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Running away from Homework

I just finished a book annotation that, for some reason, was a killer for me. It began . . .


       Beloved, by Toni Morrison, is a novel about the human spirit and how ravaged souls endure tragedy by adjusting mental attitude and shifting perspectives to survive the emotional aftermath of abuse. With the subject of slavery as the backdrop for revealing the complexity of the human psyche, the story presents unconsciousable treatment of black slaves and then shows us how those individuals continue living, altered, as result. 


It is a story about several generations of people, how they learn, grow and survive the perils of slavery, but it is also a study of the social problems of 1873 and the individual plight of slaves in late civil war America. The realism in scene serves as a powerful backdrop for a story about one black family and a tragedy that touches their lives, leaving a wake of fear and distrust behind.


 Blah, blah, blah. I’m exhausted – but I have another annotation to write. One on a book I don’t feel so thrilled about, The Metamorphis. Big sigh. So, I thought I’d take a blog break. But it has to be a short one.


 


    I’ll pick a subject. Running.


    My son used to dance 20 hours a week and that kept him in shape. When we moved, he started playing soccer to fill the hole that dance left behind. I did my best to take on the persona of a soccer mom, going to the games and sitting in the stands shouting, “Kick it,” or “Good pass,” even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on in the field. It was nice to just be there, living like the other half lives – the half that has the time to watch their kids grow up. In order to plan my day so I could watch him kicking that ball around, each day when I dropped him off at school, I’d ask,” What time is your rehearsal today?”   


    And he would roll his eyes like I am the biggest dork in the universe and say, “We have practice, Mom.  We don’t rehearse.”


    O.K. So I need more time to get acquainted with this “Soccer Mom” thing. Old dog – new tricks. It looks like a rehearsal to me. The game is a show, right? Besides which, let’s not get hung up on the semantics. I’m planning to show up, and that’s what counts. But even after months of being corrected, I still called the practices rehearsals. Habit. 


   Now that soccer is over, my son is worried about getting fat, so he has been bugging me to teach him to run.


   Of course, I could just say, “Put one foot in front of the other and keep going until you feel like you’ll puke if you take another step. Then stop.”


     That about sums up my technical knowledge about running. But such a response would eliminate whatever reputation I have for being a parent with some kind of physical prowess – a mom with some inkling of an admirable athletic skill. So, instead, I decided to talk to him about keeping his head up and shoulders back, rolling through the ball of the foot and stuff like that. I can discuss proper shoes, phonation, correct breathing, and how you can be more effective if you employ short spurts of energy within a steady run.


More Blah, Blah, Blah.


    On Tuesday, I was sitting at the computer trying to will myself to write an annotation (see how long it took me to actually do it – what a slacker) and he came in and said, “Come on. Let’s run. You promised.”


      I was not in the mood to run, but since I was definitely in the mood for any excuse to NOT write my paper, I agreed to take him out. We walked down the mountain and out to the highway where it isn’t so steep. My plan was for us to run the two miles around to the other entrance and walk up the other side of the mountain.


      Off we went, striding along, but only a quarter of a mile away, we stopped at a cabin they are building on route that sits on the same creek as our lot. I wanted to poke around, and look in the windows. Sum up the competition. My son expressed how glad he was for the break. I chuckled. A break? We hadn’t started yet.


     After this, we began a run in earnest. It wasn’t very nice. Too much traffic. There’s no excuse for running with cars living in a beautiful place like this – I have to find a better route – but I didn’t have much warning to plan this particular run and I’d clocked the distance and knew it provided a good starting place for a new runner and a runner that has been on a break. We leapt over squashed butterflies on the sides of the road, waving to friendly people in their yards or driving by. We couldn’t talk because we had to run single file. But the real problem was the slope of the road. It’s all uphill or downhill – neither of which is easy. After one mile, my son needed to take a short walk – but then, so did I. The hill was killing us both.


    He kept saying “I’m sweating!” or “This is hard.” As if he couldn’t fathom something as simple as running being so taxing.


    I pointed out how good running was for his body – how the impact was good for his bone density, the stress on his heart making the organ strong, the increased circulation good for his skin, and the fact that he burns calories great for weight control.


   He was huffing and puffing. “But my feet hurt.”


   Yea, well there is that. Can’t help ya there. My feet are a mess. They hurt 24-7.


  I pointed out that he ran all the time in soccer. Certainly more than three miles.


   He said that was different. Running when you aren’t chasing something is more tiring.


   I don’t know about that. I’m always chasing something – even if it is just personal serenity. Anyway, I like how running allows my mind to roam – I get in a zone where the monotonous pounding of my feet and breath take on a rhythm that is meditative.  I visit my favorite places and people when I run. 


    We were only out about 30 minutes. As we were walking up the killer mountainside, he said, “Ya know how I told you I wanted to be a runner. I changed my mind.” He was kidding – or so he says. (He did run again the next day while I was out.)


    Running in the Georgia Mountains is difficult, but I felt euphoric afterwards. I forgot how much I love running. Working out in a health club or walking the mountain just can’t compare. I love being outside, looking at the sky through the trees. I love feeling the sweat on my skin and seeing the small details around me, flowers, bugs, and the small changes homeowners do to their yards. Mostly, I love the solitude.


   So, now my goal is to find some decent place to run that is not all uphill – someplace near our cabin. I know there are great places to run out where we are building our house, which is what I’ve been waiting for, but I’m no longer willing to put off an activity that I think brings so much to my life – physically and spiritually . I don’t know if our outing the other day will encourage my son to run in the future, but it has certainly lit a fire under me.


   Funny, that we  can forget how uplifting things we love can be, when we ignore them temporarily because we are attending to our responsible lives.


   Some things, like running, are just good for the soul. I’m glad to be reminded.   

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

One response »

  1. Mom, teach ME how to run. I won’t feel so stupid if I learn with someone else.

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