The other night as I was finishing up at work in the late evening after a long day of clients and chart notes, my husband text me to prepare me and let me know my daughter was “wired” and “running laps” around the house. I responded with one of my great ideas and suggested that he take her out on a short bike ride to help get all her wiggles out and then I would be happy to get her to bed after. He countered my proposal with the offer for me to take her out on a brisk bike ride in the cool fall air. I swallowed my own advice and said I’d be home in 15, have her ready for me.

I did a quick clothes change and threw on my running shoes while my daughter snapped on her bike helmet and donned her raincoat, and we were off. The air was crisp and the ground was damp from earlier rain. The sky was a vivid blue with hues of orange and pink beginning to color the earth around us. My daughter rode fast at times making me pick up my pace. At other times I lead the adventure and she followed close in tow. It felt like we were free, unencumbered, no schedule or routine, no agenda.

I was surprised by how such a simple decision to blow off stories and bedtime routine, to instead zip off through the neighborhood and down along the river, just the two of us, made it feel like we were in some kind vortex or universe of our own. I was surprised by how present I felt, how joyful my mood, and how the spontaneity of the evening seemed to set us on a trajectory of exuberance for adventure. My daughter had squeals of delight each time we raced to the next point along the path and she won. Even as the sun slipped below the horizon and darkness slowly descended, it was just the two of us, racing against time, soaking up the final moments of the day. It was bliss.

I vow to make more time for moments just like this. For spontaneity. For saying yes. For adventure and zeal. For laughter and racing. For unscheduled moments of joy. These are the moments that bring the meaning and the memories and balance out of all the other moments where we are scheduled to our max, down to the last minute, racing the clock to be on time in the morning for the start of another day with back to back to dos and places to be.

I need more moments like this. Impromptu, joy filled and unfettered. I think we all do. In a culture where routine and schedules, predictability and protocol drive us into order, we desperately need a counter balance. Otherwise we become rigid, stressed, irritable and tethered robots. And we miss out on the gift that life has to offer. We miss out on joy. The peculiar thing about joy is that it cannot be scheduled or contrived. It really only happens in the midst of fleeting moments, where opportunity and participation meet and the result is a spontaneous combustion. In smiles and laughter and squeals. In silliness. In togetherness. In attuned presence.

Running in the Rain

I never really thought that I liked the rain. For most of my life the rain meant that I couldn’t go outside and play or enjoy a long run, or sit on a blanket and read a good book. It means that things are damp and most often here in the NW, they are also cold, which seems to reach deep into my veins and bones and create a chill that isn’t easy to warm.  In addition, the rain in the NW is almost always accompanied by grey darkness and reduced natural lighting even when indoors, which drastically impacts the way that I feel about the world I inhabit. The other night, I got a new perspective, or perhaps a renewed perspective, as I needed to get out and breathe the fresh air, regardless of temperature, wetness or darkness. I layered up, put on a hat to protect my face and head from the rain, and took off, feet hitting the pavement in a natural rhythm.  As the rain came down around me, I found myself feeling a sense of freedom and peace that I couldn’t really describe, however I noticed that it was propelling my movement forward. I felt autonomous, free, uninhibited, and brave.

I recognize that there are many people who run every day in the rain, and people that darkness and cold does not sway their exercise routine. For me, however, this was a feat, and it was even daring, due to the fact that for most of my life I have heard my mom’s voice in my head stating “never run alone, and never ever in the dark, because you could get raped”. It never ceases to amaze how that phrase can just slide off the tip of her tongue without pause or commotion, just a statement of fact and a warning, one that has kept me in doors many a days. The irony is that my father, with quite the opposite take on life and the great outdoors, often shared stories from his childhood in Alaska, where he owned his own fishing boat at age 12 and was often out fishing all night long all alone… or working in the woods or hunting, day or night, dark or light.

As part of my lifelong quest for finding the middle path, I have always pat myself on the back for finding the balance, which in this case happened to fall between being alone in Alaska on an ocean in a fishing boat at age 12, and sitting in my house with the lights on, and all the doors locked and curtains closed, safe and sound. My middle option has most often found me going for runs during the daylight, and sticking to paths somewhat out in the open so as to be able to see others or better yet, have them see me, so that I could be saved were I to be attacked.

It’s amazing how one’s life can be so impacted by the life of our parents, whether near or far, their voices tend to ring in our ears, of caution of safety, of courage, of strength, perhaps of doubt or fear, or zest and purpose. For me I have come to realize in my life that I have allowed to many fears and anxieties to hold me back and keep me from leaving a more spontaneous or free life, and by that I mean one where I am not constantly analyzing my thoughts and actions and how they may be perceived or received by others or how they may impact me long term. Not to say that it’s not beneficial to ask these questions sometimes, but honestly I have plagued myself with these questions and I have prohibited myself from engaging in some of the joy of life because of this.

I encourage my clients to pause long enough to think about how they judge themselves, how they create order and meaning in their lives, and how they allow for mess ups and learning and how they respond to this.  What most of us find is that there are some things that are serving us very well, and many others that are not serving us well at all, but instead are keeping us from living lives individually crafted and uniquely designed with intention.