November 22, 2011 § 23 Comments
For weeks I have been trying to write just one single post. I have filled up WordPress windows, Word documents, and notebook pages and still have nothing to show for it. A few days ago I threw in the towel and focused on other things. Right now, in addition to working towards my 200 hour yoga teaching certification, I am taking Rolf Gates’ online “The Chakras as Life’s Roadmap,” which has opened my life up in ways I didn’t believe an online course could do.
Last week, we were talking about the heart chakra and since then, I have been aware of the ways I refuse to commit to both myself and my spiritual practice. I have integrity, but only until my breaking point. I love but only until it becomes too difficult. I give, but only to people I believe are deserving. I have committed to yoga, but only up to my edge and no further.
My response to this observation was to exercise more. Last week I ran more miles than I have in months. I went to the yoga studio four times, including to a hot power yoga class, which I swear would have turned Baron Baptiste himself into a whimpering puddle of sweat. On Saturday, when I was so sore I could barely walk, I realized that this body of mine, the one I have vilified for so long is truly my greatest teacher. Maybe that is why this chakra class is so powerful for me because the physical realm is the world in which I learn the most. Make me sprint for five kilometers and I will finally tell you what is bothering me. Tell me to hold Warrior II for two minutes and the bricks I am mortaring around my heart will start to crumble. Push me to my physical edge and I will start to understand my emotional edge as well.
On Sunday morning, my quads were still as shaky and unresponsive as they were the previous afternoon and I was seriously reconsidering the trail race I had signed up for that morning. A few months ago I signed up for the entire five-mile Backyard Burn Trail Running series because they are fun and I love running in the woods, but on Sunday, the prospect of dodging tree roots and sloshing through streams sounded about as pleasant as another power yoga class. “Just do it for fun,” Scott told me and I glared at him.
I ended up going, mostly because Scott told me to. I drove the thirty minutes out to Fountainhead Regional Park although I wasn’t sure why. I was too tired to push myself, to do my best, and I didn’t know any other way to approach a race. Why show up if I wasn’t going to show up fully? Why race if I didn’t want to win?
I started in the back of the pack this time, unlike the day in October when I sprained my ankle. When the air horn blew announcing the start of the race, I was surrounded by men in bandanas who looked like former football players and women who carried small bottles of Evian and asked if it was okay to walk part of the course. As we headed up the road towards the woods, we began to fall in line in preparation for the trail. As the road turned into a rocky, root-studded single track, we were running single file, in silence. I listened to the sound of our feet thudding against the ground, and a feeling came over me, so strongly that I wanted to lie down and rest my head against a bed of moss. Instead, I struggled for a word that would describe what this was, this endless line of bodies heading into the woods for no other reason than because they said they would.
No, I thought, pushing that word away. This snaking line of runners wearing breathable fabrics was nothing like the processions of my youth in St. Columba Church. This colorful parade moving toward the finish line was nothing like the solemn walk to the alter to receive a stale wafer. And yet, what were we doing if not moving toward something sacred? What was this if not an agreement to meet somewhere together and pray? I haven’t been to Mass in years, but a vague passage from the Gospel of Matthew popped into my head: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
The race was put on my Ex2, a fabulous group of people, who had even come out the day before the race to blow the leaves from the single-track trail so we wouldn’t kill ourselves on the roots or the precipitously steep downhills that seemed to be made solely of rock and moss. As I ran and listened to our breathing and our footfalls, I noticed another, occasional sound of someone swishing through the leaves on the side of the trail.
Swish, swish, swish.
“On your left.”
“Go for it.”
What I began to notice was that the swishings were never isolated. Someone would pass someone and almost immediately after, someone else would enter the leaves. Then another. A runner about five people ahead of me passed someone and I felt the need to pass the person ahead of me.
Swish, swish, swish.
“Passing on the right.”
Instead of being competitive, it was lovely. Here, we were saying to each other, I’ll take over for a while. It was so small this sound, this decision to leave the trail and enter into something new, but it was powerful. It inspired people. As I ran, Big Little Wolf’s recent post popped into my head. Her post from the day before inspired me with her adament support of Ashley Quiñones, who, at 31 needs a new kidney in order to live for another decade. Medicaid – Ashley’s only insurer – will not fund the necessary surgery, which is estimated at $250,000.
“I think most people have good hearts,” Big Little Wolf said in an email to me, which I read just an hour before the race. “The world is just so damned overwhelming, we don’t know what to do, how to help. So – one at a time, right?”
One at a time we jump into the leaves. One at a time we run through the woods. One at a time, we cross the finish line.
Right before the finish line, as I came out of the woods, I saw Scott and the boys, sitting in the grass and I was so thrilled to see my tribe that I felt lit up inside. Oliver shyly clapped and Gus was smacking his hands together so hard I worried about his little palms. Scott took a photo of me (see above) and while I usually hate every picture taken of myself, I kept this one because I remember what that was like, to come out of the woods and see this overwhelming, overflowing, heartbreaking love.
Most times, right after the race I take off before the awards ceremony because I have better things to do than stand around and see if I won a pint glass. Scott has won so many in his mountain bike races that they keep falling out of our cabinets. On Sunday though, after Scott told me I won my age group, the boys wanted to stay and go up to the podium with me. Right after that, the race director announced that they were going to give away iPODs and two, hundred dollar bills. Scott, who knows I never win anything, got the boys ready for a mountain bike ride in the woods, and I think I surprised him my telling him I was staying for the giveaway. “I’m feeling lucky,” I told him. “And I never feel lucky.”
Ten minutes later, when my name was called out as the winner of a crisp, new, hundred-dollar bill, I was not surprised. “You’re so calm,” Jim, the race director told me. “You’re so quiet.”
Instead of telling Jim I knew I was going to win, I smiled and said thank you and took the money.
Big Little Wolf asked us to come up with a five-year plan in honor of Ashley but I don’t do five-year plans anymore. I used to live according to plans and training schedules and goals, but then I married someone in the Navy and started moving every eighteen months to two years. I learned to let go of plans. My five-year plan is for my family to still be alive and healthy and as happy as we are now. My five-year plan is to not to plan but to live in the moment.
So, instead of a plan, Ashley can have my $100 dollar bill. For why else did I win it, me, who has never even won a game of bingo?
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
Someone up there is rooting for Ashley. Big Little Wolf swished through the leaves and then Kristen and then Aidan and Lindsey.To learn more about Ashley, click here.
Swish, swish, swish. Passing on the right.
Please take a moment and visit Big Little Wolf to learn about the important work she is doing to help raise money for a life-saving kidney transplant for Ashley Quiñones, aka the Kidney Cutie, aka the sister of Kelly Miller of The Miller Mix.
I love this post. I love that you knew you were going to win.I love letting go of the five year plan, too. Thanks for sharing your words with us, Pamela, and for taking us all on that beautiful run through the woods.
Honestly? You are amazing. I’ll wait much longer than a month for this kind of beauty. Signed up to take Rolf’s class in January! Can’t wait. xo
Oh, how I love this, Pamela. Thank you for these inspiring words. So honored to be swishing through the leaves with you, my friend. xo
Your post really moved me this morning. Thank you for the reminder that communion is everywhere, if we just look for it.
I am bawling over here, down the road from you, my friend. And cheering you on, always.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. ”
Yes. And we gather here, running through all that life brings. Together.
That is the finest form of communion I know.
Thank you. And love, so much love, to you.
beautiful. breathtaking. perfect. thanks for showing up. and sharing your experience.
Tears streaming down my face right now. You are such a profound writer. Thank you for giving this to us.
Oh woman. I just love this piece. It’s sacred. My heart swelled at the blessed in your ordinary experience. And the way you captured it is exquisite, as always. Much love to you. xoxo
This is gorgeous, Pamela. (You’ve embarrassed me terribly, but it’s nonetheless gorgeous.)
Thank you again – so much – for sharing your beautiful words and your generosity.
I love this imagery of people, spirits, all striving together for one goal with such grace. It sounds lovely.
(And thank you for your generous donation. It means so much to us.)
I love your words and can relate with so much of what you say. I used to race but now I run and I have to say I am really like this approach better at the moment. Running truly is a religious experience.
you, my friend, are a special soul on this earth. you write in a way that breaks you open. and its like a geode, filled with sparkling amethyst.
i thought of you quite strongly this morning, and now i know why. thank you for these words, they make me feel less alone on the journey.
You are connected to a creative and loving force, your heart chakra the forest itself, the roots our densely interwoven connections. I’m feeling Ashley’s luck rising to meet her, and our own good fortune to be connected to such a lovely community in the service of love and healing.
Much Gratitude to you, and all of this lovely community.
How beautiful! There is nothing more I can add here. This post reminded me of music. Music in our hearts and music of life.
The photo speaks volumes. Who has such a smile on their face after so much running? It’s grace.
What a gift you have given “us” – a testimony of Thanksgiving for all our Blessings. Thank you for sharing your experience.
What a Gift you are to all of “us” in this time of Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing the Blessing that LIFE and LIVING is – Yes, we are all connected and I got connected to all those you were sharing the experience with.
Sometimes we need to try harder. And sometimes we need to stop trying and just let it unfold…the thing is, we can’t tell which will work- so we end up doing both. Writing like that is worth the wait… and Communion- you captured it beautifully. Now I’m going out to jog through the frosty forest. Thanks for the inspiration!
“Push me to my physical edge and I will start to understand my emotional edge as well.” Amen, sister.
What a beautiful post, in every possible way. Thank you.
I love your five year plan. Truly. I need to remember how exquisite it is to just learn to live in the moment. Not always easy to do. Like you, I do it until it gets hard, and then I get swept up in life. How is it that it’s easier to do that?
I hope you are well! Know that I think of you often
Man, this was gorgeous!
This whole story was riveting and just beautiful. I know I am going to win, too–when I get to commune by running with you on Saturday.
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