I will likely begin to drift as I type this post. Such is because I participated in my as-often-as-possible-these-days ritual of running five miles (with the occasional weight lifting tossed in) today. And I type today's post to say:
I love to run.
I am juggling a LOT at the moment (as you are tired of hearing, I'm sure), including graduate school applications, full time workload, house full of holiday guests, and, oh yeah, running five miles as many days a week as possible. But the final item on that list is to ease the anxiety that the former three items on the list create inside me in copious amounts. And therefore I am ever grateful for the running, for the warm, dry, indoor gym that allows me to sweat and produce endorphins while the roads are slush-covered and the outside air is frigid.
I hope that none of you ever have to experience anxiety, as it is one of the worst afflictions I have ever experienced. I was thinking about it on my drive home from the gym tonight and the word came to me to describe what exactly it feels like when all of your fears, stress, rage, etc. are on the surface of your mind all at once. It is comparable to the way one's body feels when layers of skin are painfully torn away, exposing under-layers to air, dirt, silt. The word that hit me on my drive home tonight was this: raw. To be anxious is to feel everything all at once, in the most vulnerable, raw position you can imagine.
The most obvious side effect of this physical malady is pain, yes. But aside from that it is unrelenting, as well as often uncontainable. With an open sore on one's skin, you can add an antibiotic ointment topped with a bandage to get the most relief; however, this is only temporary. To daily clean the area and thus ultimately and finally heal the raw sore, one must go through the agonizing action of removing the bandage, once again exposing it to the harsh, unforgiving air, soak it in warm, clean water, patiently air it out, and only then can a bandage be added to the every-day-smaller sore. One original bandage will not suffice; daily action is required.
I will not get into the details of the exhausting list of all the ways to treat the rawness of personal anxiety, but I will mention a few. There is (often only attempted) rest; hot, soothing beverages; cuddly pets; books; quiet spaces; dance floors; many conversations with not-always-understanding family and friends; angry yelling to a willing ear; if needed, medication; prayer; music; art in all its forms; etc., etc. I have employed all of these more than a time or two myself. But the final thing on the list that I did not yet mention is exercise.
For me, today, right now, it is so comforting and amazing to simply, literally,
put one. foot. in front. of the other.
That is all I need, and all I can humbly ask for, until longer, drawn out, unforeseen pieces of my life can fall into place when they finally decide to see fit. Every day, at some point, my chest bubbles to a level of discomfort that only those unfortunate enough to experience anxiety firsthand can understand. That is, unfortunately, for the most part out of my control. Twenty minutes ago I was calm. At this very moment I am shaking mildly. Clearly I don't choose to switch positions like this. What is in my control is the ability to drive to the gym, hop on a treadmill, and run for 60 minutes a day. For one hour a day I can be upright, powerful, and move in a forward motion. And during the running and the stillness that immediately follows, I thank my God not for the "control" given to me in that moment, as I am never in control and He always is, but for the reminder that I am still capable of moving, that life is moving, and that alternately it contains stillness and peace that only He can provide.