It may be almost mid-December, but this past weekend in Louisville, the temperatures were in the 70s. It may not have felt like Christmas, but it felt like a gift, one which I cherished. Despite having a “To Do” list a mile long, I decided to put some miles in on the trails both days. It has been months since I went trail running, so, this return was long overdue and much-needed, especially this weekend.
No matter how broken I feel emotionally, physically, and/or spiritually, on the trails, I am healed. I am whole. I am enough. There’s something about feeling the earth beneath my feet, being surrounded by canopies of trees, and breathing in the fresh air that is both exhilarating and soothing. I always come out of the woods feeling better than when I entered, and this weekend, I came away with a different perception of myself thanks to some chance encounters along the way.
Yesterday, as I ran, I quickly realized that my absence from the trails had done more than dampen my spirit. It had left me out of shape, as there were times when I had to stop to catch my breath. During one of these stops, I was berating myself silently for not performing up to my self-imposed expectations, when someone came along to change my perception.
As I paused before heading up the steepest incline along the trails, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a woman who looked like she was in her early 30s running toward me. She looked like a “real” runner, as she wore a coordinated running outfit and appeared to be in good shape. As I stepped aside to give her room to pass me, she stopped and broke into a huge grin, as she said, “I’ve been following you for awhile now.” I apologized for holding her up, secretly envying her. Immediately, she began shaking her head saying, “No, I had to take a shortcut just to catch up with you.” Then, she asked me, “Are you training for something?” My initial reaction was to say, “Yes; I am training my head and heart to get on the same page today, and I am training to get of out this breast cancer club”, but that seemed like a bit too much, so, I simply said, “No. Are you?” When my fellow trail runner explained that she began trail running a year ago and had competed in half-marathons and full marathons of the trails and now was training for a 30 mile trail run, I bowed down to her (literally), which made her laugh.
As we concluded our chat, she headed up the hill, while I lingered for a moment before taking off in the same direction. As I stood there, I recalled how moments earlier I had been berating myself, when this real runner didn’t see me in a negative way at all. She saw me as a capable trail runner, not some damaged, somewhat out-of-shape, forty-seven year old with shit in her tit (my person’s description of my breast cancer). Suddenly, I felt like a bad ass and finished my trail run with pep in my step. But don’t sign me up for a 30 mile marathon just yet.
Today’s trail run found me running with greater confidence and ease physically, but the invisible battle in my mind raged on for another round. As I wound my way down the trail, a family of four was exploring a grassy area next to the path. As I neared the spot where a little boy, who was no older than 3 or 4 years old stood, he called out to me, “Good morning! Have a great run!” After I thanked him, he added, “Have fun!” It was so sweet and sincere, and it melted my heart. Something about being greeted so warmly and being advised to have fun by a child led to a truce in the warring sides in my head. He didn’t see me as someone who is anxious or depressed or someone who has breast cancer. He saw me as someone he wanted to have a great and fun run. Shortly, thereafter, I saw myself the same way and couldn’t stop smiling.
I don’t know the names of the people I met on the trails, but I do know that their perceptions of me made me rethink mine. So many of us are our own worst enemies, and our perceptions of ourselves are not always accurate. When we find ourselves in a negative loop that no amount of self-talk can break, sometimes, all it takes is a kind word or a positive point of view from someone else, even a stranger, to change our perception of who we are, even if only for a moment.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story