As a distance runner, I have a lot of time to think. As a mental distance runner, I have a lot of opportunity to distract myself from the sometimes boredom, and the often pain of a long run. I have found the best mind games are when I create really intricate stories in my head and think through every detail including conversations with various characters. For example, I once imagined I met Peyton Manning on my run and spent the next 4 miles creating dialogue we’d have and stories I would share. I have also thought very specifically through the scenarios of:
–Me getting shot and driving myself to the hospital
–Saving a child from oncoming traffic
–And more times than I can count, I have thought about what if I had been at the finish line just 30 minutes after I left it in Boston, 2013.
I have a detailed imagination and when it serves me (like running) I can distract myself better than most. (Other times, like when trying to sleep or paying attention to a lecture, this daydreaming is not my friend).
Where am I going with this? Hang tight, my children.
Yesterday, as I was running 20 miles and trying to let my mind wander away from the fact that my breath seemed shallow and my hips didn’t lie, I came up with this blog post. So, without further ado….
ON MY MIND, by Meggie Dials
What are the things you think about every single day? Sure getting dressed, brushing your teeth, getting in your car, eating, sleeping, your kids, your pets, your spouse would all qualify for this question. But what I am asking about are the people, the situations, the scenarios and the issues that plague your mind every single day without convenience – for good or for bad. Not the things that are forced into your daily view and therefore you think about them, but the things that take effort for you to bring to mind. Or the things that are so panoptic that you can’t avoid thinking about them. Here is the non inclusive list I came up with:
- Running. Every single day I think about running. When will I get a run in? How do my legs feel? If I don’t run, I guilt myself the rest of the day for not running. Running is as much a part of my every day as any other topic.
- Crossfit. Though I have decreased my frequency in doing cf in the past few months, I still think about the gym, our community and the workouts every day. I check to see what the WOD is each day, I follow along with my gymmates’ progress and even though I am a little further removed from the 6x a week girl I used to be, I still flex my arms every day to make sure the muscle is still there.
- Weight. Every day, multiple times a day, I think about my weight. I run my palm over my stomach to see if I can feel any fluctuations, negative or positive. I question what I eat for every meal based on how I feel about my weight that day. I always wish to be thinner but some days I catch just the right angle in the mirror and I calm my anxiety and internally commend myself for the work and progress that’s been made over many years. And on the good days, I say out loud “Damn girl, you look good” and I wish so much I had more of those days.
- My dad’s health. Every day I think about his sickness and every time I do, I push it back into that dark place. The one in your head where you know it exists but you try so very hard to pretend it doesn’t so that it won’t turn your every emotion into a sadness that you’re not sure you’ll ever get out from underneath.
- There are others – people that I think about every day. The ones, like Dan, who I know I will talk with almost every day because wouldn’t it be weird if we didn’t? And the ones like Nathan who I described as “my water” when I gave a toast at his rehearsal dinner last month. I am lucky to have many people in my life that occupy such a pleasant and wonderful place in my brain and this post is a reminder that I need to not just think about them, but to also convey to them their importance in my life. I won’t mention them all here but #blessed.
- What’s next? Though my life is 76% planned until mid-November, that never stops me from asking myself every day what’s next? What will I do post-marathon? What travel do I have scheduled for December? What new adventure do I need to go on? What is the next party I will plan? The next organization I will get involved in? The next movie I want to see? I live for excitement and know well enough that if I don’t plan it, it may not exist. So planning I do. Always.
- Kids. I don’t know if I want kids but if you don’t bring it up (which is rare – I get the question multiple times a week), don’t worry, I will ask myself. I am at that age where I guess I should be feeling eggs rot or at least be concerned with that dreadful “35 years old and high risk pregnancies.” But the weird part is, I don’t care about age at all, that’s not what drives my thoughts each day. It’s when I see a little blonde girl, like I did this morning, walking like a baby deer does when it first discovers its legs and I want to straight.up.steal.her. Or, conversely, when I hear that some of our friends are going to sit at home on a Sunday and watch cartoons. One experience is a +1 for having kids and the next is a -1. I can’t seem to find a running pattern so instead of acting, I just think. And everyday it’s a conversation in my head with no conclusion – like a room full of arrogant sales people who all just want to hear themselves talk but walk out of the meeting with absolutely no progress made.
- And lastly, the biggest thing I have been thinking about every day is not a new concept, but is one that just recently started to become a daily nuisance. Every single day, I mourn the fact that I have never had an adult relationship with my dad.
When my friends used to talk about their fathers, I listened, smiled and laughed, or whatever the conversation called for. But now, it’s like this massive tumor inside me boils up each time this topic comes up and just aches and aches. I try to listen and be what normal friends are – supportive. But instead, all I can think about is my pure envy that I don’t have that. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons when I was in high school. When I called him on 9/11 I hung up the phone because though I had dialed 343-9846, the man who answered didn’t sound like my dad at all. At my college graduation, we had to take breaks walking from the PAC to my sorority house. Though he has always been a quiet man, this disease has silenced him. We didn’t have a super open relationship before he got sick, but who knows what it would have been like when I got older. Maybe we would have sat at the kitchen table together – him drinking Scotch and me a V&S and talking about things. For example, I just recently found out that he once went skiing in Austria! That’s the kind of thing I want to talk about. His past experiences and me sharing my life. When my friends tell me that their dads gave them career advice or commended them on their promotion, my heart stings. I want that. I want that so badly.
The closest thing I have is when I was in early college and I’d come home for a break. My dad would put gas in my car, sneak me a $20 bill and a bottle of Bacardi into my trunk since I was still underage. Silly that it’s that memory I hold on to so tightly. But when it’s all you have, even something so trivial becomes monumental.
My brother and I have talked about what we have and what we don’t and we realize that we are quite lucky- we still have our dad despite his disease. But we wonder about what life would be like if he was just old and retired vs old and sick. It would change so much in our lives and in our mom’s. Her life is that of a caretaker and though she does it incredibly well, there is no doubt a constant strain on her too.
And you know that dark place I mentioned earlier? I wish I could put this thought – this one I have titled “Having an Adult Relationship With My Dad” – back into that place. Because now that it’s out. Now that I feel it. I can’t stifle it. I can’t unthink it. I can’t watch my friends’ dads be a part of their life without this massive longing that can sometimes feel paralyzing.
I know I am not alone. There are many of us who lack that parental relationship once we are in our 30s. I guess I just wish I had known. I wish that I had known that when we played basketball in the driveway or went grocery shopping together or when he drove me to high school in his piece of shit Skyhawk, that it would be those memories I would treasure so much.