December 24, 2011

On Running and Gratitude

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures – Thornton Wilder

I left work early yesterday. It’s almost Christmas after all and no one was really getting any thing productive done.

When I showed up to get them several hours early, my kids were both happy and surprised. I work a lot – and in the past year a lot has been even more than usual with many more long office hours and more days on the road. Sometimes I feel like each hour I don’t see them they have somehow grown and changed in a way I can’t really measure.

We can never take back time. Each and every second that passes is just that – in the past. The only thing we can ever change and effect is the future. That isn’t perfect either, of course. We never have a perfect knowledge of how our choice and actions will change our lives. We have to do our best, make the choices we think are right, and keep going. Hopefully we learn a few things along the way so we can keep doing it better.

When I used to have a full-time private practice, I gave a lot of advice to people about lifestyle. One thing I believe is that people only want to live a long life if they have the real ability to enjoy it. Being healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally – gives us the best chance at getting the most out of our lives. While health is far from completely predictable, there are definitely things that seem increase our chances at having more rather than less. This list is mostly composed of what doctors like to call “lifestyle factors” – diet, exercise, sleep, supportive relationships with family and friends, reduction of stress, and so on.

Physicians everywhere casually counsel patients each and every day to eat a healthy diet and get more physical activity – frequently with no results. As humans, we have to have a pretty good reason to make lifestyle change, because for the most part even if we KNOW it is good for us, it is hard. Our default settings take us down the road of least resistance, not down the path of doing hard work for a future we can’t really predict.

(Reminder to self: I am not writing a health blog)

When I decided to run, I needed reasons. Really good ones, because I didn’t like running and I was pretty sure it was going to be hard. One of the things on my list of reasons is: because I am grateful for my life and I want appreciate as much of it as I can

Aging is inevitable. I am doing it right now – and sometimes lately I am pretty sure I can almost feel it happening. But how we age is a thing we have a bit of control over. I live a pretty good life and a very “clean” life by almost any standard. However, by age 40 I had all but stopped exercising for all the common reasons people stop exercising. I was busy and stressed and tired, and what I most wanted to do- yoga classes – were a 15 minute drive away, and the schedules didn’t match mine and I didn’t always have a sitter and and and…

A dozen excuses.

I woke up one day and looked at my life. Most especially at my kids. I am so deeply grateful for what I have. One way I express that is by caring for myself enough to be able to keep doing what I do and doing it well. I know that staying physically healthy is a critical part of that. The game-changing thought for me went something like this:

Taking care of myself and staying healthy is one of the most important ways I express gratitude for my life and for my kids. By not doing all the things I know I am capable of, I am hurting all of us. I am waiting for exercise to be convenient rather than simply doing what I can, like it or not.

Yoga, not matter how much I love it, was not working. I don’t enjoy doing it alone and I couldn’t get to the studio. Intending to practice yoga and not doing it does not do very much for you at the end of the day.

So I started to run. It is not what I love, but it is what I can do. It works in my life. And I am grateful. I am grateful for everything I have – my kids, my family, my friends, my career, my home here at the beach. On days when I don’t want to put on my running shoes because I am tired or sore or simply stubborn, I remind myself that once I have let the time pass I can’t take it back. I grab a hold of my feelings of gratitude, grit my teeth a bit and go.

Many blessings to you all on Christmas Eve.



1 Comment

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  1. Cyndi
    December 24, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    Your new blog is one of the best Christmas gifts ever. Over the years I have watched you change the lives of many people, personally and professionally. I am blessed to have you in my life. Have a wonderful holiday season. Our love to you and the boys.