Sunday, May 4, 2014

Part One: Waking Up, Facing the Road

The alarm goes off. I bend my knees and flex the arches of my feet, feeling bones and ligaments tighten and grind. My muscles are strings that stretch across the neck of a guitar, ready to snap with a resounding twand if they are tuned just a little bit higher. When I curl my toes, they feel like the gnarled, leathery claw of an eagle, roughened by wind and rock and sun. 

My legs and my feet are always the first to wake up. When the calloused pad of my foot meets the carpet inside the R,  I always tilt, stumble, fall into a wall, and yelp. The RV is usually parked on a tilt, so sometimes my awkwardness is due to what we refer to as "life on a slant". Somehow, I never remember this before I step out of bed, and so it happens every morning.

I am usually tired, and always sore. This has become my new baseline, my new normal. It isn't that bad. When I learned to stop complaining in my own mind about things that I have
e absolutely no control over, I stopped feeling like a victim. And the tiredness--the clenching and aching--has become a mark of pride, a physical reminder of what I have accomplished in the previous days. The topography of the land I run across leaves an impression deep within my muscles and bones, an intricate cave painting that describes rolling hills and endless expanses of flat road. It is a physical memory.

At some point in the morning, I come to terms with what is in front of me. The road. The truth is, I am always scared of it. It doesn't seem to matter if the day before was a breeze, or if it was a challenge to finish. The voice of fear comes in clear as a bell. It is my job to ignore it.

It is a dragon in a cage, manipulating and cajoling me to feed it. One would think that when you feed this dragon, it would stop screeching, that the voice of fear would become satiated, silenced. This is not the case. If you feed this dragon, he will not stop crying out for food. Instead he will become louder, demanding more. I have found the best thing to do when confronted one is to starve him, and become deaf to his pleas. Over time, the dragon becomes emaciated and weak, eventually unable even to approach the bars of the cage, his throat too dry to utter a sound. 

Of course, there's more than one dragon. Sometimes there is an army of them, gathering comrades together in a fleet to make their chorus for attention more piercing. Fears from the past meet with fears about the future.  I can only tackle them one at a time, starving some and telling myself I need others  to stay safe (Because, I tell myself, my fear protects me). At the end of the day, I know it is my still my business to defeat all of these these monsters, because it is their business to take away my right to live with love in my heart and a lightness in my step. 

It's the difference between saying "I have to run 35 miles today," and saying, "I get to run 35 miles today." 

Our thought and words are what create our perception.

As I was running through West Texas this morning, I became completely consumed with the natural masterpiece that extended in every direction. The huge sun that rose to ignite the cold earth, drenching the entire landscape in gold. The verdant treetops sculpted into shapes of windblown tsunamis. The falling-apart whitewashed houses that interrupted the otherwise flat horizon. 

I wonder if I could appreciate any of this if my reality was shrouded in negative thought or fear. Probably not. If I let the past or the future become too much a part of my present moment, I am too stuck in my own head to notice what is going on outside of it. The past usually brings up guilt, the future creates anxiety. Both of these emotions can be teachers, but I have found that generally they are completely useless. The only thing that has ever mattered is action, however small, done right here, in this very moment. We have absolutely nothing else.

This is what gets me to put one foot in front of the other: constantly making the shift from acting out of fear to acting out of love. When I wake up and I choose to dread the road that is laid out before me, when I listen to the pain in my calves and thighs and feet, and I let the voice of fear become the loudest, that is when I miss out on the beauty surrounds me. I am stuck in my head, counting my miles, checking my pace. When I catch myself doing this (this happens more than a couple times a day), I stop where I am, look down at my feet, and remind myself why I am running: 

1. Because I get to. 
2. Because I am blessed. 
3. Because I have an opportunity to make a difference in the world, and that is worth than more than all the gold in the world. 
4. Because more veterans and service members are taking their lives every day, and the cause of this epidemic needs to be recognized and understood and addressed.
5. Because there are so many in this country who watch the news daily and believe that we live in a dangerous place, full of hate and crime and ignorance. I want them to know that this is not the case. This country is insanely beautiful and we, the people, are good.
6. Because I want people (and veterans) to know that if they feel anxiety, depression, restlessness, powerlessness, misery--that there is absolutely nothing *wrong* with them. It does not mean that you are broken. Do not judge yourself. There is hope. Running, meditation, or taking time away from the madness of every day life will help, a lot. It's not the only solution, but it is a good one, and one that will stand the test of time. 
7. Because there is too much beauty in the world, and not enough beholders. 
8. Because I want to help others see that their power as an individual is limitless. If a cocktail waitress from Orange County can run across America, I think just about anything is possible.
9. Because nothing has ever made more sense to me in my life.
10. Because Robot needs a person to stick in her beautiful photos, and I suspect she needs me as much as I need her (even if she is the stronger one). If nothing else, being there for Robot is enough reason for me to run every day. 

11. Because I have committed to putting others before myself, always.
12. Because it's really, REALLY fun. 


  1. Beautifully said Anna. I appreciate what you are doing and I especially appreciate that you are doing your best to do it with a heart and mind full of love, joy, and gratitude :) Yes, this country and the world are beautiful places filled with many beautiful people :) AND YES anything is possible :)
    Thanks for all you are doing and thank you for your spirit :)
    Michele Macias

  2. You inspire, amaze and motivate me daily!!!! I am blessed to have met you! Keep running ANNA!!!! I am with you in spirit every step. I pray deeply every night for your safety, robots safety and each morning when I wake to the chime telling me you want to hang I am reminded that life is bigger than me!!!

  3. Beautiful essay. How nice to get a glimpse into your early morning moments!

  4. Breathtaking and speechless. Thank you. See you in Georgia.

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