Running from the Old Year and into the New

With the changing of the years, I felt the need to write something. I’m trying hard to update this blog regularly, but doing so right now without it turning into a place to merely bemoan my personal life rather than to celebrate running is making that rather difficult, as my life has been heavy on chaos and light on running these last few weeks.

Long story short: we’ve been in the process of buying a house for months.  We thought we were in the final stages, and were supposed to close around Thanksgiving, so we told our landlord we wouldn’t be resigning our lease at the end of the year.  Since then, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, from the assessors losing paperwork to title companies not sending over all the documents to HPD, HUD, and the FHA all throwing their little governmental monkey-wrenches into the works.  Since last Tuesday, we’ve been effectively homeless, with our stuff in a U-Haul, our animals in kennels or scattered amongst friends, and the two of us and our kids staying with my very generous mother-in-law out in Connecticut.  Instead of ringing in the New Year in our own home, we rang it in unhoused and very, very stressed.

***

One of the ramifications of this all is that it has effectively killed off my running.  Looking back at my log, I hadn’t run since the 2oth, as my weekends have been filled with packing, or moving, or just freaking out.  These few weeks have reminded me how important running is to me, but also how powerful and fast-acting the forces of entropy are; days of coffee, beer, and donuts beget more days of coffee, beer, and donuts, just as days of running beget more of the same.  Like begets like, and it is easy to follow a pattern towards its logical conclusion.  Of course, the positive implication of this is that once one has set up a pattern of health and exercise, it too forms a self-fulfilling prophecy of more health and fitness.  In many ways, this is the Buddhist concept of karma at its essence: the law of cause-and-effect, conditions ripening for a given situation to arise.

With the changing of the year, I’ve been harboring a lot of bitterness.  We were supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new house; then we were definitely going to celebrate Christmas there; most recently, our agent and lawyer were reassuring us we’d certainly be welcoming in the New Year at our own place.  I’ve had a lot of expectations, a lot of hopes, a lot of future events that I’d been clinging to.  But that’s another concept Buddhism warns against: clinging to expectations, forming attachments to the insubstantial things of this world as if they were of substance.  As if the future — any future — is certain.  What one has (what is already) is hard enough to hold on to, so trying to grasp what one does not have (what is not yet) is an exercise in futility and frustration.

With the changing of the year, I’m trying to remind myself to be grateful for what I have rather than be bitter for what I wish I had.  The fact is this process will end in our having a house.  The fact is I have a wonderful and supportive partner, and two amazingly beautiful kinds. We all are healthy and have the love and support of an amazing network of family and friends, both here in New York, across the continent, and scattered on-line.  And the fact is that all these blessings, too, can be transit, so I should appreciate what I have been given, and remind myself that, in the grand scheme of things, what we are suffering is minor.  Everything I love could be snatched away in an instant, by that same insubstantial, unknowable future that has thrown our housing plans into disarray.  Here in Connecticut, there was a house fire that killed a woman’s three daughters as well as both her visiting parents on Christmas Day, leaving her alive but suddenly bereft of everything on life that mattered to her.  In light of her tragedy, what do I have to lament? In the face of such loss, how can I be anything but thankful for what I have?

***

M and I went for a short run yesterday, on the last day of 2011.  The sun was sinking a dull red against the horizon, and the weather was once again unseasonably warm.  It was the first time we had run together in months, if not a year — we used to run together nearly every day before we had kids, but now we tag-team as we wait for them to be old enough to be left alone.  We only ran three miles, but it was good to run together, to move my legs and breathe in the crisp air and not think about all the things we have to do.  It reminded me I was healthy, that I have the strength and determination and freedom to run, that I live with a woman I love, a woman at whose side I’ve run a marathon (a woman who would like me, I’m sure, to point out that she crossed the finish line before I did).  We just ran for 15 minutes in one direction, then turned around and ran back home, but it was enough.  It was a reminder.  It was a small celebration.

With our lives in turmoil, I have no idea if I’ll be running my ultra as planned next weekend.  But it doesn’t matter — if this race doesn’t work out, I’ll run another.  It will happen at the right time, just like our house.  One way or the other, I finished 2011 the same way I plan to begin 2012: with a run.

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About Chris Van Dyke

I am a 33 year-old high school English teacher and long-distance runner. I live in Brooklyn with my partner, our 3 year-old son and 1 year-old daughter and a growing collection of muppets and trains. Besides running and teaching I like to draw, read, write, cook, and play the harmonica. While I didn't get to run my first ultra-marathon on my birthday, I've got a few more I've set my sights on. You can follow my (seldom updated) twitter feed @aboutrunning. I also blog as part of the Run Smiley Collective.
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2 Responses to Running from the Old Year and into the New

  1. Vanessa says:

    Lovely. Glad you can appreciate the small things despite all that stress. I like the personal posts as well. You may want to just try that ultra anyway. You may surprise yourself..

    • Chris Van Dyke says:

      Thanks, Vanessa — reading updates from you and Jason during “Across the Years” was inspiring. If I don’t do the ultra next weekend, it will be because we are finally moving in and I don’t have the time, not due to a lack of confidence 🙂 I’m fine with going in under-trained and just having a great time, but there’s a good chance my responsibilities as a father will need to come first. I hope I’ll be running next weekend, but if not, I’ve got the rest of my life to run. That’s one reason ultras are such an amazing sport — people keep doing them their entire lives.

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