So I’ve taken up that “jogging” fad that people seem to be taking to these days. If you had told me that five weeks ago I would be eyeing shoes for pounding the pavement, I would have thought you mad. Jogging, or “running” as they also call it (I looked it upon the interweb), is something that I just didn’t do. Up there with designing cathedrals and repairing pan flutes. I was a biker. Bicycle biker, that is. To and from work every day – more a mode of utilitarian transport than dialling in on my target heart rate and toning my flabby calves. Jogging was for capricious Capricorns and those with non-existent body fat. Perhaps it was through osmosis, or perhaps I just had that nudging in my head that kept coming back to chasing an invisible bunny. Most likely inspired by the wonderful folks here on the blogosphere who seem to have found something in their physical journeys.
I could wax poetic about running and sobriety, and the parallels between them. I could go on about how they are both a path of trial and error, of trust, of pushing ahead, of thinking outside the box, etc. Better bloggers and runners have covered that kind of material (hello Christy, Kristen, Josie, et al.) For me, it’s just about running. Or at least at first it was. Getting out of my comfort zone. Trying something that I had sworn I would never do (not a blood oath on Odin, but sort of spit handshake to myself). Jogging (I am certainly not a runner) to me is something that for some reason something that spoke to me at this point in my life. Like when I decided olives were tasty and Welcome Back Kotter was a terrible show. Getting outside and propelling myself on foot seemed a ludicrous thing in the past, but for me now it works.
What I will say about this jogging thing is that I am self conscious of it. That is, when I am jogging, I am doing everything in my power to not think to myself “I am jogging”. But it doesn’t work. It’s like a running commentary (no pun intended) on my journey. But I don’t enjoy that living in the moment thing because it makes for a long run. I am seeking that moment where I am absorbed in just being and not worrying about anything else. That transcendental moment where I am not aware of my body but I am still going. The more I direct my thinking to what I am doing second by second, the less I am able to enjoy it. Nothing wrong with some self-appraisal, but a blow-by-blow does me no good. I am mentally exhausted before I hit the second or third block.
In the past five weeks I went from no running to 5K without stopping (ego loves, body hates) and like the good alcoholic I am, want to push and push and get better quickly. I know, bad idea. I am just sending a perfume scented invitation to my first injury. Yesterday, I was doing a little past my usual distance. But I wasn’t feeling it that moment, as I weaved my way through a new path. I thought to myself “You can make this a small run today”, “You can turn back – no shame in it”, “I am jogging. I am jogging. I am jogging.”. Ugh. Up ahead, a few blocks away, I saw a turn. I figured that was the moment I would make my decision – go back and chill out at home. Or forge ahead and keep at it. Move past my comfort zone. And what would be around that corner, other than just more pavement and pain?
In C.S Lewis’ book A Grief Observed, he makes this statement: “Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”. This statement hit home for me as I continued my run. While not engaged in grief per se, I saw a correlation – I was trying to not think about not thinking about jogging while I was jogging. At the same time, not only was I jogging, I was thinking about jogging while jogging. This was sort of the misery’s shadow that Lewis spoke about. And of course this had me thinking about recovery. Early recovery.
In my early days, my mind was on a treadmill of “I can’t drink. I can’t drink. I can’t drink”. And not only was I thinking about not drinking, I was thinking about thinking about not drinking. A double whammy. The shadow strikes again. A little sparring match between the shadow and the reality. But it’s normal to think that. It can be no other way, especially at the beginning of our sober reality. Some people get that white light experience of losing the mental obsession quickly, some take a bit longer. Distracting one’s self works only so long. I needed to be able to sit, and just be and not have misery’s reflection refracting the dark light into me over and over. It’s easier said than done. Some of us can’t handle the dark light and succumb.
Some of us will come upon this turn many times in our sober lives, in our recovery. The pain of moving through, edging forward, making the commitment. It can be dozens or hundreds of times in a day, or it might happen once. For those who have pushed through and powered through their journey, this may not come up very often. We make that turn and forego our control over the situation. We turn it over in that turn. We place our faith in something that will get us past it. Whether it be something greater than us, plan of action or a recovery based program, we move past the fear and get into a place that give us the sense of moving through a wall. Of gaining a foothold into our new life, of taking in the scenery while we forge ahead into an unknown. The unknown. And as we move past this, we start to lose the shadow. We start to see the reflection fading and receding into the new light of our being. We are brightly shining and dissolving the thoughts of thinking about thinking about our position in life.
For me, I know that I am moving into something and need to move through something because I get posted signs along the path. It could be a little guidance from within, the spark of an idea (jogging!) or God Shot moments that brazenly direct me. When I am in alignment with this guiding force, I am well. I am at peace. I am in the Sunlight of the Spirit. When I first toyed with the idea of jogging, I was walking to the park, where I thought I would start my first run. I was listening to Woodkid (a wonderful artist) and as I approached the grass, unsure, the second song kicked it. “Run, Boy, Run“. Okay, got it there, Creator. And run I did. And it’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of sore muscles. Patience. Persistence. Self-care. Consistency. These are the things that have paved the way for the paved way ahead of me in this new endeavour. And of course, those things also push me in my recovery (I know I said I wouldn’t do the jogging / recovery parallel, but hey, sue me).
And as I ran yesterday, pushing past my limits (I ended up running 7K), I started to get into that zone. Without thinking of the reflection, the reflection disappeared. I found myself doing a running meditation and prayer. I found myself moving without moving. I had hit that moment where it was just me and the ground and the wind and the sun and nothing else. I felt calm and not stressed. I didn’t think about jogging while jogging for while there. And when I started to think about it, when I got to a point where I wondered about my speed, began to question my jogging, started over thinking it all – another sign. I jogged past some college students, and I am not sure if they were commenting on me, or on something else, but one said “Take your time, man” as I ran past. I smiled, knowing that I was being directed, once again.
As I pulled up home, exhausted on all fronts, I felt a bit of a glow. It wouldn’t last long, but it felt like Grace. It felt that all was well. It was like when I first felt that twang in my spirit that told me that things would be fine, that I wouldn’t have to take another drink again, that I need not put the weight of my sobriety all on me. There was something out there that had shoulders big enough to take it on. It was in taking that turn and pushing myself to the unknown that defined my role in this recovery – that of the agent, not the principle. I would be whole again, I would not fear where I may tread, I would not need that shadow to haunt me and take up my psychic and spiritual space. I was on a journey where it was just me and the Creator. I didn’t have to try and be everything to myself. Those days were done.
And you know what, there was one more sign last night. I was riding my bike to a meeting, and was trying to decide what meeting I would go to. I was figuring out if I should go north to the hospital meeting, or south to the detox meeting. As I hemmed and hawed, I decided to go north. And no sooner than I started to head up, I passed a church. It was turning dark, and they turned on the light on the sign on the front grass. It said “See yourself as God sees you. A winner”. I may not pass any finish line, but in my path, as I move forward, I get the rewards. We all win.