Tonight I went for a run in, ah… longer than I’d like to admit to.
I ran 2.5 miles and didn’t stop to walk and felt pretty alright about it all. It wasn’t far, but it’s a start!
Things like running, and cycling, and swimming (my three biggest sporting loves), always give me time to think. Space to decompress. To process. I always seem to find something to think about. And if I don’t, sometimes not thinking about anything except the task at hand can also be rewarding in it’s own way.
I’m not a fast runner. I’m not a fast swimmer. I’m a decent cyclist.
A few years ago, I was in great shape. I did a triathlon at least once a month from June-September, and placed in my age group often. But… I was also single. Didn’t have very many friends. Had a part-time job and 2 hours a day to devote to the gym. My life as a whole was not super fulfilling.
When I look at where I am now–Wonderful wife (plus cat-children). Great neighborhood. Good job. Solid friends. And I feel like I live a much more well-rounded and satisfying life these days.
It’s not about winning. It never has been. But sometimes I get caught up in the competitiveness of sports, in the comparisons of my times and abilities to someone else’s, and I forget the real reasons why these things matter to me.
So… What Are we Learning?
Most of the time, I spend more hours at a hospital than I do at home. That’s my job. Go to work, help people through in-patient Physical/Cognitive Rehabilitation, come home. And do it all again tomorrow.
I’m lucky. Believe me, the reality of things is not lost on me.
I empathize all day with my patients and their families. I am a part of their struggles–a line in their story of how they journeyed from the lowest point in their lives to where they will one day end up. And I get to share in a small piece of their life for however long we know each other. I might not have been through rehab the way they have… but I’ve been around it long enough to understand their challenges.
Yet at the end of the day–I go home. I pet my cats. I cook dinner. I kiss my wife. I go out for ice cream. I go for a run. I sit on my porch and have a beer. I water my garden. I lounge on the couch. I read a book. I go to sleep in the comfort of my own bed. I get a break from the non-stop challenge that is rehab.
Sometimes this fact of things makes people feel like we don’t understand what they’re going through.
“Yeah, but you get to go home tonight.” I’ve heard it before. I’ll hear it again.
“But we get it.” I promise them, whether they believe me or not.
I’ve been setting an alarm to go off on my phone when I get home to remind me to “go for a run.” It’s gone off for 12 days. Today was the first day I actually listened to it and put on my running shoes and jogged through my neighborhood.
Tonight while I was running, I was thinking about work. More specifically, I was thinking about some of my patients.
I work with people everyday who have bodies that don’t work the way they want them to. And here I am, procrastinating using mine because I’m tired, hungry, or just don’t feel like it.
But while I was running tonight, I felt like I was doing something that bodies were meant to do. It wasn’t super comfortable (remember, I haven’t ran in a while!). But I felt lucky to have lungs that breathe in and out when I want them to; that my legs move because a thought in my brain sends tiny electric waves down my spine to trigger muscles to Go!; that I can feel the discomfort of muscle pain, and know that I’m still okay.
It’s a miracle at all that bodies work the way they do!
And sometimes I forget to be grateful.
It’s easy to look at the world and say, “I’m grateful because someone else is worse off than me.” But I don’t know if that’s the right approach.
I’d rather look at the world and say, “I’m grateful because look at all the wonderful things I can do. Look at what I have access to. Look at the life I’ve worked to build.”
And for me, sometimes when I run, or bike, or swim… I think about all the people who would love the opportunity to do most of the things I do every day and don’t even think twice about.
So shouldn’t I try to do things, simply for the fact that I can?
And shouldn’t I try to find appreciation in that?
Slow it Down
Tonight, running gave me the opportunity to just chill for 2.5 miles. And to remember to appreciate what we too often take for granted.
We race through this world. We’re always in a hurry to get somewhere. We look at our phones like something in our soul relies on their tiny bright screens to keep us going. We drive too fast. Sometimes we’re too quick to judge other people. Sometimes we have short tempers and short attention spans.
Taking a break from it all is nice.
It gives us a chance to listen to the thoughts that linger in our own head. To notice small details about our neighborhoods we never had time to see before. To smell freshly cut grass. To smile and say hi to other people out enjoying the evening. To catch a glimpse of bugs and tree particles floating lazily in the fading summer sun. To chase long shadows down the block, all the way home.
Sometimes I think we simply need to be reminded to appreciate what we have, when we have it; to practice gratefulness for all the wonderfully simple and complex things we can do; and to keep trying to experience life the way it’s meant to be experienced–from simply to overwhelmingly, thoughtfully to physically, and everything I could never put into words.