B is for Behind (Already!) or Boundaries

I decided a few days ago that B was going to be for Boundaries—a relevant topic now that I am a counselor and caregiver (see A is for Alzheimer’s). But then life intervened in unexpected ways and while I should be cranking out my C is for . . . blog, I’ve still not gotten around to B. Also, there’s the little matter of a poem to go along with. Every time I sit down to write a poem, I get interrupted. Poetry is challenging enough without constant interference. I wrote one the other night, but I’m not sure it is suitable for public consumption—in fact, I know it isn’t. So, back to the drawing board.

A few words about Boundaries. Boundaries are those imaginary lines that we draw in the sand between us and the rest of the world. The word “no” is a boundary, as in “No, I cannot help you move this weekend (or ever).” Boundaries are personal bubbles, as in “if there are 90 empty seats in the movie theater, don’t sit right next to me if you don’t know me.” I am continually amazed at how often this boundary gets violated (especially in Bellingham). Boundaries can be fences, hedges, the edge of the lawn, a strategically placed flowerbed, or (if you are Cheeto Satan) a $65 billion wall between countries. What all of these borders, imaginary or actual, have in common, is they separate me from the rest of you in some way, or us from them, or my yard from your yard, or my body from your body, or my time from your time. Stepping across the line means I am choosing to merge some part of myself with you.

As a counselor, having boundaries means that I must keep our relationship confined to the counseling setting. It’s a bit odd, this particular boundary because while you (the counselee) may chose to tell me (the counselor) many intimate details about your life, I will not reciprocate with intimate details of my own. Normal relationships (friendships, intimate partners) rely on the mutual sharing of such information across boundaries to create a sense of closeness. You tell me an intimate detail, a secret, something you’ve not shared before, and I reward you with a secret/intimate detail of my own, our friendship grows, intimacy flourishes, the exchange is reciprocal.

Not so in counseling or therapy, which works differently. You tell me (the counselor) a secret, and I reflect it back to you, usually with a question. Something like “what meaning might you assign to the anger you have for your father?” or “what would it mean to you if she asked you out on a date?” or “how has being abused as a child affected your parenting of your own children?” Or maybe even (if I’m feeling stuck) “how do you feel about that?”

As a counselor, I have to have Boundaries because how helpful would it be if you disclosed your traumatic childhood to me, expecting insight and healing, and I said to you “Wow! My childhood was traumatic too”? Or, even if I did determine that some level of self-disclosure might be warranted (a quick rule of thumb re: self-disclosure: it can be ok if it helps the client, but not if it’s only for my own sake, i.e. to make me feel better), how helpful would it be if I confused you by having loose boundaries in the therapy room but then ignored you when I ran into you at the supermarket? If I took your money (or insurance payment) under the auspices of helping you but came to rely on your feedback and your insights? If you leave a counseling session knowing more about your therapist or counselor than he/she knows about you, somebody’s Boundaries are too loose.

Therapy is a very specific sort of exchange, one that depends on firm Boundaries. Less than firm Boundaries create all sorts of havoc and may result in the counselor or therapist losing their license. Lapses in ethics often result from lapses in Boundaries and can be a very slippery slope. Loose Boundaries can lead to inappropriate friendships and perhaps even sexual liaisons between therapists and clients. Sleeping with a client is never a good way to help them heal. It might make the client feel special initially, but will eventually destroy them (and probably the counselor as well).

Even something as seemingly benign as a friendship can become problematic between a therapist and client. As your friend, I have a vested interest in telling you things you want to hear, things that will keep you as a friend. As your therapist, I have a duty to tell you things that you might not want to hear but need to, things that will help you heal and move forward, things that a friend wouldn’t tell you. Boundaries make it possible for me to be your counselor.

Confused yet? It’s tricky, I know. But trust me, this is one lesson you’re better off NOT learning directly.

Related Haiku (this is an old one, but relevant)

Please do not invite
me in and then abandon
me at the threshold

A is for Alzheimer’s

Note: Since it is also National Poetry Writing Month (or NaPoWriMo) in addition to the 2017 A-to-Z Challenge, I will try to include a poem at the end of each blog entry. Today’s poem is a Haibun, a Japanese form in which a prose-poem precedes a haiku. 

My mother only eats off of salad plates, and she will only use a salad fork. When we run out of small plates (we only have six and she will not use the one that doesn’t match the rest, the blue one with stars, the sun, and the moon) and small forks, she tells me it is time to run the dishwasher even though it may contain only her six salad plates and her six salad forks. She does not remember that she can wash the plate and fork by hand. She eats off of small plates and she drinks only tea but her teacup goes in the dishwasher rarely. It is brown with discoloration and stains and sticky from the sugar she ladles into her tea.

Her habit of eating off of the small plates is not new. She has been in the habit of using the salad plates for a long, long time now. It comes, I believe, from years of being monitored by my father for overeating. For as long as I can remember, my father scrutinized my mother’s eating habits. When I was a kid, a teenager, I remember going out for ice cream and my dad making my mom get a diet coke while the rest of us had ice cream cones. Divorced for 16 years, she now eats ice cream right from the container. It’s as if not using a bowl means the ice cream doesn’t count, doesn’t really mean anything, will not invite supervision or scrutiny.

My mom moved in with me in September. My brother and I had been fielding reports from her friends and neighbors for several months in which they outlined her memory declines and odd behaviors. She reported seeing Sasquatch in her back yard a year ago in March. She forgot that she had ever played Farkle, a dice game that she played regularly over the past several years with friends and family. She got lost driving and forgot why she went places, her best friend told us.

I expected she would move in with me last June, but she called and refused. She didn’t want to leave her community or her friends. She had book clubs and garden club and Friends of the Library, she said. I had time last summer, time to orient her to Bellingham, time to sign her up for services, time to drive her to appointments. But she couldn’t quite marshal her resources, became overwhelmed at the monumental task of packing up her house, of sloughing off unnecessary items, of sorting through the detritus. My brother and I showed up last Mother’s Day weekend and hauled a ton of stuff to Goodwill and the dump. We divvied up her Waterford crystal and boxed up the china to be auctioned off on Ebay. I prepared her room in my house, but she didn’t come in June. She didn’t come in July or August either. And when I asked, she told me she was too tired to pack, too overwhelmed to organize the boxes.

Her friends kept calling. She shouldn’t be driving, they said. She tells the same stories over and over, they said. As if I hadn’t noticed that. Each phone call was the same as the last. Each conversation might as well have been a recording of the previous one. She couldn’t muster the energy or wherewithal to travel. She had missed Thanksgiving and Christmas the previous years. She told her friends she hadn’t been invited. She told her children she didn’t feel like traveling. I know now that she couldn’t get organized, couldn’t leave her dog, didn’t know what to do to get ready.

My mother eats off of small plates. She only will use a small fork. Her life is getting smaller. The walls are closing in. On both of us.

Haibun
My mother has become an old woman before my eyes, aging into forgetfulness and dementia, a victim now of ancient routines. She flutters toward the light, safe and trapped simultaneously, unable to escape the confines of what little remains, the walls of her cerebrum wiped smooth, scrubbed of the dust and fluff of daily nuances, the surfaces there papered only in history, teflon to what is new. She hunkers inward, shuttering her blinds, while painting on a brave façade.

Memory’s threads fray,
Ragged edges and patchwork
The mind’s makeshift quilt

P is for . . . Pause

PP is for so many things. Pam for starters. Without P, there would be no me, or at least no me as we currently know she. 🙂 (P could also be for Poet).

I’ve started and restarted and erased and deleted this P blog so many times the past few days. In my initial list of Things to Write About for this letter-a-day blog, I had down Practicum for P. After all, I am supposed to be starting my six-month practicum for counseling this quarter. But I have encountered a few roadblocks/difficulties/imPediments along my way to practicum and have thus lost my enthusiasm for that particular topic.

Of course, there’s Prince. Sad to see him die at such a young age, and it’s always tragic when someone of his talent leaves this planet too soon and so unexpectedly. That said, I evidently lived under a rock in the 80s and have only a few vague memories of his music—mostly related to aerobics class. I am sad to have missed his important musical legacy.

Sadly, I was preoccupied with fundamentalist christianity at the time, where the Prevailing ideologies leaned more toward burning Prince albums than listening to them (I never did Participate in such an atrocity, thankfully). I owned Amy Grant and Keith Green albums instead. And when I left the church I immersed myself in “women’s music” ala Meg Christian, Tret Fure, and Cris Williamson.

P could be for Pause, I guess. I thought for a bit about writing P is for Pfrustration (you know, like Pfizer. The P is silent) since that has been my overarching emotion of late. I’ve had to take many a Pause recently, reconsidering my reactions to this and that, thinking long and hard before sending reply emails. Pondering Possible reactions Prior to Posting Pernicious Perspectives on social media sites. The sacred Pause can be Positive for Preserving ones reputation and dignity.pause

Pausing takes Patience and Practice, things I’ve become better at since starting my training as a mental health counselor.  I’m nowhere near Perfect as anyone who knows me can attest. But awareness of the Pause, knowing that it works, is in and of itself Powerful. There’s no going back to a state of unawareness. Every time I react without pausing, I remember a little bit sooner the next time I want to overreact. My ability to stop and reflect, to think about other possibilities, reactions other than annoyance, rage, irritation, anger improves.

I was listening to a Tara Brach podcast not long ago, and she told a story about a compulsive thief, a guy who had been in trouble many times for his need to steal and pilfer. He made the Pause work for him and used that space, those few seconds, to remind himself that he could choose to walk away. If he changed his life by pausing, I can too.

 

 

 

A is for Ack! It’s April Already and I am Anxious

AI can’t believe I haven’t finished my first blog for the A to Z challenge yet. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks, planning, scheming, writing it in my head, but clearly I’ve not put any words down yet. Until now. These few, uninspired, last minute words that seem so unequal to the task, so small and worthless and hurried.

A is for Apology, apparently. Abject. Abysmal. But I’m at AWP this week, a conference all about writing, and so, apology or not, abysmal or not, tired or not, write I must.

I am going to write about Anxiety. My plan for this year’s A-to-Z Challenge is thus: I want to spend this month writing about my experiences as a student in the Clinical Mental Health Counselor Program at Antioch University. I want to weave together a narrative, exploring the concepts (from A to Z) that I study as a student of mental health counseling and how my studies intersect with my life. How my coursework shows up in my day-to-day world.

I haven’t studied Anxiety, per se. I have taken many relevant classes, delved into the DSM 5 and learned how I might diagnose a client who presented with symptoms that fit the criteria for, say,  Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I learned to write a treatment plan and theorized about which therapeutic modality I might employ to best help my client regain his or her equilibrium.

Most of what I’ve learned about Anxiety comes from first hand experience. I am not one who has been plagued with Anxiety for much of my life. No, my familiarity with this particular demon has only been recent and is one of the reasons I started running regularly a little over two years ago.

I started waking up in the mornings with a pit of dread churning in my stomach and found that if I went for a run, somewhere around mile two or three, the pit of dread loosened and eventually abated. I guess the endorphins kicked in, the oxytocin released, and the runner’s euphoria lifted the anxiety. Cured, if only temporarily, I could get on with my day. The next morning, the anxiety would return, and I’d start over. Run. Rinse. Repeat.

A nice side benefit to running off all my anxiety was that I started to lose weight. I felt healthier. My blood pressure dropped, as did my cholesterol, and my pants size. But, I digress. I still woke up most mornings feeling like something horrible was about to happen. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the axe to fall, for the bottom to drop out, for . . . well, you get the picture.

Anxiety chased me into my running clothes and out of the house each morning. But the thing about being a graduate student in a counseling program is that these sort of disruptions don’t slip by unanalyzed. While one part of me succumbed to the anxiety, another part of my tapped my forefinger thoughtfully against my chin  and asked, “How do you feel about this, Pam Sue?”

Some people have angels and demons sitting on their shoulders. I now have Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, or their modern day equivalents, Jack Cornfield and Tara Brach. I can have a panic attack and simultaneously know for certain that while what I am experiencing might feel real, it isn’t true.

It’s weird, living with this meta awareness. I had all sorts of anxiety about traveling to AWP this week–logistical stuff that I know I’m capable of handling but for whatever reason just kept spinning on: how am I going to get to Sea-Tac from Bellingham? To the airbnb from LAX? I can’t check in until 4 p.m., but I arrive at 9 in the morning. What would I do? These questions dogged me for weeks. I envisioned myself in dire circumstances, dragging my carryon around LA for hours, sad and alone and dazed.  Yet, I simultaneously knew my fears were unfounded and not based in reality. I could make a shuttle reservation, find a friend to stay with in Seattle, even one who might take me to the airport. I just couldn’t see the logical steps in the midst of my anxiety.

Something similar happened when I realized how expensive it was going to be to eat and drink here in Los Angeles. The first day I spent way too much money on so-so food and paid $8 for a mediocre beer. So, I took myself to the grocery store, but instead of going shopping at the end of the day, when the conference was over, I went in the morning on my way to the conference and so had to schlep my groceries around the conference hall, from one panel discussion to another.

I was so anxious about not having drinking water back at the airbnb that night, I bought a six pack of bottled water and stuck it in my already heavy backpack. All the while I’m hearing Jack and Tara on my shoulders, telling me not to believe the anxiety, reassuring me that all will be well, that I will be fine, that there will be water at the conference. That the universe will provide.  But, do I listen? No. I buy the water. And I vow to do better tomorrow.

 

 

 

T is for Tattoo

TLast year in this spot, I wrote about my toes. I thought perhaps a short update was in order. My toes are fine. I’ve logged many, many miles in the past year and the toes are holding up just fine. Very few toe troubles—no blisters, no missing nails, no black toes (knocking on wood as I type this). Most of my toes do have a touch of callous on the top, little caps of tough skin to protect them, but nothing that would keep me from putting my feet in a pair of flip flops or Chacos, no deformities that would cause the pedicurist to run screaming.

How to segue from toes to my new tattoo? There’s no smooth transition, really, so here goes: Four weeks ago yesterday, I strode purposefully into a local tattoo parlor and announced I wanted a tattoo, please. The guy eyed me suspiciously, made a show of checking his calendar and told me I needed to make an appointment for the following Tuesday. The shop was virtually empty, but I didn’t argue. I put down my deposit and entered the date and time in my phone calendar. I left him with the artwork I knew I wanted engraved forever onto my right shoulder.cho_ku_rei1112

When I returned at the agreed upon date and time, he looked at me with raised eyebrows, but set about readying his station and preparing the artwork. I flipped through tattoo industry magazines while I waited, patiently. What was taking so long? Did he think I would lose my nerve? Did I not appear to be the tattoo type? IS there a tattoo type? I mean, seriously, everyone has a tattoo these days: grandmas, grandpas, hipsters, nerds, athletes, moms, dads. Now it was my turn.

Finally, he signaled that he was ready and he put a stencil on my shoulder and had me look in the mirror. “Bigger,” I said immediately. “I want it about fifty percent bigger.” He raised his eyebrows again, but went ahead and swabbed the stencil off with alcohol and schlepped back to the printer, returned with a much larger stencil, and handed me the mirror again.

“That’s it. Perfect,” I said and lay down on the chair/table/tattoo bed. That’s when I noticed the razor on the counter. “Hopefully you won’t have to shave much hair off my back,” I remarked with a nervous laugh.

“Oh, I already got it,” he said. “Can’t have any hairs getting pushed in by the needle. Even baby fuzz can turn into a nasty ingrown hair.”

Ew. I turned my face away and pondered how I might deal with an ingrown hair on my shoulder. I wouldn’t be able to see or reach it on my own. How much hair was there on my back, anyway? Ew. I didn’t want to know, but I thought it was a good sign that I hadn’t noticed him shaving my shoulder. Maybe this tattoo thing wouldn’t hurt too much after all.

I have been thinking about a tattoo for a few years, but never quite hit on what I wanted permanently inked onto my skin. My life has been about words and technology, but nothing I could think of in those realms seemed worthy of a tattoo. I considered Scrabble tiles but couldn’t come up with the right words. A crossword puzzle crossed my mind, but again, the words to accompany it eluded me. I definitely didn’t want any sort of computer rendition on my skin.

Then, sort of out of the blue, this symbol jumped out at me. The Choku Rei. I came across the choku rei over a year ago when I made a book/prayer flaggy thing for a Christmas gift. I needed a symbol for health, healing, and spirituality to go with the quotes I wanted to use in the art project. Google turned up these:choku rei art symbol 1

I carved two stamps to use in the project, which turned out really cool if I do say so myself. And then I pretty much forgot about the symbols. But when I thought about where I wanted the tattoo—on my right shoulder—the Choku Rei made perfect sense for a couple of reasons.

First, I have been having weird and annoying sensations under my scapula for the better part of two years. Recently I discovered that the source of the discomfort is radiculopathy—nerve pain from my messed up thoracic spine. What better symbol to put on my shoulder? The choku rei symbolizes healing and power. The points where the spiral meet the staff indicate the chakras, and the symbol says “put the power of the universe here.” It is used in Reiki, a form of healing massage.

Secondly, the choku rei is not a tattoo everyone else has—it would be a conversation piece and unusual. Plus, I imagined it would look badass when I wore a racer back tank top on my runs.

These were my thoughts as the tattoo needle stabbed and jammed the ink into my shoulder: I will look badass. I will look badass.

“How ya doin’?” Tattoo guy asked, pausing midway through the interminable process.

“Hurts like a mofo,” I said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

“Yep,” he nodded. “You get used to it though. Once you have one tattoo, you’ll want another. It’s addictive.”

tattoo1“We’ll see,” I said and winced. “We’ll see.”

He was right. While I haven’t quite forgotten about the pain completely, I am already considering another tattoo.

S is for Spirituality (and also Short)

SKnock me over with a feather. I am pretty sure that I would not have predicted I’d be writing a blog about Spirituality, but things change, do they not?

As a emotionally scarred refugee from fundamentalist christianity, I have long carried a burdensome aversion to anything that even remotely smacked of religion—the supernatural, spirituality, church, prayer, ceremonies, rituals, rites of passage, religious/spiritual people . . . the list cascades into eternity (that’s another suspect concept, the afterlife).

But, here I sit, having met yesterday with a spiritual leader of sorts, to discuss with her the possibilities of joining her “church” (I broke out into a hot flash just as I typed that last sentence, so maybe not joining, maybe just, uhm, attending on a more regular basis). We had a lovely meeting–a meaningful chat. I’m signed up for a class that starts next week.

Yesterday afternoon I had a massage with a side helping of transformational breath work, during which I’m pretty sure I had an out of body experience.

I have an appointment later this week to meet with a life coach who sees into the supernatural realm, and I’m doing a presentation in one of my classes on spirituality and counseling/therapy (or whatever we are calling it these days).

The list goes on. I’m branching out, dipping my toe in.

I am expanding my spiritual horizons.

R is for Rain and Resistance

RLast month my pal Cami wrote a nice piece for Adventures Northwest Magazine on running in the rain, the upshot of which was that when you live somewhere like the Pacific Northwest, you have to get used to running in the rain. Life is too short not to run in the rain. If we don’t run in the rain, we will miss many, many running days.

I don’t disagree. But, as I type this, rain pummels my roof. I set my alarm last night so I would be up and ready to run this morning by 8 a.m., yet here I am, typing away, snug as a bug in a rug in my warm, dry bed. My coffee and my smoothie sit deliciously on my nightstand next to me. I don’t want to get up to run in the rain. photo

I calculate the number of hours I have until I need to get in the car to drive to class in Seattle this afternoon. Then, I look at the weather app on my iPhone and wonder if it really is going to reach 70° and sunny today. Could I squeeze a run in the hour before I need to leave? Might it be drier and warmer by then? Maybe, but there’s no guarantee. If I don’t run in the rain, I may never run again.

Over the past year and a half, I have logged plenty of wet, rainy miles. I ran a 10K last fall in a torrential downpour, complete with thunder, lightning, and rivers of cow, uhm, waste. I’ve never regretted a single rainy run. I always feel like a fierce (if slightly damp) warrior when I finish, when I’m peeling off the soaked lycra and climbing back into my Jeep, dripping but exhilarated.

Still, I resist. And why? What lies beneath the resistance when I know something good awaits if only I could muster the energy and throw off the ennui long enough to push through? What reward will I find here in my warm, dry bed that is better than the sense of accomplishment and rush of endorphins that will greet me on the trail?

If I continue to wallow here in my resistance, I know what will happen. I will reread all of the bad news on CNN. I will check and recheck my Facebook feed. I will spend a half an hour down the rabbit hole that is Twitter. I’ll play a game or two of Trivia Crack. An hour or two will go by. An hour or two of my one wild and precious life.

So, here I go. Up, out of bed. Drain the coffee. Pull on the running gear. Pushing through, fighting the resistance. Embracing the rain. Life is too short not to.

K is such a difficult letter. Kilometer. Knowledge. Kundalini

KI’ve been struggling with what to write for K, which, technically, should have been done yesterday. Tying a K word to my running theme is proving difficult. I suppose the obvious K is Kilometer, as in 5K, 8K, 10K, etc. I could go down that road, metaphorically, I suppose, but I’m not feeling inspired.

My favorite race seems to be the 10K, or 6.2 miles, roughly a quarter of a marathon, a little less than half of a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles or 21.08241 kilometers. Most days I run 5 miles or a bit over 8K.

When I started running and using my Nike app, I got a little verbal acknowledgement from the voice in the app when I hit each kilometer along my run. I found the information frustrating as it meant I spent the next kilometer futilely doing math in my head, trying to figure out what my pace was in miles per hour. Eventually I switched the app to alert me at each mile which makes much more sense.

I remember a concerted effort by the powers that be to educate us on the metric system when I was in middle school—7th grade if I remember correctly. The metric system is coming, they warned. Best to brush up on this vexing system of 10s. Nearly forty years have come and gone since then, and we still prefer the random foot, yard, mile system here in these United States. We don’t seem any worse off for not making the switch.

See, that’s all I have to say about kilometers. Not very inspiring or useful, really. I took a look back at last April to see what I wrote about on the K is for day then and that was not helpful either. A year ago, I was as stuck as I am now.

I considered a K blog on Knowledge as well, a pretty big topic. As a student, I find myself awash in the acquisition of knowledge. I struggled to tie Knowledge to the running theme, though. I suppose we could approach it via data—data is information, and information, once absorbed, becomes knowledge. Knowledge is power. Once I know my stats, I have information and then knowledge about my running. I can then fine-tune my runs. Meh. Maybe if I were interested in taking my running to the next level, but I’m not. I’m content with the status quo.

Two more possibilities arose as I pondered K words, one of which has nothing obvious to do with running: Kundalini. Kundalini is the energy that rests at the base of the spine (according to yogic tradition), which, once awakened can result in deep bliss (among other things). Interestingly enough, to those who know me, I attended a church service this past weekend where the topic was Kundalini Mayhem, or what happens when the kundalini rises in the unprepared. (It’s a long story, but fascinating. One I may have to explore in more depth in a later blog post.)

The kundalini rises along the spine’s chakras, which brings me to my new tattoo (I know, a very circuitous route—I just can’t wait until T to write about my tattoo): a choku rei symbol. The choku rei symbolizes power. It means, basically, “place all the power of the universe here.” The symbol is said to represent the chakras, in the places where the coils intersect with the staff.

I put the tattoo on my right shoulder for two reasons. First, it will look all sorts of badass when I run in a racer back tank top. And second, because I’ve had a strange sensation under my right scapula for the past two years. Recently I discovered the discomfort is the result of degenerative disk disease, something called radiculopathy (basically, nerve pain).

The Choku Rei symbol is used in Reiki to draw power to the parts of the body on which it is drawn. I figured my right shoulder and the radiculopathy could use some assistance. That, and it looks sweet. (Hopefully by the time T is for Tattoo rolls around, I’ll have a better picture).

tattoo

Rise with me–spiral
Up. Let us float heavenward
Toward hope and bliss

 

J is for Just Do It!

JI’m not a particularly big Nike fan (beyond their running app, which I live by), but I do like their “Just Do It” motto—I think that we’d all be better off sometimes if we stopped hemming and hawing, quit analyzing and crunching the data, gave our information-saturated brains a break, sucked it up and jumped in, feet first.

Do you want to start running? Are you unsure about where and how to begin? Do you have mysterious aches and pains? Do you worry you don’t have enough energy or the right clothes? Are you afraid of the rain, the cold, the sun, the heat?nike 1

Take the leap. There’s never going to be the perfect time, the perfect weight, the perfect weather, the perfect outfit, or the ideal body. We all have to start somewhere, with what we have. It doesn’t matter if we are waiting to write a book or begin an exercise regimen. If we wait until we have time or an office, the right shoes, or smaller love handles, well, we might never get started.

Begin at the beginning. Start where you are. I have a friend who wouldn’t start running because her shoulder hurt. And then her knee hurt. She chose to stay on the couch with an ice pack on instead of getting out there and moving. Until she didn’t. Until she got up and just went for it. The aches and pains vanished over time. She lost weight. Her mood improved. She joined a running group. Eventually she ran races and bought cool shoes.

2012 nike app
My runs, 2012

That’s the paradox. When we use our muscles, they feel better (or they hurt so good) because they were meant to move. When we write, we improve. With each mile we put on the pedometer (or Nike app, or FitBit or RunKeeper), with each sentence we get down, each paragraph we complete, our muscles get stronger, our prose improves, our ideas coalesce.

So, go for it. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did, and everything will fall into place, including those love handles.

My runs, 2015
My runs, 2015

Some places to start:
Fit School
Couch to 5K
Fitbit
Runkeeper
Nikeplus

I is for Inspiration

IApril is an inspirational month for runners. Just check out these two anniversaries I happened upon recently.

Terry Fox. I ran across this article today on Facebook. Terry Fox began his epic run across Canada 35 years ago. That number feels impossible. Can it be that long ago that this 22-year-old kid took off on one good leg and one prosthetic leg on his Marathon of Hope? He covered about 16 miles a day, day after day for 143 days, over 3339 miles in all. Amazing. Inspirational. Seemingly impossible, even for someone with two good legs.

Check out his foundation’s website here.

Katherine Switzer. In 1967 Katherine became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. You can read her story here, on her website. Forty-eight years later, it’s difficult to believe that women were ever not allowed to run marathons. Inconceivable, in fact. In spite of being physically attacked on the course, (by the race co-director!) Switzer completed the marathon in four hours and 20 minutes. In 1975 she finished in two hours and 50 minutes. She’s run the marathon 8 times.

That’s a lot of inspiration for one day, folks. May we all find the motivation to get up off the couch and move. Perhaps we will even inspire someone.