During the past few weeks I’ve started training for a 15k with my housemates. It’s been difficult to run together because of our clashing schedules, so for the past week I’ve done my runs alone. I love the rhythm of training and running alone creates time for me to pound out my frustrations through my feet and jam out to some pretty rockin’ tunes. It’s my time to think deeply or to not think at all, to take out the headphones during some legs of the route and just pray; to hand my insecurities and those situations and people in my life I deeply try to control to the Lord.
I’ve started to run the same route, modified for mileage, everyday: walk to the stop sign, run to the corner and past the KSAC, around the lake, up the hill by the Haak and around the loop to the house. Each of these places holds different memories for me and as I rhythmically run this route several times a week, I’m learning to redeem these places from the memories loaded with pain and loss and regret.
I’ve memorized the mile markers on this route; I know exactly which tree or street to look for. Every time I hit the one-mile marker I look down at the time and am shocked at how quickly I ran it compared to my usual pace. I congratulate myself, feeling accomplished. I look up, smiling, and keep trekking along, hoping I can keep up this quick pace because I’m feeling good.
I get about another half mile and I slowly start to drag. My pace significantly slows down and I notice the aches in my knees and the tight muscles in my legs begin to feel tighter. I blast my music louder through my headphones, trying to focus on the beat and the lyrics. I start praying desperate prayers of everything that comes to mind. Anything to keep me distracted from feeling uncomfortable. I’ve started to hit the wall I need to get past until I settle into my pace and enjoy the heart of the run, the really good stuff that continually motivates me to keep on running.
But once I slow my pace and take a moment to look around, I see the long country roads and endless cornfields. I notice the perfect fall sky with the clouds hanging low, glimpses of late afternoon blue and yellow shining through. I can feel the sun on my back and the needed bouts of coolness through the shady parts. I appreciate where I’m at and what my body can do, which seems to give the aches and pains a sweeter vibe.
I feel like we treat the immediate moments after big changes and break-ups and moving and changing jobs like that first mile, sprinting and avoiding the existing aches and pains from the transition, even if it is for the best. We feel alive and new, refreshed and ready to take on this new thing with all the new opportunities and possibilities.
It’s once we get to the slow part where we recognize the pain; we start to recognize what’s going on around us. We must first slow down though, allowing ourselves to feel the tension in our souls and minds and hearts because they simply were overwrought with excitement and adrenaline at the beginning.
As I reflect more on this past summer after my significant life change, I find it appropriate to describe it as a sprint. I started working my first job the day after my last final before adding two more jobs, an online class, and an extensive amount of reading in my tiny bits of free time. When I wasn’t working or reading, I was going out to dinner and coffee with friends I hadn’t seen all year. I ran, ran, ran and then I started student teaching, beginning a new sprint in a new place.
But now I’m 7 weeks in. The new-ness has settled down and the initial excitement is starting to wane. I’m getting tired, I’m starting to remember things I tried so hard to forget in the immediate moments after the change. My life now consists of lesson planning and grading and sleeping. I’m more apt to want to sit on the sofa with my housemates than go out and do something crazy. My life is slower, even amongst the busyness. But it’s in these moments that I’m overcoming that wall, I’m on the verge of finding that sweet spot of truly moving on.
I’m learning that it’s ok to slow down.
It’s ok to not constantly float between different groups of people or go out every weekend or have plans all the time. It’s ok to change my pace, to start to feel the aches and the pains, to desperately pray for everything going through my head and attempt to drown it out sometimes.
When I slow down, despite the very raw feelings of hurt, I am also able to savor and dwell in the really good moments because I’m not hurriedly trying to get to the next step. Slowing down allows me to look around for a minute and realize that the Lord has blessed me with really beautiful scenery. I look around and realize that I’ve found my people and my place in my housemates and home and students and schools. I’m doing work I love and learning constantly, especially in my moments at home, away from the world and on my own.
This is enough. I’ve been given right now to slow down, to cut out parts from the past so I can start to dwell in this sweet spot, to fully and richly love those around me and engage in relationship with people I deeply connect with in fewer spaces with fewer people than before. This is good.
So when you settle into your slower pace after the sprint, feel the moments of hurt, but also recognize the good moments too. Allow them to heal and shape you. Spend some time on your own, learning and refining and being ok with less. Enjoy the slower pace.