I hope that in one hundred years, running looks much like it does now. I hope that we still have remote trails where a runner could not see another soul on a long, peaceful outing. I hope that people can still lace up their shoes and run around their neighborhoods, and that cities still cultivate running trails wherever possible. One hundred years ago, women were pretty much barred from running. It took a lot of time to convince the powers that be that a uterus would not simply fall out of the body right there on the track. Now women are leading the pack (heehee!) when it comes to competitive running. We’re kind of bad ass. So my hope is just that we don’t go backwards, but keep moving forward under our own power.
This blog was started as part of an online challenge to write and run every day for thirty one days, but writing and reading have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My family is very literary and books have always been a form of retreat and restoration for me. No matter how crazy life is, I can always pick up a book and sink into it to just escape reality for a while.
Well, that is not entirely true. I went back to college in 2009 after taking about nine years off. Since the fall of that year, most of my reading has been required. My love for it has not dwindled at all, but my freedom and time to read things that strike my fancy certainly have. I find that I am usually reading text books, and occasionally devouring something light and funny, just to keep the love alive. Now, as I wrap up my Bachelor’s Degree and look towards law school, I enjoy my required reading a lot more. For the three classes I am taking this semester, I have to have nine books. While the pragmatic economist in me rails against the cost of those books, the bibliophile in me cannot wait to start reading. These books are about the American legal system and death penalty, contemporary political thought, and the history of the European settlement of North America. It is a lovely feeling to know that I will be spending so much time enveloped by these subjects.
As for writing…that is a tricky one. I love it. To feel the thoughts in my head sort of unwind and form straight lines and wind up on paper is cathartic. Getting all the little pieces together in my head and making some sort of sense out of them somehow helps me make sense of everything else in my life in the process. Writing is not something I have made time for over the past few years. Its absence is something I notice, something I feel. But it is not something that has been easily remedied, which is why I have embraced this challenge.
Running. This started a few years ago. I was a smoker who spent far too much time drinking and just generally misbehaving. For some reason, I decided it was time to quit smoking. I was terrified that if I quit, I would replace cigarettes with food and gain ten thousand or so pounds, so I bought a treadmill. It worked. I ran on my treadmill through the winter since I chose December to quit smoking, and by the time spring rolled around I felt confident enough to venture outside and the rest is history. Over the last few years, things have changed in a lot of ways and my love affair with running and staying fit has definitely waxed and waned. There have been fantastic moments where I felt I could run around the world powered by nothing but positivity and there have been moments (ok, months) where the sight of running shoes could incite the most terrible feelings of despair and inadequacy. Now, running and I are cool.
Being vegan. I watched Food, Inc. on Thanksgiving day 4 years ago. That was my last Thanksgiving with turkey. I cut out most meat, but continued to eat fish for a while, so technically I was pescatarian. Eventually I cut out the fish entirely but continued to eat dairy and eggs. When the boyfriend and I started dating, he challenged me to cut out those and go completely vegan. We watched Forks Over Knives, got the Engine 2 cookbook and just never looked back. It was not an extremely difficult transition, probably because our diet was already very close to that recommended in Engine 2, and we looked at it as a lifestyle shift rather than just some diet we were trying out. Now, after being vegan for a little over a year, it just flat out seems like the right thing to do. It is not a matter of health or environment alone, it is simply a deep and total conviction that this is the right way to live. To me, living compassionately is about so much more than going to church and following some set of guidelines put forth by one’s religion or culture or family. Just do no harm. As sentient beings with big, beautiful brains and a world of privilege and opportunity, just do not harm anyone who does not have those same privileges and opportunities. That’s all.
So how does all this come together in this blog? I am really not sure. I hope that a person or two finds it an can relate to it, but I suppose really it is more for me than anyone else. It’s possible I got a little off topic here, but that is just fine. This blog is about compassion, health, and exploration and discovery. At least that’s what we’re going with for now.
Long and boring day. Work was painfully slow, and I absolutely could not wait to get home. I immediately took the Monster for a walk, which is the highlight of his day. He’s so sweet when we get home that it makes the freezing temps we endure seem like nothing. Which reminds me, I need to get a reflective vest for these dark walks. I have a head lamp, a blinking light on my gloves, and an LED leash for the boy, but I feel like I’m not as visible as I could be from the back. Overkill? Maybe. I just can’t handle the thought of this precious boy not being visible since he’s so inky black.
I had planned on tackling that yoga dvd again so that I could show Jillian Michaels that I ain’t afeard of her, but maybe she scares me. I’m still sore from yesterday. We’re going to count the thirty minutes I got outside with the boy as exercise. Which they really are. He doesn’t dilly dally out there.
I ordered the NINE books I will need for the semester that begins on Monday. Nine books for three classes. I remember the good old days when each class has ONE. Maybe two if the instructor was a real tool. But nine. I have to read nine books. And I like reading. It makes me feel warm and centered and happy to curl up in a comfy chair with a book and a cup of coffee. This is just nuts, though. This is when I panic and start thinking about how I’ll never be able to run, exercise, write, go to school and work, study for the LSAT, maintain a healthy relationship with the boyfriend, and not have my life absolutely suck. This is why I can’t sleep at night even though I’m exhausted, and I wind up sleeping through all the gym classes that I’d really like to go to. And then THAT starts the whole cycle over again, because how am I going to keep anything else going well in my life if I can’t maintain my health by going to the gym??
Ok. I’m going to sleep now. Before the crazy really gets going!
I was running with a group one day and this subject came up. One of the ladies said, “If you were running with a girlfriend and she said she wasn’t feeling up to the run or something self deprecating, wouldn’t you encourage her? You wouldn’t agree with her and tell her to just quit, would you?”. That struck such a major chord with me. Why is it that we can encourage our friends to do damn near anything, but when it comes to our own goals we can tell ourselves the most awful things?
I know I’ve accomplished some pretty great things, career and education wise, and fitness wise. I have stayed in school full time while working a great job at a fantastic company. I have run some of the most difficult trails and most beautiful half marathons that our country has to offer. Well, that my part of the country has to offer. I haven’t done anywhere near the amount of traveling I want to do…yet. When I was completing my first ever full marathon in Tacoma, I thought I was going to die. Not really – but every runner has had that moment in a run where the idea of actually crossing that finish line is no longer tangible. It becomes this vague idea of a soft chair to sit in and a warm shower and potatoes covered in gravy. But you can’t feel it or taste it. In this particular race, I was numb. My training had been derailed simply by my life. There were no injuries or sickness or anything so cataclysmic, but it was made clear to me about halfway through the training that I simply could not make the time for the three big time commitments in my life: work, school, running. If I wanted to function at work, maintain a decent GPA in school, and actually get some sleep, it simply wasn’t possible to run the amount necessary for adequate marathon training. This was a tough, almost heartbreaking realization. I kept my commitment to run that marathon, and I was glad when it was finished.
I wasn’t proud, though. It was so hard for me to see it as an accomplishment because of how difficult it was and how long it took to complete it. It was a race where by the time I got to the finish, pretty much everyone was gone and there was not really any celebrating going on. My fantastic boyfriend was there and walked me in the last three miles, and my lovely supportive sister and equally awesome boyfriend were there at the end, all smiles and hugs and congratulations. All I could focus on was how slow I was, how heavy and sluggish I felt, and how ashamed of myself I was for walking so much of it. The fact that I had aced that semester, grown at work, and maintained a great relationship with aforementioned awesome boyfriend simply didn’t factor in. I did have a great vacation in the Pacific Northwest following that marathon, so at least I was able to enjoy that.
Perhaps that’s something to work on in 2015: being kinder to myself. I’m sure it’s something we can all work on. There has to be a line between completely wussing out simply being realistic and supportive of ourselves, right? I think I just found something to add to my to-do list for this year.
There are lots of questions that go along with being vegan. It’s pretty much a given that when someone makes a major lifestyle change, the people around them are bound to have questions. It happens when we change majors, careers, homes, religions – all sorts of reasons. Personally, when I quit smoking I found that some of my smoker friends were a little reluctant to embrace my new lifestyle and we eventually stopped hanging out as much. When I started running, those few friends that were still putting up with the healthier new me fell off the map. It can be difficult for people to embrace change, even if that change belongs to someone else.
Going vegan was sort of the last nail in the coffin of a lifestyle I had outgrown. It was a decision that I was comfortable with, that I had given a lot of thought to, and that I felt was right. I spent a lot of time answering friends’ questions, and even those of complete strangers. The more into the lifestyle I got, the more commonality I noticed about the questions I was being asked, and there was one in particular that I heard time and time again.
“So you can’t eat anything at all from animals? Like, no cheese or milk, even?” This usually came after me saying no thank you to an offer of a cheesy snack or dairy laden coffee. It was as if people could understand the whole no meat thing. That’s a weird way to be in Oklahoma, but “meat” is quantifiable. No meat means I don’t eat cows. Chicken was actually offered on occasion as an alternative to beef in the mistaken belief that it was the vegetarian option, but that’s a whole other story. But people could understand the concept of not eating meat.
No eggs? No cream cheese? How does that work? The initial question wondering how I can eat if I don’t eat anything that comes from animals is usually followed up by a list of queries. People want to know what actually counts as coming from animals. After getting through the explanation of what the term vegan really means, I then get to try to impart the reasons I don’t eat things like honey and sugar.
For a long time, I would answer the question with a sort of list of reasons that I am vegan. I would go over the health, moral, environmental reasons and patiently listen to the rebuttals and arguments that inevitably arose. Eventually, though I got my answer to this question down to one simple line: “I eat and live the way I do because I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Tulsa is a really great town. It’s green, it’s friendly, and the layout is so incredibly simple that it will ruin you for other cities. Seriously, it’s this amazing grid system where streets are in alphabetical order and numbered streets get smaller as you travel North and larger as you travel South. The highways can get you anywhere you need to go in no time, and while the public transportation is a bit underwhelming, there really isn’t much need for it because Tulsa just isn’t all that huge.
We have beautiful parks, a stunning Art Deco downtown and a really fantastic museum presence. We have tons of festivals all year long, and there are a lot of really talented local artists who create beautiful paintings, sculptures and music. We have the best gas stations on the planet. Quik Trip is the only place I go for gas and snacks. I know people who eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at QT. Healthy people, not just weird gas station sammich eaters.
As a vegan…Tulsa can be a little disappointing. It’s better now than it was a few years ago, definitely. However, in a city of several hundred thousand, there are maybe five restaurants that consistently serve vegan options. Now, those few exceptions are outstanding. If it weren’t for places like Chimera, Samana, The Tropical, and Lanna Thai we simply wouldn’t eat out.
When the NMA running groups were started, I’m pretty sure I was the only person in Tulsa who expressed interest. I’m glad one got started in OKC but I’m kind of bummed that Tulsa missed out. We have a vegetarian society, so I guess we’re not completely behind. Aside from the food issue – finding anything else vegan can be a challenge. I love supporting local business, but find I often have to turn to places like Whole Foods for things like toothpaste and deodorant just because they are generally impossible to find at local places.
First world problems, right? When I first became vegan and wasn’t all that concerned about the deeper ethical issues that I now feel, it wasn’t as big of a deal. Now it’s difficult to just accept that my lifestyle is the one that’s rare. I sometimes have to just shake my head and force my thoughts elsewhere when I am confronted with the reality of living where I do. I just hope that one day soon, my lifestyle is not such an outlier.
Compliments are funny little things. Sometimes they’re just everywhere and sometimes it’s hard to remember the last time one made an appearance. Their worth seems to evolve as I get older. I remember being told I resembled Cameron Diaz when I was a bit (quite a bit, really, which is sad considering I think we’re the same age!) younger and that always made my day. I always said it was because of the big goofy smile I can’t seem to control.
In more recent years I have noticed that I no longer get all that flattered when people compliment for things like that, but when a friend tells me that I’m a great friend, it can make my entire week go better. It sounds so trite to say that our priorities shift and we mature as we age, but there is definitely some truth to that. Don’t get me wrong – if people tell me that I look like a gorgeous celebrity I’m fine with that, but hearing that my efforts as a friend are appreciated is a much more rewarding feeling.
My goals in life are very different now than they were ten years ago. I have a sort of plan mapped out for the rest of my education. I’m trying to be really good at my job even though it has little to nothing to do with my future, and the boyfriend and I are planning to explore the world starting in a couple years. Ten years ago I was mostly concerned with cashing my paycheck so that I could buy cigarettes and go out with friends. Crazy how things change.
Point is, compliments that are sincere acknowledgment of work I’ve made to become a healthier and happier person are the best. Right behind the song by Collective Soul.