So I run now- it is four days official as I continue this path to some sort of self-discovery. Or I am on my first of many a midlife crisis. I keep trying to come up with these organic opportunities to release all the stress, negativity and toxicity that tend to creep up. After failed attempts to join a gym, get to a yoga class, find an at home workout program or diet that I can actually stick to, I decided to give this approach a try. If anything, I get a toddler free half hour out of it. I shut the front door to my house tucking my phone into the front of my sweatshirt ready to start this new challenge in the misty chill the beginning of December brings,
The air is preparing for snow as I start my warm up walk through my neighborhood. The last reminisce of fall still cling as dead leaves are piled on the curb and crunching under my feet. A few pumpkins remain on front porches finally starting to rot (mine included). The loud hum of the main road becomes more and more distant as I near the cemetery at the end of the street. Yes, my neighborhood backs into a cemetery. A literal “dead end” we like to say. (never gets old). I was a skeptic about moving right next to the dead but as Josh pointed out “at least they are quiet”.
“Begin Running” the Ap instructs. I pick up the pace entering the cemetery. There is a brisk and damp mist in the air that press against my face. It wasn’t quite cold enough to hurt yet. I wait for my body to reject running and make up excuses to start walking before the ap advised. Oddly, it welcomed it like an old friend, one I haven’t seen in years. It had been at least four years since I last attempted to be a runner again. It started with a decision (over alcohol) to run a half marathon. With just over four months to learn the craft, I was able to run for ten miles without feeling like I would explode. Then I ran thirteen miles, which ended my serious running phase. Running and I broke up after that only to have the occasional flame rekindling over the years.
“Begin Walking” she says again as I slow my pace and take the path that boarders the woods. A squirrel is sitting on one of the gravestones fumbling with opening a nut not knowing a life is buried under it. The old stones paint pictures of the lives they represent. Abigail: wife of Jonathan, mother of Peter and Elizabeth. Aged thirty-six years, two months and three days: February 3, 1892. I love to read and pronounce the names out loud. As saying it somehow brings them back to life if just for a second. So many stones, with one-line phrases that represent an entire life. Grimes: I told you I was sick.
“Begin Running” I welcome back the old friend. This time I am a gazelle; light on my feet gliding along the path. The rustling of the trees reveals a little smirk. Abigail is rolling her decomposed eyes in amusement. Ok, I admit. Probably more like a T-Rex; my elbows firmly tucked as I stomp along the path, trying not to put all the weight on the back of my feet.
“Begin Walking” My arms still swing like wide scissors darting out of my shoulders. I am getting the stride as I rhythmically walk to the music -Band of Horses (as always). The melancholy tone of the music mixes with the melancholy grey fall day reminding me of why the typical “workout” mix wasn’t motivating me. I start to sing along.
“To the outside; the dead leaves lay on the lawn. For they don’t have trees to hang upon. At every occasion I’ll be ready for the funeral. At every occasion once more its called the funeral”
I sing with the comfort and confidence that no one is around to hear and pause to smile at the obvious irony between the lyrics and my surroundings. If I can awkwardly run then I can awkwardly sing. I convince myself satisfied with the stretch I gave my voice.
“Begin Running” I position my inner gazelle again, tightening my posture. With twenty pounds of baby weight left to lose, it is impossible not to feel like a bloated version of my former self. I am trying to love my new squishier body but the closet of clothes I can’t wear is not cooperating. There is a fight between my leggings and my jeans. My leggings are telling me to accept and love my new size while my jeans are telling me to work harder and lose the weight. I am running, and appreciating the stress and anxiety release I was so desperately craving. I decide I need variety in my wardrobe, jeans and leggings working together not against each other. I don’t care about the weight. I am so tired of the years of self-body shaming. It started when I started “developing” in the fifth grade and has been the enemy of my self confidence ever since. I am not a T-Rex! I tell the dead.
I continue through the series of running and walking and start to feel the calming. This too shall pass. I ritualistically remind myself. I am surrounded by reminders of death: decaying trees, crumbling tombstones and the community of people buried beneath me. I am also surrounded by life: birds flying overhead, squirrels scampering about and an obese mushroom growing on the side of a tree. There is a newer headstone decorated for the season. I small Christmas tree with bright bulbs and garland sits in front of a giant wreath. “Dad” one of the many words used to describe the person under the decorations; and an Ohio State logo to further paint the image of the life that some family valued so much.
So I run now: through the cemetery a few times a week. It is for a lot of health benefits: physically, mentally and spiritually. Maybe I will stick with it this time. Maybe I will lose weight. Maybe I will finally just accept whatever size I am. I pass a group of women as I exit the cemetery. “Looking good!” one of them yells out. “You too! All of you.” I say smiling.