Close your eyes, people. Picture this with me. Okay, no. Don’t close your eyes. That’s going to make it hard to read. Hmm. Let’s try something else.
Take a deep breath and think of a running trail. Surrounding it are beautiful trees, painted with fall leaves. The air is crisp but not so much your lungs burn. Your favorite running music is on. It’s go time. Your feet hit the trail and you’re off.
You look around at the scenery, beats pounding blissfully in your earphones. Your breath has found rhythm and you start to find your pace. You keep looking at the beauty the trees around you possess and you find yourself just taking the run step by step, breath by breath. You are present. You are in your zone.
The trail starts to get rough, bringing your attention down to the ground in front of you. You right foot strikes, then your left. As your right approaches the ground in front of it, you notice something in its way. A snake. You gasp, jump off to the side, and stop your run as the frightened (and gross) creature slithers back into the brush.
You catch your breath because you’re a bit shaken, because you’re like me and you hate snakes and even the sight of them makes you panic. Again you’re like me, so you contemplate just throwing in the towel and turning right back around. Oh, but some little snake isn’t going to keep you from your goals, right? Nope, not today. You decide to forge on despite the nasty critter that viciously attacked you. (Shh, this is my analogy).
Slowly but surely, you start to regain your rhythm. Right, left, right, left. You continue down the path but this time is different. You’re running more in the middle of the path. Your eyes are no longer drifting around to the scenery. Instead, your eyes are glued to the ground. Yeah, never again will a snake surprise you!
Oh, but what are you missing by keeping your eyes on the ground? What is passing you by as you become hyper-alert to the potential of a snake? The beauty around you is passing and you haven’t the slightest clue. You don’t know what’s missing because you’re so focused on the last thing that scared you and ensuring it doesn’t happen again. What about the things that captivated you before? The trees? The air? The feeling of the earth beneath your feet? You’ve let a small snake take away the joy of your run. It took you out of your present moment and sent you right into the “what if”. What if there’s another snake? You’re no longer enjoying your run. You’re now wishing your run was over so you can be where the snakes aren’t. Isn’t it funny how you never once thought about the potential of a snake until you were faced with it? It didn’t even cross your mind until it startled you. Ah, yes, my analogy is coming together seamlessly.
Before I continue, I know what some of you may be saying. But I don’t ever enjoy running, with or without snakes. Snakes don’t scare me. I wouldn’t be affected by that. Well not all of us are fearless, okay? My blog, my fears.
Back to our regularly scheduled word vomit. We’re all running through life. At some point in life, we experienced our first heartbreak. Remember that one? It was the one that shook you. It took your breath away and made you question, well, everything. Heartbreak expands so far outside of the realm of romance. Heartbreak is found in the loss of a loved one, the denial of the job you wanted, the longing for something you’ve never had. Heartbreak is a snake, man. Disappointment, grief, hurt of any kind are all snakes.
So what do we do? We wait for the next hurt. After Mom died, every phone call from a family member was expected to be that phone call. After my relationship ended last year, any male I encountered was going to be another one that would hurt me. After this recent relationship ended, it reaffirmed everything I had thought. That’s the thing. We may take our eyes off the path and start looking around in dreamland again, only to be surprised by another snake. Isn’t that the worst? You know what I think after there’s a hurt? This is why I don’t do this. Had I just kept my eyes down and kept my heart to myself this wouldn’t have happened.
Sure, that’s not wrong. But that’s a runner so fixated on not being surprised by a snake that they lose track of time and lose sight of the beauty surrounding them. I think life can be like that if we aren’t careful. We can be so fixated on trying to spot that snake ahead of us and time just passes. Time passes, beauty is missed, and a life is not lived.
Gosh, my brow is furrows and my eyes are teary as I write this one. I have been there. I finally, truthfully, feel like I’m just now coming out the other side. I don’t know what it is. As my friend described it, it was just waking up one morning and being “okay”. It was waking up one morning and being able to say, “God’s got me” and actually start to believe it. It was waking up one morning and deciding to just keep running, snakes or not.
Just because we decide to forge on doesn’t mean we completely neglect the potential of something slithering onto our path. We can be alert while still enjoying the sights. We can be aware while still being present on the run. Your eyes can be set forward without your heart being worried.
I have this friend, Lindsey. I’ve mentioned her in previous posts but I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned her by name. Anyways, she is my wise counsel and she is just a better friend than I could ever deserve. I was word vomiting and verbally processing some things the other day and I said to Lindsey, “I’m not even going to say I’m waiting for the big red flag because I’d rather alertly enjoy instead of cynically ‘prepping for the worst'”. She responded with, “Alertly enjoy. That’s your new blog post.”
Well, she wasn’t wrong. I do wish I wasn’t writing it at 10:30pm on a Wednesday night (and now editing it at 6:30am) but I guess I committed to this whole writer thing. We can keep our eyes on the paths in front of us, being aware that hurts are going to cross our paths. We can and we should. Living in a dream, unicorn land in which life isn’t shitty sometimes and hurts don’t cut deep is unrealistic and what drugs are you on because I want them? That doesn’t mean, though, that we keep our eyes glued to the way in front of us. That doesn’t mean we don’t soak in the beautiful life and people around us. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the damn run.
It’s a fine line, I know. I teeter that line, myself. I say I’m a “cynical hopeless romantic” and don’t necessarily put my trust in others right away. But once the run starts and the views are good and I feel good, I run like Phoebe and lose my alertness. As I’ve mentioned before, at 27 I feel I’m finally starting to get it.
It’s not “cynical” to be alert. It’s understanding that life between gardens is rough. I, personally blame Eve. I think God will have a thing or two to say to me about it when I get up there but for now, I blame Eve. Ever since the Fall, life has been rough for us humans. Yes Karen from church, I know God has a plan. I have it tattooed on my wrist, okay? That doesn’t take away the hurts, it just helps us keep running. I think it’s more understanding and learning from past hurts while deciding to run regardless. I think it’s guarding your heart but not locking it shut. It’s holding it tightly with a willingness to open it up to the people and experiences that speak to it and settling for no less than people who sing your heart song.
I feel like I’m jumping around here but I guess that’s the beauty of having a blog with messy in the title. It’s okay for me to be a bit messy. It’s also part of stopping mid-post at 11pm the night prior and picking it back up at 6am. It might end up a bit choppy but that’s okay.
I’ll end it with a blurb about my grandmother. Oh, if you know me, you know I love my Grandma Barbara. Grandma Barb is an oak. She, in my opinion, is the epitome of alert enjoyment. Life has taken her down some tough paths. She’s experienced loss, losses some people never have to endure in a lifetime. You know what she continues to do? Run. She continues to love. She continues to move forward, alertly, understanding what may come in her path. Oh, but she runs.
Alertly enjoy life, friends. Be blissfully aware. Be bold as you run, enjoying all of what the run entails. Don’t write a blog post at 11pm and try to make it cohesive at 6am. Oh wait, sorry. I think that last one is just for me.
Run on with alert enjoyment.