Change is gradual. Until it's sudden. All my life I have been athletic. I started swimming competitively when I was five and practiced multiple times a week until I was 17. By that time I was fully identified as a good swimmer, a really good swimmer, sometimes a great swimmer. When I went to college, I stopped practicing. I was tired of swimming, tired of competing, tired of being "a swimmer." I gave up that feeling of being proficient, good at something for smoking cigarettes and eating bad dorm food. During my sophomore year in college I moved off campus. Occasionally I would visit the pool at my university and attempt a workout from the olden days, but it was always unsatisfying. I wasn't really a swimmer any more. I didn't fit with the competitive bodies still actively participating in my old sport. I was an outsider.
Despite my attempt at a new identity- "smoking, quad-sitting co-ed", my body still craved exercise. So, I ran. I ran in the park near my new apartment off campus. I never ran very far, and I was inconsistent. After my daughter Lucia was born I inherited a baby jogger and I forged a plan to run off my baby bulge by running a half-marathon. I ran, but not that far. During that period in college and post part, I lost patience with how hard it was to improve. After having been so strong at another sport, I couldn't abide the pace it was taking to improve. I never got to the point where I was when I was a swimmer. That was twenty-five years ago and, in fits and starts I have always run a little bit at different stages of my life.
When I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 1994, I felt fulfilled physically. And I became more nourished mentally and emotionally than I ever was as a swimmer. In the last five years, for myriad reasons, I started running again--- a group of friends and I wanted to do a triathlon, I wanted to be outside more, my friend Kate invited me to run with her. At first my running felt very much like it had during college or after Lucia was born-- half-baked and noncommittal. But then after a few years, I started noticing that running felt easier, more fun. I set some goals, I made some personal distance records, and I kept going. After all these years, I was finally noticing some change.
Last week my running buddy Kate and I went for a run to the lake. It was 28 degrees out and windy. We set out for our six-mile loop through and around Seward Park, eyes watering from the cold and wind. "I actually feel like a runner." I said to Kate, "When we started running before the triathlon, I never thought it would feel like this." Kate squeeled in agreement , "IIIIIII know!" It can take years, decades, a lifetime for a body to change, a mind to change, a life to change. And then, in one joyous moment, you notice it. Change is gradual. Until it's sudden.