I almost always have at least twobooks going at the same time. One typically stays on my nightstand or in my big brown chair at home. The other lives in my backpack (my town backpack, or book bag, that is) which sits in the front floorboard of my pickup when I’m not hauling it around. I started keeping a second book in my pick-up a long time ago, when my kids were young and I would sit reading, waiting for the end of soccer practice or dance class.
I do try to mix up my reading so I won’t get the two books confused, and also so I won’t get stuck in a rut. I won’t read too many hard books in a row, or too many spiritual books, or science books, or humor books. If I read the same category back to back to back I end up skimming more than reading. I want to give each book a fair reading.
But the strangest thing happened recently. My system got messed up. Both of my books were about distance and endurance. My home book was a memoir by Marshall Ulrich titled, “Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America.” Not only is Ulrich one of the world’s toughest endurance athletes, he might be near the top of lengthy book title writers.
My backpack book was another memoir, this one by Paul Stutzman, titled, “Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail.” Another long title.
For as long as I remember, I have enjoyed reading about epic life-changing journeys. I read enough of them that I feel obligated to tell Cyndi, “Don’t worry; I’m not going to try this myself.”
Not that the idea of running coast-to-coast or through-hiking the Appalachian Trail doesn’t sound appealing to me. They both do.
So where does this come from, I wonder? Why do I like adventure stories? Especially man-against-nature or man-against-distance stories? Why does the thought of epic journey sound so attractive?
I think it has something to do with the pursuit of vulnerability.
After all, we can’t test our own limits without putting ourselves in vulnerable, risky situations. We can’t know what we’re made of unless we have something to lose.
Maybe we don’t want to know what we’re made of, afraid to ask the question because we are scared. What if the answer is - you are weak, and a loser, and a quitter?
But merely being brave enough to ask the question, take on the risk, makes us stronger. A Through-Hiker who has to leave the trail due to injury or weather is still stronger than the wannabe sitting at home waiting for the perfect moment to try. Willingness to show up makes us a little braver each time.
The greatest adventures are often the simplest. Maybe even mundane. And they are laced with vulnerability.
Loving someone is uncertain and risky. Putting our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas, our music out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation is extremely vulnerable.
One of my current mundane adventures: I’m relearning how to run, nowadays. It’s my post-foot-surgery post-arthritis-diagnosis running phase.
I’ll admit that what I do is more hobble than elegant gait. And I’m not always comfortable doing it on public streets in front of friends and neighbors. For someone who writes about the joys of running as much as I do, for someone who had published a book titled, Running With God, I feel like I should be better at it.
People have even asked if I’m race walking now, so I work hard to have both feet off the ground at the same time … the defining distinction between walking and running.
But moving is important. I’m happy with small incremental gains, even gains that would have embarrassed me in the past. I’m pleased when my pace drops into the 14-minute range because I think I can do 13 next.
And if I can do 13s, then 10s, and then maybe even a 50K.
As I push my knees and learn how to handle the new sensations in my legs, the very activity seems to add value to life. It makes my heart happy. I end every run thanking God for his encouragement.
I’m just not ready to sit down yet. I hope there are lots more epic races in my future. Maybe even a long-distance trek.
What are your adventures? Is there something epic you dream of doing?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org