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Posts Tagged ‘headspace’

“Is there a word for when you wait three weeks to do something, and it takes five minutes?” I asked a few girlfriends the other day.

“Being human,” one friend responded wryly. Another came up with the brilliant portmanteau you see in the post title: procrastiminutiae, or putting off the tiny things.

I’ve been deep in a post-holiday, endless-pandemic funk of worry and frustration, unable to motivate myself to do much besides run and read and wash dishes. (All of which are good things.) But a few days ago, I decided to tackle one small task I’d been putting off for weeks: calling the gas company about an inspection. I’m not sure why: maybe it was the sunshine, or my inspiring run playlist (heavy on the badass female ’90s country singers), or just the general sense that it was time to stop avoiding this one little thing.

It took (less than) five minutes, in the end, and I got so inspired I tackled a few more minutiae: taking down the Christmas cards and stockings (I know it’s mid-January; don’t @ me), dropping some clothes off at a donation bin, making a bank deposit, ordering more compost bin bags. Each task took just a few minutes, by itself. But the mental space they cleared felt so expansive – and so good.

We have little control over our lives at the best of times, and lately, with so much disease and upheaval everywhere I look, I’ve been feeling particularly helpless. But it felt very satisfying to exercise some agency over my life for just a few minutes. Bonus: my apartment is a bit clearer, and so is my head.

What are the procrastiminutiae on your list?

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When I started running, as previously mentioned, I didn’t tell anyone about it for a little while. This was mostly because I wasn’t sure it would stick. But even after I’d become a dedicated runner, I didn’t write about it here on the blog, or even talk to friends about it, much. Running felt, in those early days, both precious and precarious: something new and tentative that was all mine.

Fast forward three years and here I am spending a whole month writing about running (and if you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you). I post photos from my runs on Instagram all the time (though that is also because I’m a flower fiend and a fall-leaf fanatic). But even while I share bits of my running with the world, I mostly run alone.

I could run with other folks if I wanted to: there’s a run club or two in my neighborhood, and I can see the appeal of running in community. I do enjoy the occasional buddy run with a friend or 5K with a crowd, and my guy and I have put in a few miles together. But mostly, running is a solitary pursuit for me. I like being alone with my thoughts, my music, the wind on my face and whatever pace I feel like setting that day.

Since my divorce and the pandemic, I’ve spent more time alone than I previously ever had, and sometimes it gets to me. Sometimes solitude and loneliness blur together until I can’t tell one from the other. Some days I find myself desperate for real, in-person connection. (Thank goodness for park yoga and walks with girlfriends and, most especially, time with my guy.)

Even with an abundance of solitude, though, I still like running alone. There’s something soul-nourishing about setting out for a few solo miles, where I’m out in the world but I belong only to myself. Running has become a form of meditation and self-care in addition to exercise. And mostly, it’s something I relish doing by myself, for myself.

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Months ago, my friend Hannah made a comment along these lines: we were talking about the meditative qualities of running, and the fact that we both (mostly) like to do it alone. It got me thinking about the ways running is and is not like traditional meditation. I haven’t tried Headspace or any of the other meditation apps floating around the internet, but I can see how running bears some similarities to them.

When I run, I listen to music, but it’s usually stuff I know really well, or music that can fade comfortably into the background. Unless I’m actively singing along to Hamilton or other music, I want space for my thoughts to tumble and churn and slide as I go along. I don’t often go out on a run with the intent of solving a particular problem, but I naturally think about whatever’s taking up my attention that week, as well as the weather and the light and the signs of seasonal change (right now, all the gorgeous leaves) that I see.

Running is movement-based, of course, while many forms of meditation involve sitting still. I find it easier to let my attention relax when I’m moving through a landscape, easier to let my thoughts pinwheel around without having to move in a linear fashion. Sometimes I’ll get stuck on one thing for a bit, but more often the physical motion helps keep my thoughts in motion, too. A lot of yoga teachers talk about noticing your thoughts rather than getting attached to them – sometimes tough to do when lying on a yoga mat, but I find it a bit easier on a run.

Especially when I’m working – when my days involve emails, meetings, writing projects, chats with coworkers – I also relish the chance to step back from all that on a run. As I move through physical space, sometimes my thoughts come unstuck and drift away, creating space inside my head for new thoughts or simply a bit of breathing room. It’s physically challenging and mentally restorative. Not quite the same effect as a yoga class – and I need both – but a way to create and enjoy headspace, all the same.

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