My youngest daughter is training for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon this coming June. (It's a really cool race. Every two miles there is another band playing. I am sure one of them will play the Rocky theme song - probably towards the end.) And so she had been updating me, daily, on her runs. The length of them. The speed. The power that comes with pushing her body and having it respond with grace and strength. And that lovely feeling of well-being - well more really, of lightness and happiness and a bit of headiness - that comes when those lovely natural chemicals get released in her body and nurture her soul. And so when she texted me this morning, after a fourteen mile run that marks where she is in her training schedule approximately two months out from race day, she thanked me for my inspiration - Please give yourself credit about how much running has influenced me because you and daddy are runners - after she wrote Endorphins are the new weed.
She is right. Not that it is new, per se. That release of natural chemicals that comes when we push our bodies this way has been recognized way before the feel the burn and just do it mantras became everyday slang. Physiologically our bodies, way back during our hunter/gatherer days, created this lovely high so that as we ran after our prey we felt good, too. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about it: The Elusive 'Runner's High' Has Prehistoric Roots, and clarified that the chemical release is not actually endorphins but endocannobinoids, so named for their resemblance to the active ingredient in cannabis.
Ah..now this is making sense...
I've always been a runner. And even though I no longer run, I think of myself this way, still. As though I am, still, in my marathon days when I would take off from my home, only to circle back around an hour later - which was only a third of the way into my run - to drop off a too warm shirt or that extra pair of leggings. That is if I was not lucky enough to run into our local mailman who would happily take my layers from me and dropped them off on my porch while he made his rounds through our neighborhood.
I would run and lose myself in my run. Running without music or a companion to pass the time was my run of choice. Just me and my thoughts. Sometimes quite involved self reflection, other times a repeat of the alphabet or a counting to twenty over and over again. I would often look up and not quite know where I was. Or even where I'd been. Running without seeing. Just being in my movement. It was a lovely thing. And I miss it. So watching my daughter take up running, while it feels like a passing of the torch, also inspires me to perhaps run again.
My body hates it.
This long running. It's a constant pounding that is horrible for my back. A not quite aligned, fractured long ago spine that holds remnants of pain and injury which sometimes makes even walking a difficult thing - even after only five or ten minutes on a trail with my dog. And so to run again is not really the smartest thing for me. I've been told this many times.
But still I think I'm going to do this.
I will start small. And slow. I'll jog the long paths through the orange grove below my house. And walk the turns in much the same way I used to do interval training and sprint the straight aways on the track - walking the curves in-between each sprint to find my breath and ready myself for the next exertion. I will do this, to start. Working my way up to longer parts running and shorter parts walking. The soft gravel and dirt of the grove will cushion the pounding that it not good for me. My dog will run next to me and learn, hopefully quickly, that this is not the game I taught her when she was small - running back and forth on the lawn so that she could chase me and jump against my legs in play.
And as time goes on I will take to the road, Nava now on leash, and wander the streets near where I live. Past other orange groves and old strong trees. My speed will be faster now, less the jogging in the grove that jars my spine, and more an even flow that will settle into my legs and propel me in a way that elevates the movement from a pounding down to a pushing forward.
I will do this. Start this soon. And it will be hard. And it will be frustrating because my muscle memory will want to run like I used to not like I am. And my mind will again explore myself. Or not.
But it will be good.
Mornings in Ojai are the most beautiful to me. The early light settles gently on the day, the air does not yet carry a fullness but is, instead, still new. It is quiet as I walk. Nava, my dog walks ahead many paces down the path. Sometimes my husband is next to me, my arm through his, other times I am alone, just my puppy and me. Though I am not a morning person and would prefer to sleep in, once I am out in this morning light it is good and right and I am happy to be here.
And as I walk today, taking in the deep hanging fog that nestles into the mountains and cast a bluish glow that surrounds me, my mind goes to my sweet, smart and always beautiful dog, again many paces in front of me. It is now a year that she is here with me. Not a year that she is mine. That happened soon after she was born. But a year since I brought her home to this place of orange blossoms and full, round fruit, silent paths and today's settled fog.
Nava has a mark on her chest, a bit of white hair that is a throwback to the English greyhound lineage that is part of the Doberman breed and that reminds me of the mark on another dog of mine, Tank. Tank was a half Doberman, half Cattle Dog and was special in just that way where a dog settles in your heart, deep and mindful and a little bit different than all the other dogs that I love so dearly. Tank was truly my dog. So like me in personality, quick to react and deeply able to love, she was loyal and honest and I miss her every day. And so, when I first met Miss Pink - so called because of the pink ribbon tied round her neck to differentiate her from her litter-mates - who was to become Nava and saw that small white mark on her chest I took it as a sign that this was my dog. I had already picked her out on video when I watched the dropcam that my breeder had set up so we could see the puppies grow and thrive and do what puppies do as they got bigger and bigger until they were ready to come home to us. And Miss Pink was so my puppy. I saw her from the start. She was bright and she had energy and she was assertive. Quick to nurse and quick to play and quick to sleep and independent and she felt like me and I loved her even before I met her.
I got to spend a lot of time with my sweet dog for many weeks before I was able to bring her home. She, along with her brothers and sisters, lived only a bit over an hour from me and from only a few weeks old I was with them all. Quite a lot. I got to sit in their puppy place with them. Feel their sweet bodies settle on my legs as they slept. Kiss their small faces and rub their soft fur. And so I got to know all of them in that intimate way where, even though on first glance they looked so similar, they were each truly their own dog.
And so I loved them all. Still, Nava was mine.
But when I met her - along with her brothers and sisters - another sweet pup crept gently into my heart. Navs's red-haired brother settled under my skin as he nestled against my skin. I held him often. He needed me for he was small.
As the weeks went by, the puppies growing older and rounded, their personalities becoming more apparent as their faces, too, changed and became more unique, one from the other, so too did this small, red-haired boy soon grow strong. His belly now full and round like his brothers and sisters, he held onto his sweet and kind ways and always nestled in when I was near. I fell in love with him so completely. He too was my dog and I struggled with my decision when it came time to pick the dog that I was to take home.
And so, on one day when the puppies were sleeping, their belly's full from nursing, their bodies tired from the puppy play that filled their day, I sat on the back porch of the breeder's home and cried. For how do you choose one deeply loved puppy over another, each so different from the other.
Nava was independent she would sleep away from the other dogs against the side of the fencing that went around the room - protecting the puppies from the outside walls - so that there was no way that they could stick their little paws into electrical outlets or eat plastic bags or pull down boxes and bags onto their still small bodies. I loved this about her, her strength and confidence. She would nestle against the metal bar even while I sat in the room, all the other puppies nestled against me. My small, red boy - now named Gideon, a warrior - in my arms as always.
Choices bear gifts. Often unexpected lessons that we learn or insights that we glean from the experiences we have because of the decisions that me make. And so it is with having Nava as my puppy. But back then I did not know of all these blessings. I just knew I had to choose.
I wanted both, but could only choose one. And so, as it is with all decisions that are hard because they are important, I sat in the discomfort of having to choose and in the end, went with the choice I had made first. For I could not imagine anyone else taking her home. My sweet Miss Pink now named Nava. I could not imagine her not being with me. But I could see this sweet, red boy having a life somewhere else. I probably knew this deep inside before I became aware that I knew this. The decision was made even before I was aware that there was a decision to be made. And so my sweet puppy, who I saw from the start and who is marked on her chest as a sign that she is mine, is mine still. And my other sweet puppy lives a full and loving life with the exact family that he was supposed to be with from the start.
And I miss him, still. Because I love him. Still.
I danced yesterday at Dance Tribe and then took myself into Santa Barbara to pick up some vinegars that I love so much from this fantastic place, Il Fustino, in the Public Market. I also had a coffee and the most delicious peanut butter cookie and then a very small cup of salted caramel ice cream. I shared the cookie and ice cream with a friend who danced with me. It was very yummy.
I didn't have a lot of time. The trip to dance is almost an hour and then there is the dancing and the trip back home and soon the time away becomes a lot of hours. Add to that the vinegar excursion and I was away for a good part of the day.
And there was this bit of guilt around this. For no reason really. But it got me wondering why this was so. Why being out triggers this response from me. My peanut butter cookie and salted caramel ice cream friend suggested that maybe it was a sense of not being deserving. I tried this idea on. Thought about it at that time and then again throughout the rest of my day and into this morning. I am not sure if that is it.
But whatever it is, it started a long time ago.
I went to law school when my kids were young. My middle daughter was just born two weeks before. My third came along my second year of school. I remember applying to go to law school. Wanting to use my brain. Wanted to feel that intellectual stimulation that comes from my mind being challenged in this way.
But there was more to it than just that.
I needed to get away from my kids. I needed to be separate and to have some down time. But getting a sitter and going out for a coffee or shopping or to the movies or even just a walk alone with my dog did not seem to be enough. Was not a worthy enough endeavor that I could justify taking myself away from my children.
But law school, this was substantial. This had merit. This was important enough that I could leave them.
I loved law school. I loved learning about the law and being in an environment with others learning, too. And I loved being away from my kids. I missed them. And thought of them a lot while I was gone from them. And missed them some more. But it was ok. It was really good actually. And it was purely for me.
It was self care.
I felt a bit of guilt about it but not too much. Leaving them to go do this thing just for me, it was ok. Again, because it was a worthy enough activity.
So back to yesterday.
First off, I don't have kids home anymore. I do have a still young dog at home but she is really fine on her own. And I have a husband but he is fine, too. And yet I felt this sense that I should not be gone too long.
I could justify each part of it. The dancing part. That has value. The trip to get the delicious vinegar, that was ok, too. As was the quick cup of coffee and those tasty treats. But still there is the sense to rush home. A constant looking at the clock that continued through the dancing and into the rest of the day.
I tried on the homebody idea. Perhaps it is not guilt that I am feeling. Perhaps it is discomfort. I wrote about that last week. That sense that it was safer back home. And so maybe the worry I feel is not because I think I should be home but because I feel uncomfortable not being home. But this did not sit right on me either.
Whereas I do not love to travel away for many days, being away for just a day - or a few hours in a day - does not make me uncomfortable. And so, though the guilt of being out is there, anxiety does not play a role in whatever this is that I am struggling with.
And so I am stuck with a not knowing right now. With a not knowing why that nagging sense that I need to get back lingers in my mind each time I venture out. A not knowing why I feel that after taking care of the things I have to take care of I can't slow down, veer off the path, take a step back, and take care of me.
Because that is what this really is. The dance and the coffee. A walk. Law School. It is all really about an honoring. Of my needs. And a nurturing. Of my soul. I will have to practice doing this more. So that eventually it will feel as good as I know it is.
I am not a wanderlust. By any means. I like to be home. In my house. With my stuff. And my shoes. And my dog. And so it is somewhat surprising that I would take myself away not on any vacation - like so many vacations before - but on a solo adventure. A single sighting. A trip alone
It has been a time of many firsts. The first of my children - who happens to also be the firstborn of my children - getting married. A huge first in so many ways. A setting of the stage for this next stage when my children do not just move away from the nest but truly begin to build nests of their own. Far away from mine and with only room for two right now.
I thought I had it all together about this first. My son has loved this beautiful woman for many years, and many years before that, too. As have we all. And so I thought I had already moved into this new phase of my life that occurs as my children move into these new phases of their own lives. But I haven't. This marriage triggered in me great loss along with deep joy. A truly palatable shift took place in an instant. I was unaware that it was coming and was surprise to find that I am not prepared.
But as with all things, each day settles me deeper to this understanding that this passage of time and life and love is just as it should be. And the choosing of a path that turns my children outward from the home that my husband and I created for them is just as I had hoped. And as I had nurtured. And though I know that we are a formidable family unit - big in personality, with energy that runs high, I have reinforced to each of my children that breaking from me is what is good and right and I wish that for them all.
Still it is hard.
Now is also the first time that I danced on a Friday night Dance Tribe. Santa Barbara Dance Tribe meets every Sunday morning and lifts my spirit as the music and motion grounds my body into the earth. I love this dance. And once a month, on the first Friday of each month, these lovely dancers also spin and swirl together. I have been meaning to go for some time now but it never unfolded. Or, in truth, I never made it a priority to get myself there. Until this past Friday. My birthday. That the beginning of my new year would fall on a night of dance made sense and I knew it was time to join my fellow dancers.
My daughter went with me. We have danced together at Dance Tribe before. And so we did on this night. In sweet and graceful movements and heartfelt holding. And at the end of the night, after we - all the dancers now warm from movement - stood in circle and honored each other and the time spent together, my daughter announced that it was the day of my birth and could I be lifted. A Dance Tribe tradition. And so I soon found myself held up by all the other sweet souls and carried round the room. The weight of my body draped against many hands, my heart filled with love. A light shined bright from within me. I could feel it.
I had a first hike, with just myself and my dog, up Horn Canyon. Up to where the stream fell over the rocks to make a small waterfall. I had been up Horn Canyon before. With my husband all the way to the pine tree grove. And with my dog once before but only to the second of three water pools. But this time we made it to where the water fell sweetly over the rocks and trunks of trees that had fallen. It was cool in the shade. And moist. My dog drank fully of the water there before we turned back down the mountain trail. You can see in the photo where she drank from a pool as I made my way across small stepping stones that challenged my balance.
And it is the first time I have taken a trip for no other reason then because I can. Yes, I have been away before but always for a purpose. A designated destination so to speak. A specific reason for the journey and so there was an intention, a goal, a reason. And so there were parameters put upon the trip that gave it structure and substance.
Not this time. And though I have a plan - to eat pea soup at Anderson's in Beullton, and drink good wine at Foxen Vineyards - the going away is purely a going.
I am conflicted in this being away. A part of me wants to be home. I miss my dog. I missed her the minute I dropped her off at the daycare where she boards. And I miss the familiar. Where I get my coffee. And my gas. Where I eat and where I walk and the rhythm that is my day.
I can see sometimes how people can reach a place where they don't want to leave their house. There is a safely in the familiar that can become so necessary that moving away from that becomes impossible. I have had moments like this. Not many. But some.
And this gives me pause. For this missing - of my dog and my shoes and my everyday days - when I explore it, this missing feels like fear.
I will look at this more. While I am away on this trip. And see where it takes me. I have a feeling I will find that the understanding of why it is hard to be away lives in the same place where It is hard that my children move away.
The balance of this makes sense to me. Alas, a writing for another day...
Mother, Wife, Friend, Sister, Daughter, Dancer, Rower, Runner, Dog and Cat lover.