Running dreams are things I now deal with on a regular basis. I wake up, restless and foggy. The clouds in my mind dissipate and I remember – faintly, sometimes; powerfully, other times – an image or a feeling.
Maybe it’s me in my running shoes, standing on cracked asphalt, overwhelmed by a physical sense of depletion and defeat.
Maybe it’s the all too familiar, tingly feeling I get in my chest when I am about to reach my max threshold, but I look ahead and the crest of the hill is endlessly out of reach.
I am not there yet. I am not finished. I am not where I want to be. I’m in hell.
It’s not the best way to start the day.
In one of my most vivid running dreams, I am running in a marathon. It is hot, but not unbearably hot. I am in good shape and so proud of myself for completing the training. I start the race feeling strong. I am wearing the running gear that I wore for the 2016 Vermont City Marathon (the event that kicked off this blog). The runners start to spread out, as they always do in a marathon, but in this dream I think the people are all leaving me behind. Runners keep passing me, and the distance between me and the people in front of me keeps growing. The course becomes a series of rolling hills and my legs begin to give out. I am crawling up and jogging down the hills. My knees are pocked and pinched by the gravel on the asphalt. The road digs into my palms as well. It ends with me dragging my lifeless body up a hill. I want to rest my face on the pavement and close my eyes. I think, “If I do this, I could get run over. I could die here.” I am so, so weak.
Where is the dream in which I am flying down the center lane, barely touching the ground? Where is that dream? Where is the dream in which I am charging up a hill, my knees like powerful pistons, and I reach the top with energy to spare? I want to wake up to THAT dream.
One of the things I’ve learned in treatment for anxiety and depression is that my “monkey mind,” if left to its own devices, will take my fears and generate all kinds of thoughts and feelings THAT ARE NOT REAL OR BASED IN FACT. If I am having these nightmares in my sleep, you better believe these same doubts and fears are impacting my waking hours, too. Like a toddler walking a St. Bernard on a leash, I used to be helpless in the face of it and oblivious to my monkey mind’s power over me.
(Exhibit A. Reasonable toddler-with-leash to dog ratio.)
How anxiety producing for the dog, to be tied to a toddler wading in puddles, perhaps, or wandering into traffic.
Any dog owner knows that all dogs, no matter the breed, need to be taught how to behave in society and to obey on command. A dog looks to its owner for leadership. A dog is happier and more relaxed when it knows what to do in a given situation.
Fortunately, I am no toddler. The St. Bernard running amuck with my fears, dragging me after it, has fewer reasons to be alarmed these days. I take care of it, pay attention to it, but I do not cede control to it. It is not calling all the shots, not anymore. The St. Bernard in my head can do what a Dog does best, which is… take naps and sit for treats? I don’t know. The analogy has petered out. I hope you get the idea.
Now, to go burn that running gear from the 2016 Vermont City Marathon.
This actual, not metaphoric dog, is just chillin.
Have you learned to put your fears in their proper place?
When did you figure out that all of your thoughts are not real? Or are you still working on it? No shame. I was, like, 35 years old before I fully got it.
What kind of pet best characterizes YOUR brain? And is it leash trained?