Friday, April 22, 2022

I Wrote My Way Out (But Actually I Mostly RAN My Way Out)

Recovery from cancer (and the surgery to remove the tumor) has been hard. 

[That journey has been chronicled mostly in my main blog, if you need to get caught up.]

I've been writing. The occasional post. Facebook. Journaling. A little dollop of fiction. But actually writing has been a really difficult thing to return to. 

It's not my desire that has changed—it's my capacity. I actually do love writing more than anything (except maybe reading). Writing is my hobby, my passion, my creative outlet, and my emotional catharsis. The blank page is my confessional, my therapist, my friend, and my creative collaborator. I haven't really stopped writing—I even scrawled out a page in the hospital the day after surgery. What I found I had trouble with was things like concentration, routine, focus, and sometimes even sitting still. I would suddenly have a feeling of anxiety about my health or flashback to a medical procedure. Or I would try to focus and find that I couldn't think about anything other than all the Big Shit™ that's been going on lately (tough kiddo transitions, quasi-loss of a child, miscarriages, cancer, surgery, breakups). So while I could write out a personal journal, freewriting, or just a Facebook splat, I have been having a much more difficult time with deadlines, writing about specific topics, and sitting down for hours at a stretch. 

But running seemed to work for me.

I've always been a more kinesthetic person. I was a hyperactive kid. I had more energy than an arc reactor. I walk (sometimes for hours) when I want to clear my head. Even when I write, I take frequent breaks to move around, and one of my best purchases ever was a desk that could be raised and lowered so I could write while standing (and usually bopping to music).

So I started to run.

I walked the block my second day home from surgery. Walked a mile circuit around my neighborhood in the first week. After two weeks, I gently added in some slow jogging. Within a month, I was regularly doing distances of three to five miles. I set a goal to do a marathon in 2022. Recently I did a 12 mile run and I've been hitting distances of 10 miles regularly. I'm gearing up to try to do 15 miles, trying to hit a 9 min/mile on my shorter runs, and trying to keep my pace under 11:30/mile for my longer ones.

I always thought I would "write my way out" of something like this. That I would go to the page and find the words and that would be my climb back to myself. But instead, it's been running. My physical recovery has helped my mental and emotional state. Rather than running being little more than physical therapy and my mental and emotional healing happening due to other things and in other ways, running has been at the center of ALL of my recovery. I feel centered, grounded, and in control while running and that has helped me with my mindset. Focusing on goals has helped me mentally. Taking time with just me and the pavement has helped me do the long and slow work of processing through lots of complicated emotions. It's that perfect balance of quiet enough to order my thoughts but not so quiet that my traumas start to bubble up. Getting physical has helped me with my anxiety. Setting goals and hitting them reminded me of my own ambitions.

Running has been my salvation. Somewhere out there—just me and the pavement and the miles ticking by—I find my words.

So I'm going to start a new "series" here on NWAW. Mostly just reports on how running is going, what goals I've hit, what new goals I'm setting and maybe a thought or five about my philosophy of running.