Month: December 2016

Exit 138. Only seven miles.

I’m a little behind on posting here, because I was away for a few days for the holidays, and because plans keep changing.  I’ll catch up eventually.

I grew up in Salinas, in the Central Coast region of California, just inland from Monterey and about 100 miles south of San Francisco.  As I have said before, I have had a fascination with maps and roads for as long as I can remember.  Sometimes I would look at maps, see a road that goes off the map, and develop a fascination and curiosity for where that road went.  By the way, for my younger readers, when I say “maps,” I’m not talking about an app on your phone.  I’m talking about a big piece of paper with pictures of roads and cities and landmarks.  And there often didn’t exist readily available maps of areas outside of big cities, so if these roads went off the map into a remote rural area, I couldn’t just scroll up, I really didn’t have a way to find out where all roads went.

There is a road in Salinas called San Juan Grade Road.  It splits from Main Street in a major shopping area at the north end of town and leads into a rural agricultural area.  On the map I had as a kid, where the road reached the edge of the map, it was labeled “To San Juan Bautista.”  Once when I was around 9 or 10 years old, I asked my parents where San Juan Grade Road led, and how you would get to San Juan Bautista that way.  This is not the route I knew leading to San Juan Bautista; the route I knew, the route most people take, is to go north on 101, the main highway, and eventually turn onto another highway which leads into San Juan Bautista a few more miles to the east.  San Juan Bautista is a small town that is the site of one of the 18th century Spanish missions that every California kid writes a report on when they are around the age I was when this story takes place.

My dad suggested that we take a drive, to show me that road.  I said sure.  So we drove out to San Juan Grade Road.  A few miles north of Salinas proper, the road began climbing a hill, and it became narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass each other.  The pavement was bumpy, and the route had many tight curves.  It was a beautiful drive, through remote hills dotted with clumps of trees, but it was a difficult and slow drive.  After what felt like hours of winding through hills, the road finally widened to the width of a normal two lane road, and a few miles later, we entered San Juan Bautista.  We drove home the normal way, on 101.

Yesterday, on my way home from my parents’ house, I wanted to be adventurous and go for a scenic drive, to do something more interesting than take my usual route, but I also did not want to go too far out of the way.  So I took San Juan Grade Road.  I had not been that way since that drive with my family some thirty years ago or so.  I did not remember many of the details regarding the scenery itself (the details I provided in the previous paragraph were mostly based on what I saw yesterday).  But what I found most interesting was something that I clearly remembered incorrectly, about the road being narrow with many sharp curves and going on for hours.

The narrow windy part of the drive was only seven miles.

Obviously, thirty years can erode memories, and an unfamiliar trip often tends to feel longer than it actually is.  But the difficult part of the trip was only seven miles.  That isn’t far at all.  I can easily bike seven miles in half an hour, and there was even a time when I could run seven miles without stopping (although I’m comparing this to flat distances, I probably couldn’t do either of these on a steep route like San Juan Grade Road).

When going through a difficult stretch in life, sometimes it feels like the difficult times will last forever.  But someday, we all get through our difficult times, and sometimes, when we look back, we discover that things weren’t really as difficult as they seemed when we were going through it.  What feels like an endless rough trip might only be a little seven mile scenic drive.

Exit 137. Maybe this is my legacy.

I am at a wedding right now as I am writing this. It’s that boring part where everyone is waiting for the family and wedding party to take pictures. I probably won’t finish this whole post now; that seems too antisocial, so I’ll probably finish it at home.

But that’s not the point. I’ve been to somewhere upward of 40 weddings in my life, and this is the second time I’ve been to a wedding of a former student, and the first time I have ever been to a wedding of two former students marrying each other.

As I have gotten older, and stayed in touch with some former students, I often feel like I’m stuck in a weird time warp. My former students grow up, graduate, get adult jobs, get married, and have families of their own… and I don’t really change at all. Last week, I was Facebooking with another former student from a different school. I asked her how her daughter was doing; she said she was crawling already and made a remark about how they grow up so fast. I replied, “I know! I don’t know firsthand, since I don’t have children myself, but I’m sitting here talking to you, I’ve known you since you were 12, and now I’m asking you about your kid. In fact, you are the same age now as I was when I was your teacher.”

I often feel sad about the fact that I don’t have a family or children of my own. It feels like I’m missing out on a beautiful and wonderful stage of growing up. But maybe this is my legacy. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to have a family of my own. Maybe staying in touch with some of my former students and watching them grow up is going to take the place of having a family of my own. It will never be the same, but this is a beautiful experience in its own right. And I don’t have to change diapers. I can still be an important figure in others’ lives without being biologically related to them.

And it’s entirely possible I may still have children someday. Life isn’t over, and I’ve been wrong about things before. For example, I was wrong that I wouldn’t finish this blog post before the wedding pafty finishes taking pictures. Hurry up, already. I’m hungry.

Exit 136. Run.

Something kind of unusual and interesting happened at church today.  After the message, we were told to find someone and pray with them for a few minutes, to just pray and ask for God to speak something into our hearts that he might be wanting to say to the person we were praying for.  This is a bit unusual for me.  As my regular readers and real life friends may know, I’ve been at this church for a little over a year.  Speaking prophetic words from God is not something that the other churches I’ve attended in the past have put a lot of emphasis on, and so far I’ve never been asked to do this here like I was today.  However, I don’t necessarily see a reason to believe that God can’t give prophetic words to someone in this way.

Anyway, a woman who I didn’t know was sitting near me, and she prayed with me.  Something she said, not a specific word or vision but the words she used to describe a more general blessing from God, stood out to me and made me wonder if that was the specific word that God was speaking to me.  But I’ll come back to that later.

After the service ended, someone else came up to me and told me that she felt that God had given her one word that he wanted her to say to me, and a vision of what that might look like in my life.  She asked, “Does the word ‘run’ mean anything for you right now?  Are you a runner?”

I’m not.  But I used to be.  And, as far as I know, she had no way of knowing this.

I hated running growing up.  I wasn’t good at it, and when I had to run the mile in school, I never finished it without stopping to walk at least twice.  I often had PE in the morning, and I couldn’t breathe when I had to run in the cold damp air.  Once I was done with PE, I did very little running for about a decade, and I had no plans to do any running unless I was playing a pickup game of some sport that involved running (which happened maybe once a year on average) or something was chasing me (which hasn’t really happened at all; there was the time I was traveling the country, and a bear saw me in Shenandoah National Park, but I ran for about a minute and stopped when I noticed I wasn’t being followed… but this was after I had started running for recreation again).  If I was going to get recreational exercise, it was going to be a bike ride.  I picked that up in my young adult years, during my seven years of living in the most bicycle-friendly city in California, and never really stopped.

In 2003, I was visiting my Virginia friends, and they brought me to the gym.  I was surprised at how well I was able to keep up running that I started running for recreation when I got home.  It didn’t take long for me to be able to run a mile without stopping, and I kept it up until a few years later I could run without stopping for well over an hour, on one occasion even running eight miles without stopping.

The year 2016 is ending soon, and it looks like it will be the first calendar year in which I have done no running since 2002, probably.  A little over a year ago, my foot started hurting and pretty much never stopped.  The doctor said it was probably plantar fasciitis, and he recommended some high-quality shoe inserts (which haven’t helped) and some stretches I could do (which I’ve been doing very, very irregularly and sporadically).  (And I should admit I didn’t seek professional help for this until two months ago, after it had been going on for almost a year.)  I really, really miss running.  I have friends who are hard core runners, and whenever they post a picture of themselves after having finished running, whether it be a 5K or a marathon, I always think about how much I miss running.  Granted, I never did any organized running like that, I always just ran alone through the neighborhood (and for free), but still, it reminds me that I haven’t run in a long time, and that I’m in too much pain to run.

As I said, my friend from church had no way of knowing all this.  The foot pain started right around the same time I started going to that church.  But she told me that God told her to tell me, “Run.”  She asked if I had ever been part of a running group.  I said no; running and cycling have always been primarily solitary activities for me, just me, the open road, the sky, the trees, and a kick-ass playlist (but only in one ear if I’m on my bike, because covering both ears is illegal and unsafe).  But that doesn’t mean I never will be part of a group.  I need to try new things, remember.  With this conversation about running, and something that the other woman who prayed for me said (which I started to mention earlier) making me think about my foot pain, I wondered if I was suddenly going to get up and feel no pain.  I wondered if this was going to be one of those miraculous healing stories that those in Christian circles tend to hear about every now and then.

But it wasn’t.  I’m still in pain.  But at least now I have some direction. I’m going to be praying for healing.  I’m going to be extra careful.  I’m going to go find what the doctor said about stretching.  Any of my friends who have particular personal or professional knowledge regarding plantar fasciitis, please feel free to add your suggestions; I just haven’t gotten around to asking most of you because I’m overwhelmed with so many things right now.  I’ll probably have to take it easy dancing for a while too.  Because I will heal from this.  And I will run again.  Because God has something planned for my life that involves running.

Exit 135. Careful discernment on my part.

A few days ago, I ran into a family that I’ve known for almost 11 years, but who I don’t see too often anymore.  More specifically, I’ve known the parents for almost 11 years; when I met them, a few weeks after I moved here, the wife was very pregnant with the first of the four children they have now.  The dad of this family is one of the pastors of the church I attended from 2006 through 2015, and both the dad and the mom have done worship music at this church.

It was good to catch up.  But the whole time, it felt a little awkward, like the feeling you get when you run into someone after burning your bridges with them.  Don’t get me wrong here; I do not consider anyone in this family to be someone I burned a bridge with.  I really am glad I saw them.  It just felt awkward in my head because I didn’t exactly leave that church on good terms.  It had nothing to do with any members of this family, or even anyone at that church, specifically; the reasons were a combination of feeling like there was no place for me there anymore and not agreeing with the direction that the leadership wanted to take the church.

This awkward feeling is nothing new.  There are many unresolved hurts from my past, and some of the people involved I still cross paths with occasionally.  Every situation is different, but often, with people I was once very close with, I find myself honestly wishing that we could be friends again.  But it’s not always that simple.  Subconsciously, what I really want is for things to be exactly like they were, in my head, before the hurt ever happened.  But that is embracing an unrealistic alternate reality that isn’t true.  Things change, people show their true colors, and I can’t just shake off being hurt and let everyone walk all over me and treat me like crap, or else it’ll keep happening again and again.  It definitely requires careful discernment on my part, on a case-by-case basis, whether to keep those who hurt me at arm’s length or let them back in.

This post is kind of turning into a stream of consciousness… but all this was in my head the other day.  Back to the pastor and his family who I saw the other day… they are definitely not people I want to keep at arm’s length, because, as I said, the reason I left that church was not because of them.  Last year, on one day when I was particularly frustrated at my old church, that pastor messaged me later suggesting that we sit down sometime and talk about why I’m so angry about all of that.  I sincerely meant to get back to him after I had a chance to process why I was so angry, if there was something else at the root of this frustration, but I never did, mostly because I never really took that time for processing.  Also, I was dealing with a lot of things emotionally all right at the same time, and I was always busy with work.  But some of my recent soul-searching revelations have been tied to the roots of this anger, so maybe I’ll have to take him up on that offer soon… or at least get back in touch with him to say what didn’t get said last year.  And maybe there are other people I need to get back in touch with and say things that haven’t been said.  And maybe there are still others who I need to cut out of my life for good, because at this point keeping some people in my life might do more harm than good.