I ran today. I tentatively started running again a couple weeks ago. I’m not sure what started it, but I do remember driving home from work one evening when I felt it. That familiar urge to move faster than I could walk bubbled up inside me. I wanted my breath to be heavy and labored. I wanted to feel the sweet relief of stress falling upon the pavement. There was no way I was going to tamp it back down. It might never come again, but I gave in to that urge.
That run didn’t disappoint and neither did the next one. I even started running a little harder. One morning I got up, and I had the urge to run on the treadmill. I got dressed and headed to the gym. Today the urge hit right when it started to rain. I got dressed and ran anyway. I even ran a little farther and extended my run segments significantly. I felt like myself again. I missed my dog who has run by my side for years, but in truth I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about her. I didn’t time anything. I ran when I wanted and walked when I needed to. I watched the surf and felt the cool fall air on my face.
Many years ago I told a therapist that I thought running made me angry. I’d fume and fuss in my head over all the wrong things that were going on in my life, and I mostly blamed them all on my husband. By the time I got back, I had a headache from all the processing, and I was ready to fight. “Why are you running,” she asked.
“Well, I should,” I said. “What do you mean? It’s good for my health.”
She suggested that maybe I stop running until I wanted to run. I followed her weird advice. Eventually that urge came back, and I started to run on my own. The old anger tape never came back. Running was an oasis and a place to clear my mind. So, this spring when I hated running without Ashok, I gave myself permission to stop running until I wanted to run again. And even today I told myself that I’ll run for as long as I want to, and when I want to stop, I will. There is freedom in the permission to stop.
This morning I gave myself permission to be a slug all day. I was busy yesterday, and I fell into the bed exhausted after a long day of errands. I got the urge to cook a gumbo last night, and gumbo requires a somewhat exhausting amount of shopping and cooking. It was the first gumbo I’d cooked in years. I’d given myself permission to stop doing that, too. So, today I said I was going to be a slug. And about as soon as I decided to do that, I got the urge to clean out my cabinets and wash some clothes. Then I got the urge to run. It’s as if giving myself permission to slack off somehow energized me into doing more than I normally would on a Sunday.
Scenes from some of my runs this week and last….
I used to think that I needed to drive myself. Left to my own devices, I’d never have to desire to do anything. So my inner critic would make these lists of things that I SHOULD do in order to be healthy or acceptable or liked by others. I think that’s where all the anger originated. And they say depression is anger turned inward. So, no wonder I was depressed, irritable and functioning on fumes most of the time. I was angry at my own self for not following the direction of my own inner critic.
After my second divorce, I decided to give myself permission not to fix my life. I didn’t need to start dating again. I didn’t need to move. I didn’t need to take pills or lose weight or get myself back into shape. I just decided to be. I wanted to live one day at a time and listen to my inner wisdom – not my critic – and see what might happen. Besides, I was worn out.
It was this decision that finally brought me out of my depression. It took almost two years, but one day I was walking around the block in Memphis, and I realized I was happy. I was truly happy with my life and who I was. It was shocking. I’d never truly felt happy in my life. I’d felt accomplished. I’d felt like I was following the plan. I’d felt like I was checking all the boxes. But happy? That I had not experienced.
Allowing desire to bubble up instead of trying to make it happen is transformative from the inside out. I’m not happy all the time. I don’t like running all the time. I don’t practice yoga every day or eat what makes me feel good exclusively. But I am getting better at giving myself permission to be where I am. Ironically, cutting myself some slack seems to be the strongest driving force to getting myself back on track.
Where do you need to cut yourself some slack? What would it look like to stop driving yourself and just let yourself be where you are?