The Grayness of the Day

I woke up this morning to 6″ of fresh snow. This was quite a change from the bare grass which was uncovered after the previous snow had melted. The temperatures, more seasonable this morning approached 16 degrees. The bitter cold stinging my face. I pull the face mask up a little bit higher and lean forward as I make my way through the newly fallen snow. My thoughts drift to the previous days run when the pavement was dry, snow was absent from the landscape and the temperature was 40-degrees, a far cry from the temperatures this morning.

There are times during every winter where I seem to drift like the snow through the gray of winter. There is little desire to run and often traveling to work to listen to the problems of others is also a struggle. I move slowly through the morning envious of those individuals in warmer climates who are not shoveling snow. There is an argument in my brain, so I rise, dress and go for a run or do I stay in bed for another hour? My inner groundhog insists there are 6-more weeks of winter. It is often the run which wins as I remind myself how I feel when I have laced up the running shoes, turned on the headlamp and head out the door.

winter running

My spirit needs light. It is this light for which I long and for which my spirit longs. I exit my house and make my way to the car for the drive to the office. The sky, a blanket of gray which does not seem to go away and which seems endless as it stretches the length of the horizon.

The end of the day arrives. I exit my office and am happy the sun when we see it in this hemisphere, makes itself present. I know longer days are coming and with it increasing warmth and more sun

Advertisements

In the Shadow of the Mountains

Roadway in autumn forest

I rose this morning, the floor cold to my bare feet.
Golden daylight falls through the barren branches of the stand of white birch trees.
As I stare through the stand of trees, I see the silhouette of one of the Adirondack ranges standing majestically.

Hot black coffee.
Alone with my thoughts,
As I stare out the window.

Things are simpler here.
I can just be…
There is no judgment, no expectations, no goals,
No fears.

There is no one to please, no one to help.
The quiet solitude of leaves as they dance on the breeze.

The second day…kind of…

I greet you this morning with arms outstretched in gratitude.

So…I’ve attempted to begin running, again. I first began just one month after my knee surgery in March of this year. I admitted that was a mistake. It was way too soon after the surgery but hell, I was motivated and couldn’t wait to get my dad bod back in shape. I know…the visual. Well, you’re going to have to live with that in your head. No apologies on my part.

A few months went by and I started running again in September and fooled myself again. This time there was no knee pain, for which I have been eternally grateful. There was also little in the way of motivation. Getting up early was a struggle. I also bit off more than I could chew and found myself actually detracting from what little motivation there was because starting to run again at 54 after a year off, well, it SUCKS!!! Moderation is something this cusping baby boomer struggles with.

beach run

Another month went by and I started running, again. This attempt lasted just two days. Motivation had done gone and left the building. I added my runs to “Smashrun” and it was as if the website began to mock me. The Smash Run website has a feature designed to increase or at least help to increase one’s motivation by reminding you that for every day you don’t run, you lose a percentage of fitness and increase the likelihood of dying. Now that last part is not true, but that is the jist. So, when I stopped running again, you guessed it…motivation had once again gotten up and left the building.

After having a gym membership that I paid for a few months…ok…several months…ok…an entire year; God that hurts when I say that; I decided I needed to get my ass out the door and like the slogan for Nike says, “Just do it!” I love this quote from George Sheehan, “Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

This time I decided to go back to what worked almost a decade earlier when I had returned to running after a lengthy layoff. I began by rereading George Sheehan’s “Running and Being.” This, for me, was “the book.” I refer to it as “the book” because it is what shaped my running when I first read it in 1978. It also helped shape my spiritual beliefs and helped me remove myself from the dogma that is organized religion.

Now when I step out the door, I have goals that are realistic and that will help me achieve success. My humble apologies to those runners who I stopped following on social media. Watching posts of “I just ran a 20-miler in an insane time” just wasn’t helping me. I also want to apologize to those runners whom I saw when I was driving to and from my office. I did not intentionally seek to run you over but your graceful stride and smile just pushed me over the edge. Now before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I would never intentionally use my vehicle as any type of weapon. If you didn’ read the sarcasm in this post…well…

When I run, I run for me. I run for the beauty of the solitude. I run for the freedom that George Sheehan wrote about when he quoted Thomas Merton, “Thomas Merton, another solitary, understood that. The beginning of freedom, he wrote, is not liberation from the body but liberation from the mind. We are not entangled in our own body, we are entangled in our mind.” I run to untangle my mind. It makes no difference to me my pace or my distance but to return home and to know the tangled web of thoughts which accompanied me as I left my house is no longer a tangled mess.

By the way, it was 32-degrees when I stepped outside the door this morning.

Namaste

The morning run

A little over one year ago I felt a pain in my knee which forced me to stop running. For a while, it was even difficult to walk.

I began running again in 2009, after having taken several years away from this sport. For me, running had become drudgery. I had forgotten why I was running.

I was never a competitor, against others. I had competed against myself. My runs became more about running faster times. It was in this competition that I had lost my desire to run.

territoryrun_vth_h

I have always been my worst enemy, allowing the thoughts and comments of others to populate and rent space within my head. The worst part is I allowed the rental property to go unchecked for a long period of time. The renters took advantage of my absence and they completely trashed the property. When I finally admitted that it was my absence which leads to the state of disrepair, I felt too sad to do anything about it. Sadness turned into depression and depression lead to inaction. The property went unsold and was eventually taken from the market. This injury, really the first since I began running when I was 16 allowed the same process; the same cycle of degradation to happen all over again.

Several times I watched and rewatched the video “Motivation for Your Morning” from the Territory Run Company.

I fell in love with this company when I first found them on the net. Check them out. If your runs are more spiritual in nature, I think you’ll really like this company.

Anyway, as I watched the video, I began to recall what I love about running and more specifically the morning run. The feeling which arose as I watched this video, the feeling which always seems to return to me when I let go of the need to identify as a particular type of runner was beginning to make its way into that property which had for the last 15 months become dilapidated after so many months of neglect. It felt like a warm summer night sitting on my front porch and in the distance I hear the sound of music as it escapes through the speakers of a car and its open windows. The sound, as it gets nearer becomes a song which I recall with a smile. It reminds me of simpler times and of memories of runs gone by, both good and not so good. I am reminded of the time when I waited by the window for a summer rain to cease or at least abate enough, in my thoughts that it would prove to be a comfortable run. knowing this would not happen, I laced up my running shoes and completed a quick three miler with all the enjoyment of a small child opening gifts Christmas morning. It was running times such as these which allowed the weight of the world to be left behind. My thoughts instead became filled with joy as I stopped on the crest of a local bridge and waited for the sun to rise beckoning a new day; a day like a wet lump of clay on a potters wheel, which could be made by me in any form.

I also began rereading the thoughts of George Sheehan in a book which was one of the most important to me since I was 15 or 16. That book is “Running and Being.” First published in 1978. My copy remains held together with several pieces of scotch tape. I still recall making this purchase at the long-defunct Walden Bookstore. George wrote, “I am a noonday runner.” I, on the other hand, have always been a morning runner. This has been and continues to be, as an Introvert the time of day which I covet. I covet this time of day not only for the solitude which it brings but today, I run at this hour because quite frankly, I am safer during this hour. George wrote, “The best most of us can do is to be a poet an hour a day. Take an hour away from being a serious adult and become serious beginners. Take an hour away from what Shelley called a life of error, ignorance, and strife, and introduce love and beauty and delight.”

One of my favorite quote from George Sheehan’s book is this one. “I am a lonely figure when I run the roads. People wonder how far I have come, how far I have to go. They see me alone and friendless on a journey that has no visible beginning or end. I appear isolated and vulnerable, a homeless creature. It is all they can do to keep from stopping the car and asking if they can take me wherever I’m going.
I know this because I feel it myself. When I see the runner I have much the same thoughts. No matter how often I run the roads myself, I am struck by how solitary my fellow runner appears. The sight of a runner at dusk or in inclement weather makes me glad to be safe and warm in my car and headed for home. And at those times, I wonder how I can go out there myself, how I can leave the comfort and warmth and that feeling of intimacy and belonging, to do this distracted thing.
But when finally I am there, I realize it is not comfort and warmth I am leaving, not intimacy and belonging I am giving up, but the loneliness that pursues me this day and every day. I know that the real loneliness, the real isolation, the real vulnerability, begins long before I put on my running shoes.”

I have attached a link to the video I mentioned earlier. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

//content.jwplatform.com/players/mDLR0SCD-vTGW2TdI.html

I woke with my alarm this morning. Five AM. One of my favorite times of the day. I love and live for the solitude that this time of day brings.

I have been waiting for this day for some time. With it came some fear. I could taste it like bile in the back of my throat. you know that feeling you get when you think you might throw up. I wondered if history would repeat itself. Regardless, I got my ass out of bed and accepted the challenge before me.

running

I also have a healthy level of denial about my age. I’ll be 54 on August 28th. I am thankful that I don’t feel my age and have to be reminded from time to time of my age. The reminder comes in the form of aches and pains from over doing it that I didn’t have at half my age. It’s a good reminder because it keeps from pushing farther than my body is capable and thus avoiding injury. As a result of the injury, I hadn’t run since April 6th. That’s a lie. I hadn’t run since July 15th of 2016. The original pain started the day before yet I pushed through it. Instead of stopping and taking a week off, I pushed through it and returned for more the next day. When I returned home after completing a 10-miler on the 15th, I sat on my porch feeling pretty happy there was no pain. Then I got up and heard a pop in my knee. The pop was followed by pain and a tremendously difficult time even bearing weight let alone walking.

It serves me right. I had been pushing myself through runs. the thought of getting up to run was even painful although this pain being emotional in nature was easier to deny. As time passed the pain also lessened. I thought I was healing and after repeated attempts to return to running even short distances, pain followed.

I sucked it up and scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was a torn meniscus. I pushed for surgery because his original treatment plan was unacceptable. I was not going to stop running. I was not ready to stop running. Surgery followed as did my first attempt, foolishly at running within one month.

path

One year has passed since I ran any distance with the exception of after my grandson or up a flight of stairs. I ran or rather walk/ran this morning. To my surprise, there was no pain. Even better, the love that I had and had lost had also returned. it feels good to be on the path to recovery.

Namaste

It’s time for a change

With hands clasped together in prayer, I greet you on this beautiful day.

A lot has been intentionally crossing my mind as of late.  As winter comes to an end and spring approaches, I have noticed the depression which I have worked so hard to manage during the long winter months has begun to lift. Medication remains a constant but there is also a renewed outlook which has buoyed my determination to continue the fight. Medication has been helpful as has my journal writing. Introspection has returned.

Since the beginning of 2015, I have twice changed employment. The first change found me looking for a challenge and the second was out of necessity for my physical and emotional health and well-being. The first change resulted in a depression which I found myself denying, even after I had left. I found myself in the throes of burnout and experiencing anhedonia-like I cannot recall. I forced myself to run. Running is normally a part of my day. For me, there is nothing better than rising at 4AM and getting in 7-10 miles. My love, my desire to run let alone wake at what some might call “that ungodly hour” had left.

Denial is a wonderful thing, or so we allow ourselves to believe. During the period of forced running, I felt a pain in my right knee. As the pain dissipated within a mile, I continued to run. One particularly depressing day, I completed a run, sat on my porch to rest in the solitude of this early hour and watch the sunrise. I rose, did nothing in particular with respect to movement and felt and heard a pop in my knee. Running without pain was now completely out of the question.

It has been in excess of 250 days since I last took a run.

As I procrastinated, my knee began to feel better. Pain was a thing of the past. A little over a month ago I went for a 3-mile run and was excited as there was no return of pain…until several hours later. The injury remained and it was time to seek a more in-depth intervention other than playing the wait and see game.

I finally met with an orthopedic surgeon, completed an MRI and ultimately was informed the diagnosis was a “complex tear of the meniscus.” The doctor was passive in his attempts to turn me away from a surgical intervention. He also cited my progressing age as a factor to “slow down and find another form of exercise.” I have other forms of exercise but none provide me with the solace that trail running does. There is something magical at rising at 4AM before everyone with sense rises for the day, lacing on a pair of running shoes, filling a water bottle and simply hitting the road. I time many of my runs to be in certain places at certain times so I can catch the rise of the sun.  The run is my therapy while the sunrise is simply a bonus. When I see the sunrise, I think of my maternal grandmother who’s presence embodied all that a beautiful sunrise could be.

There have been many lessons learned over those last two years. I have listened. I hold no remorse for the amount of time which it has taken me to move forward for this is where many of the lessons lie.

I photograph, write and post the results to better understand the journey I’m on — both the literal ones where the Vespa scooter moves through the world and those trickier trips where my mind conspires to understand what the hell is happening to me.  In either case, I’m a spokesman for myself and don’t pretend to offer much to anyone else.

Publishing to my blog as of the last couple of years has been terribly inconsistent. I felt as though a lot of the things about which I have wanted to write did not fit “The Dharmata” very well. I felt as though I had become pigeonholed and subsequently stale. I felt this change needed to take place some time ago and for any number of poor reasons, I never followed through with the change.

I have changed the name of my blog address to thebeardedrunner.net. This is a change GoDaddy tells me is in effect immediately. I hope you continue to follow me on this new path. I plan on writing more regularly about depression, running, the importance of activity in our lives and whatever else come to mind.

The Power of Gratitude & Introspection

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort in my knee continues to decrease. For this, I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

This is one of my favorite places to write. The tailgate on my Honda Element drops at just the right height to work as a desk. On it sits a cup of coffee and my laptop.

Gratwick Park

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience more imbalance in my life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally, this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing had fallen off to one or two days each week, then one day each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy has begun to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run and when I see others out for a run, I am reminded of my inability to run. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective. I am thankful I have this ability and even more thankful I use it or should I say I have begun to return to its use. I still rise early enough to see darkness blanket the sky. As I sit and either read or write at this hour, I am comforted knowing another day is dawning and I have been blessed to see another day.

Namaste