By Angie Mizzell
“It’s about living a fulfilling life. Not a perfect one.” The fitness instructor’s words pulsed through my ear buds as I sprinted down the sidewalk. I followed her cues as she pep-talked the virtual classroom of runners, the beat of the music guiding our steps and encouraging us to keep the pace. “Ten seconds,” she said. Then, we could slow down and walk.
I used to consider running a special kind of torture, but about a year ago, something clicked. Now, it has become a ritual of sorts. I don’t run every day, but it’s something I try to do at least once or twice a week because it leaves me feeling energized and grounds me in the present-tense moment of my life.
I’m 43 years old, and I often feel much younger than I am. And yet, I’m in this weird stage of life where I keep getting reminded that I’m not. The other day I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office and she was saying things like “midlife” and “menopause” and I was wondering how those words could apply to me. Didn’t she deliver my babies like, yesterday? They haven’t even been out of diapers that long.
Time is a tricky thing. Early in my adult life, I lived with the intense pressure that time was running out. After college, I worked in television newsrooms for nearly a decade, and every single day was a deadline — my fingers on the keyboard and my eyes on the clock. Some days I’d step in front of the camera literally seconds before I was live on the air.
I didn’t realize how this sense of urgency had seeped into other areas of my life until my husband got a job in Portland, Oregon, and I found myself unemployed and 3,000 miles away from home. The rapid pace of my life came to a full stop. A part of me welcomed the chance to take a breath. The other part of me couldn’t shake the belief that I needed to keep moving or get left behind.
One weekend, my husband and I took a drive to the wine country and stopped at a vineyard. As we stuck our noses in wine glasses and listened to the sommelier describe the pinot noir, I experienced a brief moment when I forgot to worry. Then, I had a thought: “Why don’t you let yourself be right here, right now?”
The moment was fleeting but the lesson stays with me. In fact, it’s one I learn over and over. Today, I’m still motivated by goals and deadlines, and I still struggle with the passing of time. There are so many things I want to do and experience and reconcile in this lifetime, and there are no guarantees. There’s no way of knowing if I’ll have time for it all.
Sometimes opportunities are missed. Sometimes we choose to let them go. Sometimes we set a goal and achieve it. Sometimes life takes us down a road we didn’t expect.
And yet, the fitness instructor who speaks to me through the iPhone running app is right: It’s about living a fulfilling life. Not a perfect one.
That’s why I’m drawn to running, because it constantly teaches me how to go at my own pace. It reminds me to honor wherever I happen to be — physically and mentally — that day. It teaches me to respect my limits and know when it’s time to give myself a break. In the next breath, it shows me that it’s OK to push myself because I’m stronger than I think.
For now, running’s the thing that helps me stay connected to the wise inner voice of mine, the one that teaches me to think less about the passing time. The voice that gently asks, “Why don’t you let yourself be right here, right now?”
Angie Mizzell is a contributing writer for Skirt. She’s also the co-founder of Charleston Storytellers, which directs and produces the “Listen To Your Mother” show. A former television news anchor and now a mom of three, Angie writes a personal blog about creating a life that feels like home. Connect with her at angiemizzell.com.