Keep on Doing Your Thing

This past weekend my training schedule had me doing 18 miles. Whenever I reach this point in my training, it always freaks me out a bit- first of all, because I realize that my marathon is coming up, and second of all, because I realize that WOW I am going to be on the road for AWHILE. In addition, I always get a little nervous before long distances. This particular Saturday had me especially riled up because I was away from home, and would be going the distance solo. While 18 miles isn’t exactly torture, it’s not a laugh riot either, which is why it helps to have your running peep or peeps there beside you.

I thought about the long run a lot the night before, anticipating boredom and imaginary, scary “northern Wisconsin” pickup truck drivers who would follow me on my route. I set out my clothes, planned my breakfast, and hydrated all night long to set the stage for a great run. I even downloaded the Dali Lama’s “Art of Happiness” book so that I’d have something to listen to that could cheer me up if the going got tough.  I did all of these things in a ritualistic manner that non-runners may not exactly understand.

I woke up to one of the most perfect running days of the summer. It was sunny and the air was crisp. I felt rested and ready to start my run, and the first few miles were seamless. With conditions being as ideal as they were, it was easy to settle into a comfortable pace and mental state. I got so happy about the run, in fact, that I forgot about how much I was dreading it the night before. Quite simply, I subconsciously remembered that I really loved running, and not even an 18-mile price tag was going to take that away from me. The weather was fabulous, and no body aches or pains were threatening an early stop. My run was just plain great.  I came home with a case of runner’s high that caused me to babble incessantly and make my just-now-waking up family look at me strangely, wondering where all of my frenetic energy was coming from when they were just getting around to pouring their cereal.

Let’s fast-forward a few hours. My family and I went to a friend’s wooded property. Now, this property is a massive, 40-acre retreat that is bordered by homes belonging to our friend’s relatives.  I was looking forward to this visit with visions of appetizers, wine, and lawn chairs in mind, all enjoyed guilt-free after that morning’s run. These dreams were shattered upon arrival when my friend asked all of the gals to hike the property with her. Though tired and a little sore, I agreed to join the group. As we hiked around the property, my friend commented on the woods, the animals, and the area, introducing me to a world I’d never really considered before. Along the way, we stopped to talk to her sister-in-law and nephew, who approached us on four wheelers.  The sister-in-law mentioned that her husband was behind them in his cart.

As we continued on, my friend explained that her brother (the husband) had Parkinson’s, and he had to use a golf cart now to help him navigate the property. We continued to walk until her brother approached us.  In a few seconds upon meeting, he had invited our group of four ladies to his “man-cave.” We all agreed- after all, who can resist a peek at a man-cave? I envisioned a fairy tale man-land, including a flat screen tuned in to ESPN, and plenty of chips and beer.

Soon we reached the man-cave, and John led us in. He took a seat in his man-cave recliner, and asked if we wanted a beverage from his man-cave refrigerator. I studied the surroundings, trying to decide what made this cave special. I soon understood.  Sure there was a cable ready flat screen with I’m sure a dozen or so sports channels. There was man-cave décor and a sense that this territory was normally a place of refuge and peace for John, and John alone. But then other things started to pop out.

An electric guitar stood in the corner, with a nearby amp. Twelve harmonicas were placed on a shelf behind John’s recliner.   Next to his recliner was a stereo system, where he could play tapes or CD’s, with harmonica accompaniment. And play John did.  I began to clearly see what this man-cave was all about as John popped in a Van Morrison CD and told all of us that he, “Liked to play the blues… just the blues.” He wasn’t very good, he said, but he enjoyed the blues. Period.

For the next four or so minutes, John belted out the most moving rendition of Van Morrison’s “Stranded” that I’ve ever heard. It was moving not only because it was well, the blues, but also because it was so glaringly clear that John was 100% into this. Playing the blues was his thing, and nothing- not Parkinson’s, not having zero or four audience members- was going to get in the way of doing what he loved.

After he was done, John apologetically told us again that he was sorry that he wasn’t that good (so not true), but that he “just liked playing the blues. Period.” And, when he was playing the blues, I noted how ironic his choice of genre was… because clearly the blues are what lifted him up, taking him away from ugly things like Parkinson’s and aging.

Realizing this made me do some thinking. Just as John’s blues playing was “his thing…” running, is clearly “my thing.” Whereas John has a man-cave decked out to meet his playing needs and comfort, I have my list of pre-run aides that help me do “my thing” in the best way possible.  And, while John and I probably share a similar love and dedication to both of our hobbies, we would never ever dream of trading.  That’s why they are our things and no one else’s.

Our things… are what keep us going when we have to do or face the things in life that we don’t exactly dig. To prove this theory, ask someone about his or her “thing” and watch how their face lights up when the conversation changes from the everyday world to the world that moves them the most.

Whether you run, sail, bike, paint, golf, or play the blues… keep on doing your thing.

Copyright 2009

by abbey algiers

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