So this morning Hannah and I had decided that we would run.
There was a power in deciding to break the cycle of apathy and grumpiness together – after feeling so alone in it – and choosing to pick each other up. [We are so made to live in community!] So much of what we were feeling – or not even feeling in the general numbness – was bound up in fear. Fear that having not gone in such a long time our bodies wouldn’t be able to handle it and we’d end up in a heap. Fear that to try is to fail. Fear that nothing I do is of significance anyway so it’s silly to try. A-well-worn-ease in sitting and thinking about doing something as opposed to taking a leap.
I woke up just before the alarm at 6.30am and felt that this was going to be good. I even wanted to write on the thankfulness wall before I left the house. But something about standing there, pondering, writing, still felt a bit forced – I felt a prompting to just go.
I couldn’t find my trainers, but that didn’t matter. Put on the battered old Converse that have been around 5 continents with me over 7 years and went outside. As soon as the first step was taken it was exactly how it was supposed to be. Just as it always is when I get tied up in knots about choosing to putter and read the paper and scroll through Twitter and daydream and essentially just do anything else in the mornings rather than start off with scripture and prayer. As soon as I open the Book I get that heart-still and a sense that all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.
As I went forwards, feet-pounding and heart gradually lifting with its beat, I felt bonds of apathy break apart. Flooded with a freedom as molecules and atoms and muscles and organs and nerve-endings were thrown up into a new formation, awoken from slumber. I knew there and then, momentum rising with each step, that I could dare to dream and I could begin to write again and it didn’t have to be some huge scary thing. Okay, it may not look great every time, or even most times, but its breathing, its living, its purpose-filled living and to not try is to not enter the race.
As I learn time and time again, the key to so much in life is to take the first step. And how well do I know that? So well! But oh the gap between the knowing and the living. Our minds know but our toes and fingertips have to cooperate.
I thank you Abba for creating bodies which can move, which can stretch, which in their element can realign mind, body and spirit. For falling into a breathing pattern which works, and which flushes the toxins – and all that is toxic within – out. Thank you that in doing that this morning you broke the spirit of apathy and fear which has come over me these past few weeks.
As I ran – near-ice cold air whipping my face in a beautifully English May – I remembered something I had seen on this canal a few weeks ago. Birds which take flight by flapping their wings and skimming the surface of the water with their feet (do ducks have ‘feet’?) While their feet stay on the surface of the water, outstretched wings are ready to catch the breath of wind which carry them forwards and eventually, allow them to soar.
It must be hard to take the first step – to lift out of the water and begin the journey to flight, trusting only that the wind will eventually catch your open wings and carry you upwards. You risk failure – (what if I never manage to actually take off and fall into a heap?), you risk ridicule and a feeling of rejection (I gave everything to you and where were you?). And what a beauty in the fact that soaring must first begin with our feet firmly on the ground.
Soaring involves engaging with the less than ideal in our lives.With the feelings of apathy, the feelings of not enough, of dissatisfaction, of meaninglessness, of sadness and grief. When we recognise these emotions as real and present, we are more in a position to carry them as visible burdens as opposed to phantom ones (always scarier) and actively seek to soar – with our feet still on the ground and arms outstretched in vulnerable openness. As Henri Nouwen says, this is what the life of ‘drinking the cup’ looks like. Fully engaging with our sorrow, and in it finding the deepest joy-transcendent.
And then, and then….how beautiful the moment when the wind suddenly catches our wings and we are carried upward – soaring on wings like eagles and in the direct line of the sun.