What do you see when you’re not looking?

I am a creature of habit in many things I do. I eat two waffles with almond butter and blackberries every day. I get a “venti with room” at Starbucks four days a week. I brush my teeth when I get to work, after lunch, and about 3 more times each day. When I go on vacation, I like to go to the exact same places.   Similarly, when I run, my routines and routes are very predictable. I am, perhaps, the most interesting person one could meet…not. For example, my “Starbucks Route” takes me past… Starbucks, if you can believe that.  My “Sears Route” takes me to the Sears store and back. I’m guessing it would be difficult to find a more predictable human than me.

While being predictable in my runs has some benefits (I know where the biting dog lives, where the public bathrooms are, and exactly how long each run takes on a good day), it occurred to me recently that I might be missing things along the way, with everything being so familiar to me. I realized that sometimes when you see the same things each day, the good parts start to blur, and important details are lost along the way.  How did I come to this conclusion? From my 13 year old blind student, Leonardo.

To explain further, let me give you a bit of back-story on this extraordinary person. Leonardo came to my class about 6 months ago, knowing no English, with 100% vision loss due to a brain tumor. Yet, Leonardo shows that truly noticing his world around him has little to do with vision.

I pick up Leonardo in the office each day and take him to my classroom. I walk next to him while he uses the lockers and wall as a guide. We had done this for about 4 months when Leonardo asked me a question, “How come your hallway doesn’t have a fire extinguisher above the lockers like the hallway upstairs?”  Now, I’ve taught in my building for over 7 years. Not once have I noticed the placement (or really even existence) of our fire extinguishers. This experience made me wonder… what else am I missing as I follow the pattern of my life in all activities?

Later that day, I went on my daily run, yet this time I took a look around. I examined the houses I pass every day and looked for different features I may have missed. I took a chance to admire the blue sky, the trees, and all of the scenery that I had barely given a second glance before. I found that my Starbucks route was actually pretty scenic. I considered that my Sears route would be a great place to people watch. Finally, I felt my eyes open wider to the world around me, as if I didn’t want to miss any clues or revelations along the way.

Most importantly, Leonardo’s words and that run made me consider the other things and people in my life that might be blending into the hustle and bustle of daily life and the pull of familiarity. There are so many great things to see and people to appreciate that are right in front of me, yet I wondered just how often I truly “saw” them.

Moving forward, I plan to use Leonardo’s insights as my guide and break out of the familiarity of my routine a bit more.  I’ll still probably visit the same places, eat the same things, and do the same activities as I did before, but from now on I plan to pay more attention as I do.

After all, if I had missed the location as something as important as a fire extinguisher for all of these years, what else might I be missing?  I plan to find out.

Next time you run your route, whether it’s new or the one you’ve run for years and years, open your eyes, friends.  There’s a whole world waiting for you to discover.

By Abbey Algiers

imrunnerchica.com

Copyright 2013

Burning the Candle

There are many reasons that I love to run. I love to run because it allows me to be outside, taking in fresh air while I do something good for my body. I love to run to relieve stress and clear my mind. I love the camaraderie that exists between fellow runners who pass each other on the streets. More importantly, I appreciate the running partner “what happens on the run, stays on the run” relationships that fuel me almost as much as the run itself. Finally, I love running because it allows me to unplug from  “everything else” that exists in the confines of my house or workplace, and the technology and distractions that surround me wherever I go.  When I run, I run. I don’t try and squeeze in six thousand other things while I’m doing it.

Running for the sake of running, and only running. What a concept.

The thing is, in all other areas of my life, I rarely focus on and/or do, one thing at a time.  When I’m driving, I’m drinking coffee and listening to the radio.  At school, I’m simultaneously teaching, disciplining, planning my next move, and trying to keep my cool. While watching TV, I’m often folding laundry, picking up the house, or doing my nails.  I return phone calls while grocery shopping.  Yesterday my husband looked at my desk with its laptop and iPad side by side, and said, “Who needs two computers running right in front of them? What is that all about?” I retorted that he wasn’t a writer and didn’t understand. But maybe it was me that didn’t.

Yes, I am a writer, which means I spend a great deal of my time behind a computer or ipad (okay both) writing.  This also means that I spend a lot of my time reading about ways I can be a better writer. But the real truth is that even though I am this “big writer,” I’ve realized lately that I’m not all that efficient when I sit down to write. Yes, I may be typing away on an article or chapter, but more often than not I’m typing away in between multiple email checks, website searches, texts, and water or food breaks.

In addition, like many other writers, my passion to become a better writer (and paid one) is contradicted by the fact that I have a life full of things I need to do and people I want to spend time with. So many things occupy my days, that by the time I get to my own writing, I don’t focus like I should.

All of these grand epiphanies came to me in one of my moments of researching how to become a better writer. I stumbled upon a podcast of a social media expert/writer who was talking becoming a more efficient writer.  Here was a writer who was successful in carving out actual writing time in the midst of the “business side” of his business- the social media, housekeeping end.  Bottom line- he made rules for himself.  When he sat down to write, he wrote. He turned his phone off.  He forbade himself to go online for any reason.  He brought all of the necessities- food, water, Kleenex… anything he’d need for the designated amount of time he was there.  Then, quite simply, he sat down and wrote. He didn’t get up until he accomplished what he needed to do.

At 9:00 one night, I decided to try his strategy, because I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with a number of writing projects with fast approaching deadlines. Unfortunately, I was also very tired.  I heard my mom’s voice playing in my head, “You’re burning the candle at both ends… “  Even as a voice in my head, my mom was right. Yet the problem was, I needed to keep burning that candle, at least for that night, or I wouldn’t finish my projects.  That’s when the idea hit me.  The candle would be my symbol to focus on what’s right in front of me- my writing. Lighting it would signify the start of my session, blowing it out meant I was done. In between, I vowed to partake in no monkey business whatsoever.

For the record, that strategy worked that night, and I continue to use it to train myself to become a more focused writer.  Because I light the candle, I take control of my commitment to be fully present and focused.  It’s me choosing my action, and as a result, it’s becoming easier to do.  The cool thing is… I’m beginning to recognize the other areas of my life where I’m not so focused and could use a candle that burns just at one end.

This task is also making it more clear as to why I love to run… because running is a time when I’m completely devoted to the task at hand.  Even when the runs aren’t my best, and are ridden with aches and pains, or just plain boredom… they are all I’ve got at that moment.

Kind of a lot like life.

So, whether you are out on a long run or short walk, remember friends, that you can only take one path at a time.  If you are always looking for alternate routes, you’ll never appreciate the beauty that appears right in front of your face.

Here’s to the beauty of the run for the sake of the run.

copyright 2012

imrunnerchica.com

by abbey algiers