Note: This post is only marginally about the typical Runner’s Delight fare of fitness, running, and nutrition. You’ve been warned.
Intention had nothing to do with what I can only describe as “cleansing my soul.” In fact, had you handed me a fortune cookie last month that read “You will get hot and heavy with some summer cleaning in your physical and psychological recesses” I would have blithely tossed it into the recycling bin and gone about my merry way, doing whatever it is in this world I do merrily. But then things started to stack up.
First, there was the separation of church and state. Wait no, that’s a different story. First, there was a disconnect between my personal life and my work life. I fell into a habit of workout-work-sleep-repeat for a variety of reasons, and was content to do so. I wasn’t paying much mind to anyone else, or to what was around me. It was go-go-go, it was chasing, but it was a bit without noticing what was around me and really feeling what life has to offer.
Then, there was Mala. The night before our half-marathon and the day of, we of course had a lot of conversing time, and like ladies that are friends, we brought our vocabulary’s to the table and engaged in discourse. Not to mention, there was Mala’s apartment, which was a bit of a visual and mental wonder: clean, clutter free, and remarkably lacking things and stuff, which we discussed quite a bit, and the theory of minimalist living and having a clear mental state. There was also Derek, who wound up asking a pertinent question, that, to paraphrase, went something like, “Why are you so focused on things that happened in the past?”
And then, after my run with Mala and considering how I no longer needed to let the past deeply affect who I am and how I am, nor does the past need to dictate my future, I was cleaning my apartment and came across a few books Sean had returned to me, along with one he had passed on from Tami. This stack had been in my room for a week or two, and I had not done much besides scoot it about. As I separated the books, a card fell out. One that very truly acknowledged a few things I need to hear and have affirmed (only the best of friends can write each other words of pieces of stiff paper that likely cost less that three dollars and that have impact, pierce hearts and change lives) about how to live now.
Next up, there was realizing I couldn’t fit into all my clothes anymore. Yes, Runner’s Delight gained a few pounds in July and suddenly there were some jeans that I had thought were good to me, but were not. This, coupled with an incident that involved a really beautiful dress I own that I could squeeze into but didn’t feel like a million bucks in (despite the price tag) and my desire to wear sweatpants all the time (or at least clothes with elastic waistbands) all piled on top of me.
Finally, there was a book called Women, Food and God and there was Kristin’s birthday party, and the insane amount of dancing that took place at a dueling piano bar. Dancing with strangers. Dancing on stage and busting into an Irish jig when asked in the name of my incredible best friend Kristin in hopes of making her smile. And there was, the few moments in between, when I thought to myself, “oh right, I’m here and I’m alive.”
I woke up and soul cleansing commenced. This included cleaning my closet, cleaning my bookshelves, cleaning my stuff, cleaning my sink, cleaning my apartment, and yes, cleaning my mind.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Things do not hold their value. I’ve always heard about how cars depreciate the second you drive them off the lot, but no one ever discusses how literally everything else in the world is exactly the same. Designer clothes are only valuable when they are on the rack. Books are only valuable when on the shelf. CDs and DVDs only valuable when in the store. And yes, these things certainly hold value to a person if we attach emotional feelings to them. But if we decide they are cluttering us, or if we can no long fit into our jeans, and we go to attempt to sell those things, they are worth very little. Maybe 1/16 of what we purchased them for.
2. Things to do not define who we are. I have always wanted to be judged by the contents of my bookshelf, my DVD collection, and what I wear. This is absurd. Certainly these things can present us, but they cannot represent us. I’ve held onto books because I wanted them to be a window into my soul, or at least demonstrate who I am. But really, how is that even possible? Books can give a glimpse into what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, or what I am curious about, but they are not the definitive answer into me. I don’t need to keep every book I’ve ever read simply to prove anything to anyone. What I own is a label; it’s not who I am.
3. Only by being deeply conscious of every choice I make, only by questioning myself with the curiosity I have for the outside world, and only by offering myself empathy can I know myself. I’m really good at listening to others, and talking about myself. I am really bad at listening to myself. What we need as people is not only for others to love us and accept us, but for us to appreciate, enjoy and feel satisfied by us.
4. We don’t need much. Literally, we need less than we think we do to enjoy life. In fact, I’d argue we need friends and family and new situations and things to learn and experiences more than we need anything else. Yes, we probably need to do certain things to cultivate friends, family, situations, learning and experiences, but it’s nominal.
5. Priceless works in both directions. Something is priceless if it has no value. Either because the value is too high, or the value does not exist.
6. Feeling confident, comfortable and at peace with yourself is priceless. I don’t want to own things that do not align with who I am, what I am, and how I am. Nor do I want to own things that don’t make me feel kick ass. I also don’t want to d things that do not align with who I am, what I am, and how I am. Nor do I want to do things that don’t make me feel like an absolute pure version of me.
6. Running is an effective way discover all of this. Much of what I have thought about came to me while finding new hills to run up, while listening to This American Life and Savage Love podcasts, and while zoning out and hearing only myself. And truly hearing what I had to say. Running gives me the time and inclination to think. And to listen.
Cleansing my soul in the Summer of 2011 has been about forward motion, something I talk about a lot. It’s been about truly understanding what in the past matters to me, and what does not. It’s been about leaving expectations from myself and others behind, and chasing that which matters to me. It’s been about forgiving myself, accepting myself, learning about myself, and being okay with taking the time to do that. And it’s also been about reducing the clutter physically in my world and mentally.
This is a work in progress, of course. I imagine I will always fight my desire to hold everything near and dear with the knowledge that things will not offer a window to much of anything. I will always want my soul to be as easily understood as the cover of a book. It will challenge me to see my journey as only really about where I am going and where I am right in this moment, instead of where I have been and how I have been.
I have less than I did, though I’m sure I still have too much. But. I can hope that with leaving pieces of my past behind, with buying pants that fit me as I am right now, and with continuing to do that which makes me feel ten shades of amazing – running, cycling, dreaming, writing, talking to strangers, embarking on conversations, being a goofball, sending postcards, snuggling in blankets, making other people’s days – I’ll actually somehow have the right amount of soul.