Two weeks ago, on the tail end of our family road trip, I chased Christian down the mountain that we had just climbed. He ran freely. He leaped from rock to rock with the confidence that the ground would support him. I tiptoed knowing any of the rocks could slip out from beneath me.
I watched in awe. Christian’s running journey is new, and I kept thinking over and over again he hasn’t been humbled by running. He hasn’t been injured. Distances are still new and milestones are being achieved. He hasn’t been deflated and heartbroken at a finish line. These thoughts played over and over in my mind as he got further and further away. I watched in awe. I watched in envy.
Follow your envy — it shows you what you want. ~ Lori Gottlieb
As Christian got further and further away, I told myself I missed the new of running. I missed hitting a new longest run or a new fastest time. I miss the days of running when it was fresh and everything seemed achievable. I miss progress being the only possibility.
While I do miss all those things, I miss them in the same way that I miss my children being babies or the first date with my husband. Missing the new is only half the story of what I felt that day on the mountain. The real story, and probably the whole story is that I was envious of the freedom. Christian leaped without caution. He sat on the edge of reckless without panic. Now minutes behind him, he was out of sight and I was still stumbling down the mountain. I retreated to my place of self preservation. It is easier to say he can be so free with his running because he hasn’t been hurt than it is to face the truth that I hide behind caution.
A month ago, I saw a new massage therapist. She isn’t a traditional practitioner. Her practice is focused more on the energy in the body than the muscular makeup. I’ve been putting it off for years. I’ve known since the moment I first heard of her practice that I need it for myself, yet I was reluctant to go. I was cautious.
In our final minutes together, she worked on my skull.
Tell me more about your accident? You blacked out. You went into shock. It’s still living in your body. Your body is still holding on to the panic.
A few minutes later, we said goodbye. As I walked out the door she said to me, you have a lot of bad habits you have to let go of…
A mile or so later, Christian came back into view. Our trail was taking us more gently down the mountain now, and I felt more comfortable moving faster than a tiptoe. We continued together for the rest of the run, and I convinced myself that the sense of freedom I witness in Christian’s running wasn’t available to me anymore because my running history was a lot longer and more complicated than his. For one, I have rods and screws in my legs. I’ve had setbacks and injuries. I’ve missed goals. I’ve fallen apart in races. I told myself his freedom would shrink the more he ran. I felt better.
Freedom involves responsibility, and there’s a part of most of us that finds responsibility frightening. ~Lori Gottlieb
About those bad habits…
It’s easier to see why I tell myself Christian has freedom in his running on the trails than it is to see why I cling to caution. It’s easier to make excuses about why my pace came to an abrupt stop when faced with a more challenging route than it is to sit on the edge of panic.
This is my bad habit. This is where my real work begins.
A week after my massage therapy appointment, I sat across from my therapist (mental therapist, emotional therapist, life therapist?). I shared with her the insights I gained from my other appointment. We spent the entire hour exploring this space I’ve never been able to gain access to. When I said my goodbye to her, she acknowledged that I was finally doing whole body healing. I was finally doing my important work.
This is how I’ve lived my life. I claw my way to the top of every mountain I’ve faced, but when I get to the top I panic. I live in the panic. I retreat. I crawl back into the cozy place of self preservation, and I tiptoe my way back down the way I came. Then I do it again and again and again.
I literally do it when I climb mountains, but more importantly I do it in every emotional aspect of my life. I do it in every relationship I have. I do it in with every goal I set for myself. It is my bad habit.
Before I said goodbye to my therapist (the mental one!), I asked how to gain access to this space. I’ve wanted it my whole life. Her answer was simple. I need to practice, and running is the perfect place to start. I need to get to the top of the mountain, the edge of my comfort, and I need to give myself permission to be free there.
Yes, I’ve lived in this space before. I’ve done my fair share of practicing. I have experienced it on race day. I’ve felt it when I’ve take the first step off the side of a mountain to rappel down the side. I’ve had the rush when jumping out a plane and paraglided along the coast and riding an elephant through at jungle. But these are just moments. I don’t want a rush (that’s a lie – I do, but not all the time). The freedom I crave is the existence in myself and the existence with the connections in my life. I want more.
At first I wonder if running was the perfect place to practice. I thought to myself, don’t I do that all the time? But if I’m being honest, I never have. I’ve never fully given myself to the process. I’ve improved. My commitment has increased. I’be done the best I could do in the moment I’ve been in, but I’ve never been all in.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that goal is not to run more or to let go more. It’s not to run down a mountain without worry. It’s about connecting with and trusting my body. Running is my connector. It’s about connecting with my life.
It sounds simple. It sounds rewarding. It sounds like everything I envy. I just want to get to the place where I can give myself freely — to running, to myself, to life, to relationships, to motherhood, to flying down the mountain, and most importantly, to connecting. It’s easier said than done, but I know it’s exactly what I need to live the life I know I want.
I have to let go of the panic.
and for me, it’s always starts with writing. Because every therapist I’ve ever seen has said — Kristy, you need to write more.