Unfolding

Unfolding. We can’t plan it if we try.
—Joi Sharp

The word of the summer is unfolding. This holds several connotations. If you have been following our journey of sickness throughout the season, this points to laundry. Unfolded clothes are piling up everywhere, thanks to lice, the stomach flu, and impetigo. Dirty clothes and towels litter the house after daily swims and a four-day trip to Cama Beach. I constantly rearrange the car, unpacking, cleaning, or putting the third row up for extra children. After curling up deeply in the Seattle morning chill, I unfold every morning from my bed.

But this unfolding, the one that I cherish, is the ability to recognize moments in my day. These spaces of time call for flexibility, stillness, and appreciation for the yucky stuff, from nits to yelling children or a cranky husband. I’m not really thankful for the hard unyielding crap. It’s here, though, and, from what I hear, it is so not going away.

Unfolding is grace even when you don’t quite get the rhythm or hear the beat. I did not realize I could dance even though I can’t hold a tune. But I can. Take lice. KK feared getting lice again because last time her mom freaked out (that is I). This time I was so much calmer. Sure, I cried a few times and felt overwhelmed occasionally. Then I sucked up the fear and shame and merely did the work. I talked KK through her feelings. I combed hair and we watched many movies. Still, lice only consumes so many minutes every day. We swam and vacationed and read and laughed and sang.

I am so far from perfect it is not even funny. Still, this grace, this unfolding, this amazement at my ability to react with a modicum of stillness, this rocks my world. The other night I was tired and tense. Someone who did not mean to hurt my feeling did slay my exterior wall. I’m not saying I did not crumble. I did shrink, but I also did my best to put myself back together, to realize this friend was not out to get me. There was a time, oh, maybe a year or so ago, that I would have marinated in her comment for at least a week, feeling angry and hurt.

What did she say? It’s silly, really. We were talking about knees and running, and I was saying running did not hurt these joints unless you already had chronically bad knees. Then my friend said, “That thing you do, it isn’t running is it, it really is fast walking, right?”

Damn, she had me. She so did not mean to cut me down. This was all me. I love running. It is part of my soul. For part of every run, I feel like a teenager flying across the lush green grass. When I jog, my breath has a rhythm that has been pulsing since I was a kid, and it has a three-one beat. It’s all mine, this glorious moving along the sidewalk. I like to run alone. There was a time when I was fast. As a high school sophomore, I peaked. I ran varsity early. I ran fast. “Nice girls run tough,” is what my locker sign read. I did. I loved it then. I still love it now, though I am slow, and juvenile human beings taunt me from car windows yelling, “Pick up the pace.” A neighbor and I have an inside joke, saying, “Slow but steady” to each other as he passes me walking while I am barely running. Old people call out, “It’s a nice day for a walk!”

Still, in my brain, in my soul, in my body, I am flying. I am running fast and free and the world is my oyster. So, no, that thing I do is not fast walking. I did not even reply to the comment. I turned away, curled up a bit, and tried to be calm. I joined another conversation at this gathering. Part of me wanted to leave right then, but part of me stayed.

My friend apologized and I explained my running hang-up. She was trying to say that my slow pace meant my knees would stay injury free. I am sure she is right. I am also sure this need to be a sophomore running fast will follow me all of my days. This grace I am learning, to not take things so personally and to recognize exactly why I am reacting the way I am, this unfolding is changing my life from the inside out. I am slowly learning to take life in by staying still and deciding how to react. My friend might recall me reacting with hurt loudly even though I did not say a word. In my heart, though, I know the response was so much more low-key than it could have been. There was a moment of beauty there, amid the feelings, a grace note. I did not react with perfect calm. I unfolded more slowly, I paid attention to why I felt the way I did, and I turned to focus on other things. Later, I examined my feelings more closely, realized my friend did not mean bodily harm, and accepted her apology. And, folks, my runs this summer still hold that magic, that golden sidewalk charm lives on. I unfold, I run, I breathe.

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