This week’s path: ethic is a little later than usual because, rather than writing it in the morning, while my children napped, I went out for a run.
I’m lucky in that the Handsome Sidekick can keep an ear out for the children while he works here at home, and it means I can get out for a half hour with the dog. I run for the physical and mental benefits, and for the alone-time, and it also means I can explore some of the backstreets and parks nearby. It’s a lot different, seeing things at running pace rather than driving pace. I can hear the wildlife in the trees in the local bushland reserve; I can smell the way the air is getting drier, and warmer, and the wildflowers are beginning to bloom as we edge into spring. I can appreciate the mountains in the distance to the north and the archipelago to the south, and I can appreciate the long, gradual hills of my tiny city.
(Well, ‘appreciate’ may not be quite the word I’m after.)
The running programme I’m following is called Couch25K. It helps one get (back) into running slowly, so that there’s a sense of achievement along with an increase in cardio-vascular fitness and muscle tone. The programme is designed to get you from the couch to running 5km in 9 weeks. I started it in *cough*January*cough*, so in my case obviously it’s taking close to 9 months. However, fitting it in around my already busy days means I need to take my time with it. So the fact that I’m only at Week 7 is really OK, because I’ve not given up yet!
Week 7, though. It’s hard. It’s hard because the first ‘day’ of that week requires me to run non-stop for 22 minutes. TWENTY TWO MINUTES. That’s quite a long time. I know it’s nothing compared to the marathon I want to do at some point, but it’s still work. So I set the timer on my mobile phone, strap it to my arm, and off I go.
The first little bit is easy. The first ten minutes, even. Easy. Then it gets a bit harder. Today I decided to run up one of those slow gradual hills I was talking about. I knew I was going slowly when the dog didn’t even have to run to keep up with me, but I was still jogging! It was difficult, and my muscles were complaining, and I felt exhausted and all I wanted to do was to check how much longer I had to go. I just wanted to look at the timer on my mobile and see how long I needed to do this for.
I often think, if I check, then I’ll know. I’ll know how much more effort I need to give, and I’ll be able to cope better. But in fact, it doesn’t really matter. I’m going to be able to get there, regardless of how long I still have to go. And if I can’t get there, it doesn’t matter how long I had to go. I think that checking the time will give me the will to keep going for the time remaining, but how about if I just imagined that it’s not long? I could just imagine that I’ll manage, no matter how much more I have to do.
I remember when I was giving birth to First Offspring, it seemed to be taking a long time. Labour is kind of like a marathon* and during the hours of contractions, I wanted some kind of reassurance that it was going to be over, and I wanted specific times! How much longer would it be? Ten minutes? Two hours? And all the midwife could tell me was, ‘Soon.’
It’s possible that we work so much to schedules and timeframes in our daily routines that we forget that some of the most important events in the world don’t happen that way. Births don’t. Deaths don’t. We can guess when either is going to happen, but we can’t know. A friend of mine lamented recently about how the world seems to be just tearing itself apart, and I wish I could tell her that it will get better, as I hope it will. I wish I could give a specific date and time, instead of just ‘someday’ and ‘soon’ or ‘hopefully.’
All we can really do, though, is just keep on. One foot after the other, up that slow gradual hill. Keep on running, keep on loving, keep on hoping. Even if we could look at the clock, there’s no real way of knowing what’s going to happen before the timer goes off. So we just have to do what we do. Make a difference to those closest, and hope that everyone else might do the same.
Did I mention that it’s hard, to run for many minutes at a time? I know I’ll feel good when it’s done, but while I’m doing it, it can be unpleasant, so I just keep going, hoping it’s worth it. As far as metaphors for life go, I don’t know if it’s the best one. But in the absence of having some kind of crystal ball to know when the world will turn around and get better, I guess I just have to keep on with everything, until it does.
*although, to quote one of my favourite quips from the Handsome Sidekick, ‘…at any point during a marathon, you can just stop!’