I was on the Stair Master, sweating out stress I've accumulated for months, reminding my muscles how to work hard going nowhere on a machine, blasting Florence and the Machine through my ear buds, flipping through a magazine.
I was overstimulating myself into relaxing. It's a trick I play while I work out. If my mind is too quiet, I focus on each second that passes, each eighth of a mile I tick off. If there's music and magazines and maybe even the television, my mind eases into celebrity gossip and my body just does its work.
On this day, relaxing into my exercise was important. It has been an incredibly hard month and an especially dramatic week. I was using the Stair Master -- and baths and scrambled eggs and matzo ball soup and folding laundry -- in the same ways I use other modes of overstimulation. To let (my thoughts) go and (my legs, the stress) work itself out.
I climbed floor after floor on the stair treadmill. I imagined I was nearing the top of the Sears Tower as I flipped through recipes and deodorant comparisons and an interview with Kelly Ripa. Then there, right there on the very last page of the old SELF magazine I was skimming while I exercised, was something that fueled my carefully un-focused mind.
It was a small paragraph in a section called "A moment for yourself." Page 118.
Be a hill seeker
Most of us try to avoid hills, but what's so good about flat? Think about it: flat tires, flat hair, flat returns and - the ultimate - flatlining. Life happens on the hills. They're opportunities to prove to yourself that you're stronger than you ever imagined. If you never attempt the ascent, you'll never know the thrill of swooshing down the other side.
Of course, it's magazine-speak: your cheery girlfriend's cheery text that makes you cringe a little and also tear up at the sweetness and good intention. That doesn't matter, though. Just like that text (we've all gotten them at some point, right?), it spoke to me.
The Not Boyfriend, in his Buddhist ways spoken softly into the Skype screen with one raised eyebrow that always triggers my instinct to pull out a pen and take notes, reminds me often, "The obstacle is the journey."
In my own church, the congregation's voices rose up during Ash Wednesday services, saying also: Do not let us be so burdened by the pain of today that we lose faith in the glory that shall be revealed tomorrow.
All these words came to be in different ways but they are all on the same page. All telling me keep climbing. Each hill is its own exercise. Pumping blood, flexing muscles, shedding stresses, easing mind.
Stealing magazine and tucking that one centering page into the pocket of my purse.