I have written before about one of my favorite races, CJ’S Resolution Challenge. (And I will soon write about it again in an upcoming race report.)
CJ’s is a timed race. This means there is no set distance. Instead, runners run for a certain amount of time to see how far we can travel. In this race, the time interval is three hours.
The race is typically held on the first Saturday in January, but this year our state was under strict pandemic-related guidelines at that time. Gatherings larger than 25 people, even outdoors, were not allowed. When the governor relaxed the rules so a maximum of 250 people were allowed to gather outside, CJ’s was back on the docket for the end of January.
The day of the race dawned cold and windy. No surprise there for mid-state Pennsylvania in January. What was a surprise were the snow-covered trails. Where I live, some 100 miles south and east of the race location, snow cover was nonexistent.
My husband and I ran for three hours in cold, windy conditions on snow and ice for a total of just over16 miles.
At the end of the race, if you would have asked me how I felt, my response would have been “empty“.
Yes, I was hungry after the race. The hot soup dished up by hardy volunteers was exactly what I needed. I gratefully sat in the car and sipped the salty bean soup. Numbness gradually receded from my fingers and the nourishing warm broth slowly filled my empty belly.
The emptiness I initially felt, however, was more than physical emptiness. It was not something that could be filled with hot soup.
Running for long distances tends to pare your soul to the bone. It scrubs you clean and empties you out, emotionally speaking.
That’s one of the reasons I love running so much.
When people hear I am a runner, I am often asked if I have ever experienced the fabled “runner’s high“. My response? Maybe? I don’t know.
There have been times when I felt as if I could run forever. Like running is effortless, and I can glide along, perpetually three inches above the pavement. There have also been times when I slog it out, each step a battle. Times when I glance at my watch to see how many miles have passed since the last time I looked, only to discover a mere quarter of a mile has gone by.
But an actual runner’s high? I don’t know what that feels like.
I just feel empty after a hard run, and that is the best feeling I can imagine.
Emptiness is New Year’s Day, a blank canvas, a white piece of paper, an empty bowl, and a newborn baby all rolled into one. The emptiness is brimming with possibilities, and I want nothing more than possibilities.
We live lives that are full, so full. If I am not careful, my life becomes consumed with busyness, even in retirement.
There are grandchildren to watch, volunteer duties with Meals on Wheels to complete, online yoga classes to attend, a house to keep, groceries to buy, posts to write, and on, and on, and on…
I watch the news because I want to be informed. I scroll social media because, you know, the blog. When I first started this blog, I was advised to have a social media presence, which I now feel obligated to maintain.
But my word of the year is “empty“. And I crave “empty“. “Empty” is my goal.
How do I reconcile all that busyness with my word?
If I am already filled with industry, how will I find room for the good stuff? How will I discover serenity, graciousness, laughter? If I am dedicated to productivity, how can I be filled with contemplation? How do I make space for passion, peace, or humility? How can I be filled with joy?
If I am living my life through clenched teeth, how can I find the capacity for love?
A grueling run allows me to push the reset button, to rid myself of the perpetual buzz that fills me with the inconsequential, to make room for the momentous.
Emptiness is not something to be overcome; it is something to be sought. Emptiness is opportunity, purity, fortuity, freedom. It is a space to be filled with abundance. A vessel is useful precisely because it is empty.
According to Saint John of the Cross, “One must encounter a vast inner void.” It is time to embrace that void and all of the possibilities it portends.
It is time to welcome emptiness.
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