Springing Forward, Holding Nothing Back


“I ache in the places that I used to play” – Leonard Cohen, “Tower of Song”

My muscles are sore.  My mind feels shifted and splayed, like a pencil refracted in ice water.  I wear the weariness of this harsh winter like a tattered coat, the wind both blowing in and being pushed out.  I shiver with the anticipation of what is to come, and yet, I embrace the soon-to-be tepid breezes hinted at recently.  I am racing at turtle-neck speed.  I am breathing deeper and longer.  I am caught up in yet another cycle of life.

It’s the first day of spring.  You wouldn’t know it by the near-frigid temperatures here in the icy, muddy city.  But you can smell it.  The fetid leaves, the damp earth, the reek of unearthed dog droppings.  You can sense the impending budding of the trees.  You can hear the squeaking of the swing sets in the park as children shake the grime of winter off and test the seats.  It’s spring and I look forward to experiencing it in practical terms, rather than in theoretical lurches.

I have felt a kinship to the weather these last few weeks.  The flurries that have fallen down around me as I run reflect those that have swirled rampantly in my mind as I attempt to compose words, ideas and forms onto paper.  There have been heavy days, foggy days, days where it felt the sun would never shine.  And there have been days where there was promise and hope in the air, where the grass peeked out from under the cracked ice, where hope and renewal were resplendent without.

Both kinds of days have been important to me.  They both challenge me and allow me to grow.  It’s in the difficult that I get to bloom harder, later.  It’s in the trudging that I grind a path that keeps me on course. It’s in the fear, tears and hurt that I flip over and find the peace, joy and compassion that fulfils me.

I was running the other day – my longest and hardest run to date.  I had traversed mud, slush, ice and rain.  I was up and down forest floors and on trails.  It was a rush, a groove of pain and pleasure.  Like life itself.  My energy was starting to wane a bit, when I saw a young man being dropped off from school.  He was smiling, chatting with his mother, who was on the veranda, cooking towel draped over her shoulder, hands wiping her worn apron.  He saw me jogging past.  He threw me a wide smile.  He was in a wheelchair. I could feel the joy vibrate from him, and the gratitude immediately starting to coat me like sweat. Could he possibly hold a resentment that I could run and he couldn’t? I thought to myself. If so, it wasn’t apparent. He chose joy over self-pity.

About five minutes later, I was running on a bridge and up ahead, I could see something yellow, fluttering in the wind.  As I approached the middle of that bridge, I saw the shredded police tap, and two bouquets of imitation flowers tied to the rails.  I stopped briefly and said a prayer for the person who felt that jumping onto the railroad tracks and barren trees very far below was a much better solution that continuing living the way they were living.  Returning to the mulch.  Bringer of life.  Renewal in the pain.

I continued to run home, the cold wind whipping up further, the rain coming down harder.  I thought of my life as a gardener would think of her tended plants, of the seasons, of the cycles, of the now-ness, and yet dreaming of perhaps of what was to come.  What was to bloom.  What may not bloom.  I don’t know where my own path will take me these days.  I run because I am training for a half-marathon.  But I also run because I am nudged to run.   I know that it helps to push me into new and different places.  It helps me focus. It also helps me to daydream.  It tears at my muscles, my psyche, my old ideas of me, but rebuilds them too.  Breaking down and being bred anew.

I thought of my novel writing.  The crushing weight of the unknown bearing down, of impatience, of failure, and yet the skies opening up to reveal what I didn’t know or expect to be there.  Not knowing what is to bloom.  The mulch.  My past few weeks have been in that mulch, that loam.  Struggling, breaking forth; holding fort, walking on a tight wire.  A seesaw between safety and unbridled fear.  Springing forward, holding nothing back.

You see, that grunt work we do, that pervasive drive to tussle with our own concepts of who we are or who we think we are, that plodding that we do with no immediate payoff is the foundation for what is to come.  There is nobility in honest work.  As long as I’m honest. My past, as drunken and selfish as it was, has brought me to this place I am in the here and now.  And what I do today, this hour, this moment in time, will bring me to yet another “here and now”.  My old seasons have passed, and they will pass again.  What I offer to the future is what I plant in the present.  Even if the ground is frozen.  Because it will thaw.  It always thaws. I just need patience.

Our lives sometimes seem out of context, as if we aren’t living it.  Sometimes it’s hard.  I’ve recently heard of some people’s relatives dying, pets passing on, people being pulled back into their addictions, people barely making it through the days.  I have also heard people celebrating happy milestones – sober birthdays or landmarks, anniversaries, new jobs, or new additions to families. Life as we know it.  Cycles.  Seasons.  Burials and births.   Start line, finish line.  Prologue, Chapters, Epilogue.  Repeat.

There seems to be a certain spiritual certainty that things continue to be revealed as we seek.  I am seeking right now, I continue to.  I have no choice, frankly.  I am not sure of what I seek, to be honest, but I follow the spirit within.  I can’t say I always do it successfully or with great élan.  But I do it.  Or try to.  And often, when I put myself on the line, on the icy path, on the rain soaked trail, I find the reward comes later on.  I may not see it right away, but it comes.  It comes whenever we move when asked to move.

So move.

Spring is here.  Newness is budding.  Your journey, whatever it may be, is in front of you.  You may feel that the trail is sinking like quicksand, but it’s still beneath the soles of your feet. Skin to soil. Putting one foot in front of the other ensures that I am moving forward, however slow that may be.  Move forward, even if it’s an inch. Hold nothing back.  Be brave and resolute in where you’re guided. Muscles rebuild.  Minds rest.  Spirits rejuvenate. It’s a cycle of surrender, pain and then…healing.  I push forward because that’s where the light shines from.  That’s where I’m needed. A higher purpose becomes a crisper crease along my time line.

It’s a new season.

Put your shoes on, open the door, breathe in the soft air and get going.  We need you.

Comments about my previous dour expression have been now replaced by a more positive photo.  You win, WP!

Comments about my previous dour expression have been now replaced by a more positive photo. You win, WP!

82 responses to “Springing Forward, Holding Nothing Back

  1. Dear Poet Paul,
    Welcome back! I was hoping that the new life of Spring would have you traipsing through the WP pages again. What a beautiful piece. I could see, smell and feel it all! You struck a chord in me with that young man in the wheelchair. How many races I’ve ran where my legs are giving out, my spirit is whining and brain crying uncle. It’s inevitably at that time when someone like your young man with the joyful smile is sitting on the sideline yelling and supporting the runners as we blissfully, ignorantly run by on our healthy legs with capable heart (how’d you like all those terrible adjectives!)
    Nonetheless, you’re joy and gratitude are infectious and I am so glad to be reading your work again.
    Happy Spring!

    • Awww, shucks Michelle…thanks for the wonderful words and comments, as per usual. It is very humbling to get those injections of gratitude and inspiration in the smallest of interactions. Like I do out here with you guys…which is why it’s been hard to not post or read or comment out here! But I do get that love in other ways, and seeing you here is one big shot in the arm for me 🙂

      Blessings and Happy Spring back to you!

      Paul

  2. Paul, maaate, there you are! My heart splayed at the boy and jolted at the bridge, thank you for the reminder about putting life in context brother. Welcome back. Respect, man. REDdog

    • REDdog!!! I miss ya, kind sir. I have to head over to your corner of the world and see what mayhem and good stuff you’ve been up to, and how the Queen is doing 🙂

      Respect back at ya,
      Paul

  3. Wonderful imagery in your writing, Paul. Such honesty and hope.
    I couldn’t help smiling at your face even though you look none too happy. 🙂
    xoFern

  4. Yey! Good to see you back. Awesome post as usual. Sounds like you had some great experience. Well not all the cold and snow. But wow, some eye opening and heart felt growth. You are an inspiration! Sending hugs! Ps. Next time a little smile please. 😊

    • Thanks Daile! It’s true the weather does play into our moods. I am just ready for this brutal winter to finally end. I am tired of kids’ snow pants and my big ol’ Michelin Man coat! Hope you’re well, my friend 🙂

      Paul

  5. Beautiful post…I don’t run, hate to run actually, but it sounded so lovely, the ay you wrote it. I felt i was alongside you.
    and it is so wonderful to hear from you…

    • Thanks M. I know you don’t like the running. And I was there until last September when it just bit me on the butt about doing it. Strange.

      Thanks for being here – nice to see you here 🙂

  6. Beautifully written post (handsome photo too!). Winter isn’t really over here either, but the hope finally arrived and we’re inhaling deeply. Gasping might be more accurate. Your running and novel writing sound tough and rewarding. Happy you’re embarking on this. We of course missed your posts, but just like that you’re here again with this beauty, like early spring 🙂

    • Congrats on your FP! I was just over there and had no idea. I am rather clueless, but I can’t tell you how happy I am for you. Thanks for the kind comments – the running has been more immediate in terms of progress. The novel is tougher, in another way. Making time for both is the greatest challenge. But it’s the work, isn’t it?

      Thanks for being here 🙂

  7. Thank you for the encouragement, darling. These last couple weeks have indeed been, ahem, bi-polar when it comes to the weather. The wet cold saps your spirit. Keep pushing forward, even one inch. Your tenacity is inspiring!

    • Certainly the weather has been rather chaotic. Make up your mind will you? Either it’s spring or we’re still in the deep slumber of winter. Too many teases only to be brought back to full force ice and snow. Ugh.

      Looking forward to reading your book, my friend 🙂

      Paul

  8. Now my Spring has officially begun… PAUL’S BACK!!! Doing a happy dance. Beautiful post, and a reminder that it is time to get off the treadmill and out into nature!

    Can’t wait to hear more about the novel-writing experience, I will be the first in line to read it!

    • Thanks Josie! Nice to see your smiling face here. The novel writing is certainly a trudge at times. Outlining and building it from the backside is what has been occupying my time. I am not one to get over wrought in all that stuff – I have always been more of a seat-of-my-pants writer, but this is a bit different. So it’s new muscles to stretch. Which is always good.

      Hope your spring has been a good one so far!

  9. Damn dude! This is beautiful, lyrical, meaningful. I loved it!

    And I can’t wait to read my personally signed copy of your novel. I know it will be a best seller.

    Sherry

    • Thanks Sherry. I wouldn’t get that far ahead…lol. My greatest fear is abandoning it, but now that I have put it out into the universe (meaning blog), well, I guess some accountability is due, yes? ha ha.

      Hope you’re doing well – look forward to get back into reading your blog 🙂

  10. It’s so good to read you (and see you!) in my inbox. The concept of seasons in life is so comforting to me. Nothing lasts forever, not the bad or the good and your words are a lovely reminder to just keep moving. Welcome back!

    • Spook! But I do love me a synchronicity! I love Tom’s version of it – there is something about having that maturity in tackling that song. It’s not a song for American Idol 🙂 Thanks for bee-ing here 🙂

  11. Love the hope in this. I love spring. I love how everything come to life, people are outside again, the black and white world springs to life, one color at a time. These seasons of life… life… such a beautiful, hard, gut-wrenching journey. But what is the alternative, right??? So much good, even in the hard.
    I’ve hated this winter- so thanks for the first signs of spring!

    • Katie! Love to see you here, and what you say about things coming to life. This brutal winter has kept things under wraps for far too long. Time to break out, so that I can then complain about not having summer here…ha ha. The only thing about winter, and my 6-yr old boy always reminds me, is that “there are no bees” in winter 🙂

      Hope you’re doing well – look forward to visiting your corner of the blogging world 🙂

      Paul

  12. Paul! I came looking for you after my two week hiatus and I’m ever so glad I did. I’m sitting here at my desk, blurry-visioned, with a forkful of salad mid-air as I try to swallow back tears without co-workers noticing. Your words are beautiful. You get it don’t you? Thanks. 🙂

    • Awww…thank you. I hope your salad was tangy and delicious. Hitatuses are good, aren’t they? A nice break, a WP break, a nice way to filter life through life, and not through “this would make a good post”…ha ha.

      I am so glad you’re here 🙂 Thank you.

  13. Yay Paul, hope you’re enjoying the running more than your photo suggested?! It’s glorious running in the Spring. I read a book recently that made me think of you – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. If you haven’t read it it’s great and might help with your novel writing 🙂 xx

    • I didn’t mean for the pic to be grumpy (I changed it, by the way!). I am now going to check amazon for The War of Art. I have to watch I don’t get into too much reading and not enough writing (which has been a challenge already!). Thank you for the recommendation – I am indebted to you 🙂

    • Funny – you’re the fourth person to think I was grumpy. I just don’t like smiling in pictures (I think I look funny). But I changed it – hopefully it’s better?

      I miss your words over at Guitars. I know you’ve posted a lot lately…gotta get over there soon and do some catch up.

      Be well! 🙂

  14. Almost made me want to run, you portrayal was so good, but nah this silly hillbilly likes things a little more at walking speed, I might not get there as fast as you, yet if I wanted fast that is what a motorized vehicle is for. Glad to see somebody is still carrying the message.

    • Would you say walking speed or more like a saunter? Or cowboy strut? Who knows, but like you said, at least we get there. Motorized scooter? Oh man, you’re not anywhere near that, are you? Keep the sauntering. It’s much cooler.

      Hope you’re well, JR. Nice to see ya here 🙂

    • Awesome, Mike! I haven’t seen that movie in ages. Really enjoyed it back in the day. And Duvall is no acting slouch.

      Nice to see ya here, my friend. You doing well?

      Paul

  15. Heyyyyyy, my Canadian cyber friend. So good to see you here. And once again, another awesome post. Really, a beautiful depiction of life and it’s cycles in a delightfully poetic way.
    “As long as I’m honest. My past, as drunken and selfish as it was, has brought me to this place I am in the here and now. And what I do today, this hour, this moment in time, will bring me to yet another “here and now”. My old seasons have passed, and they will pass again.”
    –I used to live in the future. Always looking forward to the next big or exciting event in my life. I’ve come to a place now where I realize that the present is all we have and that it is so important to live our moments and appreciate them for what they are. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so we ought to live each day as if it could be our last. Life is also all about making decisions. We reap what we sew. It’s also tough, and as you pointed out, it’s through the difficult times that we grow and shape who we are and will become.
    ” Be brave and resolute in where you’re guided. Muscles rebuild. Minds rest. Spirits rejuvenate. It’s a cycle of surrender, pain and then…healing.”
    –I used to own a children’s book about a tree and it going through the seasons. He has a discussion with the sun, and when he goes through the winter, it was a difficult time. He felt as if the sun had left him and caused him to go through so many cold and frigid moments. He was sad and asking why the sun wasn’t there for him when he needed him most. The sun assured him that he never left him, but that it was imperative that he stayed behind the clouds. If the tree hadn’t gone through that tough, cold winter, he wouldn’t gain the strength that he so needed for the beautiful leaves and flowers that were to come for those that would find strength, shelter, shade, etc. from it in the Spring and Summer months to come. Not to mention, the beauty that develops from the struggles and difficulties that he would go through.
    Anyhow, enough of my rambling on. This comment is already so long.
    Thanks again Paul. Really appreciate you and your amazing writing ability.
    🙂

    • My fellow Canuck – so glad to see you! I apologize for the delayed response – I have been knocked out the last few days with a brutal stomach flu, so I didn’t have much strength for anything. Feel better today. Anyway, I am so happy that you’re here!

      I love that book you talked about. Very true – the cycles and seasons is something that I am coming more and more to seeing as vital for us, no matter what we do, no matter what realm we are in, no matter how great or poor we feel we are doing. Nothing is permanent, nothing is static. We are always in a process of changing and shifting. And sometimes, like that tree, we feel that we are alone, or that it’s difficult. But we move through it…no matter how dark it seems. And with the good times too – I try to hold onto them because they don’t stay always. But it’s the cadence and flow that allows me to ride that wave, and faith is the most important way for me to do that.

      Thank you for being here, and for the wonderful, thought-provoking comments. I look forward to getting back into reading the blogs again…miss ya! 🙂

      Paul

      • Oooooo, yuck, stomach flu. I hate, but hate being sick. And I’m not a pleasant sicky either. I hope you’re feeling much better.

        Yah, I really wish I still had that book. I sold almost everything before I left Canada for Asia back in 2000. I really wish I hadn’t of sold that book though. If I could only remember the name of it. I actually had to go to a special bookstore in Ottawa to get it too. I had heard it read at a retreat I was at years back.

        Have you ever heard of the famous poem, “Footprints in the Sand”? If not, check it out here: http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php. Very similar message.

        Ohhhhhhh, miss you too. I love your blog and your writing. Will we be seeing more soon hmmmmmm?

        Many blessings 🙂

  16. Nothing better than running unabashedly through the rain. Personally, the sickly stench of a skunk signals spring for me (just a little alliteration there) yanno as you straddle it in your car but the smell emanates in the cabin faster than spaghetti sliding down the drain.
    No. I am not drinking. But the mere thought the real bona fide Spring may just be making her appearance in the next few weeks has my heart singing. Like the seasons, I am due for a change. Taking my inventory each night and looking at my day’s events tell me that I have some spring cleaning to do, yet I am looking forward to it. Some days just getting to noon without an alcoholic thought is tough but the days where life is just dandy- can’t bottle that feeling.
    Hope you are well.
    Linda

    • ” faster than spaghetti sliding down the drain.”. I have to steal that one…love it 😉

      I also love the idea of spring cleaning from within. Awesome…that’s sort of how I have been feeling like too. Cleansing, if you will. I get those alcoholic thoughts now and then. And they pass. The more we learn and practice accepting them for what they are, and not as a direct command of kinds, the more we recognize them for what they are – thoughts. And not fact.

      Spring is something I am really looking forward to – more than any other time. I think it’s because the winter has been brutal this year. Even today, it was freezing this morning. But we’re supposed to get warm (i.e. plus) temps by the end of the week. I am ready for it.

      Thanks Linda for your wonderful, enthusiastic comments. I hope you are doing well 🙂

      Paul

  17. Such an inspirational piece, Paul. I feel like we are all growing, whether we are sharing our experiences through our blogs or creating masterpieces within our stories and novels. Either way, there is a new season of growth arising. Old man Winter has been good, providing the type of desperation and artificial warmth we need to sharpen what will be come by Spring. It’s almost as if we sat and observed while the cold world revolved around us. We watched and waited as the buds of Spring slowly made their way back into our hearts. Indeed, we are embracing a new season. And what will come out of it might be an eternity of endless possibilities as we paint our way toward the depths of our imaginations and souls. Indeed, Spring will be good!
    Like yourself, I’ve been feelings all kinds of spiritual lately. My last blog post says it all. I feel so sensitive toward just about anything which involves my life right now. But I find peace and solace in the silence of being pressed against the compassion of not only my own spirit, but of His.
    I’m glad to see you are still running. Keep at it. Your body will change and become something you never thought possible. I know mine did when I ran my half marathon=)
    Have a blessed and beautiful week, my friend!

    • Thanks for your wonderful and moving words, Gina. I certainly do feel that embracing of a new season. Today was another freezing one, and so I just can’t wait to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and not be wearing a winter coat 🙂 Funny, I don’t often publicly complain about the weather, and I am one who appreciates winter (as a good Canadian boy), but there is something special about this one (States got it bad too). But that makes me even more excited about spring, and all the things it will bring all of us! There feels like rebirth happening in so many of our lives, and it’s exciting. For the first time in my life, I am excited about spring. Strange.

      Loved your last blog post 🙂

      I hope you are well and staying warm

      Paul

  18. Wow, what a great post. Thanks so much for taking some time to write it. I feel inspired and also comforted…it can be hard to let the seeds you plant actually germinate and grow. Patience isn’t a virtue of mine to be sure. Your imagery and words help remind me that it’s all a big part of life. And I read a few days ago that somebody said: You don’t dig up your seeds every day to see if they’ve sprouted yet. Super excited you’re writing a book!

    • Rebecca – my newly minted one year sober friend! Congrats again on that! Patience isn’t one of my strong suits either, but I chose the word “patience” as my word of the year, so to speak. So I am trying to look at things with a new eye, in the best way that I can. So the seasons really speak to me now, as the inevitable, as the required, as the necessary. And there isn’t a damn thing I can do about them…lol. So guess what? I wait. Do my best in that time to not damage anything or anyone. Try not to get wound up or have tantrums. Not always easy 🙂

      So happy to see you here…and congrats again!

      Paul

  19. Fantastic imagery and quite the poetic return! Kudos to taking the step back that allows the springing forward. Always learning, growing and redefining ourselves so as to follow God’s Will for us. Stagnancy for us means falling back into old behaviors. Time to rock the cart enough to shake us out of our ruts! May Spring bring us all a springtime of new growth as we trudge on down this road!

    • Howdy stranger!! I am every so glad to see you here…and the pic of flowers in bloom on your gravatar is doubly inviting!

      It’s funny you talk about stagnancy making us fall back into old behaviours – had that very same discussion with my sponsor tonight. Love the synchronicity on that (I just got your comment now). And you’re right – when I stop doing His will, I start getting into my head (where else would this alkie go?? ha ha)

      I am looking forward to rocking that cart even further…and hope to hear how you’re doing as well. Keep rockin’ it 🙂

      Paul

  20. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award | A God Coloured Girl in a Grey World·

    • Thank you, Christy. That’s a mighty big compliment coming from ya 🙂

      Feeling almost 100%. This thing is kicking the bejeezus out of me. The good news is that I’ve lost 11 lb in 5 days. The bad news is that it will all come back sooner!

      Glad to see you here 🙂

      Paul

  21. Hey so great that you came back and wrote us another beautiful blog post … I hope you are doing well with the writing.. they say the hardest thing is just getting it down.. so don’t go back and do lots of reviewing of previously written pages.. just go forward go forward go forward.. there will be time for reviewing afterwards … VERY handsome picture too! xxx

    • Mrs. D!!! (I don’t know why I am always tempted to just yell that…just one of those things. I think if I even knew your name and we lived next to one another, I would still call you Mrs. D and yell it).

      Thanks for the kind words.

      It’s not my first stab at writing, having shelved it (no pun intended) after getting worse in my alcohol use. So, as you wisely pointed out, I am very much in agreement about not going back to revise as I write. I usually put it all out before even attempting to go back to editing, polishing, etc. Even mistakes in case, punctuation, spacing, etc. I leave. Ragged, horrible first draft stuff. As Anne Lamott refers to it – shitty first draft.

      Speaking of books, can’t wait to get a hold of yours!

      Hugs,
      Paul

  22. Am I imagining it or has your writing become even more finely wrought in my absence, your descriptions are exquisite. Oh God, I sound like a spambot, but I mean it, I really do. And you’re running? And writing a novel? Man, I’m getting left in puddle of melting ice cream bars and abandoned manuscripts, I better put my running shoes on.

    • Kary May! I am so excited to see you here 🙂

      I don’t know if anything changed, but things have certainly gotten better now that you’re here. Drop off some of those ice cream bars here. I won’t let them melt. I promise 🙂

      I am very delinquent in my blog reading ,but then again, that’s what breaks are for. I’ll catch up sooner than later – hope you’re doing well in your corner of the world. And you know, with your suburb writing, I’d love for you to polish up a manuscript so that we can have some wonderful reading (i know, I am being selfish…sorry!)

      Blessings and hugs,

      Paul

  23. THERE you are. I’ve been wondering where you’d got to… and worried a bit, too (just my usual frame of mind, really. Just call me anxious… or Piglet). Ah, I know this type of spring well. The mulch, the slush, the sweet-poo smell of winter turning to spring. 🙂

    • And there *you* are! Never worry, Piglet, it’s all good. I hope you are doing well over there. I imagine you’re slogging it out on slush and nastiness too? Happy belated mother’s day 🙂

      Thanks for being here – made my day 🙂

      Paul

      • Aw shucks… I’ve been a bit awol. Got lost in all the work and RSI and all that. No slush out here. Don’t mean to boast, but it was sunny and 18C today. That was probably the sum total of the British summer, knowing our luck… 🙂

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