Finding a New Normal

I ran today. Well, perhaps that is an overly ambitious use of the verb. I completed three miles today, perhaps a third of which might be considered running. After bringing home a doozy of an upper respiratory infection from Poland, this was my first exercise in almost a month. I honestly did not Want to go running today, but I felt like I Ought to.There was a raging debate when I first woke up. The smart thing to do would have been to put on my shoes and go, but I paused for a split second. This was ample time for the voice of laziness and complacency inside my head to make a fairly solid case for the extreme comfort of my cozy covers. Still, somehow sound reasoning determined not only that I Should get up and go, but that I Would. 

The last couple years have brought a great many changes in my life, some of which I intentionally chose, others, not so much. Some heartbreaking and some truly amazing things have occurred. Through it all though, I’ve felt myself struggling, flailing through life. My two essential foundations – Jesus and Jeff – remained rock solid, but nothing else seemed to quite make any sense. And, I’ve gotta tell ya, Type A people don’t like it when things don’t make sense.  

My new boss is a genuinely fantastic woman with an uncanny ability to “read” people. She suggested I check out the book “Who Moved My Cheese.” If you have not already done so, invest about an hour of your life with this tiny, incredible book. It’s an analogy for business, and for life, told as a modern parable about four mice in a maze searching for cheese. It is neither fancy nor complicated, but it helped so many things suddenly make sense. 

I’ve known all along that I needed to find my new Normal. But try as I might, I simply have not been able to. This has been the source of MUCH frustration, which my family has endured like champs because they love me and know that sometimes I just have to wrestle my way through things. Reading this little story helped me t see that I’ve been trying to make completely new circumstances fit into my old way of doing things, to make the new Normal fit into the same mold as the older one. This is a sure-fire recipe for failure and frustration, and man alive, that’s where I’ve been. 

I used to run almost every single day, raced at least once a month, and consistently placed at the top of my age group. I used to be a pretty doggone good teacher, confident and poised, and ready to bring out the best in my students. Those were great times, enjoyable seasons of life. Today things are different, therefore my approach must also be different. New circumstances require a new ways of thinking.  

So today I went rambling around the pond. It was later in the day, and quite warm, but what a beautiful backdrop! The sun was shining, the squirrels and ducks were each amusing in their own way, and there were other families out enjoying the day. My mind contemplated these things while Daughtery and Def Leppard fueled my feet. I ran and walked and breathed. Then, without warning, I felt my stride shift from awkward shuffle to the smoother glide of former days. Was I as fast as I used to be? Not even close. But, who cares? I don’t need a finisher’s medal to prove that I gave my best. I walked away slimy, completely spent, but absolutely satisfied. 

Seasons of life come and they go. Things change, and that’s more than okay; it’s actually quite exciting. My Should will eventually catch up with my Want To. It’s counterproductive – and impossible – to try to squeeze today into yesterday’s mold. There are too many wonderful things ahead to dwell in the past. Sure. It may still take some time for all the elements of my new Normal to ease into place. But they will. 

Who Are You? Who, Who, Who, Who??

Over the last several years, life has taken its twists and turns. As the scenery around me changes, so too have the ways I define myself. I’ve been chubby and miserable inside my own skin. I’ve been lean and healthy and strong. (That one is much better.) I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a runner. I’ve been the mother of a screaming baby and the mother of an adult (This one, too, is much better.) Each season of life has its benefits and challenges. Sometimes I do miss the Old, but there is something exciting about the New.

Professionally, my New is becoming a Writer Girl. I’ve spent the last 22+ years teaching some pretty incredible kids how to get the words out of their heads and onto the page. That was a terrific season, but as happens with seasons, change arrived. Now I am seizing the opportunity to put into practice all those things I learned from teaching them. Some days the words come blazing out of my mind and onto the screen almost faster than my fingers can type. Other days, like a bashful kitten, they have to be gently coaxed out of hiding. Whether short or long, easy or difficult, each finished piece leaves me in stunned amazement to see that something I have always dreamed of is becoming a reality.

In my personal life as well, there is another New. I am becoming a Hiker Girl.

I remember a few years ago when we started going to a new church, we were invited to a big overnight camp-out. In the woods. In a tent. Without a restroom. There would be nature all around. That’s right, bugs and dirt. I really liked this group of people and wanted to get to know them. Certainly I didn’t want to wimp out. But, did I mention the bugs? I had it on good authority that spiders were allowed to roam freely in these woods. I would not have access to a stationary toilet or electricity or running water. What kind of Deliverance prototype were they luring me into???? As if those things were not enough, there was much talk of the previous year when an ice storm arrived during the night and people were trapped inside their tents the next morning, zippers frozen solidly in place. The temptation to fake an illness was strong.

We went to that camp-out, in spite of all my misgivings. While I would be inclined to emphasize the incredibly rustic nature of these surroundings, it is only fair to admit that someone made allowances for prima donnas like me. There was a generator and a port-a-potty. Several of the men arrived early to clear up debris so there was a nice, neat camping area. Women brought crockpots of chili and several varieties of homemade pound cakes. After dinner, a pied piper led a group on a quest to tree a raccoon, a southern rite of passage of sorts. All night there was a roaring fire, carefully tended by those who chose not to go traipsing off into the woods after dark. The night was cool, but there were no frozen tent zippers or spider attacks. We all awoke, wild hair and backs a bit stiff from a night on the ground. The faithful stoked the fire, while the rest of us stamped the cold from our limbs and waited for a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

It. Was. Awesome.

A couple months ago, Jeff and I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’m not even sure how the subject came up, much less became a “good idea.” I’ve matured a lot (OK, a little) from those prima donna days a decade ago. I’m more active and physically fit, and not one to back down from a challenge. So, hike the infamous AT we shall.

Part of me is really looking forward to this adventure: Jeff and me out there in the great unknown, taking on a huge challenge, with nothing but our wits and an overstuffed backpack to draw from. Part of me is keenly aware that we are in the honeymoon phase of this venture. We take daily walks (2-5 miles based on the time available), strengthen our muscles at the gym, become students of AT survival, and buy one vital piece of equipment at a time. The reality is, after our Daily Hiking Practice, we enter our air conditioned home, have a popsicle, take a shower, then sleep in our incredibly comfortable bed. Something tells me the Trail won’t be quite that easy.

Our initial plan is quite simple. We are going to begin with a day hike this fall, about five miles out then back again. Based on how that goes, in the spring we will try camping for two or three days. Before that happens, we will most likely do an at-home camp-out to practice getting water and eating and sleeping in the Great Outdoors – with the equally Great Indoors nearby, just in case that prima donna rears her dainty little head.

(This post was originally published on my Facebook page, Running After His Heart, but fits the scope of this blog as well.)