Running Delight

 

A simple joy?  I ran…I jogged…I shuffled my feet…slowly.  Call it what you want but “jogging” seven minutes out of fifty-six brought a river of “good” endorphins and a bit of hard breathing.  Little “feel good” opioid peptides that have raised my spirits at a time when my spirits have been quite low.

To think, I sooooo hated running…I still hate the actual act of running.

I flirted with exercise my entire adult life.  Flirted like the unsure introvert gazing wishfully at the beautiful homecoming queen from across the room.  I’d contemplate asking her to dance and then take a good look in the mirror as I straighten my tie.  Why would she be interested in dancing with me?

Similar to the pain of rejection, running was painful.  Aching muscles, being short of breath, the queasy stomach after strenuous exercise…and…left to my natural state, I’m basically lazy.

The mirror suggested, “You don’t look like a runner…you are too round, your legs are too short, your feet are too big.”  Compared to a thoroughbred horse, I was at best a mule, at worst a donkey…built for carrying burdens not speed.

A birthday gift from hell changed the way I looked at myself in the mirror.  I embarked on a running program six weeks after a birthday heart attack in 2006.  After the heart attack, I decided the homecoming queen could be damned.

Four stents overcame a life filled with Southern cooking, I completed cardiac rehab and embarked on a walking program.  An old school coach, I just didn’t feel the “no pain, no gain.”  I needed to hurt…and I did.  I needed to pay for those caloric indiscretions of my youth…and I did.  I used the “Couch to 5K”1 workout and found the pain to be manageable.  I also found there were unforeseen benefits.

My feet were still too big, my legs will always be too short, but I wasn’t as round…sixty-two pounds less round.  Those changes or lack thereof were foreseen.  It was the changes in my mind I didn’t foresee.

I have battled depression for over forty years and suddenly my broken kaleidoscope of a brain seemed to reset itself.  There were days I still battled but the din of battle had quieted.  The voices in my head whispered instead of yelling.

There were (are) still days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, but they were less numerous and harsh.  I had a reason to get out of bed…my early morning run.

Running for me was like the guy hitting himself in the head with a hammer.  It hurt like hell while I did it but, “It felt so good when I stopped.”

I wasn’t satisfied with 5Ks and continued to push through 10Ks and half-marathons.  I even wrote down a marathon on my bucket list and began to train.  For five or six days a week, I battled my body instead of my mind.  I was addicted.  I wasn’t fast and would win no races.  I might win in my age group if everyone in my age group had died.

My running wasn’t about competing with others it was about competing with myself.  My running was about finishing a workout or finishing a race.  I could put a 13.1 bumper sticker on my Jeep and look in a mirror and say, “I am a runner!”

And then I wasn’t.  On my last run before a half-marathon in 2015, a misstep opened a can of worms.  For two years I hobbled through workouts, tried to prepare to run only to reinjure myself until I decided I was being hardheaded and put my pain into a doctor’s hands. A torn meniscus was an issue…also the discovery of early-onset osteoarthritis.  “A knee replacement is in your future,” he said.  I wish I had never gone.  I wish I had never found out.

For two years I have walked or rode a bicycle and mentally bitched over every mile. Walking doesn’t do it for me.  Cycling doesn’t blot out the voices in my head no matter how much I crank up the volume.  Walking fails to reset my brain.

This winter season has been the worst.  The SAD and depression had laid me low until the New Year.  I decided to run…jog…shuffle my feet.  A different program, a thirty-second jog out of every two and a half minutes the first week, a minute out of three the second, the same next week.2  Twelve weeks to a 5K.  I feel like a baby taking his first steps, but I am hopeful.  Even my walking days have been…hopeful.

I am also going to be smart.  Three days a week only, on the grass, not the pavement, no back to back days no matter how many workouts are rained ut.  Good shoes and braces.

I scratched the marathon off my bucket list.  It will never happen.  I do hope to do a 5K even if it is a walk/run…jog…shuffle.  Anything to reset my mind.  Anything to keep the negative voices at bay.  Anything to repair the broken kaleidoscope.  Anything to get my mojo back.

1 Couch to 5K  http://www.c25k.com/

2 None to Run Plan https://www.nonetorun.com/

Don Miller writes on many subjects, fiction, and nonfiction.  His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Unredeemed it Would Seem

 

As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye.  Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?

Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy?  “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.”  It probably explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies.  “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”

The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which seem to surround me.  The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.

Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not.  If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it.  That is on you and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course.  I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours.  If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.

The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician as long as it advances your political agenda.  All one has to do is look at the histories of our state governments to find great examples.  Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind.  Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.

Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much.  As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from the cute or quaint.  It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics.   I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again we Southerners do it with such elegance.  

“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”  The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview.  Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different.  They were actually singing to the same clientele.  He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.

Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox.  It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes.  There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning.  Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or maybe I really don’t want to know.

Saturday night might be relative.  I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.

I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t.  Sometimes we even make jokes about it.   “What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist?
The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”  “How does a Baptist get into Heaven?  They bring a casserole.”

Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed.  While I struggle with my religious beliefs I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”

Like the good Methodist turned Baptist that I am, anytime I publically order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance.  I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.

Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits.  We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones.   An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain.  Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!”  See, we can be insanely funny.  Accent on insane.  Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”

Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles.  I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states  In the most recent cycle a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a…gasp…Democrat.  Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.

We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag or the Confederate Battle Flag.  If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us to lose?   Did someone sin?

Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from pickup trucks displaying several Son’s of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers.  Confusing ain’t it.

I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument.  Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions.  One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.

Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.

I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.”  Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations.  Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized.  Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox.  Have I just moved left?

Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction.  You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett

 

The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907.  I actually had this done.  A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared.  It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.