Sometimes you read a book or an idea in a book and you feel that the author has taken the words out of your head, put them on paper, and made sense of the gibberish of your thoughts. Recently I blogged about the book: “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed. While it is a book of quotes, there are a few sections where she goes deep into her past. It is as though she took the words out of my mouth (much more eloquent than I would have shared).
“It was wrong. It was so relentlessly awful that my mother had been taken from me. I couldn’t even hate her properly. I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about the things I wished she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she did the best she could and realize that what she did was pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.” Page 68
I do not know whether I ever took the time to forgive my mom for her every motherly fault, I think I just moved on and did not wallow in that — there was enough pain to go around. It did force me to grow up fast (even before she died) and has meant that I am forever trying to bring back the childlike time. My relentlessness, extreme dedication, and persistence has meant that I sometimes have a hard time taking a step back to “play.”
It means I will hold you further away from my core until I can determine if you are going to go deep or stay on the surface. If you stay on the surface, I am not going to waste my time. If we meet in the middle and find that common ground — well the rest it history in the making. My mother leaving me at such an early age means that I will only fill that empty bowl with fruit worth my time, and make sure I constantly remove the rotten versions. I do not want to have to fill it again and again. Instead, I would rather fill it with the best of the best and not waste my time with anything else.
Gosh when I find a damn good book, I just want to tell everyone about it. I know some of you might not care about running, but open your ears… this book is worth reading. I had a week-long slump from my normal runs. Life got crazy, I felt slow, and it has made me a little cranky that my runs have been the thing to drop out of my life. For those of you that have been reading this blog for a while, you know that my run is my sanity. My closer friends and co-workers that know me, know that something is extremely off if I have not run in a week.
I will not go into the “why” of my crazy world, and the run, because at the moment that is not the point at all of this blog post. Today I tell you, read: “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run” by Kristin Armstrong. She is a contributing editor for Runner’s World, and the woman RUNS. Do not worry if you are not a runner, her story will inspire you. Mile Markers is a compilation of her many blog posts for Runner’s World. They flow and connect and you feel like you are waking up with her, lacing on your shoes and going for a very long run (as her variety tends to be of the longer distance). You learn how she processes her life, how she stays up-to-date with her running partners, how she struggles and triumphs, and how running helps her to elevate others. This specific quote made me feel like she was talking to me:
“I can be pretty serious about taking myself seriously. I accept responsibility with somber reverence, stuffing the weight of the world into my pack and shrugging my shoulders into the straps. What can I say? When I care about something, I don’t want to blow it. Whether it’s raising my kids, meeting a work deadline, paying a bill on time, training for a race, or being there for a family member or friend, I am a girl who gets up in the morning with the intention of being better than I was the day before. But it’s not easy to keep all the balls in the air, to juggle this master schedule called Aspects of My Life. I drop balls. They go thudding and bouncing and rolling away, and I skid and scramble to collect them and start over again, breathless. There are three things in my life that have saved me from myself, from turning into the most regimented, boring git-‘er-done kind of gal. They are my children, my friends, and running. Why? Because they remind me to play.” page 41
I am that woman who has that same intention of being better than I was the day before. I can usually hold the straps of that backpack and make things happen. Where do I fail and what saves me in the end? Chris. Friends/Family. Running. Playing. Dabbling in art. Laughter. They have all saved me from myself. Absolutely.
I am not even a third of the way through this book, and I had to write a post about it. I cannot put it down. Two nights ago, as I was reading while running (yes, crazy treadmill-running, book-reading me), I got so inspired. I wanted to text a co-worker and get her on board to start running with me once a week. I wanted to wrangle all my past running folks and get out there with them! Maybe it was the spark of sunshine and 65 degree weather yesterday, or maybe it is Daylight Savings Time, or maybe Armstrong can inspire you to get a move on it. More to come on this book!
You have to keep playing. Get on your hands and knees, crawl through the dirt, climb, surf, dance, sing. Each day the more we play, the more we grow. I do not mean your waist, I mean your brain muscle. Play is a catalyst to keep adapting and growing, learning and evolving. Last week I finished reading “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” by Stuart Brown. It is a very interesting book and makes me realize how much more I need to PLAY in my life. This specific idea about sea squirts resonated with me:
“The sea squirt is an example of a basic principle of nature: Use it or lose it. If a capability is not being used, it becomes an extravagance that is jettisoned or fades away. Either we grow and develop or we waste away. Most animals don’t go to extremes like the sea squirt, but the pattern remains the same. Most animals grow new nerve connections extensively only during the juvenile period. The sea squirt stops moving, and many higher animals stop playing, and the brain stops growing. But not humans. The brain can keep developing long after we leave adolescence and play promotes that growth. We are designed to be lifelong players, built to benefit from play at any age. The human animal is shaped by evolution to be the most flexible of all animals: as we play, we continue to change and adapt into old age. Understanding why many animals stop playing in adulthood, and why humans don’t, helps further understand the role play has in adult life.” Page 48
A little side note about sea squirts. Earlier in the book, Brown explains that sea squirts swim around during adolescence, then attach themselves to ships or other structures, then later eat their own brains. It was his example of something that stops developing and growing. If you think about most kids, they do not stop moving, they do not stop playing. Even if they are glued to video games their brain is thinking, changing, even strategizing their next move.
Adults need to be more agile. We need to move it. We need to play. This week I am really going to try to embrace the idea of play. I am going to get rid of my sea squirt mentality and be adventurous, learn, play, and have fun. Are you with me?
Does your life ever feel balanced? Often one thing or another is out of whack. Either we are working too much, or someone is consuming our time, or we are socializing too much and we feel the effects of the imbalance in our life. Yesterday’s Daily Om on balance hit home for me because it has always been something I have struggled with – finding a balance in my life. I love this quote from this Daily Om:
“Balance is the state that you achieve when all of the aspects of your life and self are in harmony. Your life force flows in a state of equilibrium because nothing feels out of sync. While balance is necessary to have a satisfying, energetic, and joyful life, only you can determine what balance means to you.”
Why does finding a balance seem to be so hard for so many? Is it because we have high aspirations and want to accomplish so much in our lives? Do we say yes to all things we are interested in, and there truly is not enough time in the day? There are days when I work long hours, write my blog, spend time with Chris, go for my run (and read at the same time) and crawl into bed and in a few short minutes I am asleep. I love all the different activities that fill my life, but there are times when too much feels like too much.
My issue might be that I immerse myself in the world I am in. I work hard. I have high expectations for myself. I do not like to give up. Ever. If only I could have high expectations for play. For learning how to relax. Chris does a great job at pushing me to relax each day, but it is something that I need to learn to also balance on my own. I often ask myself: Why is it so hard to relax? How can I better learn how to balance my life between work and play?
Last week, I had lunch with a friend and the topic of “play” came up in our conversation. It is one that always interests me. I am one that much of the time is led to do the responsible thing and NOT play, rather than to play and realize that the responsible item on the list really did not need to be done, or at least that it could be done later. What develops in us as we grow up that makes it harder for some of us to play, while it is easier for others? What does “play” mean to you? I find that I am my most playful self when I am around young children, especially if there is laughter, make believe, hide and seek, tickles, etc. I usually forget the surroundings I am in and jump in and play with glee. Does “play” for you mean you are just relaxing? What would it look like to let go and dance, sing, and laugh hard (you know when tears start spouting from your eyes)? Is that a normal everyday occurrence or does it come out as often as I cook (ever so rarely, mostly when my husband is traveling).
Is play for you climbing, running, biking, baking, cooking, organizing? Or are all those things work? Is play when we are in the “now” and when we are in the zone? That is a hard one for me to answer. You can be at work, loving the project you are working on, and in the zone, but does that mean it is play? Playing games, Wii, the batting cages, bowling, and skee ball are just a few forms of “play” for me.
I love this blog post from Nathan. It is a good reminder for all of us. Nathan, I hope you are doing well after your car was hit. Keep letting your daughter pull you away from work.
my kind of play: skee ball at Santa Monica Pier
“Live and work but do not forget how to play.” -Eileen Caddy
Do something this weekend where you “PLAY.” Chris: Batting cages this weekend? Are you in?