What Running Has Taught Me About Life

Make a plan and stick with it.

Running distance, like so many good things, is not something you can just do on the fly. You have to prepare. You have to have a plan. Most of us can’t just get off the couch and run a 5K, but we can over time with some well-thought-out steps. I tried the former and ended up training with the Couch to 5K program, which breaks things into barely-(at the time)-manageable steps.

Whether it’s running a race, getting a degree, or whatever long goal you have, come up with a plan, break it into smaller attainable pieces, and get started.

Follow through, even when you don’t want to.

There will be days where it’s hard to get motivated. It may be cold, or you may be tired or feeling down. Push through the feelings. You will find momentum somewhere, and you’ll be glad you made the effort.

Know the difference between reasons and excuses.

Can’t run because you’re sick? That’s a reason. Can’t run because you are overweight? That might be an excuse, depending on what overweight means to you. The key is to carefully assess whatever is holding you back from achieving your goals. It might be a difficult hurdle to get over, but can you do it with enough grit and support? If something holding you back, start slower, but start. Don’t let excuses keep you from realizing your dream.

Self-care is essential.

Running takes a toll. So does life. After a hard run your body needs time to rest and heal. Enduring the constant trials and tribulations of life requires that you give your mind/emotions space and time to refresh. Sitting down with a good book, getting out into nature, or going for a walk with some good friends may refresh your mind and spirit. Whatever self-care means to you, make sure you make time for it.

Listen to your body, listen to your heart.

Pain is your body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. When I’m running, pain lets me know it’s time to pull back, take some rest days, and maybe even see a doctor. Emotional and spiritual pain are also trying to tell you something. Maybe you are stuck in a rut and need a change. You may be interacting with toxic people and need to pull back. You may need quiet time to reflect on what comes next. Listen to your heart.

You are your own competition.

The race is against yourself. Unless you are the top runner, you are most likely going to rank in the middle somewhere. That doesn’t mean stop striving for what you want. Just give yourself grace. Don’t try to outdo the runner next to you. That person could be the walker-runner you just keep passing, only to be passed by him again. Frustrating! Instead, seek only to be better than you were the time before. This is progress.

Enjoy the cameraderie.

We’re all in this together. Starting a local race is a joyous occasion. Participants come in all ages and ability levels. Their friends and family cheer from the sidelines. We endure the grueling pace and distance in our own way, but together. Life is not meant to be lived alone. Join in, have fun, and make sure you have a great cheering section.

Rewards can be delicious!

You’ve logged the miles; have the smoothie. When you do something hard, when you have followed through on the plan, on each step of the way reward yourself. You’ve got this!

Buy the cute shoes.

I mean, you’ve come this far. Don’t measure yourself by someone else’s standard. Get the dang shoes!

Life’s Ebb and Flow

This song came to mind today. Since we now live in the age of technology, all it took was shouting out, “Alexa, play Looking for Space,” and in no time I had John crooning in the background of my life, as he so often has.

John Denver music takes me back to my teenage bedroom of the 70s, with the cedar siding and record player, where I played his tunes incessantly while dreaming of someday living in the wide open spaces, with their boundless freedom and connection to nature. If you ask what music flows through my veins, it’s this.

You would think at my age I’d be done searching for who I am. Not true. Life ebbs and flows. It breathes a living breath in and out. Knowing and searching. I’ve been many versions of myself. The dependent child. The dreamy teen. (And the angsty teen.) I’ve been the freedom-loving young adult. (Good times!) I’ve been the married, stay-at-home devoted wife and mom. I’ve been the working mom. So many iterations of me. But within all of them is the core girl who loves John Denver, who loves nature and peaceful places, who values being together over just about anything else.

But why this song? My subconscious has been dredging things up from my playlists lately. All of the songs are pertinent to my life right now. It’s like it’s trying to jiggle me awake.

Life is right now at an ebb stage. It could be due to the meanness of the past 4 years. It could be pandemic fatigue. It could be exhaustion dealing with the same dysfunctional cycles and misunderstandings. Or maybe it’s just that it’s just that way. Life is changing and morphing into something I don’t really recognize. I’ve tried to hold on to what’s known, but the elemental effects are taking their toll, eroding what I thought was firm ground. I find myself searching for new footing as the path slowly unfolds before me, wondering where it will take me.

The journey to this point has not been easy. I’ve discovered a lot about life. I’ve found that I am strong. I know who I can and can’t count on to help shoulder the burdens. I have learned that anxiety is a prickly bush, but it can be gingerly moved aside, and the trail on the other side opens up to beautiful vistas. I’ve found people who spread kindness and love. I’ve gone through my share of dark valleys, but the darkness of those valleys makes coming out into the sunshine all the more brilliant. I’ve discovered that radical acceptance makes things bearable.

Will I ever find my way? I don’t know. Probably not. But as long as I remain open and curious, I know I’ll treasure the journey. That being said, if you ever happen to be in the wide open spaces of the west and see an older woman with long hair and hiking boots setting her camera up for the perfect shot, that might just be me.

And you’ll know I have arrived.

Looking for Space
John Denver
On the road of experience
I'm trying to find my own way
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I'm moving
Suddenly things stand still
I'm afraid 'cause I think they always will
And I'm looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I'm looking to know and understand
It's a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I'm almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I'm deep in despair
All alone in the universe
Sometimes that's how it seems
I get lost in the sadness and the screams
Then I look in the center
Suddenly everything's clear
I find myself in the sunshine and my dreams
And I'm looking for space
And to find out who I am
And I'm looking to know and understand
It's a sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I'm almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I'm deep in despair
On the road of experience
Join in the living day
If there's an answer
It's just that it's just that way
When you're looking for space
And to find out who you are
When you're looking to try and reach the stars
It's a sweet, sweet, sweet dream
Sometimes I'm almost there
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
And sometimes I'm deep in despair
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
Like an eagle
I go flying
Songwriters: John Denver

Weekend with Bernies

I think we’ve all needed to let off steam. Thank you, Bernie Sanders, for humbly and unintentionally providing the means of some much needed humor. I heard from a friend who said even her friend in Denmark is posting Bernie memes. It feels like the sigh of a grateful nation/world.

It’s all in good fun, and it sounds like Bernie is being a great sport. The woman who made his mittens has completely sold out, and his campaign is making sweatshirts and donating 100% of the profits to Vermont charities, including Meals on Wheels. How cool is that?

After such a terrible 4 years and a fraught election season, it’s been a relief to happen upon one after another funny Bernie memes in my Twitter feed. It feels great to laugh again. Bernie is still a fine person, and his people are harnessing the momentum and using it for good. I’ve enjoyed this weekend with Bernies.


A hummingbird died in my hand today.
Rescued from a predatory pet, 
Who prowled around
Searching for her lost snack, 
While the tiny bird,
Once so swift, 
Now rested in my warm, cupped hands,
Its breath a quick stacatto beat.
A quick peek discovered bare bird skin,
A tiny foot, 
Or is it grass?
And wings so still.
A prayer. A plea.
A tiny beak grazes my palm.
A momentary hope,
Then stillness.

And from the nearby cedar,
In the quiet of the darkening sky
The echoes of Calypte's cry.

Cognitive Dissonance

They wrapped him in a pretty package
Glitz and glamour, golden words
Written on the fronts of buildings
In his mind, it's all absurd.

They marched him out in front of cameras
He claimed he didn't like it there
Fluttered over onto Twitter
All his grievances to air.

News is dead, except for FOX,
He typed in looming letters large.
Put dissenters in a box
Bound with lies, said he's in charge.

Fighting words at all his rallies,
Never gave an inch of grace.
Lock her up and yes, we're coming
MAGA fists up in your face.

Republicans were first to falter.
One by one the statesmen fell,
Sacrificed on Donald's alter
On the path to Trumpian hell.

Lock her up, the MAGAts chanted,
Led by their besmirking boss,
Leading our first competent woman
To a devastating loss.

"Out with government!" Donald shouted,
"You're the ones to lead this place."
As he smiled inside with glee
Knowing that he held the ace.

"First I'm going to stop the Muslims"
Chaos reigned throughout the land
As students, moms and dad and doctors 
Could not return as they had planned.

Next I'm going to bring your jobs back
Donald said before the crowd,
Pulling out a planted speaker
All those lies were soon avowed.

"You're my people," Donald shouted,
"For you I won't claim a check!"
MAGAts swooned and not one doubted,
But Donald had done stacked the deck.

His golf trips soon were high in number,
Dragging along his secret staff,
Playing US fiscal plumber
His properties earned as Donald laughed.

Not everyone was blind to cheating
Stories ran about Donald's fraud
But nothing stopped the sheep from bleating,
"Donald has been sent by God."

Prayers were lifted in his honor.
Hands were placed upon his head.
As slyly he evaded questions
About which Bible verse he'd read.

"You're my people! God has sent us!"
Trump decreed with forked tongue.
As he separated parents
From their children, oh, so young.

"These aren't people. They aren't like us."
Peering through the chain link fence,
Were small brown faces, wide eyes crying,
Trumpist gain at their expense.

Someone will check him, we all whispered,
Hoping Congress would do their job.
Despite impeaching, no removal.
Congress now ruled by the MAGAt mob.

Coronavirus now infects us,
Spreading wide across the land
Help was absent, supplies lacking,
Just like Donald Trump had planned.

For four long years our country's suffered
Under Trump's despotic reign.
Hopefully we've learned a lesson
To never hire his like again.

Democracy's a fragile system
Meant to be shared by everyone,
Voters at the ballot box,
Not raving madmen with a gun.

So enter science, education,
Civics classes so in need.
With a new administration
Ramp it up with lightning speed.

Restore faith within the system
Build it back up brick by brick.
Teach our children not to fall for 
Chicanery or glitzy tricks.

Lest a people so deluded 
By the Piper's mesmerisms
End up walking off the cliff,
And taking the whole country with them.

Why I Won’t Wear My Politics on My Chest

I don’t wear political t-shirts anymore. It’s not a fear based decision, though that can be a factor these days. Why wear a target in these volatile times? It seems that everyone is packing a gun and bad tempers are more infectious than COVID-19. No, the answer is simple and boring. I’ve made this choice out of respect for the idea of community.

If you read my blog, you know that I don’t shy away from politics. I like discussing current events and how politics weave their way into our daily lives. The difference between this and that is that the reader can choose not to read. They can find something less political or happier out there in the blogosphere. I’m not in their face, whereas if I wear a t-shirt, that statement may unintentionally trigger someone and cause their blood pressure to spike. I won’t know that that’s because of a recent argument they had with their dad. I won’t know if my shirt might instantly remind someone of the reason they don’t speak to their best friend any more. We don’t need this stress in our lives. So if you see me on the street, that prime advertising space on my chest won’t be promoting politics. I’ll probably instead be a walking advertisement for my favorite tourist destination.

This came out of an “aha” moment a few years ago. I had purchased a shirt from Redbubble that read, “Science is not a liberal conspiracy,” with scientific tools lined up in a simple silhouette above. It was kind of cute. It was pink. Not super political, yet it was. I wore it to the local March for Science, where it fit in perfectly. Then I wore it to the local grocery store in my conservative, Trump-supporting town.

There was a man standing in front of me who looked very typical of people you see in my town. It’s a town full of hard working farming and logging families, and it shows in the slight roughness around the edges. I was the slightly rounded, middle-aged, suburban-raised woman proudly wearing my pink science t-shirt. We looked each other over, making our snap judgements before we resumed our silent queue.

The woman in front of us seemed to be having problems at the checkout. For some reason she couldn’t pay for all of her groceries. This man quickly stepped up and kindly offered to pay. I was humbled and felt immediately ashamed by the mini-stalemate that had just occurred. I knew that I had allowed my t-shirt to make me an “other” in his eyes, and I had let my own judgements make him an other in mine.

I relegated the shirt to the pajama pile.

Human brains are lazy organs. They are happy to make snap judgements, to categorize things into neat little boxes. We go along with it. Black/white. Good/bad. Happy/sad. But there is a lot of room in between. Those boxes we like to put people in have nonexistent sides of our own creation, yet how often we keep people there, virtually trapped in the place we’ve imprisoned them. My t-shirt was a wall of my own creation, cutting me off from another person with whom I might have found some commonalities.

I know choosing not to wear a political shirt is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem. I don’t wear the t-shirt, but I’m not giving up the face mask, which has unfortunately become a political dividing line. I am loathe to approach someone with any sort of Trump MAGA merchandising on their person or vehicle. My own brain has categorized them into aggressive, mindless, cult followers. Is that fair? Not necessarily, but it’s exhausting to battle the brain’s natural tendencies, and it often reboots to default. Letting go of the political t-shirt statements might give the brain the rest it needs to tackle the real dividing issues.

This leads me to wonder how the social climate might quiet down a little if everyone just decided to not wear political t-shirts out of respect for community. We might say no to tribalism. Instead, we could take a collective deep breath and talk to people. Tell them what we think is important. Listen to what they have to say. Have a civil dialogue, if at all possible. Maybe then we can start toward finding our way back toward finding what we have in common. And maybe if we choose to wear a souvenir travel shirt instead, we will find we have something other that politics to talk about.