We have always had the opportunity to swim with the sharks in the badass ocean. We forget that no matter where we came from, what we have been through, there is always opportunity to leave the fire behind and be the best versions of ourselves. All it really takes is the right tools, being surrounded by the right people and the notion that we are always more wildly capable than we give ourselves credit for. I can pretty much guarantee I will never set any land speed records, and that doesn't matter because I now know I can run better and happier. As for the actual ocean vacation I took last week? It's time to pull out the photos, enjoy the happier memories of my mom in that spot and remember that as always, the best is yet to come.