I don’t know about you, but getting outside and moving clears my head. I was desperate to run yesterday, despite having a lingering twinge on the side of my knee from twisting it weird at home. I’d been babying it, not exercising since last week, but when I’m not active enough my energy builds up so I either can’t sleep or get angry really easily. Think hangry, but for exercise. (Exerangry? Is that a thing?) And after a rough day where I was stuck inside with my little ones for most of it, I needed to escape.
Happily, the hours of daylight are lengthening again, so I was able to take off around dinner time. I wasn’t sure if my knee could handle a run, but I had to try. For the first 100 meters or so, I felt some unhealthy pings and jolts from the tendons around my knee. And since I was in such a relaxed state on mind (hah) I reasonably decided to adjust how I placed my knee with each step instead of stopping. But it worked. I had a few more little twinges over the next quarter of a mile, was vigilant with palcing my feet evenly, and I was able to coast along without more pain. Hooray for being stubborn!
I was totally reliant on music for motivation though. As much as my body cried out to move, move, move, my brain just wanted to check out for the day. My mind had been racing with how much I wanted to do (with that day and with every day), regrets for not doing more, frustration of how I was actually doing so little, and I’d distracted myself into both comfort and additional exasperation. The pinging of these thoughts in my head was too loud, so listening to music pulled me through for the first 15 minutes. Typically, music is motivating and fun, but here it was pure distraction from my thoughts, lest I actually be alone with them.
At the 15 minute mark, I made it to a trail. Now that some of my pent-up energy was expended, I decided to take my earphones out (for safety and to see if my thoughts were a little less intense). The path was thick with slick mud at low points but padded with pine needles at high ones, and focusing on my footing kept me preoccupied without my tunes. Eventually I crossed into a higher section of trail, with more gravel and those lovely pine needles. With safer terrain, I was able to start thinking again. While not consistent, I have done some mindfulness practices before, and felt like I probably needed to try some after such a rough day. So I tried to focus on my breath, pay attention to the smells and my view (instead of just the trail in front of me), and opened my mind to more than just internal frenzy.
And holy cow, guys. It was like going from tunnel vision to panorama view.
It’s hard to describe the shift, but the contrast of moving from my negative thoughts to external awareness was pure joy. My running felt lighter, even effortless, and I could soak in the joy and peace of the forest around me. Even a surprisingly long uphill felt comfortable, and it was so good to be alone but not isolated.
I made to a clear-cut area of the woods and stopped. Though I felt sad for all the downed trees for some new construction project, I was grateful to see the sky. The sunset was beginning, with pink and orange clouds streaked across the blue. I felt like my mind was like the new field itself: a little bit of a wreck and in need of being cleaned up, but not hopeless.
I hope I’m not worrying my readers. I feel pretty fortunate in my circumstances, I’m happy, and usually life is comfortable. If anything, it’s how comfortable I am that makes me want to do more, then I grow too ambitious, and when I don’t follow through I feel frustrated and unsatisfied. This blog is one of those aspirations and frustrations. I have so many ideas to research, to create, and to share with you! And there are definitely other legitimate demands on my time (parenting, for one), but I allow myself to be distracted so easily by social media, videos, and other things that are meant to be occasional fun. Instead of using my free time to grow, I’ve been frittering it away, and that in turn eats away at me. This, coupled with what I’ve recently recognized as a tendency toward anxiety, can turn into one of those vicious cycle scenarios where I turn to distractions for comfort instead of actually pursuing the opportunities for growth I’m excited about. But recognizing the pattern is a big step towards changing the behavior, so I hope by sharing this here I can hold myself accountable and encourage others to make similar positive change.
This is a parallel to our choices for the environment, too. As we realize that we need to change our lifestyles and encourage businesses to have more eco-friendly practices (and products), it can be hard to make our aspirations line up with our actions. There are so many approaches and options and time pressure is on us and sometimes we wonder if we make any difference anyway. A little lot much to think about.
But by simply getting out there, despite our shortcomings or tight budgets, and consistently making choices for the sake of the environment we will change our behaviors. Our small choices do add up, our attitudes are contagious, and the weaknesses we have can improve as we put in the effort. It has its moments that are messy (my composting efforts, haha) and downright discouraging (the prices on so many eco or organic products, yikes). But in time, I think you and I will find ourselves in a natural rhythm, where our lifestyle can have a neutral (or beneficial!) impact on the environment.
Earlier yesterday, I took my daughter and her friend that I nanny for out on a short walk. It had been raining earlier and with the state of my brain and their excess energy, we needed outside time! We were looking at some early spring blossoms and plant growth when I noticed a patch of clover. Some of the leaves were giant and others tiny, so I picked one of each to point out the size difference. After talking about that, I asked them to count the leaves. After they found that both had three leaves, I told them that if someone finds a four-leaf clover, they are super lucky, because those are very rare. Then for fun (and to kill a little time) I challenged them to look for four-leaf clovers.
And wouldn’t you know it, I looked down again and right on the edge of the patch was this little guy.
I’m still not sure if I should see this is as “Hey!! It’s your lucky day!!!” or “Haha! I’m going to mock you for expecting to be disappointed!” But I like to think of it as a little reminder that life can surprise us even when we anticipate that things won’t go well. Or that we can’t change. Let us choose to feel lucky, and go forward with confidence that we can make a difference.