I always want to write about running. Not so much the technical aspects such as form, pace, distance. Not the empirical evidence. Not even the motivational stuff. Just the pure joy. The mental aspects–those feel-good hormones hitting my brain.
At a low point in my life, my doctor once told me, “You are not depressed!” Stern eyes, soft voice, an I KNOW you tone. I have the kind of relationship every patient should have with their doctor. He is a brilliant man, a good six-foot three inches tall, white-haired, with a Burt Reynolds mustache he totally pulls off. He is pure Texas heat, even at 60 something. And he cares about my well-being. He has seen me truly depressed, unable to come back without medical intervention. And he’s seen me like I was that day: bruised and blue. Lost. Unmotivated.
So he looks at me and says these words: “You are a runner. Being a runner has been hard on you in some ways. Painful ways. It’s also been greater for you in so many ways. First, your cardiopulmonary specialist said you have the organs of an athlete. You lived to run again because of your lungs, heart–even your tolerance for pain physically synced with your mentality saved your life. You’re supposed to be dead.
“Now, if I were you I would recognize mental health as the biggest benefit now that you lived. Nothing I prescribe you, nothing will give you those feel-good moments or trigger those chemicals in your brain [like running does]. I don’t care what the pharmaceutical companies say. You find your passion. You find your clarity. You find your strength. You can get out there. Go. I will see in a few weeks with a running issue. We can work on those. You’re a smart runner. You read. You’re not afraid to ask another runner for advice. Do that then see me in a few weeks. I guarantee you will not be this anxious. Wear sunblock!”
I took his advice and hit the trails. When I start to crack, I just lace up. I may not run. I may just go. Walk it off. I come back clearer. More confident. My mind musing over important things while my body is laughing at geese. Smiling at a bird’s nest. Skipping over the stream. Waving at the other runners. Taking it in.
You can’t prescribe happiness. If I could put to paper what I can put to pavement, I would be covering every aspect of the human condition.
That’s what this month’s issue of Open Thought Vortex has been about: putting to paper what I put to pavement. We have featured a range of voices, youth and adult alike, all inspired by the theme of laughter or joy.
I hope you have enjoyed this month, that it has brought you some relief. We often publish heavier work in this magazine. But you can tell by our bios that we like to keep it fresh. We do that for you, the reader. When you are feeling low, come back here. Find the piece that made you smile the biggest and reread. OTV is here for you.
Let us know what your favorite piece was this month. Tell us what you would like to see more of on Open Thought Vortex.