I went for a three-mile run this morning after I dropped the kids off at pre-school. It’s the first three miler I have run in months, and boy was it rejuvenating. As it seems, spring is about to officially arrive this week with warmer temperatures. In tandem with the start of a new weather-related season, I am entering a bright, new season in my life — one filled with openness to the world around me, yet not without tentativeness when I think about exposure and vulnerability.
Since November I haven’t been the healthiest person on the block. I struggled mentally/emotionally throughout the winter. When I thought I was turning a corner in March, I caught the flu. The flu, flu. The one that takes you down for over a week. As if that wasn’t enough, before I entirely recovered, a violet bought of the stomach bug plagued my body. After I puked (and more) my ever-loving brains out for eight hours, I had nothing left to give. To anyone.
The next day I could barely get out of bed. It was as if I’d been run over by a Mack Truck. The day after that I was up, but still felt depleted. Refusing to let my spirits get any farther down than they already were, I rebounded with some Gatorade and by slowly introducing food back into my system. By Friday morning I was strong and fiery with an intense need to change the momentum of my life.
Magically we already had a preplanned weekend trip lined up, and it was just what the doctor ordered. My best childhood friend, Nicole, and I went to see Jewel perform at The Egg in Albany, NY. She was everything we hoped for and more.
I have been a Jewel fan since 1995. I have every one of her albums, and I finished reading her latest book, Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story the night before the concert. Jewel speaks to me. I admire the way she tells her life stories with openness and authenticity. She is vulnerable as a singer/songwriter/storyteller and puts herself out into the world through love, pain, fear, and any other emotion she is feeling or problem she is trying to work out in her life. Seeing her in concert was the most meaningful thing I have done in a long time.
Jewel sang from the heart, with only her guitar, during the show. The venue was intimate and she connected with the audience. She opened with a beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. She sang songs both old (i.e. Who Will Save Your Soul) and new (i.e. Plain Jane) as she weaved personal stories in between the songs. For the encore she sang opera and yodelled. A dynamic, wide-open woman, she holds nothing back.
The next morning Nicole, her hubby, my hubby, and our four children combined went to an indoor trampoline park. It was AMAZING. We jumped our ever-loving hearts out. All eight of us bouncing around waving at each other jump-dancing to the music, doing tricks, and pushing ourselves see how high we could bounce. Even though we were split up by age, it still felt communal because it wasn’t that crowded. We had many large, bouncy squares to choose from as we let go of inhibitions. Even my three-year-old little lady rocked it like nobody’s biz.
We went out to a big lunch after that, and then we walked it off at The New York State Museum. As if that wasn’t enough adventure for the day, we led the kids to a playground and watched them play on the chilly, sunny day. The rest of the weekend brought more good food and family time.
This morning when I laced up my sneakers to run I felt soreness in my legs, ankles and in the arches of my feet from all the trampoline jumping. I had to laugh — I guess my body isn’t as malleable as it was when I was twenty. But flying high on those trampolines was worth every ounce of exertion. After months of not feeling myself, I knew when the exhilaration of my feet hitting the trampoline and springing me up higher than I have been in a long time, that it was a turning point in my poor moods and health.
Still on the upswing, I started my run today all bundled up. The temperature in my car read 41 degrees just before I turned off the ignition and began my jaunt. I was wearing two shirts, sweatpants, a head band, sunglasses, and my iPod. I felt warm, but closed off. Not long into my run I passed two women, who looked about my age, coming toward me. One of them was noticeably pregnant. I smiled and waved and thought back to my two-time pregnant belly and remembered the feeling. Whether it was that woman’s first baby or last baby or somewhere in between I felt happiness for her. Yet I couldn’t really see or connect with her because I was so covered up.
Almost two miles into my run, I decided to disrobe and open myself up for the last mile. Still jogging I removed my ear buds, even though pausing my iPod during Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel momentarily took some of the wind out of my sails. I pulled my fleece over my head revealing a long-sleeve Virginia Tech running shirt. I pulled off my headband and removed my sunglasses. Since I was running laps at a park I was just about to circle by my car. I tossed all of my garments and accessories next to my car without breaking stride.
At first I was cold and had a sense of nervousness about the exposure. But then I realized how light and true to myself I felt. How good it was to free myself and come out of hibernation. I pushed my shoulders back, took some deep breaths, and appreciated the sun shining down on me. I reflected on the weekend, I drafted this story in my head, and then I began thinking about April 16, 2007. I was teaching at Virginia Tech in a building near where a gunman shot and killed 32 innocent Hokie lives before pulling the trigger on himself. Talk about a dark turn in my thoughts. Yet I couldn’t control them as they wandered back to that horrible day. This Saturday marks the nine-year anniversary.
I kept running, and even exerted more effort, because I wanted to give it my all for those we lost. In life, it is easy to say, “Live each day like it is your last.” I get it. It’s a good philosophy and I try to remember it throughout the year, but I can’t honestly say I live with that amount of intensity everyday.
Today I made a conscious effort to run each step like it was my last. In my mind, I remembered the fallen Hokies and their families that have had to endure without them. Every year new thoughts about that day surface. This morning it was thinking about my brothers and friends who took time out of their busy lives, nine years ago, to come to Blacksburg. They honored those lost in the worst school shooting in U.S. history and helped me work through the heartache and confusion I felt in the aftermath. I gave silent appreciation to my brothers and my friends for making that trip during such an awful time.
My mind eventually settled into a peaceful place as I finished the third mile in my run. In the car on the way home, I thought about weather-related seasons in conjunction to the figurative seasons we go through in life. Although I get emotionally edgy and often sad on the anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, this year I am going to acknowledge the importance of being authentic and sharing both joyful moments and painful ones. Because even though our experiences are all different, our emotions are not that unique. As long as I am alive I have the opportunity, like Jewel, to share my personal stories and hope that others might relate to some of what I have to say, even if I am chained to the toilet in sickness.
I spend a lot of time introverting some of my deepest thoughts. And for what? My goal for this spring is to write about my truths — old and new — that are budding inside me. I am hopeful there are lessons in there worth sharing, vulnerable ones and all.
What can you do this spring to open up a new part of your life that will lend itself to growth, even if you feel tentative? I encourage anyone reading this to take time to notice new life blossoming everywhere. And if cloudy days get you down, remember that the only way to go from there is up. Especially on trampolines.