Things I Experienced While Running Away

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  ― Søren Kierkegaard

(Morning view where Liz and Marley like to run…okay, walk usually)

    It had to happen. I had to do it.

I’m talking about running. It’s been too long. You know when it’s time? When the earth’s gravitational force suddenly doubles.

You look in the mirror and see the pudge you’ve been avoiding. Tired eyes. A face that could use a lift.   An attitude that often hovers between exhaustion and who cares? Shabby clothes accessorized with a heavy dose of apathy.

I was just about to take a nap. After all, I’d earned it. Moments earlier I had daftly slid dinner out of a box and into the oven and had just plopped onto the couch after another repetitious day of exhaustion battling the minute by minute necessary chores and emergencies called life. You know what I’m talking about. You have those days too.

But instead, a rare divine moment of alchemy overtake me. That inner whisper that says, “GET UP (you sloth)!” That and the soft sadness of my dog’s whimpering. Oh, the not-so-subtle guilt of my lab’s droopy eyes and hopeful but pouty mouth.

     Fine then! I exerted a small amount of supernatural strength and laced up my running shoes. These suck. They hurt my feet and need replacing. Anyway.

Grab the poopy bags. In my case, it’s a minimum of a dozen; running with labs requires a bit of extra preparation.   Collar. Leash. Quick sips of water. Tunes. Keys. Lock door. Check. Slam door. Go!

Put something on with 4/4 beat and start pounding. It hurts. I don’t seem to have a regular rhythm or routine to running these days. It was the 2nd time in a week, but also in about six months as well.

So consistency is not my strong suit. What can I say? Keep going Liz I tell myself.

A few houses later I drift past my neighbor’s house. Her daughter will marry this weekend. Bless them I think. So busy I bet. Time to keep going. A few seconds later I float past another neighbor’s home with two dogs who speak in the language that only dogs know. They announce loudly, “HEY! IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ! DOES ANYONE IN THE HOUSE HEAR ME? IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ!”   I’m tempted to stop and go pet them. Better not. That’d be the end of tonight’s workout.

Huffing and puffing, I make it to the end of block one. YES! The next ten houses is straight down hill. I’m cruising to a little John Reuben singing Bobble Head.

     “Let me see your neck neck bobbing with the vertical fist. You put the two together and it goes like this.”

Christian rap. It’s the only kind I can tolerate. I feel kind of like a bada** listening to it.   When I was running, I knew I would have to write about it later. I knew right then and there I would at some point use the substitute word bada** because I don’t have the literary courage to say well…you know the real word.

I’ve now gone straight down the vertical hill bobbing with my horizontal fist pulling my dog who also doubles as my resistance trainer.  Ok, now I’m getting into it a tiny bit. Just keep going I tell myself. Like the wise Clownfish sage Dory who is forever embedded into our collective subconscience with her exuberant message:

     Just Keep Swimming

     Because that’s what I’m doing, metaphorically speaking. I’m swimming against the tides of life most days it seems.

Technology that overwhelms us with it’s incessant “reply ASAP” feeling. Or more frustratingly frequent: websites that give me the FREEZE OUT. Passwords that I know by heart suddenly don’t work. Pages don’t load.   Email I don’t have time for or read.  People I should but don’t reply to.  News doesn’t ring true. Trolls say mean things. Things disappear. And then fall apart.     Yeah, and that’s just my digital life.

So I keep going. Running. I’m playing a mental game I played in my early twenties when my first son had incredible colic. I used to run with a Walkman CD player on my hand like a pizza delivery man so it wouldn’t skip.

I’d run away. I’d run away from the noise.

I’d run from the responsibilities I didn’t think I could handle for one more day.

I’d run far, far away from the stress and go to the imaginary place in my head where everything is copacetic and cool. In this place in my head, people agree and life isn’t determined by income, time constraints, or other people’s desires. In fact there aren’t even voices, just faces. And music. And animals. And just this peacefulness.   I admit, it’s kind of a selfish utopia.   And though I always knew it didn’t really exist, it always felt so good to be running towards it, striving, endlessly striving to find it.

I’m about ¾ of a mile now. Not that far, but I’ve already thought more thoughts then steps travelled. This much I know is true.

I’m running away again. I’m running away from Hillary. I’m running away from Donald. I’m running away from ALL THAT because I’m so tired of hearing about it, thinking about it, and in shreds as what to do about it.

       I run thinking if I just run far enough and hard enough I might possibly be able to run out of this spare tire that is causing serious bladder inconvenience. I mean really. You throw a tire on a water balloon and see which object survives.

       I’m running away from my bullet-point two-page To Do List that I still haven’t gotten through from Monday. I’m running from all the responsibilities and future things I don’t know if I can handle. I’m trying not to run while amoritizing the remainder of my mortgage while simultaneously figuring out our emergency equity thanks to rising home values.   Still, worry thoughts creep in. I shoo these thoughts away with my hand while flying down hill again. My dog is so lucky. He thinks of none of this. He just breathes the cool air and keeps running.

A weird thing happens next. As I literally swat away my pesky thoughts, a small missile hits me in the forehead. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s a bug; who knows what kind? Clearly an armor-shelled kind like a beetle or something. I silently thank God for not allowing him to fly into my open mouth. That would’ve scarred me for life.

Still stepping out. Next stop. A teenage girl is melded into her boyfriend against a car under the street light in an intimate embrace. Oh yeah. I remember. I was young once. Slow down sweetheart I think.   It only gets harder from here. Then harder still. Enjoy. Don’t rush. You’ll be grown sooner than you think.

Soon, I’m by the house that always dries their clothes at night. My goodness! They use the best dryer sheets! It pours out of their dryer vent and perfumes at least three yards. It smells so clean and pure. At this moment I’m listening to U2’s “Lady With The Spinning Head” at top volume, an absolute running favorite of mine. I smell this and close my eyes and suddenly I’m six years old again. I’m running through sheets in a clothes line in a little dress with my wavy hair blowing and shoeless feet. I’m not really here I imagine. We are all just whispers in someone else’s dream. I’m breathing better. I feel the rope of anxiety releasing a bit from my neck.   It’s all going to be okay I think. At least I hope it will be.

It’s totally dark now. I always run at night since my first free moment from responsibility rarely falls before sunset. Anyway, I hit a dark patch for a while, and then I find myself under a tree arched over the sidewalk. A man with a jet black dog has suddenly appeared. I yank out my earphones as I realize he’s been talking to me for a while. I catch the end of his sentence: “We’ve been waiting for a while for you.”

I’m not alarmed. It’s not the way it sounds, but I had to quickly transition from the music-lined utopia in my head to absorb and comprehend what he meant.   Then I got it. His dog was as excited to meet my dog and I, as much as my dog was jazzed about meeting the two of them.

Anytime I come to a complete HALT after running hard, I sort of feel like my heart might explode, but mostly I was trying to just be cool as I didn’t want this neighbor I’ve not met yet to have to call 911 and deal with two rambunctious dogs.

We chat and laugh a bit over the crazy antics of excited dogs. Now I’m glad it’s nearly pitch dark. Like I said earlier, spare tire issues are seriously annoying me here! I need to get home to make the round-the-block bathroom trip again.

Home again and quick pit stop then it’s out the door to make another neighborhood orbit. It’s easier this time. Every house left behind is another step towards victory, another step in the right direction. I’m about to complete my second lap. I’m looking down focused on breathing mesmerized by my tall shadows under the streetlights. I’m skinnier when I’m fifteen feet tall. I like it like this and…..

     JESUS! I look up. Just standing there is a skeleton in a hoodie with a scythe in his hand. Seriously, I said JESUS when I saw this because that is the quickest best prayer you can ever pray when you have your wits scared out of you.

It was only a few feet from the sidewalk.   Out of the corner of one eye, I saw a glimpse of something as I was chasing after my own shadow. So I looked up. As I approached the darkened house with porch lights turned off, the dark shadowy figure seemed to come out of nowhere. Don’t panic! It’s just a skelly with a scythe–but it’s not real! The not real part took a nanosecond or two to click in. It was just a life-size Halloween decoration a few feet away from their front porch..a few days early.

See, Liz? I told you it was a good idea that you learn to run faster. Besides it was just a decoration. I did a double take. It hadn’t moved…. yet. But we live in a weird world these days. I double checked with my dog. He wasn’t alarmed. He was still pacing himself one dog’s length ahead of me, so it must be okay.

Life and death. Love and loss. Alone, yet not.  Cool breeze mixed with hot sweat.   Fear and hope and faith. Reality and dreamland.  Our only true constant we navigate by is change. Time passed and time still to go.   Miles still to run and words still to write, I press on. Ever onward.

 

 

 

Driving out the Demons

Solitude in Me at Deviant Art 1

PHOTO CREDIT: DEVIANT ART

How do you deal with your inner demons? I’m not talking about a Debbie Downer day where it feels like you’re walking under a black cloud all day and nothing goes your way.

No, I’m talking about a real wrestle-with-God, wrestle-with-your-own-soul day of darkness. The sixteenth century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross calls it The Dark night of the Soul. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, a week, perhaps a season. For him, it lasted forty-five years! However long it lasts though, it’s tough. It’s challenging to find even a pinhole of light anywhere, when it seems darkness surrounds you everywhere.

I call it fighting the demons. These demons are like riding out a storm at sea. Sometimes with these tall looming ocean waves, you have no choice but to bob up and down with it, rather than exhaustively fight it and drown.

A Christian writer that I greatly admire, Joyce Meyers, has an acronym for FEAR that has always made sense to me:   FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL

Well, I’d like to piggy-back on her acronym, and add my own: DEMONS

DOUBT (and) EMOTIONS MERGING (with) OUR NARCISSISTIC SIDE

Basically it works like this:

Our feelings and opinions shape our perspective regarding the trials and challenges of our daily life.   You can’t help it. They just do. This is the lens of how we see the world–our filter. Some of us naturally just have a sunnier, brighter disposition and see things from a lighter perspective. Others are a bit more cynical and jaded. We see life through a polarizer lens—everything is a bit darker as if looking out through sunglasses. Yet when light shines through, it is definitely sharper! It provides a nice contrast to the dark around it. Perhaps because sometimes we’re not expecting the light to break through.   Doubts are the demons we get to wrestle with.

Fear and demons go together actually. Both have the ability to paralyze us, rendering us unable to act. Both make us focus on and inflate our sense of self, rather than something so much bigger: God.   Doubt at its core tries to reduce and diminish God to a point of non-existence. The problem with doubt is: It puts the whole burden on us to make sense of it all.

Since our feelings and emotional thoughts drive our decision-making process, we need to remember that a logic based on faith would serve us better at being the DD (designated driver) of our lives.

BUT HOW?

How do you find light (hope and a sense of peace)?

How do you find logic (soundness of mind, an ability to see a situation sensibly and rationally)?

Above all how do you have faith (confidence and assurance that everything is going to turn out okay or at least in a way used for good)?

How do you find light, logic,and faith while you are in that season of darkness, or questioning, or your doubts seem taller than your faith? Feelings and emotions seem to trump all. Logic seems like a first sweetheart that dumped you decades ago. Faith sometimes feels like the imaginary friend you had in childhood, but gave up years ago as you slowly grew up.

I’m no expert. I have no degrees in psychology or theology.   Unless you count all the pedigrees I’ve earned from the School of Hard Knocks.

So how do you drive out those pesky demons? Those dark thoughts that threaten your peace, and sometimes your sanity? Especially when you have too many situations brewing? Or one or two that is just really more than you can bear?

I suppose the simple answer is YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE IT.   For me, I have to remember to believe:

  • Things are not always as they appear and unconditional acceptance of what is: My take on the situation may not be accurate. And even if it is, I have to accept that I do not have the power to control or change it. The only thing I have the power to control or change are: My perspective and my decisions on how I act.
  • There is a God and He is good. Because if not, then life is just a bunch of random events, chaos essentially, and then there is nothing to assign meaning or significance to. Then I am reduced to explaining the pain, cause, and results of these things beyond my control by the limitations of my own thinking, or even more mind-confusing: the expertise of others. This option has never worked in my life; I feel like a rat in a maze, forever frustrated while trying to find a way out. The key is to find the way UP in order to GET OUT.
  • God is in control. I choose to believe that God is not unaware of injustice, cruelty, tragedy, hardship, and the evils of humanity. Nor is He unaware of goodness, giving, kindness, faithfulness, and a love for others. And though I can’t explain the whys of situations on earth, God can. I believe God’s word in Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. I’m not delusional and tell myself God enjoys giving us hard unfair things to deal with because it’s for the best. No! Rather I choose to look at life’s hard trials and dark emotions as something God will use for my best and His glory. Romans 8:28 All things work together for the good, for those that love him and are called according to His purposes.
  • I can freely choose to love and have faith in God. I’m not forced to submit to a rule-enforcing, legalistic, dictator-type God. No! I get to freely choose to obey and serve and LOVE a grace-giving God that says His love for me is unending, that I’m even worth dying for. I can read His promises knowing His hand is actively involved in my life.   Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is the CONFIDENCE in what we hope for, and the ASSURANCE of what we do not see.

I guess it comes down to this: As I wrestle, I wrestle WITH FAITH, not against it. I fight my inner demons (negative, hopeless, or unsure thoughts) in partnership with God. I know He does battle on my behalf where I am weak. I do not go onto the battlefield alone. He equips me with confidence because I know and believe in His trustworthiness even when I can’t see God. Even when I can’t feel God’s presence.

So I eat, run, work, sleep, think, parent, write, love, and do WHILE I wrestle and pray, strive and hope, all the while: believing.

So I read God’s word. I question Him. I cry alone with Him sometimes.  I tell Him my doubts and my hopes and my fears and my dreams. I read some more. I pray. I think on it. I STOP thinking on it (that helps a lot!) I wait. All the while,I persevere in my choice to believe and trust.   A funny thing happens:

My faith grows. Slowly, sometimes erratically, but still it grows.

Belief (faith in God) is like running a marathon. You simply take a step. And then one more. You just keep going. It is this endless HOPE that propels you towards the finish line.  And with every step, the demons grow smaller and less powerful and the light and love of God and for God grows closer, and bigger. And on some days the whole sky is not big enough to contain it all.