Water, God, and the Perfect Handstand

by Carilyn on July 13, 2014


As much as I love to run, my moments of perfection are usually in the water. The ocean. The pool.

When I am in Los Angeles, I swim at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, the site of the 1984 Olympics, and when I am in El Paso, I swim in my backyard. I love both equally. Swimming in LA is serious business – people don’t appreciate someone doing back handsprings and acting like a mermaid in their swim lane – and swimming in El Paso is a little more The Graduate-ish.

First, I jump in. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing: running togs, my pajamas, or occasionally, an actual bathing suit. You see, I never really plan my plunges. I usually get a glimpse of the pool, and like some strange Svengali, it lures me out and before I know it, I’m 15 feet underwater pretending I’m a deep sea diver. Yes, I know I’m 46 years old, but my inner swimmer doesn’t seem to care. My inner swimmer appears to be about 6.

Yesterday, I finished a 10 miler on the treadmill. Nothing special. But then I went into the kitchen for a glass of water, found myself staring at the clear white-blue rectangle, and started moving out before I’d even finished my drink. I was a sonambulist, only to be awoken after I had leapt and plunged.

Yes, I know it is weird.

After a half hour of “flomping around” (the official term for diving to the bottom repeatedly, doing back handsprings and handstands, jumping up and down in the shallow end), I pulled myself up onto a raft. As I lay on my stomach, the sun baking the backs of my legs, the gentle motion of the water lulling me into a semi-coma, the only thought I could form was, “This is what perfection feels like.”

And I felt very lucky.

In my obsessive watching of documentaries, I find myself drawn to people who do anything passionately – crossword puzzles, video game building, clogging. Whatever. To me, there is nothing more fascinating than watching someone fully immersed, fully engaged. It is God personified, to me. It is God showing up and making himself known in another’s pure joy. And it makes me joyful – even if I don’t find my own joy in crossword puzzles (I’m not smart enough), video gaming (I’m too old to understand); clogging (I’m…not a clogger). I see others’ joy and I feel joy.

But when I’m in the water, I feel my own pure joy, God showing up for me.


Running Away Should Be Mandatory

by Carilyn on July 2, 2014


Coming back to Texas always requires a little bit of “re-entry” readjustment. The heat. The altitude. The busy-ness. It always takes me a couple of weeks to acclimate. I have to reorganize my training and my schedule. I have to reorganize my brain.

In LA, I’m pretty much on my own during the week. My kids are in school all day, so I work, train and cook according to when and how things need to get done. My days are ruled by my kids’ schedules, my deadlines, and my self-determined training program.

In Texas, all of this goes out the window. My kids are out of school for the summer. My running group meets at 5:30 in the morning, often many miles from my house, necessitating me getting up at 4:30 if I want to run with them. We’ve had houseguests and visitors nonstop for two weeks. A lot of my family lives here so there are many, many dinners, lunches and parties to attend, often meaning that I am up way past my 9:00 bedtime. I have people I need to see, and business, and people, I need to take care of. Basically, life is just much busier and much more hectic because I am not in complete control.

I like control. No, I LOVE control. I like to decide what I am doing and when I am doing it. And if I had my druthers, I’d want to control what you are doing, too. But for some strange reason, in Texas, this is not how things work. I’m having to work with people and around other people’s schedules. Harumph. And I’m finding out that I’m not very good at it. It makes me grumpy to be a “team player” and “agreeable”. It makes me want to run away.

“I’m not sure why you’re surprised by this,” Tim said when I started complaining.

“Because I think of myself as such a nice person,” I said. “I like people. I love being around people. But since I’ve been home, I have felt very stabby.”

“Hopefully not while I’m asleep,” he said, eyeing me with that slight bit of wariness he gets when I talk about such things.

This morning, in an attempt to get some solitude and reestablish my equilibrium, I went up to the river to run. The first half hour was a little tough, my sea level lungs struggled and I became convinced I was getting third degree burns in the 100 degree temps. But, eventually, I found my rhythm and forgot about the heat and lack of oxygen. I ran for another hour and a half before eventually deciding that heat stroke and dehydration would definitely make me more stabby and decided to head back home.

And it was perfect. Actually, it was medicinal. It was exactly what my brain and body needed, just like most runs are. It was two hours of that feeling you wish you could bottle up and hand out to everyone around because you know that if the whole world ran and felt that feeling, we would have a lot less stabbiness. We might even have peace.

When I got home there were seven messages waiting for me, all urgent (aren’t they all?), but I remained calm. I returned all of them without feeling resentful or irritated. My schedule would be shot for the day, my control out the window, but I didn’t want to cause anyone bodily harm. The river, and the run, had worked their magic, just like they always do.

I’m not good at “surrendering” like all the self-help gurus implore, but I am good at running away when I need to – and sometimes that’s all you need.



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