Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the Morning Before the Trip

It is the morning before my family and I go on a trip. There are things to do. Dozens of them. On top of that I want to get a run and a walk in. I also have this feeling that today is a day to make significant changes in life. That's because I stepped on the scale and saw 218 pounds. The child-like portion of my brain, seeing that number, thinks that I have to make it down to 210 by tomorrow morning. The adult-like portion knows that in order to do so, I would have to lop of at least one of my legs.

To put it succinctly, I'm in a bit of a panic. I've put the first load of wash in, emptied the dishwasher, scooped the cat litter, and cleaned up a couple things. Now, rather than get anything else done, I'm forcing myself to sit still and type for a little while. It's a way I have of forcing myself to breathe, to remember that I can do only one thing before I can then do any other thing.

For sure today I am going to get out for a run. I will take the dog for a short run-walk in a bit as I need to get to the hardware store which is just up the road. Rather than drive, I'll take my 218 pounds and dog there under our own power. I won't get to 210 in that short distance, but I'll do other things, like breathing. I'd like to get in a better run than that before the day is through and maybe I can do so by dropping the dog back at home and going out from there. I had better do it then as the weather report is foreboding.

Last night I watched a movie about the Western States 100 trail running race. In it, two guys blew the course up, setting records and pushing each other to speeds I can't imagine on such a course, on any course. Then, at the finish line they both talked and chatted as though they had run a 5K. I know that their bodies were hurting, that a race like that can't be run without taking a toll, but these guys were so in love with running that it was play for them at least as much as it was work.

Online yesterday, I read a tweet from a kindergarten teacher about the importance of play in his classroom. I wrote back that we are using the wrong metaphor for school. We are stuck on "work" as the way of thinking about school (homework, schoolwork, classwork, stop looking out the window and get back to work) and this is a major problem. Instead of work we should be thinking of play. Learning, when done right and done well, is play. It's more efficient that way, it's more engaging, it is more real.

We agreed however that play is a hard sell. It sounds frivolous and fanciful. But those two guys at the end of the Western States 100 were playful on the course and their running seems, quite literally, to be filled with play.

Consider the day I have ahead of me. I can think of the list of things to do as work, in which case I will be filled with tension and aching to check them off my to-do list. At the end of the day I might just have them all done, but I fear that I will have missed the day. Instead of working on all this stuff, I can play with the day. I can take the dog for a run-walk and enjoy her company as we go to and from the hardware store. I can savor the things I'm doing all day long if I make the into play.

And then there's that damn 218 pound measure this morning. I haven't proven capable of changing that through work. I've tried writing down my food, tracking calories eaten and burned, and so on. None of it is playful and I avoid the work. So, it's time to play with this stuff, to find a way to be playful with food and exercise and most of all to be present in the day-to-day events of my life when I find myself absently eating or sitting on the couch because I can't face the work that has to be done.

It is the morning before my family and I go on a trip. There are things to do. Thankfully, I took time out to do this, to rediscover how playful and fruitful it can be to breathe and put my thoughts before myself as I write on.