There's a new gallery up right now at the Write. Click. Scrapbook. blog. This month's approach was based on a unique idea, the Young Me, Now Me concept. Basically, you find an old photo of yourself when you were young, and you recreate it now. I love scrapping challenges like this—combining old images with new—because they push you to record something you otherwise wouldn't. They force you to see something otherwise invisible.
Some of the designers recreated nearly exactly their old photos; others interpreted the challenge a little bit more loosely. I went with the lose approach, even though I really wanted to recreate the photo in this blog post. My family already thinks I'm slightly odd with this whole scrapbooking thing. Asking Suzette to don her old cheerleading skirt and digging out that red cooler (which I am 78% certain my mother still owns) might just push them over the edge. Not to mention the fact that Hooter (the cat) is long gone, and Mom's new kitty vanishes whenever there are people other than my mother in the house.
But I went the route I did for another reason as well. I wanted to develop this vague theory I've had floating around in my head: that when you are super-active as a kid, you create a need in yourself for physical activity that never goes away. What started out as an hour a week grew into two a week, and then two a day, and then three, and by the time I had had enough, I was at the gym for about 5 1/2 hours, one for each event and the rest for stretching and conditioning. In addition to the obvious ways (like the definition in my legs), those hours changed me. They created a need in me to extend physical effort, to exhaust my body in order to give my psyche and soul its own energy source. It's a need that lingers still.
Only, here's the thing: when I wrote the journaling for the layout, I went a completely different direction. (If you can't read the journaling here, you can on the WCS site.) Instead, I journaled about the unnameable feeling you get when you're standing on the beam, or in front of the bars, about to try a gymnastics trick that seems impossible. "I can't, I can't, I can't" fills your head until suddenly the NOs are replaced with an absolute assurance: Yes I can. Your heart fills up with knowing you can do it, and so you do. There isn't a word I know of for that feeling, and yet it is the thing I miss about gymnastics—and it is one of the reasons I am now a runner. Because running is one long moment of that unnameable sureness. If it were anything else—if I allowed my normal deluge of self-doubt and -criticism into my head while I were running—I wouldn't be able to run.
"I don't know how you do it," people tell me when I mention running. I generally swallow back my response: "I don't know how you don't." Part of running is running away: from children and my husband and the sometimes-overwhelming crush of responsibilities and troubles and worries that is modern life. I need to get away, need the space that running allows me to be with only positive thoughts in my head. I need the connection: exhausted body, exaltant spirit.
I've been running consistently (save about a year for a pregnant/newborn phase) for about ten years now. I think about the challenges I've experiences over that decade and I know: if I didn't have running, I would be broken now. Running helps me keep the crazy at bay. It gives me time to think and to figure stuff out. It lets me push myself beyond my own limit of what I thought I could do. It gives sweat an opportunity to run between my shoulder blades and confidence to push up into my heart. Like gymnastics, it also gives me blisters. I'll more than likely never vault again, never swing the graceful arc of a giant, never flip across a board that's 4 feet above the ground. But running ensures that—even if it's just by going downhill—I still give myself the chance to fly.