Saying thank you (with slightly clenched teeth) for crow pose

 

If all I had to do was stand there for crow pose, I'd be quite content. Image download from dreamstime.com

If all I had to do was stand there for crow pose, I’d be quite content.
Image download from dreamstime.com

I am not what one might call adroit in any yoga pose other than shavasana, a.k.a. corpse pose, where the only requirement is to lie still on your back. I have finally come to look forward to downward dog, have reached an agreeable truce with chair pose, and do OK with balance poses like tree and airplane. Of course, I can say that unequivocally because I don’t have to watch myself stumble through these.

But the one pose we try in class that I cannot, simply cannot get any close to mastering is crow. If yoga instructors everywhere will pardon my saying, I do not like crow, not one little bit. I will channel my father here (who, by the way, could get into lotus pose as easily as he could make enchiladas), and phrase my thoughts like this: “Crow pose rubs me the wrong way.”

At this point, you might be asking, “If The Grateful Runner doesn’t like crow pose, why is she saying thank you for it?”

Fair question, which I will answer, as I tend to do, by backing into it. On Saturday, for the second Saturday in a row, class was almost over when my beloved instructor announced we were going to work on crow. The first week, I focused on arranging my blocks (to help steady myself) and blanket (to catch me when I would no doubt fall) and then on cheering for Chrissy Cortez-Mathis, an every-other-Tuesday instructor who made the pose look so easy. (So does my friend Karol, who wasn’t there on Saturday, but who I know practiced at home every night till she got it).

This past Saturday though, I just felt sort of paralyzed. And then — this is embarrassing to admit, but whatever — I felt like I was going to cry. The week hadn’t been the best (save for an evening with my sisters and my mom), and my immature and petty self thought (which I could demonstrate right now with melodramatic facial expressions and maybe make both of us laugh) “I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!”

But I breathed into my frustration, admiringly ogled aloud those who could do the pose, and settled onto my mat for Shavasana. After class, my dear yoga pal Cindy and I went to Starbucks, where she bought my coffee, shared her croissant and lifted my spirits.

The world has its share of anguish; it has plenty of sorrow. But crow pose? C’mon, Leslie. Not being able to do it ranks about 9,857 on that serious-life-issues list. And the good parts of this life I’m blessed to lead trump crow shortcomings over and over and over again.

That morning, lying on my mat; feeling the energy of everyone around me (which isn’t just yoga-speak; it really does happen); and, finally, walking into the sunshine after spending a where-did-that-hour-go? with Cindy, I felt lucky. And I felt grateful.

So for situations that make us doubt ourselves, and for the perspective they show us, and, yes, for crow pose, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

new crow

 

Saying thank you for feeling like Superman

supermansuperman

Let me preface this by saying, as I have before, that many people swim faster than I do, but I am a steady swimmer, which can make me look like a fast one. Let me add that I have good swims, and I have not-as-good swims. But the fact that I swim at all makes every swim good for the mere gratification of showing up. And sometimes showing up leads to my day brightening in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Last Sunday happened to be a good swim kinda day. I just kept going, basically because I could and because I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. When I finished, I showered and changed, as one tends to do after swimming. I noticed two women — mother and daughter, it turned out — by the mirror, putting on makeup and combing their hair. I asked the younger one if she was going to use the hair dryer, or if i could until she was ready.

“Oh, go ahead,” she said. “I’m not going to dry my hair.”

I thanked her and schlepped my bag onto the counter. Then she said, “You were the one swimming just now, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “That was me.”

“You are SUPERMAN!” she said. She turned to her mother and said something in a language I didn’t understand. The older woman smiled and began nodding her head vigorously.

I started to laugh. “You are so nice,” I said. “I don’t always swim like that. Today was just really good.”

“Well,” the younger woman said, gesturing toward her mother, “we loved watching you swim.” Her mother smiled and nodded again, and I couldn’t wipe that silly grin off my own face while I dried my hair and told them goodbye.

OK, call me a sucker for a compliment, but that little exchange made my day. Yes, because a stranger said something really, really nice about an activity I love doing. But it wasn’t just that; I learned a little lesson from those two minutes, too:

Namely, that if you have a nice thought, voice it — to a friend, a loved one, a person you may never have laid eyes on until now. You’ll feel better; the person you say it to will feel better. Who knows what kind of day they were having before? But you can pretty much guess what direction the next hours or minutes or even moment will take.

So for that extra and continued burst of energy…for strangers who see something in us we rarely see ourselves…and thus for feeling, even once in forever, like Superman…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for those first glorious steps

FullSizeRender(13)

Every run is different. You can wear the same clothes, tie the same shoes, pull on the same red knit cap, stick your fingers in the same double gloves as you did yesterday or last Tuesday or three weeks ago. But how you feel, how fast you go, how far you go will not ever be the same — despite thinking you have it all planned out.

Which is why each run is special, and why getting ready and contemplating those miles ahead can make you — well, a little giddy, even. So you go outside and turn on the GPS of your watch, and while it’s finding a satellite, maybe you jump up and down a little because the air is so cold and the wind so brisk.

That was my morning today. I wasn’t sure what to expect, only that I’d be running. I pushed the start button on my watch, and I took off. Before I’d gone even five steps, probably four, I knew this was going to be good.

I was right. It WAS good. Glorious, even. I ran three miles farther than what I’d set my minimum to be, two miles more than what I’d hoped, a mile longer than I’d even thought about.

So for the promise every run holds…for the preparation we do because at least some will serve us well…and for those first glorious steps…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

 

Saying thank you for Mom’s check marks

check

Every day on my drive to work, I call my mom.

“Good morning, good morning!” she always says. She asks what the weather is supposed to do, then reads me the temperature on the thermometer outside her window. She asks where I am on my commute, and what I’m working on.

On Monday, I told her about my story that would come out today, Tuesday.

“It’s about easy ways to get and stay healthy,” I say. “Sixteen from experts and 16 from me.”

“Oh, tell me one!” she says. “I love things like this.”

“Let me see,” I say. “Oh, here’s one: Eat an apple every day.”

“Well, I’ve always heard ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I guess it really is true,” she says.

“That’s what I’ve been reading,” I say.

“I’m going to try that,” she says. “Don’t tell me any more of the tips; let me just start with that one.”

“That’s a great idea!” I say. “You can do this.”

On my way to work today, I called her from the place on the highway where I always do.

“I’m just getting ready to read your story,” she says. “I can’t wait.”

“Oh,” I remember to ask, “did you get the apples?”

“Yes,” she says. “I bought four at Tom Thumb yesterday. Every day after I eat one, I’m going to put a check mark on my calendar.”

Her favorite apples are Macintosh, which I told her I was all but certain she could buy at Central Market. She was so happy to hear that, and said when the four apples she has are gone, that she’ll buy some  Macintosh.

I have no doubt she will buy those, and no doubt that by month’s end, her carefully penned check marks will fill the calendar on her kitchen wall. That’s just my mom.

So for apples, for mothers who believe in their children, and for my own mother’s check marks…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying thank you for in-sole surprises

money shoe

When I put on my shoes — old shoes, by the way, which I’d been planning to donate, but couldn’t seem to part ways with them — I felt something inside the left one, like paper. Had it felt like a rock or thumbtack or baby squirrel, I’m sure I’d have taken it off, turned it upside down and shaken it. But the object wasn’t enough to be annoying, so I headed out for my run.

Later, I went to the gym for a short swim, and when I took off my shoe, look what was there! A 10-dollar bill! Somewhere in the recesses of my recent memory, I vaguely remember losing — excuse me, misplacing — a 10-dollar bill, but had all but forgotten about it.

But then, voila! Here it was. To be quite honest, there it remains. I’ve yet to take it out and thus, yet to spend it. I will of course. Meanwhile, though, just knowing it’s there makes me smile.

So for the delightfully unexpected, for items we don’t quite remember losing but are happy to find, and for surprises stuck to the inner sole of a favorite pair of shoes…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for Starbucks

restrooms

This is not, needless to say, the sign you want to see when, for the last two miles of your run, you’ve had to go to the bathroom. But you’ve consoled yourself by focusing on what’s ahead; namely, the sturdy concrete toilet-containing building in the park that’s on your route.

And then you see the park, and the building and — WHAT?! Yes, the sign. Of course you try the door anyway because, though you could sort of see your breath when you started out, you can’t any more. So the temperature really isn’t freezing…is it?

But 32 degrees or not, the door was locked on my run this morning. Fortunately, a desperate glance across the street yielded this vision:

starbucksAh, it might as well have been a neon sign pointing to Atlantis, or to a castle in the sky, or to the end of a rainbow. I slipped in the back door; blessedly, the restroom was open. Moments later, I resumed my run.

So for unlocked bathrooms, for not being irritated at myself for needing to stop, and, above all, for Starbucks...The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for connections

breathe

This slogan, stenciled on the wall of Fit Yoga serves as a reminder that we’re all here together…where we need to be.

When I arrived on my yoga studio on Saturday and reached for my mat to carry inside, it wasn’t in the back seat. Then I remembered I’d left it on the floor the last time I went to class, which was um…before Christmas. So I dashed inside, and there it was…along with beloved instructor Jill Murawski and 14 other women — most of whom I knew, something that makes me exceptionally happy.

When I first started practicing (emphasis on that word) with Jill almost three (surely not four!) years ago, I knew no one in class. Now I feel this connection on varying levels to all of them. Some are just hello-insert-name-here. Cindy and I go to coffee with almost every Saturday, often joined by Karol and Brian. The four of us went to a play in December, which was oh-so-much fun.

When I needed a jacket to wear to a wedding last weekend, Cindy and Karol immediately offered several choices. A month or so ago, I had an 8:50 a.m. flight to Arkansas to visit my son; Karol and Brian both offered to give me a ride.

Twice now, Jill and I have run the Dallas Half Marathon together, which is such a wonderful memory (and now official tradition) to share.

Even if no one whose name I know is in class any given day, there’s still that connection thing. Be it with our mats, with the floor, with the air, with that  peace of being — as the sign on Jill’s wall attests — where we need to be…it’s there, and it matters.

So for branching out, for every breath, and for the connections created when the two of those combine…The Grateful Runner (who one day dreams of yoga-loosened hamstrings) says thank you.

Saying thank you for anticipation

striped sky

Each morning, each day, each beginning of a year, can feel pretty much the same as the one that came before. You open your eyes, you drink some water, you brush your teeth, you go to the bathroom. If you’re a morning runner (like I am) you might have your clothes laid out (which, in one of my few nods to organization, I do). You put them on and you go (or first you stall, which is what I do).

But of course not every morning or day or year is the same, which is comforting and scary; it’s what gets us up and gets us giddy and gets us peering into the future wondering what the  next minute or hour or day or year will bring.

No telling how anything will turn out. A run that starts strong may end up faltering. Those with clumsy first steps — I’m planning to go SIX MILES?! Yeah, right! — turn out to be among the smoothest and swiftest.

How will it all turn out? The next hour, the next day, the next year? The sky can’t tell us, but it can give hints — blue and gray and white striped reminders that life is a beautifully unpredictable layering of joy and sorrow, of giggles and groans, of magic and the mundane.

So for wonder, for possibility, for — on this first day of 2016 — the anticipation of each and moment, The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for chance locker room encounters

LA pool

The Grateful Runner is, by definition, a runner. But she — OK, I — also go to the gym periodically. I don’t use the weights there, and only once in the last year or so have I used the stair climber — a few Saturdays ago, for 15 minutes, when I left my swimsuit in the car and the water class was about to start, thus, eliminating my lap swim. (If you didn’t quite follow that, no worries; I tend toward the tangents at times, like just now).

All this to say that basically the only reason I go to the gym is to swim, which I did the day after Christmas. As I was getting dressed afterward, I saw a familiar face I hadn’t seen in awhile. We said hi and, because neither of us was in our usual hurry, we lingered a bit.

“How was your swim?” she asked.

“Really good,” I told her. “The water has felt so nice lately. Did you swim today?”

“Oh, I hardly ever swim,” she said. “I practice taekwando and mainly come here for weights. How far do you go, a mile each time?”

“Oh, heavens no,” I said. “Not that I’m a creature of habit or anything, but I like to go a mile on Sunday. Other days, it varies from 48 to 60 lengths.”

“Well, how far is a mile?” she asked.

“Seventy-two,” I said.

“Oh, that’s close enough,” she said. “I’d say you go a mile every time.”

That made us both laugh. We talked a few more minutes; she told me (but only when I happened to ask) that she’s a third-degree — THIRD DEGREE!! — black belt. She also mentioned an odd muscle pull she’s had for awhile that hurts when she stretches. I gave her my email address and said I’d do a little digging and see if I could find someone to give her professional advice beyond my limited capabilities.

We finally learned each other’s names. Isn’t it funny how you can talk to someone time and again and never ask? She stood to leave, and I needed to dry my hair. As she walked out, another woman stopped her; turns out, that woman has seen me walking my dog and then we exchanged names, too (our own and our dogs’).

And that was that. But it was more, really. as these things tend to be.

So for arriving certain places at certain times and thus, for chance locker-room encounters, the Grateful Runner — on this final day of 2015 — says thank you.