Hot and sweaty while running, I rolled up my tank top and tucked it in under my sports bra. Now, that is a strange sentence to type, but it also was a weird thing for me to do. Not since I was nine or so have I cared so little of what people thought of my physical appearance that I chose this level of comfort over concern. It was freeing. And while I’m being totally honest, I must admit I am typing these particular words while wearing plaid pajama pants, sitting in my yard, in full view of passers-by.

What is happening to me? Have I lost all sense of decorum or self-respect? On the contrary, as I get a bit older, I am losing the crippling fear of what most other people think of me, and it is quite a ride for someone who cared so deeply for so long.

On a podcast recently, I heard someone describe the process of getting older as a car shedding parts as it goes down a highway. Everything extra must go.   First the cup-holders and leather seats, the radio, and all the bells and whistles. The car still runs, maybe even more efficiently without all of that other stuff dragging it down. Eventually, the essential parts go, and the car slows to a stop and that’s it. Something about that process is so appealing to me, shedding ego and stuff and concerns and mess until there’s only light left. Hmmm. I know I have so far to go.

Lately I’m choosing musical theatre soundtracks to go along with my run. Somehow picturing a show playing out in front of me makes the time go faster, and really, theatre music is just my jam. Hopes, dreams, struggle…it’s all there. As I listen to inspirational words, it makes me want to strive in the same way that my favorite characters do. And as my body is busy, it frees the other, more important parts of me. ‘Les Mis’ trains my mind, ‘Once’ is my heart, ‘Hamilton’ my spirit. Running, especially with these old friends, somehow leaves my body behind even while I am caring for it. It’s strange, I know.

Gone are the days that my run can be fueled by the pop, rap, or hip-hop music I used to routinely choose (though Eminem can still do the trick in a pinch). I am finding the words of what I’m listening to have to mean something to me to keep me moving forward. It’s a spiritual practice in a way, much less about how far I go or how fast I run, but about how free I feel. Whoever would have believed that was possible for someone whose last pre-forty run was around age nine, when I cared far less what people thought, when I found the source of freedom within myself, when I was much more willing to follow where the road took me.

As I think of it, maybe feeling ‘nine’ is not such a terrible goal after all.  Back then, I wore pajamas outside pretty much every Summer evening, and not only did no one care, but often ice cream was delivered directly to me in a musical truck!  Nine is magical stuff.  Hope it comes around again.


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