Mental Health

Take a Walk

They cut down three trees in the church yard. All three trees were visibly dead and I said, just last week and out loud, “I wonder when they’ll cut those trees down.”

Answer: Today.

But the trees, however dead, were standing during my morning walk, and this evening, they were gone. Stumps remain. Here. Gone.

The tree-hugger in me feels oh-so-sad. It’s no secret how deeply I love trees, mine or otherwise. I form attachments to their existence; I miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe trees are just easier than people, easier than relationships.

I walk twice a day now, save for the three mornings per week when I run. On those days, I only walk once and in the evening. I mostly walk with my husband in the mornings. Prior to our oldest son’s recent toe injury and first-ever stitches experience in this four person family unit, sometimes the boys would join us in the evening. They’re on a two week reprieve from attending family walks and I don’t think they mind. Or they do mind, but in the way that they are really happy about not having to do it.

But sometimes I walk alone. On the days my husband is at work, I walk both morning and evening alone. Today I walked with him in the morning, but walked the evening route alone as he went off on a fishing trip with some of his friends. I enjoy our walks together as we talk and laugh and spot the deer and turkey together.

But those alone walks hold a special place in my heart right now.

Walking alone is different than running alone. When I’m running alone, my mind goes into auto-pilot. My mind focuses solely on the physical aspect of running. Getting to the next half mile. Getting to the next shady spot. The next tree. The spot on the hill where I allow myself exactly one minute to walk. Twenty steps on toes, twenty steps mid-strike, and repeat. I count to 20 a lot while running.

Running is good for my anxious brain in that I cannot focus on more than the physical aspect. There’s no extra capacity for anything outside of the physicality of the moment. It’s good to go there, to get outside of the often intense emotional brain space in which I daily live.

Walking alone is much different.

While sometimes my brain tries to sneak away with itself, there’s an aspect of my daily walk that keeps me quite grounded: Repetition. When my husband and I walk together, sometimes we walk in a different place or a different route. Alone, I stick to one I know very well only changing it up by occasionally lengthening the distance on non-run days. This repetition is good in that my when my brain starts to run away with itself, I notice something different.

Was that tree leaning in the woods like that yesterday? Maybe the storm last night knocked it over. Or did I miss that leaning tree completely for the past two months of walking, four years of running, and five and a half years of occasional walks in this direction since we moved here? If it’s that last point, how self-absorbed have I been until right in this moment?

Oh look, there’s that yellow finch. Oh, there’s another yellow finch. Oh my! There are three yellow finches sitting in a row! Wait. Are they yellow finches? Why and how do I know what yellow finches look like? he
I see someone else has deposited their litter on the way down the hill. Natty Ice; a classic.

A slug!

Take a Walk

A wooly worm!

Talk a Walk

Leaves falling, more and more, every single day.

Spiderwebs, fresh every morning.

Some mornings the creek is higher. Some afternoons the creek is lower.

Sometimes the deer are in the lower field. If we procrastinate our morning walk until the sun is above the tree line, all wildlife is back at their homes. The turkey often hear us and start running before we see them, in one of two spots in the lower field.

The deer than hang out in the left lower field are older than the ones in the right lower field and run as soon as they see us; they know to be scared. The spotted deer in the upper field or the lower right field don’t know enough to be scared just yet. They’ll learn.

The scents take my brain away, too. When the farmers cut the hay, I am instantly transported to my childhood and the smell of the back 40 being cut for hay. It’s such a sweet, heady scent. There are other scents too: mud, mud after rain, rain, decaying leaves, occasional skunk, the unfortunate smell of death, cows, fall on the horizon.

I notice the way the light is different. The blue of the sky has returned from the bright hot white of summer. Colors keep popping out on branches; right now the poison ivy that winds its way up trunks of trees is the brightest—a red so beautiful you’d pluck some leaves if you didn’t know what it was. Every single day it is changing.

And so I walk, every single day. I take my 30-40 minutes in the morning and again in the evening and walk. It doesn’t really matter if someone is with me or if I’m alone, except in this way: I’ve learned so much more about grounding techniques for anxiety over the past two months than in umpteen years of therapy.

And so, I noticed the missing trees today. They were the very visible difference.

Tomorrow, something else will be different. More color on trees. A new spiderweb. Hopefully not a skunk like last week. Everything is always changing. Including me, relationships, trees, turkey. Everything.

Goals Health

A 2013 Goal I’ll Share with You: The Cleveland (Half) Marathon

I am not sharing my entire list of goals or resolutions with you. They’re on Post-It notes in my office and written in my journal. I did tell you my word for the year; many of the goals I have made for the year relate to that word. Other goals might include “putting away my laundry in a timely manner” or “making sure the shoe shelf isn’t overflowing onto the mudroom floor.” Not very creative but pretty essential. One of my goals, however, isn’t really creative. Or essential. But it’s pretty big.

I am registered for the Cleveland HALF Marathon on May 19.

Oh, and more than just registering for it, I intend to run it. Finish it. Not win it, but finish it.

It feels big and scary and unbelievably exciting. Not just to have registered, but to share it here — to tell all of you that I am going to do this. So that when May 20th rolls around, I can’t just look at the ceiling and pretend like this post never happened. I’m going to do this. I am going to run a half marathon.

Which is funny in and of itself since I just wrote a couple weeks ago that I might never run a half marathon. I was feeling very full of self-doubt at that time — in shape, appearance and ability, and that person’s comment only exacerbated my feelings. I feel less of that now, though I’m still wondering how someone with a degenerative spine injury like mine will run a half marathon less than a year after treatment. I feel great, but I have that worry. I’m also, in the same breath, amazed at how far I’ve come since that last week in July. Since August 15, 2012, I have run 160.4 miles; 56.1 of those were in December which isn’t really the easiest month to run in terms of schedule and weather. I feel like a different person entirely. It’s a fantastic and phenomenal feeling.

I am starting my official training on Sunday, January 27. Until then, I’ll be running, working out on my new elliptical and trying to remind myself that I can do anything I put my mind to — so I don’t freak out. Oh, and I’ll be putting away my laundry and keeping the shoe shelf clean while creating amazing things in the process too.

Or, at least creating.

And running.

And probably chasing kids. And the dog.

And tripping over shoes in the mudroom.

Let's Run...