Tag Archives: Running

Pep In Your Step

I sauntered for an hour and a half on the beach this morning, down to the cluster of tires, nearly 4’ high, that had been unearthed by the shifting sands of Lake Michigan. I once ran this section of beach, three miles from my in-laws, to the power plant and back. I thought I had to run to stay on an even keel–only to find that I often would end up tipping the other way, becoming hyper focused on running, feeling that when I did not run I was failing. But today I am flabbergasted, and feeling exceptionally good, at the discovery that just walking with no real goal can accomplish the same thing as running. There is also the added bonus of being able to bring my coffee and stop and write or just sit if I am moved to do so. A quote from Ranger Randy Morgenson comes to mind; When you half your pace you double your fun.

I often whistle, but lately I have been humming because my therapist told me it would be calming, something that makes sense since we hum to our children. I love music but whistling and humming are the pinnacle of my musical ability. I have the rhythm of a cod fish, and that is insulting to the cod fish. Regardless, I am feeling so good this morning that I decided to put a little pep in my step. It is more of a stiff bodied herky-jerky two-step shuffle, but it has this amazing effect of unshackling joy I did not know I had and allowing it to bubble to the surface. A huge smile spreads across my face. Even writing about it months later propels the joy back up.

A little farther on I’ve added singing a nonsensical song to go along with my bopping around like a drunken prizefighter. To my surprise I pass a young woman sitting in the dune grass reading. I abruptly stop my singing and two-stepping and say hello. She glances at me with a shocked and puzzled look and then quickly goes back to her book. Right away I begin chiding myself for acting the fool. Singing ridiculous songs while walking along the beach, you really need to act more appropriately. This went on for several minutes before I was able to stop myself with the perfectly logical thought of. Who cares what some random stranger thinks? Besides, all that goofy singing and dancing made me feel incredibly happy. More importantly who makes the rules on how one should act while walking along the beach? I didn’t know it then but this seemingly benign interaction was a small step in the larger part of my healing and taking back the lead of the tango I have with depression.

I don’t need to be on vacation or walking on a beach to put a pep in my step. In fact, I got up and did a little jig while writing this. This world could benefit from halving its speed and putting a bit of pep in its step. The next time you’re waiting in line at the pharmacy or grocery store, do a little shuffle. When you do you’ll not only unshackle your joy but also the joy of those around you.

Lost and Found

I spent a good portion of my twenties wishing I was doing something else or was somewhere other than my current situation. I would think to myself, If I could just get to this point, I would be happy. If I just did this more, I wouldn’t feel this way.

In 2008 I was hired as the graphic designer for a living history park. I can honestly say that I loved going to work. We had only planned on staying in Utah for three years but since I had found a job that I actually enjoyed we decided to stay longer. Then, on a Monday two weeks after Noah was born, my boss called me at home and asked me to stop into his office when I got to work. When I got there, he told me they were going in a different direction and they were letting me go. I knew I’d been doing a good job, but just like that it was over. I went home, and after some soul-searching my wife and I decided that the most logical thing was for me to stay home with Noah, even though this was not part of our plan.

I thought that I had figured it out, that with the job at the living history park I was finally able to define who I was. Then the job was gone and I felt lost and completely uncomfortable in being defined as just a stay-at-home-dad. At first I tried to do some freelance design work. Then I began writing this blog but soon became more concerned with how many people were viewing it and how often I was posting, and it became more stressful than fun so I stopped. After so much time spent on the computer writing, I drifted into painting, which led to printmaking, which led me to turn our shabby garden shed into a shabby but functional art studio. Every month or two I would freak out and exclaim that I could no longer do this and I needed to get a job. Then I would come to my senses. I looked into being a volunteer Chaplain at the VA but found that, unfortunately, the time commitment was too great. I looked into ski patrol, but for the same reasons I decided against it. My painting turned to sketching and then to watercolors, which were easy to transport when I was out with Noah. I would try running now and again but it never stuck. So I stayed with the art, even though what I put on the page or the canvas never looked like I had planned it to. I did a lot of journaling for myself and the boys, and spent a lot of time putting my sketches onto my blog and looking at other people’s sketch blogs and wishing I was as good as they were. Then my dad’s cancer treatment stopped working and his health deteriorated fairly rapidly and I wrote poems nearly everyday to cope with it. After he died, I stopped sketching and soon journaling but the poems continued, for a while. Then it all stopped. It was all just too hard.

We moved back to Vermont and I again tried freelance graphic design only to discover that I really did not like being a graphic designer anymore. I was really struggling with the loss of my dad, the move, the stages the kids were in, and who I was. Then I began to trail run and it felt right, so I kept at it and that helped release some of the pain and frustration I felt and the extra pounds I was carrying. Yet something was still missing. I wanted to be writing more. Then I would remember the stress that having the blog caused me and I would think, I’ll write when the kids are in school and I have more time.

This past winter I began journaling again and I started carrying a small notebook in my pocket again. I got rid of all my old ideas that what I put in the small notebook had to be good, and I just put everything into it, thoughts, things I would hear, descriptions of people, the start of essays, poems, and random notes. Then I decided I would start writing for this blog again on a regular basis. I came up with a posting schedule and I developed an editing system. I read a book about writing called Writing Down the Bones and it opened my eyes.

When I recently agreed to write a monthly column about parenting for our local paper, it occurred to me that God had a plan that was not anywhere near my plan, but it was obviously a better plan. As hard as it is to stay home at times, it has allowed me to try all these different things with little risk. We have a greater freedom to spend time together as a family, and my writing has given me a creative outlet and a way to capture the little moments in life that are often lost to time. Running allows me to satisfy the adventurer in me and gives me time to clear my mind. I’m no longer looking for something else or thinking if I just do this I’ll feel better. I finally feel comfortable in the definition of who I am: a runner, a writer and a stay-at-home-dad riding the coat tails of his boys’ imagination.

Running To Cope

This post was written for the Why I Run series for the Key Bank Vermont City Marathon.

I didn’t set out to use running as a way to cope with the death of my father and the struggle of being a stay-at-home-dad, but that is what it has turned into.

I started running in eighth grade when some classmates suggested I try out for the cross-country team.  I ran until tenth grade, when the lazy life of a teenager seemed a whole lot better than running for miles on cold fall days.  Running never fully left me, though, and I have run sporadically in the years since.

Simply wanting to get into shape was the reason for my beginning to run again in the spring of 2012 when my family moved back to Vermont.  The crushed stone paths and dirt roads of Shelburne Farms allowed me to run with our two boys, who embody all of the wild things in two small bodies, without dodging cars and sucking exhaust fumes.  I started modestly enough, three miles or so at a slow pace and frequent stops to attend to the kids.  Soon, though, three miles was not enough, and I began to add a mile here and there. By the time I reached seven miles by late summer the boys were less interested in sitting in the stroller and I began to run on my own.

It is the simplicity of running that draws me back time and again.  All you really need is a pair of shoes. Slipping along a wooded single track, with only the sound of my foot falls and breathing as company, allows me to enter a meditative state.  At times I see my father standing beside the trail cheering me on, just as he did so long ago on cold fall days at cross-country meets.  Other times I’m lost in the focus of the trail and my own thoughts about life, past and present, while the miles tick by unnoticed.

There is also the mental challenge that goes along with running.  There are no mechanical failures that you can blame a poor run on.  It is only your own courage that can push you through that next mile when your legs feel like wet saturated logs and all you want to do is curl up in a ball. It is talking yourself into stepping out the door either before the sun rises or long after it has set because that is the only time you can find to run. It is you against yourself and the struggles you have in life.

After running alone for awhile I realized that I had changed. Not just physically but also mentally. I had gone from a runner of modest miles just trying to burn off some steam and get in shape to someone with a list of running goals many would call insane.  I know no matter how far or how much I run I’ll never out-run the pain of loosing my father, nor the struggles in my life. Perhaps though I can get ahead of it all for a bit and become lost in the rhythm of my breathing and the sound of my feet moving across the ground.

 

My name is Jorden Blucher and I run to cope.