The Most Difficult Thing...
One day, about seven years ago as I was performing therapy on a pain patient from a doctor. This elder patient asked me an interesting question. She asked, “What is the most difficult thing you have to do?” I reiterated how I thought she meant the query, wondering exactly what she was asking. For even at age ninety, I’d known her about ten years at this point. I did not want to assume it meant things others may think I didn’t have to, but chose to do.
No, she understood that I ran, because it kept me healthy enough and strong enough to do my job. At this point our two children were approaching their teens. Yes, parenting always has its challenges, but that does ebb and flow. Labor of love. My job, I have to work. But, also a labor of love. Cleaning the house, cooking, food-shopping, all labors of love. And I can say I didn’t find any of them that engrossing on a daily basis to see them as ‘the most difficult thing’ I have to do. However, there was one thing.
This one thing comes to mind quite often. As a matter of fact, every day of my life. My sister a little over twenty-six years ago, asked the same question only in a different format. What she thought was converse about all the things I did and that was before children.
Yesterday, I didn’t seem to have any energy. This has been common over the last number of years. And I can say. I went through a decade or more over twenty-seven years ago, where it felt like I just couldn't do the one thing that kept me healthy. Kept me strong. This one thing did quite a bit for me. No medical personnel ever understood this. Neither did anyone in my family. Practically no one understood this about me. This one thing has been just as important and integral as brushing my teeth two to three times a day every day, that I have been able to on my own.
So, as I reminisced and ran miles in the pouring wind-swept rain, with hail stones pelting me in the last ten minutes of my run yesterday. I answered that question, as I had all those years ago to this nice elder person laying on my therapy table waiting for an answer. “Running is the hardest thing I do every day.”
Again, today I felt horrible, and I reminisced what I told my sister in June of 1994. It was when she assumed that I just ran because it was so easy for me to do. I replied, “No, five days out of seven, I struggle greatly. I feel lousy quite often.”
Why then? How then? What do I do then? Well, I pray. I pray as I get my running gear. I shiver. I am exhausted. Old shingle nerve pains flare up. A nearly twenty-nine-year-old surgical graphing site bites me. Tears in my feet I’ve gained over the years talk to me. Things tweak in feeling. My mind is not energetic. But I say to myself, “Just get out there. Try to run a mile or two. Even though you want more time on your feet. Just try.”
Last night I had barely any sleep. And the night before not so good. This is uncharacteristic of me. But I told myself, “Learn deprivation. You have it. You’ve done it before. It can be done again.” After my second set of stretches, I let all in the house know I am heading out, and I’m uncertain if I’ll see them sooner rather than later. I fear jinxing myself, so I keep the time frame on the ultra-conservative low edge.
I get out the driveway, hit the timer and run. I promise myself that if I feel good, I won’t look at my watch until something deep inside allows me to. But if I feel too much like death unable to warm up, then I know it’ll be a short run. The catch is, since 1987 its always taken me about three miles just to warm up. Even in the temperatures into nineties. Yep, that’s me. Summer desert weather seems to suit me more. So long as it’s 115 degrees or more. Then I know it’ll take a lot of water, saturating me to give me the shivers. And funny enough I love very cold temperatures. I actually kind of revel in running in temps, single digits to below zero. Something special happens. Kind of like a good smack in the face, to make me enjoy the grind.
But I digress. So, as I felt I couldn’t run yesterday, and especially today. I did my usual. I began my run out off my driveway, hitting the timer. I put head down, I felt awful. Just beat. And when I feel like this, and I didn’t feel much nerve pain today, I take the uphill immediately one house from my house. It’s about a mile uphill. First gradual; then the incline steepens. Lousy it did feel. But forging ahead, no mind of pace. I decide, when I get to the top, ‘just run. Run aimlessly, don’t look at your watch for a judgement. Just keep running forward. Find new unchartered territories. Keep the streets quiet. And if it suits your legs, run like you could run forever. Make believe you can’.
These are the things I tell myself, when I feel my essence is holding me back for no reason at all. I tell myself, ‘humans are naturally lazy. We are.’ Trust me, we are lazy. I denied my time today. I refused to look at my watch for nearly an hour. As I ran through Midland Park; then various parts of Ridgewood, then through Glen Rock. I took roads I’d not taken in ten years and roads I’d never taken through Glen Rock. I ran into Hawthorne and before I knew it, I was in Fair Lawn. I looped around in areas I’d never ran before. Seeing signs for Route 653 and 715. Creating markers in my mind, so I’d remember street names and what houses and school and lawns looked like as I ran. But I would not look at my watch till fifty-seven minutes passed. So, today it took me four miles to feel good, so I ran fourteen more. I looked at my watch for a turn around point of just under seventy-one minutes. I waited to feel extreme fatigue. I wondered, ‘When would I pay the piper for my driven deeds of the day? To defy all logic and maybe actually have energy I hadn’t seen in quite some time.
I saw people out raking, blowing leaves. I knew, I had raking to do as well. Studying, school-work, writing and such. But for then in that run, I decided to ride the wave I rarely feel. Eighteen miles in two hours and sixteen minutes and forty-three seconds. And yes, after my run and shower, did a couple chores, raked the side and front lawns. And made dinner. Checked in on my oldest via phone and youngest in person. Gave our birthday bunny Nibbles a birthday snack with her sister. And did forty minutes of Chinese homework, fifty minutes of Algebra, and fifty minutes of music study. Now after dinner and studies, it’s time to fold the laundry.---Jody-Lynn Reicher