It was an incredibly hectic morning. Up early, I made my way down to the store to purchase some Thanksgiving goodies for dinner tonight. Here in Hawaii, “goodies” means poke: raw fish (or squid) marinated with a variety of seasonings. Onions, sea asparagus, shoyu, furikake, shiracha-hot mayo paste…the possibilities are endless. Surprisingly, when I got to the store, there was a line already formed outside the business as it technically wasn’t going to open for fifteen more minutes.
As I stood under the hot sun, debating which type of poke I was going to get, I started scrolling through my IG feed. After seeing a few cute dog pictures and baby photos, I happened upon a “search” photo of a sweat-drenched gal donned in tight Nike shorts and bright orange sports bra. Obviously she was quite “fit” as her svelte thighs and flat abdomen were shouted, “Yes!!! I run! I exercise! I am healthy!” Reading through her caption, I noticed that the shot was a post-race celebratory pic. Although this gal is not an endurance athlete, she participated in a Turkey Trot because, well, today is Turkey Day and she was going to eat ALL THE FOOD. Up at the crack of dawn, she raced through ten miles of brutal sun, the hard pavement creating blisters on her feet, and as she detailed in her post, when the race was complete and she was able to sit and stretch out her cramping legs, she thought, “Yes. I earned my carbs today.”
I stared at the image for a minute. And something in my heart broke a little.
It broke because I was that girl.
Twenty years ago I became addicted to long distance running, hitting the pavement hard everyday. Torrential rain wouldn’t stop me from putting in at least three miles because for some odd reason, three was a magic number.
Fifteen years ago I was still that addicted long distance runner, but now I also incorporated swimming and biking with my daily runs. I once remember running in weather so awful that rain had flooded the streets and was as high as my ankles. And yet I continued hitting the pavement hard. Ten miles in one swoop wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it felt like a warm-up, an easy running day.
Ten years ago I was still addicted to endurance events, but because I had spent so long hammering my body with miles on the road and little to no food fueling me, my joints ached, my period stopped, I could barely keep my eyes open at work, and all I dreamed about was food food food. And yet, I still garnered all the energy I could muster to run up Diamond Head, down Paki, making my way through Kahala to Kalanianaole Highway, turning around by the beach park, and then heading back up over the gigantic mountain to my car at Kapiolani Park.
It is a sad tale, one that breaks my heart when I think about all the hours I spent immersed in the addiction of running.
And when I think about it, what was I really running for? Obviously there were numerous underlying reasons–escape from family stress, escape from a failing relationship, escape from becoming an adult, escape from the fear that I wasn’t perfect or worthwhile–yet at the time, I failed to recognize those deep-seeded reasons. My purpose for running was so I could eat. In my starved brain, I determined that the more I exercised, the more miles I put in, the more time I spent on the road, all of those minutes and hours would carve out a “grace period” or cushion so that I could (potentially) eat the ice cream and brownies and steak and French fries I craved.
Of course, I never did eat those stuff. Because DUH it’d make me fat (can you hear the sarcasm dripping from my fingers????). And so when I saw the IG picture today of this seemingly healthy girl, the feeling of accomplishment displayed on her smiling face after running 10 miles for no reason other than she could then eat stuffing and candied yams, my heart broke. I recognize her. I know her. I know the insecurities she must feel, and I know the pain and anxiety and fear that is probably bubbling in her stomach as she approaches Thanksgiving dinner.
So on this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful. I am thankful that God showed me that life is more than mashed potatoes and miles and pumpkin pie and race pace. I am thankful that He revealed how empty my life was when all I thought about was if I had exercised enough to be able to eat a buttered roll with turkey or load my plate with more green bean casserole.
I am incredibly thankful that He has saved my life for a greater and more wonderful purpose. In a few minutes we are headed to my mother’s side for Thanksgiving lunch. I am going to eat the turkey. I am going to smother it was stuffing and gravy and cranberries and cornbake. I am going to talk with my relatives, laugh, eat more, hang out with the kids, laugh again, hug my husband, and enjoy the day.
I am going to bask in the joy of the Lord and His peace and fullness.
And for that, I am truly thankful.