Yesterday, in an attempt to shake morning sluggishness and distract myself from missing my parents — these visits go by way too fast — I decided to run some hill repeats.
My first ascent was, unsurprisingly, adrenaline-charged and a tad too eager. Panting at the top of the hill, I reminded myself that I wasn’t done. The second ascent, in sharp contrast, was lackluster and unfocused. Apparently, my sluggishness was not to be shaken so easily.
Trotting slowly back down the hill for #3, I tried to come up with motivational tactics. It didn’t work; my mind wandered. I thought of my parents, who were at that moment driving up to Colorado for a visit with my sister and her husband. I thought of my sister, who’s in the home stretch of her first season as a middle school cross-country coach (and doing fabulously). I thought of my brother and sister-in-law in California, who are getting ready to welcome their second child into the world.
When I swatted the street sign signifying the start of my next repeat, it may as well have been a swat to my own head. Motivation? Duh. Family!
For each of the rest of my hill repeats, I concentrated on one family member. I pumped my arms and legs for them; I prayed for them; on their behalf, I gulped air and swiped errant drool off of my chin. I can’t say the last few repeats were any prettier than the first, but they sure felt better.
We talk about the connection to our families in a variety of ways: as “family ties,” “coils,” “tentacles,” and plenty of even less flattering metaphors. All of them illustrate the power of family to pull us in and keep us close. They illustrate the difficulty, or utter inability, we have in completely breaking free of our families.
But what about the other end of those coils?
Sure, ropes and cords can be used to capture, snare, control, and punish. We can look at them and shudder, or fight them, or bolt from them.
They can also be used for good. They can be used to reinforce, extend, connect — and free! Think about bungee cords: people go bungee-jumping all the time. The cord is simultaneously the means to safety and thrilling adventure. Think about hot air balloons: ropes and lines keep the balloon steady on the ground, but ropes and lines also hold the balloon together, enabling us to have the breath-taking experience of floating in the sky.
We can look at our family ties as a rope that controls, or a rope that enables. When we’re with family, especially the family members who have known us all our lives, we can’t hide from who we are. NOT always a pleasant thought. But the ties are also there to strengthen. They’re bungees, to let you have adventure and security. They’re hot air balloon lines, to give you stability and help you fly. They’re lifelines, to pull your thoughts away from yourself for the length of a workout, or to pull your days away from wearisome routine for the length of a visit, or to pull your life away from bad habits for the length of, well, a life.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take mine double-knotted.