Friday, June 15, 2018

A Run-On Post

A midwife once told me I have a high pain tolerance. She wasn't the first to make that observation, but once in labor I was pretty sure she hadn't been right. The odd thing is that I actually like certain kinds of pain, particularly pain from working out hard or from an injury that resulted from doing something where adrenaline was involved.

I woke this morning with pain in my foot, hips, and rear. I've been running half miles backwards around the track, followed by sprints and lunges, and I'm still not accustomed to these new demands. I'm not currently on a running schedule in prep for a race, so I've implemented other types of runs and workouts. I run for fitness. I run to increase and to maintain my quality of life now and into the future. And if I am honest, I run because I feel better about how my clothes fit and how my body feels compared to when I'm not. Why should that be so bad? Some people get their nails done, some people like to shop, some like to eat ice-cream, and others like to workout. We all have our personal reasons.

I've lived with the bad kind of pain and reduced mobility that came from inactivity (and musculoskeletal abnormalities), and I don't want to go back. I'm working hard to regain the strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance I had as a kid. Maybe even surpass it. I find running to be a good mental detox time, a valid excuse for getting out by myself (much needed), an opportunity to feel happiness or grief, or simply to feel nothing at all for a while and just tell it all to God. 

So despite little aches, I had it in me to take a long-ish run this morning. I needed to go and let the cleansing work of sweat and wind begin. 

The marine layer lifted sooner than expected and the sun was hot. I think a lot about my husband and kids when I run, a lot about the various trials and challenges we face individually and as a family. I pray for us, asking for the grace and goodness of God to be lavished upon us. We need His tenderness towards us because I'm pretty sure we're doomed without it. I think a ton about past experiences and how they've shaped me, good or bad. I think about who I would like to be, and how to get there. I often wonder who it is God made me to be, and how fear and inhibition stifled and suppressed me beginning in the early, foundational years of life.

At one point on my run I stopped at a public beach to use the restroom. I used the stall where "User + Nifer" had graffitied their names with Sharpie. Don't we all want to leave our mark somewhere? Don't we all want to be known for something? It's probably safe to say I'm more like User and Nifer than not, though we've never met. I've never been interested in drugs or cutting, but those are just superficialities. 

The walkway was being filled with elderly people when I left that public restroom. They had just come out of a retirement facility mini-bus, most of them mobile only by aid of walkers and wheel chairs. How nice of the facility workers to take these folks on an outing to the beach. They were working hard. For years my mom held nursing jobs in geriatric care, and I know it's physically demanding work.

I grew up around old people. When my siblings and I were too little to stay home alone, my mom would take us to her workplace for her evening shift and we'd play outside or watch black and white TV shows in the common lounge until my dad could get us after his work. We tried to stay away from the man that would urinate in the planters, and the senile men who would try to grab us if we passed by too closely. I always had a feeling we weren't supposed to be there, even though I was maybe only seven. I sensed that the staff members didn't like us playing on the patio furniture, or asking my mom to work out our squabbles. But my mom didn't have a choice; life was tough.

My mom is remarkably compassionate. Many of those elderly people were forgotten, so we'd frequently return to help the understaffed facility distribute the evening snack on my mom's night off. We were taught how to handle ourselves politely, cautiously, or compassionately, depending upon the situation. We also knew never to accept candy, for it had likely already been sucked on.

One time as we waited for the muggy summer hours to pass while waiting on my dad, the heavy automatic door closed onto my sister's bare foot. It pulled her big toenail right up, leaving it hanging from the base. She was more terrified of getting in trouble or of being treated by a nurse than the pain and blood. She dragged her toe along the sidewalk and into the grass, trying to wipe the blood away and avoid notice. No tears. She must have been five.

I hid a lot during my younger years.... under the table in the basement we lived in, in ditches when cars passed, behind my dad's pant leg when I was too old for such things. I was scared of the police and of school officials because we were part of an ultra-fringe group that home schooled. We'd ride in the hatchback trunk of our little Chevrolet Chevette because it was too small for six people, and we'd duck down low when passing a cruiser. For some years, the only people I'd see in a week were the people at the small church we attended. That was before we frequented the home for the forgotten elderly.

Extreme isolation + introverted personality = a prison of shyness. Just saying.

If you knew me 10, 20, 30 years ago, I was quite different. I've worked hard to break free. For a long time I'd happily settle for quietly fooling a social circle, but that was painful. For some reason, the tiny public schools I eventually attended were places to open up, but my difficulty persisted in any religious circle for decades. Funny/not funny, given the path my adult years have taken me. Normal, everyday things haven't always been easy.

Why do these thoughts come when I run?

I made it to the part of my circuit where I run alongside the sea. I never take that lovely fact lightly, always marveling at the privilege. It was high tide and I felt the salty spray come up over the rocks now and then. A city sign warned of possible road closure and debris. I've run that route when large stones come tumbling right up over the retaining wall with the surf. I wonder how soon those million dollar newly built condos won't have a roadway. Sandbags won't cut it for too long.

The beach was crowded thick with vacationers. I noticed the things that make out-of-town people so obvious, like clothing styles, pasty white skin burning, and newly purchased body boards from Wal-Mart. For a moment I thought about how these vacationers don't know where the better beaches are, and how I'm so happy about that. Then I thought about the fact that I'm imported too, only I'm a permanent resident with an expiration date (how ironic), along with an Alien Number. I shouldn't be so smug.

I saw some little girls skipping along the sidewalk ahead of their mother, and I wondered why we ever stop skipping along. Seems happier to skip. I remembered running along the grass one time at my grandparents'. The grass was cool and thick, and the Ontario summer was at its prime. I turned to notice my older, prettier, strawberry blond cousin casually walking the same path I'd just taken, and she seemed so mature. Suddenly I felt silly and childish. That's when I decided running and skipping were no longer allowed.

I'm running now, and sometimes I do side way skips around the track, but it's not the same. On my run back home, I passed by a surfer with a bloody head. He didn't seem to notice 3 to 4 gashes to the melon. I wondered what it is he wants to be remembered for. I wondered the same about the mother who waddled under the weight  of many extra pounds while her little girls skipped along ahead. I thought about how many sun-basking girls and life guarding men and hung-over middle-age vacationers leave their Sharpied marks on social media each day. I thought about Tweeting politicians, User and Nifer, and church go-ers.

Then I wondered if I could clearly state what it is I want to be known for. Yes: I want to be remembered for loving well. I want to love with great compassion and personal respect, with forgiveness and patience, with selflessness and warmth. I want to communicate a kind of love that can only be heavenly. Yep, seems like a churchy kind of answer, only I don't frequently see the type of loving I hope to be known for. Occasionally, though, I see people who display unusual love; I'm so attracted, desperate to learn.

Sadly - heartbreakingly, actually - I fail miserably. So I don't think that's what I will be known for. I'm confused and unskilled relationally. I'm still desperately trying to learn the art of relationship and the skill of communication. Maybe what I should hope to be remembered for is simple humility. Maybe it is through humility I will see the One who loves perfectly, immeasurably. Maybe it's not about what I can give, but about telling what the Savior gives. Maybe if I really knew the depth of his love, I'd be freer to live it. Maybe when I truly receive and know this love, I can humbly love others by pointing up and away from my own miserable love.

I don't think we get to choose what we are remembered for. People see what they want, remember what they want. Sharpies and speeches and social media don't matter much at all.

One thing I do know: Jesus Christ will make me whole. He will fix me and transform me and teach me to love well. So I will fix my eyes on him till this race is done, despite my reputation and ability.


When you take boys to the Botanic Gardens and all they want to do is climb trees and steal plants, you avoid taking pictures of said boys because their faces are sour from being told to act civilized. Other times, pictures aren't possible because they're exploring sections off the marked pathway and beyond the signs that say "Please stay on path" and I just resign myself to pretending I don't know those kids. Secretly, though, I'm right there with them, hoping they see cool things in our imagined jungle. Ok, Ok... Really I'm just standing guard.

The sour faces are only occasional. One of my boys befriended a lady docent, charming her with questions, accumulated knowledge and experiences. We exchanged phone numbers.

"There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure."
- Mark Twain

Enjoying summer yet?



  1. Great post, BEAUTIFUL pictures!! I definitely see you as a person who has many wonderful qualities that other lack! Be encouraged, God likes variety and we are all different for different reasons. Life would be too boring otherwise! We will all be remembered differently for different things. This blog here is a beautiful gift that your children (and others) will have of you. Praise the Lord for creatively making us different!

    1. Thank you, Brooke! Your comment is sincerely appreciated. I'm so thankful for variety, too.


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