Rachael Felicity Grace

Growing into love – body and soul

~ ~ Just before dawn ~ ~

moment-before-dawn

I sleep
To block out
The dark
I fear

But you
Gently wake me
Take my hand
Lead me
Down
Into the cool

It is the magic moment
Just before dawn
When the sky
Is no longer black
But not yet light
Holding
Just a promise
Of the day
To come

We stand
Watching the horizon
Waiting

For the splash of colour
The spark of hope

With you
I can wait
In the dark
Awake
Without fear

Beauty hidden in plain sight

Cold, sharp icicles unexpectedly radiate glory in the winter morning’s sun, transformed from mere frozen water – and sign of the season’s endless cycle of snow, melt, freeze – into a moment of brilliant beauty hidden in plain sight. “Those that have eyes to see…”

Icicles transformed

 

Earlier this morning, too, as we tramped our cold toes up the icy street, two unseen birds gave voice to the “call and response” pattern that will be in her music class test today. The shrill song and its companionable echo delighted us. As we listened, the two momentarily lost their rhythm and called once together, the chorus petering out in what seemed like a remarkably ‘human’ reaction of surprise or embarrassment! Laughing, we imagined both feathered creatures covering the offending beaks with a wing, before recovering their dignity and returning to their singing.

 

How many mornings we have likely missed this mundane matins, its beauty and its humour. What opened our ears to hear it today? What opened my eyes to see my neighbour’s icicles transcended?

Every day in my prayer of examen I ask for “light to see”. Sometimes the light comes with a flash of revelation and my ordinary day is ‘re-membered’, suddenly lit up with the glory and beauty that were always hidden there in plain sight, waiting for me to notice. But often there is no flash, no glorious transformation, and in my mind’s eye I see just the day’s monotonous tasks and me tramping through them with cold toes. But still I keep asking, keep praying, keep tramping. Though I wish the “lightning strike of inspiration or ecstasy that arcs by surprise into our souls from the fullness of God” (Brian McLaren) would find me more often, I trust that the simple act of pausing, asking, remembering, searching, noticing, is increasing my capacity to see and is slowly thawing my cold toes, cold heart.

Light isn’t always blinding or brilliant.

“Content thee, greedy heart” (George Herbert) with a gentle glow that lets you see the beauty in your daughter’s spreading smile, and the glory in your own simple act of making sure the toilet paper and soap never run out for the family.

The things that are always there can be so easily missed, passed over in my search for something more remarkable. But, truly, it IS remarkable to be alive this day. It is remarkable to be given another chance to love and be loved.

And I am grateful.

I’m grateful for the lightning strikes. They are gifts I will always long for and eagerly receive. But the gifts I am given each day, and every minute of each day, are the ones that really count and that, taking them for granted, I can be so blind to: “the priceless, quiet gift of well-being; the gentle habit of living deep and loving well.” (McLaren) So what I seek with my daily pause to remember, and in my living of each gift of a day, are the eyes to see the soft light that infuses every waking moment and every interaction. We are loved.

Things I wish I’d known sooner about knowing God

It’s always a privilege to get to share my thoughts and experiences with others – whether in a piece of writing or a talk – and always a significant journey for me to find out what it is I have to offer and want to share. This past week was no different as I prepared for and then shared a talk with my church community about “Things I wish I’d known sooner about knowing God.” Any form of sharing yourself often feels so vulnerable [“Will my imperfect but authentic offering be received, or be of any value to others?”] but is ultimately an important and rewarding exercise. So I might as well extend the vulnerability and share the podcast of the talk here as well, for anyone who is interested in listening to my thoughts about how we can hope to experientially know a God not present to our five senses, and what faculties need to be exercised instead to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ God. There were some great reflections and questions from the community afterwards too, but sadly those didn’t record, so all you get are mine! 🙂

Listen to the talk here.

And here’s a link to the radio interview I talk about.

 

Head_and_Imagination

Shape of my days | part two

Almost five months have passed since my first sharing of some end-of-day reflections in free verse; the practice has waxed and waned with the moon during that time; and I find myself wanting to share a few more with you.

I am interested by the wide range of topics I choose to write about at day’s end. It may be a happening or just a thought, a moment of joy or of failure, an event that is significant or mundane (or both) that captures my attention and demands to be written about. My writing, too, is often nondescript, though now and then I also enjoy the form my reflections take. (I share three of those here.)

Such is life: a grand mixture of ordinary and extraordinary, happy and painful, fully embodied or as yet unrealized. And this is the shape of our days.

 

Does the road lead

inexorably

to an awaiting destination

in which each trail of desire

sighing

finds its fulfillment at last?

Or are we all stumbling

fumbling our way

towards

wherever we happen

randomly

to end?

 

(Monday 5th January 2015)

 

 

Just sit still

(I tell myself)

Just hold her

Till the holding is done.

 

Yes, the clock is ticking

The day and its tasks await

But this

This moment

Is priceless, timeless.

 

So just hold

Still.

 

(Tuesday 13th January 2015)

 

 

I envy the unselfconscious presence of my cat,

The way she holds eye contact,

Responds so immediately to a touch,

And gives her warmth and weight fully

to my grateful lap.

Her uncomplicated presence awakens presence in me too.

For a fleeting moment

I am

body and soul

with her with me.

 

(Sunday 8th February 2015)

 

 

A girl and her cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit: www.shannonmayphotography.com

The Evolution of Tatty Bumpkin Soup

This evening I am alone awake at home, pottering in the kitchen with my girl sleeping straight above my head through the low-raftered ceiling. A pot of homemade chicken stock sits waiting to be used, and this time I plan not to wait too long and waste the nutritional gold dust. Though what I want is just to sit and do nothing, now is the time to pull two onions from the beautiful onion braid my friend Karen grew and wove, and chop them ready to sauté in coconut oil.

Yes. I will make Tatty Bumpkin (aka butternut squash) soup, Amélie’s favourite, and send a steaming thermos bowl with her to school, with buttered wholemeal bread, and some chunks of Cheddar cheese.

As I slide onion into stainless steel and root for the butternut in the basement, I’m remembering the story of this soup, the evolution of a dish through history, both personal and family. And I’m thinking how so many of the dishes I cook – you cook, we cook – have stories. Most often the stories are hidden, implicit, known only to the cook, or the family who sits to share the meal.

But wouldn’t you love to hear the story told by that simmering pot of chilli, or that particular variety of breakfast pancake, or that roast chicken?

If this soup I am making tonight could tell a story, what would it be?

The story would begin in South Africa’s Cape when the cook could barely be called a cook, being scarcely out of university and having rarely lived alone or cooked for herself; and when, though only passing through for a matter of months, she found herself entirely embraced by the church small group she joined. Such magnificent mothers there were in that group – wonderful women with big hearts and rounded bodies and full laughs, who had enough space in arms and heart to welcome me in, hear my story and love me so truly that I felt it. I remember braais, intimate singing, tears as I found courage to read a personal poem out loud for the first time, shoulder massages, and a lot of honesty and love and laughter. But all I remember of the meal we shared one evening are the lights of Cape Town’s incongruent suburbs and townships glittering below us, and the butternut squash soup that Melanie brought. You need to know that Melanie, being Afrikaans, was Mel-AR-nee, and that she was as beautiful and golden as the dish she set before us. It was the best soup I’d ever tasted.

Tatty Bumpkin Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next chapter: Just over a year later and I had left and then returned to the Cape, bringing with me seven young people eager to see the world and change it, and my co-leader Jeremy – already a close friend and quickly becoming more. If you walked along the seafront where my Granddad and I shared one of our only cherished outings, then turned your back on False Bay’s expanse of surf and white sand, left the colourful beach huts behind you, kept the mountain on your left, and continued walking through the paint-peeling buildings until tarmac turned to grass around the Zandvlei salt lake, and until the bridge had taken you over the stream where budding love was first confessed; well then you would find the two little camping bungalows where the nine of us lived for a couple of months.  It was here in a very basic kitchen that I first attempted my own butternut squash soup, inspired both by what I view as its place of genesis, and by maternal instinct awakening in the light of responsibility to care for and nurture this motley crew. I had no recipe, only a vague recollection of Melanie’s reassurance that it was a very simple soup to make, needing only sautéed onions, peeled and chopped butternut, broth and cream. Budget dictated that I augment the one squash we could afford with some potatoes, and circumstances made the process a little arduous as I attempted to peel and chop with a blunt knife, and to create a ‘smooth’ soup by mashing rather than blending. But the finished product, though not refined, was tasty, and a welcome change from bread and cheese for youngsters far from all that was familiar and longing for home comforts.

Fast forward a few years and my maternal instincts were blossoming and being challenged to the core by care of my own child. Pride in the very varied and balanced diet I managed to feed her in her first year of eating solid food, and absolute confidence that my nutritional knowledge and culinary skill would help me avoid the problems of fussy eating and repetitive meals that I’d observed and pitied in other families, had given way before long to other emotions: frustration at the foods that were rejected and the foods that weren’t as she and her independence grew, and a healthy humility about the limitations of my parenting ability, along with a modicum of despair and some unhealthy resignation. Yet in among the many foods that didn’t pass my rigorous dietary standards but that I acquiesced to serving nonetheless, a few stood out as beacons of moderate success and even future hope. Although she insisted on picking apart homemade pizza and eating each element separately, her favourite lunch consisted of wheat-free Scottish oatcakes with smoked mackerel and pickled beetroot. Surely this pointed to sophisticated tastes that would in time mature to include such things as water, carrots, egg, foods that touched, and – dare I even hope for it – quinoa?! Another dish that thankfully passed muster was butternut squash soup. I partially credit its acceptance to my clever ploy in naming it Tatty Bumpkin soup (after the lovable ragdoll character in a yoga and story-telling class we were attending together) and in making it for lunch straight after one of the classes. Ah, the lengths to which a desperate mother will go! Of course, if Tatty Bumpkin had been a soup containing ‘bits’ (Ew!), visible vegetables or, perish the thought, quinoa, then no name under the sun would have made it pass her lips. But I still like to give myself some recognition for my ingenuity, not least in evolving the word butternut into pumpkin and from there to Bumpkin!

Once it was established as a staple in our home, Tatty Bumpkin soup kept evolving as I continued to learn to cook, and discover more about the health-giving properties of various foods. Various fads have come and largely gone, such as always stirring in sour cream for the enzymes or sprinkling with toasted seeds for the crunch, protein and good fats. Yet after many experiments of mixed success, I have settled on a common variant that uses curry powder and sometimes garlic, sautéed along with onions, in coconut oil for its nutritional robustness and subtle taste complementary to the curry. With the butternut squash I sometimes add sweet potato and/or apple for a touch more sweetness, and often red lentils, which, if used in the right proportion, thicken and add protein without changing the flavour. Perhaps the most significant and successful evolution of this soup has been the use of coconut milk instead of cream, which not only avoids an over-reliance on dairy (though I love to add cream to other dishes!) but also once again pairs perfectly with the lightly curried seasoning. And, last but not least, although I sometimes use a concentrated bouillon paste when I need to, I came to understand the incredible health-giving nature of bone broths and make the soup with homemade chicken stock whenever possible. I used to marvel as my mother, no cookbook in sight, threw seemingly random ingredients into a stock pot containing the remains of our weekly Sunday roast chicken and produced a rich broth to fuel the week’s soups. But now, after years of consulting with my Delia Smith Bible, I too reach naturally for onion, carrot, celery, bay and peppercorns (sometimes leek, thyme, apple cider vinegar) to add to the chicken carcass and water, satisfied to create another nutritious meal from the leftovers of the last (by boiling it to death). My evolved soup is a little different from Melanie’s, but it is still smooth, nutty, golden, creamy and comforting. Try it! Since there’s no real ‘recipe’, you should be able to read between the lines above and create your own fragrant and unique potful.

That, then, is the story of the soup that’s simmering on my stove-top tonight, and as I write it I become aware that, among other things, it is a story of mothers – both biological and spiritual – and of mothering. Perhaps this should not be a great surprise, since soups have for centuries been mainstays of the meals created by mothers to nourish and comfort. This particular soup is a product of my own mothering, my urge to nurture my family with good food. But it is also a story that stretches back to my mother and to hers, and reconnects me with the beautiful band of South-African mothers who nurtured me so well, as well as with my own first faltering steps to nurture others through food and friendship. Mothering – whether of a ‘child’ of body or spirit – is an evolution in and of itself. I simultaneously love and hate who I have become by living in this daily crucible; the growth and challenge are staggering.

But the story isn’t over yet. The soup and I are still changing alongside each other. For one thing, the toddler days are nearly a decade behind us and Tatty Bumpkin is now mostly called plain old butternut squash soup, and for another I’m growing more particular about the spices I use and so the flavour is subtly shifting as well. As for me, I will inevitably continue to evolve as a mother and as a human, for good or ill. But since my soup, through all the “experiments of mixed success”, only gets better, I’m hoping the same will be true for me too!

All Things Bleak and Beautiful {Reflections on Darkness guest post}

This is turning out to be a very looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong winter, and I was happy to be given the chance to process some of my thoughts and feelings about the season, its challenges and gifts, in my guest post for the Reflections on Darkness blog curated by Brianna Kocka. Happy reading here (and happy winter-surviving!).

And to give you a bit of an idea just how much snow is out there right now, here is a picture of my back yard… and of a snowman we made before the BIG snow came… he is now rather buried so good luck spotting him!

Buried snowman winter 2015

Advent Two: Waiting with Mary

Well, I didn’t quite manage to get this up yesterday (just as I didn’t quite manage to make my advent wreath until the day after the first Sunday, and we aren’t quite managing to burn down our daily advent candle every day!), but shaking off some of that nasty perfectionism means doing the things I want to do late rather than not at all! So here is another prayer/poem I wrote a few years back after spending time with the story of Mary and Elizabeth in Luke ch. 1.

Again, this season carries within it such beautiful ways of helping us to wait for what we long for, and I can envision no better picture of what true waiting entails than pregnancy…

Mary and Elizabeth

 

We wait with Mary for Christ to be formed in us,

Daring to trust this hidden womb-weaving,

And treasuring the smallest signs of growth.

 

As Mary took heart to see

the wondrous swelling of Elizabeth’s belly,

So the burgeoning life of God we see in others

encourages us that this sacred life grows also in us.

 

More and more, we long to bring Christ into the world,

Though we know that pain and labour accompany the birth of new life

As surely as joy and wonder.

 

Groaning and waiting,

Pregnant with hope and desire,

We prepare today a place for your coming,

Son of Mary’s womb, and Christ of our own hearts.

 

Advent One: A prayer around the first advent candle

Tomorrow marks the beginning of one of my favourite seasons of the church calendar: advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

I love the symbolism of light and darkness inherent in this time of year. I love the invitation to long and wait for what is not, held by the promise that it is coming (which is what advent means in the Latin root). I love going out by the river with Amelie and cutting sprigs of evergreen, rosehips and other red twigs and berries to make our advent ‘wreath’, sticking them all into pieces of oasis studded with four unlit candles. And then I love lighting one more candle each Sunday – if we remember! – and seeing the light grow as we near Christmas.

Below is a simple prayer I wrote a few years back for the lighting of the first advent candle. Please use it with your family if you like it! And, you never know, I might even manage to post some more prayers for future advent Sundays…

 

First advent candle

 

As our nights grow longer and our days grow shorter,

as winter stretches ahead of us and warm days seem so far away,

we look on these evergreen branches as signs of the spring that will come

and on this candle as a symbol of the light we long for.

 

In these dark days, we wait for the light of Christmas,

Jesus Christ, who is Light and Hope.

We look for his light to come again into the dark places of our world,

into the shadows of our own hearts and lives,

and we say:

Come, thou long-expected Jesus.

We wait for you in darkness

and we long for your light to brighten our way

and lead us into life and truth.

 

Amen.

Shape of my days | part one

Exactly a month ago today I started a new daily practice (inspired by a poetry reading by Brian Bartlett from his new book of days) which combines both an evening examen prayer and a short piece of writing at the end of every day. It is helping me get out of the rut of not writing, and is also giving me a manageable and energizing way to reflect on my day. I’ve decided to occasionally share a few of these short pieces of (poetic) prose here, giving you some windows onto the shape of my days.

 

The trees have choreographed this display,

arranging their contrasting colours to best advantage,

and letting each leaf go in turn,

in time,

making the sidewalk a golden work of art.

I hope to approach today’s failures and triumphs with similar grace.

 

(Friday 17th October 2014)

 

 

I am bone-marrow tired tonight

after a day not my best.evening-examen

I present my best to some

but less often to my dearest ones.

I am tired of myself,

my time-wasting habits,

my knee-jerk reactions.

Rain falls fresh outside

and now I will sleep towards

a fresh day

and its fresh starts.

 

(Tuesday 21st October 2014)

 

 

Your rainbow colours lie folded in a bag,

waiting to shine,

but you are nervous and self-conscious.

On the ride to school I suggest method acting,

channelling the rainbow.

You promptly adopt a light, impish tone and

once out of the car you turn

and say with a smile,

“Mummy, let your true colours shine!”

 

(Friday 31st October 2014)

 

 

I run alone

I run alone.

I run alone not because I am so fast that no-one can keep up. Nor because I run so far that others would give up and go home while I purposefully forged on.  Nor to be alone with my brooding thoughts. No, I run alone because if I run with anyone else the nasty voices in my head get so loud that it’s me who gives up!

Now, you should understand that the voices begin before I have even left the house. While I am still lying in bed, a myriad of reasons not to jog today run through my conflicted mind. It might be the rain I hear on the roof, the heat I sense through the still-closed shutters, the ache in my side, the tiredness in my limbs, the time on the clock, the dread in my heart… But there’s always something. However, I (almost) always win this first battle and – motivated by the commitment I made to myself about two years ago to exercise at least twice a week all year round, and by the fact that I have to shower anyway so I might as well get really sweaty first! – I just get up and get those exercise clothes on. End of round one. Rachael 1 – Voices 0.

I like my exercise clothes and this helps. I used to jog in nasty saggy, greying tracksuit pants and an over-sized T-shirt, until I realized they made me feel saggy, greying and over-sized too! But in these ones I feel a little more “lean and mean”, and my running shoes make me feel bouncy and athletic. This tricks me into opening the door and starting off down the hill as if I am in fact a lean, mean athlete.  End of round two: Rachael 2 – Voices 0.

Do you think the first 500m could be considered long enough to constitute Round Three? Because, you see, for most of this initial stretch I feel fit as a fiddle, strong as an ox, fast as lightning. I could run a marathon, I tell you!

But then, all of a sudden, I feel like I am going to die.

I have friends who can’t get enough of running and would voluntarily run for hours a day if schedules would allow; I consider them a little insane. That is not me. My own brand of insanity may lie in the fact that, two to three times a week, I voluntarily put myself at death’s door. You may have gathered by now that I do not exactly enjoy the act of jogging in and of itself. I do NOT feel good while I am doing it. My heart is pumping hard enough to jump out of my chest into the river, my breath is ragged, and I am seriously overheating, losing gallons of fluid via perspiration. So why do I do it? (I hear you ask… and the Voices scream!)  I do it because I need to exercise, because it grounds me to get outside to exercise, and because jogging is free and doesn’t take as long as walking. All of these factors help me fulfill my commitment to myself. As does the fact that I jog alone.

You see, I made the mistake many years ago of trying to jog with a friend but she 1) tried to hold a conversation with me (not going to happen while one’s lungs are about to burst!), 2) made it look so effortless that I just knew there was no point me even trying, and 3) set a pace I was convinced I could never keep up with, so that I soon gave in to the stitch in my side and said I just had to stop (*gasp*) couldn’t go on (*wheeze*). And then I didn’t go out jogging with that friend again. Rachael 0 – Voices 1.

However, some time later, when I tried to jog again (on my own!) I found that I could keep going by setting myself manageable goals. Just as far as that tree, that house, that bridge. I would run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit, walk a bit, each time a little further, until I was running the whole route. And because nobody else was with me – trying to talk, making it look effortless, going too fast! – I could silence the Voices when they said I couldn’t do it. I could fight the Voices back: “Yes, I feel like I’m going to die, but I’m not; I’ve run this far many times before and I can run this far again… and further!” Rachael 1 – Voices 0.

It seems that running alone had helped me tap into my own desire for self-improvement, rather than the perfectionism that can simultaneously drive and hold me back. Here’s the brilliant Brené Brown on the difference:

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. […] Healthy striving is self-focused – How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused – What will they think? […] Research shows that perfectionism hampers success.” (The Gifts of Imperfection, p. 56)

Running alone, perfectionism can still creep in when the Voices present me with imaginations of how I look to others (this can vacillate between the lean, mean athlete and a pathetic, stumbling blob) but because this is not my main motivation I can dismiss them and claim the truth: I am just me, out jogging, for me.

Though we all have Voices that we battle in various ways, I truly hope that no-one has Voices as persistently opposed to physical exertion and discomfort as mine! Perhaps they took root through the lack of co-ordination and physical self-consciousness of my youth. From around age eight I recall consistently being the last one chosen for sports teams, the one who couldn’t pick up the dance moves as fast as others, and the one who would walk most of the cross-country trail. I know my tendency to give up when it felt bad constitutes a weakness of character, but it was definitely fueled by a genuine fear of discomfort and pain, lack of understanding that what I was feeling was not out of the ordinary, and no reason good enough to motivate me to push past my body’s initial limitations.

Those reasons only really came to me in my early thirties with a postpartum body that needed a little extra attention to stay looking and feeling healthy. My previously rather narrow worldview had also recently expanded to allow ‘physical’ rather than only ‘spiritual’ things to have value (as if life can be so crudely categorized!), and so I was flexing many new muscles – seen and unseen – to identify what might be possible for me, what I might want and deem important. I can assure you from one such experiment that rappelling down a skyscraper for charity may be possible for me but is definitely not something I want or deem important… and the fact that even strangers were shouting their encouragement that I move at faster than a petrified snail’s pace only confirmed my own conviction, formed the moment I reached the top of the building! But jogging was an experiment that did work for me, and that I maintained three times a week for over a year.

But, as Brené Brown’s work emphasizes, it’s hard to maintain any kind of physical self-care long-term if your motivation is wonky; if you exercise (or eat or don’t eat) predominantly to try and change a body shape you hate then it’s easy to get thrown off-track by lack of the desired results, or a change in life schedule, or The Voices (since they are fueled by self-hatred)! Moving continents, coupled with a modicum of spiritual and existential crisis, put looking after my body on the back burner for a few years (something’s gotta give in life, folks!). However, a significant shift came for me when I decided to exercise primarily for my health (which includes but is not limited to weight and body shape) and as an act of self-love. That my motivation had actually changed was borne out by the fact that my weight and body shape changed little in almost two years of regular exercise. But I was caring for myself, and feeling stronger and healthier, and so I didn’t stop, and still haven’t. Rachael 100 – Voices 0!

Interestingly, after a change in eating habits earlier this year, my consequent change in weight and shape have made exercise easier, and even more rewarding. So, a few months ago, I decided to try jogging again – still alone, but this time with no walking, just running as far as I could without dying, and trying to keep extending the distance each time. Seeing as 500m feels like a marathon to me, eventually reaching 3km was already a great achievement, but then I decided to work up to 5km. The problem was that after the 3km mark came a massive hill slight upward slope that started the Voices screaming. However, they hadn’t bargained with the fact that, on the way back from the 2.5km mark, I would get the gift of running DOWN that same mountain! Granted, by that point I felt – and probably looked – like an elderly woman shuffling to the shops in her bedroom slippers. But though my legs were gelatinous and my arms felt a little unruly, I was still moving. Rachael 3 – Voices 0.

Then, as I ran home feeling triumphant on this, my first ever 5km jog, the most dreadful thought crossed my mind: Now that I had run this far once, I’d have to do it every bless-ed time! There was no getting around it; it’s just how I beat the Voices. So that week I ran a total of 15km. It felt bad. And it felt really, really good. Some weeks and numerous 5k jogs later, I can’t say I feel much better during each run, but I do feel stronger, I love how it feels afterwards, and I even look forward to the next time! My own self-concept is gradually being rescued from the limiting beliefs about myself developed in my awkward youth and reinforced over years of perfectionism. I am not an unphysical or clumsy person. I have discovered in my dance and yoga classes, too, that I do possess strength, poise and coordination, and that I actually enjoy moving and challenging my body.

I guess the secret that folks who are not allergic to exercise have always known and just never let me in on is this: It’s OK to feel uncomfortable! It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me or my body. It doesn’t in actual fact mean I am going to die. It doesn’t mean I can’t do the thing I have set my mind to do. It just means I feel uncomfortable. I feel this way because I am actually exerting myself and stretching my body past its usual limits! This is good. It’s good for my body, and it’s also good for my soul. Because it isn’t only my heart, lungs, quads and hamstrings that are being exercised, but also my mind. Persevering physically is teaching me to exert myself in other ways as well. As a recent Enneagram thought of the day wisely advised me: “Today, stop giving energy to your self-defeating attitudes, by saying to yourself: I now release feeling that most things are just too much trouble.” (Enneagram Transformations, 108)

I AM releasing that feeling. I am running.

It’s trouble. But it’s not too much trouble.

So if you see me out on the river path one of these beautiful, brisk autumn mornings, please wave and smile, or even cheer me on. I will be happy to use some of my laboured and limited breath to greet you too. But please don’t try to run with me. It’s not personal. It’s just that, although the Voices are definitely feeling the heat of being beaten so many times, the battle is still on and, until it’s won, I run alone.

 

Running alone