Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Press Pause.

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Girl Warrior. Press pause. Give yourself a time out. Take a break. A breather. Remove yourself from the busy-ness of life. Especially when you feel you have no time to do so. For that is when you need it the most.

Step away from the chaos that surrounds you. Separate yourself from all the noise and nonsense. Beat a hasty retreat from the racket and wild rumpus. Clear the incessant commotion inside your head that’s tearing your fragile spirit to shreds. And wreaking havoc with your overloaded senses.

Stop the madness Girl Warrior. Check out of Hotel Crazy. Find your place of refuge. We all have a sacred space, a thinking spot, and a place where peace is waiting. Go there. If you don’t have one, find one or create one. It’s that important. And once there, take the time you need to revive, rejuvenate and refresh. Breathe new life into your weary bones.

Resist the urge to overthink or complicate things. Finding a place to rest and recover can be as easy as drawing a hot bath filled with your favorite fragrance, locking the door to the outside world, lighting a few candles, pouring a beverage that nurtures your spirit, and closing your eyes as you sink into the sweet soothing serenity of silence.

Then just let it all go Girl Warrior. Let it go.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Sixteen Jacket.

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Author Boo King on the right wearing her Sixteen Jacket.

This is a story I wrote when I was thirty and living in Toronto about a jacket I bought when I was sixteen and living in Northwestern Ontario.

Tuesday and Thursdays were ballet night. Twice a-week, fifty-two weeks, one hundred and four classes, three hundred and and twelve hours, times two years, I endured the art of becoming physically fit. This was my commitment to “ParticipACTION.” I chose ballet because I thought it was a graceful form of exercise and also because as a child I had taken ballet lessons every Saturday morning for six years. I thought it was like riding a bike in that you never forgot how to do it, and that I could resume where I left off at age twelve. I was wrong.

My mind remembered so many fanciful things about those ballet lessons: the plies, the pirouette, the arabesque and the five basic positions of the feet. Unfortunately my body, which was stubborn and lazy at best, didn’t remember anything about those six years. I mean nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. A complete blank. My body was suffering from a bad case of childhood amnesia. There wasn’t a single solitary drop of aching residue in the memory bank.

Had there been some hint, some vague omen or sign of the pain and agony my aging body was facing, I would have chosen something less physical like badminton or lawn bowling. But there was no forewarning, no psychic twinge. So I heedlessly signed up for “introductory ballet” at a school within walking distance of our home.

Every Tuesday and Thursday night I was out there pliéing and pirouetting my popsicle-stick legs off. (I had terribly thin legs, which should have been another clue that perhaps ballet dancing wasn’t a good fit.)

After two years my body didn’t hurt quite so much. I could just about touch my toes without bending my knees and manage a demi-plié with semi-perfection on a good night. And I no longer hyperventilated in the middle of thirty soubresauts. My legs, however, still looked like two popsicle-sticks. And I had also faced the icy truth that I would never be able to do a pirouette nor an arabesque. My body was no longer equipped to do those things and probably never was.

Despite my skinny legs, I still entertained a few fantasies. I saw myself leaping and flying across the stage like Karen Kain or at the very least, Mary Poppins. I daydreamed about being Prima Ballerina for the National Ballet and touring the world, dancing the classics with the most renowned dancers. I mused that audiences would weep at my stunning performances and throw roses. Hundreds of them. White.

I went to Malabars and bought my black leotard and pink tights with matching pink leather slippers. I thought I looked pretty terrific, especially if you squinted with one eye and closed the other and only looked at my derriere. I was all set. I was a ballerina. I was more than ready for my first night of class after thirty years of very little exercise, one husband, two kids, two cats and an unhealthy addiction to Hawkins Cheezies.

I clung irrationally to the fantasy of becoming a dancer because it made me happy and also because it made it easier to drag my sorry ass home at the end of class. The fantasy got me through immeasurable humiliations. Like the sweat-drenched leotard and the run up the side of my pink tights, which lead to a golf-ball-sized hole at the top of my thigh. I didn’t get the hole from doing one too many jetés either, which is probably how Karen got hers, but from the clothesline. The plastic coating had worn off in one spot and I had the misfortune of hanging my tights right on top of the bare wire. The tights clung to the line like a blood-sucking leach and the only way I could pry them free was to cut them. It had been my intention to repair the hole except it was one of those things I never quite got around to. Instead I learned to live with the hole and began saving for an automatic dryer.

The Prima Ballerina fantasy also helped me forget that I didn’t have flat abdominals, my shoulders slouched, my hair was turning grey and the cute laugh lines were actually crow’s feet. It also helped me forget that I was the oldest student in the class and that the others didn’t have runs in their tights, a potbelly from two kids and too much tea, droopy boobs and legs that looked like Good Humor Bar sticks. They all had long muscular – but not too muscular – dancer’s legs with flat tummies and firm perky breasts and bums. It just didn’t seem fair somehow. Everyone was also so much taller. I’ve never felt so short in my life as I did in that class. Gravity seemed to be tugging me closer to the ground with every passing year. I figured by the time I was fifty I’d be three feet tall like the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz.

I dressed for warmth on the nights that I went to class, especially when it was really cold. I didn’t dress for fashion. I gave up being fashionable when my daughter was six months old, teething and also had the flu, only I didn’t know it until she threw up all over a new sweater I had just bought. It was the last fashionable thing I had purchased for years. I typically wore a scratchy wool sweater over my leotard and jogging pants over my tights. Just to make things extra cozy and extra awful all at the same time, I piled on wooly socks, wooly mitts, wooly hat, wooly scarf, wooly jacket and hideous but practical boots. I was only walking three blocks but I realized since I turned thirty that I hate winter and can’t stand the cold. Every winter I made a promise to myself that when I became a rich and famous ballerina I was going to spend the winters in Tahiti or anywhere below the forty-ninth parallel. I wanted out of Canada in the winter. Possibly permanently.

I bought the jogging pants because three New Years Eves earlier I resolved to start running to ward off the excess baggage I was carrying around after my second kid. They were grey sweat-shirty material with a drawstring waist that I thought would get drawn tighter and tighter with every mile I ran and every inch I lost. As it turned out, I never exactly ran a mile nor did I lose an inch. I gained one or two because the pants were so comfy and roomy that I never wanted to take them off. They gave me so much room to grow. They became my happy pants.

I tried to run. I really did. But it just didn’t work for me. I guess my body wasn’t equipped to run either. My first run was so full of promise. There I was in my new grey sweatpants and black sneakers, the epitome of running prowess all raring to go. Two blocks later and I swear I could not breathe. I had absolutely no air in my lungs. None.

I started to gasp and wheeze and I had absolutely no feeling in my body from the waist down. My legs were numb. I could see them wobbling like Jell-O beneath the grey jogging pants and I just couldn’t get them to move another inch. My body was treasonous. What could I do but surrender and give up running.

I limped home, collapsed through the door and begged my husband to pull the sneakers from my lifeless feet. I folded up the sweatpants and stuffed them in the back of our linen closet behind the sheets and pillowcases.

I pulled them out one time after that. It was about five months later when I figured I would give running one more try. I put on the pants and a coordinating red t-shirt and immediately broke into a cold sweat. My breathing grew labored and my ankles felt weak. I recognized the symptoms. I had jogger-phobia, aka runners-terror. I was deathly allergic to running and anything associated with it.

The first time I decided to wear the sweatpants to dance class I was so worried that I would be overcome with jogger-phobia that I actually had to psyche myself up for the task. I was determined to overcome all negative associations with the pants. They were just pants after all. Victory would be mine. They were in perfect condition and I hadn’t worn anything in perfect condition since the birth of my second kid. I also thought they were the perfect thing to wear after a sweaty workout. Why else would they be called sweatpants? Besides that, everyone seemed to be wearing them. A fashionable opportunity had presented itself and I could not turn it away. For once in a really long time I would be on-trend.

I survived that first night and the subsequent two years of classes. The grey sweatpants became part of the uniform that I wore to class every week, along with the “sixteen jacket.”

I started wearing the sixteen jacket about nine months after my first class. It was nine months – one winter, one spring and one summer of pliéing my legs off and wearing the grey sweatpants afterwards. It was late September and the summer sun was long gone in the sky. The evenings were growing cool, the leaves were beginning to drop and the first snowflakes were threatening the sky. The time was drawing near when I would have to pull out the old black duffle coat that I had worn for so many years I was seriously considering having my floors carpeted in duffle because it never seemed to wear out. It was like some weird alloy of steel and sheep.

The weather had taken a turn for the worst the day before class that September. I could smell winter coming even though Fall had just begun. It was a strange year. The trees were shedding profusely and my knees were beginning to ache. It was time to pull out the old duffle to wear to class the next night. The morning of the class I foraged through the storage closet in the basement in search of the duffle coat and my black wool hat. That’s when I discovered the sixteen jacket – sandwiched between my husband’s winter parka and my son’s skidoo suit. I called it the sixteen jacket because I bought it the summer I turned sixteen.

There’s something magical about turning sixteen, especially in the summer. Summer has always been a magical time for me anyway so turning sixteen during my favorite season only made it that much better.

I had lots of hopes and dreams for that summer. I hoped I would get a job, which I did. I hoped I would have enough money at the end of the summer to buy the chocolate brown suede jacket I saw in the Fall Sears catalog, which I did. I hoped I would meet a boy and fall in love, which I did. I hoped I would find out what it was like to kiss a boy, which I did. I also hoped my face would clear up, my hair would grow instantly from my shoulders to my waist and that my boobs would grow at least six sizes. None of those things happened. But I wasn’t disillusioned because I was too happy about all the other things that did happen. It was a fabulous summer and I was convinced it was all because I had turned sixteen.

Actually the job I got wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for. My girlfriend Suzy got a job helping her mother in the cafeteria of the newspaper. And my other girlfriend Terry got a job working as a checkout girl at Safeway and I got Terry’s old babysitting job. It wasn’t such a great job but I was grateful to get anything because I really wanted that jacket. I worked for this family with three kids – two boys, one of which was handicapped, and a girl. They were nice kids. I was an awful babysitter. I sat from eight until noon, Monday to Friday and made twenty-five dollars a week.

I never really liked babysitting. It’s not that I didn’t like the kids because I did; it’s just that it was so tiring. I guess my body was pretty lazy even back then. I was usually more tired in the morning. It was a bad time to be sitting. Sitting is literally all I did. I sat in this La-Z-Boy recliner that they had in their living room and watched the kids. They were studious kids. Brains. The oldest one wasn’t much younger than me and I often wondered why I was even there. They used to like to play games. I hated games. Still do. I would play with them once and a while on one of my better mornings but mostly I just sat there and watched until their mother came home and said I could leave. Then I’d be back the next morning at ten to eight and resume my place in the old recliner. I was a really awful babysitter. And I would have felt guilty about taking the twenty-five dollars every week if I hadn’t been sixteen and wanted that jacket so badly.

I guess falling in love was the most important thing that happened to me that summer. He was my first boyfriend. I hadn’t been too big on boys up until that summer but sometime between March and June I got a bad case of the boy crazies. Suddenly boys were no longer jerks. They were cool and neat and I wanted one. Actually I think I really just wanted to wear one of their rings on my middle finger with gobs of white tape to hold it on more than I really wanted a boyfriend. I also really wanted to kiss one. At least once.

I met mine on a humid July Saturday night walking home from a movie with Suzy and Terry. He was with two of his friends in an old blue Ford with a noisy engine and a jacked-up rear end. I thought it was the grooviest thing I had ever seen. I also thought he was too. His name was John and I fell madly in love at first sight.

It was about a mile walk home from the movie theatre. We were laughing and discussing the merits of the movie when John and his friends pulled up beside us. At first we pretended we didn’t see them because they seemed like a bunch of jerks. But when they kept driving that old Ford along the road beside us, whistling and making catcalls we couldn’t ignore them any longer. Or at least Suzy decided she couldn’t. She was the most daring of the three of us, plus she had a very bad case of the boy crazies, even worse than me. Suzy had caught sight of the driver and was definitely interested in meeting him. When they asked if we wanted a ride Suzy said yes without hesitation and was in the back seat before Terry and I had a chance to refuse. I remember sitting in the back seat thinking this wasn’t a very good idea and that I shouldn’t be there. My mother had warned me at least two thousand times that I shouldn’t get into cars with strange boys. But then they were so darned cute. Especially John.

Nothing happened anyway. At least nothing bad happened. We drove around town, cruised the strip and went to A & W (A ‘n Dub) for teen burgers and root beers. John asked me for my number. I gave it to him and prayed he’d phone. I also prayed I wouldn’t break out into a terminal case of acne from the root beer.

John and I dated that entire summer. He gave me his ring, which I wrapped with white adhesive tape and wore on the middle finger of my left hand. We went to the drive-in where we swore to love each other forever and a day. We shared popcorn, hot dogs, French fries and Cokes. I thought love was sublime except that it was a little hard on the face. I felt very beautiful and grown-up.

By mid-September John was confessing his undying love to someone else. I suspected but didn’t actually know for sure until the other girl came to me and said John wanted me to give her his ring. So I did. White tape and all. I cried one whole night and the next morning at school, which I felt was an appropriate amount of time for a first love.

I bought the sixteen jacket the first week of September. It was the first really major thing I had ever bought with my own money. I ordered it through the Sears catalog. I came home every day from school that week and asked my mother if Sears had phoned yet to say the jacket was in. Sixteen year-olds are very impatient as well as having absolutely no concept of time. Finally after what seemed like months, it came. My mother had Sears deliver it right to our door. It came on a Friday, which was perfect because I would be able to wear it out to the movies with John that night. I was anxious to show it to him. My mother left the unopened Sears package sitting on the kitchen table for me. I spotted it as soon as I walked in and couldn’t wait to open it. I ripped off the scotch tape and tore at the brown wrapping paper. I pulled it out and immediately ran my fingers through the lush suede. I moved the nap of the soft buttery hide in every direction to see all the different shades of brown within the leather. I held it up to my nose and smelled its newness. It had an indescribable sweet smell. It reminded me of a great big velvety Hershey’s bar.

I tried it on and strutted around the kitchen like Twiggy and struck all her famous poses from Vogue magazine. My mother raved on at how beautiful it was and how it was “definitely you.” If ever there was a jacket that was tailor-made for me, it was. I kept it on until John came to pick me up for the movies. He said it was a “nice” jacket but he wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I had hoped he would be. I figured it was because he was just in a bad mood or something. But it wasn’t that. By then he was already telling the other girl how much he loved her and he didn’t have the guts to tell me that the summer was over. And so was his love for me.

We went to the movies that night and then for Cokes at the local teen hangout afterwards. We sat at the counter because we couldn’t get a booth. Maybe if we had, he would have told me about the other girl and I wouldn’t have had to find out from her instead. But we didn’t get a booth and it was crowded and he was moody and I was giddy about my new jacket. I thought I was so cool.

We ordered Cokes. He sat slumped over his and I sat sipping mine, all the while watching him, hoping and praying he’d say something utterly fantastic. After a few minutes I got bored and pulled the straw from my glass and started playing with it. I pushed my Coke off to the side of the counter to give me more room to twist and contort my straw into goofy shapes, and to keep a close watch on John, who by this time had his nose in his glass. He looked ridiculous. It was then that the guy beside me reached over for the ketchup bottle and spilled my Coke down the front of my brand new suede jacket. I jumped up like a bat out of Hell, screamed and then began mopping up the Coke like mad with piles of serviettes.

It was then that I discovered the resiliency of suede. The Coke seemed to slide right off. We all agreed it looked like it wouldn’t leave a stain. The Coke spilling guy felt awful about the accident and kept apologizing. I felt bad for the dumb jerk and told him I was sure my brand new suede jacket would be just fine once the Coke dried.

John and I left immediately and went straight to my house. I cried all the way home. John kissed me goodnight, which turned out to be our last kiss. I went to bed that night wearing my chocolate brown suede sixteen jacket and nothing else. It was all I needed.

When I found the sixteen jacket that morning tucked away with all the other things I never wear but can’t seem to throw out, I could smell the Hershey’s sweetness of the leather, John’s last kiss and the Coke down the front, the exhaust fumes from the borrowed Ford John drove that night, the tears and the joy. I could smell it all. I don’t remember anything ever in my whole life smelling so good.

I held it up to my nose the same way I did that Friday and I was sixteen all over again. I could feel the magic of that summer. I felt young and happy and it didn’t matter that I had a potbelly or crows feet. It didn’t matter that I would never be a Prima Ballerina. Because every Tuesday and Thursday when I put on the sixteen jacket and made my way to and from that dance class, I had a pocketful of dreams.

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The original manuscript typed in red ink on a Collegian Typewriter.

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Two Ballerinas.

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Ballerina Boo.

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Author Boo King on the left wearing the grey sweatpants.

 

 

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Be Resilient.

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Girl Warrior. Be resilient. Flexible. Pliable. Adaptable. Bend and sway like an elegant Willow tree. Full of grace and economy. Follow the ebb and flow of your wonderful awe-inspiring life. Embrace the wind that moves your sturdy spirit. Take courageous steps into the blinding light and the dark places of your soul. There is nothing to fear.

You are stronger than you think Girl Warrior. You are hard-wearing and tough. Like an indestructible black leather jacket. But you are also supple and nimble. Like a Ninja cat. Both contain the secret to resiliency at its finest.

Study intently the skill of quick recovery. Practice diligently irrepressible comebacks. Master the fine art of give and take. Rise from the ashes like the magnificent Phoenix you are. Rally and return stronger and more resourceful than you could ever imagine.

But remember Girl Warrior, it’s not an all or nothing life that we live. That’s the true wisdom in resilience.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: My Yoga.

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In many ways yoga has saved my life. Or at the very least kept me from being a total train wreck. My daily practice has taught me how to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. And my spirit ever reaching for heaven. It has opened my eyes to the exquisiteness of my life in its domestic ordinariness. The beauty of the day-to-day. The rhythm of regular rituals. The well-crafted commonplace I love.

For I am an ordinary woman.

My yoga has aged with me. I can no longer do the poses the way I once did. But I can still bend and fold and breathe. And allow grace to gently do the rest. I surrender to a higher wisdom.

I salute the sun and whisper thank you to the morning light.

These photos were taken by daughter, Melissa Adams in our living room where I do my yoga every morning.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Yoga Saved my Life

376817_10150371557691644_851002701_nI do yoga. Like most things, I do it my way. Kind of like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Sid Vicious. The record shows.

Little back story.

I started doing yoga with my best friend B. We were, and still are, kindred spirits. Sisters of the soul. Daughters from another mother. We were introspective, pensive young girls with poetic hearts. On our walks home from high school we spent the time chatting about the usual teenage things that cause angst or butterfly emotions. Boys and clothes and boys and music and boys and books and boys. But we also drilled deep. Explored the darkness and diaphanous shadowy places that sometimes scared the shit out of us.

Somewhere along that uneven lumpy sidewalk, from Hammarskjold High School to our respective homes, we had our first conversations about yoga. Little did we know then, that it would become B’s career, her passion, her calling and life’s work. And for me, it would become a daily part of my life. Like breathing and brushing my teeth.

Sometimes I think it saved our lives. Or at the very least, made it saner. A less troubled place to dwell. Not always serene and tranquil.  But not a total train wreck either.

The mental, physical and spiritual benefits of yoga are incomparable. 

I’m a creative and intuitive person. A writer with an overactive imagination. A sensitive and empathic being. I walk the rutted road.  The pitted path littered with potholes. Equilibrium is not my natural state. Before finding yoga, I was neither calm, cool, and definitely not, collected.

But yoga, and then years later running, changed all that.

Spiritual benefits aside, without yoga, I’m not sure what physical shape I’d be in. I doubt that I could touch my toes. Nor bend like a pretzel. I know with 100% certainty that without my daily yoga practice I never would have recovered from a traumatic injury to my knees.  A double whammy seven years ago that quite literally brought me to my knees. So bad that I never thought I’d run again. But four years on the yoga mat strengthening the muscles around my knees. Listening to my body. Relying on its inner physician. Trusting that it knew how to heal itself. Plus a couple of cocky faulty attempts at hitting the streets, because that’s just who I am. Then another two years of dedicated practice.  More listening, listening, listening. To the inner wisdom of my body and spirit. A year ago I just knew the knees were completely healed.

I laced up the sneakers.  And went for a run.

IMG_1547I’m a largely self-taught. And hardly a yogini, but I do know my way around my own body. Until seven years ago, I never had a yoga teacher, nor a mat, for that matter.  Shortly after my son was born I bought a book called, Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan. The poses in this little soft-cover book became the foundation of my daily yoga practice. Later I learned some new ones from The ABC of Yoga by Kareen Zebroff, and her marvelous television show.

After 28 days working through Hittleman’s book, I was hooked. Line and sinker. I was a master. A guru. A wise sage. Enlightened. Transcendent and spiritual. Of course, I was none of those things. I look back on my younger self, and I smile. Like Buddha.

It didn’t take much to bring Ma into my yoga circle. She too worked the book. Then Ma and I discovered Kareen’s Yoga television show. That was another life-changer.

No mats, no gear, no fancy pants.

This was over two decades before lululemon was founded in 1998. Just a mother and daughter in front of a small color TV with rabbit ears in the snug and secure living room at 204.

Here I am decades later. Still practicing many of the same poses from Hittleman and Zebroff.  But with a twist.

I have a mat.  It’s lime green.

Namaste.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Lessons from the Hill.

IMG_3946There’s this hill. I’ve mentioned it in my previous posts about running. It’s at the very end of my early morning run. The neighborhood is full of little hills, dips, tilts and slopes. But this is the last one, so it’s always the toughest. Climbing it is a bit like a recurring nightmare. The one where you show up late for an Algebra exam you forgot to study for. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I have a love-hate relationship with this hill. It’s complicated. Dense with onionskin layers of complexity. I’m attracted to connections of this nature because they are the most profound teachers. They force me to expand and extend. Stretch beyond my comfort zones. Push limits. Smash down walls. Break through closed doors. Grow my physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual muscles. Their lessons take me above and beyond and back.

In no particular order, here are 15 things I’ve learned while running up the hill:

1. It’s rock solid. Dependable. Not going anywhere. I can count on it being there. Every day, whether I like it or not. I want to be that unshakeable, that steady.
2. Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s not. I don’t know why. That’s the paradox. The enigma. The mystery. So I soar with the easy times. I struggle through the hard times. One baby-step at a time. Either way, I keep going.
3. It takes guts. Especially on the difficult days when just getting out of bed is an act of courage. The bravest thing I do.
4. It’s okay to stop. Take a moment to catch my breath. To regroup. Consider my options. In the end there’s only one. Carry on.
5. It’s easier when I don’t look up. At the very the bottom it’s daunting. Overwhelming. Fucking intimidating. So I keep my eyes on the piece of sidewalk directly in front of me. And take it piece by piece. Suddenly it’s not so big. Little bits are doable. Far less formidable.
6. Don’t look down once I reach the top. It’s a dizzying perspective. A mixture of pride in today’s accomplishment and dread for tomorrow’s harrowing task. So I resist peeking over my shoulder. I simply turn the corner and keep going.
7. Honor my body and where it’s at today. It’s changing. Aging. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the hill. I listen to the subtle messages it sends. I’m respectful of my limitations. And grateful for what I can do.
8. Maintain my runner’s form despite the slower pace. This is part of the art of running and hard to articulate with words. It’s about the shape. Structure. Configuration. Contours. I keep the stance no matter how downtempo the present beat or cadence.
9. It’s not a competition. There’s no one else in this race so the pressure’s off. I don’t rate myself. Think about time. Check my pulse or heart rate. There’s no personal best. No need to push harder. I don’t give a shit about that. I’m not an athlete. I’m not going to Sochi. The beauty of this stage in my life? There’s absolutely nothing to prove.
10. It’s not about conquering. Nothing to beat. Vanquish. Quell. Quash. Clobber. Nor crush. I greet the hill with the peace of a Pacifist. In my heart I’m confident I’ll reach the top. But I’ll inflict no harm along the way.
11. It’s okay to be afraid. Some days the hill scares the living shit out me. It’s just too much. Especially on the dark and eerily quiet mornings. My imagination takes hold. The hill becomes my enemy. Then my legs turn to rubber. Shaky like jelly. That’s when I exhale deeply. And keep moving. Even shaky legs can get you there.
12. It hurts. It’s so fucking painful at times that I think, ‘This is it.  I’m gonna die on this stupid hill.’ But I don’t. I make it home in one piece. And the truly priceless part? It’s like the miracle of childbirth. I forget the pain when it’s over.
13. The weather doesn’t matter. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the hill is still there. Waiting for me. So I dress accordingly. I never worry about getting wet. Or cold. Or sweating like a pig. The wind can howl like a wolf. I call its bluff and howl right back.
14. Every day is a sweet little victory. I celebrate that. Not in a big glittery New Year’s Eve kind of way. But I do have this little happy endorphin dance going on in my head when I’m done. This is a beautiful reminder to take joy in all the wondrous things life holds. Every day I’m here is a win.
15. The hill will be here long after I’m gone. Reliable. Solid. Stone-steady. Some things endure. Others, like me are ephemeral. But know this, the hill recognizes my footstep. It is imprinted in the soul of the earth. And that’s pretty fucking awesome.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Rhythm of Running.

running gearRunning doesn’t come easy for me.  The first few blocks are pure hell.  Psyching myself to go for a run is a marathon in itself.  Each new day is like starting over.  Even after 30 years, it’s still the same.

Before I run there are a few things I do first.  The Monday to Friday pre-run routine and ritual goes something like this:

1. Get up early. 5:00am at the latest. Except for the summer months, it’s dark outside and quiet inside.  The house is hushed and still in the undisturbed darkness before dawn.  Just how I like it.
2. Put on sweatpants and T-shirt or some other comfortable running attire.  These are found heaped on the floor next to the bed where I left them the night before. I prepare ahead.
3. Grope my way through the hallway to the kitchen where I put on the kettle. Sometimes I hit the bathroom first and take a pee.
4. Head to my office where I check emails and cruise through Facebook while the kettle boils.  Sometimes I read a Cowbird story.
5. Make a cup of Tetley’s Orange Pekoe tea. I like how the round bags fit perfectly int the bottom of the Vegas mug D gave me.
6. Practice yoga for an hour.  Because I’m so spiritual I do this in front of the TV.  Depending on my mood it’s either Steven & Chris or CMT. Until January it was CNN but I stopped that because it was counter productive and stressed me out.
7. Make the bed and tidy my office. I hate clutter and can’t get into an unmade bed.  Just one of my many quirks.
8. Make my lunch for work.  This is usually a salad and some kind of protein.  I don’t really care what I eat for lunch just as long as it’s reasonably healthy and doesn’t make me sleepy by two.
9. Boil the kettle again.  Make a cup of coffee spiked with cinnamon. I like to live dangerously.  I also add cream, which is completely over-the-top and edgy.
10. Head back to my office, pull out my latest Hilroy notebook, a blue Bic pen and write my daily letter to God.  This is private.  But possibly some of my best writing.
11. Sip my creamy cinnamon coffee and say my prayers.  I don’t get down on my knees.  This hurts too much.  God knows and doesn’t expect it of me.  We’re pretty tight.
12. If it’s cold out, I throw on my big old grey hoodie with the bleach splatters and pills under the arms.  If it’s warm than the T-shirt is all I need.  I don’t wear a bra.  I like to flop when I run.
13. Head downstairs and lace up my sneakers.  Nothing fancy here.  Nor expensive.  If they aren’t on sale I don’t buy them. One of my best pair of runners came from Zellers. This was before Target took over.
14. Check the clock next to the back door.  I don’t know why I do this. I never check it when I return and I don’t time my runs.  I really don’t care how long it takes.
15. Walk around to the side of the house, past the Camellia tree, the bamboo and the old rose bush that scares the shit out of me.
16. Open the front gate, take a deep breath, hesitate momentarily, mumble ‘what the fuck’ under my breath and hit the streets.

I start to run immediately.  It’s uphill right out of the gate. Brutal. Punishing.  Grueling.  My legs are already tired and I feel the burn.  It’s killing me and I haven’t even gone a block.  All I can think about is how lousy I feel.

But just when I think I can’t run another step, the sidewalk slopes downward and I coast along for the next bit. This is where grace and mercy come into play.

It’s during this little stretch that I set the pace. This is different every day.  It all depends on how I feel that morning.  Not just physically but emotionally.  One day I could be the hare. The next, the tortoise.  Sometimes I feel like a freebird.  Other days, a slug.  There are mornings where I feel like I could run forever.  Or at least a mile or two.  Maybe even ten.  Then there are days – many, many days – where I ask myself, ‘what the hell are you doing?’  I just want to roll over onto the boulevard and curl up like a wood bug.  Go to sleep. For a long time. Like Rip Van Winkle.  Some days, my youth is renewed like the eagles.  Others, I’m an old wizened woman.  Gnarled.  Weather-beaten.

The difference between a good day and a bad one usually comes down to rhythm.  I don’t plug in while I run.  No iTunes. No playlists. No music. No motivational talks.  No podcasts.  None of that.

I listen to my soul.  My heartbeat.  My inner cadence.

I hear the sound of my breathing.  My footsteps on the concrete. Crows squawking on the telephone lines.  The voices of the squirrels.  Leaves rustling.  Wind howling. Gentle breezes calling. Dogs barking. Cars racing.  Doors slamming.  All the early morning reverberations.

I hear the silence.  And the pauses between the clamor. I hear God whispering my name.

It is here that I get in the groove.  Find my rhythm.  This is the sweet stuff of running. This is the meditative place. Where everything works.  My body, mind and spirit are all in tune.  Harmonious.  Peaceful.  Grounded.

I run to the rhythm of me.