Before dawn I drifted in and out of consciousness and dreamed about the consequences I might suffer if I tried to squeeze in 2 hours of running on this very busy Christmas-prep day.  When I finally woke for real, I winced at the all-too familiar tingling in my extremities and my racing heart – anxiety.  It used to be the norm, but now I’d do just about anything to avoid that horrible uncomfortable feeling, including running 12 miles on a crazy Sunday.

I jumped out of bed, popped the attic stairs and grabbed all the meticulously stored Christmas crap I’d carefully put away from last year.  I strung the lights on our freshly cut tree, did two loads of laundry, and made something for my son to eat. 

And then… it was time.

It was gloomy and chilly with morning rain and a not-so-promising forecast for an afternoon of the same.  I dressed for the temperature, grabbed the first pair of running shoes I found in my closet, and headed out, armed with water, music, and a couple of new Hammer nutrition gels, including Banana – yummo.  This would be my longest run since the Philly marathon, since I’ve decided to take things a little bit easy this December.  I felt both guilty and nervous.

I had settled into my pace and stride by the time I left the ‘hood, and then I began the longish trek into the countryside.  I could feel the excitement build with the miles… the houses began to get further and further apart, and the air was filled with the aroma of real wood-burning fires.  My random music shuffle did not disappoint, with lots of Usher, Bon Jovi, and other favorite tunes.  Not much activity outside today, but the rain decided to take a little break, and I was grateful for that.

I chose one of my favorite routes.  My happiness factor was high, and it increased every mile, peaking around mile 10.  The hills thrilled.  The music was sexy.  My brain was busy.  And then it wasn’t.  That’s the very best part – when it finally shuts the hell up.

And I wonder, when I’m out there, why everyone in the world doesn’t run like this.  Why?  It feels so good.  If I can do it, anyone can.  I thought about Blue Eyes, and I wondered if he is still being faithful to his miles on the mill.  I thought about Mr. Nice Guy, and I wondered where in the world (literally) he was running today, and when would we run our first marathon together.  And I also thought about Coach, and I wondered if he’s begun to enjoy the outdoor runs yet.  It’s hard to get the motor going in 30 minutes – I want to convince him to try to go longer; I think he would love it like I do.  Maybe he just needs a motivating playlist.

I thought about sex.  I thought about not having sex.  I thought about marathons and men and Christmas and work.  I thought about parties and hairstyles and wine.  I thought about how much I love running.

At some point along the way my body, mind and spirit all synchronize perfectly and connect with my environment.  This countryside is so dear to me.  I feel like it’s mine.  I feel like I’m part of it – of the earth and the trees and the farmhouses and the beat-up roads.  Some parts I know intimately, and some parts are brand new, no matter how many times I’ve run the route.

Most of the Christmas decor is tasteful and simple out there – no blow-up Santas or flashing trash lights.  Simple white lights… huge homey wreaths on doors and barns… inviting candle lamps on all the window sills.  I love it.  (Then I come back to reality when I re-enter my neighborhood.  There’s no accounting for taste, especially at Christmas in New Jersey.  My tacky English neighbors are the very worst offenders; lucky me.  But I digress…)

Anyway, the run was great, and my anxiety subsided, at least for today.  Still lots to do, but since my Martha Stewart days disappeared when I became employed full-time, whatever gets done, gets done, however imperfectly.  The rest is irrelevant.

All those years of perfect Christmas cards were a fantasy, after all.  Now, I’m actually living the good life.

“Free at last, free at last.  I thank God I’m free at last.”  ~ J.W. Work

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