“Urgency” is not a word in my daughter Lucy’s vocabulary. She sees no reason to rush to anything. Getting her dressed and out the door for school in the morning is a continual battle, not because she dislikes school (she finds it quite enjoyable in fact), but because she has no concept of time. This is a trait common to most four year olds, but it is also inherent in Lucy’s personality. When asked by her teacher one day what she would do should she become president, Lucy responded, “I would live in a rainbow land, all day and all night, forever and ever.” She is curious. She likes to explore. She has a vivid imagination, and lives in her own very pleasant place, outside the realm of dates, deadlines, and alarms. It drives me insane, while simultaneously makes me insanely jealous of her relaxed, anxiety free, vividly colored and pleasant reality.
I consider myself “late” if I am not at least ten minutes early to an appointment, party, or work. I actually experience extreme anxiety over being “late.” I live my life feeling the urgent need to complete an endless list of tasks scrolling through my brain. Cook dinner, do laundry, make Lu’s lunch, grocery shop, prep student lessons, keep up on paperwork, pay bills, hug my daughter, kiss my husband, check in with my parents, remember to call this friend or that, find some sanity! Even running, that activity which is supposed to act as a stress reliever and anxiety reducer, is, more often than not, driven by a sense of urgency.
While attempting to complete a five-mile training run, last week, I found myself unable to run past four and a half miles. I was physically exhausted and experiencing a considerable amount of pain in my Achilles and shins. Though the Achilles pain subsided soon after my run, my shin pain did not, causing me to worry about an existing or impending stress fracture (I suffered from a stress fracture several years ago while training for my first half marathon. I was in so much pain that I could barely walk and was ordered not to run for 8-12 weeks. Needless to say, I was unable to complete my training and run the race).
Deciding rest was the best medicine for the present, I skipped the long eight-mile run I had scheduled for the weekend. I also began looking back on my training runs in the hopes of discovering some cause of and solution to the pain I was experiencing. One factor stood out to me in all of my past runs, my time. I had completed every run with an average pace of eight minutes and thirty seconds per mile or less. Times I am perfectly capable of running, but times faster than my average past training. Urgency had been chasing me while I ran.
I concluded that I would have to force myself to slow down, in an attempt to reduce the pounding on my shins and alleviate the pain. I tread carefully during my next four-mile run, feeling as if I might break glass with each step I took. My shins felt considerably better during my run, easing some of my anxiety. However, that evening sharp shooting pains once again began to torment me. Surprisingly, I did not feel the urgent need to make a doctor’s appointment. Instead, I allowed myself one more run.
My training schedule called for a six-mile run next. Desperately wanting to complete the six miles, but unsure of how my shins would feel, I planned a six mile route with the option of a four mile escape plan. Though my shins twanged during the first mile, they were not so painful that I felt the need to stop. Instead, I checked my watch, only to discover that I was once again running an eight minute thirty second pace. Taking a deep breath, I tried to fight off the ever-present sense of urgency and slow down. By mile three, the pain had almost totally disappeared and for the next three and a half miles, I felt more relaxed and comfortable in my new nine-minute mile pace. I felt triumphant, when, at the end of 6.6 miles, I experienced almost no pain.
Last night, after two weeks hiatus from a long run, I completed eight fairly pain free miles. I maintained just under a nine-minute mile pace throughout the run.
I am learning, through watching my daughter slide gracefully and joyfully down rainbows, to slow down. I am learning that urgency will follow me wherever I go, life is chaotic, but that in order to relax, enjoy, and distress, I must let that sense of urgency pass me by instead of chasing me down the road. It is not easy, but my body and my mind thank me when I succeed.