For Mother’s Day a couple years ago, my husband gave me one of those GPS watches so I could track my time and distance when I run. I love it, because I am a dork. At the time I was training for my first (and potentially last) half-marathon. It is fun for me to sit at my desk, download my activity and admire the little red line on the map and blue elevation gains chart. I like to see the miles add up, and uploading my run from the cute pink device to the computer serves as my equivalent of a running diary.
I play a little game to motivate myself when I run. I try to make the second mile faster than the first mile, which is generally a “gimme” because I walk the first quarter of a mile to warm up. Really, it’s to make sure the dog is “empty” before we pick up the pace, which believe me, is not significantly faster. Then just for fun, I challenge myself to make the third mile faster than the second. If I’m in for four miles, my goal is to make the fourth mile faster than the second mile, knowing that it’s going to be hard to beat the third mile, and on the rare occasions that I continue for 5, then the fifth mile has to be faster than the first mile, all of which indicates that the law school inflicted brain damage appears to be permanent.
Before I even step out the door for my run, I have a map in mind of the route I plan to take. Notwithstanding all the evidence to the contrary, my inner perfectionist control freak likes to think she‘s still in charge. The difference between me and the app is that I map my run before I go anywhere. He-Who-Is-In-Charge (or is He?) can only take so much of my shenanigans before He shakes up the ant farm.
The other day I head out for my run, armed with poopy bags, my GPS watch and a four-mile plan. After about the first mile I realize that I have a technical issue, and in the interest of discretion, I should head back home. But this detour is not part of my plan, and there is no way that I can hit my target speed (if you can even call it speed) if I turn home at this point on my path. I live on a hill. There’s a reason I can round out the third mile faster than second mile. I cheat. I know the route that I’m going – because I’m the one who planned it – and the 3rd mile is still on the downhill slide.
Reluctantly, I head up the hill. I had intended to get in another couple miles, but I’m so annoyed that I’m ready to call it a wrap as soon as I get home. I’m not sure why I’m feeling bitter. Maybe it’s the simple fact that I don’t like stopping. Or maybe it’s just really poor planning that teenagers and their mothers suffer hormonal swings simultaneously. But in my mid (okay, late) forties, I am getting better at breathing. After a few sighs and a couple more inhales, I realize I can still hit the four mile mark – even if not within the time I had hoped – by changing my route to a figure eight instead of an oval. Undaunted, I head out again. Okay, slightly daunted. But not defeated.
There are four high schools in our little town: the public one, the private one, the catholic boys’ school and the catholic girls’ school. Three of the schools are located within two blocks of each other, but the catholic girls are sequestered way up at the top of a hill. It’s a beautiful campus, and they are closer to God up there. And farther from everybody else, which if I had any daughters, would appeal to me as well. To get there, you have to take a couple curvy streets, none of which are particularly well-marked, serving as an effective “moat” around the castle of princesses.
As I’m settling back into a running rhythm, a flustered grandpa driving a sedan asks me how to get to the girls’ school. Maybe he’s on his way to watch his princess play basketball? Or to hear her sing? He’s probably late. I stop, and I get out of my own head long enough to give him directions. I wouldn’t have been in this spot at this moment if I had been on the route I originally intended. Maybe I was supposed to be here now. Not for myself but for somebody else.
Maybe it’s not all about me.
A lost elderly gentleman and a crabby middle-aged mom manage to bring light into each other’s paths. Somehow the Divine, with a little shake of the ant farm, transforms my sullen, selfish self into something else altogether. In what surely must be one of my less attractive states, surly and stinky, I could still bring light and direction to another person. And he brought a gentle reminder that — even armed with my fancy pink GPS device — I am simply not in control. My role is to be myself. Perhaps I could accomplish that with just a little more grace.
One of my favorite meditation instructors begins and ends each of his classes with a slight bow, hands pressed together, and the Hindu expression “Namaste.” Which translates approximately as “The divine in me honors the divine in you.” Humbled, I uttered a quiet “Namaste” as the man drove away in his gray Honda. It occurs to me that we just may be the answers to each other’s unspoken prayers. Maybe, if I pay attention, the simple fact of my presence is enough to bless another’s soul. His presence blessed mine.
Ironically, as I relinquished to need to control my route, I found security simply as a child of the universe. As usual, my run – though not how I planned it, or maybe because I didn’t – has brought me perspective.
Wishing you light and strength on your healing path. Namaste.