I Went For A Run (And Learned Some Things)

I went for a run today.

Okay, so it was more of a brisk walk with a few spurts of jogging…but I did it!

Before I get into my reasons for spontaneously going on a three mile (sort of) jog-ish thing, you’ll need some backstory. Last week I went running with a friend (who is actually a runner, so she has also been acting as my motivator for getting back into shape) and after talking about it for ages, she finally convinced me to go with her. What ended up being a disastrous turn of events also turned out to be a huge push for me in the right direction.

We got lost as we distracted ourselves with talking, assuming the trail would eventually loop back around to where we parked (surprise, it didn’t). All in all we ended up walking/jogging a total of ten miles. My left foot is still not very happy about that excursion, but the rest of me is thankful because I forgot how much I actually enjoy exercising. I forgot how much my body is capable of if I’m having a good time – that I’m not as weak as I always think I am. I forgot that I love to run and let my anxieties melt away. I forgot that I don’t really equate running with working out, because I only ever “worked out” to look better and never actually enjoyed it, but running feels like an escape from reality.

I wanted to go again, alone this time, and though I needed a week’s break after those ten miles for the sake of letting my foot heal, I found myself back on the familiar mulch track she and I started on seven days prior.

I’ve been pretty transparent on here about my past struggles with body image and one thing that held me back from exercising for the past year is how I have abused my body in the past. I spent a lot of time not eating and in that time I was exercising relentlessly – hours upon hours upon hours of trying to tone and shrink the body I taught myself to hate. Since then I have had an aversion to anything involving exercise because I’m afraid of becoming obsessed again or doing it for the wrong reasons. Which is a silly thought because it’s been a year since I’ve seriously struggled with it and while I know some fears may never fully go away, I also know better than to believe something so miniscule could ever be more powerful than the strength God taught me to find within myself.

Today I woke up knowing that I needed to be alone, just God and I. I needed to reevaluate some things within myself and allow for time in which I could reassess a few lessons I have let fall to the wayside. So I escaped to the familiar quiet park where I could reflect, and while I planned on simply sitting on a bench and reading my Bible or praying, I felt God tell me to run instead; to let go and feel free for a little while because I’ve been in a constant state of stress. So here are some things that I learned.

  1. It’s not always about being the best or the fastest. Sure, strive to be the best you can, but also keep a rational mind. I felt God while I was running; I felt Him in the sound of the sea breeze moving gently through the trees above me and the distant murmur of children on a playground. I felt close to Him because it was just He and I in that moment; the world still existed, yes, but it was more beautiful than I’ve seen it in a long time because I saw it all as God’s. It was very meditative, but it wouldn’t have been if I was solely focused on “go faster,” “push harder,” and so on. It’s more about the journey than the destination, or however the expression goes.
  2. Take detours when you can. I found a path off to the side that I knew wouldn’t lead me in the direction I had intended to go, but it was beautiful. I’m all for being focused on your goals and whatnot, but sometimes a distraction is necessary. Sometimes a distraction is put in your place to give you some perspective – a chance to reflect, breathe, and take a moment to be introspective. I ended up enjoying myself the most on my ten minute detour. There was an expanse of grass with benches to sit on, trees towering over me for optimal shade, a place off to the side where someone had a bonfire the night prior, and there were birds everywhere – from huge turkey vultures lurking in the corner to a baby bluejay hopping in the grass. It was serene and a little magical, like it was hidden away just for me to discover right then, and I found myself really smiling for the first time since I had started running. That’s where I felt God the most, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it if I had been so focused on staying on the path that I didn’t allow myself to explore at all.
  3. Don’t eat Skittles before you exercise. This may not seem like a real lesson, but I’m just telling you that you should make better decisions than me because I was fully aware that I should have eaten something healthy, but as I sat in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up to actually run I realized I had been tearing through a bag of Skittles in my purse. It was like someone else took over my actions in that moment and I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late…and by that I mean I was really hungry, I only had skittles readily available, but I honestly probably wouldn’t have chose anything else even if I had had the option. Baby steps. I’m getting healthy in baby steps. But still, don’t do something that dumb. Jesus would be smart enough to eat a salad or something, but I chose Skittles and very much regretted it. Just FYI.
  4. Speaking of sitting in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up, that’s a thing I did. And that’s possibly the biggest lesson learned today (or, actually, more of a reminder since God and I have been over it a few times at this point): stop allowing fear to keep you from doing what you should. Stop allowing yourself to be your own worst enemy. Stop allowing unimportant things to hold you back. I was anxious about people watching me run because I don’t do it often and I don’t always go into new situations feeling super confident, but there’s a reason God spent all of last year making sure I was alone learning independence in spite of useless fears. Today He reminded me that I allowed fear back into my life and it’s time to let go of it, so I did. And I ran. 

God is in every part of life, not just in church or the Bible, and He can teach you a lesson in sometimes the strangest, most unexpected ways. Today was one of those strange, unexpected lesson days and I’m grateful to have a God that calls me out when I need to readjust my thought process and actions.

 

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Change

Last summer I spent an evening in Savannah, Georgia. My mom and I embarked on our yearly trip to meet some family members in Tennessee, and what was supposed to just be a fun rest stop amidst a 14 hour drive turned into a sort of turning point for me.

After a bad breakup and several attempts to find love (or more like comfort, in hindsight) in all the wrong places, prior to this day I hadn’t thought about how much I needed a new outlook . My mom has always been the person who understands me better than anyone else could dream of, and a week of me and her on the road did more good for me than I realized at the time.

To most people, this photo looks like nothing more than a semi-blurry picture of a girl in a restaurant. But I see a hundred problems hiding under the surface: a girl who has lost her sense of direction in life, who is beyond frustrated, mentally counting the calories in the meal she just ordered, and wondering how much longer she can stand to be alive.

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I was obsessed with appearances. I had to be the skinniest, prettiest person I could turn myself into. I had to be fit, working out for hours upon hours everyday until I felt sick. I learned to love the feeling of an empty stomach. I still do, though now I wish I didn’t. I  piled on makeup to the best of my ability and wore outfits that I thought made me look smaller. I had to fix everything, but found new problems with myself everyday. I took selfies and posted them on Instagram to prove to others and myself that I had confidence.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of oneself, or wanting to look nice and be healthy, but I took it to an extreme. I loved when my extended family commented on how great I suddenly looked. I loved that boys suddenly paid attention to me and girls wanted to be my friend. I loved that I had a secret, that I could reinvent myself by choosing who I spent my time with, that I could pretend to fit in with people other than my immediate family for a change.

But those things did not equate to happiness. I did not find salvation in any of them. All I felt was a constant ache for more, but I didn’t get anything more until I proved that, while I may not necessarily deserve it, I could work hard for better things. I could have the best intentions, be positive, and be genuine as often as possible.

I needed God, and acted (even believed at times) that He and I were perfectly okay with each other, but I found that I couldn’t simultaneously be abusing/lying to myself and be in a healthy relationship with Him. Praying means next to nothing if I turn around and act irrational the next minute, whether that be in the way I treat my body or the poor decisions I make to feel less empty.

Relying on frivolous things like appearances, other people’s validation, and success to bring you joy will only result in feeling worse off in the end. I was never more broken than I was at that time, but it was in the brokenness that I was able to make a change.

I didn’t figure everything out on that trip. I didn’t suddenly turn into a new person or have a great relationship with God in a day. Even now, our relationship falters. I’m human and while it’s not an excuse, it is a fact that I’m not going to be perfect. However, it was a turning point.

Throughout that single week, I made decisions that I truly believed would better my life. And sanity, if we’re honest. I had incredible conversations about salvation, thought a lot about what God wanted me to do and how He wanted me to treat myself, and it was because of those decisions that I finally was able to move forward with my life.

I have never been able to say that I am happy. Even in the best moments, I didn’t feel a constant sense of joy. But even on my darker days, I have hope now. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t made difficult, but responsible decisions back then. I had to face reality instead of complaining about it, and as soon as I did, my entire outlook on myself and my existence changed. I changed. I grew.

Home

I knew a boy who lived in a sea of rolling hills – the town he grew up in like waves far out in the ocean

I was a boat tied to the dock while he swam along the coast freely

 

We simultaneously put each other first and last while expecting harmonious synchronization

Two people forcing their way into a thing they called home even if it felt like a warzone

 

We got stuck between growing up and being grown up because it was the place we knew best

Comfortable in the discomfort of never knowing what might lie ahead but still feeling certain that we’d both be a part of each other’s futures

 

But a person shouldn’t be a Lighthouse

And we were far from perfect

 

Eventually the ocean turned dark and he went away as the tide swirled around my ankles, untying the rope that held me where I thought I’d always be safe

I drifted alone until he was barely a speck on the horizon, waving to me from the safety of warm grass, solid ground, and sunlight like a halo

 

On my own I found my way to a new place where the waves didn’t crash, just sort of swayed back and forth

I found softer hands to hold, and the hills where I used to hide behind went away with the sunset

 

Now my new home actually feels like a home – nothing like the former secluded hideaway I wasn’t allowed to leave until God or somebody forced me out

It’s four walls and a bed to share, toes in the water, and a Lighthouse to lead me in every direction

 

We work now in tandem

Two people creating and discovering together, allowing for both self-identity and someone to trust

 

There are no hills or a need for them – only open sky and a horizon that is always bright

My tomorrow never seeming dim because I have something to bring me home and someone to go home to

06/18/2018: Adolescence

It’s mid-June in the suffocating heat of a typical Florida evening. Mosquitos are swarming in my periphery as I sit cross-legged on a white spray-painted metal chair. Its 1950’s floral design is typical of my mother’s decorating style – beautiful, but just uncomfortable enough so you aren’t tempted to sit still for too long. Always temporary. The arms dig into my thighs, but I don’t move them.

Chloe is tending to our mother’s lush but quickly browning garden; watering the plants she cannot take care of while stuck in the bulky cast that has snaked itself halfway up her calf, tangled around her like a wild vine on an otherwise pristine home. Watching her wheel herself around, frustrated at her personal freedom having been stripped from her, reminds me of a caged animal. And an almost-trainwreck; that single breath of a moment when things aren’t the worst they can be, adrenaline and sadness running through you because there’s nothing you can do except watch and wait. Except, instead of an oncoming train, it’s an oncoming surgery and a piece of metal stuck in her foot. You can’t really feel empathy until you see someone you love look like their world has come to a halt and try to adapt in spite of it.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is in the side yard running after the puppy he and my sister share. Their black-and-white dog is small, lanky, and he reminds me of an awkward teenager when he walks, but he’s charming. His short snout makes him sound like a pig when he breathes, and he loves to be cradled like a child. I often jokingly call him my nephew, maybe partly because I’d like to have a kid around that isn’t entirely dependent on me for survival just yet. But mostly just because I like his company. It’s harder for any of us to act anything but happy around him, and that’s become more of a rarity lately.

Chase’s laugh is carried toward me with a warm seabreeze that feels like home, and I feel at ease for the first time in a while. Not like my typical quasi-adult self who’s trying to politely fit in and find some place to hide out until a better opportunity makes me move in another direction, but like I’m six years old again. I look at the clear blue open sky and suddenly I’m riding my bike – a light blue Schwinn with a wicker basket and flowers stuck on the side. I’m trying to keep up with my brother and his bright red speed bike as my neighbor yells to me, “He went that way!” Thanking him, my tires skid on the smooth asphalt as I make a sharp left turn. Alex is in the distance and the only thing I can think about is making it to the end of the street before he turns around. Trying to play catch-up.

I am not six anymore. I have jury duty tomorrow and I often think about things like marriage and apartments and the names of the children I plan on having. I worry about money and how in the world I can make a career out of the things I have been passionate about since I was actually six. I am not six, but I can pretend to be for a few more minutes.

 

More

I want your irrationality

More than whispered promises

More than a few words at the end of a sentence

But I know heartache is worse than a little disappointment

 

So maybe that’s why I’m quietly fuming

And why I’ll simultaneously miss you in ways you can’t really understand

Because I can’t really explain them

 

I want declarations

Never asked for and never forced

Never just a secondary character in our own book

But to believe that I am your person, who makes you feel everything

 

Stop me in my tracks

Love me like you mean it

Like I am exciting to you

 

I want more

I’m asking because I’m still holding back

I’m asking because I know you love my company

But you think I want unreasonable things

 

I won’t just be a good decision

An easy path to an easy future

Well-fitting in all the right ways but devoid of long-term passion

 

I have your tomorrow

Your everyday is a constant

Your hand always there to hold when I reach out

But something in my chest remains empty

 

I want more

But you don’t know what that means

And you don’t think anything went missing 

 

More Like You

I see You in everything

So I know I am not alone

I know that You will call me home

 

Can You show me a better way

To live my life

All for Your grace

 

I want to take hold of You now

To just find out

How to be a better person

How to make You proud

 

You say that You are with me

And there’s no end to

Unfailing love everlasting

 

Passion and persistence

I wish I could do it for You too

 

So I will give You praise

I will give you all

Of my heart still beating

My everyday

 

I have heard You in the distance

The distance is in me

 

When we’re close I can feel You

When I’m far I need You

 

You are in everything

 

Everyone Is A Bit Of A Mess

I am broken.

So completely, unabashedly broken. Well at least the “unabashedly” part is a work in progress.

There is no definitive line between having it together and falling apart. Daily life is not set in black in white; even if it’s not always a rainbow of colors, it’s at least hundreds of variations of grey. Depends on the day.

Lately, I’ve been having some grey days. There are ups and downs, because among the “downs” I choose to let myself have some “ups,” which is an important lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago. But in the grey days I have learned to look closer at the reality of other people’s lives.

I am not the only person facing demons. Far from it, in fact.

Sure that seems obvious when actually saying it aloud or putting pen to paper, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and not realize that your problems, while they have merit, are not exclusive. I would be wasting my time trying to compare my life to other’s because I can see their lives in easy black and white moments – I’m not feeling everything they feel or seeing every detail exactly like they can. To put it more eloquently, Steven Furtick says “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Even with the people I am closest to, with whom I get a glimpse of most of their good and bad moments, I could still easily point to all the ways in which they have their life more figured out than I do.

Me? I feel like a mess 24/7. I’ve never not felt like a mess. I’m a terrible communicator when it comes to my emotions (and I have a lot of them), I procrastinate out of fear, I push some people away and let in some that I shouldn’t, I think too much about self-improvement to the point of not actually doing anything to improve, I don’t pray enough. I’m going to stop there. You get the point.

Your immediate reaction, if you’re anything like me, may be “Yeah, but…”

But nothing. I am a mess in some ways, but not in others. It’s just not always easy to look past the ways in which you are a mess because those qualities tend to be more prevalent and problem-causing. The people in my life that I admire for their abilities to handle things all the time have their own faults and shortcomings that I’m not paying attention to because I’m too busy thinking about how much better than me they are.

A better use of time is, if you notice a quality you like in someone, point it out to them and learn from what they do. You can’t always mimic what other people do because you still have to be your own person and focus on the gifts that God gave you, but maybe there’s some sort of lesson in there for you as well.

Otherwise, calm down. Get it together. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

That’s pretty much my mantra when I’m freaking out about anything ever. But seriously, calm down and do something productive. Even if it’s not perfect, move in some sort of positive direction because sitting back and watching other people live their lives “better” than you is only going to bring you down and get you nowhere. My mom says something to the effect of, “If you’re not moving forward, you can only go backwards.” There is no safe middle ground.

Everyone else does not have it all together and you aren’t 100% a mess. Most of us are somewhere in the middle; our shortcomings are just way more apparent than other people’s. However that’s also no excuse to sit back and say “I’m doing fine.” It means that you may not be exactly where you should be, but you can work on that. In doing so, you can also remain positive and remember that no two people are doing or have done this ‘life’ thing the exact same way.

We’re all trying to figure it out.