Around this time last year, my father – an avid runner and former marathoner – unexpectedly fell seriously ill. While he is better now, and my family and I are grateful for that, it stunned me when it was occurring.
Our bodies have unexplainable ways of remembering events. That visceral recall prompted many hours spent in my head recently, as the events of last year made themselves known again.
I had no wish to revisit that time period, but my body thought otherwise. So I tripped around in the memory muck of last year, and considered this year with last year somewhat closer that I wanted it to feel.
My reluctant contemplation reminded me of how scared I was that I would lose my dad. How sad I was to see his health so compromised. My body had emptied of energy. I felt powerless, and instinctively I wanted to just run. I had troubles sleeping so I ran instead.
Cold weather embraced my body. I floated like an inconspicuous feather on the earth, wrapped in fear and sadness, and drifted momentarily into the peacefulness of my run cocoon.
Breathing in winter’s chill as my body moved made me feel hopefully small, like somehow I could work through this terrifying, yet completely organic, experience.
Last year I discovered that I had deluded myself into thinking that we can escape the gradual toll of aging. I was sure that my father’s devotion to fitness would protect him. I spent most of the rest of the year coming to terms with the idea that, no matter how active and fit we are, it only takes us so far.
This year has started off on a more carefree note. In the past two months, I’ve ridden my bike and run significantly more miles than I did in January and February of 2015. But my yearning to be in motion is less linked to the hope of a longer life because that is myth.
Rather, I’ve embraced being active while I can because I can. It’s a much more present approach to an active life. The reward is in the sensation of the moment, and now there is no sure promise of future health and well-being attached.
When I run and ride these days, I notice myself as part of a larger community of movement. I’m mixed in with the rats, geese, squirrels, ducks, gulls, and other people in the city.
We breathe the same air, and trace the same stretches of pavement. I am hopefully small. There is peace in that.