Sunday morning and I find myself alone in the house – it is just 8:30am and there is an unfamiliar quiet here. Shannon has taken the kids to Priest Lake to play with Poppa Buddy and Bonnie as I prepare for a late morning tai chi class and then time to myself. Such a gift this moment…I almost wasted it as I often do by busying myself in the service of others – walking the dog, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, watering the plants – but instead I take this moment to settle into words and coffee and the morning sun on the trees outside the window.
The pace of late has been just over my comfort zone, with the added complexities of a trip to Ohio for the family reunion, daycare closures, a bout of stomach flu for Henry, Hope’s new molars erupting and Shannon and I completing 198 mile relay from Spokane to Sandpoint. Where once our normal activeness had me dreary, but willing, these last few weeks have taken a toll. I feel psychically worn, which when paired with simple physical exhaustion, leaves little left. I am not a fan of complainers, so I am trying to keep this “oh woe is me” story tightly held, but it is present and influencing my interactions with life…so better to own it and then strategize around it. Today will offer me needed time for recovery – a chance to breathe a little deeper and remind myself where balance can live within this body.
I had an interesting set of existential moments during our relay race. My second leg began just after 11pm and was a 5.5 mile run along a set of country back roads on the Idaho side. As I started, the dark night sky was filled with stars and I delighted in the freedom of adventuring out into the unknown at a time when I would normally be fast asleep. At 2 miles, our van had pulled over and as I passed, they all gave me an encouraging, “You got it!” and off they drove onto the next exchange. As I watched the red taillights disappear into the distance, a disquieting feeling set in. I was alone. There were no other runners near me and a moist fog had settled into area. I had a small flashlight to guide my steps, but all I could see was the ground directly in front of me – all around was dark and obscured. Coyotes howled in the distance and dogs barked as they sensed my movement passing the end of the long driveways that led to their homes. My mind began its machinations. “Who was lurking in the trees?” “What if a dog came after me?” “Does anyone know where I am?”
I alternated between a visceral panic and a logical talking down that I had simply been watching too much CSI of late. I focused on the run itself, getting one foot in front of the other, avoiding the washboard potholes and mud puddles I was sure would cause an ankle sprain. Still, my mind raced. What of this feeling of being so alone? What of its vulnerability? What was within me that could take me the next 3.5 miles in such darkness and solitude? I drew power from within and continued on.
Finally, I arrived at the Silverwood Theme Park to meet up with the other 11 members of the team awaiting the thrill of riding The Tremors rollercoaster. It was midnight, my body and mind both exhausted, and I was escorted quickly into line so that we could board the coaster. I had been dreading this ride since we registered for the relay but had convinced myself that as a team member, it was an opportunity to put the team first and go for it. As we proceeded up the ramp, my stomach tightened and I thought I might vomit. Shannon was eager and excitable like a kid. Her encouraging “this will be great” made me both confident that all would be fine and furious at her lack of understanding of what the past 45 minutes in the woods had extolled from me. Soon I was ushered into the seat, my belt checked, safety bar lowered. There was no getting out now.
The Tremors is an old wooden rollercoaster that uses speed, darkness and right-angled turns to terrify you in place of the loop-de-loops and free-fall of the newer models. Without warning, it propels you at speeds greater than 65 mph down, around, into tunnels, up, right, left, down, up, down, up, down…finally settling you back where you started, adrenaline in full force, stomach in your throat, head a-spin. Even at my best, this would not be my choice of fun, so in the state I was in, I was pushed pretty much to my edge. During the ride, I found myself in such a state of blended panic and disbelief that I simply went inward, deeply inward. I let go in a way I rarely do, rarely am able, into full surrender. Such was the moment. It lasted only a minute or so, but it was profound. I realize now that this place of surrender is an option, should I ever choose to return to that space. It is a place of uncanny calm and resolve – a kind of freedom beyond what I am accustomed to.
While I did not intend the race to hold such interesting moments, I certainly am grateful to be living fully enough to have them, all-the-while also enjoying the fun and exhilaration the race itself offered. It was certainly an adventure; probably much like labor, within days the pain and discomforts will fade and an excitement for doing it again will emerge!