On Saturday morning the stars aligned and for the first time in much too long I was present on my mat.
Sometimes it’s tough to know what it means to be present when our lives and our minds are so busy with me, me, me.
But for an hour on Saturday I was able to find presence and defy judgement through breath and flow; freedom while working limbs and trunk into shapes not usually made in the span of a normal day.
When you find that elevated place of spiritual liftedness it’s a a lot like the illusive runner’s high. Not until you meet it do you recognize it’s been there all along, but you have been the thing standing in its way.
I stood on my right leg with my shoulder tucked under my left knee, arm wrapped underneath my left calf, hand holding the outer edge of my foot. To make the bind, I needed to wrap my right arm around my back to meet the left hand, while pressing through the right foot to find leverage; to stand up, lifting the knee, while pretzel wrapped around myself.
I worked to the point where my loose right arm met its resistance (so far from where it would have liked to have gone), but instead of feeling any negativity toward myself or the pose, my spirit was set free in the act of the trying. I laughed, and standing in mountain with hands in prayer, smiled under thumbs at the site of my fellow yogis “going for it.” Twisted and bound and strong and upright, many of them even straightened the lifted leg.
Like breathing flesh and bone statues, working their bodies into the shapes of birds, I felt profound pride.
The moment had nothing to do with what I could not achieve or never have been able to or how I felt about my differences from others or how I stood alone.
And there it was….
Gratefulness in a moment, in an experience far beyond the boundaries of my own vida loca.
Have you ever had an experience like this on or off the mat? Do you lose gratefulness sometimes and have difficulty locating it again?
Poor pitiful me with so many unknowns, so many worries, so many scary pre/post divorce, “Can I do it alone’s?”
The fact that my birthday was coming didn’t even matter. What’s another birthday anyway? I’m not five. It’s not like I need to celebrate like I am so important that a whole day needs to be dedicated to me.
Worth mentioning, my pitifulness was dragging me back down into the depths of my worst habits, too. I can admit it to you and I will. That last sleeve of Oreos? I brushed them out of my teeth last night and didn’t even care that my month sans sugar and processed junkiness had been for not. My sugar-free, gluten-free lifestyle could suck a lollipop. Sad Martha eats sugar. Worried Martha doesn’t care.
But when I woke up this morning my daughter jumped out of bed singing, “It’s your birthday!” as if it were hers. Both girls were eager to dress pretty for school and to share with their teachers the significance of the day. My mother called and said, “This was the happiest day of my life.” My sister Gabby was smooshy mooshy lovey sweet on the phone (she is a wonderful sister) and my facebook friends have blown up my feed with the loveliest birthday wishes.
And just like that my heart is full. My worries put on hold.
Feeling better (happier and lighter on my feet) I swung through Whole Foods on the way home from pre-school drop off.
I stood in the entrance a second longer than necessary breathing in the scent of comforting fall spices.
I bought pretty baby spinaches and the big container of my favorite red raspberry Ultima electrolyte replenisher (cheaper than Starbucks green tea and less zingy than Nuun).
I wandered through the gluten-free aisle and snapped up some Mary’s Gone Crackers that had a hang tag mentioning they were two for less!
Down the aisles, up the aisles, through checkout and back home to write a post out of gratitude for all the things I’d been neglecting to see and feel and experience as the worry monster has been furiously stomping on my good.
So now I wonder. Maybe grown up birthdays aren’t supposed to be like when we were kids; all self absorbed and present hungry. Maybe the day is meant to be a reminder of all the great things that this life has to offer. A calendar marked day when the world points your way and gives you a great big hug (whether you want one or not).
So, “Thank you,” to my community, my family, my friends.
I’m caught completely off guard and having a very happy birthday after all.
When planning for a marathon there is much online content discussing the steps that can be taken to guide a runner to a successful finish; schedules, gear, injury prevention, pacing, speed work, comparable celebrity finish times. You name it you can find it!
In my experience post race, I was bemused to find that there was not the same abundance of advice regarding recovery. Once I’d heard my name come through that loud-speaker, I was essentially on my own.
It has been fifteen days since I ran my heart out meeting a lifetime personal goal. In retrospect, my physical training was successful. I am still proud of my accomplishment and less bothered by the fact that my time wasn’t within the range I’d had hoped for. I loved every minute, even the painful ones and the ones where I was consumed with doubt.
The mental challenge of going from full-blown training to restful observance of it is a tremendous transition. Recovery days one through four were brutal.
The old habits of emotional eating and anxiety appeared with vigor; they hadn’t been beat in training, only subdued. The fact that they were actually lying dormant was a blow.
On day five I laced up my brand new Newton’s, but the run was slow and hard. I clocked thirteen minutes per mile for a whopping 1.75 before calling it quits.
Figuring it was too soon to get back out there I tried not to be bothered, but my type A was showing and I was really beating myself up about it.
I tried again days later and ran a decent five, but the love wasn’t there. I was glad when I got home. I prayed that this was temporary.
By now I had searched and searched online for information to make sense of what I was experiencing and in my frustration turned to my friends in Internetland who were the first to show me some light.
After tweeting about my lackluster runs, one twitterer mentioned that she’d heard it took one day for every mile to be fully physically recovered. Easy math I could do; one month to give myself some leeway.
A commenter on my blog told me of her own depression that surfaced after her second marathon. It became so bad that she opted for antidepressants to get her through. This kind of honesty is what I wasn’t finding in my search. I was grateful for hers.
And then my sister arrived into town last Monday and I saw my nephew (whom I had helped raise from the time he was one until three), but had not had much communication with in the most recent years. Standing in front of me now was a teenage boy, all five feet nine inches of him. I swung my arms around his neck and the tears started to flow.
When I got home that night they continued.
I called my older sister and kept crying.
A full-blown panic attack followed. I’d never actually had one before, so I was surprised by its force. My heart was beating out of my chest and I had to take a Clonapin to settle down. It didn’t work, so I took another.
I fell asleep and woke the next morning feeling groggy, but better.
As if the fog had lifted, I was able to think with a clear mind and it became obvious that the pressure I was putting on myself to be as strong and powerful as I’d been before the marathon was suddenly gone; like all that training had never happened.
Seeing my nephew was the tip of the emotional iceberg in terms of the way I was managing. I needed a good cry. It needed to come out and I began to feel as if real recovery was finally going to begin.
So does it make sense then that I’d want to go through this again?
Yes, of course!
stubbornness and determination are a part of my gene pool and one must never stop learning in this life.
The next step is to move out of my comfort zone both physically and mentally.
With running taking a short hiatus from my schedule I’ve recently headed back to yoga.
Last week while standing in tree pose with my branches spread wide I straightened my neck to peer toward the sky and thanked God. The second tree pose on the opposite leg allowed me the opportunity to thank Him again.
Yesterday, after rolling onto my right side at the end of savasana I realized I was facing the sun. With hands folded at my third eye and with my other two tightly closed I could feel the warmth from the light. This time I thanked the Universe.
The overall experience of my marathon has not yet finished, though the race itself has.
Today I feel renewed, rested and peaceful,though a bit less physically strong and not quite ready to resume any significant running.